Comic Book and Science Fiction Convention
Photographs contributed by Allison Sills
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Field Report from the Comic Book and Science Fiction Convention by Allison Sills

Los Angeles -- March 10, 1996, The Comic Book and Science Fiction Convention was held at the Shrine Auditorium Expo Center, which is right around the corner from (but not the same thing as) the main Shrine Auditorium where the Academy Awards have been held. Guests included: Ben Englund, creator of THE TICK; Dean Devlin, writer of INDEPENDANCE DAY, who brought his eight minute trailer to premiere here months before its theatrical release; and the entire main cast of Space: Above and Beyond along with executive producers Glen Morgan and James Wong and several guest stars and crew.

Also, there was "the largest dealer’s room on the West Coast" with hundreds of square feet of comic’s dealers and merchandise including movie and TV books, models and toy dealers. I collect trading cards, and I found a very rare complete DUNE set here!

comic1.jpg (22027 bytes)I roamed around between the main floor, where all the conventioneers were, and the second floor, which was partially roped off for the guests. With a smile in the right direction, I was invited to enter the inner sanctum.

I don’t remember seeing anyone besides Lanai Chapman in that room. I remember knowing where James Morrison was, but being unable to cast my gaze in his direction for any real length of time.

Soon, attention turned toward the balcony, and from our perch we watched the never-before-seen eight-minute long INDEPENDENCE DAY trailer introduced by none other than co-author, Dean Devlin, himself. I remember only that I thought it was amazing, and I cheered and "Oh my God"-ed a lot even after I realized "McQueen" was standing right behind me.

I don’t know why I was so star-struck by Morrison. I work in a Las Vegas casino; I’ve seen plenty of stars. It’s just different when the characters they play are intimidating ones. The only other time I was so struck was when Christopher Lambert (the original Highlander) was in our Baccarat pit.

Next I went down to the quite small seating area. I couldn’t believe the low turn out, but, admittedly, even I had not heard of the convention at all until a California friend told me about it just the day before. It wasn’t even mentioned on the Internet. But truthfully, I was glad of the turnout being woefully unfond of crowds. And it was so hot in there!

Talk was made about the question of renewal. No one knew for sure, but Glen Morgan seemed decidedly unhopeful. The AOL fan club was mentioned and thanked by Morgan.

I remember someone putting the question to Kristen Cloke about how realistically war was dealt with in the show and that she smartly deferred the question to Tucker Smallwood, who is a real veteran.

The only question I remember vividly was somebody asked the cast what they would do with the toys after the line was produced, and Doug Hutchison replied, "I’m going to enjoy playing with myself."

After the Q&A, those in charge passed out a black and white photo I had never seen before that had the entire cast standing including McQueen. I have never seen this exact picture since, but I have seen a similar one in color.

comic2.jpg (72348 bytes)We went up by row to get autographs from the actors who remained seated at their table on the stage and signed by passing each item down from one actor to the next seated beside him. I’ve always thought this would be the most efficient way to do a con signing with multiple actors, rather than have separate lines for each one.

Glen Morgan and James Wong signed there, too. Doug removed himself from that table and set up by himself. I also noticed Joel de la Fuente’s girlfriend, Melissa Bowen (who played Wang’s girlfriend, Lt. Stroud), sitting in the now vacant front row, talking with fans but not really signing.

I got our autographs from the table then waited around and talked with a couple guys from Area51 and S:AaB associate producer, Ken Dennis. Then, when the crowd dissipated, with my shaky determination (and my friend’s thankful bravado) we reapproached the signing table to get better photographs. My friend asked none other than Glen Morgan himself if I could get up on the stage so he could snap a pic of me with James Morrison.

Glen said, "Of course." And up I went, trying not to fall. Those "steps" were huge, two feet tall each, and I was trembling. I don’t remember what I said, but I’m sure it was simple, "Hi, do you mind if I get a picture with you?"

comic3.jpg (68842 bytes)Morrison was remarkably polite and gracious, and I swear he was aware of my transparent anxiety and was amused by it. Though not in a bad way, actually, I think his calm smile allowed me take in a breath for a moment. The flash lit, I said, "Thank you" and jumped up. Next, I wanted a picture with Morgan and Rodney who were sitting down the table a little bit.

I backed up so Morrison could get out and off the stage. I was waiting for some other guest to get off the stage so I could move down to Rodney and Morgan. Then I noticed Morrison, now on the floor, had turned back and was looking up at me. He spoke and I swear it took me a minute to decipher what he had said to me. "Do you need help getting down?" Like I mentioned before, those steps were huge. Then he offered his hand up to help me.

I felt kind of bad at the time, I could only say "No." I couldn’t even articulate that I was waiting for Rodney and Morgan. I smiled gratefully (I hope) and I know I was red as an apple, too. He smiled and walked on. I quickly turned and moved to the others.

Both Morgan and Rodney were very laid-back, and soon I was able to catch my breath. I got the shots I wanted including one with Joel, after I left the stage. I caught him just as he was leaving -- good timing.

All the guests cut out pretty quickly after the signing. I remember Doug stayed around for a while signing autographs and chatting with anyone and everyone. He and my friend had a good, long talk. I stood there and marveled on how short the guy really was especially compared to my friend who’s around 6’2".

I enjoyed myself immensely this day, and I will always be grateful for this time of my life and the friendships I forged here.

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