By Jason Offutt
Author’s note: This is the first in a three-part series on my day at Planet Comicon in Kansas City, Mo.
The Lone Ranger strode tall in the parking garage.
This wasn’t Clayton Moore’s 1950s powder blue Lone Ranger, this was 6’5” Armie Hammer’s Lone Ranger from Disney’s 2013 epic failure of the same name.
The guy walked by me as I stepped from the minivan (don’t judge me) into the cold, dank concrete dungeon between Bartle Hall Convention Center and Municipal Auditorium. Dressed in black and topped with a white cowboy hat, the masked man tipped that hat, then walked around a corner and disappeared.
Meeting the Lone Ranger wasn’t strange, at least not during Planet Comicon. I was prepared for more cosplay (costume play) convention goers in all sorts of garb. That was part of the fun.
Billed as “Kansas City’s Number One Comic Book and Pop Culture Convention,” the worldwide series of mass fandom was celebrating its 13th year in Kansas City and I was there to take in everything a pop-culture nerd like myself could find.
Growing up in a time before cable television, I was subject to whatever programs the handful of local broadcast stations had to offer. That’s where I discovered “Star Trek,” and watched the intrepid Capt. James T. Kirk save the universe in reruns night after night after night.
That’s one of the reasons I came to this science fiction/fantasy/comic book/artfest. William Shatner, who portrayed Kirk for three seasons and six movies, was there. I just wanted to see him in person. All my childhood heroes are dying of old age, so this was probably my last shot.
The second reason can wait. I’ll meet that guy later.
The “Star Wars” theme played just under the din of the crowd as I rode the elevator up to the main floor. It was like being on another planet.
Star Fleet uniforms mingled with robe-clad Jedi Knights. Festivalgoers dressed as Marvel and DC Comics heroes talked and laughed about whatever superheroes find funny, probably wardrobe malfunctions. People of every age, social class, race, profession and genre coexisted here. No loud voices, no pushing, just smiles. We’re the people who should be in charge of things, not politicians. The geek shall inherit the earth.
I walked through artist row with the plan to work myself to the other side of the great room to the rows of celebrities. The entire cast of “Star Trek: The Next Generation” was there (well, except Patrick Stewart, presumably because he still has an acting job), as well as the actor who played the wizard Radagast in “The Hobbit”, Margot Kidder (Lois Lane from the Christopher Reeves “Superman” movies), the blue Power Ranger, and, well, the second reason I was attending Planet Comicon – Lee Majors.
“Lee Majors is going to be there,” I told my wife while trying to convince her a grown man needed to attend a science fiction convention.
“Who?” she asked.
“LEE MAJORS,” I said again, like an American tourist who thinks they can make a foreign waiter understand English simply by talking louder.
“Yeah. I still don’t know who that is.”
“He was the Six Million Dollar Man.”
She shrugged her shoulders.
“He had bionic legs. I still have his action figure. It’s missing an arm, though.”
She patted my arm that was thankfully still attached. “Have a good time, honey.”
“He fooled around with Farrah Fawcett.”
My wife frowned. “Why would you know that?”
“Well.” My voice started to trail off. “They were married once. I can only assume.”
I’m not sure, but I think at that point she pushed me out of the house.