Friday, March 24, 2023
Wednesday, March 15, 2023
Pensacon is my favorite convention. That won’t come as news to my bloggy readers. It’s an event that brings together fans and guests from virtually every pop culture medium you can name. It treats its fans and guests like honored friends. It’s a convention darn near the entire city supports in one way or another.
But getting from Cleveland, Ohio to Pensacola, Florida isn’t always as stress-free as it could be. There are no direct flights between the two cities. Your choices for flight times are pretty much “way too early” or “arriving late at night.” Flying back to Cleveland? That also falls into the “way too early” category. If you’ve read my convention reports, you know it sometimes takes a while for me to get around to the actual convention.
Thursday, February 23
Our American Airlines flight from Cleveland to Washington, D.C. was scheduled to leave at 9:58 am. The connecting flight from D.C. to Pensacola would leave at 11:24 am and (with a time difference) get us to the renamed-for-the-weekend Pensacola Intergalactic Airport at 2:32 pm.
I have nothing but good things to say about American Airlines. The crews were unfailingly friendly and helpful. The flights themselves were non-eventful and on time. Which is not to say there wasn’t a bit of drama before we left Cleveland.
We booked our own flights for this trip. In doing so, we neglected to put my TSA Known Traveler Number on the tickets when we bought them. Had I noticed this when we checked our luggage, it would’ve been a simple fix at the ticket gate. When I got to the Pre-Check entrance, I was denied entrance and pretty much made to feel like I was trying to scam the TSA check-in guard. I was told I had to go to the regular check-in station.
Had I not been so taken aback by the turn of events and not already tired from the early hour and getting about using a cane, I could have simply gone back to the ticket agent and gotten a new ticket with my Known Traveler Number and Pre-Check. But I didn’t think to do that. Instead, I lumbered to the regular check-in. With the rest of the peasants.
Peasants? Am I being harsh? Not really. Because that’s how the TSA agents at the regular check-in made me feel.
Those agents were rude. Despite my age and the obvious discomfort I was in, they made me remove my jacket, my shoes and my belt. They replaced my cane with a ratty old stick. I had to hold my pants up while balancing on the stick through the X-Ray machine. Asked if I had anything in my pockets, I said I’d put my ID and boarding pass there. Midway through the X-Ray machine, I had to pull them out to show them. Then they said to put them back in my pocket. Past the X-Ray machine, I had to juggle my belongings, including my belt, briefcase, cane, carry-on bag, jacket and shoes as the still-rude agents encouraged me to move faster.
We pause here for a mini-rant.
Two decades ago, because of a failed shoe-bomb attack, we have flat out disgraced ourselves by removing our shoes and belts and other things. We have allowed TSA agents to pat us down or remove us from the line for random closer inspections.
How random? On one flight a decade or two ago, I was waved through while they pulled a little old white-haired lady with a walker for a closer inspection. I ask you...who looked more like a terrorist? Mediterranean Tony Isabella or Mrs. Santa Claus?
I appreciate the important work of the TSA. But I don’t believe it is disrespectful to ask them to consider updating how they do what they do. And to get some fucking manners.
I have never been treated rudely in the Pre-Check line. Indeed, I have seldom been treated rudely even before I started getting Pre-Check on all of my flights. However, on that particular morning in that particular airport, the TSA agents were dicks to me.
End of mini-rant.
The rest of the trip went well. When I needed them, I got rides to the gates. The flights were on time with plenty of time to make out connecting flights. The American Airlines folks were aces. Since I have a credit card through the airline, one that bestows some nice perks, I plan on flying them whenever I can.
It’s always a thrill to land at the Pensacola Intergalactic Airport where the gates are renamed stargates and walls are covered with Pensacon-related posters. The convention volunteers are extremely efficient in helping guests with our luggage and transporting us to our hotels. Every year, coming to this convention is like coming to visit family. Our Pensacon family.
Since the wondrous Grand Hotel closed - it was directly across the street from the Pensacola Bay Center - Pensacon has been boarding its guests at several hotels, including some right on the beautiful Pensacola Beach. On our ride to the Hampton Inn, Eddie and I got to spend a bit of time with the delightful Danny Pintauro.
Pintauro is known for his acting on As the World Turns, Who’s the Boss...and for playing the son of Dee Wallace’s character in the movie adaptation of Stephen King’s Cujo. He’s appeared in various stage productions before retiring from acting. Which is a shame on account of he’s young enough to play a variety of roles.
Danny and I talked about the screenplay he’s writing and writing in general. He’s a nice fellow and I very much regret not being able to get away from my table long enough to visit him at his table on the celebrity level. Which also meant I didn’t get a chance to meet Ms. Wallace. I really need to balance my convention table time with my personal enjoyment of these events.
The Hampton Inn is a cool place to stay. Eddie and I had a fourth floor room with a great view of the beach. It was foggy that first night, looking like something out of The Mist, another Stephen King movie adaptation.
For dinner, we walked over to Crabs, one of the many fine seafood restaurants within walking distance of our hotel. I didn’t want to eat a huge meal, so I ordered a chicken fingers basket. The chicken was good, but the real treats were the creamy pineapple cole slaw and the homemade honey buns.
Crab isn’t a favorite of mine - given my oft-grumpy nature, it’s be a little like cannibalism - but if you are a fan of the versatile food, you’ll find a huge menu to choose from.
Crabs on the Beach is a pleasant place to dine with a great staff. Also, for such an upscale restaurant on the beach, its prices were quite reasonable. I recommend it.
Having managed to write today’s bloggy thing without getting you to the convention, I want to let you know I’ll be covering the first day of Pensacon in my next bloggy thing. See you then.
© 2023 Tony Isabella
Friday, March 3, 2023
It’s March and that means it’s time for me to write a little about the previous month - good and bad - and then present my compilation of things that brought me joy in February.
The big good included being invited to conventions in Singapore and Spain. The former looks like it’s definitely going to happen with events in April and September. The latter is somewhat up in the air at the moment as I figure out how to make it work.
Then there was Pensacon 2023, my favorite convention and one that celebrated its tenth anniversary this year. I’ll be writing a few bloggy things about the convention, but you’ll get a few highlights near the end of this column.
The bad? The growing cruelty and insanity from the Republican Party on local, state and federal fronts. It’s the cruelty that concerns me most. Just as Rotten Ronnie Reagan made up the “welfare queens” to serve up as “villains” for his base, so today’s GOP monsters are going after the LGBTQ+ community, especially trans kids. As part of that community, I take this personally. But, even if I weren’t, I’d be horrified just on the basis of common decency.
The Republican Party is the biggest threat to the United States and democracy in general. I am at a loss to understand why anyone who considers themselves a good Christian or person would support them.
All of the above said, let’s take a look at the daily things that made me happy in February...
February 1: Love and Capes: Home for the Holidays is Thom Zahler’s latest special and it’s completely delightful. Christmas joy with Mark, Abby, their kids, family and friends plus wonderful turning points for several members of the cast.
February 2: The Stupidest Angel: A Heartwarming Tale of Christmas Terror by Christopher Moore. What a crazy fun novel. I loved it, laughed out loud while reading it and am looking forward to reading more of Moore’s books.
February 3: Celebrity Jeopardy 2023 Finals. I have never watched a more exciting game of Jeopardy. Winner Ike Barinholtz, Wil Wheaton and Patton Oswalt were funny and gutsy players, showing great love and respect for one another.
February 4: Naoki Urasawa’s Asadora. A mysterious kaiju threatens Japan. A high-school girl who lost several family members to this creature works with the authorities to stop it. That’s just part of the drama in this series. Six great books and counting.
February 5: Lockwood and Co. I heard good things about the Netflix series and decided to watch an episode. Then another and another. Binge-watched all eight episodes of the first season and hope we’ll be getting a second season soon.
February 6: Lockwood and Co. One more thing about this fine show. I got a kick out of the references to 2000 AD comics via George’s choice of reading material and shirts. It’s been ages since I had a subscription to the weekly, but I remember it fondly.
February 7: Daily Show guest host Chelsea Handler totally rocked it in her first episode. Edgy, enthusiastic and funny, her back-and-forth with the always delightful Dulce Sloan was hilarious. She’s my favorite guest host to date.
February 8: A good visit to the doctor. My heart and lungs and most everything are fine. My blood pressure is a minor concern. I got a handicapped sign for when my knee is having a bad day. On track to outlive my enemies and dance on their graves.
February 9: The Composite Superman, a favorite DC Comics character from the 1960s, has arrived as a terrific Funko Pop! Though he only appeared twice back then, his image, story and heroic redemption left a real impression on me.
February 10: Funko’s new Darkwing Duck figure has arrived. While I kind of like seeing a cheerful “terror that flaps in the night,” it does take some getting used to. Is it possible for Funko to create a grimmer version of this character?
February 11: Extraordinary. Stumbled across on Hula, this TV comedy is about a young woman in a world where everyone gains a superpower at the age of 18. Except her. Some of the powers are truly bizarre and the show itself is quite entertaining. Recommended.
February 12: Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur. It’s quite likely that I never stopped smiling while watching the double-length episode of this new Disney animated series. Fun characters and graphics mixed with an uplifting story. I loved it!
February 13: Spontaneous joy. Loud music from a car parked across the street. Looked out my office to see two young woman dancing in the street to said music. Rocking, bopping, laughing. How could I not smile at such an expression of joy?
February 14: Your Place or Mine. Barb and I celebrated Valentine’s Day with Dairy Queen Blizzards and this amusing rom-com starring Renee Witherspoon, Ashton Kutcher and an amazing supporting cast. I recommend the movie and the Very Cherry Chip Blizzard.
February 15: Errand morning with Barb. We got the SUV e-checked and took it through a car wash. We got stickers and handicapped cards at the DMV. We got coffee, a egg sandwich and a free cup of soup at Panera. It’s a good start to the day.
February 16: Quantum Leap. The episode “Let Them Play” focused on the discrimination against trans teens, especially those who want to be athletes. It was riveting television that moved me deeply. I need to get back into this series.
February 17: It’s our annual celebration of my Saintly Wife Barb’s birthday. We’ll be getting together with Eddie and Kelly later this afternoon and a good time will undoubtedly be had by all. My wife is a blessing to all who know her.
February 18: Pensacon 2023. My fifty years in comics tour wraps up at my favorite convention. Pensacon has the best fans, guests and staff. The local support is delightful with restaurants featuring related themes. I love it madly.
February 19: The Death of Doctor Strange by Jed MacKay, Lee Garbett and Antonio Fabela. This had a lot going for it. Cool villains from the 1960s, a solid story that would not confuse a casual reader and a satisfying ending. I’ll be seeking out more by MacKay.
February 20: I’m thrilled beyond words to be a guest at Singapore’s Cosfest: Legend of the Floral Guardian on April 8, 2023 at Gardens By The Bay. This is my first convention outside of North America in decades. I can’t wait to meet the fans there.
February 21: Batman The Silver Age Omnibus Vol. 1. This was the era that introduced me to the character who would be my favorite until I created Black Lightning...and it was a surprise gift from one of my readers. How cool is that?
February 22: Button Pusher by Tyler Page. In this informative and moving graphic auto-biography, the cartoonist discusses his ADHD, his behavior before and after his diagnosis and his experience with his prescribed Ritalan. Lots to learn here.
February 23: I’m reading Friday Book Two by Ed Brubaker, Marcos Martin and Muntsa Vicente. When I hit a “I didn’t see that coming” moment, I knew this was definitely a comic book that mad me happy and that I would recommend it to you.
February 24: Pensacon. My private signing with Certified Guaranty Company was terrific. Thanks to CGC and Luis for giving fans of my work who might never get to meet me a chance to have me sign their comics. I hope we can do it again.
February 25: Maria Landy, Pensacon’s Transport Wizard, always gets us where we need to go. She’s also an amazing artist who gifts me with her work every year. These two pieces are always right next to my keyboard as I write. Thank you, Maria.
February 26: Amazing food in Pensacola and Pensacola Beach. Between Pensacon’s own incredible green room and so many great restaurants, many of whom adopted themes in connect with the pop culture event, wonderful meals were the rule. Yummy in my tummy.
February 27: Pensacon. I chatted with actors Erik Estrada and Eric Roberts. Both were very friendly. Naturally, I mentioned Chupacabra vs. the Alamo (2013) and Sharktopus (2010). Because that’s what you would expect of me.
February 28: Pensacon. The Long Box Guys hosted a panel on my fifty years in the comic-book industry. We didn’t pack the room, but we had a great time and those who attended learned many things which they did not know previously.
I post new “Things That Make Me Happy” on my Facebook page and on Twitter every day. Watch for them.
I’ll be back soon with more stuff.
© 2023 Tony Isabella