[While we STILL try to get our shit together to post the last of our MoCCA photos and our Licensing show photos, we keep you amused with this report on another event last week. Above, the author and Malcolm MacDowell]
By Steve Bunche
I don’t know about you, but even though I’m a dyed-in-the-wool geek there are times when I dread the siren call of the comics/toy/art/sci-fi convention. Nonetheless I always attend (when it’s affordable) and more often than not I find myself aggravated by the crowds, the poor layout of the floor that doesn’t allow said crowds to move, and the promoter’s naked desire to make a buck at all costs, not giving a rat’s ass about the experience that the fans are shelling out their hard-earned cash for. Sadly, that’s been more or less par for the course with New York City cons, and having been a regular NYC con-goer since 1975 I think I’m entitled to grouse.
The sole exception to this sorry state of affairs is the Big Apple Convention, a regularly scheduled event held at Manhattan’s Penn Plaza Pavilion during the end of spring and the end of the fall, respectively, and even bears the endorsement of Mayor Michael Bloomberg. The Big Apple Con is the epitome of how a homegrown convention should be handled, providing the eager fan with just about collector’s item back issue, toy, t-shirt, or DVD they could want within easy reach, to say nothing of the opportunity to meet and greet with celebrities ranging from iconic A-listers to obscure pop culture personalities, all to be had for a shockingly affordable entrance fee.
This season’s con fell on the 7th and 8th of June, unfortunately the first sweltering days of a brutal heat wave, but the fans showed up despite the heat and entered an engaging nexus between their fantasies and the mundane reality of the New York weekend. The show’s first floor housed the admissions area – tickets could also be obtained online at www.bigapplecon.com – and a few tables offering movie memorabilia and assorted books, as well as the signing table and photo-op section for some of the celebs, chief among whom were A-listers Richard Dreyfuss (Jaws, Close Encounters of the Third Kind) and my favorite actor of all time, Malcom freakin’ McDowell (A Clockwork Orange, Caligula, Heroes). If I may gush like the unrepentant fanboy that I am, I never thought I’d get to meet McDowell, much less chat with the guy and get my picture taken with him – by the excellent Froggy, who can be reached at email@example.com – so I found myself bursting with geekish delight for the whole weekend.
[Richard Dreyfuss arrives for the fray.]
The second floor could best be described as an orgy for collectors of all manner of rarities; rare comic books, original comics artwork from the 1940’s through the present, a cornucopia of toys and memorabilia, ancient pulp magazines and novels – “Wife Without Morals” being a particular favorite – , hard-to-find movies on both VHS and DVD, innumerable tchotchkes, and t-shirts emblazoned with just about every media image one could think of, including a display that could have been dubbed “the Shroud of Heath Ledger.”
Supplementing this wonderland of goodies were spaces allotted to comics and media folks, all of whom had autographs, photos, artwork and other items for sale, as well as photo-ops. The comics contingent was well represented by such luminaries as Bernie Wrightson (Swamp Thing, Frankenstein), Gene Ha (Top 10), Joe Staton (E-Man), Mark Texiera (Vampirella), Rodney Ramos (Transmetropolitan), and many others, while the rest of the guests included professional wrestlers, Star Trek alumni – including the toothsome Chase Masterson of Deep Space Nine renown, who lined up with us fan grunts to meet and chat with Malcolm McDowell, the first time I’ve ever seen a celebrity guest geek out over another guest – cast members from the original Halloween, Friday the 13th Part 2 and The Warriors, Seventies TV icon Mason Reese, and even Jason Mewes, the hilariously mouthy half of Jay & Silent Bob. All of this for under thirty bucks! How can you possibly beat that?
As previously mentioned, the Big Apple Con is a homegrown affair, and the whole shebang is shepherded by one Michael Carbonaro, an enthusiastic “triple-P” (producer/promoter/pontificator) whose own love of the various media he assembles is obvious in the way he and his staff go the extra mile to make sure the fans not only get their money’s worth but also have as safe and fun a time as possible. I’ve been to many conventions in my thirty-plus years of attendance that posed fire safety hazards, were overcrowded and oversold – much to the dismay of the fans, the majority of whom had prepaid and traveled from out of state and even overseas, only to be turned away at the door – , and were a ripoff in every way, but the same simply cannot be said about what Carbonaro brings to the table. No B.S., the guy cares about the con-goers first and foremost, and I kid you not when I tell you that I personally witnessed the guy setting up fans and handing out free bottles of water while people waited on signing lines as the building’s air conditioning struggled to battle the sweltering heat and humidity. That, dear readers, is a class act, and when I told him I thought it was incredibly considerate of him he didn’t even take the credit for his act of kindness like some other promoters would have, instead crediting one of ticket-sellers with the suggestion. I respect that kind of treatment of the people whose money keeps shows like this going, and I can’t commend Carbonaro and his staff enough.
Bottom line, the Big Apple Con is loads of fun for the whole family, both young and old, and it would be foolish of collectors to pass up the myriad of opportunities to round out their collections with some of the insanely cheap bargains to be had. I found a decent-condition copy of Savage Tales #3, the legendary 1970’s black-and-white magazine featuring the second half of Barry Windsor-Smith’s classic Conan adaptation, “Red Nails,” for a dollar. A freakin’ buck! If that isn’t fan-service, I don’t know what is.
Chase Masterson and Malcolm MacDowell
The Shroud of Heath Ledger
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