If you’ve been reading the site recently, then you know that September was a month filled with conventions. It all started with Baltimore Comic-Con, which was followed by Retro Con, and finally there was Monster-Mania 26. I’m not even remotely a horror guy, so why did I go to Monster-Mania? Well, it’s simple – there was going to be a Batman ’66 reunion with Adam West, Burt Ward, Lee Meriwether, and Yvonne Craig. Stan Lee and Adam West have always been on my Must Meet list, and since I met Stan 2 years ago, now it was time to check Adam off the list. So, even if that meant I would be braving a horror convention, it was time to meet Adam West.
I wanted to guarantee that I met Adam, and luckily there was a VIP package similar to when I met Stan Lee. Unluckily, that package cost $200. For that price, I was guaranteed a picture with Adam (with my own camera), an autograph, admission to the show the whole weekend, and admission to an exclusive dessert party Friday night. Before buying that pass, I spoke with some former Monster-Mania attendees to see if it was worth it. While the price was steep, I liked that it guaranteed the meeting, meaning I wouldn’t have to waste all day in line for the chance of a meeting. So, I paid it. It was around this time that Yvonne Craig canceled due to a family health matter. No Batgirl? Oh well, there was still Batman.
Before going, I couldn’t really decide what I wanted Adam to sign for me. I thought about the Batman ’66 figures, but I don’t like the idea of signed toys, which aren’t as easy to display as a signed book. I thought about Batman ’66 #1, but he didn’t really have anything to do with it. It’s a comic vaguely based upon his likeness, but that’s about it. So, I Googled some pics, and came up with this one that I really liked:
Sure, most folks would choose a picture of Batman and Robin, but something about this one just spoke to me. It’s as GQ as Bruce and Dick could be during that era, and I liked that Bruce looked pensive. Since it was a scan of an old trading card, it had also faded in a way that I actually liked. So, I went to Kinkos (I’ll probably never call it FedEx Office), and printed out a full page version of the pic. Finally, I was ready for the show.
Friday afternoon, I got off work early and headed up to Hunt Valley where the show was being held. The VIP session was set to start at 4:30, but I didn’t get there until around 5 due to traffic. A guy at the front desk directed me to the Garden Room, where we were to wait for our turn to meet Adam. At this point, the guy sitting next to me asked, “Did they tell you about Burt Ward?” What did this mean? Was he dead? Had he gone on a killing spree? What an odd way to start a conversation. Anyway, I said, “No, what about Burt Ward?” Apparently, for an extra $30, Burt would get in the picture with you and Adam. Now, I’d already paid $200 to get this far, and now they wanted more money? Still, I had considered trying to get something signed from Burt, and I heard he charged $60 just for that. So, the additional $30 didn’t sound so bad. Sure, I kinda just wanted my pic with Batman, but how often can you get a pic with Batman AND Robin? So, I went out and told the staff guy that I wanted the Burt package, and I was whisked away to another ballroom to wait with a different group of folks. After I waited for about 20 minutes, they started taking t-shirt sizes. I guess we’re getting free t-shirts. It was at this point that a drunk guy got belligerent, and started asking if Adam was even there. He said that he was tired of waiting (keep in mind it was only 5:20, and the room opened at 4:30), and that this was bullshit. The organizer tried to tell him that he had to take care of getting everyone’s shirts, and drunk guy said, “I AM everyone!” Finally, they offered to give him his money back and escorted him out of the room. About 5 minutes later, Adam walked in with a “Ho, what do we have here?”
Did I mention that I was the only black person there? It may not matter, but I feel I should mention it here. When the guy was giving out shirts, it was like he was going out of his way to avoid giving me mine, but then he had the gall to try to defuse the situation with, “Nothing personal. I’m just trying to do it like this.” Like what? He didn’t seem to have any kind of system until it came to me, and then he felt he should say something before I “got all black” on him. That’s how it felt, at least. And some dude and his girlfriend actually cut in line in front of me and some other folks, but the other folks didn’t say anything and I didn’t feel comfortable enough to say anything. This was Baltimore, which isn’t the most hospitable place. You may know it from The Wire, but it’s also a cult city devoted to the Ravens and the color purple. I hate most things about it, but I knew I was on their turf, so I didn’t want to start any shit.
Anyway, Burt wasn’t ready for pics yet, so Adam was going to sign stuff first. They personalize everything to keep you from eBaying it, so they asked my name, and Adam proceeded to write “To William” on it. While it was less of an assembly line than the Stan meeting, it felt less personal. I actually got to speak to Stan, while Adam’s handlers protected him, feeding him things to sign. Didn’t even get to shake his hand (maybe he’s a germaphobe). I told him that it was an honor to meet him, as he handed my pic back to me. He said something that clearly wasn’t memorable as I can’t tell you what it was. It was probably something as mundane as “There ya go.” Oh, and he used a silver pen which barely showed up on my pic
Once the signing was done, we got back in line for the pics. By this point, Burt was there and he did not look his best. There are few things worse than an older man who dies his hair jet black. Anyone who’s seen Return to the Batcave knows that Burt has gray hair. So, at what point did he decide to basically put shoe polish on his head? It was kinda disappointing, as he looked like a giant, special boy. Can I also mention my displeasure with the picture aspect? When I paid that kind of money for Stan, it was a professional picture, with a backdrop. I’ve been told that my pic looks like I ran into them somewhere and got them to take a picture with me. No, folks – I paid for that. I feel, for that money, they could at least have had a photographer. Have it so I can pick up the photo later during the show. Sure, having it on my phone allowed me to tweet it and such, it still doesn’t look professional quality, nor was it worth what I paid. The first pic was blurry, so they were nice enough to take it again, but I don’t feel they’d have these issues with one photographer, with one good camera.
After the pics, we got back in line, and I wondered what this new line was for. Well, it turned out that Burt was signing. “Well, cool”, I thought. I get a pic and an autograph from both. Standing in line, though, we started getting the impression that the signing wasn’t included. I asked the guy in front of me, and he told me that Burt was charging, but he wasn’t sure how much. As someone was leaving, the guy asked how much, and was told that Burt charged $50 for the autograph. Apparently, there’s a favored nations clause where Burt gets everything Adam gets. So, if Adam charges $60 for a picture, then so does Burt. I don’t really think this is fair – mainly because Batman and Robin are NOT an equal partnership. Robin is more of a junior partner, and his rates should reflect that. We’d already paid $230 just to get in this particular room, and now Burt wanted $50 more? Nah, fuck that noise. I got out of line and walked out.
Since I’d already come all that way, I figured I should at least check out the showroom floor. Did I mention that I didn’t feel comfortable? Because I didn’t. I don’t want to say anything too negative, so as not to offend anyone, but horror fans are kinda scary. There were a LOT of people there who looked like borderline skinheads, which didn’t bode well for my lone black status. I walked around, but most of the dealers were selling old VHS movies that had been burned onto DVD. There were some toy dealers, but their prices were astronomical. I checked out a loose Marvel Legends Hawkeye, and the dealer offered to sell him to me for $25, down from the asking price of $30. Sure, he’s not easy to find, but the fact that there’s a new Hawkeye on the market will drive prices down on the old one. I wandered into the ballroom and saw some of the “guests”. I’m not sure why I put that in quotes, but I did. Because it was Friday, the show wasn’t in full swing, so maybe people weren’t bringing their A-game. Still, I saw David Prowse, who’s at every convention. I saw Michael Madsen, but I didn’t get too close because I didn’t want him to try to sell me something, and I saw Kari Wuhrer, who looked like an attractive, middle aged diner waitress – ya know, a single mom just trying to catch a break. I just didn’t feel like it was my cup of tea, so I headed for the door after being there about an hour.
On the way out, I took some pics of the Batmobile and Batcycle on display outside the lobby. Apparently, you could have your picture taken in the Batmobile, but the photographer didn’t seem to be anywhere nearby, plus that would’ve been another $20. So, I headed for my car to begin the journey home.
I really haven’t enjoyed this convention season. I’m not sure what it was, but in the words of U2, “I still haven’t found what I’m looking for.” It was cool meeting my pals at Retro Con, but that was about it. I didn’t go to these shows with many expectations, but even my lowered ones were not met. I did get to meet a childhood hero, and I’m thankful for that, but in no way was it worth what I paid. I don’t think I’ll ever do that again, especially since my list has been completed. I wouldn’t mind meeting Jason David Frank one day, but I know he ain’t worth more than about $50. I kinda wish I could have one last shot at fun at New York Comic-Con, but I’m fairly certain the 2013 convention season is done for me. Well, there’s always next year…