Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Comicon Aftermath

Got back from the Pittsburgh Comicon on Sunday night. Since we started going in 2000, I’ve had the same complaints—it opens too early (10:00 am on Friday, fer Chrissakes?), it goes on too long, it doesn’t bring in a crowd (to its defense, neither does any other Pittsburgh-based show), its admission is over-priced, the staff isn’t particularly friendly and it’s located in a part of Pittsburgh that’s always under construction and congested with traffic. Add a couple of Penguins and Pirates games into that mix, top it with an accident that shut down the half of the Parkway that wasn’t being blown up by PenDot and you wound up with an excruciatingly slow and unprofitable show. At least for the vendors.

Honestly, though, I was a little surprised. I thought sure the “ghoul factor” would have been more present this year around, given that the show’s creator, Mike George, had been recently convicted of the First Degree Murder of his wife in 1990. Whether or not you believe Mike is guilty or innocent, you have to admit the novelty of attending a convention that has this sort of brand new mystique to it. Quite the opposite happened, however. A number of folks—both attendees and, allegedly, guests—boycotted the show for this very reason. Rumor has it that some of the vendors referred to it as “Murder Con”, though I didn’t hear anyone refer to it like that directly.

The final tally, though, despite the heavy draws of David Prowse (listed as “Star War’s [sic] Darth Vader”) and Jim Balent and Holly Golightly, the crowd just didn’t want to come and, to paraphrase Yogi Berra, we couldn’t stop ‘em.

Now, we’ve long since resigned ourselves to the fact that it’s really difficult to make money at a Pittsburgh-based show, but we tend to enjoy ourselves at Comicon. For one thing, I love comic books. They hold a place in my heart right next to the movies. Plus, as far as the show itself goes, it was the first we ever attended professionally and it’s helped us establish a good base of close friends. If it weren’t for Comicon, I doubt I’d have as good a relationship with the comic artists I now count among my friends (for an abbreviated list, please see Sirens of Cinema Magazine). And it can usually be counted on to give us at least two out of three on our Fun/Contacts/Money Success Triangle. This year, due to low attendance (thanks to construction, traffic, games, weather, and Pittsburgh indifference in general), we barely squeaked by with Fun and Contacts.

As usual, there were some amazing artists there, a lot of whom I hope to work with in Sirens later in the year. And it was cool to see Jim and Holly, Joe Jusko, Billy Tucci, Mike and Diana Okamoto, Dave Nestler, Dorian, Louis Small Jr., Chris Yambar and many other Comicon friends. A couple of my students showed up to hang out, as did Jeff Waltrowski, Eric and Lorena (Splatter Movie, Black Sunday) and we got to have drinks with Kristen Blank and the Rev. Steve Foland. It was a bummer that several people we were hoping to see had cancelled, particularly Jimmy Palmiotti, Amanda Conner, Michael Kaluta and Kane Hodder (damn you, Kane!!).

My personal highlight came on Saturday afternoon. Amy and I were guests on a panel with legendary writer/editor/artist Al Feldstein, creator of EC Comics’ horror line (Tales from the Crypt, Vault of Horror). I remember when we first ordered our table, I requested that we be included on this “Very Scary” panel, which also originally consisted of Al, Kane, Len Barnhart (Reign of the Dead) and others, but we never heard back. Flipping through the program on Saturday, I saw that we’d been added to the line up. And imagine my surprise when it was just the three of us and a three-quarter-filled audience! (I was half-terrified that Conrad Brooks (Plan 9 From Outer Space) was going to invite himself to the panel as well—something he’s notorious for—but he didn’t arrive until much later on Saturday, relief of reliefs.) So I got the chance to interact with one of my own personal heroes and influences! (And if you doubt any of that, watch The Resurrection Game and pay close attention to Necro-Phil!)

Still, despite long periods of crushing boredom—trying to engage the tumbleweeds in conversation just to keep the gun out of my mouth!—we still managed to have a good and productive time. A few things were discussed that could lead to a cool 2008 and some new friends were made who could also add cool to the coming year. But more than anything else, it made me wish that it was October and that Wasteland was right around the corner.

Monday, April 07, 2008

The Return From Wasteland

Last week, I sent out three copies of Splatter Movie: The Director’s Cut, started teaching at the Savini School of Digital Photography, wrote more of my new book, copied almost a hundred DVDs - none of that compared to the excitement of a new pending Cinema Wasteland.

Yes, this is another of those blogs that begins, "As you all know, Wasteland is our favorite show..." The Cleveland convention has always been a highlight of our year and this past April show was no exception. In fact, it was one of the best times we’d ever had, particularly as no one emailed me on Saturday to tell me that a company I was working for was no longer in business. Not losing a job first thing in the morning is a terrific way to ward off depression.

Wasteland is our "family" show. While we generally have an awesome time at every show, Wasteland is the show where we feel completely comfortable and welcome. The antithesis of the high school gym feeling you often receive at biz gatherings. If you’re a regular reader of this online screed, then you know how we feel about this show, Ken and Pam Kish the promoters, the staff, the hotel, the atmosphere, the humidity, etc. At the risk of alienating the new reader(s), I think I’ll forgo the Romper Room roster ("I saw Damien and Ed and Jill and Greg and Carrie and Mike and...) and just hit the highlights:

I somehow managed to con William Wright, one of my head writers at Sirens of Cinema, to drag his wife and young child (the amazingly friendly (clingy? Needy?) Harlan Hunter) 600 miles from Tennessee to join us in the insanity. Which was awesome. Hell, half the staff of Sirens was in attendance at this show, which was also, you know, awesome. Within seconds, Harlan had lept from mom Olivia’s arms into Amy’s, and then into Mink Stole’s. Mink’s response: "I love that fans are always giving me things at conventions."

I also loved that Mink loved the issue of Sirens containing her interview. (11, incidentally, with the Joe Jusko cover, still available through the site.) I hadn’t heard from her after what I considered to be the best interview I’d done all last year, so I was terrified I’d insulted her, etc. Turns out there was a family tragedy that kept her from responding. (What a relief!) So my terror was immediately replaced by, okay, guilt. Still, she liked the issue and that made me do the little "Happy Mink Stole Liked the Issue Dance". Not to be confused with the "Happy Wasteland Dance" and the "Happy Doughnut Dance". We do a lot of dances at Happy Cloud Pictures.

Five minutes before the dealer’s room opened on Friday, Ilsa herself, Dyanne Thorne, appeared in the doorway to introduce herself to the room and to wish everyone a terrific show. She looked amazing and that was a classy thing to do. One dealer grumbled, "Sure, that’s because she’s going to make all the money." He was summarily killed and eaten. We did the "Happy Devoured Grumpy Dealer Dance".

Sid Haig walked through the door and shook my hand instead of stabbing me in the throat with a letter opener. Not that he’s ever done this, but it always feels good when he doesn’t.

Henrique Couto arrived with a friend of his from New Jersey. Her name was Regina. She was dressed as a school girl. Eventually, she overcame her shyness and joined in on the fun. Henrique had dropped 30 pounds or so from the last time we’d seen him. He also never wore pants the entire time he was there.

Low Budget Pictures was represented this trip by Chris Seaver (genius director of Mulva 2), Travis (genius actor of Carnage for the Destroyer) and Josh (genius star of Film Crew and now legally allowed to travel within the state of Ohio once again). They yelled a lot and refused to give me a copy of Ski Wolf. No matter how much blow I hooked them up with.

We presented Tom Sullivan with the very Grendel mask he wore in Splatter Movie. He was pleased. Then he went back to constructing a seven-foot-tall manniquin of The Dread, from the film of the same name. Later, we learned he’d exchanged the Grendel mask for a taco and some duct tape. His partner, Pat Reese, stole the mask back and ate the taco.

Our executive producer, Fred Obermiller, gave us a copy of "Cinema Skin" that contained a rave review of A Feast of Flesh and two screen grabs of the ever-topless Rachelle Williams. I conned William Wright into going up to her in the bar to have her sign it. (Jeez, I can get him to do anything.) It was funny. She only slapped him twice before autographing it. He only slapped her once in return. Now they are legally married in Dubai.

Mike and Carolyn Haushalter joined us for dinner at Applebee’s on Friday, which rocked. The company and the food. As we were leaving, there were two hosts at the door talking as we left. As we passed the first one, he said, "Have a great night." The second one, thinking he was speaking to her, said "What?"

I said, "He said ’have a good night’."

She said, "Oh, no - I thought -"

"Oh, so I’m not allowed to have a good night?" I said. "Jeez, the service at this place."

She turned beet red. I did the "Happy Embarressed and Confused Applebee’s Hostess Dance".

David and Tara joined us on Saturday. They were supposed to join us Friday as well, but, fortunately, they were not killed on the way. Just delayed. We did the "Happy Still Alive David and Tara Dance" (that joke never gets old). Tara had created a Tara-sized shirt out of the Happy Cloud shirt we’d given her for Christmas. She’d snipped away almost three yards of material. Now it’s useless as a bed sheet. Jeez. Amy dragged them all over the dealer’s room to introduce them to all of our con friends. Tara met Unky Lloyd Kaufman and got all verklempt. (Tara gets star-struck during card tricks, though. She once met that guy who dresses in question marks and tries to sell you a phone book-sized tome on Free Money. It took her two hours to blink or breathe again, she was so impressed. She bought six books.) Unky Lloyd followed her around for several minutes trying to convince her to be in Troma’s new "Pornogeist". He wrote his number on the back of David’s head for her. Next week, we all drive up to New York to write our names on the side of the Troma building and then run. They’ll be awestruck by our penmanship!

Saturday night, Splatter Movie: The Director’s Cut (what I thought was the final version, but I found four bad sound cues) screened to a packed room. We were astounded at the amount of people in there. Some of them weren’t even in the movie! There were three guys in the back row talking back to the movie the whole time and were actually 93% as funny as the movie itself. Amy and I introduced the movie by saying "Not in the face," and then drinking every time we had a panic attack. It’s like "Quarters" for neurotics.

Al Tuskes, from Precinct 13, joined us for the screening and claimed to have enjoyed it immensely. He obviously wasn’t lying because he joined us for drinks afterwards. A lot of drinks. Apple Juice, ice water and bible passages.

"Bible Passages" is made with vodka.

At one point, I was talking to Regina and this dumb blonde dressed like Milia in Resident Evil came over to my table, looked at me, then took Regina’s arm and said "I HAVE to interview you for my show." Then proceded to yak at her in front of my table while I shouted "No, that’s okay. Ignore the guest and interview the attendee. Very classy, Queen of the Peroxide!" Actually, I didn’t shout the latter. But I thought it loudly. Later, said woman was found in the lobby covered in sperm and shame. I may have made that last part up too, depending on whether or not it can be construed as libel.

By Sunday, we’re usually ready to come home, but not this time. We were exhausted, from the drinking, the revelry and the corridor beer pong competition (combining man’s love of both beer and pong), but we weren’t ready to leave. But finally, we tore ourselves away. It took us over an hour to say our goodbyes - To Lixx Online, to Ken and Pam, to Charlie and Tim and Kate, to Carrie and Mike, to the Toe Tag folks, Art and Allana, Rob Lucas, Xploited, the Professor, Mary-Anne... A wonderful time was had by all. Or, at least, by us. And isn’t that what’s really important?