San Diego Comic Con – 2004

July 2004

We arrived late Thursday afternoon at the Hyatt across the street from the Con.  We had some serious costume setbacks with Vickie’s costumes and were seriously delayed at leaving and eventually had to pack up much of our tools and crafting supplies to try and complete the costumes.  I called our friend, Wally Wingert, after we finally hauled our junk up into the room and had arrived at the convention floor (regular garb.)  It was already late in the day and the convention was closing, but we managed to meet up with Wally and his friend, Christine.  We did a little bit of walking before I saw a replica of the Shakespeare bust.  It looked VERY nice.  I asked how much and realized that the $295 price would eat up virtually ALL of my convention shopping money.  That was too scary to do on the first day, but Wally said they had sold out of them the first time he bought his a few years ago.  No pressure!!

What to do?

We got out just before they closed up and went to the Spaghetti Factory for food, great conversation and laughs.  All the while, Wally saying, “Y’know, you’re going to have to get that bust.”  The four of us talked about all kinds of things under the sun ( with some Batman stuff thrown in.)  It was a wonderful night.  It got late, and we headed back to the hotel with much work still ahead of us on Vickie’s Wonder Woman if it was going to be ready.  Without giving away the problems with the suit ( why should we make you look for any ?) let’s just say that some bonding techniques we tried, practically EXPLODED when I put some of those pieces in my hot car upon leaving.  We had to re-think and reconstruct some things.

That delayed Friday greatly, with us not getting to the con until practically 3:30.  But we were in costume and ready to take the crowd on.  Another call to Wally, and he arrived downstairs to meet us and thought of a great place to take some pics while we were still fresh in our costumes ( the air in the convention center was not helpful to the July heat.)  After a pretty lengthy photos session with Wally as photographer, we hit the convention floor.

All I can say is, I couldn’t tell you how many photos of us were taken by, with, and for people at the Convention.  Every once in a while we got somebody to take a photo for us using our camera, just so that we would have some.  The people we tended to take pictures of were other costumed fans.  Vickie and I admire the craft and support others daring enough to do so.  I did make some pre-printed cards that had my e-mail address and asked some folks to send me a copy of the shots they took.  Especially the ones of us with the kids.  Children looked at us as if we were magic in front of their eyes.  Hugs were often.  Some simple questions, and many smiles.  I hope I will get some of those shots to share later, as those were our favorite moments.  I think that’s the closest we were ever going to feel to being the real thing.  Keep in mind, we didn’t just put on the suits and walk around like regular people and wait till there was a camera to pose for to get into character.  We were always in character.  I never could break from my “Adam speak” even when talking in private to Wally or Vickie.  I think that’s an effect from the cowl.

I stopped by the booth that had the Shakespeare bust and it was GONE!  But the guy at the booth, Mike, said he had three other booths at the con and would take us to one that should still have a bust.  He loved our costumes and got a bit spooked at the way I walked and talked like Adam.  It was only suppose to be two aisles over, but took us about twenty minutes from being stopped so much for photos.  Wally suddenly saw somebody that he knew and said he should get his picture taken with us.  I didn’t get a chance to see the guy approach us as I was looking around the convention to see if I noticed any “goodies” during our marathon of two aisles.  So all I saw was the back of this guys head, but I did notice how short he was.  I quipped, “I bet you you’re just the right height to make a great boy wonder.”  The guy finally looked up at me with puzzled look on his face and then I realized I was talking to Jason Marsden who played Burt Ward in “Return to the Batcave.”  I then said, “You look much better without the powder burns” (a scene from the same film.)  That let him know that I did know who he was, and he gave a big smile.  Real nice guy.

Posing with Jason Marsden who played Burt Ward in “Return to the Batcave”

Meanwhile, Mike who was waiting to show me the Shakespeare head  was still waiting for us to keep following him.  He ended up saying to Jason, “Wow.  You look a lot like Burt Ward, you should try wearing a Robin costume sometime.”  Wally then said, “Um…been there…done that.”  Mike got pretty embarrassed once he realized who Jason was.  We finally got to the bust.  After much of the night not sleeping because I was thinking over it, I would ask one more time, “How much?”  Let’s just say that I got a juicy, “Because-you’re-in-the- costume-discount.”  I bought it and asked them to hold it there for me to pick up later.  I knew better than to carry the thing around.  Thanks Mike and the folks at Whiz Bang.

More photos, more photos, more photos,  some filming of us for a BRAVO program to come out in Spring 2005 and guess what?  More photos.  Wally got tied up in an interview about Batman and we forged on alone until the announcement that the hall would close in 30 minutes.  We were on the other side of the hall from my purchased bust!!  It takes about 15 minutes just to walk it uninterrupted.  As we made a fast paced walk towards the other end, we got stopped all along the way.  Eventually I had visions of William Dozier saying, “WILL THEY MAKE IT IN TIME?”  But after getting really efficient with setting up folks for their photos with us, the pictures went quickly, and we just made it.  Now with  box in tow, we were constantly getting stopped again and again while trying to get back to our hotel.  One hour later, we finally got back.

Wally had already made it to his room, and went out to meet some other friends for dinner and called us to meet them there.  Another wonderful evening with good people.  We all eventually went up to one their rooms to watch some bad Japanese B-movie type television.  Fun, but by the time we got back…dead on our feet and it was only Friday.

Friday night dinner with (from L to R)
Gina Sheridan, Shawn Sheridan, Vickie Sebring, Larry
Strothe, Scott Sebring, James Gonis & Wally

Saturday came and once again I felt the clock ticking.  I went out to get some supplies from a local drug store.  Gel foot pads.  Yeesh, our feet were killing us.  After a nice breakfast at a little cafe, we had to get back to get the final touches done for Vickie’s Catwoman suit that our friend, Ken Davis, made.   Mainly sewing on claws to her gloves.

As she was getting things ready, I took that time to head over to the con to get a few moments of browsing sans costume.  It’s impossible to look around and talk to vendors when dressed as Batman.

When I got there, I made a bee-line straight to Album cover artist, Roger Dean’s booth.  He did those fantastic Yes and Asia cover paintings through the 70’s and even recently.  He’s my favorite cover artist, and I’ve followed his career for nearly 25 years.  I tried to tell him this on Friday while in my Batman suit, but could barely get a sentence out before, “Excuse me, can we get a picture.”  I didn’t mind at all, but I knew I wanted to get some “quality time” in with him.  So on this day, I showed up at his booth and met this wonderful, quiet and talented artist.  He signed a poster of his famous ASIA cover ( a dragon coming out of the water) for me.  I told him that I had read both of his books and have really studied his use of line and design in logo making and that I was never in a band where I didn’t try to do a logo like he would have.  He was very appreciative.  We got a photo taken together and then I said, “You know, it’s much easier to meet with you when I’m not dressed as Batman.”  He put his hand over his mouth in surprise and said, “Was that YOU?”  A good laugh was had.

Priceless.

Vickie and I arrived once again to the convention floor in costume. But this time she was Catwoman (MEEOOOW).  We started to see a few more other costumed characters running around since there would be a Masquerade that night.  The place was more packed than Friday and it made it a bit more difficult to pose when the photo ops came, which they did even moreso than Friday due to the greater crowds.  We were stopped by a camera man and director from the BRAVO channel again.   Friday, they had me do a Batusi for the camera as well as various actions towards the camera followed with Vickie doing some “bullets and bracelets” type moves.  Today, they had us walk towards the camera and pass it a few times with variations on the takes.  Also they had Vickie and I interact a bit more as Batman and Catwoman.  She did her cat like flirt with me and I did my more stammering, nervous and shaking in my boots Batman over what to do about this sort of approach.  Not quite a scene recreation, but definitely that awkward dynamic that Batman would have with Catwoman.  It seemed he knew how to handle her henchman and getting out of traps better than whenever she would come on to him.  It was silly and funny.  I have no idea if it was good enough for them to use at all.

More photos, more photos and hugs and handshakes.  It was still a blast.  We tried to keep an eye out for Wally as his character “Uncle Davver” and his gang of ghoulish gals.  If you don’t know this character of his, check out this page from his site http://www.wallyontheweb.com/uncledavverscharacter.htm (shameless plug for my buddy)  .  We did manage to catch up with them as they were waiting in the Mark Hamill line.  Quite a few pictures started to get taken of the group of us, yet we pressed on and left them to meet “Luke Skywalker.”  BTW, I happen to like Mark’s Joker voice.

Around the corner we met a professional Xena and Gabriel who were almost dead ringers.  I had to get a picture of them.  Keep in mind, when I would take pictures of other people while I was Batman, I would make it like I was holding a very complex bat-device and did a loud Adam West count down, “THREE, TWO…..ONE”  It usually got laughs to have Batman be a fan taking pictures.  Xena then said, ‘Well, get in here Bats!”

We came across AL ( who was an awesome Blade the day before.)  A mutual batfriend, Billy Loyd, had introduced me to Al’s costuming group so we were mildly acquainted.  Anyway, Al was now dressed as the Green Lantern from the Justice League cartoon.  It was EXCELLENT.  His suit was  full leather with a great set of boots and a fantastic ring made by Billy Loyd himself ( who made my bat buckle as well.)  To top it all off, he had green contact lenses that made his eyes seem to almost glow.  Al is a great guy to meet in general, so we tried to get some pictures taken with him for sure.  We said that we should try to meet up at the masquerade later.

Just about this time, we decided to leave the building just before they made the closing announcements.  We hoped to avoid the thick crowds who were trying to leave all at once like the day before .  We sat down for a meal at the hotel when I received a phone call from Billy Loyd.  I gave him a short run-down of the events and told him to let the message board know we were fine and as far away from tapping away on a computer as possible.

We took it easy for a few hours and freshened up before donning our suits again to go to the masquerade.  Vickie decided to go as Wonder Woman again, since she really enjoyed how our creation turned out and it seemed to get a better response from the kids than Catwoman.  I think she made the right choice in the long run.

There was a large hall filled with what seemed over two thousand seats for the costume competition and presentation.  We sat through all 52 contestants that had entered several months in advance in order to qualify.  Not only did the costumes have to be shown to the audience, but the entries had to give a presentation or rather “do an act.”  Some of these ranged from witty, childish, lame, funny to “they don’t get out much, do they?”  The hardest part of this long show was sitting still in my Batsuit in this room full of people.  I was melting.

As it turned out, we didn’t need to sit through that.  The real action was at the party across the way at another annex where the competition was showing on a big screen anyways and it was in the open AIR!  Glorious, night breeze, AIR!!  Now I know better.

A pair of Wonder Women at the masquerade

We arrived at the party and instantly saw Al who had been there with his family the whole time.  YEESH!  We talked a bit, and still had to pose for more pictures, more pictures, more pictures in between conversation.  He told us that his family was at the other end of the party floor and that we should meet his daughter, Tiana, because she liked Wonder Woman.  Vickie barely made it  around the corner to where Al’s daughter could make a clear view of her, and the little girl came rushing over to Vickie with her arms wide open for a big hug and the widest eyes and cutest smile like she found her best friend.  Vickie dropped down to one knee and gave his girl the biggest hug.  I could tell Vickie just about melted.  I don’t know who was smiling bigger.  Once again, a special night with great people and wonderful conversation.  Al’s daughter even went over to bring us two small plastic figures in her hands.  One was of Wonder Woman and the other was Batman.

Priceless.

The competition was over and when the various winners were announced, people started to come out of the hall to join the party.  Lots of talented folks showed up in their own creations.  More pictures, more pictures.  Cool.  I never got tired of that.  Really.  It made us feel like part of the entertainment as well as getting a kick how much people still loved the Adam West Batman.  When people

would call out to me, about 60% would say, “Batman!” and the other 40% would yell out, “Adam West!”  Let see if any of the rubber suited Batmen ever get a “Clooney” or “Keaton!”  About this time, we set out to see the winners get their pictures taken at a professionally lighted stage for press photos.

Two guys showed up as Johnny Depp characters: Hunter S . Thompson, Capt. Jack Sparrow

On the way there, Vickie and I were stopped by some “cracked-horse.com-I- think” guys who wanted to do a video interview with us for their web site.  We agreed.  Well, the guy started out with , “Why Adam West?  Why the old school?”  I was torn to remain in character or let Scott out and praise Adam’s work.  Instead I said (in character), “ The series was my first exposure.  Before I knew there was a comic book or a cartoon.  This is what speaks to me the most.”  He then said something like, ”So Christian Bale should just hang it up right now and not bother.”  I replied something like, ”yes…for me”  But before I could get the “for me” out he then turned to Vickie and tried to imply that Vickie was dragged along into this and asked if she felt the same about Linda Carter ( Vickie’s suit was to resemble Alex Ross’ work, so this guy was going way off course.)  The interviewer was pretty pathetic, sad to say.  It was awkward.  I was glad when it was over, but of course rethought how I said things.  Don’t we always?

I think it sunk in about two minutes after walking away from that interview. The Batmen of the past 14 years in the movies all tried their best to portray a character that has been written pretty dark and flawed.  I dressed up as the  Keaton Batman many times over the years before I finally got my Adam suit together and I can tell you that there IS a major difference to what you can do in that suit as the Dark Knight and how people react to you and as the Caped Crusader.  As the Keaton style ( or even the more modern comic one that I briefly tried last year for Halloween) you don’t have much to say to the people or kids that can have much of any warmth, so it’s a lot of nods and “hellos” before they even think of coming near you.  Most are a bit fearful, shy and tend to just stare at you with a “wow” but still with a bit of a distance.  Some will shake your hand, but I can’t remember a hug or a single “I love you Batman” from the past 10 years of doing those, unless you just break character.  What’s that say about the character?  I had plenty of encounters just this past weekend where there were hugs, “I love you’s” and plenty of smiles from young and old alike.  And I could talk to them and converse and still be in character.  Guys would sometimes want to try and get me to pose with them as if I were punching them out but I would say, “ No, I don’t hit good citizens, but I should give you good lecture about unnecessary violence.”  And shake a finger at them to which they would just smile and then pose as if we were a team.  Teamwork, values, good will and heart always seemed to come across.  People may giggle but they always seem to show respect for the man in the grey tights.  I noticed the difference.  Putting on the suit always makes me want to try and be a better person because  of what he represents.  Vengeful, tortured and brooding Batman just doesn’t do it for me anymore.  Maybe it may seem corny in this jaded day and age.  And maybe the darker image sells more and lends itself to more interesting character studies, but I don’t think it inspires people or kids to try and do the right thing simply because it is the right thing to do.  That’s what I should have said in the interview.

After the official photography for the competition entries were through, a photographer insisted that Vickie and I should get up on the stage and get  some pictures taken as well.  About half a dozen photographers came back over to the stage and asked us pose.  I kept hearing things from some of them like, “he even talks like him” (that was actually a representative from DC!)  and another DC judge saying, “he has his mannerisms too.”  That was very cool to hear.  I got down off the stage and let them get some solo ones of Vickie and I then got Al to get up there so I could get some good shots of him with my camera.  The photographers then asked for the both of us to be up there after I was done with my photo taking.  What a night.

We said our goodbyes to Al and the various gang of people we encountered and made our way back to our hotel room.  It was 1:00 am.  No wonder I was tired.

Sunday came.  We slept in compared to the previous three days but did need to get ourselves together and all of our stuff packed in time for our 11:00 check out.  We had so much stuff that we brought to complete the costumes or mend them if necessary.  The bellhop tried to fit everything carefully on his cart, but I carried the cowl under my arm on a Styrofoam head with a plastic bag to cover it.  I took no chances.

Wally gave me a ring on my cell ( it plays the Batman theme when he calls.)  He told me that he and Christine were at the convention already to try and tie up any loose ends and their shopping.  We hooked up and made our rounds together.  We looked at some of the newer line of stuff from Sideshow like the 18 inch Kirk and Spock.  They looked great  but the pants were too long.

We made our way over to the spot where I had seen a still in the box, 12 inch, Mego Batman just the day before.  It was still there.  Wally had mentioned that he wanted to pick up the 12 inch Spiderman that was there too.  They were priced incredibly cheap.  As it turned out, they were from France, so they were not considered as collectable as the U.S. ones I guess.  But  we each got our Megos and were delighted.  Whether it was from France or not, this was the first Mego I’ve bought in thirty years.  It was COOL!

My First Mego in 30 years

Wally then got in line to get his “Empire Strikes Back” poster signed by Billy Dee Williams and director Irvin Kershner.  Wally’s poster was already filled with other cast members as well such as Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher.  Now if he could just get Harrison Ford to attend one of these conventions for a change.  Vickie became the “please hold my cardboard” girl while he went to get the signatures.  The cardboard folder contained some other pieces that included a drawing that Jim Lee did for Wally of Batman and Robin.  How cool is that? Very Cool!!

The four of us went for one last lunch together across the street at the hotel’s restaurant since Wally had to get back to Studio City in a timely manner.  We discussed  improvements that I should make on my costume or rather “fine tuning” to get the look even better.  Wally then proceeded to take his Mego Spiderman out of the box to check it out.  He then said, “ You GOTTA pose it!”  I agreed since I always pose my figures in my collection, unless they look BETTER displayed in the box they came in (pretty rare.)  I’m not into the collector value thing at all and Wally has plenty of memorabilia and collectables worth far more than him opening his Mego box.  Some folks probably cringe reading this.  I may keep mine in the box, because of the vibrant pink and yellow colors that remind me so much of the show.  I think it would be a nice splash of color on my display shelf.  But you never know, his cowl doesn’t have the black shroud on the front of the face with eyebrows.  I may have to paint those in (heh heh heh.)

We said our goodbyes to Wally and Christine and headed back to the con for one last run through before our long drive back home.  We stopped by the  “Lord of the Rings “ costumes that were on display by New Line Cinema.  What detail and artistry.  The films do not even come close to capturing the detail and depth of these fabrics, ornamentation and elegance of these pieces.  While there, I came across a group called “Gotham Public Works” which consisted of a modern day Penguin, a Jim Lee style Catwoman and an Onstar style Batman (a Clooney fitted black suit without nipples and Batsignal logo filled in with yellow.)  I tried to get a picture of Catwoman for a friend but she wouldn’t wait for me to try and get a steady footing for the shot.  I also noticed that kids weren’t flocking to meet this Batman.  His costume was totally professional and spot on for this style and he had the chin to pull it off really well.  I almost wished I had my suit on to get  a photo together.  He did look the part but I never saw any fans stand WITH him or shake his hand.  Too bad.  I hope he got at least one hug from a kid.

We looked at some final stuff and felt it was time to go before everybody else were told to go and so that we avoided the rush again.   So into the blue Saturn we took off  for home.

The San Diego Comic Con was a blast.  It was wonderful time, especially when shared with friends like Wally and Christine and getting to make new friends like Al and his family.  Vickie and I agreed that this was much more fun overall than anything else that we’ve done in recent years.    We’ll be back next year in our colorful tights and our arms open.  Maybe we’ll meet YOU!!

Thanks for reading our story.

Scott SebringSan Diego Comic Con – 2004