A Tale of Two Conventions

picardbordSo, I guess Con season has begun. Saturday morning I dragged myself out of bed and opened a series of browsers and browser windows, all aimed at the San Diego Comic-Con landing page, with one window displaying the atomic clock from Denver.  Sipping water and and rubbing sleep out of my eyes, I refreshed the atomic clock page, counting down to 8:59:59, and then, suddenly, CLICK CLICK CLICK CLICK CLICK and then…hang time.

As my browser window loading bar pulsed and moved almost imperceptibly forward, my twitter feed roused itself, with friends and strangers wishing folks good luck and crossed fingers. We’re all in this together, everyone wondering, “Will it be easier this year?” and checking to make sure the right credit card was ready, the Member ID was there in the background, the password up to date, everything just ready to get this process done and over so we could get our Saturday back.

20 minutes later, with one page still trying to load the registration page — like it’s on the page, text just needs to show up — and another trying to leave the landing page, I feel this vague sense of mild SDCC panic. Just a little. Like, I will have a press badge but my wife Whitney’s gonna need a ticket, as will so many other people I know, and yes, it’s always hard to get a ticket, but, like, it always works, right? Every year I joke about how we almost didn’t get a ticket, but, I always get a ticket, and everyone I know does get a ticket, RIGHT?

By 10:30am, I am one of those many, many, many people who did everything right but who still could not get a ticket to San Diego Comic-Con this year. The event apparently sold out in about 90 minutes, but I can’t but help think it actually sold out in 10. Who knows?

It will all work out, of course. I will be there, Whit will be there, it’s all going to be fine — it has to, really. Ironically, I was actually kind of assuming I wasn’t going to go this year—last year was beyond frustrating and I spent more time running around (and then some) than actually enjoying the convention. But this year, I actually have additional real work that I will be doing at the show (in addition to the dancing and help I try to provide the guys with anything they need for their coverage) that makes SDCC, like, a real thing that I need to go to.


Now, flash forward a few hours later that Saturday and I find myself attending a different convention, the kind of convention that I haven’t been to in probably 5-6 years. I was in Burbank for a Star Trek convention.  And not just any Star Trek convention: a GRAND SLAM convention, with Patrick Stewart in attendance during the day and then, a full-on Next Generation reunion show that evening.  The whole cast (sans Wesley) was going to be on stage to celebrate 25 years of Star Trek.

Now, I don’t know if you have been to a Star Trek show or some other convention that has, shall we say, a fairly narrow focus and presents an opportunity for a very specific kind of fan to interact with the actors and creators that were responsible for the stories that love. With Comic-Con or even one of the smaller comic book conventions, you have pretty nice variety of the kinds of people that make it. It’s easy, if you haven’t to one of those highly targeted shows, just how isolated “fandom” used to be, back in the day.

In the many years that have passed since my last foray into the world of Trek, there have been a series of events and films and television shows, that, while owing their very existence to the very good work and stories and themes generated by the various Star Trek series, have really catapulted “genre” shows into the mainstream. With the success of these properties, the various Star Trek shows, great as many of them are, they  really are relics of a different time, a time before Netflix, DVRs, streaming services, etc. A time where if you wanted to watch a Star Trek show, you watched it when it was broadcast or, if you were “that guy” (and I was he), you recorded the shows you watched on VHS tapes—or bought the tapes (I did that, too)…which disintegrated over time, the stories and images fading off the tape and, eventually, fading from memory. So, when I saw these actors…well, it had been awhile.

The single biggest thing to happen in Star Trek, of course, is the re-imagination of the franchise in the recent J.J. Abrams’ film. This film, which I saw three times in the theater, took everything that people loved about the iconic original series, and gave an opportunity to bring what made those stories great — the characters and their relationships — to a whole new audience.

All well and good, right? Star Trek is back!

cci-spideyWell, not really. If you are a huge Next Generation fan or a fan of any the post “TOS” television shows (except, I guess, Enterprise), those characters are forever frozen in time. Unless something perversely awful and stupid happens (so, yes, there is a chance, it being Hollywood and all), there will never be a reboot for the Next Generation characters.

I sat in for a few discussions with the Next Generation actors, and you would not believe how many questions the actors got about this situation. “If there was a new movie for TNG like they did for TOS, who do you think would play you?” “If they introduced TNG into the new movies somehow, would you come back as Picard?” “Are you upset that…” “Are you frustrated with…”

The fans in Burbank, as far as I can tell, did not want to let go of the hope that they would someday see their favorite characters come back to life in a future story. And the more they wanted it, the more upset they got and the more passionate they became when they were finally able to talk to one of the actors about this impossible situation.

Comic book conventions are really interesting because, for the most part, the community is there to celebrate the characters and stories on their own merit, without being hampered down by the trappings of mortal beings actually having to be those characters. At least, that’s how comic book conventions used to be. Now, as you well know, comics are just one aspect of the event— a big aspect but people who complain about how SDCC is no longer about comics probably haven’t gone — and movies and television are a much larger part of the convention experience. The nice thing about this is that there is a sense of celebrating the new and welcoming different shows and movies into the fold.

I feel like we are at this strange time of fandom. I mean, 25 years of Star Trek: The Next Generation? That’s a long time. I know Comic-Con has been around for a long time, but you have to wonder–what will it be like in 20 years? One can’t help but think it will have to split up into several different shows over a long period of time (kind of like SxSW splits over interactive, music and film), as fans come to celebrate not just different forms of story, but different generations of story as well.

I will be honest: the Star Trek convention was, at times, really uncomfortable for me. Like, it’s one thing to see the actors when their show is still airing, or the movies are still fairly recent, but 25 years is a long time and just kind of underscores that realities of being a working actor. I was not uncomfortable about them coming back to have a reunion for a show long since ended, it was more about being reminded that life goes on, that all of those actors are still hustling for acting work today with decidedly mixed results. It’s so cool that the actors show up to meet their fans, but it just kind of underscored how little they have been up to in the years since their amazing success. I mean, it’s cool, I think both parties get a lot of out of it, but I just felt like I was in this fandom bubble where time had stopped, where the conversations had stopped, where the stories had just…died.

It’s easy to be snarky about Star Trek. It was impossible not to make Galaxy Quest comparisons during the evening. But being around these fans, the Original Old School “OG” of fandom, with the actors getting a chance to be stars again, as tempting as it was to dismiss it, I can’t help but feel it brought my experience with SDCC that morning into a bit of context. Yes, SDCC is annoying, yes, it’s overcrowded, but at the end of the day, we got what we asked for, right? This is the present day, when there are so many different kinds of films and shows and books and comics happening right now that to bring them under one roof, well, it’s going to be crazy. It’s the much-promised future of 500 channels on your TV becoming real under one roof, in real time.


So, I guess we are at the crossroads, where there is so much content out there, and so many different kinds of audiences that, we’ll probably see a few things happen over the next few years. First, we’ll see the large shows…probably just continue to maintain their present size, expanding with the space, but, as more and more shows and movies come out, each with their requisite hordes of fans, there will always be that demand to go to these mega shows where fans of all kinds can hang out with each other and enjoy general fandomania together.

On the other hand, we’ll probably see the more focused shows just get more and more…focused. I really can’t see the kinds of stage discussions and interviews like the ones I saw at the Star Trek convention happen at the bigger shows. I don’t think the general fan community cares about these older shows, and I don’t think, honestly, that the stars of those shows really want to deal with the hassle of the big crowds of people, most of which who are not there to see them. I suppose this is fine, I guess I was just worried how insular the Star Trek scene seemed to be…but who’s to say that is a bad thing?

Obviously, both shows are going to survive for awhile, and I kind of hope that the fact that SDCC sold out so quickly encourages people to try those smaller shows in different towns. San Diego is expensive; one could probably go to two, maybe three other shows (depending on where you live) with the money spent flying to and staying in San Diego. As awkward as the Star Trek con was for me at times, it did make me appreciate just how important that TV show was, not only to television and movies, but to me, personally—I rarely witness the kind of in-depth, sometimes emotional exchanges I saw in Burbank during the manic, press-aware, marketing-drenched galas I see in San Diego.

See ya this summer!


Mike Romo is an actor in LA who is really looking forward to worrying about some of the actor-centric problems he described in this article.




  1. I’ve been to smaller cons (all of them comics related) and I agree that they provide a very different experience than the big ones. I also fully expect them to diverge even more over time. I’m actually looking forward to small very focused cons. I can’t wait to attend Shipwreck-Con or possibly Man-At-Arms-Con.

    I sympathize with the Next Generation fans that wonder what will happen to their favorite series/characters going forward. I imagine the feeling is similar for fans of specific characters from the Old DC. Old school Vibe fans or, much more likely, Constantine fans are probably not very excited about recent events.

  2. I’ve never been to SDCC but I don’t think I would want, I don’t know. SDCC just looks too crazy for me. I go the OTAKON (anime convention in Baltimore) and is really fun and second only to AnimeExpo in size, it’s a big convention.
    Then I go to Baltimore Comic Con in the same convention center as OTAKON but it only takes up about 1/8 of the center. I love Baltimore Comic Con because it is small. The chance to meet and talk with so many great creators in a small setting like BCC is great. The experience there is so much relaxed and not being overly exhausted in the end is a big plus.

    • I think I’d like to go to the SDCC, but the way it’s described makes me apprehensive. Anything I’d want to do would be comic related, and if that is unlikely to happen than Id feel like I wasted my time.

  3. I’ll pass on these giant cons like San Diego. I prefer something much smaller where I can actually get a chance to interact with creators, and not feel like I’m in a sweaty concert crowd. I prefer something a bit more focused too. DragonCon is too much for me. So much everything except comics, the main thing I care about. Plus, it’s just become an event to be seen at. Atlanta Comics Expo was much smaller, and was quite nice, but it was just an offshoot of DragonCon, and is long gone.

    As for a Star Trek con; I like Star Trek, quite a bit actually. My old man watched TNG, I’m watching through TOS now, playing the MMO, loved some of the movies, etc. But seriously, what the hell would I do at a Star Trek con?

  4. Mike did you hear about the Qpop shop in little Tokyo doing a Trek themed art gallery? It just opene dup last week and runs until early March. Worth swinging by in my opinion.

  5. I’m going to the Gem City Comic Con next month. Last time I was exhausted, spent too much money, and bumped into repeatedly but I had so much fun! This year it’s in a bigger location, so hopefully that will make things better. I’d like to go to a bigger con, I would if I had a reliable car and the money. I have to say, I’m not sure most shows that are “big” now will ever have reunions or the devotion of the fans to make them happen. It doesn’t seem like it happens anymore, everybody moves on to other things.

    • Are you located in that area? I’m in Cincy and will also be hitting up Gem City again this year…i think this will be my 4th year. I’m glad they upgraded to the Nutter Center, because the Student Union was PACKED last year when Mark Waid was there.

    • Yea I am. This will be my 2nd year. I’m glad they moved it to the Nutter Center cause I got sick of people bumping into me every 5 minutes, the only thing that worries me is that I won’t be able to find my way around to get to the panels. BTW, Mark Waid is actually gonna have his own panel this year (I forget the topic).

    • Awesome, you have any plans for coming down to Cincy for either of the now TWO amazing shows down here? I cant recommend the new show CincyCon enough. Its got huge talent for the first time maybe ever in Cincy…guys like Jason Aaron and Rick Rememder and Chris Burnham. http://www.cincycomicon.com/Welcome.html

      For a brand new show you cant beat that guest list. They are trying to do a smaller vibe show from the other cincy convention with more intimate interactions with higher profile creators than the other Cincinnati show had been able to get over the last few years.

    • Can’t say that I do, money and transportation are a factor. Although from what I’ve heard a number of my favorite creators will be at C2E2 in April. Some guys at my LCS have offered to take some of my comics to get signed for me when they go for the seller’s booths.

  6. I’m a huge fan of Next Gen, and honestly I’m fine with it being “frozen” in its own little time bubble. I don’t want to see it ever be rebooted, because (like TOS) that cast is largely responsible for its appeal. I like the Abrams movie fine, but I’d like to see Trek move forward, preferably on television, where I think the franchise truly thrives. It is a shame that the Next Gen crew never got the movie they deserved, but what’re ya gonna do? It’s in the past. Even if there was a chance (which the Abrams reboot has made sure there is not), the cast is too old. I don’t want to see them try to explain how B4 became bloated and wrinkly.

    And as a (former) fellow actor, I totally get where you’re coming from when you say watching those folks today can be uncomfortable. But ya gotta hand it to them, they show up and do the dance. Moreso than any other Trek actors, those guys seem to truly enjoy making those appearances. There’s a sense of gratitude for the opportunity that’s glaringly absent from most other Trek actors, and without the bloated ego the others seem to possess.

    I’m somewhat off topic, I know, but I wanted to contribute on those points. I’m a relatively casual Trek fan, and even with comic conventions I tend to stick to NYCC and not branch out very much. It can be exhuasting, and I can imagine that smaller cons will continue to suffer as the industry evolves. But I usually have a ball at NYCC.

  7. I’ve been to the Trek convention Creation puts on in Nashville. It’s a small con to be sure, but one I’m very fortunate to have in my backyard. After reading this article, I’m pretty sure all questions fielded to the cast are the same no matter what city you happen to be in. Everyone is so hopeful it’s not the end for the characters they love and perhaps even moreso –the actors themselves because I’ll be damned if these aren’t some of the nicest people I’ve met. But like WheelHands, I’m perfectly fine with TNG being frozen in time. I love it for what it was. I don’t need a reimagining or a new movie. What I do want, however, is a new Star Trek television show. I’m so tired of everything getting “rebooted” or “reimagined.” Yes we have the technology now to make old things look shiny and new again, but I want to see them use all of that for a new, fresh, original Star Trek story. Surely we haven’t run out of ideas yet.

  8. Good article. Thanks, Mike!

  9. I think you’re right, Mike, that at some point SDCC will break into smaller parts like SxSW. I’m totally fine with that because I am done standing in line for 6+ hours and then not getting into panels.

    I really loved MorrisonCon because the overall cost was much lower than I usually spend at SDCC and you actually got to do things. I had whole conversations with creators, got in to every panel, got stuff signed, and most importantly, it was all super relaxing and fun.

    One of the last strongholds of San Diego is that there’s so many people it really does have that all encompassing sense of community. The iFanboy party is always great and SDCC is still that place where you see friends you haven’t seen in a year.