Working InvaderCON was, quite simply, the greatest convention experience of my life.
I went to my first “geek” convention over twenty years ago. It was a Star Trek festival in South Florida where I won an award for dressing up like an abused Enterprise security guard. It is also where I met my first celebrity: Mr. George Takei. I still remember that weekend and how amazing it was… a gathering of people, just like me, who liked the same TV show I did and weren’t trying to hide it from classmates or co-workers.
In the land of geeks, the normal guy is the weird one.
The whole experience has been something hard to recapture over the years. There really is nothing quite like your first time.
[pause for obvious sexual innuendo]
Which leads me back to InvaderCON. My partner Joey Snackpants and the team at Wasabi Anime built the event following the format behind the classic seventies and eighties Star Trek conventions: a popular science fiction series is cut down before it’s prime and gained a cult following; fans kept it alive through other means (then: clubs/now: the Internet); someone creates a convention where fans can meet each other and also meet a number of creative people from the short lived series.
(NOTE: For those of you completely unfamiliar with Invader ZIM, please allow me to translate the InvaderCON guest list into Star Wars jargon for you: We booked “Luke Skywalker,” “Han Solo,” “Darth Vader,” and “Princess Leia.” “George Lucas” couldn’t make it, but he sent his well wishes.)
Most conventions today have become such mega-mall events catering to a myriad of fandoms at once. I love going to many of them, like Dragon*Con, but the concept of a convention solely focused on one specific show is a rare bird. These events exist, but practically none of them take place in the Southeast United States.
Thus, InvaderCON happened.
- Since meeting for the first time at Assimilation in 2007, I’ve slowly gained the privilege of calling Richard Horvitz a friend. He’s a good person with a good heart and he “gets it” when it comes to the fan experience. People don’t just want to meet the voice of Invader ZIM – they want to enjoy doing so. Richard busts his ass at every show I’ve done with him to make sure that happens. In my book, he’s a class act and a number of convention personalities could take a note or two from him.
- I had met Rikki Simons and his wife Tavisha a couple of times before, but he and I got to know each other more and more through our long phone conversations leading up to InvaderCON. Rikki’s a kind and gentle soul and his dedication to his fans is unmatched. He experienced a personal tragedy one week before InvaderCON, but he still made it to the show and met every fan there. He’s incredible.
- Methinks Andy Berman experienced a culture shock. This was his first convention appearance as a guest, and I’m not sure he was expecting the overwhelming love for him and his character that he received. He was a true professional and a pleasure to work with. By Sunday night, after hours and hours of dodging ZADR enthusiasts and meeting random Psych fans, that man was exhausted. The dozens of Dib cosplayers (who were, strangely, all female) showed that people do, in fact, love Dib.
- The last voice talent we added to the roster when building InvaderCON was Melissa Fahn. Melissa’s accomplishments also extend outside of ZIM fandom and much of the Green Mustard Entertainment team was thrilled to meet her for that reason. She performed in Wicked on Broadway (many of the Wasabi Anime team love musicals; hello? Animusical!) and her work on Cowboy Bebop as Ed made her a joy to meet from the team. Melissa has that infectious energy that just makes you happy to be around her and she was still smiling at the end of the weekend. She had to leave early on Sunday due to other commitments, but I was sad the she missed the emotional experience and standing ovation at closing ceremonies. I hope she knows how much the fans loved having her there.
- Who’d have thought a writer could be a funny speaker? Eric Trueheart was a writer of some of the best episodes of Invader ZIM, and we were lucky enough to have him join us at InvaderCON. He’s the type of person that when you meet him, you hope you continue to know him or (at best) he continues to remember at least your first name. I could write a long post about what an awesome cat this guy was – but everyone who met him already knows that. You should check out his blog post about his experience at the convention. It’s a great insight into the emotion of the event and he conveys it much better that I ever could.
- My partner, Joey Snackpants, made sure the ship kept running. Our talents balance each other perfect – as illustrated during the charity auction on Sunday. I started it, sucked at it, and he took over. We work that way… it’s that strange being able to finish each other’s sentences or have the same train of thought. All of it, of course, in a strictly heterosexual way.
- Speaking of charity, did I mention that InvaderCON raised almost $2000 for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation? Epic. Geek. Convention. WIN.
- My wife Shannon is the person at each convention that keeps me sane. I could go on for hours about how amazing she his, but I’ve made it a habit to tell her every day we’re together. This has, of course, resulted in her developing an ego almost as outrageous as mine which just makes her THAT MUCH MORE AWESOME.
- InvaderCON did not operate on volunteers; we ran it with staff. The team from Wasabi Anime (Green Mustard Entertainment) took years of convention experiences and distilled it down to a pure form of energy that fueled our “little convention that could.” Thank you (in no particular order) Katie, Angie, Chris, the other Chris, the other other Chris, Jingoro, Tom, Janice, Ryan, Annie, Tracy aka “Trace-Wrangler,” Kaleb, Jessica, the other Jessica, J.T., Ray, & Diane. (If I am forgetting someone it is entirely unintentional; I just suck with names which is why everyone will wear name tags at The Florida Anime Experience. LOL)
InvaderCON turned out to be more than just a convention. It was a personal experience not only for myself and my team, but also for the lives of hundreds of people who traveled across the world for a weekend celebrating a cartoon that ran only twenty six episodes.
From the bottom of my heart: thank you everyone that made it happen.