Two Old Guys Do Megacon (A Megacon Review)


By: Scott Muller

It’s been a few weeks since my good buddy Desmond and I attended Megacon. In all honesty, it took almost that long for me to recover from the events of that weekend and use my pictures to patch together my thoughts on the event. Despite the fact that I’m not as young as I used to be, it was a fun three days of interesting art, tons of toys I once owned that I could have repurchased for ten times their original price, (mostly) really funny cosplay, a ridiculous number of Deadpools, and some really cool experiences and things we learned that we’d like to share with all of you. So, without further ado, allow me to regale you with stories of our Megacon experience. Enjoy!

Day One (Friday)

The convention actually started on Thursday, but only two or three of the celebrity guests were attending that day, so we skipped Thursday and took Friday off of work to attend. Orlando traffic is horrendous (something to keep in mind if you’re attending Orlando-based conventions), so we gave ourselves three hours to travel the 40 or so miles to the convention, and lo and behold, traffic wasn’t that horrible. We parked and headed in. This year, the Megacon folks opted for the larger portion of the Orange County Convention Center, which really helped the flow of foot traffic, which in years past had been a bit of a nightmare. We arrived to pick up our badges, and unfortunately no one was manning the booth. Desmond and I could only wait around until someone arrived, so we took in the wonderful air conditioning the convention center had. I’ve never understood why so many of the conventions in Florida are in the spring and summer. It’s about 210 degrees outside and folks are dressed like Wookiees, aliens, and Voltron…that’s gotta be hot. While waiting, I took some time to think about how I could package this into some helpful advice for convention attendees, and that lead to…

An Old Man’s Advice for Attending Megacon #0 (Because, Technically, We’re Not “at” Megacon Yet)

Be prepared before you come to Megacon! Wear comfortable shoes (if you’re not cosplaying) and spend some money on some sort of backpack or satchel and bring the following: at least two extra t-shirts (seriously – one year, the walk from the parking lot had me drenched in sweat), cash (the ATMs WILL RUN OUT) for autographs and selfies, a refillable water bottle, some sort of snack (especially if you’re seeing a time-consuming celebrity), a small towel (seriously, you’ll sweat crazy in Florida), and a folder for all of your paperwork (for photo ops, autographs, etc.) if necessary. Also, if you’re staying for multiple days, look into making dinner reservations – it’s busy in Orlando on a weekend. There are probably about 50 other things I can think of, but it all falls under the umbrella of being prepared. Go on the Megacon website and/or join a Facebook group and don’t be afraid to ask questions. Convention folk are a friendly sort and will be glad to share information…the more you know, the more fun you’ll have.

Anyway, after about 30 minutes of waiting, and my first awesome cosplay picture with John Hammond from Jurassic Park (complete with John Williams music playing from an iPhone in his pocket), the press booth was staffed and we got our lanyards. Let the coverage begin!

Our first walk around the convention floor was pretty amazing. The sheer number of vendors and artists was difficult to top. Unlike other conventions I’ve attended (including Megacons in the past), there was plenty space and room to actually look at artists’ art or authors’ books without getting trampled. What a novel concept! Desmond got a chance to chat with his fraternity brother Mark Pacich who had his (utterly amazing) artwork on display, while I spent a few minutes talking to author Russell James. I picked up a copy of his novel Black Magic while I was perusing. I also ran into author Nick Braker, who was cleverly cosplaying as “Heisenberg” Walter White. It was enough to get me to check out (and purchase) his book, Earth.

After we walked Artist Alley and the vendor area (passing up the opportunity to buy a Chewbacca robe), we headed over to the autograph area. At this point, the convention had been open for an hour, and I learned my first convention lesson:

An Old Man’s Advice for Attending Megacon #1 (Because We’re Actually “at” Megacon Now)

Sometimes, the folks you really like aren’t really as popular as you think, but that’s great news for you! Seriously, I’m not an Alice Cooper fan, but I thought he’d be a pretty big draw. That, however, was not the case on Friday. I took a picture of his line and it was pretty sparse. One thing many people don’t know is that not much is free at conventions. You can usually go up and talk to “not busy” celebrities for free, but pics, selfies, and autographs all cost money – and there’s no set cost. Each celebrity and/or their management sets the prices. I don’t know how much Cooper charges, but it might have been high enough to chase folks off.

Man, I really thought Cooper’s line would be a little longer, especially since he was one of about five celebrities in the autograph area on Friday. In addition to this advice, I can provide a little more advice from what I learned in the autograph area…

An Old Man’s Advice for Attending Megacon #2

Richard Dean Anderson (TV’s MacGyver), unlike Alice Cooper, is a far bigger draw than I thought he would be. What you should realize before you attend some of these conventions is that some celebrities have long lines and like to interact with their fans and some are a little “short” with fans. Some are quick simply because they have 200 people in their lines. Remember, if you want five minutes with, say, Brent Spiner, the other 50 people in line should get the same five minutes. That’s over two hours before you get to Data. Patience is a virtue at most cons. It seems like common sense, but some folks do not like waiting in line to see their favorite celebrities. To those folks, I say, “Buy a VIP pass to get in early and get in line right away.” That’s about the only strategy that will trim time off your wait.

After checking out some horror short films, I had a phone interview with Paige O’Hara, the voice of Belle in the animated classic, Beauty and the Beast. O’Hara was a wonderful lady and a great interview. I could have talked to her for hours.

After my interview, it was back to the convention floor. During this round of walking, I saw perhaps my favorite (and perhaps most accurate) cosplay of the convention, Mary Katherine Gallagher (Molly Shannon’s classic character from Saturday Night Live). This woman looked exactly like Shannon’s character. It was uncanny and it made me think of some logical advice for cosplaying in Florida…

An Old Man’s Advice for Attending Megacon #3

Florida is a tough place to cosplay! I saw a guy who was wearing one of the straight-up accurate, life-sized xenomorph Alien costumes sitting at a table and he looked like he was going to pass out. If you’re going to wear a 100-pound costume, have a handler and be ready to take frequent breaks. Or, you can do what Mary Katherine Gallagher did and pick a costume that was pretty basic and way cooler! While it’s your inalienable right (See what I did there?) to dress up in a 100-pound alien costume, do yourself a favor and pace yourself! You can’t enjoy Megacon if you’re passed out in a backroom getting medical attention!

Later in the day, I had my first photo op, with Biff Tannen himself, Tom Wilson. As always, the photo op was a cattle call, during which you get approximately 1.6 seconds with said celebrity before an overbearing photographer bellows, “NEXT,” and you’re shuffled through a generic photo. That’s a free piece of advice I’ll give: be ready for your photo op to be quick and dirty; if you want to meet and talk to your celebrity crush, you’ll have to do it at their table in the autograph area. I always try to do something creative in my photo ops, but I didn’t manage to pull it off as well as I would have wanted. I’ll let you folks be the judges.

Before the end of the first day, I realized I had learned another important lesson that I’d like to pass on as advice…

An Old Man’s Advice for Attending Megacon #4

There were a lot of Negans and Deadpools at Megacon. These are characters that are kinda jerks in their respective media (one as a villain and the other an anti-hero). However, some people (more so the Deadpools) used the fact that they were dressed up as jerks to ACT like jerks. I saw some of them have to be told to lay off or quit doing what they were doing (like getting handsy with other cosplayers). Most people know Deadpool is an over-the-top, say-and-do-anything type of character, but that doesn’t play as well in real life. Dressing up as Deadpool doesn’t give you an invitation to do anything you want – and it might get you kicked out of Megacon!

The Negans were far less offensive and one I ran across was absolutely amazing, from his look to his mannerisms. I got multiple pictures with this guy, but they don’t do him justice.

By about 6:30 that night, we were pretty pooped out. We did, however, manage to visit another one of Desmond’s frat brothers, artist Sanford Greene. We chatted with him for a bit before we went to grab some grub and hit the hay. There were after parties, I’m sure, but we two old men had a couple days left to survive.

Day Two (Saturday)

The second day of the convention was a scorcher, and we were sweating by the time we got into the building. We passed on the opportunity to have a guy in a Yoda wig and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles costume shirt drive us up the convention center on a bike. It was really a matter of principle – if you’re going to try to play to the nerd crowd, don’t cross properties.

Once we got into the air-conditioned building, I realized that I had learned another valuable lesson:

An Old Man’s Advice for Attending Megacon #5

When Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Norman Reedus, and Charlie Cox all cancel, the crowds at Megacon are considerably smaller. That can be a plus and a minus. It’s a plus because some people will sell their tickets if they’re only there for certain celebrities, but a minus because that’s fewer celebrities who have lines. In other words, the 50 people in Charlie Cox’s line (if none of them sold their tickets) are now walking around in the “general population.” Just food for thought if you’re considering going.

I felt bad for the folks that were looking forward to these three stars making an appearance, but felt pretty good for the folks that didn’t, because I’m sure a good chunk of folks didn’t come simply because The Walking Dead duo didn’t show. The thinned-out crowd made things slightly easier for the folks who did attend on Saturday, which is typically a nightmare. It was much more tolerable than a typical Saturday, which I’m sure was due to the cancellations, larger venue, and enough to do besides the convention floor.

On an unrelated note, I’m still of the belief that you could have Norman Reedus sit in at a card table in an empty warehouse and charge $100 a throw to get an autograph and you’d make $25,000.

Anyway, we made a loop of the autograph area at around 10:30 that morning and only one of the 30 or so celebrities had shown up. Jordan Woods-Robinson from The Walking Dead was the only person on celebrity row, including voice actors and minor YouTube celebrities. Good on him: he seemed like a really nice guy.

At around 11:30, Desmond and I decided to take in a panel: a Q&A session with three Disney princesses: Paige O’Hara (Belle), Irene Bedard (the speaking voice of Pocahontas), and Linda Larkin (the speaking voice of Jasmine from Aladdin). During this session I learned another valuable lesson I’d like to pass on…

An Old Man’s Advice for Attending Megacon #6

When asking a question at a panel, be considerate of others.

I realize this might be your one and only chance to meet someone who has changed the course of your life forever, but there are 20 other folks behind you that are in the same boat. Take a moment to tell the celebrity panelist how much you admire them, ask them what you’d like to ask them, listen to the answer, and then thank them. I could tell some people were super nervous about getting to meet their idols, but there were one or two people who, no lie, bragged about their own accomplishments for a few minutes and then tried to tack on a question at the end. As an observer, it made me uncomfortable to look around the room and see people giving other puzzled looks about what was going on.

Looking back on it, though, most people asked some great questions. In a particularly funny moment, one young girl asked the panel what it would take to get into the voice acting/performing world and, after Larkin gave a great five-minute answer about following your dreams and never quitting, O’Hara leaned over and flatly said, “And get a demo reel.” Practical advice!

After we left the panel, we headed back down to the convention floor yet again. By this point, the convention was in full swing. We walked around and people watched, seeing some amazing cosplays; Mr. Freeze in an Arkham Asylum jumpsuit complete with “frost” coming out of the collar was a standout. We walked the floor until the next panel we were interested in: a Q&A session with the star of Scorpion, Elyes Gabel. Gabel mentioned that he was relatively new to the convention game, but he was an amazing guest. As with the first panel, some folks didn’t understand that it was a Q&A session, not a TYWLS&TAAQ (Tell Your Whole Life Story and Then Ask a Question) session. After the panel, I realized that I had learned another very important lesson…

An Old Man’s Advice for Attending Megacon #7

Getting to meet your favorite celebrity in real life is a dangerous proposition, but if you meet them and they’re cool, you’ll like their property (movie, book, show, etc.) so much more. Just keep in mind that, sometimes, your bubble will be burst.

I’ve gotten really lucky over the years. For example, Gabel seemed like a really cool guy. After the Q&A, I headed over to his table for an autograph, and he really friendly and we joked for a few minutes about how World War Z, in which he starred, was absolutely nothing like the book (that he read to prep for the role, and then realized his character wasn’t really even in it). He signed a picture and I left really glad that I watched his show.

As an aside, and a cautionary tale with a happy ending, I’m a huge “Weird Al” Yankovic fan, and I was terrified that when/if I ever got to meet him, he’d be a jerk and I’d be crushed. However, when I met him and made a joke about him signing my bald head, he gladly obliged and then put me in a headlock while my friend took a picture. Elyes Gabel, Paige O’Hara, and Tom Wilson were all super-cool and I’m glad I’ve been a fan of all three of them. I think conventions are really good at justifying (or disproving) your fandom for certain folks.

After lunch, we decided to wander up to the retro video arcade room. In this room, we learned a valuable lesson that I REALLY want to pass along…

An Old Man’s Advice for Attending Megacon #8

If you’re attending a convention, realize that you will be in long lines with a lot of people. Sometimes you will be in tight-knit spaces. Please be aware of your personal hygiene. In addition to the things I mentioned earlier, I would add some deodorant to your list of supplies. I’m not looking to insult anyone at all…it’s truly practical advice. It’s the golden rule of hygiene: “Smell to others as you’d like them to smell unto you.” For big guys like myself, some Gold Bond powder goes a long way!

I did, however, manage to stay in the retro arcade room (which was an amazing idea, by the way – over a dozen different consoles with some of the coolest games of their time) long enough to beat some young whippersnapper in a game of Goldeneye on the N64. Never mess with an old man on an old console. (Mic drop.)

After finding a place to deodorize, we headed back down to the convention floor to kill time before my Elyes Gabel photo op. We saw some more funny cosplay including some really cool Skyrim costumes, some nifty Fallout cosplays, and another old-school funny costume: PBS artiste Bob Ross. Aces. You have to know your wife is dedicated to you when she dresses up as a canvas with “happy trees.” That, my friends, is a happy marriage.

My photo op with Elyes Gabel (pictured above) turned out amazing, and was a great way to end the day. By this point, we had been on our feet the majority of the last nine hours, so it was time to scoot. We tried to attend the big costume contest at the end of the day on Saturday, but the line was about a mile long, so we skipped out. I can’t even imagine how many Deadpool entrants there probably were. Instead, we skedaddled, grabbed some food and delicious orange beverages (Orange Crush is totally underrated) at a local restaurant, and called it a day. Man, I was pooped.

Day Three (Sunday)

Another day, another buffet breakfast at the hotel, and another day of coverage of Megacon! Unfortunately, on the drive from the hotel to the convention center, I checked the Megacon website and noticed that Mike Tyson, who was only appearing on Sunday, had cancelled his appearance. This notification taught me another valuable lesson…

An Old Man’s Advice for Attending Megacon #9a and 9b

If you’re going to a convention for one person, there’s a good chance you’re going to be disappointed. Also, people do not like it when guests cancel the morning of their appearance.

I’ve learned that you should be going to a convention for at least three reasons. For example, if you really want to get an Iron Man t-shirt, you want to see a particular celebrity, and you really like a particular comic book artist and you’d like a sketch, you’ll be good to go if the artist cancels; at least you have two good reasons to go. If two of your reasons cancel, then you might just have terrible luck.

If you don’t have three reasons to attend, you had better spend a lot of time tempering your expectations, because celebrities can and will cancel at the drop of a hat. However, and more importantly, you can’t blame the convention for that. So many folks want to get angry at convention runners for this kind of stuff, but they really have little say in the matter. There was so much vitriol flying on the Megacon website after all of the cancellations, but, overall, the convention was still pretty damned cool…and that’s coming from a pair of grumpy old men.

Anyway, back to our Sunday…it was really cut short by the cancellation of Mike Tyson’s appearance (You’d think they could’ve gotten Soda Popinski or Glass Joe as a last-minute replacement), since his Q&A session at 1:00 was our main reason for attending. Instead, we walked the convention floor one more time and then hit the trail. On our way out, I did make a couple more observations that I’d like to pass on…

An Old Man’s Advice for Attending Megacon #10

Some people use comic conventions as a chance to, literally, wear their underwear in public. If that bothers you, you might be in trouble if you attend Megacon.

I know you may think I’m being a grumpy old peepaw and speaking figuratively here, but there were literally people in their underwear roaming the convention floor. One man was dressed as Captain Underpants (white briefs and a red cape…that’s it). While that’s something I wouldn’t go for, I can at least credit the guy for wearing a comfortable costume – he wasn’t nearly as parched as the guy in the 100-pound xenomorph suit.

At the end of our two-plus days at Megacon, our feet (and wallets) were killing us, and we figured we could beat bad traffic if we headed out before lunchtime. I had witnessed some craziness in the form of people in their underwear, someone dressed up as Optimus Prime made of beer boxes (Hoptimus Prime?), and too many Deadpools to count. Desmond got to experience convention craziness firsthand when a physical altercation almost broke out in a restroom when someone said George Clooney was the best Batman. All in all, it was a crazy (but fun) weekend for two old men that are still kids at heart.

Thank you for having us, Megacon! We look forward to attending next year.

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