Monday, February 23, 2009

Aargh! Romero Zombies Come To Charlotte.

George Romero appeared at the Heroes Aren’t Hard To Find comics shop in Charlotte, NC on Friday, February 20, 2009, in conjunction with The Light Factory's film retrospective "American Zombie," going on all weekend. AND the signing held at the Heroes store was the only public autograph opportunity scheduled for Mr. Romero for the entire weekend!

Fans of the famed horror directors work (1968’s original Night of the Living Dead, 1978’s original Dawn of the Dead, 1985’s original Day of the Dead, 1973’s The Crazies, 1977’s Martin, 1982’s Creepshow, 1993’s The Dark Half, etc.) arrived early – en mass – to receive a chit good for an autograph. Signed items were signaled to run $15 a pop, not too bad for a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. My groups numbers were 207 & 208, which may sound high, but literally HUNDREDS of people swamped both the interior and exterior of the local comics shop. Romero’s presence was meant to last from 3pm until 5pm; however even extending his signing for an additional hour didn’t guarantee us an autograph. As of when we bailed out of the event to go in search of sustenance at 4:45pm, the line was only up to about number 75 (give or take).

This is my only real criticism of this planned event. Considering that folks showed up early and then cordially hung out all day hoping to say a few words to Romero and get an autograph, the stores staff didn’t make much of an effort to move the large crowd through. There was no shoving, scuffling or grumbling going on from the mob, everyone seemed rather fine with the wait, but they had about 20 items available for Mr. Romero to sign and they were allowing the vast majority of people to take their own good time in selecting which one they wanted; as if nobody else was present. It dramatically bogged down the works! In my opinion, the very same Heroes gang who organizes the annual Heroes Convention – running for over 26 years – dropped the ball.

It was well over an hour and a half (out of a two hour event) BEFORE they decided that it might be a good idea to limit the number of signatures that were being requested individually to two-per-person. The event was promoted rather heavily in the local area through print and media venues, above and beyond the normal comic scene crowd. Remember, this event was held in support of a three day festival. I understand that the Heroes staff may have been a bit overwhelmed by the response, but again, the hundreds that arrived were really relaxed and chilled, and you know what, maybe that was the problem here.

People just weren’t bitching enough!

I heard comments being made by Light Factory reps as we left, that time would be set aside that evening to accommodate chit-holders who also attended the screening of “Night of the Living Dead”, but whether this happened or not, I couldn’t tell you. In the photos [above;top] Mr. Romero is - of course - the one signing stuff. Shelton Drum (wearing a long-sleeved blue t-shirt), the owner of Heroes Aren't Hard To Find, sits beside Romero and the unknown dude who stuck his head into one the shots remains nameless (like all good little zombies).

Three of us drove from out of state (or town) to “see” George Romero and despite our lack of autographs, we did manage to at least "see" him. I had fun, visited with friends, ate some great barbecue (another hour or so away) and picked up a few comics, but I have seen similar events over the years that were far, far better organized. Even by the same folks that held this one!

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