Rendezvous with “Rowdy” Roddy

roddy.jpgI’m next in line, and I’m absolutely shaking with nerves.

On the other side of the table is former professional wrestler “Rowdy” Roddy Piper, whose easy smile shows how far away his days of smashing opponents with steel chairs are. We’re at the Wizard World Chicago Comic-Con, and as I step up to the table to have him sign a magazine featuring his likeness, I can’t help but think about how nerdy I must look.

Piper stands up and greets me with a handshake—pro wrestlers are always so kind—and then sits back down to sign. “I don’t know what I was thinking there,” he says, looking at the crazed eyes and kilted costume that defined his character in the 1980s. I tell him that I met him once at a book signing when I was 12 years old and that I wrote a book report on his autobiography (because that’ll really make me sound intelligent). He just smiles, presumably because no true fan can ever think of anything to say when they actually get up to the table, and says, “Well you’ve grown up good despite me.” Small talk with a former champ is never easy.

That’s the memory I’ll take with me from this year’s convention, which attracted tens of thousands of comic book enthusiasts over the weekend. The name Comic-Con can hardly be considered binding: The convention is part flea market, part conference, part art exhibit, and part autograph signing. A friend and I walked the main hall of the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center for hours on Sunday, where we saw dozens of people dressed up as storm troopers, hundreds of young comic-book artists hoping to get their work noticed, and thousands of Marvel Universe action figures. I don’t even want to guess the number of comics for sale. And then there was the line stretching across the hall of people waiting to get Ernie Hudson’s autograph (Hudson, by the way, played Winston Zeddemore in Ghostbusters, and if you already knew his character’s last name, you probably should have been at the convention with me).

B-list celebrities have always had a presence at the convention, but several true comic enthusiasts grumbled over the absence of important comic-book figures like Marvel and DC. Neither company had a booth at the convention, meaning less contact with the industry’s elite and more room for autograph signings with Todd Bridges and Michelle Rodriguez.

By the end of the day, my feet were sore and my wallet was empty, but I was a few autographs and a few comics richer. Since I had volunteered for part of the convention, I was allowed to take away some convention leftovers, and I briefly considered taking Hudson’s placard. I thought better of it, though—people might have thought I was a nerd.

Jake Grubman, ’11

Piper poses for a picture.

Photo courtesy of Iron Ming / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

August 12, 2009