Thursday, April 26, 2012

Fan Expo Vancouver: From One Rocketeer To Another

If you know me or follow my blog for long enough, you may have gotten the slight impression that I have a favourite genre. I've long been a fan of the pulp era. I love the Indiana Jones heroism, the lost cities, the deep jungles, the mysteries and marvels. I adore the fashion and wish some of it would swing back into fashion while I can still enjoy it! I just love the pulp era novels, the action, adventure and thrilling tales of daring-do! It's even been the genre of my most successful RPG campaign,  and it all started in 1991.

Now, admittedly, I had already been a fan of Indiana Jones at this point, but in the summer of 1991, I learned about the word "pulp", and what it meant. I saw, and fell completely into the world of, The Rocketeer!

The movie adaptation of Dave Stevens comic book stayed with me for years, taking up residence in the back of my brain, slipping out in dreams. When I got to college I discovered role-playing and found a hobby and friends where I could live out my adventures. Eventually I tracked down a copy of the DVD online and watched it for the first time in years.

And it was even better than I had remembered! It was subtle and witty, romantic and action-packed. It was four-colour action-adventure at it's finest. I watched it twice in two days, and both times were magical. I would watch it again and again, whenever I felt bored or lonely, or just to relive that excitement of childhood.

I wanted to be the Rocketeer, and thanks to the most incredible wife ever, I got to be, just a little. I got the jacket for Christmas, and with the help of the best group of friends in the world, she got me the helmet for my 30th birthday (link includes the video of me receiving the gift).

One of my long-term dreams was to meet Billy Campbell. I wanted to just meet him and tell him how much I enjoyed his portrayal of Cliff Secord. I know that any motion picture is a collaborative effort, with directors, writers and other actors all contributing to the experience, but Billy was Cliff. He was the Rocketeer. So in some small way, he influenced who I am today.

Billy Campbell was a guest at the recent opening year of the Fan Expo Vancouver. Even before I found this out, it had been my intention to attend in costume as The Rocketeer. I mean, really, who else? But once I saw his named added to the official list, my excitement went from "Happy to support a new comics convention" to "Oh. Emm. GEE. *high pitched squeal only dogs can hear*". Claire, once she got her hearing back, agreed to attend too, especially now that she had the opportunity to watch me go speechless.

So last Saturday we got up early, had a shower (a must if ever attending conventions, thank you very much), put on my costume and got into Downtown Vancouver early. The convention opened at 10am, and by 10:15 there was a significant line-up. As we reached the head of the line, one of the staff stopped me and said "You'll be wanting the Electric Playground booth. That's where Bill will be." "Thanks", I responded, grabbed my ticket and headed in.

As it turned out, Billy wasn't due to be at the signing booth until noon, so Claire and I wandered the floor, taking in some of the other attractions available. As noon approached we headed for the booth and joined the queue. I was a bit of a nervous wreck, but was delighted with how many people recognised the costume, both males and females, of all different ages. At one point I glanced across the booth and spotted Billy chatting to some fans. Rather than wait in the queue, I asked Claire to hold my spot, dashed around the area and said "Hi".

I chatted to him briefly, but really just wanted to know if we'd have a chance to get a photo at the booth. He assure me he would be delighted to do so, and I excused myself, returning to Claire.

We stood in line for a few minutes. We were near the head, but there were a few others in front of us waiting to meet other people at the booth. Then the staff called "Hey! Hey, Rocketeer! You just want to see Billy?" "Yeah!" "Come on forward."

First off, Billy is tall! Like, 6'4" tall! You can see the difference in the photos. He wasn't standing on anything. Secondly, every last inch of that 6'4" frame is pure, genuine kindness and decency. He was just incredible to talk to. He was so delighted to see someone wearing the costume, and even asked if he could try on the helmet! Billy "The Rocketeer" Campbell asked if he could try on my helmet that my wife and friends got for me! Now, there may be some vicious rumors going around online that I started crying, but it was just something stuck in my eye. The convention center was very warn with all us nerds in one place...

I had my Rocketeer DVD with me, one of only two DVDs I brought with me from Ireland, and he signed the cover. He even signed my sketch/autograph book too! We talked about the movie, and Dave Stevens, and a bit about the new comics from IDW, a company that really should update its own website with its own licenses. We briefly discussed the new Captain America movie and what a great job Joe Johnson did on it (the connection, for those of you lost on the apparent non-sequitur, is that Joe also directed The Rocketeer), though we both expressed dismay that there was no Billy Campbell cameo!

At the end of the few short minutes we spent talking at the booth, Claire and I whole-heartedly thanked Billy for his time and stepped aside to allow others to meet him. Without Fan Expo Vancouver, I and many other fans of his work would never have gotten to meet him. So thank you to everyone that helped make this event happen, and here's to many more to come!

But as I walked away through the crowds, I turned to my wife and kissed her, thanking her for being who she is and knowing me so well. Without her I wouldn't be here, I wouldn't have the costume I have and I would never have met Billy Campbell.

With Number One crossed off the "People I Most Want To Meet In The World", it's on to Numbers Two and Three, Sigourney Weaver and Dennis Quaid, in that order! Shouldn't be that hard.

Post Script: Two things before I go:

1) While standing in line someone asked to take my photo, then told me he was sending it to a friend. That friend had been one of the producers on The Rocketeer!

2) After signing the DVD, Billy commented that he should have written "From one Rocketeer to another". Don't worry Billy. I'll be back next year, and I'll have something for you to sign that on!


Anonymous said...

Cool photos Denis, sounds like fun.

Noel said...


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