For many years, my convention of choice was the Trek Expo in Tulsa, Oklahoma. It became a tradition from 1998 until 2012 to take the 3 hour trek to visit my parents in Bartlesville and enjoy a day or two at what was a very well-run event. Sadly, the 2012 event was the last. A very poorly run final event came after the passing of the organizer and reports of financial shenanigans behind the scenes. However, memories of my father and I attending those last 3 years are with me forever. Luckily, I have found a new event that takes me 3 hours north…Planet Comicon.
In 2011, after hearing about Planet Comicon in Kansas City for years, I finally found myself close by on the day of the event and spent about 3 hours having my mind blown away by the number of comics and like-minded collectors. The following year, my daughter decided to spend the day with her dad (amazing considering she was 19 at the time). She was the perfect Robin to my Batman as she kept my list handy with me looking for certain issues and good deals. Last year, the event expanded in size but experienced some growing pains. There were too many people in a space that, despite being much bigger, was far too cramped. Still amazing but, unfortunately, a tad too congested for me. Now, in 2014, they have worked out all of the kinks and held what appeared to be the best Planet Comicon ever.
This event can’t rival the bigger events, such as Megacon. However, it has a tremendous amount of charm and, best of all, it has a proximity to home that doesn’t require airfare. It offers everything you could want and is growing each year. This year, the event expanded to three days and doubled its’ floor space. It took my friends and me nearly 90 minutes to get through the door last year. This year, it took all of 20 minutes. Once inside, there was walking and breathing room. It was a good sign that this year’s event was going to be a hit.
The signing guest list of over 15 stars has doubled at least with nearly every member of Star Trek: The Next Generation in attendance (Patrick Stewart was not in attendance but did pre-sign special posters for autographs from the rest of cast) as well as the legend himself, William Shatner. The lines were well organized and were moving quite swiftly. Now, after collecting autographs since 1998, I’ve become selective but there were two at this year’s event that I can now scratch off the bucket list. First, I met Sylvester McCoy, the 7th Doctor from Doctor Who. We don’t get too many Doctors here in the Midwest, so this was a first for me. He was very pleasant and glad to be in Kansas City. We had a brief but memorable conversation. Next, it was over to meet Lee Majors. What can I say? I’m a child of the 70s and The Six Million Dollar Man was, and still is, one of my all-time favorites. He was very pleasant, signing with a smile and shook my hand in gratitude for some kinds words. Another success! Finally, it was off to get LeVar Burton’s autograph. In short, I met him last year at Megacon but his autograph on a cast photo (signed by everyone including Patrick Stewart, Wil Wheaton and Denise Crosby) has been smudged by accident by my wife. LeVar was beyond pleasant and did not charge me for what he said was something I had already paid for. Fantastic! My goal of three autographs was accomplished in 70 minutes with a 100% pleasant experience ratio. Now, it was time to shop.
There is something for everyone including an amazing artist alley section. Sadly, the line for Neal Adams was again too long. I’m hoping he’ll return in 2015. My main objective was filling in some gaps in my comic collection. Being on a tighter budget this year meant I had my list in hand and it was time to get picky. Without boring you with all the comic book nerd details, I made my purchases with money to spare (which made my accountant wife quite happy). Some silver age Batman , Creeper and Justice League of America comic books are now part of my collection along with several 1970s issues of The Defenders and the entire 17-issue series of Marvel’s The Champions. I topped it off with a Golden Age Fawcett copy of Hopalong Cassidy #72 as a surprise for my brother-in-law. Along the way, there were plenty of costumes and sights to be seen (you haven’t lived until you’ve seen a rather large Fred Flintstone zombie…staring at himself in the men’s bathroom mirror). Once the shopping and people watching was done, I did not get to attend any of the panels or speakers as I chose to have a nice meal with good friends instead. However, my 2015 plan is already forming in my mad scientist mind.
Next year, I plan on attending two days. If they do Friday again, I’ll use that as my day to shop and see some of the guests. Then, Saturday will be my day to go with my friend, catch some panels and do whatever shopping or autograph seeking I didn’t do last year. It’s a strategy that served me well for many years at the Trek Expo. With things in motion for this monster kid to be living in Kansas City by next year, it’s a plan that involves minimal travel and even more fun than I had this year. If you live in the Kansas City and never attended Planet Comicon, I highly recommend this incredibly fun event.