The Pittsburgh Comicon used to be big time. Back in the 1990s, when Larry wore South Park t-shirts and I wore hats for reasons other than to cover up hair loss, the yearly Pittsburgh Comicon was something to look forward to, especially as a way for young fans to meet up with professionals and other fans in a way that didn’t involve weird newsgroups that would inevitably devolve into searching for naked pictures of Pamela Anderson. The Pittsburgh shows of the 1990s featured celebrities and big-time comic book creators whose work went all the way back to the Golden Age of comics in the 1930s and ’40s. Heck, we even got our picture taken with Spawn, both some guy dressed in a costume and the actual Al Simmons, who I’m pretty sure got a booth and handed out stickers or something.
The Pittsburgh Comicons of today just aren’t the same. When the old Monroeville Convention Center closed down several of years ago, I remembering thinking, “thank goodness, now the show can move to a real location, like the state-of-the-art Pittsburgh Convention Center (located conveniently downtown)”. But it turns out that the Comicon did not heed or receive my well-constructed thoughts, complete with parentheses, and to this day they remain in Monroeville, the least convenient location for an event that identifies itself by the adjective “Pittsburgh”. These days, they don’t haul out copies of 1938’s Action Comics #1 anymore only to have a 16-year-old Larry almost knock it and millions of dollars worth of other comics off a shelf, no siree.
And the Pittsburgh Comicon doesn’t seem to have guests like Mart Nodell, creator of Green Lantern, anymore. One good reason for this is that Mr. Nodell has been dead for a few years. Another is that…well, I’m not exactly sure why. But when I think back to the heyday of the show and compare it to what it is now, well…there’s really no comparison, and this is a shame, because Pittsburgh deserves a nice mid-level comic book show. It doesn’t have to be a media extravaganza like those in New York, Chicago or San Diego (or Toronto…or Seattle for that matter), but a comic-centered show with new talent and a better location are musts for the Pittsburgh Comicon to recapture its former glory.
If the show ever regains some of its luster, perhaps I’ll wear a nice silver jumpsuit like our friend Chase Masterson, here. As it is, Larry and I will settle for what we’re now able to do at the Pittsburgh Comicon, which is hastily film an episode of Franks and Beans while getting yelled at to not film an episode of Franks and Beans, namely our 45th episode, “Long Distance”. I believe that at one point we were thinking of naming the episode “Comic-Con” or something of that nature, which would have been a bit of an overstatement, all things considered.
Our episode begins with a collection of establishing shots, which is one of Larry’s editing signatures. There are more exciting ways of introducing the necessary setting information, but with time constraints, this served well enough to get the point across: the episode apparently takes place at a convention with a disinterested Margot Kidder…
…some booths — WAIT, IS THAT THE WORLD FAMOUS WAGON WHEEL COMICS? Publisher of Teddy and the Yeti? Boy, what a coincidence to get that booth, empty in this shot for some reason, captured in a seemingly random sweep of the convention floor.
And also “Franks and Beans” star Jeff McClelland using a flip phone. Oh, wait, this is part of the actual episode.
When I look back at this episode, I think that it’s got a decent joke that’s executed fairly well, but there’s always room for improvement. I’ve often wrung my hands over the quality of the audio on this show. Some times there’s nothing to be done about it, and this is the case with “Long Distance”. In general, convention center employees don’t enjoy productions taking up floor space, and a boom mic (even if we had one) is a pretty big giveaway that you are doing more than just taking creepy videos of the person dressed as Black Cat. Trying to keep a low profile dictated many of our shots and how quickly they were filmed this day…and in our first few shots, we get soft-talking Jeff, the bane of video editing Jeff’s existence. But even so, it’s pretty clear as to what’s going on, and it serves as a pretty good setup for what’s to come next.
If I could change one thing about this episode (besides having Margot Kidder as an actual guest star), it’d be Larry’s first shot, where he talks on the phone and lies about his current whereabouts. A medium shot reveals the same colored walls and what is obviously the same location. Editor Jeff wants a tighter shot that doesn’t reveal the main joke quite as soon.
Even with this early giveaway, the main joke – where Larry and I still talk on the phone even after running into each other – is still a satisfying one, I think. And the “head chest cold” line is a nice addition.
Most episodes of Franks and Beans are filmed over the course of a day. Few span different days, and sometimes this is out of something other a very long shooting session. This episode, though, was probably shot the fastest, because we literally had people telling us to leave as we were trying to get the last shots. Someone even came over the intercom system to tell us to get out of there as they closed up shop. It was a good exercise in getting the hell done really quickly. And then we went and had some Mexican food.
Our action-packed “NO!” ending for this episode features Larry’s worst nightmare. An interesting thing to note is that unless Larry decided to jump out of his bedroom window, he was running toward the flames and not away from them. I’m going to imagine that he was desperately trying to save some of his more unique Dukes of Hazzard memorabilia, and really, can any of us blame him? Other than people who think that running into fires for material possessions is a shortsighted and irresponsible idea that might leave someone dead or horribly burned?
A few years after we filmed this episode, Wagon Wheel Comics got another booth at yet another installment of the Pittsburgh Comicon. It is much the same as it was in this episode, except now they give out panels to people like me, who have no business running a panel. If you’ve got an hour to kill, feel free to relive the magic, just like tens of others have on YouTube: