Orlando Convention Center March 5-7, 1999
by Julio Diaz
In trying to write a review of MegaCon '99, Florida's largest comics, sci-fi, role-playing, and Anime convention, I'm faced with the exact same problem I was faced with when I walked into the Convention Center early Saturday morning - there's so much to cover, I hardly know where to begin! It's virtually impossible to discuss it all, because it's almost impossible to DO it all! My wife and I largely stuck to the comics-related portions of the show, so I can't comment much on the Anime activities, for example, but even just sticking to one focus, we found plenty to keep us entertained throughout the weekend.
The many panel discussions we attended were a definite highlight of the weekend. In these panels, comics pros expound on a variety of topics in an informal chat session. Usually, there's a short presentation, after which the floor is opened to questions from the audience. Almost immediately upon arrival, we ran to catch Tony Isabella's "Adding Reality to Comics" panel. Isabella, a longtime comics writer and editor best known for creating Black Lightning, talked for about 10 minutes on his topic, then opened the floor. The Q & A session felt more like a chat among friends; Isabella's affable demeanor made everyone in the room feel like old pals, cracking jokes and generally just having a good time. It was a great start to our weekend. Tony Isabella does an outstanding daily online column expounding both on comics and the issues of the day; you can find it at http://www.wfcomics.com/tony. Other fun panels throughout the weekend included Marvel Comics' presentation of their upcoming plans (featuring many of Marvel's most popular artists and writers, including George Perez, Alex Ross, Rob Liefeld, and Joe Casey), and Saturday's foursome of Perez, Bob Layton (best known for his work on Iron Man ), Dick Giordano (former executive editor for DC Comics), and Don Perlin (best known for Werewolf By Night ). All in all, the panels were a major reason the weekend was so much fun.
When we weren't sitting in on a panel, we spent a good deal of our time between the Artist's Alley (a large room where artists, writers, and several minor celebrities were set up to sign autographs and chat with fans) and the huge dealer's room. We had time to spend a few minutes chatting with Perez, Isabella, Kabuki creator David Mack, and many others in Artist's Alley, all of whom were friendly and seemed genuinely pleased to talk with us.
Other artists spent their time at their own booths at the dealer's room, selling their wares and chatting with fans. One of the best things about interacting with the artists is discovering that they're just as big of fans of the medium as you are. For example, I spent 15 minutes discussing Legion of Super-Heroes lore with A Distant Soil creator (and past Legion contributor) Colleen Doran, and we bonded over the dismal turn the series has taken of late. The only sour taste in my mouth from the whole weekend was seeing comics legend Neil Adams in the next booth, charging for autographs! While this may be a standard practice in the sports world, it's not at all common in comics, and it was really dismaying to see this attitude rearing its head. In fact, meeting Adams was one of my projected highlights for the con, but upon this discovery, I didn't even waste my time going to his booth. Contrast this attitude with that of folks like Shi creator Billy Tucci, who not only signed comics but drew a free sketch for every visitor to the large booth he'd set up for his independent company, Crusade Comics, or Babylon 5 creator J. Michael Strazynski, who signed autographs for hours at a time at the Top Cow Comics booth (home of his new comics series, Rising Stars), and you can understand why I found Adams' money-grubbing more than a little distasteful.
Another highlight of the dealer's room was the giant booth that Wizard magazine had set up. At the Wizard booth, visitors were asked to answer trivia questions for prizes. If you got the question wrong, you could still get a prize, but only if you were willing to perform an embarrassing "physical challenge." Thus, the Wizard booth was a great place to people-watch, with such spectacles as one small child running around the booth, waving his arms, and yelling "I'm a flower, I'm a flower!"
Independent of the Wizard booth, MegaCon is a prime event for people watching, with many fans showing up dressed as favorite characters. Several people stopped the duo in impressive-looking Star Wars Stormtrooper outfits for photos, while another threesome made the rounds dressed in flawless costumes of the DC Comics heroes Green Lantern, Captain Marvel, and the Creeper.
At the risk of disappointing any Anime or role playing fans, we simply did not have time to participate in any of the myriad events that were offered for those genres. I can only imagine, though, that they were run just as professionally as the rest of the con, and provided those fans with as much entertainment as the rest of the con did for us. MegaCon '99 was a weekend to remember, and we'll definitely be back next year!