As I prepare to head off to my newest Comic Book Convention today I've been thinking about some of my previous experiences. I guess it's true that you never forget your first, and for me, Mid-Ohio Con in 2002 was it.
I lived in Japan from 1987 to 2001. Before that, I was a high school student in St. Louis and a college student in St. Paul (MN). So it's not like I had any chances to visit San Diego or Chicago or New York to go to the earliest Comic Book (or Star Trek) Conventions. It was during the 90s that the phenomenon exploded, and all of a sudden any big city not just the "major" cities, could and were holding conventions. From Japan I would hear about conventions in Atlanta, Charlotte NC, Dallas, as well as various other places on the East Coast and West Coast.
When I came back to the States I was living in a small town in Indiana located between Muncie and Fort Wayne (home of Maj. Frank Burns, from MASH). I had been on enough cyber chat-rooms to know about visiting with celebrities and getting your comics signed, etc. I was defnitely up for finally going to a convention. However, the biggest city in my vicinity, Indianapolis, didn't have one!
So a year or so goes by and suddenly I come across a notice somewhere about some comic-book convention going on in Columbus, Ohio. Now, remember, I was still living in Indiana at this time. I investigated and found that not one but TWO of my all-time favorites were going to be at this convention: June Lockhart from LOST in SPACE and Yvonne Craig, "Batgirl" from BATMAN (TV). Any red-blooded American boy growing up at that time had a crush on "Batgirl" (or "Robin", haha), and LOST in SPACE was definitely one of my all-time favorite shows growing up. I figured Ms. Lockhart was getting up there in years and if I didn't take the time and spend the money to go to this, I risked not seeing her *EVER*. (In fact, she has never come back to the midwest that I can remember, and Jonathan Harris (Dr. Smith) has since died). So I asked my daughter Anna if she would like to join me in this one-day adventure; she said YES and we made plans to go.
Columbus is only about 2 hours away from my old town, so we got up early, drove to Eason Hyatt, and made our way to the Convention area. I'm a sucker for city skylines, and as I drove towards and around downtown Columbus, I thought to myself, "This is nice. It reminds me of St. Louis and Minneapolis."
We arrived after it had opened, so after walking around and acclimating ourselves to the whole "scene" (Look at all the stuff they're selling!!) we made our way to the Celebrity Corner. Now, if anyone has not been to a convention before, it's a lot like Job Fairs or things of that nature, except instead of trying to sell you as a student to ABC Inc, they are trying to sell you the newest (or oldest) issue of ABC Comics. The largest conventions (I've since found out) take up entire...well, the word they use is "hall" but the image I'm gonig for is "hangar." With that in mind, Mid-Ohio Con is what you would call "intimate." It was only a small warehouse sized room (thinking wedding reception) with off-shoots in the lobbies and branches around the room.
Using our program (which I swore I kept but now cannot find) we managed to locate June Lockhart and Yvonne Craig. Neither of them were too swamped with people. Both were behind two or three folding tables with various photographs lined up on them. Being a newbie, I wasn't sure exactly what was supposed to happen, so I did what all good anthropologists do: I watched. I eventually figured out that you pick out the photo you want, you hand it to the star, you pay her, she signs it and gives it back to you.
Armed with this new knowledge/theory of conventional behavior, we moved in. I graciously said Hello to her and asked her how much her autograph would cost. She said $20 which is what I had been told to expect. So my daughter and I then perused photographic evidence of June Lockhart's career: she was in Meet Me in St. Louis with Judy Garland (which I knew but had forgotten), she was in LASSIE (which I never watched), LOST in SPACE of course, PETTICOAT JUNCTION (again, I knew but had forgotten), and then various other TV movies and an episode of MAGNUM PI with her daughter, Anne. I picked out a photo of her with Judy from Meet Me for my friend Greg, and then I had to decide which of the many good shots I wanted to buy for myself.