It’s fascinating what orbits people select for their few circuits around the sun. Everyone must occasionally marvel at the choices of others. Undoubtedly there are those who would wonder agape why a man with adequately compensated career and pleasant social outlets would incinerate his finite free time crafting blog shitposts. It’s a valid question. I think Zimbabwe is a valid answer. But many would not.
And some of them are presently standing in line to pay an actor for his scrawl on a T-shirt. I honestly laughed in bemusement reading this story. What comfortable bubbles we cultivate for ourselves.
It’s like a scene from Blow or Goodfellas: a room full of money with professional cash counters. This isn’t a description of a drug den or casino cage. It’s the backroom of a fan festival, says one producer familiar with such events, where thousands of die-hards — many in costume — pay admission to fork over bigger bucks for autographs and photos with their favorite stars. And nearly all of this money is going into the pockets of talent big and small who, in many cases, now can earn more from weekend fan events than from the shows and movies making them famous.
Fan conventions, where stars can take home hundreds of thousands of dollars in exchange for a few hours of time, once were the domain of has-beens and sci-fi novelties. But the business has become so lucrative — think $500,000 for Captain America’s Chris Evans or The Walking Dead favorite Norman Reedus to appear — that current TV and film stars are popping up at events like Salt Lake City Comic-Con and Heroes and Villains Fan Fest.
Here’s how it works: Actors typically ask for a price guarantee — often paid up front — to show up, sign autographs, pose for photos and sometimes take part in a panel discussion or two. Most conventions charge an entry fee, collect $5 for every autograph and $10 per photo (with a photographer taking another $10). The stars — who receive luxury travel and accommodations — pocket the rest. Anything over the guarantee is icing on the cake.
According to multiple sources familiar with convention deals, the basic guarantee rate for genre stars is in the $5,000 to $10,000 range per appearance — with leads on such current TV series as The Walking Dead, Once Upon a Time, Supernatural, The Vampire Diaries, Netflix’s Marvel shows and The CW’s DC Comics fare commanding anywhere from $35,000 to $250,000 and up, depending on their popularity and the frequency with which they appear. At top conventions, it’s not uncommon for a star to earn anywhere from $50,000 to $100,000 on top of their guarantee (more if they spend extra time signing).
The most sought-after stars include Reedus (one convention owner says he easily could command a $200,000 guarantee and pocket $500,000 per weekend), Andrew Lincoln (who donates his proceeds to charity), Star Wars great Mark Hamill and anyone who played Doctor Who. Sources say ex-Doctor Matt Smith collected $250,000 per weekend at a string of recent events, with any former Doctor said to easily score six figures. Smith’s tally recently was doubled by Marvel film heroes, with the stars netting more than $500,000 each in one Atlanta weekend thanks to an overwhelming demand and rare convention appearances.
Making them more appealing, some of the smaller, privately owned events have been known to deal in cash (though many are starting to clean up their books as audits hit the circuit). “I know someone who literally takes garbage bags full of $20s with him back home,” says one convention regular who wished not to be identified…
I have no idea how much lighter a man’s wallet typically becomes attending one of these supplication sessions. But if multiple ‘stars’ are having to haul their untaxed 20s in hefty bags, then the sheep are truly being sheared. If nothing else it’s an impressive visual when you realize that just a single currency band of that denomination is $2,000. Plainly pretending pays better than doing…which is probably why congressmen never retire.
Though the fiscal dedication of fiction fandom is truly striking. Many of these people are of obviously modest means, and in that constricted range of discretionary income they prioritize…signatures? Can you cash an actor’s check with one of those? And what is the value of a photo with a stranger who play-acts as a costumed mutant? Do people return home thinking Tick-Man is now their confederate?
I suppose it’s partially for bragging opportunity. Though how one summons the discipline to actually boast about bribing some vacuous Hollywood narcissist into tolerating a photo is lost on me.
Though I’m being slightly facetious in these musings. Everyone has their preferred diversions, as entertainment is a universal yearning. Celebrity has always exerted a certain gravity on the masses. Though historically this acclaim was earned by more arduous means than merely flouncing in tights for the camera. Fame used to be a function of achievement. In misty memory it even could accrue in virtue’s cause. Little so today. It is this migrating emotional attachment to make believe that seems so novel.
I wonder to what extent (if any) this blossoming comic convention industry is a result of our engineered cultural disintegration. Whites don’t permit themselves a place of organic fellowship and sovereign habitat in the material world, so they contrive one in a fictional zombie apocalypse (a perhaps more accurate metaphor than Hollywood would care to admit). A man can proudly defend his land and people in Westeros, as he may not in the West. His tribal instincts become sublimated to fictional environments (or football). He yearns for what he can not articulate and would be demeaned for if he could. Actors laboring under the weight of $20s are an unsurprising result.
Though I’m sure not all comic-coners seek belonging in this age of ennui. Some are just acolytes in any world–the cultural equivalent of pilot fish.
As mentioned, we all nurture our own bubbles. And each one requires care be taken over the world around it. After all, the last thing you want when forking over cash for the Walking Dead is to see them come running.