Cristina will share her experience of Space City Comic Son in this blog. Kurt’s experience will come tomorrow, with an editorial the following day.
Kurt and I had plans to attend MegaCon this year, but due to budgetary restraints, and the fact that we’re going to Wizard World Philadelphia next week, we decided to stay home. On a whim, we applied for media passes to Space City Comic Con (SCCC). We attended in January 2014 when it was in Galveston, TX and thoroughly enjoyed it. Luckily, we were accepted and found a cheap hotel close to the NRG Center. Since it was our anniversary weekend, May 28th marked five happy, nerdy years married, I decided to make sure Kurt had a great experience by meeting some of the Sons of Anarchy cast. SOA is one of Kurt’s favorite television shows and over fifteen people from the show were attending the con. SCCC pushed buying autograph tickets ahead of time and in order to ensure that we stayed on budget, I bought autograph tickets for Kim Coates (Tig), Ryan Hurst (Opie), Drea De Matteo (Wendy), and the elusive Charlie Hunnam (Jax). Kurt was going to have a wonderful anniversary present and we’d have a great time covering the con as media! Or so we thought…
Due to work, we left New Orleans about 11:30am. It’s about a five hour drive to Houston, but we stopped at Olde Tyme Grocery in Lafayette, home of the best shrimp po boy I’ve ever eaten. Then, the red zone of a bad line of rain followed us along the I-10 all the way to Houston. The rain and wind were terrible and scary, but we made it to the NRG center right as the rain was ending. We had about 90 minutes before the con closed and immediately headed to the celebrity area to see if we could meet a few before the craziness that would ensue tomorrow (little did we know). Charlie’s line was very long so we decided to wait until either Saturday or Sunday to meet him when we had more time. Kim Coates had a very short line so we walked up and used our prepurchased autograph ticket to meet and talk with him. He was incredibly nice and talked to us for a few minutes. Kurt was a little starstruck since Tig was one of Kurt’s favorite characters on SOA. It made my heart happy to see Kurt so happy. We then went to the artist area and we met Fred Van Lente who co-wrote Comic Book History of Comics. Kurt had conversed with him on Twitter a few times and recognized us as being Nola Nerd Couple when we said we were from New Orleans. Kurt read the book and loved it, but I have not had the chance yet, though I know I will at some point this year.
We then walk around the vendor area. I find a comic vendor selling a bunch of Star Wars #1 variants, which I collect. I can’t help myself and pick up several (more than several…) issues to fill in gaps within my collection. I now own exactly 50 Star Wars #1 variants. According to my comic collector app, there are 84 to collect. The hunt continues…
We left the con happy with our limited Friday adventure and excited for Saturday. We had plans to get a few comic creator/artist interviews, meet Charlie, Ryan, and Drea, in addition to Todd Lowe (Zach Van Gerbig from Gilmore Girls). The Saturday we planned however, our actual wedding anniversary, would turn out nothing like the actual day.
We entered the con Saturday morning as soon as they opened at 10am. We had media passes, so we cannot speak on the long entrance lines that others might have experienced. We immediately went to Charlie Hunnam’s line. After we waited in line for 45 minutes, some presumably high up man in charge kicked us out of line, saying it was for the super VIPs only, even though we specifically asked if we were okay to stand in that line. Okay, cool, we understand, we are not super VIP. We waited until about 11:30am but Charlie still wasn’t out yet and the big world reunion SOA panel was set to start at 12pm, where almost every cast member there was supposed to come out. We figured Charlie wouldn’t have time to sign at all before the panel and all those VIPs that waited in line would have to go to the panel, then get back in line. It seemed a little chaotic, but still, we understood. Charlie is a big draw and when you have a big draw like that, not everything goes 100% smoothly. As many cons as we’ve been to, we understand that the behind the scenes mechanics often put kinks in the best laid plans. We head up to the panel and wait with some other media, including Nerd Fu and Stealth Flight Media. After we get in and are waiting, we start hearing rumors that the SOA panel was cancelled. Rumors start flying and we hear none of the cast are coming, pre-purchased autograph tickets aren’t being honored anymore, some of the cast, including Charlie, is leaving, et cetera. A representative comes to the stage and says the panel is delayed. Kim Coates posts on Twitter that the panel was cancelled due to “a complete breakdown by upper management.” What the heck is going on?!
Finally, at 12:30, the graphics on the televisions change to SOA graphics. OKAY! Maybe there is a panel after all! About 12:40, a moderator comes out and introduces Ron Perlman (Clay). Sweet! We met Ron at very, very small con in New Orleans in September 2013 that was literally in a conference room of a hotel. There were barely any attendees, due mostly to poor advertising, in my opinion, but the guests were top notch, including Ron Perlman, Tommy Flanagan (Chibs), Drea De Matteo, Bruce Campbell, Peter Criss, and Jeremy London. Ron started taking audience questions immediately (confirming that there is no Hellboy 3 in the works). About five minutes later, Chris Reed (Filthy Phil) and Timothy Murphy (Galen O’Shay) came out as well and took more fan questions. About ten minutes after that, Kenny Johnson (Herman Kozik) came out as the final SOA guest for the supposedly SOA world reunion panel. We were very grateful to have them, but the question on everyone’s mind was, “What the heck happened?”
We hurriedly grab someone to eat from one of the food trucks outside, The Waffle Bus, which was AMAZING. Seriously, the piece of fried chicken on my waffle bun was the size of both of my hands. The one thing that bothered me was apparently all of the food trucks were told to sell their water for $4.50 and their soft drinks for $5.50 by NRG. Those are RIDICULOUS prices and NRG should feel ashamed that they are taking advantage of their clients like that. We then try to deal with our autographs. Surely the rumors were wrong and that our pre-purchased autograph tickets were still good? How could they not be? We go to Ryan Hurst’s line to find out that it is true…it is true. All of it. None of the SOA cast members are accepting the pre-purchased tickets, only cash. (Later, we found out Kim Coates and Ron Perlman still were, though the rest were not. Oh, and the ATMs ran out of money because so many people suddenly needed large sums of cash.) Our hearts drop. We are on such a tight budget this month that we have no dollars in our checking account to get cash. They tell us to email Showclix to get our money back. We try to talk to someone to explain our situation in the hopes that maybe, maybe someone will have a solution for us. After getting the run around back and forth, finally a guy, whose name I’m withholding and is one of the slightly higher ups, takes our case. You can tell that he is exhausted and is running around like a madman, putting out fires left and right. He walks us to the Showclix people, who guarantee that we’ll get a refund, but that they can’t help us out in actually being able to meet the actors. Our guy takes us back to the celeb area and says he will try his best to talk to Ryan and Drea’s handlers and see what he can do. In the meantime, we find out that the overall head honcho of the show did not pay the actors. Charlie was late because he went to cash is check (rumored to be $200k) and it bounced. The rest of the actors realized what was happening and that is why they wouldn’t take the pre-purchased autographs anymore. Essentially, the cast stayed for free, recouping their nonexistent pay by only accepting cash. That is why the panel did not happen, since they weren’t getting paid for it. The day before, the audio/visual guys weren’t paid and that SOA panel didn’t happen either.
And the worst part? All these people that shelled out hundreds or even thousands of dollars for SOA VIPs couldn’t redeem their autographs. The panels didn’t happen. The meet and greets didn’t happen. People from all over, including Mexico and the UK (I personally talked to a few) were stuck with a worthless pass and no money. I heard a guy on the phone, calling the Houston Police Department, reporting fraud. I heard one guy say on Sunday that he waited for almost seven hours on Saturday to meet Charlie, but because of the craziness, he never did. The amount of anger, resentment, and downright disappoint was evident on nearly everyone’s faces in the SOA celeb area. I’m not ashamed to admit that both Kurt and I teared up as we talked to our guy, explaining how it was our anniversary and that we had no money due to getting paid once a month and having already spent our budget on pre-purchased autograph tickets.
Earlier in the day, before any of this was made apparent, we took $119 of the $200 in cash that we brought and bought a photo op for Charlie. Thank goodness we did, because it looked like this would be our only opportunity to meet him. We get in the already long line at 2:20 for the 3 o’clock photo. At about 2:55, a representative comes out and says that Charlie wants to continue to sign autographs due to his long line, so he is pushing the photo op back to 5pm. I completely understand Charlie’s decision, but this is more time that we’ve wasted doing nothing.
We decide to head over to the comic creators area and Kurt meets The Paybacks writers Donny Cates and Eliot Rahal and artist Geoff Shaw. He has a nice conversation with them and then I head over to Dave Dorman, an amazing artist who has done tons of Star Wars art, to ask him to sign a Star Wars #1 variant and a Vader Down variant that he drew. He told us that Loot Crate wouldn’t even send him a copy of his Vader Down comic and he had to order the Loot Crate just so he could have one! (His wife writes about it in her own blog.) We then meet Darryl “DMC” McDaniels from Run-DMC who has created his own comics and independent comic publishing house called Darryl Makes Comics!. Kurt had a great conversation with him, telling him a story about how his biddy basketball team came out to My Adidas and got his DMC #1 and DMC #2 covers signed. Eventually, we had back to the photo op line around 4:15 and it is even longer than the one we originally waited in. I went back and found our guy again to see if there was a status update while Kurt waited…no update. I also showed him an email Showclix sent in reply to my asking about a refund stating it was not their fault and that I needed to contact the promoter for a refund. My guy guaranteed me that we would be refunded, as the main Showclix dude was at SCCC and was working out the details. Talk about the run around!
We finally got to meet Charlie around 5:40. Lucky for us, he took a water break right when it was our turn, so we chatted with him for a bit. It’s always jarring to me to hear a guy that speaks with an American accent on the show speak with a British accent. He was very accommodating and Kurt told him it was our anniversary and he wished us happy anniversary and then congratulated us again as we were leaving. We thanked him profusely for staying despite everything. We had heard rumors that he had a slipped disk in his back, but he continued to try and meet as many fans as possible. Our photo came out fantastic and we really appreciate everything that he did for his fans on Saturday.
After our photo op, as I’m checking Twitter, I see that Tommy Flanagan posted that although Charlie won’t be attending on Sunday, all of the other cast members will be. We go find our guy one more time who looks as drained as we do and was on probably his fifth red bull. He looks defeated and says that he wasn’t able to make any headway and that the sole blame of the con rests with the promoter and that he basically swindled everyone, putting the celebs between a rock and a hard place and screwing over the fans, and guys like him were the ones trying their best to clean up the mess. We went back to the hotel discouraged but trying to stay positive and feeling emotional for the people that lost out on so much more than we did. Kurt wrote on Space City Comic Cons facebook page, detailing how it was our anniversary and the tickets were anniversary presents and that we had no more money due to only getting paid once a month, not really hoping for anything, but just to let them know and to feel better.
The next morning, we met up with some cool people that we met, BFE Podcast, to be guests on their podcast (out next week, but they have plenty of other podcasts that you should check out in the meantime). We detailed our SOA story and told other stories about New Orleans and generally had a great time. Hopefully, we’ll be able to meet up with them again at another con. In the meantime, a man named Dave contacted Kurt via his Facebook post and said to meet up with him and he’ll try to help us. We’re not exactly sure who Dave is, but all we know is that we are extremely appreciative and grateful to him for seeing Kurt’s post and helping us out. He allowed us to meet and get autographs from Ryan Hurst and Drea De Matteo (remember, Charlie left). Ryan was polite but you could tell the stress of the weekend was wearing on him. Drea was an absolute doll and insisted that we take a picture with her as well. She told us that she heard that the police escorted the promoter off the premises yesterday and that no one was paid, including hotel rooms. She said we should call our credit card company and dispute the charges because she has no idea of anyone will actually get a refund. She was about to leave to do the SOA panel, because she said the fans deserved one. Such a class act. We also told her how we missed her at the small con in New Orleans that Ron and Tommy were at and she said that she and Tommy left because no one was there. I guess what’s nice for the attendee isn’t so great for the celeb when that’s how they make a living.
Our last act of the con was to scour through $1 comics and find what jewels we could. Kurt found the last two comics he needed to complete the Joss Whedon run of the Astonishing X-Men comics, including issue #1. I found some Neil Gaiman comics, 1602 and Eternals, though I didn’t find all of the issues, which is okay, since now I have something to hunt for! We also found some rock and roll comics (Elton John and New Kids on the Block!!), a Beauty and the Beast with Ron Perlman and Linda Hamilton, a few Howard the Ducks, and a Hulk one where he gets married. The cover was just so nice that I bought it purely for the beauty of it. And thus ended of adventure at Space City Comic Con.
Though the con was less than stellar for us, it seemed like the people outside of SOA did not have the problems we had (though I cannot be sure of this, of course. I did hear Eva Myles left early because of lack of payment). The other actors that I noticed seemed like they didn’t experience any screwing over by the promoter and the non-SOA attendees probably didn’t even realize anything was wrong. Todd Lowe accepted our pre purchased autograph ticket with no problem on Saturday. Billie Piper and William Shatner came from MegaCon in Orlando to be there on Sunday, and I can’t imagine they would’ve showed up if they knew their checks would bounce. Shawn Ashmore always looked like he was having a blast and Alex Kingston seemed like she was having fun as well. Whatever the actual backstory was, the promoter seemed to have only messed with the Sons of Anarchy guests. I heard plenty of people say that they had a fabulous time. It was very spacious (almost too much empty space), the food trucks were a welcome instead of traditional con food, the comic creators and artists were all amazing, the vendors that we interacted with were super nice, and the cosplay was fantastic. If not for the SOA debacle, I think we would have raved about this con.
Unfortunately, SCCC suffered from more than just the normal lows most cons face. They suffered from a deliberate, inside job attempt to swindle people and made absolutely no apologies for it. Nowhere on social media did they apologize. Nowhere did they acknowledge the struggles and the hundreds if not thousands of dollars people lost and are still in the dark about if they are going to be refunded. A simple apology and acknowledgment would have gone a long way in helping people feel like the con cared. I feel extremely sorry for the volunteers and other individuals that tried their best to help the people at the con. I heard some ugly things being said to some of the workers there and I know that it is hard to remember in a difficult situation that it is not their fault, but they were unfortunately the scapegoats to a lot of verbal abuse. I sincerely apologize to those volunteers and workers that were caught in the crossfire and hope you know that the vast majority of us appreciate you and what you do. If SCCC comes back, and at this point, I don’t know how that would be accomplished, I hope it is under new leadership and maybe even a name change. I hope the new leadership doesn’t offer things outside of his scope of ability and get too big for his britches. Stay relatively small, get a few good guests, build up a true following, and whatever you do, PAY YOUR CELEBS. The fans deserve it.
P.S. – I did get an email from Showclix stating I would be getting a refund (albeit minus the tax and fees of course). So hopefully, everyone will get their money back that pre-purchased autographs or had VIPs.