Monday, October 25, 2010

On Her Way to Boston: A Weekend of Buffy and Geekery

As I teased earlier this week on the blog, I spent last weekend visiting friend of the blog/frequent guest blogger Sarah in Boston. The occasion was Wizard’s New England Comic Con, which included quite a bit of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” programming this year. There were autographs and photos with “Buffy” actors to be had, and Q and A’s with the actors as well. Even President Obama made his presence known at the event (more on that one later). Sarah and I didn’t get to do absolutely everything we wanted to at the con, but we did quite a lot, and it was a great time. I’ve never been to Boston before (although I’ve driven around it on the way to family vacations in Maine when I was growing up), so it was a good opportunity to get to explore a new city in addition to meeting some of the people who contributed to one of my favorite television shows.

I arrived in Boston on Friday morning, and the con didn’t start until that night. It would have been a great opportunity for sightseeing, except the weather was rather cold, miserable and rainy. Our first evening at the con, thankfully, was much more cheerful than the weather. This was my very first comic convention, and I wasn’t quite prepared for experiencing such a thing in person. Adam West was at the con, so Sarah and I stood in line to get in to the event behind someone in full Batman garb. A Nightwing passed by later, as did a variety of characters we didn’t recognize. We saw my favorite costume later that weekend, though. A man and his two kids were all dressed up in Jedi-like clothes from “Star Wars,” and they were accompanied by a life size, robotic R2-D2 that alternated between playing the “Star Wars” theme song and doing R2-D2 beeping sound effects. It was very creative and must have taken quite a lot of work to put together.

Anyway, our focus on Friday night was Amber Benson (Tara), because of the actors we wanted to see, she was the only one there! Charisma Carpener (Cordelia) was only booked for Saturday, and James Marsters (Spike) had either missed his flight or got stuck on a delayed flight depending on who you talked to. We started by waiting in the autograph line for Amber. She was very sweet and remembered Sarah from another event earlier this year. It turned out she was willing to autograph her books for free (she’s an up-and-coming novelist, among many other creative pursuits), but the con hadn’t done anything to publicize that. When Sarah and I presented our books and autograph tickets, she got a volunteer to go get her two photographs and signed those in addition to our books. Sarah’s photo is going to a friend of hers (who had also met Amber previously) who is going through some serious health issues. Have I told you enough to illustrate that Amber Benson is a gem? She also remembered both our names when we went for our photo op with her later that evening.

We spent most of Saturday morning sitting in a hallway at the Hynes Convention Center. The James Marsters Q and A was at 11, and since we didn’t have VIP passes, we needed to be early in the line in order to be able to get in. We had decided on Friday that for Saturday morning, we would take the T to Prudential and walk through the Prudential Center to stay out of the cold. We were stopped by the security guard at the Prudential Center entrance to the convention center and told we would have to enter through the main doors. As we went outside the building to circle around to the main doors, we encountered a Boston Police vehicle setting up metal barricades. We then remembered a message that had been sent out by Wizard several days earlier. A rally was happening at the Hynes for Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick, and none other than the President of the United States himself was planning to be there in support. As we waited in the hallway outside the program room for our Q and A, we could see the security tightening up. Two layers of barricades were completed, it felt like every motorcop in the city was there, and Secret Service officers were even patrolling our hallway. The crowd of people at the Hynes who were planning to attend the rally was massive, and the ½ of the hallway they had been given quickly turned to 2/3. It made it a bit difficult to get around, but it did make me happy to see so many people still excited about politics.

For the most part, James Marsters Q and A was quite fun. A Star Wars fan group gave him an honorary membership, which seemed to make him quite pleased. James was generally good natured and up for answering whatever the audience asked (although he did start the session with the disclaimer that he might not answer every question). There were some odd moments, such as one woman who wanted to sing a duet from “Once More With Feeling,” and some uncomfortable moments, such as when a man asked about “Seeing Red,” but overall, it was a good time. Sarah did a photo op with James, and she was very pleased with how it turned out. We ended up missing Nicholas Brendan and Charisma Carpenter’s panels later that afternoon because we were waiting in the autograph line for Charisma. Yes, on Saturday, the autograph line was indeed that long. We figured that since we had already paid for the autograph and Charisma was only there on Saturday, that should be our first priority. Charisma was nice and polite. I didn’t actually get to interact with her for all that long- we were kind of being rushed though because of the line. She signed my “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” season 3 DVD set.

Sunday began much as Saturday did, minus the crowds wanting to see the President. Sunday morning was a Q and A with Amber Benson and a showing of her movie “Chance.” I really enjoyed “Chance.” Going into it, I had gotten the impression that it was kind of abstract, but it ended up being really charming and emotionally affecting. And because it was filmed during the filming of “Buffy” season 5, it was amusing to see James Marsters (who also starred in the movie) with his platinum blond “Spike” hair. Amber took general questions afterwards, and most of the questions were really well thought out and interesting. There were questions about her creative process and questions about Tara as a role model, among many other things.

We finished up our weekend at the con back in the main exhibit hall. First on the agenda was getting a James Marsters autograph for each of us. I had him sign my “Torchwood” series 2 DVD set, which Sarah had just given to me for a birthday gift. He was just as friendly in the autograph line (which wasn’t as long as Saturday’s) as he was at his Q and A. He seemed to genuinely enjoy talking with fans. He jokingly made a disparaging comment about John Barrowman when he saw my Torchwood DVDs, but since I had heard him praise Barrowman to high Heaven in the Q and A on Saturday, I knew he was just kidding. For once, I wasn’t gullible! To top off the weekend, Sarah and I each got ourselves Mutant Enemy T-shirts. Overall the con was a very fun, although tiring experience. I won’t soon forget it, or the people we met there (including one woman who had met James Marsters over twenty times). Here’s hoping another similar event comes to the Baltimore/DC area sooner rather than later.

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