ComicCon has become the go-to place for movie and TV studios to pimp their upcoming stuff, show off new footage and to try and build as much of a grass-roots fanbase as possible. That means big name directors and popular stars may take their chances roaming the halls, much to the delight of those that recognize them.
That’s what makes the autograph area of the show so damned depressing.---
Normally, I avoid that part of the con as much as possible, but yesterday I wandered through it by accident and was oddly fascinated by the people sitting behind the tables. There was one woman ready to pose for pictures with fans beneath a banner that read “The Most Talked About Model in the World!” Before that moment, I had never heard of her; hours after leaving, I can’t remember her name for the life of me. That might explain why she was sitting all alone without a single person in line—apparently no one else was talking about her, either.
On the other side of the dividing curtain, pro werstlers The Honky Tonk Man, Virgil, The Million Dollar Man and one of the Bushwhackers (I’m not sure which one, but I doubt it would make much of a difference) stood in front of the table signing autographs and posing for pictures with fans—all charging a fee of course. There were only a handful of people willing to pay, and I’m convinced it they were only doing so out of guilt. They feel bad that their childhood heroes have been relegated to charging $10 a pop to help pay the bills while still convinced (only in their minds, of course) they’re as big a star today as they were in the early 90s. It’s got to be hard to see your stardom fade away right in front of you like that.
The actual sales floor is full of the same kinds of “celebrities,” only the ones downstairs aren’t as far removed from the spotlight and are still a few years away from the autograph area where they have to realize that it’s finally over. Lou Ferrigno still knows how to work the fans; while you still have to pay to take a picture with him, at least you wouldn’t have to explain to people who he is. The rest of the floor is littered with models and Playmates from 10 years ago, another day past their prime but still saddled with those 8x10 glossies they printed up in 2005. One playmate—who’s in the same spot every year, tucked between an overpriced anime dealer and a booth selling vintage G.I. Joe action figures—still manages to charge $30 for a photo with her and an autographed picture. And people are still paying.
But I can’t decide which is sadder: The fact that she’s selling the same pictures year in and year out and looks completely miserable the entire weekend, or that I remember exactly where she is every year and recognize all the photos she has. Probably the latter, because at the end of the day she’ll leave the Con a few hundred bucks richer and I’ll ride the trolley back to my hotel in Old Town trying to figure out clever things to write about her on the internet.
You’ve won this round, Miss November.