Words by Locke Van Kemp

A decade.

A filthy, booze-filled ten years has now passed during which I’ve been fortunate enough to write comic books.

Cue: Paint It Black, Rolling Stones.

In those formative years I've made a lot of mistakes. I dare say, virtually every inebriated decision I've made regarding my chosen career in four-color funny books was either an incredible streak of undeserved luck or a well-warranted and horrifying miscalculation. And yet here I am; still writing, still making questionable choices and – more importantly – still drinking. So, when Woodrocket gave me the ‘okay’ to chronicle the sordid stories of my misbegotten literary youth, I knew it was time to open up the storybook of remarkably shitty convention stories. Here, laid about before you, crude believers, is PART ONE of a new, wickedly and unflatteringly honest feature that I like to call:

The Top Three Weirdest Things That Have Happened To Me At Comic-Cons

1. One time the manager of a Comic-Con asked me to murder a demon with him. It was early in my career, he was clearly not joking, so I sat quietly and listened to the plan. The manager told me, in earnest, that this demon had been haunting his neighborhood, and him in particular, for years. Since it was unable to enter his home (he had magical incantations to protect him) the demon had taken to raping his elderly neighbors. I couldn’t even speak as he explained to me that this was just “a demon’s way of calling out a duel.” A way of slapping you with his glove, if you will. The Demon Murder Team would be lead by “Ronnie, the world’s youngest paranormal psychic” (who, it turned out, was 43). The conjuring and subsequent creature-kill would take place at midnight on the convention floor, and I would be there “simply as back up.” As it turns out, the only thing summoned was the hotel manager who ran us all out fairly quickly, but “young” Ronnie and the manager swore to me that next year’s convention would be a different story (of course in the meantime, think of all those poor elderly neighbors). As I walked away from one of my first Comic-Con guest experiences I made note to never, ever return to this town again.

2. Again, this was early in my convention career days, and I was just learning the ropes regarding convention etiquette. This particular time, I was being flown into Chicago and decided to take my younger brother, who consequently has no interest in comic books and is a notorious drunk. The first day went well enough, although I could tell he was bored and unamused by the costumes, comics and general convention madness. But things picked up when I was invited to a special VIP party for the guest of honor (we will call him Brian Michael Jendis). My brother had already knocked a few back before we got there, and within an hour he had decided that Brian was not worthy of the guest title and stood on the table proclaiming, “I’mma keel you, Brigun Mickul Fendus!” I able was to coax him down, but he’s small and quick, and he managed to escape to the bathroom where he promptly fell face-first onto the tile, smashing open his nose. By the time I caught up, the hotel security was already involved and I had to spend the next 30 minutes convincing them not to call an ambulance. (“Hey, he got drunk in YOUR bar. This could be seen as YOUR fault, Mr. Hotel manager, but I’d just like to take him back to my room.”) Waivers were signed, and we were released on our own recognizance to the elevator. He couldn’t stand up, so I slumped to the floor with him and held him on the ride up to the 22nd floor. Before we got there the doors opened only once when a lady stood wide-eyed, gazing upon what I can only imagine looked like that final scene in Red Dawn with Patrick Swayze and Charlie Sheen. “You might want to take the next one,” I quipped. My brother spent the next day encased in a sleeping bag that he had brought, and we spoke no words about the incident on the flight home. That was over a decade ago, and my brother has never-since set foot in Comic-Con.

3. “I call you out, BatMaster!” screams the costumed man in wrestling ring. “I will eat your cheese for breakfast!” Sometimes you just make a mistake and don’t do your research and end up at a shitty convention. This particular “Comic-Con” (and I use that term oh-so-lightly) has flown me in and proceeded to sit my guest table dead-in-front of their wrestling ring. The moment I see the ring I know we’re in trouble. I’m traveling with my buddy and famed artist Rip Branagan, and watching a smile creep across his face lets me know that, yes, this is indeed trouble. Rip loves shitty cons, the weirder the better, and this one will put him to the test. It works like this: there is a normal comic book convention going on around this wrestling ring, while the combatants are fighting, loudly, 24/7. I get there in the morning, they’re fighting; I leave at the end of the day, the battle rages on. Also, they are apparently afraid of copyright infringement, so while every character is close to an actual superhero or movie icon, they have made not-so-subtle changes. Batmaster, Freddy Cougar, Spider Ma’am, and (my favorite) Iron Hombre. He’s fully clad in Iron Man armor but also wearing a ragged poncho and an oversized sombrero. “Dis is et, amigo! Suckin’ time!“ My ears were constantly ringing from the screaming fools on the microphone, but when Green Sparrow (a Green Arrow and Captain Jack combo, no shit) threw Bark Sampson over the ropes and straight through the middle of my table--- I decided to call it a day. Branagan complained the entire way back to the hotel because he heard that at the end of the convention they were bringing out a live band comprised of all the wrestlers called “Wicked Shit.” What the everloving fuck!

As bad as it was we returned to this same convention several times in the later years and eventually caught a showing of Wicked Shit. It was---a cacophony of unmitigated audio-horror…

…but that’s a story for another day. Until then, I’m Locke Van Kemp and I miss you already.

“Locke” is the writer of several nationally syndicated & critically acclaimed comic books, countless published short stories and the occasional questionable low budget movie. We at Woodrocket don't condone Locke's insanity, but we sure as hell enjoy reading it.