I have been to the Montreal Comiccon and I no longer fear hell.
The Palais des congrès, also known as the Lite-Brite convention centre due to its design atrocities and crimes against aesthetics, is conveniently located right on top of the Place des Arms metro station. Last Saturday, I came spilling out of the turnstile wearing my new Necropolis t-shirt with a QR Code on the back (or, as I call it to be technical, “blocky-blobby-stupid-phone-thingie”). The idea was to walk around the comic convention for twelve hours straight and see how many people would scan me and get directed to the Amazon book page. This, I was certain, was a terrible idea.
It was first thing in the morning, on the big middle day of the three-day show. And there were already thousands upon thousands of people there. It had been a while since I’d done a comic convention, but I recognized the usual misshapen body types, along with a phenomenon new to me since the last time I’d attempted an appearance. Never before have I seen so many tatted-up scrawny nerds. I’m used to seeing tattoos on people with more meat on their bones. Some of these kids looked like they weighed 98 pounds soaking wet, but were sporting the kind of ink you usually need to do ten years in a supermax to earn. They don’t make comic-book geeks like they used to.
Despite my comic background street-cred, I felt like an outsider. I was the sweaty middle-aged dude, grumpy about the early hour, dying in the July heat, eager to get into some air conditioning only to find it negated by so many human bodies packed shoulder-to-shoulder.
“I’m in the entirely wrong line to buy tickets, aren’t I?” I said, once I’d spent half an hour following the incorrect flood of people, spurred on by the convention centre attendants demanding “Avance! Avance!” at all the tourists who didn’t understand French.
The girl at the ticket-check smiled sympathetically and directed me outside to a whole other line for kiosks that weren’t even operational when I first passed them, forty minutes past the supposed opening time of the show.
At least I didn’t need to be anywhere. The main point of the excursion was to get that QR Code in front of as many people as possible. And the people just kept coming. Surely some of the bored attendees in the queue would whip out their phones and scan my intriguing shirt to pass the time.
Once I was inside, one $55 ticket later, I took some time trying to get my bearings in the enormous hall. It’s always nice to pay that kind of money to get into a venue filled with nothing but people selling things for even more money. I stopped by the closest booth, and any illusions I had about not belonging there were dispelled immediately when I caught a father asking about the identity of a superhero Lego minifig on behalf of his young son.
“I don’t know all the DC guys,” apologized the shopkeeper.
“That’s Dr. Fate,” I said, feeling a certain shame in knowing that.
I was thanked profusely, yet still felt dirty.
I don’t know why I ever bother to feel dirty about knowing geek stuff or flogging my wares. If I was dirty, then everyone else there was absolutely filthy. Particularly the celebrity guests.
Yeah, I know it’s standard for them to charge for photos and autographs, but dammit Elijah Wood, you starred in three of the biggest movies ever made. Didn’t you save some of that cash?
$95 for an autograph, another $95 for a selfie? A selfie! That’s right, for $95 you have to take your own damn picture. Nobody will even press the button for you. Fuck you, Frodo! Can’t you at least get your bitch, Samwise, to handle somebody’s camera for them while they’re paying your exorbitant fee? It’s not like you’d even have to give him a cut. He’d probably do it all day long for a thimbleful of mead, a turnip, and a pat on the head.
Okay, I’ll try to give the guy a break. He’s been making a lot of indie films for the love of his craft lately, and I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore was my favourite film of 2017. But damn dude, even working for scale on all those projects has to add up.
At least I know who Elijah Wood is. And Lou Ferrigno. And Christopher Lambert. Some of the other guests? No so much. Describing them as celebrities is a use of the word “celebrity” I am unfamiliar with. Take it from a old pro, not everybody who appears on a TV show is famous. Or the least bit notable.
As I wandered up and down the aisles, looking at all the merch for sale, and marvelling on the rare occasion I spotted actual comic books, I quickly filled up my Bingo scorecard of cosplayers.
Darth Fatty? Check. Unintimidating average-height Michael Meyers? Check. Damaged girl dressed as Harley Quinn? Check.
Goddamn, that’s a lot of Harley Quinns.
On a related note: ladies, if you’re wearing a costume that would make a stripper say, “Girl, get some clothes on!” rethink that. In fact, any outfit concept that has you walking around the show half naked, rethink that. I’m talking to you too, gentlemen. Nobody liked Jared Leto’s Juggalo-Joker. Nobody. Tuck your boy-titties away.
Props, however, to the guy dressed as Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark. At least somebody was trying to get laid by dressing for success.
I should say that not all of the more repulsive cosplayers put me off. A small child crying in terror at the sight of some murder-clowns brightened my day. I’ll admit it: I had to hide my face behind my program to stifle a laugh.
One of my key goals of the show was to scout out Artists Alley and see if it was well-travelled, or a desert of tumbleweeds and bored artists with no one to interact with. I have a notion I might want to pay for a table of my own next year and see how many books and comics I can hustle.
Once again, keeping to the theme of modern comic conventions having as little to do with comic books as possible, I was several rows into Artists Alley before I even knew I was there. Where were all the comic artists? Tucked into the very last stretch, it would seem. Most of the tables were manned by artisans of a different sort, selling all sorts of derivatives of comic-book culture without tainting their displays with any art that ever appeared in an actual comic. It’s great if you want a fashion accessory with an Avengers logo on it, not so great if you’re looking for someone who had anything to do with an Avengers comic book to sign your back issues.
I remain on the fence about dropping the chunk of change necessary to secure my own shop next year. It might prove to be money well spent, or it could turn into a PR fiasco. Speaking of which…
So how many confirmed pings did I get on my blocky-blobby-stupid-phone-thingie after exposing it to tens of thousands of nerds who would probably enjoy the hell out of Necropolis if they gave it half a chance?
Last I checked…four.
Promotion ain’t no easy thing.
Listen to the first half of last week’s episode of Cinema Smackdown if you want to hear additional details of my Comiccon adventures. Broadcast version is here.