Established A.D. 2000, March 19. Now in our seventh calendar year!
Number 359 (Vol. 8, No. 6). This edition is for the week of February 5--11, 2007.
2007 marked the 18th anniversary of FX, which first appeared in 1990. The show had a strong and steady climb to the top where it peaked in the late '90’s. The next few years were filled with turmoil for all collecting events with the advent of eBay and a drastic shift in the dynamics of collectibles. FX weathered the storm better than most but still began a decent that threatened to take it down as well. In 2004, co-founder Michael Herz, who had left the show in 1997 to pursue other interests, returned to the reigns. According to Herz, if he had not come back in 2004 there would not have been a 2005 show. There still nearly wasn’t when he almost failed to get the lead-time he needed to prepare for the event. Vendors and collectors who had been disappointed by the show’s decline were revitalized by the improvements evident in the 2005 event. Now, a mere two years later, FX is back at the top of its game and also back in the massive Orange County Convention Center, one of only three venues in the Orlando area capable of hosting the show at it’s current size according to Herz.
While this show is no stranger to the convention center, this was the first year it was held in the new section comprising the North and South Halls. This was also the first year that the show was expanded to three days with the traditional Friday evening preview eliminated in favor of regular hours from noon until 8PM. Admission was $40 for a three-day pass or $20 for individual days and parking was $6 at the center or $10 for the dirt lot across the street. Unfortunately attendees unfamiliar with the new section of the convention center could easily become lost or park in the wrong place. Additional signage would be a great improvement for future shows.
Early Friday morning, dealer enthusiasm and expectations were running high. Many vendors who had dropped off in previous years were returning based on the success of recent shows. Adrian Crumpton, a UK dealer specializing in Action Man and Doctor Who merchandise, was looking forward to his second year back, even after a rough start getting to the show due to customs problems. Crumpton explained his diversity of products is a result of Action Man items, his staple from previous years, being more popular in England at the moment while merchandise from the new Doctor Who series is difficult to obtain in the US. Larry Payton of “A to Z Collectibles” based in Enterprise, Florida had stocked his shelves with a wide variety of quality vintage items including Star Wars playsets, lunchboxes, and an impressive selection of Mego action figures. He and his wife Connie, who have stuck with the FX show through feast and famine, felt that the return to the Convention Center was a strong sign of resurgence.
Both FX staff and the abundant group of dealers were ready to roll as the doors opened and the first wave of die-hard collectors stormed in. Booths were filled with everything imaginable from character glasses and model kits to movie props and collecting supplies. The selection of merchandise seemed even broader than previous years with fantasy weapons, costumes, and even video gaming joining the fray. Angel Alicea, who admitted this was his first show, was hard pressed for an answer when asked if there was anything he would like to see here that he hadn’t. He and his nine-year-old son Stephan spent most of the morning buying comic book treasuries and budget priced action figures until their bags were almost too full to carry!
The FX show could certainly boast an expansive selection of vintage merchandise this year. The past trend of dealers saving “higher end” pieces for Internet sales appears to have ceased and collectors looking for action figures, premiums, board games, or even advertising memorabilia from the '40’s-'70’s were not disappointed. The number of comic dealers was markedly increased this year and, in addition to collectibles, there were vendors for storage supplies, insurance, appraisal, and even sales services. Mike Herz’s goal of making this an “everything” show has never been better realized.
My purchases for this year were just about as varied as the merchandise itself but did lean heavily to the vintage side as usual. I picked up a few Action Man and G.I. Joe figures for parts and found a boxed example of the Iron Knight Tank that was made by Hasbro for “The Defenders” line at the very end of the original twelve-inch Joe run. I also purchased a set of seven of the Mego “Planet of the Apes” figures, four apes and all three astronauts. As a result of some trading with one of the dealers who needed vintage Mego parts, I ended up with metal lunch boxes from “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.” and the Channel 44 favorite “Space: 1999”. I also found a great deal on a set of DC Direct action figures from the popular “JSA” comic book. These figures were only released a week prior to the show and retail for $15 each but I got my set of five for an unbelievable $45!
The guest list this year was filled with many celebrities making their first visit to a Florida show. Michael Biehn and Lance Henriksen from “Aliens’ (and the original “Terminator”) were there sharing space with Jennifer Blanc from “Dark Angel”. Also appearing were Ron Glass (dapper Detective Harris on “Barney Miller”), Adam Baldwin (Ricky Linderman from the underrated film “My Bodyguard”) and Christina Hendricks who all three star together on the television series “Firefly”. It may have been extensive research, a good agent, or just happy coincidence, but the 2007 guest list for FX was one of the friendliest groups I have ever encountered.
Several “guys in suits” from “Star Wars” were on hand but diminutive Kenny Baker, who played R2-D2, stood head and shoulders above the rest in terms of career achievements. In addition to playing the most popular droid in the “Star Wars” series, the 72 year old British actor has appeared in a number of genre films including “The Elephant Man”, “Labyrinth”, and the 1980 “Flash Gordon”. I had him autograph my one sheet poster from the film “Time Bandits” where he gets considerable screen time and causes cosmic chaos as “Fidgit”. Sadly, he told me that, counting him, only three of the original six actors who played the Time Bandits are still with us. Baker was not the only “small” guest at the convention with a big list of credits. Felix Silla, best known as Cousin Itt from “The Addams Family” television series and a veteran of Florida shows was also in attendance. While I had met Silla at other shows, I took this opportunity to finally get a signed photo of him in goblin makeup from one the scariest films ever made for television, 1973’s “Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark”.
This brings us back to another guest with a long and impressive track record, Peter Graves. He is probably best remembered for his seven year stint on the “Mission: Impossible” television series (as well as a two year revival that started in 1988) but fans of cheesy science fiction films know him from such classics as “It Conquered the World”, “Beginning of the End” and “Killers from Space”. When I showed him the poster for his 1967 feature “Valley of Mystery” I had brought to be signed, he told me that the film started life as a television pilot called “Stranded”. When Universal saw that the pilot was not going to be picked up, they called Graves and co-star Lois Nettleton back in to film an additional 45 minutes of footage to pad the film out for theatrical release. Had “Stranded” been picked up as a series, Graves would not have been available for “Mission: Impossible” and television viewers might have had a version of “Lost” over thirty years earlier!
One addition this year that did not appear to be particularly popular was the “photo opportunity”. While having a professional photograph of yourself taken with a celebrity seems like a nice option, the $30-$50 price tag made it cost prohibitive. Fortunately this did not appear to conflict with fans being able to take their own personal photographs if they opted to save their money to purchase other merchandise. Based on the lack of people lined up to have their pictures taken with William Katt and Peter Graves, I am guessing this “opportunity” won’t be back next year unless the price is dropped considerably.
A strong dealer turnout, excellent guest selection and unique promotions made the FX 2007 show not only a return to former glory but a standout show of any previous year. The staff was organized and gave the show a professional atmosphere that many events lack. The Friday start up was a luxury and is highly recommended to both collectors who want the best selection and those who want to avoid the crowds. The problem next year won’t be getting dealers or attendees to return but rather finding a way to top 2007. Hail to the King!