San Diego Comic Con 2008/
MST3K 20th Anniversary Reunion

Well, MSTies, I had the pleasure of attending this year's Comic Con in San Diego, CA that took place from 7/24-7/27/08.  This was the first convention of its kind, or any similar kind for that matter, that I have been able to make it to.  Sadly, I was never able to get to any of the official MST conventions due to other schedule conflicts or commitments.  I was hoping this might make up a little for those missed opportunities and for my part I have to say it did.

I attended two and a half days of the four day convention, having arrived mid-day Thursday and left Sunday mid-day.  In between I was able to catch pretty much all the MST related events, along with a few other panels and created some memories that will last a lifetime.  The whole weekend seemed to teeter between devastating disappointment and then far exceeding my expectations.

To start off I have to relate the story of my flight from Detroit to San Diego.  I wanted as early a flight Thursday morning as I could get so I booked seats on a 7:30 Northwest flight for myself and my nephew Rick Schumaker, a fellow MSTie and the person who helped me create and develop the look of my web site.  We arrived at the airport early, printed our boarding passes, went through security with no problems and moved to our gate to await the flight.  As we sat there we realized that none of the Arrival/ Departure boards mentioned our flight.  Only then did I notice on the boarding pass that I had booked a 7:30 PM flight.  We were in danger of missing the entire first day of the Con.  We quickly found out that there was a 10:30 AM flight, but it was booked full.  We got on the stand by list and settled in to see if everyone showed up.  With ten minutes to go before the flight left there were still five no shows.  Just when we got our hopes up four of them showed up and got on the plane.  The gate attendant asked if we wanted to use the final seat, but we had already decided if we both couldn't get on we would wait for the late flight.  Literally, just as the doors were closing one of the passengers just walked off the plane and started to walk away.  When the gate attendant ran him down it was very obvious he was extremely drunk.  He had just decided he couldn't make the flight and staggered off.  The attendant looked at me and said "we've got two seats if you want them" and we ran to the plane.  About four hours later we landed in San Diego.  Thank God for alcohol.

We arrived at the Convention Center that Thursday at about 1PM.  We picked up our badges and hit the floor to check the place out.  I was immediately taken by the mass of humanity that was jammed into the building.  We found ourselves immediately confronted by hordes of roving Cylons and Stormtroopers.

One thing I'd like to mention right up front: the entire time I was at the Con I was happy to see that virtually everyone was polite.  Even when navigating the bustling crowds most people said excuse me to get by or if they had bumped into me.

We visited the RiffTrax and Shout! Factory booths, purchased a few items then roamed around the exhibit floor for a while.

The first MST related event was the signing session by the RiffTrax boys.  Kevin showed up first and entertained the crowd by interviewing folks in line and taping them on his cell phone.  He even stopped to talk with Rick and I for few seconds.  Bill and Mike arrived and they set up their signing station.  When I reached the table I mentioned to the guys that I was Tom from and I was pleased to hear them say they knew the site.

On Friday we went to a few non-MST panels, but made sure we were at the Shout! Factory booth in time to see Bridget and Mary Jo, along with Bill and Kevin.  It was also my pleasure to get a chance to talk with Mary Jo's husband Ron (below).  He is a true gentleman and  I enjoyed every minute of our chat.  I also came back later to get my picture with Crow and Servo.  These particular bots were on loan from Jim Mallon and had been around since the days when the show was still filming.

Many MSTies are aware of the drama that took place around Conference Room 6B that evening.  Two hours before the MST Reunion was to begin we were informed that the room was already capped.  The fine folks at Shout! Factory came to my rescue by making me part of the stage crew.  Once their booth shut down we packed up the planet and the bots, jumped on a cart by the loading docks and sped to an elevator that took us upstairs.  In the picture to the left you can see yours truly guarding Tom and Crow waiting for the preceding panel to end.  We then quickly ran the props up to the stage and set up.  (I now plan on adding puppet wrangler to my resume.)

As the MST panel began I was able to settle in and enjoy the show.  Other than forgetting Bill's name I think Patton Oswalt did a great job as master of ceremonies.  I was told that he personally requested the job because he is a fan of the show.

Seeing the entire group in one place was exciting and entertaining. My favorite line of the evening is when Patton Oswalt asked the group if they have ever tried to develop any back story to the Gizmonic Institute.  Joel said in his typical deadpan "Well...we knew it was shaped like a G."

They also announced that the episodes in the upcoming 20th anniversary DVD set would be First Spaceship On Venus, Laserblast, Werewolf and Future War plus lobby cards and a miniature Crow.

After the show I went up to help tear down the set.  I arrived in time to get this group portrait.  (Unfortunately Trace is completely hidden behind Frank.)

I helped clean up the stage for the next group and ended up carrying off the name plaques for Bridget and Paul that were left behind on the floor.  (You may notice in some pictures they didn't really use the seating chart.  Nor did they heed the comments on the back of the card.)

As the MST alums left the room Joel lagged behind to meet some of the fans and pose for pictures.  A few minutes after this I got to meet Joel myself.  He told me he would be taping some bits the next day on the floor for a late night show.

Saturday morning I went back to the RiffTrax booth to thank the guys for a great show the evening before.  This time Kevin recognized me as more than just another anonymous large white guy.

Later that day as we waited in line to meet Joel, Trace and Frank we were greeted by Mr. Hodgson himself, who took time to shake hands with the crowd.

Once at the signing table I mentioned to Joel that I was the maintainer of  He immediately said "Oh, yeah.  We know that site."  Trace overheard us and said to me "Keep up the good work, but you have my blood type wrong...and hang onto those x-rays.  We may need them."

I was also very pleased to finally get to meet Chris Cornell and Brian Henry who were also at the booth during the signing.  Chris and Brian were my original inspiration to start my site.  I just looked for some things they didn't have and tried to fill in the voids. 

We even took some time to grab dinner before heading off to the live RiffTrax show.  Great guys.

Here are some of the items I had the gang sign.  One point of explanation: at the very first signing on Thursday I mentioned to Kevin I had just seen him a few weeks before at his show in Saginaw, MI.  Bill overheard that comment and said that he liked the sound of "Saginaw Tom" so that's how he signed.  When I saw Bridget she asked what Bill's comment meant.  I explained I had been to Saginaw, but I wasn't actually from there.  She just sort of rolled her eyes and said "That's the way Bill's brain works."  Too bad I didn't get a chance to have Jim, Paul and Josh sign. It would have been nice to get the whole gang.


Saturday evening I attended the 7PM Live RiffTrax of Plan 9 From Outer Space at the historic Balboa Theatre.  Bridget acted as hostess for the evening and the guys started the evening by presenting Plans 1 through 8 in song.

The live riffing was fantastic and the crowd was constantly in stitches.  The movie ended to a rousing ovation.

I would like to thank Livia Edwords (Queen Shadowrama) for helping me get great tickets.  It was a pleasure meeting her and Jenna (Robyn) at the show.  Below is a picture of her from the day before with another new friend she had made.

I thought I'd throw some of my favorite pictures from the convention floor in here.  This was truly an interesting assortment of fans and fanatics.

I have no idea who this woman is, but she followed me around until I finally allowed her to have a picture taken with me.  I think she may have thought I was dressed up as Comic Book Guy from The Simpsons.  Best skin tight, black vinyl costume...ever.
I think these are the Gamera twins all grown up.  I never heard them sing to Moth-er-a, but I'm still pretty sure that's who they are.
Spidermen and crew.
Of all the images I have from this weekend I find this one the most disturbing.
Indiana Jones rendered in Legos.  This method came surprisingly close to simulating the actual texture of Harrison Ford's skin in the latest movie.
Lou Ferrigno, former Incredible Hulk, now just hangin' around in all his beefy glory greeting the fans.

I made a few excursions to do some sightseeing around the city.  One that may interest MSTies was a short trip from my hotel over to the Legend Films Studio where RiffTrax are produced.  It was in a very nice setting just through a peaceful courtyard.

And finally one last fortuitous circumstance that was the perfect ending to my visit.  While waiting for my flight back to Detroit at the San Diego Airport Trace Beaulieu walked in.  He must have recognized me from the previous few days because he walked right over to where I was sitting.  I said hello and he asked if he could join me.  We were able to casually chat for about half an hour before my flight left.

The entire convention was an amazing event made even more special by the amazing people I had the pleasure to finally meet.

I had made my return flight arrangements before they announced the Sunday morning Radio Adventures of Dr Floyd event featuring Frank.  Sorry I had to miss that, but I have no complaints about my entire weekend.

I'll close with a few things I learned during the convention:

  1. The MST3K cast and crew are, to a person, every bit as friendly in person as any MSTie could ever imagine.
  2. I am still a little dumbstruck that each  MST alumnus I got a chance to speak with told me they had seen my site and they had so many kind words about my efforts.
  3. The sweet perfume of this MSTies dreams being fulfilled was more than enough to cover the funk of 125,000 conventioneers.
  4. Looking at all these pictures of myself I have decided I look far too much like the average male attending this event to have never been to a Comic Con before.
  5. I somehow believe I am a better person for this experience.  Events happened that have changed me forever.  Sure the MST stuff was cool, but I'm thinking of something that goes even deeper.  For example, after finally finding an empty chair on the exhibit level after searching for three days I sat down to relax.  Within seconds a man carrying a tray of nachos who I could just tell had been wearing the same leather cod-piece for three days came up and asked if the seat next to me was taken.  Without blinking I took a deep breath and said "It's all yours."  You can't live through something like that without being changed emotionally and morally.

That's my report.  I hope you enjoyed at least some of my ramblings.  Thanks once again to all the MSTies I had a chance to meet, all the fans and freaks at the convention and of course the wonderful cast and crew of MST3K.  So what are the plans for the 25th anniversary?