Every year, the FX Show in Orlando assembles together a pile o’ celebs, a ton of comic writers and artists, and an assortment of dealers and shoves ’em into a room. Every year they get guests from the hottest new shows and the most beloved older ones, cult favorites that bring out devoted fans from all generations. And every year they get someone from Firefly who blows all the others away.
If you’re not interested in my play-by-play you can just check out the pics at Flickr.com. And I’ve got video of the Whedonverse Panel with Nathan Fillion, Elizabeth Rohm, and Nicholas Brendon here: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4.
If you are interested, read on…
Not gonna bore you with the tedious details of getting there, parking, walking, walking, walking… The FX Show is held at the Orange County Convention Center and it’s a massive thing. (The center.) (Also the con.) FX is known for getting a trunkload and a half of media guests every year and this year was no exception.
Nathan Fillion (Firefly); Elizabeth Rohm (Angel); Nicholas Brendon (Buffy); Greg Grunberg, Stephen Tobolowsky and George Takei (Heroes); Brad Beyer (Jericho); Laura Vandervoort and Helen Slater (Smallville, Supergirl); Jake Lloyd, Ray Park and Orli Shoshan (Star Wars) and many more, including personal favorites Adam West (Batman, and half the cartoons on TV today); Ellen Muth (Dead Like Me), Jeremy London (T.S. from Mallrats), Marilyn Ghigliotti (Veronica from Clerks), and William B. Davis (The Smoking Man from X-Files).
Also lots of voice actors, a couple of Power Rangers, three different women who, at one time, Apparently Wanted To Be a Superhero, Erik Estrada for some reason, the guy who did funny sounds in the Police Academy movies, and the Soup Nazi. On the creators’ side, there was fantasy artist Brom, comics people Brian Azzarello, Jill Thompson, and Brian Wood, and about 30 others of varying degrees of fame.
We got in Saturday morning and beelined to the autograph lines to try and get a jump on the crowds. Which, for any of the rest of the celebrities, was a good idea. Some of the stars were already in place — Brad Beyer from Jericho looked a little lonely (he was added at the last minute and wasn’t advertised) but the Heroes folks were doing a brisk business with some of the lines stretching all the way out to the first dealer booths. The line for Nathan stretched out to the end, turned and stretched out along the length of the autograph section and started curving back inwards. My sons bolted to check out the shops and I hung around, chatting with people in the line and chuckling at all the Serenity shirts I was seeing. Seriously, it seemed like every 5th shirt was Firefly or Serenity or Blue Sun or I heart Captain Tightpants or otherwise verse-based. Excellent, I thought, rubbing my hands together…
Finally a volunteer broke the line and handed out tickets. FX does this to prevent anyone from being stuck in a line for hours. Sadly, I was on the wrong side, so I wandered.
And found George’s Serenity Shop. Actually I have no idea what the shop is called, but it’s 95% Serenity items. Just about every licensed shirt, autographs, the books, buttons, patches, what have you. Chatted with George for a bit, answered some questions for some shoppers, and moved on.
FX is big, at least for Florida. Over a hundred exhibitors, a wrestling ring (?), a huge gaming room, a video room… plenty to see and do and, most especially, buy. I spent another hour striding to and fro across the land, barely avoiding bankrupting myself. Instead I just took pics of everything, and everyone in costume. This year seemed a little less cleavage-heavy (I hope that’s a word) than previous years, but maybe they just avoided me.
Went back to see Nicholas Brendon. He was friendly, charming, and surprisingly muscular. Also he has an angel tattoo on his right arm. I know, he’s not Xander, but still.
Talked to him about Mutant Enemy Day in LA and he talked about how important it was to support the writers strike.
Also visited George Takei, who was dignified and wise and keeps giggling with that wonderful deep laugh. He has to have seen more autograph lines than anyone there, ever, but he seemed delighted with everyone who stepped up and took the time to talk. I told him I wasn’t going to say how long I’d been a fan, out of respect for both our ages. He replied that it just meant I’d survived a long time. We talked briefly about celebrities that can make fun of themselves.
Cons are fun places. Where else can you interact with your favorite stars in that kind of informal setting? Legally, I mean? My son saw William B. Davis coming out of the bathroom. “Cancer Man!” he exclaimed happily.
“Cigarette-Smoking Man,” Davis gently corrected.
One odd thing, to me, was the resurgence of popularity for The Fifth Element. Fuin movie, I like it, but there were more costumes and props than I remembered. Maybe someone got a license?
Best scene I didn’t get a picture of: Darth Vader and a crew of Stormtroopers all playing Rock Band.
The Heroes panel was on Saturday. No video of that, sadly, but a good time was had by all. Greg Grunberg ran the panel, more or less, in that he was fielding the questions and keeping everyone laughing. One thing that impressed me: a young boy asked a pretty standard question (“Does your mind-reading ability help you catch criminals?”) and Greg treated it with complete seriousness and answered it fully, without a hint that he’s answered the same thing a billion times. Class act, that man. George described receiving an honor from the royal family in China, Stephen Tobolowsky discussed his evilness (“Evil? Really? I may have drained Clair’s blood but it saved her father, so that worked out. I’m not such a bad guy.”) and they all discussed the show. Whenever the subject of his character’s status came up, George kept stressing that he was told by Tim Kring, “All is not what it seems.”
My favorite line was from Greg. Someone asked them all what they would like their characters to do. “Well, in ‘Five Years Later” I got to beat the crap out of Masi so my fantasy’s already been fulfilled…”
Then it was time to get in line for the posed picture with Nathan. Now I had waited until the last minute to prepay for this, but I had my Paypal receipt. We headed for the area and again the line stretched way down the room. I went to the desk to make sure I was set up and the guy couldn’t find my ticket. I told him I had paid for it the night before and he stopped a lady walking by. “Oh, you’re Chris Bridges, right?”
It’s never good when they know your name already.
Turns out that payment was supposed to be turned off by that point and I somehow got in anyway, she had my ticket ready. Whew! Good thing, because once they started taking the pictures we were flying. You stepped in, handed your bags and whatnot to one girl, stood by Nathan who asked your name, everyone posed, picture snapped, you got your stuff and moved on. No dillydallying, no chatting, no nothing, there’s too many people out there and only 40 minutes scheduled for pictures with the Captain. Even still, I told him accidental groping on his part was OK.
Walked around the rest of the con, seeing familiar faces. Went to get Jill Thompson to sign my Death Manga and “Lil’ Endless Storybook”. Saw a lot of comics artists, avoided the wrestling ring – I don’t know what it was, I don’t want to know what it was – and got a call from my 22-year-old who was having a crisis. “Dad, they have Takezo Kensei sword replicas signed by George Takei! Talk me out of buying one!” I failed. I also didn’t try very hard.
After that we had to leave – work responsibilities forced me to take off early both days – and we headed home.
Sunday we got there early and saw some friends in line – hi Joe! – before getting in. We beelined to the photo table and found our pic, then dashed over to Nathan’s line. He came to the table, called out to everyone to make sure we were all rested, and grabbed his pen to dig in.
I had run into Aleta (FireflyGal) previously, and we teamed up. She shot me for my autograph – posed photos with Nathan weren’t being allowed, due to the lines – and I agreed to film her presenting him with a scrapbook from her local group.
I elected to have him sign the photo we took, and here’s the cool thing. He saw us for maybe a full minute the day before during the photo shoot, among a long line of people. When I stepped up before I produced the picture, he looked at me and said, “Hey! I met you yesterday! Bring the boys?”
This is why fans would follow him into, if not hell, at least the suburbs of hell.
He signed my photo, and I whipped out… my wife’s Mal Barbie. Nathan seemed fascinated. he took it and examined it all over, noted the accuracy, “Got the pants right, got the gun, this is fine work.” He asked some questions about how she made it and, after I’d put my camera away because I was afraid I was hogging him he pulled out a LEGO Mal and faced them off against each other. Then FireflyGal gave him her scrapbook and he went through every page.
The other celebrities had healthy lines. Adam West was charging $50 for an autograph and $20 for a picture, so I settled for a blurry side shot.
We had agreed to meet early to get a good seat for the Whedonverse panel but I got sidetracked back at George’s Serenity shop. I had been talking to the lady working there and mentioned I had helped beta the QMx Serenity Blueprints Reference pack. I told her about some of the decisions that were made to make the blueprints work, and she ended up having me autograph a copy. One man about to buy one even photographed me with it, over my half-hearted objections. I’m mildly famous!
Also found out the reason Jason Palmer couldn’t make this FX even though he was at the last two (and did the art for the program book), even though he really wanted to come because Nathan was here, was because at the last minute he got a dream job offer for licensed artwork that he’d been hoping for. Not gonna say it here in case it’s still under wraps (it’s not Whedony), but I was delighted for him.
The Whedonverse panel… well, go watch the videos. But please note that filming it was a last-minute decision and I didn’t know my digital camera only filmed 10 minute segments so I had to keep restarting. Also, my SD card filled up just before the single best exchange of the whole panel, rackin’ frackin’ gorram piece of… Here’s what you won’t see in the videos.
Someone had asked Nicholas an odd question about whether things were awkward around their house at Thanksgiving because he was more famous. Nick said that actually his brother was more famous than he was, “I guess you haven’t heard of him?”
Nathan chimed in with “I guess you don’t follow gay porn?”
Lots of laughter and bickering as I desperately swapped out SD cards. Finally Nick said something like “No, seriously, we’re tighter than ever.”
At which Nathan replied, “Coincidentally, also the name of the gay porn.”
Something else I noticed was that Nathan took over the panel from the first moment. He got the lion’s share of the questions but he brought the other two in on every one of them, keeping everyone engaged and laughing. Elizaneth seemed to be enjoying herself hugely – she was 7 months pregnant, by the way – and Nicholas seemed… off. Little surly, at first, or uncomfortable, but he cheered up as the panel went on. Overall, great time.
After that (and after the mad rush for double-sided Cloverfield movie posters, which were announced at the FX booth just before the mob hit) we had to take off, come home, rest, and start getting ready for MegaCon. See ya there!