When Fantasticon opened its doors officially at noon on Friday, it marked the first official comic-con in Milwaukee. And the first day of the con reminded me of what everything this city really is – cozy.
If you talk with people who travel around the U.S. or the world, and have also been through Mitchell Airport, then they understand the compliment when you call it a, "Mom and Pop" airport. The convention was the same, like our airport, as everyone was nice, it wasn’t too crowded, it is easy to get to where you want to go. It makes you feel warm and fuzzy like when you are wrapped up in a favorite blanket. You are cozy, you feel safe and taken care of. People are there to ensure you have a great time.
If you have had the pleasure of going to much larger comic conventions, then you know how rare this is.
It was a good kick off for the three-day event being held at the Ramada and Crowne Plaza off College Avenue near Mitchell Field. The special guests who were signing autographs were friendly and approachable … ask them how the day was going, or how was the trip in, and they had a response for you. Not just that. They had a response that was genuine, unforced and made you feel like a million bucks if you were a fan. If you participated in a gaming demo, the people putting them on not only wanted you to learn about what is out there, but they also cared that you had a good time.
There are two main days left – today and Sunday. And you don’t have to be a fan of anything to enjoy the time at the convention. Even if you just want to check out the spectacle of what it is … it is worth the effort to check it out.
The vendors set up their wares and there is merchandise for the die-hard fans of comic books, games, movies, anime, cosplay, art and pop culture. And there are items for people who are not more than a casual observer, or enjoy a simple character on a TV show.
For those who wanted the experience Friday, they participated in a meet and greet session with actress Caity Lotz from CW’s "Arrow," Chad Rock from "The Flash," wrestlers Al Snow and Thea Trinidad and Hall of Fame announcer Gene Okerlund. As the guest list was capped to a few, it was a great intimate event where you could sit at a round table with the special guests and have a conversation. This was one of the most innovative activities I have ever seen being offered. Fans couldn’t take photos or get autographs, but it provided a special and memorable way to interact with the special guests.
If you go to the game room, take the opportunity to play games on old arcade-stand-up machines the older ones of us remember pumping quarters into. Also, play some of the classic games from some of the old home gaming systems of the past.
"Duck Hunt" with the light pistol with the old Nintendo system? Check.
But right as you walk in, take a few minutes and chat with Greg Reynolds, he’s the president of the Milwaukee Guild with Extra Life. Game players know that an extra life can go a long way, but the group Reynolds is with knows that what gamers do can go a long way for the Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin.
"What we do is ask gamers to get people to pledge, to make a donation," Reynolds said of the national effort. "Then the players play games for 24 hours."
Reynolds said that any game counts, whether it is a video game, a board game, a game on your phone or card game. Even those Facebook games your friends keep annoying you with invites – you know who you are – they count too.
"Most people play at home, or some will get their friends and family members together," he said. "Some who have the means, they will stream it on the internet for people to watch."
There is an official game day taking place today, but the 24 hours of straight gamming can take place on any day Reynolds said.
I had to ask the obvious question.
"Yes, there are bathroom breaks. If you get hungry, go eat dinner. If you get too tired, take a nap and add the extra time at the end," Reynolds said.
"We are all about getting people out of the hospital. We don’t want to create the reason they had to go into one."
Media is bombarding us everywhere.
Instead of sheltering his brain from the onslaught, Steve embraces the news stories, entertainment, billboards, blogs, talk shows and everything in between.
The former writer, editor and producer in TV, radio, Web and newspapers, will be talking about what media does in our community and how it shapes who we are and what we do.