I admire fan culture. It’s cool to be so passionate about a band, comic book, video game, or whatever other expression that gets your blood pumping. But, while there is much of which I am a fan, I could never be considered obsessive about any of it. I don’t pore over lyrics, or collect every edition of anything. After my experience last month, I feel like I may be cheating myself of a beautiful aspect of modern life.
Although the first Comic-Con took place in 1970, I’m sure you’d agree that the phenomenon that is fan conventions is a fairly modern, um… convention. No longer relegated to one weekend in San Diego, conventions of all kinds take place in every state, several times a year.
There are, of course, gatherings for comic books, but also for horror movies, cult TV shows and pop culture, in general. Here, like-minded people of all ages can gather to buy merchandise related to the object of their admiration and even get an opportunity to meet some of the people involved with making it. Fans want to meet these folks, no matter how bit the part the person played in the creation of the work. And that’s where I come in.
Now, I should’ve been prepared for this experience because I used to travel with my dad to baseball card shows when I was a kid. The main draw of these events were the former players who were signing autographs. I have lots of pictures of me with old dudes whom I did not adequately appreciate. But this time, it was ME that people wanted to meet. Weird.
See, 17 years ago, I had the good fortune of being on the cover of a My Chemical Romance album, Life on the Murder Scene. The band picked me from my very dramatic headshot and paid me (very little) to be one of the Demolition Lovers. There is a mass of lore around these characters that I could not hope to crest.
Basically, the Demolition Bride is killed on her wedding day and then avenged by the Demolition Groom. I am probably getting that wrong. What’s especially funny about this is that, when I was 15 and sad, I wrote a poem called “Bloody Bride,” in an apparently prescient fit of depression.
My Groom has done several signing events before (he has an “appearance agent!”), as he is also a character in a popular video game, so he was my Sherpa. He’s the one who asked if I’d be interested in returning to my old home in Los Angeles to be a part of Ghouls Day Out, a goth and emo festival with a particularly MCR focus.
Trying to say yes to whatever life throws at me, I happily agreed. He told me I needed a slick set up for my table, and that I should offer several products for signing. I went into overwhelmed overdrive, printing various pictures from the album, sexily designed one-sheet display cards, and even deciding to print out that poem on antiqued paper. To give my table some dimension, I partnered with my friend at Strange Gent Candles to sell his Southern Goth Girl candles (they’re divine), thinking this was the right crowd for such a thing. I’m not gonna lie, it was a pretty nice set up.
But then I asked my Groom about pricing. I felt incredibly awkward asking anyone for money for a signature I regularly give away for free. He said he wouldn’t accept less than $40, which I found horrifying, but I conferred with another friend who does these conventions, and he verified that $40 is the lowest rate. I compromised by selling the signed poem for $20. It was shockingly successful.
I’m embarrassed by how quickly I got used to taking people’s money for my autograph or picture. My compatriot’s comfort with it emboldened me. But, more than the money I made that day (which was about five times what I made shooting the actual album cover), the interaction with the fans was exhilarating. This band, this music, these characters mean so much to them. Some were shaking and crying. Many were nervous. One had a tattoo of MY FACE on her arm. Wild.
Having been an emo teen before emo was a thing, I felt that these were my people. I adored them. I tried to put them at ease and be entertaining. It was a blast. It was exhausting. I marveled at the throngs of people lined up to meet me even though, really, I had nothing to do with this music that has been the soundtrack of their lives. It was truly an honor.
I guess it went well enough that they asked me to come back next year. I thought it would be a one-time lark, but a girl could get used to this. Maybe for next year, I’ll finally listen to the album.