Last weekend, convention-goers trundled around the mazelike warren of booths and kiosks and autograph lines, pointing at stuff, grinning at celebrities, geeking out in a room full of people who were geeking out too. Here's a look at the best moments from Austin Comic Con 2012, from celeb sightings to sci-fi creations.
This year happens to mark the 25th anniversary of ST:TNG, which is an acronym you'll understand if you know that Kunta Kinte grew up to become a blind starship engineer. The highlight of the convention was a panel featuring a reunion of the entire Star Trek: The Next Generation cast.
There I learned that Brent Spiner (Data, natch) is a musician. He recorded an album of '40s pop standards about 20 years ago and recently put together a concept album that features vocals by Luke Skywalker and Fiona Apple's sister. The man has range!
The Star Trek heavies weren't the only autograph-makers in attendance. Pulp-page faithful had to choose between panels with Dean Cain, Eliza Dushku, Sofia Milos, A-list stunt-man Ray Park and CM Punk, this year's It Boy of World Wrestling Entertainment.
Austin's venerated own Museum of the Weird was on hand as well, displaying its trove of creepy treasures and throwing demo shows every half-hour on the half-hour. This thing has been on Sixth Street forever; you should go visit.
No science-fantasy convention would be complete without some science that seemed like fantasy. A bewildering vibration amplifier called the Sonic Quake — brought to market by a man called John, all the way in from Wisconsin — transformed Styrofoam coolers, tabletop surfaces and acoustic guitars into hi-fi speakers. This was accomplished, clearly, by wizard magic. If you missed your chance to cop one at the con, never fear: you can still turn your bathtub into a speaker by ordering online.
Throughout the weekend, the upstairs portion of the space hosted panel discussions on concepts and skills relevant to the business of drawing, writing, reading or liking comics. From talks on digital painting and storytelling techniques to tips, tricks and saving throws for getting into the game industry, fans and amateur artisans alike had their hands full.
And, of course, Starfleet Academy had set up a recruitment station in a high-traffic area of the Comic Con main room. Starfleet's emissaries this weekend were Lloyd and Kathy, Round Rock residents and members of the Ark Angel Cadet Corps.
I asked Lloyd about the advantages of joining Starfleet. Was there a reservist option? How about repatriation programs? Did Starfleet offer job training for discharged or retired servicemembers? Were there tuition breaks available at intergalactic universities? How was the retirement package?
"It's really just an excuse to party," Lloyd said. "Yeah," Kathy said. "We do a lot of partying."
And isn't that what all conventions ought to be about?
Wizard World Austin Comic Con is scheduled to return next year, Nov. 22-24. Different bat time, same bat convention center.