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Mike Aragona - Freelance Writer / Editor

Convention Venture

Primedia 1996 - Location: Days Inn Airport Road in Toronto - Dates: November 1st through 3rd, 1996 — My first convention as a Guest and Panelist.

The Setting: My "vacation" notebook. A small notebook I've used over the years to record dreams, vacations, etc.
The Method: Verbatim transcription of hand-written notes.

Friday Nov 1, 1996
It's funny. It almost feels like it HAS been 4 years since my last vacation. And out of town convention or not, I am treating this PriMedia 96 outing as a vacation. Things have just been so hectic lately that I've been in a serious need of getting out of town and recharging my batteries. I don't know how much or little this will help, but we'll see how I feel by Sunday night. Right now, I can say that the drive down has fueled my creative energy as well as my desire for published work. Anyhow, this is also going to be a log which I'll include in Comicopia, so let's get to it!

4:00am seemed to have been the magic number. That was the hour around which Jeff decided he couldn't sleep and got up, the time Mark went to bed after all-night writing, and the time I started wondering if I should stop tossing and turning and get up. Pick-ups and preparation aside, we were on the T-Can on our way at 6:00am. Mark and Jeff took turns riding shotgun with Mark sleeping the most in the back seat. As usual, we stopped at Tim Horton's for breakfast and Burger King for lunch. I picked up a Buzz Lightyear talking doll for James at Burker King. I just know he's gonna love it. Maybe when we drive down Monday, they'll be selling Woody.

We checked in around 2:00pm and after settling in, I made a few calls and now we're basically waiting to register. I'm too hyped up to take a nap although I thought for sure I would need one.

8:45pm. Feeling good. Went to the "What's Cooking" panel and pretty much felt like it was our own room. Then headed to the Green Room to relax for a bit and then a DS9 panel. The panelist didn't show, so I started a roundtable discussion which was quite fun (and a good way for me to get used to the idea of conversing with strangers at my own panels). So, general consensus is good so far, but just waiting for the lack of sleep to kick in and knock me out. The Fanzine panel is set for 11:00pm. I wonder if we'll even get one person to show up :)

Witching Hour. The night went by rather quickly. Felt a little strange during the panel on "Comic Crossovers that Shouldn't Happen" but that's mostly because Mark and Leonard Kirk hogged the panel somewhat. Still, it was interesting. The next panel on Babylon 5 was a blast. With Gaby, Jeff, and myself, along with one other panelist (Sharon Lowachee) it almost felt like a regular Friday night at Picasso's GT! The audience was fun and everyone got a chance to participate with Gabby acting as Moderator/ Excited Fan. I even got to use my "Bad B5 Pun" near the end of the panel (ME: Is it time for my bad B5 pun? AUDIENCE (in unison): It's always time for a bad B5 pun!!! ME: Hey, that's pretty good! Ok, if the White Star captured and commandeered a Shadow Ship, would they rename it THE WHITE SHADOW?? AUDIENCE (in unison): *GROAN*) heh heh heh.

And then, the Fanzine Panel. At one point, there were about 5 members in the audience, but only 2 who were really interested in chatting. As I said then, "We're victims of ratings!" After all, 11:00pm on a Friday night is a tough slot especially going up against a Star Wars panel.

Midnight, and not much to do. So, we hung around the bar listening to people Karaoke and occassionally joining in. Finally, 22 hours after waking up, I decide to head to bed even though I know I won't be able to get to sleep...

Highlights of the day: Chatting during the road trip, buying Buzz Lightyear, Gaby selling me a "Best of Elmo" videotape which got us both giggling and talking like Elmo during the Babylon 5 panel, the applause after the Babylon 5 panel, singing Billy Idol's "Dancing With Myself" at the bar, and receiving a signed Will Eisner sketchbook from my dear friend, Elfie!

Saturday Nov 2, 1996
7:20am. As predicted, it took me a while to fall asleep. And I was awake by 4:00am again. I tossed and turned until 6:30am and then just said, "The hell with it". Got up, showered, and left to find some place to sit and write. The PriMedia registration area is quiet (obviously!) And there are chairs and tables, so it's a natural choice.

9:15am. Came up to the Green Room after calling home. Seems it snowed there as well and it hasn't melted. Bleah. I'm alone up here with the hosts, Jay and Kim. Talked briefly then ate some muffins and pastries (pretty much all I ate during the weekend) and continued my reviews of "Z". Kim asked me to sign her guest book, so let's think of something, shall we?

"The joys of conventions: A transfusion of blood for coffee, rooms becoming depositories for strewn clothes, everyone involved slowly transforming into sleep-deprived zombies smiling despite themselves, heaping memories on top of memories hoping some will stick. And the saving grace of it all: the friendly, warm, and inviting Green Room hosted by superb individuals, Kim, Valerie, Jay. Thanks for all your attention!"

Witching Hour. Well, this night was pretty much a bust in my eyes, overall. The day started well with the Superman panel and then getting to chat with Stuart Immonen for a bit. He's a great guy and a lot younger than I thought he'd be. Artist Alley wasn't big enough for all the comics folks so I walked around and chatted with a dealer selling crystals (Rick). Actually, whenever I found myself with nothing to do, I would wander over and chat with him. I guess hanging around all those crystals had a calming effect on me.

I got to see a Screenwriting panel by Peter Bloch Hansen (editor at Starlog) which was really great. His insights and observations on Blade Runner blew me away. In fact, I think everyone in the room pretty much decided to watch the movie again as soon as possible! I caught a little of Camilla Scott and after a great panel of "Do-it Yourself Comics" I wandered around like a lost soul. I watched Outer Limits, saw the Masquerade (which wasn't that good unfortunately) then watched DS9 with Gabby and finally ended the night shooting the breeze with Jeff. I just couldn't believe there was nothing to do for so many hours. I didn't plan anything with my Toronto friends because I thought I'd be too busy. Ah, if only I knew...

Highlights: Peter Bloch Hansen's Screenwriting panel, shooting the breeze with the other comics pros in the Green Room. The "Do-it Yourself Comics" panel and meeting Peter Kraus who rode through the rough eighties in self-publishing. Favorite Line: "These Pretzels are making me thirsty!!!" -Terry Pallot (and then everyone else) quoting Kramer.

Sunday Nov 3, 1996
9:40am. I guess I really was tired last night as I managed to sleep very well. Woke up at 7:00am 'cause Jeff's watch alarm went off. So, I got up and did the usual writing thing. The Green Room is a nice place to be...

Just remembered something. Yesterday, prior to the Masquerade, sopmeone went on stage and performed "Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan in 15 minutes" which really WAS the whole movie on fast forward. It was histerically hilarious and definately a highlight!!!

9:35pm. Headed to Artist Alley after above note, but it was so dead I went back to see Ricky and picked up my crystal necklace. Since I realized (after wearing it for a day) that I didn't like the white alien ring, I gave it to Elfie and bought a yin/yang one. Beofe I knew it, 11:00am rolled around and it was time for the "What can Freelancers Do?" panel. However, pleasant surprise time. Allyson Court was given a panel at that time and we were shifted to 12:00pm. Quite all right with me!! I spoke with her briefly and then listened to the panel. Chris Wiggins was also there (of Swiss Family Robinson, Friday the 13th the Series, various voices). It was fun as always. Our panel afterwards was also quite fun with Gaby, Jeff, Stuart Immonen, Leonard Kirk, and myself chatting with each other as much as with the 2-3 questioning audience members. From there, we headed to the Freelance Meeting and saw a presentation/ demo from INET Comics. It's gonna be a massive website when it hits the net ( And then, it was time for the end. We all went to the closing ceremonies and said "Ta Ta" for another year.

Foodtime followed tv time followed walkabout followed right now's sit down and write time. This is basically the personal wind down time. The main reason I decided this year to take an extra night at the hotel even though I knew there would be nothing to do. I walked in and out of the Con Suite, I walked up and down all 7 floors of the hotel, etc. All in an attempt to wind down, relax, clear my mind, and prepare myself for a good night's sleep and the road trip back home.

Today, by the way, turned out to be the best day.

Highlights: Spending over half an hour in personal chat with Allyson Court and posing for pictures with her and then hugging her good-bye. Hugging Valerie good-bye and thanking her for her kindness in the Green Room. Chatting with Stuart Immonen. Meeting Stuart's son and telling Stuart that he was adorable (which brought a tear to my eye beyond my control which Stuart empathized with). Having Stuart tell me to go see my son while we were saying good-bye. Officially joining Freelance. Having supper at Grizanti's, a great Italian restaurant with a beautiful atmosphere and excellent food. Being thanked at the closing ceremony for being a guest. Basically, and this goes for the whole weekend, feeling like I was part of one big family or at least a group of friends where everyone was comfortable with everyone else and mutual respect between guest and guest and pro and pro and pro and guest was always there. Whenever I walked around the hotel, it didn't matter who I met, everyone was friendly and everyone spoke to me as I happily greeted them.

Again, this was my first convention as a guest and panelist, but I hope it won't be my last. It was long and sometimes gruelling (being scheduled for 12 hour's duty, and then spending more), but I can not say that it wasn't fulfilling. One real benefit of this convention (above and beyond spending time with folks like Michael Cherkas, Larry Hancock, James Armstrong, Janet Hetherington, Mark Shainblum, Gabriel Morrissette, Allyson Court, Peter Block Hansen, Leonard Kirk, Stuart Immonen, Robert Kraus, and so many others) was the focus, energy, and drive it gave me to DO something with my time. The urge to publish, to create, was very strong. And one thing I'm hoping to do in 1997 if not 1998, is self-publish (with the help of Francisco) a one-shot comic book as a means of "testing the waters" for the project. Those of you who know me well enough have a fairly good idea what that project could be. Either way, I'm sure it's gonna be enjoyable and rewarding. Now, I have to work on getting the necessary funds to make this project a reality!!!

(Convention Venture (c) Mike Aragona. All rights reserved. No reproduction or retransmission of this article is granted without written permission of Mike Aragona)

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