It rained in San Francisco Friday, which was the only damper in driving, parking and getting through the front door of the Moscone Center. Can't blame the Con for the weather. The venue had plenty of space for the event, which to my eye took up maybe one-third to one-half the floorspace of the San Diego ComicCon--which still made it plenty big.
My girls are more interested in manga and anime, while I'd rather prowl the aisles ogling old comic books and original art, but there was enough of both to keep us all happy. My only small complaint concerned the programming of speakers and panels and such. One, they were hard to find, set in conference rooms on a mezzanine accessed by escalators tucked into distant corners. I think that alone kept the audiences smaller than I expected to find when I poked my head into a couple. Two, there was nothing I really needed to see. Some of that's my fault, some a function of it being a Friday with the good stuff saved for the weekend. That's really less a gripe than a note. Otherwise, no complaints at all.
Two of the first people I ran into were Richard and Wendy Pini, the husband and wife team that created the pioneering "ElfQuest" series and continues to do great work. Richard and I began corresponding after he read Whatever Happened to the World of Tomorrow and loved it. I don't mean to brag, but he's a fan. OK, I'm bragging a little. Anyway, I'd never met Richard in person, he had no idea I'd be there, and we had a really nice "reunion." They're terrifically kind and talented people I was proud to introduce to my kids.
So I'm standing there talking with Richard and Wendy when a man walks up and greets them as old friends. He looks familiar; I glance at his name tag: David Gerrold, science-fiction author and writer of the Star Trek episode "The Trouble with Tribbles." I begged a quick introduction from Richard and scored several Cool Dad Points when I was able to introduce Laura and Robin to the man who wrote their favorite Trek episode (because I raised them right). I'd read a couple of his books and so was able, for the first time in my life, to have an intelligent conversation with a creative-person-I-unexpectedly-met about his work (those types of meetings don't always go well for me).
David Gerrold. Cool beans.
The nice coda to the Gerrold story is that later, when my girls and I split up to do our own things, Robin and Laura were at a table shopping for tribbles when they looked up to see Gerrold talking with the vendor. (And I have to wonder what that would be like for him, to see critters he created 43 years ago for sale at a con . . .) Anyway, Gerrold recognized my girls, nodded to the shopkeeper and said, "Take care of these two. They're friends of mine." Which, you know, is pretty all right.
I was able to reconnect with a bunch of cartoonist-types I'd met before, including Shaenon Garrity ("Narbonic") and her husband Andrew Farago, who curates the San Francisco Cartoon Art Museum, Justin Thompson ("Mythtickle"), and Alexis Fajardo ("Kid Beowulf"). The latter two have new books out I was happy to pick up.
WonderCon also drew a nice mix of TV and movie celebrities. The Bionic Woman (Lindsay Wagner) sat next to Supergirl (Helen Slater). Funny moment: shortly after arriving, we saw Lou Ferigno (TV's "Hulk") sitting at a table. This is not remarkable. Mr. Ferigno has had a table at every comic-book-type event I've ever been to. You can't toss a light saber at a con without hitting Lou Ferigno. So I'm explaining this to my girls and then start to say, "I'm just surprised we haven't stumbled across Peter Mayhew yet," because if anyone's more ubiquitous at comics conventions than Ferigno, it's the tall Brit who played Chewbacca. And just as I'm saying it, right across the row from Ferigno, we see . . . Mayhew. That's what passes for hilarity inside my head.
I didn't meet Mr. Ferigno or Mr. Mayhew yesterday. Here's the deal with celebrities at cons: they're there to make money. I'm sure they genuinely enjoy meeting fans as well, but I don't think they'd appear if there weren't people willing to pay $20 or more for an autograph or photo. Thing is, I don't want their autographs or photos. What would I do with them? When I see someone whose work I've genuinely enjoyed, what I'd rather do is tell them that, say something nice and hopefully knowledgeable about their career, shake their hand, and thank them for being there. That moment means more to me than a signature pushed across a table. On the other hand, I understand and respect the fact that they're not making a dime from it, so I try to make sure I don't take up too much time or chase off paying customers. You'd be surprised how often you can catch a semi-famous person sitting at a table alone.
So I was delighted yesterday to have such moments with actors Erin Gray ("Buck Rogers"), Malachi Throne ("Star Trek" and a ton of stuff in the '60s and '70s), and Lee Meriwether (ditto). I also got to meet comic book writer Steve Englehart, who wrote some of my favorite comics when I was a kid.
Erin Gray, then and nowish (I didn't take the photo on the right, but that's about how she looked yesterday. Which there was nothing wrong with.)
Bought some books, met some people, made some friends. To me, that's a successful convention and a really nice day. I expect I'll be a WonderCon regular.