Last Saturday I headed down to Cherry Hill, NJ to check out the Monster Mania convention. I am glad I did and I have some fun pics down below. As far as I’m concerned, there are four major parts of a convention, and that’s how my reviews are going to be structured. Those parts are:
- Guests / Panels
After that I will just give some Plusses and Minuses for people to do with what they will. So let’s get into the review.
Guests / Panels
OK so a couple things about my experience before I get into this. The first thing is that I only went for one of the three days. In my opinion, it was a one day show but that is because I didn’t see any panels. And part of the reason I didn’t see any was that I didn’t know when or where they were occurring. But honestly I don’t think ANY con can hold someone for more than one day unless they have people to hang out with or there are takes they want to see that span a couple different days.
The second thing you need to know is that I am a giant chicken and don’t dare to go talk to celebs by myself. There are two levels of celebs at these shows (imo). I don’t want to denigrate one batch over the other so I will call one the Workers and the other the Chillers. The Workers are there to sign and take pics and they usually have really long lines and they make a TON of money. It is very palpable that they are “working” and while they might be super nice, I get the feeling that standing in line just to say hi without buying anything is poor form.
The Chillers are generally the opposite. They have stuff to sell, but in a lot of instances they are less known and as a result have more time where they are chilling at their table with their handlers. They are friendly and approachable unless you are me and get too chicken to go up and say hi. If I am alone, that is. If someone is with me then I will go up to anyone. Not sure why that is, but there you have it. So who were the notable Workers and Chillers at Monster Mania (full list here).
- John Cusack – I never even saw where he was. When I got there about 1pm on Saturday the whole lobby seemed to be the John Cuscak line. No joke every line I got in that I thought was where I needed to go to buy my ticket was John Cusack. Madness. Dude was making $40.00 every ten seconds. No wonder people do these shows.
- Ralph Macchio, Billy Zabka and Martin Kove from Karate Kid. They were in the small signing room (more on that in the facility section) and they were not crazy busy but it was steady. I feel like they might have been open to just talking to people but again I am a chicken. Ralph Macchio looks very youthful.
- Two of the kids from Stranger Things. They were in the big signing room and the line for them was flat out ridiculous. And they were the nicest most energetic kids you could imagine. Not sure how to explain which ones they were other than: the black one and the one with the lisp. Both were clowning with folks, having a great time, marking out for great cosplay and generally doing what everyone would like to think kids who have talent and achieve some success do. Good kids.
- Kristy Swanson – I heard on Twitter that she was a big Trump supporter which actually affected some people’s impression but her line was killer and she seemed like a great sport jumping up and running around her table for pics. Plus she is hot AF. Just a fact!
- My biggest regret was not talking to Bex Taylor Klause. She is/was one of the stars of the MTV Scream series. I say was because apparently they rebooted the show for season three and are replacing the cast. Weak. But she was great and spent a lot of time just chatting with people. Now that I think about it, she probably kicked off my nervousness because I am the only one I know who watches that show and having a grown man flabble about liking an MTV show is probably horrifying. Ugh.
- Amy Dumas (Lita from WWE) who had some business but was alone in the small room a lot. There are always some wrestlers at these shows and Amy is a legend. I hope she made some dough!
- Wilfred Brimley – he looked grumpy but I honestly think that is just his face. He didn’t seem too busy. That always makes me sad. Like when they have actors who were in a lot of horror movies or some iconic ones and their fan base is like, super targeted. I wish I could figure out a way to engage them all and make it something to put on the Gallery so that I could carry the encounter forward. Something to think about, I guess.
- The kid who played Danny from The Shining – seemed like a nice guy. I should have talked to him. I bet he had a lot of cool stuff to say.
Honestly the vendors at the show were pretty typical with a few notable exceptions. You know you are going to see a a million T-Shirt booths (HOW DO THEY DEAL WITH LICENSING MY GAH SERIOUSLY!) and places selling DVDs. And then there will be some places with some unique goods. MonsterMania had quite a few of these which was a treat. You will see which ones I mean from the pics below, but selling real clothing and some obviously hand made items is a great thing to see. I also am noticing that the fake and creepy taxidermy booths are becoming more popular. It is neat stuff but I think it is probably targeted specifically at folks who want their room or office to look like a Victorian Era mad scientist.
And the big takeaway for me is that it makes me feel even more like the Gallery/Strangeful Things conglomerate can and should have a booth. I think it would at least cover costs, you know?
The Crowne Plaza Cherry Hill is a big place and the layout was exceptional. The whole center lobby area (when not filled with John Cusack fans waiting in line) was spacious and pretty easy to move around in. They had am easy to access food concession, PLENTY of seating and a big giant restaurant/bar where people could duck in for a break. I had brought the gallery power strip (came in super handy at NYCC) but didn’t even need it in this place.
And they laid things out nicely. Think of it as a hub and spoke deal, with signing rooms very far from each other, vendors arranged so that there was a lot of opportunity to get out of the smaller rooms and into the more breathable areas and the ticket and photo op booths placed in logical and pretty easy to get to places. The only thing I would knock them on is the chaos in the lobby during the Cusack line and the lack of signage. A few big signs pointing people to major areas and mabe a couple of those posts with the arrow signs could have helped a lot. But overall, great stuff.
I would guess that maybe 20% of the people at the show dressed up, but the ones that did were pretty stellar. And a ton of the people at the show knew that my mask is El Santo, which is the way I judge the depth of knowledge of a crowd. I got stopped for pics maybe 10 or 15 times and one little kid was super thrilled that I said: well why don’t you put me in a headlock if you want a pic of you beating me up! He looked at his mom who thought it was a great idea. Kid was thrilled. That kind of stuff makes me really happy, which is why this pic from Mad Monster Party is my favorite one ever:
Lots of people in great costumes makes the show more fun. Check them out in the gallery below.
Plusses and Minuses
These are just some things that were outstanding or crappy that did not make or break the experience but could be considered constructive criticism.
- PLUS – They had a bar in the lobby. Beer was 7 or 8 bucks and a real drink was 9 but whatever. Being able to grab a beer on the way from point A to point B was great. They eventually moved to working with tickets but even so, it was a good experience. And honestly there is no way someone would be able to get drunk unless they were rich and if they were rich they would have already been at the big, real bar. Just a great addition to the lobby.
- MINUS – Parking was a nightmare. I am glad that things were so popular, but they really needed a few people directing folks. I found a great spot totally by luck but if you are planning to see a con and you need to give yourself an hour to find a spot then walk to the place from the spot you found, it’s a problem. No Bueno.
- PLUS – The staff was the most knowledgeable, friendly and competent I have ever seen at ANY show. Pay them more!
- MINUS – There was not a really good sense of what was happening when. They had one video screen but overall it was pretty much mayhem. Part of that is a factor of them covering so much ground, but I feel like that could be improved.
- PLUS – The company that handled the Photo Ops, Wolf Studios handled their line like professionals (shout out to Sherilyn who worked what seemed to be 100 hours straight and was still super nice) and everyone I asked about the photos they got had nothing but good things to say. Good choice by the con and good job by the company!
- PLUS – Meeting the folks from Mayhem and Muses and Fallon Vendetta in particular. They swarmed people and give a lot of photo ops which made lots of people happy and they seem like they know what they are doing business wise so double good for them. I mention them because they didn’t have a booth, they just roamed the floor and got people excited. I think if we do a booth we will need to have someone dressed up like Viv the Logo Girl getting people to come to the booth by giving out trinkets. This is a great idea!
Monster Mania Overall
For a show I went to at the last minute and had no expectations for going in, this is now one of my favorite cons and I am hoping the Gallery can have a real presence at it. Good people, good guests and beers when you want them and plenty of places to spend your money (and get something great back in return) makes for a good con. I give it: 4 out of 5 masks!