Last weekend was the second-annual Gobble-Con, a small convention that this year took place at the Stamford Plaza Hotel, eventually to be renamed the Stamford Crown Plaza. I arrived at noon and got my badge. Unfortunately, my hotel room wasn’t ready yet, so I left to go get some food. Something I didn’t realize: Summer Street, that the hotel is located on, is one-way. And I had pretty much no navigational aids with me whatsoever (Other than, I realize as I type this a week after the fact, possibly an atlas in the back of my car. Doh!).
After stopping at the “Wedge Inn” (A wedge, in Stamford, sounds like what I know as a “grinder”) for some chicken tenders and curly fries, I attempted to navigate my way back to the hotel. Essentially, I knew I had to take a left off of Summer Street, then another left until I was going back the way I came. Luckily for me, I found a street name that looked familiar–the other option when leaving the hotel’s parking lot. I pull in said lot right as the epic part of Yes’s “Close to the Edge” kicked in, which struck me as fitting.
Returning to the hotel, I decided to use my laptop for a bit before I went off to the Opening Ceremonies. This lasted all of about 10 minutes before the battery gave out. No joke. And my room still wasn’t ready yet (It was between 1:30 and 2:00 PM on Friday at this point). Back in the car the computer went, and off to opening Ceremonies I went. Generally speaking, I’m not big on Opening Ceremonies at conventions, ever since MAGFest 4, where I felt vaguely talked down to by the fact that the ceremonies consisted mostly of “MAGFest staff read most of the program to you, apparently under the impression that you’re too stupid to do this yourself”. But it’s not like I was doing anything else–I went on my own, a lot of my friends wouldn’t be arriving until Saturday, and my room wasn’t ready.
Fortunately, this opening ceremonies wasn’t as patronizing, due in part to the fact that, being a second-year convention on a shoestring budget (More on this a bit later), there was no program to speak of to read from. I learned about the convention’s special guests, Robert Axelrod (Best known, James Earl Jones-as-Darth Vader-style, as the voice of Lord Zedd in various early Power Rangers incarnations) and Tiffany Grant (Best known as the voice of Asuka in Neon Genesis Evangelion).
After finally checking into my room a little after 3PM (I couldn’t be too mad, as that’s when the official check-in time was), the rest of my Friday consisted mainly of going to halves of a couple panels, including the second half of the Cosplaying on a Budget panel, as well as the Gobble Tonight Show panel, a convention-related spoof of the late show (Think Letterman, etc) paradigm. This featured the alter-egos of two of the main characters of Gobble-Con, Cobra Commander and A Count Named Slickbrass. Or more accurately, Toga Commander and A Count Named Silkbrass. This was funny stuff, and the person who ran the panel wants to do it more “properly” at other conventions, which is something I’d like to see.
Other things I did on Friday included going to the dealers’ room/artist alley, where I bought a Mega Man X perler, and a How to Draw Manga book. I’m an interesting case in the convention fandom in that, while I really like the art style of manga/anime, I don’t actually watch or read a lot of it. My knowledge of Sailor Moon, for instance, is based pretty much entirely on the binging of The Abridged Series I did for the last month or so (Although it was weird to watch The Abridged Series and somehow recall random fragments of the “proper” episodes, since I hadn’t seen them in about 15 years, and even then only bits and pieces.).
Saturday came around, and I went down to purchase a couple more pieces of art from the dealer’s room. One was a piece of art showing a dark angel in the moonlight, and the other depicts Link shouting “HEY LISTEN!” at Navi…whom he’s taped to a lit bomb, which is something pretty much everyone who has played Ocarina of Time has wanted to do at some time.
Also Saturday, I went down to registration to find out that my panel’s time had been moved again, from 4:30 to 6:30PM. In theory, this was good, as a later start time would mean a bigger audience. In theory. In practice, I looked at the schedule…and saw I was now competing directly with the second half of the Cosplay Masquerade.
If you’ve never been to a pop-culture convention before, the Cosplay Masquerade is almost invariably one of the biggest events. In other words, pretty much everyone would be there.
I felt like shouting DOOOOOOOOOON!! William Shatner-style at this point.
The good news was that the panel had now been expanded by a half hour, to an hour and a half. With the hour I had been given, I was more or less going to put what I did in the panel up to popular vote (Option 1: lecture Power-Point style like I did at Gobble-Con 2010. Option 2: Attempt to talk about speedrunning in general while running live through Mega Man X); with the extra half-hour, I was fairly sure I could fit both parts in under the wire (Turning the MMX section into talking speedrunning strategies on the game specifically) if I did the lecture part quickly enough, knowing how long it look me to run through MMX (Generally 43-45 minutes). The first part was going to be the question mark, since I’ll admit I wasn’t nearly as prepared this year as I was last year.
Last year was my first time doing a panel for a convention, and this year would bring another first–my first time cosplaying. As I wrote on a Facebook update,
“I’m pretty sure there are very few places on Earth where a quest to procure batteries for a Rock Band 2 drum kit can end in agreeing to be Tuxedo Mask as part of a Sailor Moon cosplay group….ladies and gentlemen, my October 2011 Connecticon Member Appreciation Day.”
That’s the short story of how I got roped into it. Basically, I got asked, figured “I have most of the parts already, how hard can it really be?” and said “Okay, sure.”
As it turns out, the answer to “How hard can it be?” is “Actually, pretty hard”. There’s a lot of detail that goes into making a costume that you don’t tend to think about. The gold buttons on Tuxedo Mask’s suit were something that I had to add myself. Additionally, while I owned a cape, I didn’t own one with red lining, so I had to head to Joann Fabric, buy two sheets of fabric (One black, one red), and make the cape myself using fabric glue, allowing me to cheat the process of stitching them together. Further, I had to attach the cape to the suit by poking a couple holes in it and pushing the shoulder buttons through the holes. While this actually worked, I was convinced that it looked terrible–compared to how he looks in the anime, the cape was way too wide at the shoulders, or so I thought. It was probably also a bit short, but honestly, this was a relief after a year-plus of going to events wearing a cape that hit the ground with four inches to spare.
My friend Katie, who was one of the ringleaders of the whole thing (And, I’m pretty sure, the person who originally asked “Are you going to Gobble-Con?” and kicked the train into motion), and everyone else in the group was supposed to get there at about 12:30PM Saturday, which was actually the original, original time for my panel. As 12:30 became 1:00, which became 1:30, which became 2:00, I was becoming vaguely concerned that the whole thing was some elaborate practical joke played on me to get me to dress up as Tuxedo Mask for no particular reason…in which case, I would’ve had to applaud everyone for the sheer scope of it (This, if it had been a practical joke, would’ve involved multiple pictures posted to Facebook of the cohorts sewing stuff, plus my friend Cels actually bringing the bows for the Sailor Scout costumes to one of the Connecticon Member Appreciation Days.). But finally, at around 2:45, I looked down at the lobby from the third floor hallway and saw a huge group of Sailor Scouts. I headed down, minus the suit/cape (Because I was still convinced it looked awful.). After taking a few pictures, I went back to my room, basically waiting for Cels to come up and make the alterations to the cape that I thought were necessary. While I knew on a theoretical level what I thought was wrong, I was afraid to actually make the alterations myself, knowing that I didn’t have another chance or a plan B if I screwed up and cut off more than I meant to. Cels, on the other hand, basically does costume stuff for a living, so I expected her to look at it and cut off the excess perfectly in about three seconds.
At 4:30, I more or less got impatient and said “forget it” and went down with the cape and suit. And…Cels thought it looked fine, as did everyone else. Had I known that was going to be the outcome, I wouldn’t have hid in my room for an hour-plus before coming down with it. Either way, though, after about a half hour of picture-taking, I headed back to my room to get ready for my 6:30 panel. Packing up stuff and heading down to the panel room, my worst fear attendance-wise was realized: I was, at that point, the only person besides one volunteer in the room. One person eventually showed up. To spin this into a positive, it was a very intimate, low-pressure environment in which to do the panel. And I got through both parts of it with about five minutes to spare. The people who did watch it seemed to like it, and the volunteer did his best to try and get the few people not at the masquerade into the panel room, largely without success. The Mega Man X run went fine, as I finished in 44:01. There was a time when I would have killed for that time, but now I can pull off a sub-45 run pretty consistently, which is nice.
At some point early afternoon Saturday, I also went to most of the Best of Robert Axelrod panel, where he showed some of his favorite clips from various voice-acting he’s done, discussed behind-the-scenes stuff (The reason for three of the original Power Rangers leaving the show boiled down to “They wanted more money”.), talked about some techniques he used in achieving voices (Lord Zedd is a lot of diaphragm), and so on. Pretty good stuff, worth my time despite my honestly not being interested in the guests specifically beforehand.
Late on Saturday, after not-insignificant quantities of rum, I went down to the 18+ Cosplay Court Case, where (amongst other things) Sailor Saturn was accused of being a prostitute, and a Vocaloid was accused of ear rape. Also, I was a bailiff, which basically meant I stood around and looked cool up front. This was fun, and a little chaotic (For the Vocaloid case, the prosecution and defense had to switch, because neither one played their appointed role very well), probably helped by the fact that I was far from the only inebriated person there.
On Sunday morning, I got up, checked out of my room, and went down to the registration desk, where to my surprise, there was a “Pre-Reg for Gobble-Con 2012” sign out. The reason this was a surprise is that, long story short, attendance for Gobble-Con 2011 was not what was expected, and large quantities were owed to the hotel to the point that the convention was actually extended with some impromptu panels, from 1PM to 6PM. Sunday highlights included a panel run by Robert Axelrod concerning doing voice-overs for commercials. I actually tried my hand at a Chili’s commercial circa 2000, and I guess I did okay. This, too, is fun stuff, and something I could see myself doing part-time, if I could figure out how to get into it. There are apparently some sites out there dedicated to this, but I’d be spending a lot more than I think I’d stand to make were I to join one of those sites.
Another Sunday highlight was seeing how much the convention meant to the attendees. Despite the pre-registration sign, there was no guarantee of a third Gobble-Con actually happening, the financial situation was so dire. Luckily, just before I left, there was confirmation that it’s taking place next year, and indeed, preliminary work on guests has already started. Also, I really could have used one of the extended panels on Saturday, as one of the things I learned about cosplay was essentially “Don’t halfass it, but it’s okay if you’re not 100% accurate to the character, and in fact, your own spin on it can actually improve the costume.” Still, it’s good to know for the future. I just consider the cape and mask my own personal spin on it now.
In short, it was a lot of fun, and the lack of size of the convention makes it easy to meet and talk with people. It’s a lot of fun, and you should check it out next time if you’re in the Connecticut area.
- My photos. Note that I commented in proper chronological order. For a “proper” narrative, start here and keep clicking “Previous” until you get back to the “first” picture. Otherwise, it’s going to be like watching Memento.
- Pre-register for 2012 here. Just click on the “order now” button (Make sure any script blockers are off). I already pre-registered, and you should too!
- Steam-Funk’s website. The aforementioned A Count Named Slickbrass, who basically got his start (So to speak) at Gobble 2010, runs the group.
- Royal Nerd’s site. They’re the people in the picture here.
- Eric LaCore Photography, who took a bunch of other pictures at the convention.