I mean, who are we all kidding? This is what JoeCon is all about. Even with a nearly non-existent toyline, a lack of official reveals at the convention, and the wind down of Fun Publications as a whole the entire JoeCon weekend was an absolute blast. A whirlwind of activity, both convention related and not, and a reminder of just what these shows are all about.
It started the day I got there, Thursday, when I told myself I wasn’t going to wait in line. I went as an Aide specifically so I could enjoy myself and not feel hamstrung by product to buy, money to spend, or lines to wait in. Yet, still, that first night, I found myself waiting and walking through the line because so many of my friends were there. For at least four hours I stood in lines even though I didn’t have to, just to say hi and see what I’d missed over the past few years.
Thursday night, me and a few friends went to the incredible WordBurglar show at a local improv, which was terrific as well. WordBurglar is a legit G.I. Joe and 80’s fan, and he killed it both with his skills on the mic, and with his knowledge of G.I. Joe (and Nintendo for that matter). I believe “Long Pour” himself took video of nearly the entire show…
Friday I had a nice breakfast at the rocking City Diner (open 24 hours), and while I unfortunately missed the parachute drop because of it (well, maybe not so unfortunately based on what I heard about it) it was totally worth it. That night was spent in a friend’s hotel room, talking about Japanese imports (long live Diaclone!) and introducing former Hasbro employee Mark Weber to the more intricacies of JoeCon tradition. We also spent some time in the hotel lobby drinking beers (huge thanks to code name “Long Pour” for his constant stream of quality beverages) and just talking. Friday also gave us our first sneak peek at the sales floor when I basked in the glory of Complex and fainted dead away when one of my buddies told me what he spent in the first fifteen minutes of the show.
Then there was Saturday. I opened Saturday at the diner again with another good friend, talking hobby stuff (and business stuff!), then moved to the sales floor to try and get even more facetime with the product, with friends, and with familiar vendors. We were treated to the now infamous “Behind the Scenes of the first G.I. Joe Micro-Movie” panel and I was able to spend some serious time on the sales floor, which was great.
Saturday night brought us Casino Night, which I spent playing bingo (BANGO!) with more friends, enjoying the cosplay, and even some facetime with YoJoe admin Terry who broadcast all the way from Seattle via a telepresence robot and was able to join us all for dinner. It was a truly fantastic moment and one of those small things that makes this show great.
The best thing about Saturday, though, happened after Casino Night when I got a chance to hang out with some long time friends at a few separate establishments in the greater Chattanooga area. We checked out two different places, the Honest Pint and the Pickle Barrel (we had one hell of a view at the Pickle Barrel) and ended up closing both of them down. We returned to the hotel lobby where we shut down JoeCon after hours as well, finally retiring at right around 5:00 o’clock in the morning. Hey, at least I didn’t have to drive home on Sunday or anything… oh, wait. Yes I did.
I think by now we all know what Sunday was like. It was odd, though, there wasn’t really a feeling of melancholy, it was a mostly fun, exciting day punctuated by bouts of emotion. The real struggle came during the last panel, when folks were gathering to say good-bye afterwards, promising each other that this wouldn’t be the last time we all saw each other, promising that there were other regional shows and we’d all meet again somewhere down the line.
Yes, this is true. There are regional shows, and many of them, and they all have a ton of promise. Assembly Required, Coil Con, JoeFest, each of these gatherings promise to be fun. But will any one of them capture the breadth of attention that JoeCon did? Will any one of them draw in so many disparate collectors under one roof?
I hope so. I really and truly do. I’ve been going to JoeCon off and on (mostly on) since 2003, and in spite of a fifteen year run, I’m not ready to say good-bye to these people yet. I’ve seen a pregnant woman in 2003 raise a child, who is now entering high school. I’ve made new friends and I’ve lost friends along the way. JoeCon, at least the attendees of JoeCon, have become a part of my extended family in a way that my real family will never quite know or appreciate. It was a good run, I met some great people, and my world was made better by the folks I’ve come to know and love through JoeCon.
Until we meet again.