Where would YOU paint an 11?

The San Diego Comic-Con (aka Comic-Con International) starts up in just a week or two. I’ve attended only once, back in 1999. I’ve always wanted to go back, but the show has become truly crazy-go-nuts-huge. Given that I almost certainly can’t line up a gig to cover my expenses, I suspect that after only my second day packed in a convention center with 125,000 people — at least 20% of whom will have probably never heard of The 5-2-1 Rule(*) — I’d be asking myself why I spent $1500 on a trip that didn’t involve white sand beaches, open spaces, and the possibility of spending less than $16 for a slice of pizza and a medium Coke.

A few years ago, my BFF John’s employer decided that taking a booth at Comic-Con was good for business, so he started attending Comic-Con on an annual basis. And on an annual basis, John urges me to join him. I’m always tempted as hell.

By now, I’ve got the choreography of my little “will I or won’t I?” Comic-Con dance down cold:

  1. John tells me that I should totally come with him this year.
  2. I tell him that I totally will.
  3. John asks for my final go/no-go, shortly before it’s time for him to book a hotel room.
  4. I chicken out. See previous point about $1500 and 125,000 people in a convention center.
  5. A week before the show, I’m wracked with regret; every friend of mine who’s attending is asking me if I want to get together at the show.
  6. Three days into Comic-Con, I’m wracked with anti-regret; every friend of mine who’s attending is Tweeting about the crowds and the noise and the bother and complaining about the general inescapable nimbus in the air.
  7. I decide that I’m totally attending next year.

And there’s one more annual tradition. It takes place somewhere between #5 and #6: “I come up with what I’m convinced is the most awesome Comic-Con costume idea that’s ever been conceived, or ever will.” This idea is usually beautiful in concept and easy to execute.

We’re right on schedule. If I were attending Comic-Con this year, I’d totally spend a day walking around dressed as this character:


I would walk the aisles in my bowler hat, striped shirt, spattered smock, and hi-top Chucks. I’d have a brush clenched between my teeth, a paint bucket in one hand, a precise number 5 in my other hand, and in my eyes you would see the darting, predatory look of a man on a mission. From time to time, I would hold the number against a plain surface. I would peer at it thoughtfully and then shake my head in disappointment and move on.

I realize that not many people would “get” this costume. But I’m certain that the 48 among the 125,000 attendees who did recognize the character would pack their bags and go home after getting their picture taken with me.

They’d (correctly) figure that the whole rest of the Con could only be a letdown. On their way to the door, they might stop just long enough to punch a Steampunk Stormtrooper Vampire in the throat. Sure, they were going to do that anyway, but they’d suddenly feel far, far more justified for doing so.

(Note to Stormtroopers: actually, I love your costumes. It’s just the “freestyle” sub-section of Star Wars costuming that makes me a little impatient for the Biblical apocalypse. 1,000 identically-uniformed Stormtroopers = an awesome display and a convincing simulation of what would happen if Lord Vader had tracked the Millennium Falcon to a comic book convention instead of a mining colony. 2 people dressed as “Sonny and Cher as Stormtroopers” = oh, honey. You’re very sweet, and I can see you put a lot of work into your Bob Mackie-inspired armor…but you’re really trying too hard.)

If you’re attending Comic-Con, you’re welcome to my costume idea. You’ll be my barometer for future attendance. If you show up in this costume and are not immediately presented with the key to the whole god-damned city, then the San Diego Comic-Con will be dead to me evermore.

(*) “The 5-2-1 Rule of Conventions”: During each and every day of a multi-day comics/pop-culture convention, you must get a minimum of 5 hours of sleep, 2 real meals, and 1 shower. NO exceptions, NO excuses.

18 thoughts on “Where would YOU paint an 11?

  1. Gordon

    I’m pretty sure “that guy” is Jim Henson. And wasn’t that Bartlett’s wife on the elevator?

  2. Ihnatko Post author

    @Gordon – Actually, it was Paul Benedict (from “The Jeffersons” and “This Is Spinal Tap.” But yes, that was indeed Stockard Channing as the woman.

  3. batmyke

    This is an absolutely brilliant costume idea – I remember this Sesame Street sketch well…

  4. Kyotocutie

    Hahaha! The minute I saw that guy I remembered this clip from Sesame Street. I’ve always wanted a red bag with a big 7 on it :)

  5. David

    I forget — was that Electric Company, or Sesame Street? And which of the two had the guy who’d paint a window only to have someone else clean it midway through?

  6. Joe Colletti

    Great idea for a costume, but it brings up one point. Do you know how hard it is to find a decent Bowler these days?
    In fact the state of haberdashery, as a whole, has really gone down hill lately.

  7. David Brazeal

    I loved this character. I wonder if this part helped him land the life-changing role of the weird upstairs neighbor on The Jeffersons?

    Also, why does my brain seem to know that he played the “upstairs” neighbor on the Jeffersons? Is that an assumption I always made, or did my brain file away references to “going upstairs” in the scripts of various episodes? And if so, why do I recall that information 30 years later? The human mind is a strange thing.

  8. Edie Howe

    I was technically “too old” for Sesame Street when it came out–but damn, I still enjoyed it then. What a great idea for a costume!

  9. Andreas

    Andy, if I had my own place I would totally put you up for Comic-Con, including transportation to and from my domicile daily. Leo needs to seriously consider SDCC as a live location.

  10. John H.

    For me, it’s like the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade – one day after it ends, I begin the planning process for the next year, by pestering Andy to go next time.

    I don’t know how you arrived at the $1500 figure – you’d save money if we split a room. I would never pay $1500 to attend SDCC, but of course I get a free exhibitor badge, my boss pays for my hotel, and I cash in my SkyMiles for the plane fare. And when you balance my hourly rate for working the booth against my food and comics budget, I’m guessing I usually break even at least.

    Are you assuming that you’d spend $1000 in merch on the convention floor, stuff that you’d see and just HAVE to have? All you’d have to do is buy one (SDCC exclusive) Emperor Palpatine-shaped Flash Drive and the whole trip is deductible, right?

    What about attending New York Comic-Con in October? Wizard World/Big Apple Con just blinked (as I correctly predicted they would) by moving to the weekend before. WW/BAC is now Oct. 1-3, and NYCC is still Oct. 8-10.

  11. Ihnatko Post author

    @John – Here’s how I budget it out:

    1) Airfare – $400.
    2) Transpo to and from airport – $100 (satellite parking and roundtrip shuttle to Logan)
    3) Hotel – $500.
    4) Meals – $200.
    5) Incidentals – $100.
    6) Con-exclusive merch that I Simply Can’t Live Without – ~$200.

    …And I haven’t even bought any art or commissioned any sketches!

    I’m DEF-initely in for NYCC. $100 Amtrak fare (with free parking at the station 30 minutes away) see if I can get the usual Friends & Family discount at my favorite NYC-area inn, and then I’m free to enjoy the show.

    Plus…it’s NYC. I can always do LOTS of business while I’m in town. So I don’t feel so bad about the money I’m spending on food and transportation.

    I think if I went to SDCC I’d feel a desire to be very conservative. At NYCC, well, I wouldn’t be spending like Gadsby or anything, but if I want a $20 tee shirt, then god-dammit, I’m going to buy a $20 tee shirt. :)

  12. John H.

    Excellent – NYCC is less than 90 days away. So as soon as I get back from SDCC, I’ll probably have to start our booth plans for NYCC.

    While everyone is thinking about San Diego, it would probably be a good time to investigate getting yourself a press pass for NYCC. I can give you a couple contacts if you need ’em.

    I’m not sure yet how many badges our booth is going to get, we’ll need at least 4, 2 for Bill + me, 2 for the company we’ll share the booth with, and if I can get more I’d like to train some of my new co-workers to work the Con. I’m getting too old for this…

  13. Suzanne Lander

    We go through the Con decision around here every year, too. This is the first year my husband’s not going. I gave up 5 or 6 years ago. I used to love the comic related panels but the floor’s been a little too crazy for me after the first couple of years, which would have been the late 90s. I know I was there in ’99, too. That was the year we met up with the .com guys who gave us a job that moved us to the NYC area for 6 months until the company went out of business :) Ah, those were the years.

    Love the costume idea, too. Those were some of my favorite Sesame Street skits.

  14. Paul Ring

    What a great idea. I’ve always been a fan of Paul Benedict, then I found out he was the Mad Painter. THEN I found out he went to my alma mater, Suffolk University in Boston. I never got to meet him, sadly, but I was thinking last year of going out as him for Halloween. I didn’t, but maybe I will this year. I just need to find a size 8 bowler. Hmmm …

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