Mark and Andy with G-FAN's Brett Homenick and filmmaker Fabien Mauro
As we trekked between skywalk and convention center, we saw a number of people with whom we were hoping to touch base: we greeted a busy J.D. Lees, and then we saw Martin and Pam Arlt as they were waiting to take the Guest of Honor, Mr. Akira Takarada, on a day of sightseeing in downtown Chicago! (Martin publishes Mad Scientist magazine.) Also around this same time we were able to say our first personal hello to Brett Homenick, super contributor to G-FAN, and even though he was very busy with convention arrangements, he took a moment to talk, pose for a photo, and say a few encouraging words regarding my participation in upcoming panel discussions. (Oh yeah, did I mention that? When Brett put out an invitational e-mail earlier this summer, I volunteered to sit in on two panel discussions, and to offer my thoughts on many things kaiju. It sounded like fun...) That was much appreciated, and got things off to a nice start--and the convention programming hadn't even begun yet!
The Queen of Monsterland, my wife Sue, voluteered to help patrol the Dealer's Room entrance, so Andy and I took to wandering around the convention hall. We poked our heads into the costume/filming room, and were amazed! An entire handcrafted, nighttime cityscape awaited us. A few costumes were also present. This thread looked to be kicking things up a notch or two this year, with the actual filming of monster scenes being the focus.
The Costume Thread's impressive miniature city
Artists Jared Proust and Matt Frank (foreground)
We also found our way to Artist's Alley, where we we treated to some fascinating creativity by the likes of such artists as Matt Frank and Jared Proust. One of Matt's prints sold out in a matter of minutes--a fantasy battle between MechaniKong and MechaGodzilla (visible in the above photo). We picked out a few pieces for the collection, which, as you can see, made Andy quite pleased.
Andy poses with his autographed Matt Frank Titanosaurus
Soon it was time for J.D. Lees' G-FEST Orientation Session, which we attended, even though we had a pretty good handle on how things worked and what we wanted to do. It sort of serves as a symbolic "cutting of the ribbon" moment, I guess. When that wrapped up, we ate some lunch and eventually claimed a spot in the Dealer's Room line. Personally, I liked the fact that the Dealer's Room opened about four hours earlier than last year. Even though waiting longer makes it more of an "event," the initial rush last year was pretty pronounced and not easy for a then-six-year-old to navigate. I had hopes that an earlier opening would alleviate a bit of that crunch.
This is only part of Kaiju Modeler's Dealer's Room table!
The crunch would be alleviated, but not in the way I had thought! Our friend Matt Evangelista learned we were waiting in line, came and found us, and brought us into the Dealers Room about a half an hour before it officially opened! Kaiju Modeler strikes again! Just like that, we were back inside the ultimate kaiju toystore, the one we had dreamed of (and saved for) for slightly over a year! This year's layout was far more expansive, with wide aisles and lots of elbow room. We marveled at the Kaiju Modeler booth for a while, then moved on to secure some "wish list" items while the Room was still relatively quiet.
Don Kaiju, Jaden, MOGERA, and Mark in the Dealer's Room
As we made our way around the horn, we were happy to see our Cuyahoga Kaiju Club buddies Don, Jaden, and Tom. We stayed at Tom's booth for quite while, catching up on how our trips had gone so far. Andy and Jaden almost immediately started talking about toys, monster battles, and the like, in a pattern that would continue over the next couple of days. I was proud to have my CKC 10th anniversary T-shirt on! I wanted to wear that one in particular for my first panel later in the day, to "represent" for the CKC!