Twenty-five years ago today (August 24, 1985) I attended what I believe was my first-ever Comic Book/Sci-Fi convention. If there had been any doubts that I was a certified geek, that day obliterated those doubts. I had read about these conventions in Starlog and other science-fiction magazines, but as a fifteen-year-old I wasn't able to actually attend any of these meccas for nerds.
All that changed when I received a brochure for the Creation Convention coming to Boston the weekend of August 24-25, 1985. This brochure came in the mail. What a quaint notion in this online-first world we're living in (especially so for comic book and science-fiction fans of today). I must have been on a mailing list because I also had a subscription to Starlog (courtesy of the meager earnings of my paper route).
I had a small group of three best friends in 1985. These same three guys remain my best friends to this very day. Two of them went to the convention with me. Actually, I should say that one friend and I accompanied the other friend. His mother drove us in to Boston so we could attend the convention. This friend pretty much HAD to go to this show, because Wendy and Richard Pini were going to be there. They were the husband and wife (or should I say wife and husband?) team that was responsible for the Elfquest comic book series (nowadays it would probably be classified as a graphic novel rather than a comic book). Elfquest was a HUGE thing with this particular friend, and he really wanted to meet his hero, and unrequited love interest, Wendy Pini--Elfquest's creator.
Two of my friends were big comic book fans. I read certain comics from time to time (Micronauts, Swamp Thing, Sgt. Rock, The Haunted Tank...), but never could really get all that into them for some reason. My big thing was movies and TV shows--especially science-fiction ones. This convention featured special guests that wouldn't seem all that "special" today, but who were pretty interesting at the time. If you had heard that there would be guests from Star Trek and Doctor Who, you might have visions of William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy (or at least Nichelle Nichols and Mark Lenard) from Star Trek and Tom Baker from Doctor Who. Well, it wasn't quite that cool. The Star Trek guest was Judson Scott. Who? Well, that name doesn't mean all that much today, but at the time he was reasonably well known as Khan's right-hand man in "Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan" (1982). I believe he was the only member of Khan's followers who spoke any lines in the movie (could be mistaken on that one though). Mr. Scott had also recently been the star of his own short-lived Sci-Fi TV show on ABC, "The Phoenix" (1981-82), and was currently featured in the series "V". He hasn't done a heck of a lot recently.
The Doctor Who "star" was less familiar to me. His name was Mark Strickson, and he played the sidekick of the Peter Davison-era Doctor Who. Thanks to PBS I was a big fan of Doctor Who--but specifically the Tom Baker-era Doctor Who. I didn't really know any of the doctors that came either before or after Tom Baker. My friends and I certainly lined up to get autographs from these guests, even if they weren't exactly what we would have considered "A-Listers". Our friend who didn't make it to the convention was the biggest Doctor Who fan of the four of us, so we decided to get Mark Strickson's autograph for him. Our friend seemed a little perplexed when we gave him the photo the next day. This was not only because of the fact that he probably wasn't exactly sure who Mark Strickson was, but also because the personalization on the photo was a bit tough to read and appeared to say: "To Kurt, Love: Mark Strickson". You know, we had a great time at that convention in general, but that little quote specifically has actually managed to become part of our lives that we still use to this very day. It's become such a tradition between us it's almost hard to believe that its origins can be traced back to that moment when Mr. Strickson scribbled that personalization on that photo in 1985. Even today, that quote, "Love: Mark Strickson", is frequently used as the sign-off when we write e-mails to each other. I guess you never know which little moments will be special and stay with you for the rest of your life!
The rest of the convention was fun too. We enjoyed watching the costumed freaks walking around (there but for the grace of God I could have easily been one of those "freaks"). The tables of merchandise were a sight to behold for a teen at his first convention. Thousands of comic books, books, novels, manuals, movie blueprints, posters, movie props, toys, action figures and very expensive VHS tapes (this was 1985 of course and DVDs were still years away). A couple of us got our own "Buckaroo Banzai" ID badges that had our photos on them. I'm sure we checked out the old Star Trek blooper reels (from the original series of course, Star Trek: The Next Generation was still two years away) that were a mainstay of these conventions. Of course we sat through the talk/Q&A session from Wendy and Richard Pini. I believe there were a couple other semi-well-known comic book artists there too. And, one of the staples of a Creation Convention back then was the big, no-minimum-bid auction. One of my most exciting moments from that day was when I got into a bidding war for a communicator prop from the original Star Trek series. I thought at the time that it was actually used in the show, but now I'm pretty sure it was just a fan-made version. It was still pretty cool. Anyway, I had limited funds (as most of my money came from my modest paper route--I wouldn't get my first "real" job until September when I started working as a bar boy at the Cocke 'n Kettle restaurant) so the rapidly escalating bids for the communicator were starting to scare me. I was just about to give up when the gavel fell and I had won the bidding war at $55.00 (a king's ransom of money for me at the time). I still have that communicator and count it among my prized possessions.
The reason I remember the date of this convention is because within the past year, while visiting my parents, I found that very same brochure for the event that I received in the mail during the summer of 1985. What a neat item to behold after so many years. It's amazing to see how much has changed since those days. The brochure is a black and white job on paper typed out on a word processor (maybe even a typewriter?) with various photos of the guests and drawings of many science-fiction and comic book characters sprinkled throughout. It's nothing fancy, glossy or even professional-looking. I haven't been to a convention like this since the mid-1990s. At that time they really hadn't changed much since my first one in 1985 (and probably long before that too), but I'll be they are a completely different animal these days. Every company, movie, actor, comic book... has it's own website now. Everyone is online and has cell phones. Twitter, Facebook and other social networks are the preferred mode of communication. DVDs have replaced VHS tapes. a LOT more neat stuff is available (at a cheaper price too) and easy to find on DVD today compared to what was around then. It's much cheaper to dupe this stuff, rip it, share it, store it on computers or iPods... I can only imagine the madhouse that is Comic-Con these days. Now instead of being merely the realm of geeks and nerds, all kinds of stars, directors and producers make appearances to promote their latest movies/projects. It's all online (which didn't exist in 1985 of course) and it's everywhere. Like the brochure for the 1985 show, the convention itself seems positively quaint compared to today's mega-events.
Interestingly enough, it appears that Creation is still around and still promoting conventions. I don't know how directly this Creation Entertainment company is related to the old one that sent me that brochure all those years ago, but it's kind of nice to see the name still around out there today!
*For more on this convention, please read my follow up blog: Creation Convention Part II: Geeks on Parade. A lot of questions raised by this entry are answered in that one after more "evidence" was uncovered.
Love: Mark Strickson