By Amy Chu
Last week’s MegaCon in Orlando marked my third convention in three weeks. Seattle’s Emerald City and Toronto ComiCon were fantastic, but I was looking forward to some warmer weather down South.
MegaCon is the mama bear of the three conventions – bigger than Toronto, smaller than Emerald City, and just about the size of Chicago’s C2E2. While many aspects of the conventions look similar (oh look! It’s Sir Patrick Stewart and his TNG crew for the THIRD week in a row) they have their own personalities, differing in the range of cosplay, guests, gaming, and for me, FOOD.
In my previous Toronto ComiCon Beat article, I mentioned with awe the two food trucks on the convention floor. MegaCon had TEN. Granted they were not on the floor, but parked outside in a nearby lot. Still, when they pulled up at 4 pm offering a wide range of cuisines – fresh seafood, Jamaican patties, pastrami, and cupcakes I was not one to quibble. I had freshly fried conch fritters and an incredible creation called “arepa con todos.” For those unable or unwilling to go outside the Orange County Convention Center, there were some still some decent options inside, including a Cuban cafe where I purchased cafe con leche and a guava pastry for breakfast the next day.
With the slew of “celebrity guests”, stellar displays by the Greater Florida Lego Users Group, and the wide range of cosplay, perhaps lost on the average MegaCon attendee is the legacy of CrossGen. MegaCon was, at one point in its venerable 20 year history, owned by the upstart publisher. On the guest list were a few notable names formerly employed by the bankrupt company that still reside in Florida. CrossGen made a splash in the industry by offering salaries with benefits instead of the usual freelance contracts. After its bankruptcy in 2004, some creators stayed behind. Florida, after all, aside from the comfortable weather, also happens to be one of the few states without a state income tax. Marvel artist Jim Cheung actually had a few old issues of CrossGen titles at his table. Near Cheung was another ex-CrossGen artist Mike Perkins, who inked many of their titles between 2001 and 2004 and now works on Astonishing X-Men with Marjorie Liu.
There were also some rare convention appearances by industry veterans like Chuck Dixon, the creator of the popular Bane character, and writer on several CrossGen titles. Eisner award winning Jose Marzan Jr., the inker known for his work on the entire run on “Y the Last Man” also worked on CrossGen titles. I was also thrilled to see along the back wall the legendary artist Jose Delbo making one of his three convention appearances this year. His wife showed me some original Detective Comics and Batgirl pages from the late ’70s and early ’80s. You can view some of them on his website josedelbo.com.
At the end of the day, the unofficial “BarCon”, where comics guests unwind after hours on the floor and on panels, achieved a new level of surreality. The Doubletree Seaworld, where most of the comics guests stayed, was also host to a high school technology conference that weekend so teenagers swarmed about, not in cosplay, but in blue blazers. One the first night, outside on the patio Jimmy Palmiotti and Amanda Conner held court with Justin Gray, Dave Johnson, Dan Panosian and other friends. At the next table were the likes of Adam Hughes enjoying a cigar, and Francesco and Lisa Francavilla.
The icing on the MegaCon cake is visiting the Magic Kingdom or one of the other many theme parks. I learned that many artists like to have their fun after conventions when they have made money off of their commissions. On Monday, EPIC Comics proprietors Almando Rodriguez and Kenny Hosey led our small group on a trip to the various Disney theme parks. Less than two years old, the store in East Orlando recently got a shout out from BBC America for their TARDIS soda vending machine. Now on my bucket list: getting a Mountain Dew from that machine. MegaCon, I will be back.