Adam's Dragon*Con Adventure
By Adam "OMEGA" Arnold
"Dragon*Con?! You couldn't afford a plane ticket to California to attend AX?"
While others were hearing about the hentai raid at AX, I was living it up at Dragon*Con... since I'm multi-cultural like that Nuku Nuku girl -- except I'm a guy and stuff. That didn't make any sense, did it? Ok, moving right along...
Things I Brought:
(2) Comic Book/Product Want List
(1) 3-Ring Notebook with paper, page protectors, and printed covers of ANIMEfringe.
(30) ANIMEfringe Business Cards
(1) Book Bag
(1) Bottle of Miscellaneous Medication/Drugs
(1) Mini-Tape Recorder
(2) Spare Mini-Tapes
(4) Spare AA Batteries
(1) Dragon*Con Information Book
The night before a convention is a turbulent one. Comic book/product want lists have to be made and printed in duplicate, back packs have to be made ready, and the transportation has to be in check. All this has be ready and waiting before you retire to sleepy land, in order to be refreshed for the pilgrimage to the convention center.
Saturday July 1, 2000
9:06 AM - I reach the Hyatt Regency and am instructed by my courier to exit the vehicle as we are stopped at a red light. I throw one of my backpack's straps over my right shoulder and zig zag my way across the street to the looming building.
9:10 AM - Calling upon my vast knowledge of the previous year's expedition, I head straight for the escalator down and enter the Registration area in the International Ballroom. I snag myself a data card and plop down on the floor to fill out the prying card. Once complete, I dart up and rush through the maze of guard rails to the line to pay, then to a stand filled with computers and smiling volunteers ready to steal all the information I have listed. By this time, I've lost this weird guy who was riding my backside this whole time and whip out my ID so I can pick up my Saturday Day Pass. I pin the cheaply-manufactured identification badge on, grab a convention bag, and head for the Atlanta Apparel Mart -- where destiny awaits.
9:32 AM - After doing everything in my power to beat the slow street walkers, I learn that the Dealer's Room and Exhibit Hall won't open until 10 o'clock. So, I decide to walk down a seemingly endless hallway filled with clothing displays where I come across a small refreshment store where I try to purchase a bottle of Diet Coke that will, hopefully, tide me over for the next few hours. Sadly, they didn't have any bottles of Diet Pepsi, but I digress. About this time I realize that I forgot my Convention Agenda which I typed up the night before, thus I have to re-figure out where the things are I want to attend. Luckily, it's not that much.
9:59 AM - Realizing the growing mob of people lined up across the whole of the entrance way to the Dealer's Room, the ever vigilant badge checkers, much like the card checker at Sam's Club, open the doors and are trampled by droves of people after one thing -- personal space.
10:00 AM - As I pass through the doors, I enter a world I've only ventured to twice before, but know all too well. I scan the area and take note of my surroundings and take a quick glance at my watch. There be merchandise in these here parts. Well, I decide to check out the booths and find my way to the Walk of Fame to meet Apollo Smile, The Live Action Anime Girl, again.
10:05 AM - I walk up to the Apollo Smile table and there are pictures and posters everywhere. Behind the table is the Team Smile crew and a few fans standing around so I join the crew and learn that Apollo's on her way. Well, waiting at a convention is probably one of those unique experiences you can have. There was this lady who was going on and on about her super-hero troupe and asking me questions -- I'm just agreeing with her so she can have her way. Well, luckily, she finally left to go fight evil or something.
10:25 AM - Still no Apollo yet, so the crew hands out free buttons to everyone who is standing around. I take the time to introduce myself to the team and try to set up an interview session (which later gets canceled due to time constraints on my part). I also take the time to purchase the two Apollo Smile CDs which are for sale: 'Love Kisses and Grenades' and 'Wrecking Ball.' This leads to a long chatting session with the crew of Team Smile and the people just standing around about everything from cool Anime series to what Highlander movies not to watch and even trading Space Channel 5 stories. Interesting fact: A live action Apollo Smile tv series is in the works.
10:45 AM - By this time I've taken a seat on the steps beside the table with a few other people when the stunning Apollo Smile comes up in her kimono. Whispers follow that she was held up at the door because she didn't have a badge. She goes behind the table and takes off her outer layer to revile one of her trademark kick-butt costumes. A small line forms in which I'm the third. At my turn I introduce myself, and remind Apollo that we meet two years before. I was the guy on the sci-fi chat. Amazingly, she remembered. One of Team Smile hands her my business card and tells her about the possible interview and I briefly tell her about ANIMEfringe and Apollo says that if we can't do it today, then we could do it online. I agree and get my CDs signed. As this is happening I relay my story of going out and pre-ordering Space Channel 5 when I heard she was doing the voice of Ulala. Apollo found this to be really cool and gave me a few tips to boost my viewer rating, since I seem to have no rhythm to beat the game on my own. When it's all over, I thank Apollo and am on my way.
10:55 AM - Well, I only have 35 minutes until the Yoshitaka Amano - The Sandman: The Dream Hunters panel begins over at the Hyatt. I take a moment to put up the CDs in my book bag and then walk around the dealers booths to see what items I might be interested in. I come across the Titan: Comics and Games booth which seems to stretch on for at least 5 dealer spaces. I skim the area for the manga section and find the A's. I flip through the Akira manga they have and pull out issues 35,36,& 37 from the box and skim the prices which aren't that bad for some of the rarer issues of the Epic Comics color release. So I hand the books to the dealer who rings up the books and adds tax to the amount. I pay the amount and store the books in my book bag and pull out my comics list and glance over the entries. If that wasn't enough, I decide to go through a few more of the boxes at the booth for DC Comics I'm looking for. Sadly, I find only OMAC #3, a black and white time travel series by John Byrne which I decide to buy just to see how the series is.
11:07 AM - A few minutes of wandering lead me to another comic booth where I score Viz's Manga Vizion Vol.1 #3 and Vol.3 #2,6,11. Not bad for an out of print manga anthology that's pretty hard to find now.
11:15 AM - I look at items and fansubs at a few other booths. And as I turn to leave for the panel, I get side-tracked at the Miramax booth which has the Highlander: Endgame trailer playing. The movie looks awesome, the movie seems to have it all: series and movie characters, tons of flashbacks, answers to mysteries, and tons and tons of action, explosions, and sword fights. OK, when that's over, I race upstream through the people until I'm out the doors and back on the streets.
11:20 AM - I dart up the street past Sailor Senshi and Dawn look-a-likes to the looming building where I take a wrong turn and have to check my map. But, soon I find the correct escalator and follow a few people into Regency VI-VII - Main where I find a seat on the edge of the fifth row behind the speakers with time to spare. I take the time to admire the covers of my comic books and to cross off their numbers from my want list. I put them up, put on my glasses and set up my mini-tape recorder just as Yoshitaka Amano (artist of The Sandman: The Dream Hunters), his female translator, and surprise speaker Neil Gaiman (writer of the whole The Sandman series) enter the room.
In the hour and ten minute panel, the whole story of how The Sandman: The Dream Hunters came about was relayed by both Gaiman and by Amano. For those curious, Gaiman decided to totally side-step his work on the English adaption of Princess Mononoke early on when he told how Amano was commissioned to do a tenth anniversary poster and a collaboration was batted around. The famous story goes that Amano told Gaiman that he doesn't do comic books, so they settled on a illustrated novel. What you probably don't know is that the book was extended just to include Amano's illustrations which started to pore into the DC Comics offices slowly as Gaiman was working on the book with no real direction on where it would go. This lead to some interesting things as Gaiman slowly stopped being so descriptive and let Amano's paintings do the work.
Most interesting of all is the confession from Gaiman that the Afterword is totally fictionalized. He said that due to the tiny print it looked official, but he admits he got tired of saying that the inspiration for The Dream Hunters was totally original. And he found it was easier to just lie and say it was a retelling of an old Japanese myth.
Totally useless fact that came up in the conference: DC Comics prints all the interiors for at least 3 printings of a book and just covers them differently. So The Sandman: The Dream Hunters was released as a Hardcover first, that means there will be two printings of the soft-cover before Gaiman is able to do any revisions.
Anything else? Well, Amano talked about his new personal video game project H.E.R.O. which is also a collaboration with Gaiman that is set in the distant future as characters relay stories of centuries before. There is also a modern day fairy tale collaboration being batted around that, if set in New York, would feature a story of Cinderella set atop the Chrysler Building.
12:40 PM - Time is called on the time-extended panel, virtually everyone gives the trio a standing ovation and then departs. I trek back to the Apparel Mart as the sweltering sun beats down. I wander around the lobby a few minutes and get my cell phone out for my planned check in time. "Houston, we have a problem."
1:00 PM - I realize that my Nokia cellular phone and it's service provider are the sorriest pieces of garbage on the face of the Earth as my planned check-in time with my mom's cell-phone comes and goes as I am desperate trying to get a call through. [note 1: this was a problem with the service provider and thus they are sorry and on my black list and I hate them, etc]. Anyway, I find a pay phone, and after trying unsuccessfully to get enough quarters to make a long-distance call, I get out a credit card and charge the call to it [note 2: due to circumstances beyond my control, I didn't have a calling card at this point in time]. I leave a nice, long winded message and tell that I will call again at three with an update.
1:15 PM - My nerves shot, I follow the entourage of people through the badge checker's gates. It seems that after lunch, the convention gets really crowded and hot. And if you don't know where you're walking, the rows or tables and booths turn into a reality distorting maze where people flow in one direction that is nearly impossible to go against. Quite often, I find myself going in the wrong direction while trying to find a booth I saw before.
1:23 PM - My quest for manga soon becomes more aggressive as I whip out my comic want list from my left pocket and step up to an older gentleman's comic booth to scourer the depths of his manga bins. My heart is racing. My palms are sweating. I make my way to the G's and find the tab called 'Gunsmith Cats.' I begin to flip through the books from front to back. Time seems to go backwards, or maybe its just because the comics are sorted newest to oldest. Anyway, I make it to Part 1, slowly I continue backwards, and my heart stops. There it is... the Dark Horse version of Gunsmith Cats #2. Time suddenly gushes back in, I whip the book out from the crowed prison box and hand it to the proprietor and pay the hefty ransom of $15.00 for the sole issue that completes the series in my collection. Money well spent.
1:26 PM - After searching through a few other boxes I make a mental note of the booth so I can make a return trip later. I glance at my list for the CD listing and begin to wander around unsuccessfully for the soundtracks listed. I move on to the fansub section. I soon find a booth that I saw earlier and inquire about Utena episodes and the man shows me they have only 2 volumes of the eleven volume series left, of which the first four have been domestically released. Drat.
1:35 PM - My mindless wandering leads me to another booth filled with fansubs... or should I say bootlegs because they charge an arm and a leg for the convenience of having the volumes on hand. But, I digress. I find the Utena section. Geeze, only volume 5, 6, and 7? I'm having no luck with this. I ask the clerk about other volumes and he snaps back with a piercing, "No." Oh well. At least I'll get to see the Black Rose saga. With this thought in mind, I swallow my pride and pay the man and depart for the previous booth.
1:45 PM - Uh... where the heck is this booth? All these people are riding my butt. Ah, here it is. I find the Utena section the man had pointed out on my initial visit and luckily the two Utena volumes are still there. But, I only grab volume 8, because I just bought the other one. I ask about the Nadesico: Prince of Darkness movie and he snags me a copy and I make the monetary transaction and depart once again, this time with a near-successful conclusion to my fansub quest.
1:57 PM - My time waning, I trek back to the comic booth where I had snagged Gunsmith Cats #2. I take out my list and find the A's section and pull a stack of Akira manga, issues #15,16,17,19,21,27,30,31,32 to be exact. Well, there goes a hundred dollars in the blink of an eye... and there is still 16 issues left for me to have the complete 38 issue run. eBay better be ready.
2:05 PM - Wander, wander, wander... I seem to be doing nothing but wandering a lot because I can't find any of those import CD booths I saw earlier.
2:10 PM - Bingo. I start to look through the CDs on the table... which seem to be all sorted by release number. Son May CDs... don't you love them? The booth operator asks what I'm looking for and I tell him a few titles and he asks the guy who is looking beside me the same question as well and then cracks open a book listing all the titles for the numbers. A few moments later, the clerk asks his companion where he saw the Sakura Diaries CD. The man pulls it out and hands it to me and I continue looking for a few more minutes before paying for the soundtrack.
2:25 PM - I make a detour to the Team Smile table to explain I will have to cancel the interview, but tell them that Apollo Smile said we could conduct it via e-mail. So I ask nicely and get the e-mail address.
2:30 PM - I stop by the Miramax booth to watch the Highlander: Endgame trailer two more times to report the content to my mother, who's a big Highlander fan.
2:37 PM - I stop by another CD booth, which is sorted by title and flip through a few CDs when I notice the Japanese Space Channel 5 Remix CD. I glance at the tracks and see it's only 6 tracks long and try to haggle, unsuccessfully, with the dealer who smartly replies, "Hey, it depends on how long the tracks are." I roll my eyes and pay the man and walk away.
2:40 PM - I exit the doors and find a pillar where I reorganize my hoard of treasures into one neat and compact package inside my book bag. Geeze... it's sooooo heavy.
2:45 PM - I try my cell-phone again and get the same results as before. So, I go to a pay phone and make another call. This time I leave a message stating that I am ready to leave. For the record, no matter how you look at it, this cell phone fiasco did put a major damper on my convention experience.
3:00 PM - By a stroke of blind luck, I go outside and lean up against a cement pillar to support the weight of my book bag. I suddenly see my red Mitsubshi Mirage coming up the street where I am and I walk towards it and my mom rolls down the window and I saw "I'm ready." I walk around to the passenger side, open the door, hurly put my book bag into the back-seat and strap myself in and we depart for further shopping adventures.