AUGUST 27-28, 2004
Much like the movie “The Hulk,” what began as a highly touted and spoken sci-fi event, this convention evolved into a stellar flop. Sure, there were brief bouts of intense action to keep your interest, but the majority of the time was spent asking yourself just how much of your ticket price was a waste.
What was described as being four separate conventions (Sci-fi, Horror, Comic, and Anime) ended up being nothing more than one large room with the dealers/retailers for all four genres. What I was expecting to experience was one large room for each and plenty of dealers to scope out. The present setup definitely did not set this type of stage. This rubbed me a bit wrong as the theory behind the “Deluxe Ticket,” at a measly $30, is that it offered access to each of the conventions and their side events. However, nothing kept one with a “Basic Ticket,” only $14, for only one of the conventions from walking from one section to the next. Taking the size of the event into account, one could easily have saved the $16 and did everything in one day. The only things the “Deluxe Ticket” offered was entrance into the various side shows (Scream Theater, anime viewing, etc.) that didn’t really catch my eye and a priority seating for the Masquerade on Saturday night. All this really got you was seating with everyone else who had been suckered into the “Deluxe Ticket.” My party arrived in line about 55 minutes before the event and ended up in the nose bleed seats due to the number of people in line.
Overall, the number of dealers for sci-fi stuff was pitifully low. I’d say less than a dozen brought a variety worthwhile of a good look over. When asking around about the lack of dealers and inquiring about the prices for the booths, we were informed that they were up for only $500. I would have expected many more dealers to be on hand for that price. The ones who did show up brought an appetizing collection of Star Wars, Transformers, MOTU, and LOTR, but surprisingly not a whole lot of Star Trek, G.I. Joe, or Babylon 5. I managed to score an autographed POTF2 Bossk as well as some Transformers Heroes of Cybertron that I had been missing from my collection. As for OTC figs, no one had anything higher than the OTC #12 Scout Trooper. Not a single VOTC was to be seen. Overall, the prices were good. Only once one got up above the $100 mark did prices seem to get out of control and enter the S.C.A.L.P. region. A worthwhile note was the sword and knife dealer that had somehow upset the local Canadian Mounties. In our first trip through the convention, I took notice of this dealer’s long swords, katanas and other deadly blades. On our second trip around, we came across some of Canada’s finest tearing down his booth and taking inventory of his wares. Another dealer was offering quick and easy special affects implants at a pretty moderate price. For about $15-$20, one could get elf ears, Vulcan ears, a vampire forehead, a Klingon forehead, or a Borg eyepiece. Personally, I think the Borg eyepiece looked really slick, but the favorite tended to be the elf ears. Other awesome customized items included a custom carded Kubrick’s Sandtrooper. The dealer was looking for around $27 so I had to pass as I was working on a limited budget. Later we ran across some artistic expression Star Wars items in the form of an AD-AT (Addidas AT-AT) and a WD-40 can turned into R2. Also available were a lot of the off shore Transformers including the world’s smallest transformers and others. I personally took a liking to a new set of mini-statues that were being displayed. While not all of them were worth shelling out the bucks for, the Rumble/Frenzy with pile-driver arms was a nice piece. Honorable mention would have to include the recently released items by Gentle Giant as convention exclusives. Only a few places had them, but the prices seemed on par as with what I saw at Wizard World’s dealers.
As for guests on hand for autographs, this is where the convention went from awesome to tragedy to damage control. Upon our arrival, we were notified that Patrick Stewart would not be attending. We weren’t given any more info besides a “Come back tomorrow and go to this room for the details.” While this was an extreme let down for my friend who was a huge Trekkie, it was even more utterly exhausting for the poor couple who flew in from New Zealand to see Jean Luc. Turns out that Patrick had an emergency angioplasty and would not be able to make the event. The event staff did do an awesome job of damage control by hooking up with Michael Dorn (Worf) and Levar Burton (LaForge) who where in the area on separate shoots. A special time with these two stars filled in the assigned time with Patrick as well as being given a choice for a refund OR the chance to meet Patrick at a later date with the promise of being given something ”special” in return for each one’s discomfort. As for Star Wars guests, of the ones scheduled to initially show up, only the big Wookie Chewbacca made an appearance. Had the chance to sit down with the big man and chew the fat (see separate article) on SW toys and get in in-depth look into what Chewie’s playpen looked like. Jeremy Bulloch (Boba Fett), Kenny Baker (R2-D2) and Zach Jensen (Kit Fisto) were all at one time or another scheduled to show, but had to cancel for various reasons. Other notables included that crazy defensive end from the movie “The Program” who had an appearance in the Horror Area as The Texas Chainsaw Massacre’s Leatherface.
At the end of a very long weekend, I have to give the convention an overall grade of B-/C+. There just wasn’t enough on the dealer and entertainment end to justify the high ticket price. Without any exclusives, big name retailers, or super star autographs, the only thing that made the convention a success of any type was the attendees. Whether it was a bunch of people dressed as anime or Stormtroopers, it was the fans interacting that made this a livable experience. I saw groups of all kinds interacting and entertaining themselves at bars and restaurants across town. Like I said, the convention was small and once you made your rounds, you had to make do with all the extra time you had left over. Next years event needs to put it’s money where its mouth is and either provide a true four convention experience or lower the price to meet the expectations.
Rob (Jetfire/WedgeWannaBe) Amid