BOTCON ‘98: THUNDER’S TALE OF LIGHTNING
By Tony “Thunder” Klepack
DAY 1: My Botcon account began at 3:30 AM Friday June 21st when I got up to go for my flight at 7 AM. It was my first time on a plane and the first 40 minutes to Calgary left me feeling queasy, to say the least (fortunately, no one got to examine what I’d ate for breakfast, so...) I pre-cleared U.S. customs in Calgary (unfortunately, they seized my 10 kilos of cocaine and my M16) fairly quickly and then it was off to a seemingly brief layover in cow town’s airport.
Then, it was on to Los Angeles (city of the smog). The second flight wasn’t so bad airsick-wise. I sat by a young teenaged girl (about 14) who looked quite a bit like this actor from a Canadian TV show (seriously). I made a good impression–stepping on her foot when I was getting out of the row to go to the bathroom (so I’m a little clumsy–yeesh! Conversely, if she is the actor she deserves it for choosing that show). The only other flight note was that we saw this made for Canadian TV movie called Blackjack by Johnny Woo (it, unlike most of his decent to pretty good work, was terrible. You see, we granted him citizenship on the condition he make lousy TV movies for us).
After the three hour flight, I spent an hour at LA-X looking for the shuttle bus to the Anaheim Marriott (that airport is horribly marked direction-wise. No information booth and the LA citizens are so helpful too). Finally, after asking four different people I found it and after another hour of travel, I was in the Marriott (thank the maker!)
Unexpectedly, they hit me up for more money for a deposit (I’m glad they waited until I traveled all that way to mention it!) Fortunately, I’d balanced my budget exactly for the trip, so that threw everything out.
After an hour or so in my room, David Craig was the first of my room mates to show up (the problem was, I had no idea he was even coming! Fortunately, the name rang a bell from the TM member list. It turned out he was an on-again, off-again member of our little group (he’d rode in from Hollywood, incidentally). We waited for the others for a while, checked out the convention center, went to McDonald’s and finally returned to our room where Matthew Swenson was waiting (he came from Bloomington, MN). The three of us returned to the convention center and, after standing around with others for a while, found out the kick-off party had been moved back to nine pm for some reason (I think somebody important was late in arriving).
We returned to the hotel where we hoped Tony Buchanan would be (he’d called earlier and left a message saying he’d be a couple of hours late–but he actually ended up being three and a half to four hours late). Anyway, he was just getting in and afterward, we (eventually) returned to the convention center for the kick-off party.
It was an excellent opportunity to meet fans–I met Raymundo Aleman (outside), Matt Kirkby, Barbara Brewer, Sharon LaBorde, Tim Finn, Andrew Franks, Austin Welch and uh, well, many others (who didn’t have names!) Tony and I pre-registered at the party as we hadn’t had a chance to do so before then. To everyone’s delight, Antagony (black Inferno) and Vice Grip (blue/grey Powerpinch)–the Botcon exclusive toys–were handed out there. Also, we were all welcomed by the Hartmans and Glen Hallitt and the guests were introduced.
DAY 2: The next morning, I stayed behind at the hotel room to watch Babylon 5 (we don’t yet have season five in Canada, so I sure wasn’t going to miss out on a great opportunity!) Anyway, afterward, I arrived just in time for the Botcon dealer room’s opening and was bedazzled by an (overpriced) Nirvana-like dealer room/art and display area.
I intermittently mingled with Tony, Matt, Matthew and David through out the day. I purchased Shadow Panther (Destron) for forty five dollars (they started with five and sold down to one in very little time so I grabbed the last one up). I also obtained fan made tech specs for Trans Mutate and Ravage (very professional looking) and got three comics I needed for my collection. I saw an original Tarantulas, but the guy wanted eighty bucks for it (forget it! I could’ve gotten the Japanese one cheaper!)
Otherwise, day 2 had some awesome art in the contest, from cool pics (b/w and color) to home made toys (Trans Mutate, BW Ravage) and dioramas. I did not cast votes on any of the art because it was too hard to decide between some of it (I’m not kissing up either). Another attraction was the convention organizers display up on stage of Japanese stuff and yet to be released toys like Optimal Optimus, Rampage, TM Airrazor, etc. As well as new BW japanese stuff like Galvatron and Lioconvoy (many fans first view of them–myself included).
I also met Joe Eibe (in full Metalhawk costume!) and saw the infamous Tony Preto.
Panel wise, my favorite was the Bob Forward/Larry Ditillio one. They showed us a couple of fun videos, confirmed a thirteen episode season three (including titles and the fact that Simon Furman was writing the season finale). The voice actors panel was fun but went on far too long–I went to look at the dealers room and watched most of Spider’s Game in the video room–then, came back and it was still going! (You might think that was exaggeration, but it really happened!) The Hasbro panel was, as expected, a big disappointment (the only bright spot was a video they brought of commercials from original line toys through BW. A lot I recognized, some were new to me). Otherwise, they spoke of grand internet plans and when I posed the question of the line’s future conceptually (i.e. they’ve gone from TFs to animals to TFs–what now?), they replied with corporate b.s. (he was a moron and she made jokes to deflect attention when it got too serious). Another fan (who was taping it) and I exchanged sarcastic quips between each other about Hasbro and these two “yes” people’s parentage.
Later that night, we attended the script reading by the actors (it was a new script by Bob Forward). It was a fun atmosphere overall, though I was a little disappointed by it... I guess I just expected more or something (oh well, you get what you pay for, I guess).
The day ended with Tony, Matthew and I going to see Matt, Barb and others at their motel. There, I met Tony Tuski, Matt Karpowich and Rosemary Faulkerson (I can’t recall if somebody else was there or not). We took pictures (including a Tony-Tony-Tony, Matt-Matt-Matt one), discussed our trips so far, the convention, toys/sci-fi and Human feces (don’t ask!) Matt Kirkby and I also brought up Canadian stereotypes (including weather) and I got a couple of Yarnmasters out of the deal. At two-thirty AM or so, my trio returned to our Hotel (the night was still young!)
DAY 3: I’d bought ten tickets for the raffle on day two but won nothing today (blast!) Today, I bought the two UK Obliterators toys for only two for fifteen dollars. I also purchased the newly-released CD set, Botcon ‘97: The Concert.
I also attended the Simon Furman/Andrew Wildman/Rob Tokar panel (Richard Starking couldn’t come. Big loss! What good is a letterer anyway?) All were entertaining with the April Fool’s Day joke on Hasbro story, their frank honesty (especially Rob) and their vague allusions to a possible new BW comic (let us hope it happens!)
I skipped out on some kind of Generation one cartoon panel and went to the video room. I watched some of Beast Wars Second, episode two, most of episode three and all of episode four (I especially liked the silly japanese toy commercials). I also saw some of season two of Beast Wars (I know what’s been happening, but hadn’t actually seen any until then since I don’t currently have cable). BW, season two is almost like a different show with the Trans Metals (I think it’s a slight improvement over season one though). They cut season two short though, due to the closing of the convention center. I also saw a little of the horrid MST 3000 version of Transformers: The Movie (needless to say, it stunk. I could’ve written a better script than that! And it all had the feeling of a bunch of idiots talking loudly over a movie you really wanted to see, in a theater).
Elsewhere/when, I met Julie Wondra, Tina Bernal and Raksha (who I’d seen around since Friday but waited until Tony was talking to her to introduce myself (like most male TF fans, I’m scared of her). Tony and I also met Earlwin Famor and talked with some fan (who’s name I don’t recall).
After the convention ended, we returned to our hotel room. David had already left in the early afternoon (for good) and Matthew went to see his cousin (or somebody). For some reason, the hotel left us an extra cot (they assured me they couldn’t do that on the phone. It was a fire hazard and there’d definitely be a fire that one occasion. So, after David had left and we didn’t really need it, they put one in our room!) Tony and I ate supper and I told him about our original BOP ideas and unused story concepts. After waking him up (he’d fallen asleep from the excitement of hearing about my lame-ass fanfic ideas), Matthew returned and we went looking for a place to get some packing materials (i.e. tape, cardboard). Our journey was partially successful and on our return, we were hustled by this guy who offered us a gold bracelet for only twenty five dollars (then fifteen). Amused, we declined and returned to our hotel.
Back at the hotel, Tony was going insane trying to comprehend an AU Botcon special and in his insanity gave me a TM Blackarachnia (from McDonald’s Happy Meal toys).
DAY 4: The next day, we left. Tony shuttled off to John Wayne airport, while Matthew and I hijacked a shuttle to LA-X. He wasn’t going until one PM and we noted a movie scene was being shot in our area of the airport (we just saw the sign. No actual cameras or anything). Anyway, we were both departing from the same area so we sat and discussed video games, etc. until my flight boarded. I thought I saw a couple other fans nearby, though I’m not sure it was them (I didn’t know them personally).
The flight to Calgary was easy (my initial air sickness was gone) and we watched The Wedding Singer (can’t they play anything good on these flights? On the other hand, I would’ve never paid money to rent this...) I also spotted a fellow onboard who was a dead ringer for Bob Forward (except he had the wrong hair color).
At Calgary, the jerk at customs decided I was suspicious and had my bags searched . They found my C-4 plastic explosive, so I broke his neck, gunned down the others with my UZI and blew up the Canadian customs (I was cheered and revered by my fellow travelers!)
My flight to Edmonton boarded about fifteen minutes late. On board, I noticed a class “A” babe (class “B” by American standards). Eyeing me up, she smiled and asked if I’d like to join the mile-high club. I explained I didn’t do much flying and had little need for frequent flyer programs. She dragged me in the washroom and we (**censored**). I didn’t feel airsick this trip either–of course, I had other things on my (**censored**), so it was pretty easy (pun intended).
At Edmonton, the partially-truthful woman (i.e she was on the plane) departed and I met my parents, who took me home.
General Miscellaneous Comments: I slept very little (from Wednesday night through Monday, I got about four hours on average a night). I wished I could’ve slept a little more–it would’ve helped my appreciation for the whole event greatly. The TF fans are easily excitable and cheered at everything (Simon Furman could’ve tripped and fallen off stage; Larry Ditillio belch into the microphone and the fans still would’ve loved it! Something to try for next year, perhaps?) Some fans weren’t there, so I missed meeting them this time around (but to those of you who weren’t there, I’m constantly being confused for Brad Pitt). Tony B. was probably getting tired/annoyed with my constantly bringing up my getting lost at LA-X for an hour story. This trip was my first: trip to the U.S./outside of Canada, trip on a plane, Botcon, trip solo...so it was quite an interesting experience overall.
Next year, I’d like a table for flyers/cards/freebies at Botcon; a fan media/TF fandom panel would be nice (to hell with Hasbro!); Q + A panels to have stricter time limits (no more voice actor panel incidents); I’d like to see Ron Friedman actually show up! Also, Geoff Senior or Derek Yaniger would be nice (I heard rumors Wildman won’t be there next year); I hope Starbase Rugby is there next time (I was disappointed they weren’t there this time).
Overall, despite the odd incident or dislike, I enjoyed myself at Botcon ‘98 and it was a lot of fun! I hope to attend again in the future and thanks to everyone who contributed to the experience in some way or the other.
Hear the Thunder...
Tony “Thunder” Klepack