Rhode Island Comic Con is not something I attend regularly. I went a few years back because my friends Tod, Barry and Dave were going to be there, as well as my friend Dean. So I packed myself up and went. It was fun. Got to do some unexpected things.
While there were stars all over the place, mingling with the crowd, and sat behind signing tables, I wasn’t overly interested until I saw Sam Jones sitting next to Gil Gerard, (Flash Gordon and Buck Rogers!) joking to each other, I saw the opportunity to get an autographed photo of the Highwayman. Because while most love Sam Jones for Flash Gordon (as do I), I know him better as my beloved Highwayman, a show that aired in the early 1980s and was cancelled well before its time.
Last year, 2016, I intended to go down to Rhode Island and see my friends again. For those who don’t know, Tod, Barry and Dave are the Regular Joes, and for the last five years have run the Regular Joes Podcast, which is a wonderful podcast about all things geeky. “They’re into movies and toys and TV shows, comics and collecting and superheroes. There’s no end to the useless stuff they know, but don’t call them geeks; they’re just Regular Joes.”
I didn’t get to go. Other things came up, and I couldn’t make it.
The Regular Joes usually set up in the lobby and run their podcast from there after the show, and sometimes they catch stars walking through the lobby and one time got Zabka’d, which means William Zabka wandered by as they were recording, and sat down with them for a lengthy chat.
Not last year. Last year was a bit of a miss, but the show was ok anyway. Still, I was determined not to miss this year.
Cut to 2017, and I am trying to get tickets for me and my daughter to go, but alas, I wanted too long and they were sold out. So I told my daughter I was just going down to meet my friends, which was not likely to prove interesting to her.
I got there around 8:30 and the Joes were just setting up in the lobby.
With them was their friend (and mine online for more than a decade) Derryl DePriest, who wrote the definitive book on GI Joe Collecting. Which, I might add, I brought with me so he could sign it at long last!
So they began the show, this time talking about how much better it was than last year – the Comic Con in general – and how engaging and delightful the guests were this year – and they highlighted Jason Isaacs (Captain Lorca from the new CBS series: Star Trek: Discovery) as the most fun and engaging chat they had. And while they were praising him up, dammit, the guy just walks by. Earlier in the day, he had said that due to being in the show, and how it is currently running, he couldn’t say much about it, but they did discuss “Star Trek: Discovery” a bit anyway. Now here he is, walking by!
We called him over and he enthusiastically sat down for almost a half-hour in which I sat silent (I was originally supposed to guest on the show) while the Joes and Isaacs dived into the various aspects of the new series, the controversy about fan reaction, theories of what’s coming up and just what’s going on, emphasizing that every person working on the show is a true Trek fan and they discuss “hard and soft canon” in great detail before making any decision.
It was a delightful interview in which Isaacs was – rather candid – about many things. He also got to talk about Harry Potter a bit, and how he has the script upstairs right now for the second season of “The OA”, and he is in it, which is actually breaking news!
Jones went on quite eagerly about all manner of thing including fan theories, and talked about how that Sunday night (it hadn’t aired yet) “shit is going to kick off” which implied that it was going to be a momentous episode.
Now I did mention my daughter earlier. Why? Well, she happens to be a huge Jason Isaacs fan since he was Lucius Malfoy in the Harry Potter movies, and she loves him in the new “Discovery!” I really felt awful that she missed out on this, but really, who could have predicted????
After he left, (he had gotten up to go, then sat back down for more) Melody Anderson walked by and sat down for a shorter but lovely interview. Anderson played “Dale Arden” to Sam Jones’s “Flash Gordon” and talked about her favorite moment on the set, and also her favorite role, playing Marilyn Monroe in a Movie of the Week. Anderson, I believe, now is a counsellor for drug abuse victims. Good on her! She was delightful to talk to.
She even mentioned that Sam would be coming through the lobby within the next half-hour. True to her prediction, Sam Jones came through not five minutes later. We called him over and he said “I’d love to fellas, but I gotta pee first! Where’s the bathroom!” We pointed. After a few minutes, I had to go myself (honest!) and we met at the door. I went in and when I got back out, he was seated with the Joes, talking away.
He concentrated on the convention scene, and how he has come to see them as a wonderful thing. He used to do 3 a year for a while, but last year he did 42 conventions!
He talked about one particular incident in which a man in his forties, with his wife and two children, saw him in a restaurant and came over and said ‘hi’. After a few words, his wife and kids went to their table, but he hung back and said (paraphrased from my memory) “Sam, I have to tell you, when I was a teenager my father turned abusive, and one day I was in my room and I was going to commit suicide, but I glanced over and saw the ‘Flash Gordon’ VHS and it spoke to me. I put it on, and it saved my life. You gave me value. You gave my life value.”
Sam is not alone in this kind of interaction with fans. For an incredible story, see James Doohan’s (Star Trek’s Scotty) story of a suicidal fan he befriended.
So he sees these things as a venue to engage fans. People who may have saved up the entire year and this was their vacation – this was their one event that they had scrounged for, and he was going to make it worth it for them.
While he was talking, he called over Jason David Frank, the Green Power Ranger. Now while a lot of people are not in the know, the Green Power Ranger has a huge following. 15 million people follow him on Twitter and facebook. He engages a crowd like no other.
Sam called him over, and he took a seat on the couch and the two related their tales of engaging fans at the shows.
While they chatted about the convention scene, I snapped these photos. Poor lighting didn’t make for the best pics, but hey, they’re mine!
These guys gave us well over a half-hour of their time, and as that goes, we were floored.
I’m glad I went this year, and while I went to give the Regular Joes and Derryl (honorary Regular Joe) a copy of my latest GI Joe toy, the Huxter Labs/Cotswold Collectibles Mobile Motion Detector, I got much more in return.