Friday, April 6, 2018


Action! (February 18, 2018) was held at the St. Clair Centre for the Arts in downtown Windsor, Ontario, Canada. My appearance was something of a milestone for me. It marked my first time traveling outside the United States for a convention in something like thirty years. I packed my new passport and my suitcase and hit the road.

Action!’s mission statement describes it as a one-day celebration of comic books, horror, sci-fi, fantasy and anime/manga presented by The Comic Book Syndicate and St. Clair College. The Syndicate is a TV show and web series about comic books. The college is a very cool establishment that has one of the best ballrooms I have ever seen on a college campus. More on that in a bit.

The drive from my home in Medina was an uneventful three hours. I noted two things on crossing into Canada. The first was how scary the soldiers on the U.S. side of the Detroit–Windsor Tunnel were. The second was how the Canadian border agent was so much more calm, confident and efficient than his American counterparts.

The U.S. soldiers were armed with machine guns and strutting about  arrogantly. They didn’t address people crossing into our country; they snarled at them. I could hear them barking orders from my SUV. It was a depressing example of how fearful our nation has become in recent years. I felt ashamed at what our country has become under the leadership of the bigoted President Bone Spurs and others who have never served in our armed forces or served anything other than their own selfish interests.

The Canadian border agent asked me for my passport, inquired what  I would be doing in Canada, checked to see if I was bringing goods into the country (which I wasn’t, not wanting to have to deal with customs), and wished me a pleasant stay. Comparing his behavior to that of the border patrol on the U.S. side of the tunnel, I decided I would return via the Ambassador Bridge.
The Best Western Plus Waterfront Hotel was physically connected to the St. Clair Centre for the Arts. While my stay there was pleasant enough, the hotel lacked certain amenities: no restaurant, no room service, no safe in the room, no valet parking and no lack of loud children playing mock hockey in the hallways. From what I gathered, the latter was due to a hockey tournament being held elsewhere in the city. But, that said, I had a good one-night stay. My room was comfortable with a spiffy view of the riverfront. If it hadn’t been so cold and I had been able to explore the area around the hotel, I probably would have liked it better. As it was, you couldn’t beat the convenience of access to the convention. I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend this hotel to those attending Action! in the future.
Saturday night, I met with event chair Jolie Inthavong, community liaison Michael Poirier cosplay director Becca Tremblay. Along with some convention exhibitors and other guests, we went to Snackbar-B-Q, 39 Chatham Street E. The company and conversation were terrific, the place was packed, and, while I can’t remember what I had for my dinner - I think it was a burger and tater tots - I do remember the food was delicious.

After dinner, we went to the Centre for the Arts to get a fast look at the convention hall. Alas, there were some problems getting into the hall as the person in charge for the night wasn’t letting the exhibitors or anyone else into the room or even on the same floor as the hall. I’ve run into this sort of thing at other conventions, including those on which I’ve worked. But the Action! crew resolved the problem swiftly. Tip for conventions: always know the number of the person who is actually in charge.

Though the Best Western doesn’t have a restaurant, it does have a pretty good breakfast buffet. I’ve learned a couple of things in my decades of traveling to conventions. Eat something before going to the convention. Don’t eat a lot before going to the convention. Yeah, I know that seems obvious, but you’d be amazed at how often I have failed to heed by own advice.

Checking out of the hotel was easy. The front desk made it easier for me by extending my free parking into the evening. That let me hit the road that much sooner after Action! was over. Not that the extra time helped me much in the long run, but that’s a story for a bit later in this report.

Action! was located on the second floor of the Centre in a ballroom that was absolutely gorgeous. Big room. Lots of natural light from huge windows. A breathtaking view of the Detroit skyline. And, as I expected, the Canadian fans were wonderful people. I answered as many questions as I could and signed over a hundred comics for the fans. Since I hadn’t brought any Isabella stuff to sign, one of the local dealers brought a bunch of Isabella comics for a swell lady Sarah to sell at my table. Sarah is affiliated with the Centre and told me a lot of interesting stuff about it.

For example: the lunch area was staffed by students in the Centre’s culinary and restaurant programs. They prepared delicious meals and served them, as they do for many functions at the Centre. The food was several notches above what I have usually found at convention  facilities. I was loving Action! more and more with every passing hour. I was regretting that it was only a one-day show. I would’ve liked to have spent more time with these fine folks. Besides chatting with fans, signing comic books and eating lunch.

I was interviewed by various news people and podcasters. Did I keep track of these? Of course not. This is why I need to have someone come to all my conventions with me, just to take notes so that my convention reports will be more accurate and present more details. I do remember doing an interview with radio station 89X (88.7 fm), which was broadcasting live from Action! I assume it well because no one took a swing at me.
There was some amazing cosplay at Action! Becca was cosplaying as Kim Possible and looked great. The Star Wars Echo Three group had a bunch of cosplayers, including a George Lucas. They invited other Star Wars cosplayers to join them for photos.
My favorite cosplayers were the cool ladies of the Border City Brawlers Roller Derby, Windsor’s first and only flat track roller derby league. They were cosplaying as Sailor Moon and the rest of the Sailor Scouts. They even had a Tuxedo Mask.

Action! scheduled panels and other entertainments on the main stage of the ballroom and the Centre’s third floor atrium. At 3:30 with “Mike El” and Lee Gaddis of Gaddis Gaming, I did a panel discussion on Black Lightning and representation in comics. Diversity is a topic that seems to be part of every convention I attend these days and that’s fine with me because it’s an important discussion to have. Especially given the U.S. president is a stone racist and has surrounded himself with other racists and white supremacists. You know where I stand on this issue. Anyway, the panel went well and I want to thank Mike and Lee for the lively conversation.

I had a ball at Action! I would recommend the event to any fan who is thinking of attending and any guest who is fortunate enough to be invited to the show.

My journey back to Medina was not remotely as uneventful as my trip to Windsor. My GPS unit was wonky, so it took me a while to get on the Ambassador Bridge. Once I was on the Bridge, it took me over an hour and a half to cross over to the United States. Around twenty minutes of that was kind of sort of my fault.

When I got to the U.S. border agent, he asked for my passport and why I had been in Canada. When I told him I had been a guest at a comics convention, he recognized my name from the passport. After asking me if I had brought anything into or was bringing anything out of Canada - I wasn’t - he proceeded to talk comics with me for nearly twenty minutes. It turns out he’s a big fan. A big fan who was armed to the teeth. My survival instincts aren’t as well honed as I would like, but I didn’t figure the smart move would be to ask a man with a machine gun to speed things along. My sincere apology to anyone who was in line behind me. 

My GPS unit kept acting up. At one point, it cut out on me. I had missed a turn, but, after that, it gave me really wacky directions to Medina. My ride home took well over four hours and had this deja vu vibe to it. I ended up driving through several of the small cities and towns we used to go to when my daughter Kelly was a member of a traveling softball team.

I had a fantastic day at Action! I want to thank Jolie, Mike, Becca and the cosplayers, exhibitors, fans and guests for making the con so much fun. I hope we can do again sometime.

That’s all for today’s bloggy. I’ll be back here tomorrow with more stuff. See you then.

© 2018 Tony Isabella

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