Frontline at Fandomfest

Adam Baldwin, Jewel Staite and Alan Tudyk on stage for the “Firefly” panel.

Adam Baldwin, Jewel Staite and Alan Tudyk on stage for the “Firefly” panel.

By CHRIS HUMPHREYS
Chief Photographer

On Friday night before attending the convention we hit up the bar and ran into "Walking Dead" actor Scott Wilson.

On Friday night before attending the convention we hit up the bar and ran into “Walking Dead” actor Scott Wilson.

Comic book conventions. It just sounds nerdy, doesn’t it? Well don’t be afraid, the tens of thousands of comic book, sci-fi and horror fans that filled downtown Louisville last weekend don’t bite, at least not most of them. They’re not all socially awkward virgins or weirdos in Star Trek uniforms. They’re not all geeks that haven’t showered in a week (although if you Google “con funk” you might read differently). For the most part they’re normal people of all ages that just want to get together and celebrate what they love – and I’m one of them.

I’ve been attending conventions or “cons” as a patron for five years and as part of the media for two. I’m usually found walking the convention floor or sitting in a panel dressed up in my favorite Doctor Who character costume or wearing a T-shirt with something equally dorky on it. Due to a new mortgage I had to skip this year’s San Diego Comic Con, the largest convention in the world that draws in well over 100,000 people each year. So needless to say I was extremely giddy to cover Fandomfest – Louisville’s version of San Diego – which was held July 26-28 at the Galt House and Convention Center.

Legendary comic creator Stan “The Man” Lee.

Legendary comic creator Stan “The Man” Lee.

When attending comic conventions you expect a little bit of dissorder, but in the case of Fandomfest it was more of a chaotic mess. Patrons and volunteers were equally clueless as to where to go, what to see and when to see it.

What the convention lacked in organization, the fans made up for in hospitality. Each time I cautiously approached a line that wasn’t roped off or labeled in any way, the fellow fanatics were always glad to help share their knowledge on what was going on. In the same context, the lack of a proper printed program or schedule was made OK by word of mouth, thanks to fellow nerds who were just as confused as me.

Luckily my con-partner and I wandered up in time to catch the late-starting Stan Lee panel, where the creator of iconic characters like Spider-Man, X-Men, Hulk and Fantastic Four took fan questions for an hour. The jovial 90-year-old kept the crowd in laughter as he shared his insights and personal stories from his  73 years in the comic book industry.

Up next was the Firefly panel, where stars Adam Baldwin, Jewel Staite and Alan Tudyk spoke to fans and took questions regarding the short-lived cult classic sci-fi/Western show that was canceled 11 years ago and continues to have an enormous following. The highlight was when the show’s star Nathan Fillion called the different actors on stage and spoke to them on speakerphone for all in the room to hear.

The last panel we sat in on was actor/singer/performer John Barrowman, who didn’t hide his frustration with Fandomfest among being left at the airport, moving his photo-ops with fans and starting his panel late and attempting to end it early. The flamboyant entertainer answered questions, shared stories, spoke of his recent wedding to his longtime partner and even sang songs to the filled room. He was my favorite by far.

Our fortunate “selfie” with actor Michael Rooker.

Our fortunate “selfie” with actor Michael Rooker.

What came next is what really makes these conventions worth attending, the partying and slight chance of seeing your favorite actors out at a local watering hole. My date and I took a few hours off and returned with a couple more friends to Al J’s, the bar that connects the two Galt House towers.

The most commonly asked question in the evening at cons is “Where’s the party at?” In our case, we found two.

The first was an official party where we met “The Walking Dead” actors Scott Wilson (who everyone claimed they wanted to be their grandpa) and a rambunctious Michael Rooker, who was literally running around the room taking cellphone pictures with fans.

Once inside the Suite Tower of the Galt House, we ran into “Game of Thrones” actor Jason Momoa who is even bigger in real life than his “Khal Drogo” character portrayed him to be, and was kind enough to stop for one photo.

John Barrowman surprising fans waiting in line to meet him.

John Barrowman surprising fans waiting in line to meet him.

Next up was the unofficial party, which was found in a room on the third floor that offered access to a large balcony along the Galt House exterior, which made for a nice quiet end to the night.

On the last day of the con I returned with my housemate to take photos for this very paper (that can be found on page B-13) and see what other geeky shenanigans we could get into. The most exciting moment came when standing in line to meet the aforementioned John Barrowman. After waiting for 20 minutes, Barrowman took what he told everyone was a bathroom break and turned out to be a “get dressed as an alien from ‘Doctor Who’ and seemingly anonymously harass people in line break,” which needless to say made everyone squeal with excitement.

As Fandomfest came to a close on Sunday night, there were already complaints strewn across Twitter, Facebook and the Louisville section of www.reddit.com, and as of Monday morning, even an open letter that went viral, all voicing their opinions about how the convention was handled. Hopefully the powers that be at Fandomfest will take these concerns into consideration when planning the biggest convention in the region next year.