Sunday, February 8, 2015

Atlanta Fantasy Fair 1986 program book

1986! A wonderful time to be a teenager with a solid part time job and some time off in the summer to visit the Atlanta Fantasy Fair! The '86 year was, to my admittedly biased mind, the pinnacle of AFF excitement. Attendance records are spotty but it sure felt like the '86 show was the busiest of all.

front cover by Joe Phillips, back cover by Jim Valentino

The AFF took up all of the convention space in the Omni Hotel downtown, as well as a good portion of the Georgia World Congress Center next door. Guests for '86 included authors like Robert Aspirin, Chris Claremont, Diane Duane, Denny O'Neil, Stan Lee, Steve Jackson, John Varley, and the ubiquitous Brad Strickland,  artists like Ralph Bakshi, Matt Feazell, Kelly Freas, Dave Gibbons, Greg Hildebrandt, Jim Starlin, John Romita, Boris Vallejo, and Bob "Flaming Carrot" Burden, and producers and media personalities like Carl "Robotech" Macek, "Officer Don" Kennedy, Steve Jackson of Steve Jackson Games, and more.

Of course video rooms at the AFF were still a big deal, and you can see that while Star Trek was still the go-to vid for fandom, weird foreign imports like Dr. Who and Japanimation (at this convention, this meant "Macross", "Captain Harlock" and "Mobile Suit Gundam") had staked out territory and were firmly entrenched. Gaming at AFF was held on the American Cafe level of the Omni, a large open-air area full of tables and dice and gamers. Both TSR and the club that would later become Dragon*Con ran tournaments that I avoided because I'm not a gamer.  Rest assured the Star Trek Bloopers and Warner Brothers cartoons were screened in the auditorium along with Ralph Bakshi films and a presentation on the upcoming Marvel Comics movie "Howard The Duck".  How did that one turn out, anyway? 

Saturday's big event was, as it is at every fantasy convention ever, the Costume Contest, which was a must-see event preceded by a film print of "Duck Dogers", as I recall. Other events like talks from artists and writers, a Robotech presentation from Carl Macek, and yet another screening of the Blooper Reels, awaited Sunday revelers. 

Most of the original text for the program book was generated using a very 80s dot matrix printer, which was then used to shoot negatives to burn plates for printing these books on cheap newsprint.  If you're wondering why we all wear glasses now, this is why. 

One of the fascinating elements of this program book is that it featured not one but two short comic book stories by emerging talents featuring their own original super-hero characters engaged in adventures. Since this is 1986 and the black and white comic boom was even then exploding across the racks of comic shops throughout America, such things were expected. Looking back this does seem to be kind of an extravagant waste of pages in an already bloated (72 pages!) book.

Much of the program book was taken up with ads, some from local merchants and others from corporate sponsors like Marvel and DC.

How did that whole "New Universe" thing work out for you there, Marvel?  Between this and the "Howard The Duck" film, the second half of the 80s was not looking so great for the company.

However terrible Marvel's short term future looked, things were turning out great for fans like us; we had a great convention to hang out at, lots of movies to see and comics to buy, whole new universes of Japanese cartoons and British television to expand our minds with, and friends with which to experience it all. Why isn't it 1986 every year? 

the author (left) with friends at what I believe is AFF 1986.

Thanks to Devlin Thompson for this program book.

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