Sunday, July 30, 2023

Missouri Game Con, Retro TV Toys, and Comic Book Relief!

I do enjoy a good road trip, as many of you may know. So when the opportunity to go to Missouri Game Con came up, my brother and I made plans to attend. We had previously attended another show in the Saint Charles area, QuadCon, which is a retro toy themed show. If memory serves me right, the first year we went, we met Pixel Dan, got a photo with him, and I bought his Masters of the Universe book.

The days prior to the show had all been extremely hot, but thankfully my A/C works very well in my truck, and there's a lot of places to stop over the course of that four hour drive.

Early morning story.

I imagine there's a fair amount of people that don't like taking extremely long trips to get to shows. Especially when you have the high number of local ones that happen around the greater Kansas City area. But I like getting out to shows where new vendors, artists, and shops are.

The drive to St. Louis was uneventful. Somehow I had miscalculated the amount of time it was going to take to drive there and we ended up arriving to the area of the show location almost 45 minutes before the 11:00 general admission would be let into the show. There was an early bird option which I believe started at 10 AM, but that was $100 a ticket. I don't know exactly how many people were in there that it paid for that early bird fee, but one vendor I spoke to said that it was about 10 to 15 people that had paid that to get in early.

The line of people waiting to get in was doubling back on itself, in an effort to keep people in the shade.

As we finally got up close to the venue, a place called Orlando's, I took note of the parking spaces. It looked like there was already a mad dash happening to line up outside of the door so people were parking quickly if not a bit erratically. I chose to park my truck towards the back end of the lot, reverse pulling into a parking spot.

I've worked enough shows and venues in my time, that I had a feeling parking was going to be a mess out there as the day wore on, and in this heat, I didn't feel like parking somewhere that we'd get blocked in.

Getting out of the truck, we started walking toward an ever lengthening line of fellow pop culture enthusiasts and collectors. I don't care if it's a large show like C2E2 or smaller one day conventions held locally, there's always that really cool feeling of being around people that on the average I probably share a great amount of hobby interest with.

I don't know why the memory of going to the midnight openings that would happen at Toys R Us popped into my mind at that moment. I know those were corporate events sponsored by the drive to sell more Star Wars toys, but those sort of events were like the last waning vestiges of 80s and 90s era pop culture infused moments that functioned as sort of midnight micro cons.

In this instance, I think it's the fact that as we walked up, the exuberance and excitement was very evident in line. As I took photos and a few video clips I realized that the line started at the door, went down to the corner, folded back upon itself and then once again, to keep people in an orderly fashion and thankfully in the shade away from the now rising sun. The conversations around me varied from talking about the Barbie movie, recent additions to collections, other shows and events, and far more mundane subjects.

As we stood in line I took a fairly general head count, and from the door to where we were, was about 100 to 150 people. As it got closer to 11:00, the line, still growing, got up to around 300 people by the time they opened the doors for us. The staff was really on top of things, although they did seem a little caught off guard by how many people were in the line.

There was one fellow wrangling all of us outside, doing his best to keep the ever growing line out of the sun. About 10 minutes before the doors opened, one or two other people came out to check tickets on phones and administer stamps to the back of our hands. I noticed they had a desk inside to do this at, but I'm really glad that they decided to come outside and get a jump start on getting people inside.

Packing it in.

The line began to move quickly once general admission was allowed in. Days prior to this I have been thinking about what I might want to try and find it this show. I knew that it was a video game themed show, so that certainly meant a lot of vintage video game systems and games, and no doubt a lot of other items and related periphery. But I don't think I was prepared, what I saw once I got inside.

So. MANY. PEOPLE.

One of the reasons that I do these reviews is because I want to be able to provide people with an idea of what it's like when you actually get into the show. Table and walkway layouts, density of crowd, what amenities are available, etc.

But even the few photos I got of what I saw the moment I got into the door, just don't do justice to how overwhelmingly packed the room was quickly becoming. The rush to get inside came to an instant slow down and then stop once we got in the room and saw the density of the crowd in regards to the size of the show room.

Even though the room wasn't that big, I still felt that I didn't get a chance to see every vendor at the show.

Once we got in the door, I know that we had to make some quick decisions on which direction we were going to head, and for the life of me I couldn't understand which flow or direction the crowd as a whole was taking. The first thing I noticed was I actually couldn't make out where people were walking at all. 

I have a few friends that do shows. And the ones that are really good at it no and have an intimate understanding of vendor table organization, widths necessary for people to comfortably be able to interact and walk through areas to maintain a stress free purchasing and interaction environment. Never mind preventing a possible situation where if a Fire Marshall showed up they could shut down the show.

I don't ever remember seeing a show with this many sealed and boxed classic consoles.

Within minutes I was in a very slow moving part of the show. Patience was a virtue that I was hoping a lot of people were going to have that day. Claustrophobia was a fear that began to rear its ugly head for me. I'm not exaggerating when I'm saying that the last time I remember being pressed up against that many people, was about twenty six year ago at a GWAR/Misfits concert, near the stage.

So much of the first moments were a blur. Because I was really trying not to bump into people, knock things off of tables, or stumble. I can only imagine what the kids in attendance felt like. 

I estimate that many of the walkways between the tables had only between 3 1/2 to 4 feet distance between each other. From what I understand this venue was a quick replacement that was being utilized because the original venue became unavailable. This is just little bits that I heard from some of the vendors at the show. Regardless of what was happening I was determined to make the best of a sort of screwball circumstance. Neither I nor my brother were in any hurry to leave, so to make it easier we decided to go to different areas of the room and when we got tired eventually meet up back in the lobby.

Exploration and the hunt.

The vast majority of vendors were selling video game systems and games, both retro and new. There were some standouts, I think one or two artists had tables, the indie developers that had created a brand new Atari inspired game called “Mr. run and jump”, were there. A few vendors had action figures, pok√©mon cards, and some other pop culture inspired items.

Nice Colecovision system.

I'm very methodical when I attend a show to make sure that I at least walk by every single table at a show, and try to interact or go through whatever items that a vendor has brought to a show. That's how you find hidden gems and unknown treasures.

Unfortunately, because of the density of attendees, and the lines that people were in, around the tables came to a dead stop, so it was a sort of hit and miss on finding things. It did work to my advantage in one situation where I found a $10 laser disc edition of Jurassic Park the Lost World. I was to search a bin that was underneath the table that had laser discs in it, and it led to having a really informative conversation about laser disc player repair with the vendor I bought the disc from.

An early find at the show, that I never managed to make it back around to picking up.

Taking time to record video and take photos wasn't the easiest. It wasn't the lack of time, but I felt bad stopping to stabilize myself to get good clear video or photographs if I was standing in an area where people were trying to get through. I have a smaller camera rig that is self-contained that would have been much better for getting video in this circumstance. The only downside to that camera is unlike any video that I take on my iPhone which I can quickly turn around and edit and then upload to social media, I would have to wait until I was back at the studio to download the footage, edit it, and then upload it.

I did stop to talk at one table that had a fantastic architectural mock up of the Resident Evil Mansion, and I discovered that it was a project to build a real one in or around the Springfield, Missouri area.

Celeb Webb talked me through what the idea and inspiration about the build of the mansion was all about.

As I'd mentioned before, the crowd seemed really chill and relaxed, even considering the circumstances we were in. I only saw one individual get upset during a transaction with a vendor, but that was because of the lack of signal that was occurring towards the center of the room. Being stuck in place, one can't help but be privy to conversations around oneself. From what I could gather a PayPal transaction wasn't working, because either one or both phones were unable to send money. The vendor in the hopes of being able to salvage a sale did say that there was a general Wi-Fi signal available at the convention. That sort of information is fine, but I'm fairly certain the Wi-Fi was already having a challenging time with all of the other vendors and possible attendees on it.

Rule of thumb that I live by when I come to a show? Bring cash. It will save you and the vendors a lot of heartache if signal is weak or they can't take card.

I remember passing up on this for $10 some 18 years ago.

Some vendors may cut you a deal on multiple items, all because you can pay them a flat amount right there. Personally I find it a lot easier to be able to budget and limit myself. Of course I still have access to my card because you never know what you're going to find when you go to a show, and if I'm eating at a restaurant or go to another location afterwards I like having a backup plan for spending or emergencies.

Crowd burnout.

After about an hour and a half I feel like I had covered 2/3 of the room pretty thoroughly. I'd also managed to stay well within my spending budget. But we had already made plans to hit up two other places that were nearby after we left the show.

So as we had planned earlier, we met in the lobby area near the entrance. My brother had made some major purchases and it took forever to carry a boxed Xbox across the convention floor, with a bag filled with a few other items in hand as well.

There's also a little survival tip for you all: bring reusable or plastic bags when you go to shows. First, it's being environmentally friendly. Second if you bring your own bags, especially reusable fabric ones, I recommend buying some that are uniquely your own for safety and loss reasons, preferably with your last name and maybe a four digit number that you can use to identify the bag, written or sewn to the inside liner. I had always done that on my show gear, every single item has a hidden identification label that I can use to prove that something is mine in the event of theft or loss.

I managed to pick up a few things: the laser disc edition of Jurassic Park the lost world, A loose cartridge game for I believe the Japanese Famicom system, and three Japanese Nintendo DS games complete with cases and manuals. I know there were a few other things that I had wished I'd gone back for, but on my way back out to the front I stopped to play the demo of Mr. Run and Jump, made a note to buy it on steam for a future playthrough video, and finally made my way to the lobby.

My brother and I then just made sure we had everything we came there with and had purchased and made sure that neither one of us wanted to have one more jump into the fray to get anything else from vendors before we left.

I'm over the moon happy to see midsize to small shows have incredible attendance. And from what I'm understanding they did the best they could with the venue space they had on hand. But my gosh, I could have spent another hour or two at the show really digging through bins, making more connections and picking up more business cards, there was a Star Wars pachinko machine there was love at first sight for me, even at $900. I can't justify a purchase like that at the moment, but I would have liked to have known who the vendor was.

The majority of video game items I saw revolved around primarily Nintendo, Atari, Intellevision, and a decent amount of Sega. Prices ranged from extremely affordable to high price rare.

It turns out the parking lot was a bit of crazy sauce. To be fair I didn't see any lines as to where people could park marked out on the asphalt, but judging by the way that a lot of people were parking, I can completely see why parking lines are a necessity to modern society. Thankfully we weren't pinned in to the parking spot I had chosen earlier, and I got my truck out effortlessly.

We had two more destinations we wanted to get to, the first one was a local toy store called RetroTV Toys that had a really impressive eBay page, so i wanted to see what I'd find there. The second was a comic book store my brother wanted to hit up named Comic Book Relief.

RetroTVToys

We entered the address for the toy store into the GPS and found that it was only about 10 minutes away from where the show was happening. Turning up the air conditioning, we drove through a fairly dizzying amount of right and left turns to get to the store. Honestly, as we were driving up I couldn't see it, but my brother managed to see it at the last minute. Turning onto a one way street, I quickly swung into a small parking lot and pulled up right in front of the store window.

Stores like this are the last vestiges of that old going to Toys R Us feeling and finding great items!

It was nice to be in an air conditioned place with elbow room.

I love when I go into a store and the quantity and quality of what they offer makes me pause to appreciate what I have to select from. It didn't take me long to find a few items that I wanted to bring home to display in the studio. The staff was super friendly, and the store was nicely laid out, well lit, and had both new and retro items on hand.

A WIDE range of items, including most major retro lines were available for purchase.

This is a store I'm definitely going to come back to the next time I'm up in the Saint Louis area.

Comic Book Relief

This store was a little harder to find. my brother entered the address into the gps and as we headed that direction I noticed storm clouds were coming in. That always makes me a little bit nervous when I'm in unfamiliar territory driving around. We did manage to find what was the original location, but we didn't notice until we got out of the truck that another business was now setting up where comic book relief had previously been.

We started to approach the store, and noticed the absence of anything comic book like on the shelves.

It was a little bit puzzling as we had seen a Facebook post earlier in the day showcasing that the location was indeed open. As the rain storm bore down on us we were able to figure out that they had simply relocated to the other side of a nearby gas station.

It seriously looked like tornado weather was upon us...

We managed to get to the shop just as the worst of the rain started to fall. 

Comic book relief is organized immaculately. An alpha/numerical order and OCD driven system reigns across the shelving and storage drawers. It was absolutely a pleasure to look for books and I was able to locate a few fairly obscure ones.

This level of organization is enviable and appreciated!

After spending about an hour there with the majority of the bad weather having passed, we decided to leave Saint Louis and headed back home.

All three locations and experiences were simply phenomenal. Aside from the spacing issues and the sheer amount of people at the Missouri game convention, it was a very well stocked show. It's really something when you attend a show and they get the marketing knocked down so well that it leads to a line of a couple of 100 people outside who are ready to spend when they get in.

RetroTVToys and Comic Book Relief were both excellent additional stops that I'm so glad we took the time to find. There's a lot of times in the past where I've gone to shows quite a few hours away from Kansas City and never bothered to look to see what else was available to experience.

Missouri Game Con

RetroTVToys

Comic Book Relief

Mr. Run and Jump

Additions to the studio collection.

So with that here's a few photos of what I picked up at the convention, the toy store, and the comic book shop.

Jurassic Park The Lost World Widescreen LaserDisc - $10

Darth Maul and ReAction Soundwave - $10 each

Silver Hawks Tallyhawk - $25

3 Import Nintendo DS Games, 1 Import Famicom game - $30 for all four

SNES Super Mario Bros World Wall Display/T-Shirt holder Display Cartridge - $10

Scalphunter, Crystar, DC Who's Who, and Sad Sack comics - $9

Thank you so much for reading, I am Mario, the Artisan Rogue, and until next time, remember to support artists and local businesses. And if you liked what you've read, and want to support the blog, there's a donation button just below.

Be kind to your fellow beings and always take the path less traveled. We all may live in times uncertain, but kindness, understanding, and believing in the good that is in most each and every one of us is what can bring about better days!








Mario, the Artisan Rogue
Illustrator, Voice Actor, Writer, Animal Rights Activist
-All photos, editorial content, created by me. One dude. Thank you for reading.-
www.theartisanrogue.com

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