At major cons like NYCC, there are typically 3 types of autographs. The first is the autograph area where you pay the celebrity directly to get an autograph or a picture. At NYCC Burt Ward and Adam West were charging around $50 and $60 respectively for an autographed headshot. Ian McDiarmid was charging $125!!! It was only 10-15 or so years ago that celebs wouldn’t charge more than $20. I avoid these type of signings like the plague and try to take pictures of the celebs from a distance.
The second is the con sponsored signing, where the con tells you where to go and what to do to get your stuff signed for free. At NYCC they handle this by having you lineup super early at an appointed time to get an autograph ticket for the specific celebrity and session. These sessions are generally held in a room away from the craziness happening at the rest of the con. They are usually well organized and move quickly. “The Venture Bros.” and “Robot Chicken” usually do these every year.
The third and usually the most disorganized are In-Booth autographs. These are run and organized by the vendors. They generally have the best guests, and are usually free. Some smaller vendors may require you to purchase a specific item to have signed, but those booths will usually allow you to bring your personal items as well. Signings at large vendors like DC, and Marvel will always be free.
This year I took part in three In-Booth autograph sessions which can lead to a lot of early mornings and a bit of stress. The first was for Brian Lee O’Malley from “Scott Pilgrim” on Friday. This had its own complications because it wasn’t advertised online when he would be there. We knew it was going to be at Oni Press booth, but that was it. One of the guys from the con crew I roll with went to the booth and found out he would be at Oni Press on Friday at 11AM, and con doors open at 10. This meant we had to get into the con as early as possible and go straight to the booth in the morning. Once we got there we were told by Oni Press personnel that we couldn’t line up until 10:45 and they kept trying to shoo people away.
The “shoo away” is a classic problem with In-Booth autographs. The vendor will tell you not to show up until a specific time, but they will almost always get annoyed and start the lineup earlier then what they tell you. Once the line spawns it will get long quick. We should have been near the front, but we wound up 50+ people back, and since it wasn’t a ticketed event it looked like there might have been a few line cutters making the line go by slower. Brian showed up late and didn’t sign that long. He was originally signing multiple items for multiple people, but by the time it got to us he only singed one item per person which was frustrating when someone four people ahead of us had four items singed. In the end I got my new color “Scott Pilgrim #1: Evil Edition” signed.
The next signing I needed to plan for was “Person of Interest”, which was doing an In-Booth session at DC because DC is owned by Warner Bros. I’m a giant “LOST fan”, and needed to get Michael Emerson to sign something “LOST” related. At major signings like this, the vendor will usually provide a poster that the stars will sign, and sometimes the stars will sign other items as well. I knew from the website that DC was doing the Signing at 1PM on Saturday, but it didn’t have any other specifics on how this was going to be handled, or what they would sign. This lead to me going back to the DC booth every day and asking them what the process was, and every day up until Saturday I got a different answer. From what I could piece together they would be giving out tickets or wrist bands at the booth Saturday morning for the signing, which meant I needed to get there first thing to find out how to get one.
Upon arrival around 10AM on the show floor on Saturday, the DC show floor reps said they would hand out the wrist bands at 11AM, and tried to do the classic shoo away until they would hand out the tickets. I wasn’t falling for the banana in the tail pipe. I stayed put right where I was. Around 10:30 a line formed and soon after all of the wrist bands were gone leaving a lot of pissed off people who came back at 11. At this point they still didn’t know what they would sign beyond the poster that is given out, or how many pieces.
The next problem was DC had back to back signings at their booth. I believe DC held a Scott Snyder signing before “Person of Interest”, and his line wrapped around DC’s massive booth. People began showing up for “Person of Interest” around 12:30, and initially DC tried the shoo away tactic but eventually created a new line for us to stand in. At this point they STILL didn’t know what they would be signing, or if they would sign anything personal. Aside from my LOST item, I also brought “Batman: The Dark Knight Rises Part 1” with me because Michael Emerson does the voice of the Joker, and I brought “Batman: The Dark Knight” because Jonathan Nolan, the producer of the show, helped write the movie. If I could only have one item signed it was going to be “LOST”.
Once the cast showed up and sat down to start signing it was announced that they would only be signing the posters given out. No personal items were allowed to be signed. Being a big fan of “LOST”, you can’t tell me what I can’t do. When I was in front of Michael Emerson I shoved my “LOST” item in front of him and begged him to sign it, and he did. I was on cloud 9 for the rest of the day. I got to have a little small talk with the rest of the cast as well, while they were signing items. They were all nice and personable.
Finally on Sunday I wanted to do the “666 Park Ave” signing for Terry O’Quinn (LOST) which was also being held at the DC booth. Because of the Person of Interest signing I knew I was going to have to head there first thing in the morning. I arrived at the convention center before 9AM and the show floor didn’t open until 10AM. DC got their crap together a bit and did things a little differently though. They had 3 major TV signings scheduled for Sunday, back to back to back. They created 1 line that everyone got in to get 1 wrist band from the 3 different shows. The first show was “Arrow”, the second was “666 Park Ave”, and the third was “The Following”. Despite getting to the convention center early and going to the DC booth as soon as I was let in, I got the very last “666 Park Ave” wrist band.
So let this be a lesson to you. Arrive EARLY if you want to get something singed. A lot of people once again came by later and were disappointed. I was almost disappointed myself. Once again we got in line later for the 1:30 signing and DC told us they didn’t know what they would sign aside from the poster. Once again when they finally showed up they told us they wouldn’t sign anything other than the poster, and once again I shoved my “LOST” item in front of the appropriate person at the appropriate time and I got it signed. When there are rules like these in place, feel things out and try to bend them if you can, but if you can’t don’t make a big deal of it. I had some small talk with the cast as they were signing and got some of them to laugh, so once again I was super psyched.
To summarize, here are some tips for In-Booth autographs.
- Stop by the booth the day before a signing to try to get info from multiple people. The first person may not have any idea as to what they are talking about
- The day of the autograph signing go to that booth first thing in the morning and see if they tell you the same thing they said the day before.
- If they try to shoo you away and prevent a line from forming, don’t fall for it!
- Arrive early!
- Be extremely polite, and slick if you try to bend the rules.