In case the title isn't descriptive enough, Monsterpalooza is a fan-based convention of all things horror. It's not as big as ComicCon, the big daddy of fan-driven conventions, or even Wondercon (just recently passed) but the convention is growing and might someday challenge even the bigs.
In most ways, it resembles those other conventions: lines to get in (later in the day though,) busy, happy crowds of people of all ages, cosplay, t-shirts shouting out big love to both popular and arcane IPs (intellectual properties) but the levels are all definitely lowered somewhat. After all, MP has only been around since 2009 and it's still a youngin' compared to the others which have been around for decades-plus.
For example, we got a wrist band instead of a hard plastic badge which the other cons feature these days. Inside, there was no one shouting at you to not stand or sit against the walls. Comic Con is great but come on, folks. Relax a little or provide better places for people to chill. Plus, I don't know for sure but MP is probably about 1/10th the size of ComicCon in both scope and space. That makes it a better experience in many ways - I remember when ComicCon wasn't the insane zoo it's become - when you could arrive earlyish (as we did for MP) and actually have space to move around. Honestly, I love ComicCon but it's soooo crowded these days. MP picked up about noon but we walked in and had a stroll through all the exhibits when we got there around eleven. And even though it is mostly horror-based, a lot of other IPs were represented there.
I went with my buddy Victor Phan and his lovely fiance, Talia. They are both huge comic book and horror movie fans. Victor (an OCSWA board member) has written his fair share of horror-based film scripts and worked on a few creature features in various roles. Talia has been a fan since she was little.
It is said that if you want to experience Christmas like a child again, channel it through a kid's eyes. That's what going to Monsterpalooza with Victor and Talia was like. I had been to the one in Burbank (now called Son of Monsterpalooza) before but this was my first time in Pasadena. And for whatever reason, I enjoyed it more than I had any convention in many years. It's probably because both Vic and Talia were like those little kids I mentioned, excitedly talking and fussing over everything. I engaged in everything but not to their level. It was great scouring the aisles with them, listening to their insightful commentary. I'm no slouch when it comes to horror and creature features but they were way over my head with their seemingly encyclopedic knowledge.
What struck me this time that has never really impacted me before is the fans. I know ComicCon has its fans too but it seems at times like most were there because they thought it would cool to be. At Monsterpalooza, these are true fans. They're people who actually like movies and comics like The Man With Two Brains, PiranhaConda, Cloverfield, and The Blob (both versions.) They know all the films that Syfy Channel puts out every Saturday, some so ridiculous you can't imagine the premise or titles. I mean Dinocroc vs. Supergator? Blood Monkeys? Ice Spiders? Oh, yeah! I marveled at the smiles and enthusiasm I saw; a deeper level of engagement. Perhaps more pure? I'm sure these fans and the ones at the other cons are similar but because I was able to actually see some of the interactions in the aisles I felt closer to these fans. Even though the movies that I made with critters in them weren't represented, I felt a true sense of belonging and pride that these people appreciated those films.
When I was younger, Saturday morning was a magical time. That's when the channels played the cheesy scifi and horror films that me and my sisters sat entranced by like the Man With The X-Ray Eyes and Attack of the Fifty Foot Woman. As I got older, Friday midnight was the choice du jour for films as horror-movie hosts like Goulardi and Big Chuck And Hoolihan and Elvira pasted bad comedy onto even worse films. Mystery Science Theater 3000 took on the mantle of the cheese and relished in it poking loving fun at it all. This was until the cable companies and distributors bought all the stock up and started charging for it. Today you can find some of those films on Netflix, some on Amazon and others on various cable channels. And the tradition continues - different but abiding still. Since we can stream and time shift our choices, we now can do our own little Friday midnight/Saturday morning show. But it's really not the same is it?
Except here it did feel like it was the same.
You can see the continuation in the faces and t-shirts of those at Monsterpalooza. It's great to see a father adjusting his son's Thing costume, or a young girl passing out flyers as Kylo Ren from Star Wars. I had somehow forgetten that the movies I've done, the ones that I watched, and the ones that are still being made entertain people. They create a place, a world where they can be safe even though it's filled with horrifying creatures.
I gained a new appreciation for Monsterpalooza this year. I recognized that there is a beauty and anabiding community of fans who don't forget and also continue to explore. It was amazing to me that after all these years of writing and watching creature features and horror films, there was still more to appreciate.
Victor and I have talked many times about the benefits of always saying 'yes' to something. After prejudging a situation as being a total waste, I've driven hundreds of miles for a meeting that turned out to be incredible. Victor and I have shared stories of thinking the worst of something and it turning out to be fantastic. This just happened to me last weekend at a film festival at which I was invited to speak and where I was shocked by a writing guru giving me an unabashed recommendation to a room full of producers.
So, to be truthful, I was not really looking forward to today's excursion much. But the journey helped me re-discover my love for this genre and this world. I was re-inspired to work on some different material - and that's what my friend, Victor, had in mind when he pushed me to go. He confessed as much. Yes, it did work. I'm pulling out some old material that I had abandoned and giving it fresh eyes.
I will sit down to write tomorrow because of it.
And maybe next year, I can sit in a booth and be a more intimate part of this wonderful world.
Thank you, Victor and Talia. I had a incredible time today finding my lost, inner monster.