It was my first voyage to the FX International Convention, an enormous event in Orlando that brings out considerable crowds to experience a sheer wall of merchandise, celebrity apathy, and a legion of hungry comic book artists clamoring for the almighty dollar. It’s a monetary free-for-all that bravely thumbs its nose at today’s economy, presenting a buffet of celluloid heroes and plastic, “Made in China” divinity that demands persistent cash machine attention.
Because in space, nobody accepts credit.
FX is an oddball convention that doesn’t trumpet flat-out nerdiness like other genre assemblies. The show likes to pretend it’s a gourmet celebration of autographing and toy dealing, free of the unshowered bondage that normally ostracizes planned gatherings such as this. Truth is, FX swims in the deep blue sea of geekdom with little hesitation, eating up every last bit of square footage the Orange County Convention Center permits with a maze of sights, sounds, and…smells that bring to life a classic convention atmosphere. It’s an impressive amalgamation of genre superstars, unnecessary cleavage, and snake oil salesmen.
The real draw of the convention seems to be the celebrities, ranging from big screen and television performers to comic book creators. The big names command the big attention, and apparently the big bucks as well. Note to any aspiring actor out there: get thee to a sci-fi show as fast as humanly possible. The crowds at FX overwhelmingly favored cult names such as Julie Benz, James Kyson Lee, and Juliet Landau, not to mention lengthy lines to meet the “Firefly” ladies, Morena Baccarin and Jewel Staite. And by long lines, I mean a train of eager, bearded men waiting for their chance to breathe bad breath on their masturbation fantas...favorite actors. The major player in this genre of autograph awareness was James Marsters, who came to fame on “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and was recently “seen” in the flop “Dragonball Evolution.” Mr. Marsters is apparently made up of 10% hair gel and 90% gall, requesting his faithful fans cough up $40 for an autograph (an extra $5 for the glossy).
Obviously many of these performers see the conventions as a fertile source of revenue, and I’m aware that we all have bills to pay. However, spending a few moments watching the excitement of fans permitted to interact with their idols left me wondering the true purpose of the fleecing. Is it market demand or cruel swindling? Perhaps this is a useless complaint, since everyone at the convention appeared to hold little hesitation with the numerous requests for cash from the celebrities. I don’t want to be a wet blanket here, but the intricate pricing racket often alarmed me. Still, to watch the fattened-wallet excitement of those gearing up to meet “Star Trek” legends Jonathan Frakes and Leonard Nimoy is an apple-cheeked, ill-fitting-Starfleet-uniform flush of fandom I could honestly watch all day.
Of course, that pinwheel of glee wasn’t extended to every famous face at the convention. Actors Cerina Vincent and Camden Toy spent more time pretending to take calls on their cell phone than signing for a fee, and professional wrestler Jake “The Snake” Roberts, looking about one hastily scribbled application away from joining the ranks of the nightmare producers at “Monsters, Inc,” appeared bored out of his mind sitting at the very end of the autograph table line-up. In many ways, celebrity autograph row came across as a miniature version of a high school caste system. Spock was clearly the prom king.
The rest of the convention featured a familiar hodgepodge of talented artists trying to sell their drawings and comics (most featuring bosomy women doing bosomy things), costumers offering elaborate fantasy wear, and toy salesmen presenting a time machine of playthings that I had trouble keeping away from. With the “Kids of the ‘80s” movement now slowing down to a crawl, the FX gathering maintained a glimmer of hope that interest is still alive for obscure items such as “Dune” toys and gun replicas from “V.” Not surprisingly, colorful “Star Wars” merchandise still grabs the largest amount of shelf space (truly the best collection of toy lines around), but renewed interest in “G.I. Joe” was felt throughout the various booths, along with an appropriate fixation on the new “Star Trek” picture. The fanboy goods were just amazing to behold, encouraging a desire for my carefree youth again and/or piles of money to spend freely on absolute crap. Because everyone needs a “Dune” spice mining toy, right?
The remainder of the long afternoon was well spent on costume ogling, huckster avoiding, and nerd envy. The FX show is only my second taste of the convention experience, and outside of a serious halitosis outbreak (a few of the vendors wisely pushed free mints at their tables) and a few grumbly words from Frakes, I think I’m hooked. Where else can a wannabe geek get his fill of vintage AT-AT toys and spy an all-female tribute to “Tropic Thunder?”
Nowhere. Nowhere but here.
Here are a few more pictures from the event. As always, forgive the loopy photography skills.
I had no idea there was a toy line for this underrated flick.
This guy had the Beemans gum and everything. Fantastic!
Turn your car into KITT.
The dealer tried to convince me these were valuable, hard to find comics.
Best backpacks of all time.
By far the biggest "...the hell?" booth of them all.