Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Dragon*Con 2010 – The Best of Times

Dragon*Con is something I look forward to every year now. It has not always been an annual event for me, whether for financial or job reasons; I just haven’t always gone. But regardless of frequency it is always a great time (as long as you don’t end up with kidney stones).
Here are some of my favorite memories of Dragon*Cons past, in no particular order other than how they occurred to me.

Venture Bros. Panel (2008)
This was the first time I saw the magical duo of Jackson Publick and Doc Hammer speak. I had long been convinced that they had a direct line into my brain and this Q&A confirmed it. Between those guys being just as witty as you would think the pair behind the Venture Bros. would be and all of the fans in incredible costumes, this was a tremendous panel. It was also the first time I met The Belligerent Monkey. I ran into Evil and Darth Pete and some other old friends right before the panel. It turned out that Monkey was going too, so we headed over there and had some pretty solid conversation along the way. We’ve both got kids around the same age and we’re both huge nerds. Granted, the latter is pretty much a given if you’re at Dragon*Con; but our nerdery mostly lay in similar directions.
Misfits (1996)
This was back when Michael Graves was with them, so they were still pretty good live. I think I was down there with a bunch of guys from The Masquerade. I ended up hanging out all night with this hot Asian goth chick wearing, like, nothing (I do not remember how this came to be). I, however, have no game; so I went home with a serious case of dry dick. The Misfits were pretty great and I was pretty drunk, so it was still good times.
Walking Around With Lil’ Troublemaker (2008)
This happened the year of the kidney stone. I felt good enough on Monday to go down there for a couple of hours, so we loaded Lil’ Troublemaker into the car and went to the Dorkfest. He had just started walking with some assistance, so we wandered around while I held his hand. We had just enough time for him and the Missus to meet my close, personal, not-really friend Gail Kim before the stone started moving again and we had to leave. Which brings me to…

Meeting Gail Kim (2007)
I think this was the first year I really familiarized myself with the guest list before going to Dragon*Con. I’m pretty sure of that because I know I went down there specifically with the intention of meeting one of my favorite female wrestlers, Gail Kim. I just wanted to get a photo signed or something, but we ended up having a pretty decent conversation about wrestling and the state of the business. She was incredibly nice and her manager was, as well. She also dropped a hint about her upcoming title win at TNA’s Bound For Glory pay-per-view, which I attended with Patton and Carlito. You know, now that I think about it; that little new-Mustang-having motherfucker still owes me for that ticket. And a couple others, too. After half-an-hour or so I got a couple of pictures with her and went on my way. Unfortunately I was growing my hair out at the time and even though I may have ended up looking like a rocking sex muffin a year or so later, in those pictures I look like a fucking dork trying to grow his hair out. Hence - no picture.

Reconnecting (2007)
I ran into Evil and Darth Pete in the mall food court of all places. I hadn’t talked to either one of them in years due to a self-imposed social exile and I couldn’t have been happier to see them again. We’ve stayed in touch since then.

Buying Mrs. Troublemaker A Cat/Gargoyle Thing (2005)
The first time I went to Dragon*Con with Mrs. Troublemaker she pointed out this hideous cat/gargoyle/candle holder thing that she liked. I was too poor to get it for her then, but – knowing Dragon*Con has pretty much the same vendors every year - I planned in advance to have the cash to get it the following year. Of course, by that point I had this job, which meant that for the first time ever I had a decent amount of money to bring to the Southeast’s Biggest Dorkfest. And that was a pretty good feeling all on its own. Regardless, I got her the cat thing and she was thrilled.
DCW 2009 (20… well, duh)
Todd rules. If you were there, you understand. If you weren’t, no amount of explaining will matter.
The Year Of The Mask (2008)
(That's the very first picture taken of Phantom Troublemaker at Dragon*Con)
While the Phantom Troublemaker persona has been around since whatever year WWF No Mercy came out for the Nintendo 64, I’ve only had the original mask for a few years. I bought a Blue Demon mask from Ironman Mike on eBay, planning to wear it for our Halloween party in 2007. That ended up being the day Lil’ Troublemaker was born. 
Naturally, we didn’t have the party and I didn’t wear the mask (well, not for the party, anyway) so I decided I would wear it for Dragon*Con the following year. But then I thought, “Fuck that. The guy made me a perfect custom mask. I bet he could make a Phantom Troublemaker mask.” Easy enough, given that I had always envisioned that as a purple and green Blue Demon mask. I talked to Ironman and, sure enough, he made me my very first hood. After wearing it a couple of times, though, I realized that it wasn’t very practical for drinking; after a lengthy phone conversation with Ironman we came up with the open-chinned version I wear today.
So anyway, this was the first year I wore any sort of costume at Dragon*Con and I had a blast.
Meeting Malcolm MacDowell (2009)
Like a lot of social miscreants, I have been a fan of Mr. MacDowell’s ever since seeing A Clockwork Orange years ago. It’s always a sign of cool when he is involved in something - whether as a Star Trek villain, a depraved emperor or a failed wreck of a psychologist. We all went to his panel and he was entertaining and clever. Later on, when I went to the celebrity storage room to meet him, he was a super-nice and polite guy. He was totally fine with getting a picture with me and more than happy to see I had a Halloween 2 poster for him to sign. Shaking hands with Little Alex was just fucking surreal.

The Buffy Panel (2007)
This was the very first panel I ever attended. I had spent the morning going back and forth through the dealer hall and just wanted to sit down for a little while. I pulled out the schedule – something I had barely even looked at before that moment – to look and see what was going on. James Marsters, Elizabeth Rohm and the guy who played the snot demon on Angel were scheduled to be in a ballroom talking about Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel. That sounded pretty cool. I’m a huge Buffy fan and I thought it would probably be like sitting through a live DVD commentary, only less focused. And that is exactly what it was. James Marsters is spectacularly entertaining and I highly recommend you go to any panel he is on. This panel opened my eyes to the kind of entertaining and unique experiences Dragon*Con has to offer that I had been missing out on for years. Not anymore. As soon as I can get my hands on a schedule now, I sit down and figure out what I’m going to be doing and when. If you’ve never sat in on a panel I think you should; at least once. Find something you’re into (shouldn’t be a problem – there are hundreds of panels every year) and go check it out.

People Watching With Jeffistopheles
This is how I kick off Dragon*Con every year. I have a blast just standing around and watching the costumed folk with Jeffistopheles (pictured above walking into my shot). Of course, I also have a blast watching him ogle female comic book creators. Watch out, ladies – Jeffistopheles is sort of single this year and he’s very internationally savvy: he’s got Roman hands and Russian fingers!

Nimoy and Shatner (2009)
It sucks that the quality of panels peaked last year. James Marsters is great and I’m sure we’ll have some entertaining guests in the future, but William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy OWNED that motherfucker. The very first event last year was their panel and it was the greatest thing that happened all weekend. Those two have connection the likes of which I’ve never seen. Their timing and rapport is impeccable. I honestly could have sat there and watched them for hours - and we were watching a feed, not even in the same room. I wish I had thought to record the whole thing – It would be a regular viewing.

The First Time With Mrs. Troublemaker (2004)
Aside from the sheer despair that lingers from only having enough cash for a Sid Haig autograph and not a Bill Moseley to go with it, my strongest memory of this year was the fact that I actually had a great time hanging out with a female for the first time in many years. Not only that, we were at Dragon*Con - the nerdiest environment possible – and she wasn’t getting irritable or asking to leave or anything. It was awesome and like nothing I had ever experienced before. That may well be when I decided I was going to marry her (it was actually before Dragon*Con, but that definitely encouraged it).

So there are just a few great memories from past Dragon*Cons. I look forward to seeing what Cupcake Sting does this year.

Until next time, stay creepy
-Phantom

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