Amber Love 13-JULY-2012 I’ve been getting a lot of emails lately from friends asking if I knew I was in the commercial for NatGeo’s new reality show Comic Store Heroes. Yes. I know. Here’s the whole story from my point of view.
The project began almost two years ago. For at least a year, Parthenon Entertainment crew followed me and several other people from comics to see our fandom lives and our regular lives. I was flattered at first. Then after a while of making arrangements to meet up with the crew and producers, I began to feel really inconvenienced.
First, we had originally done a bunch of filming with me dressed as Wonder Woman. The shoot went very well. They said everything was great and that I came across lovely on camera. Then a couple months later I was asked to reshoot the entire day dressed as someone else because they didn’t have legal clearance from DC Comics to show Wonder Woman. This was straw number one. I don’t need clearance from DC to cosplay as Wonder Woman at comic con so why couldn’t I do it? She’s one of my signature characters and a major part of my work for Comic Fusion and SAFE in Hunterdon. Now I was being asked to change that.
Reshooting equals inconvenience. I live out in northwestern New Jersey which is farmland in between Wal-Marts. It’s the middle of nowhere. I don’t go to New York City every weekend; in fact, I go once or twice a year. I don’t have access to mass transit that runs more than once a day for some commuters. I was invited to Midtown Comics “Not at SDCC” party where a lot of costumed fans gathered for artist signings, contests, and socializing. It was over 100 degrees that particular day.
That was last summer when I had thrown out my back. An “old person’s” injury caused by getting out of bed. I’m a freelance model ergo no insurance. When I’m lucky, very lucky, someone will toss me a vicodin. Instead, there are a lot of days when I’m just in pain. This was when a lot of the filming was taking place including New York Comic Con 2011. I was miserable. Walking around in superhero boots and sucked into layers of Spanx and spandex were not things I wanted to do at that time. My injury, my depression and my lack of healthcare have contributed to me gaining a lot of weight – a bit each month so every time there had to be filming, I was terrified that I’d look awful, not fit in my costumes, and when it airs I’d have to deal with the same troll remarks that I get on YouTube now about how fat I am. Filming again and again proportionally added stress and self-loathing.
Parthenon came to Comic Fusion for one of our events there and filmed how our comics community does charity work (our Superhero Weekend where I’m always Wonder Woman). They also went to one of my modeling jobs where they shot footage of me figure modeling (aka, nude modeling). They came to my house, interviewed me, Ashley and my parents. We even went to a local tavern to film more to show things fans do on their time off. The thing is I hardly go out ever because of my current financial situation. So my “time off” is sitting in bed watching my DVD collection but that doesn’t make for interesting television.
The film staff was very nice. They were encouraging every step of the way. Yet I’m not sure if I was completely duped by this. I was under the impression this project was a documentary about comic fans that spend their time in costume and showing other areas of their lives. Discovery Channel rejected it. NatGeo picked it up but only if changes were made. The changes meant gutting the whole thing and making it a reality show out of Midtown Comics where the staff goes on hunts for rare comics and collectibles.
Hmmm. Sounds a lot like Kevin Smith’s Comic Book Men, a show that treated my friends so badly I refuse to watch it. Okay, so even if it’s the same premise, the people are different. I really like all the folks from Midtown. I was part of the Geek Girls’ Sleepover which they graciously hosted for us. The Midtown stores are clean and very organized. I hope I’m making it clear that I don’t have a problem with them.
Now if I were to pursue an acting career, it would be part of the process to learn to accept rejection at auditions, flat out insults about my looks or performance, and get a rough experience in developing a tougher skin. I don’t do that. I’m not an actor. I love being on camera in a talk show host role or as a journalist. I’m not into regurgitating words other people write and that’s what was happening.
At NYCC2011, I was being coached to say that it was the most exciting part of my life, best thing about comics, and that I loved being there. Remember how I was in pain? I wouldn’t say what they wanted. I wouldn’t be anything less than truthful. NYCC is NOT my favorite show. My favorite shows are smaller where I get a real chance to connect to people not walk miles around a con floor and stand in lines. I prefer Baltimore Comic Con and Wild Pig/CGS Supershow but the producers and camera crew couldn’t make it to Baltimore. That’s my speed. I love NYCC for one reason: it’s the only place I get to see certain people and publishers because they don’t go to smaller shows.
One day I saw Facebook posts by a friend who works at Midtown Comics that there was a trailer out for a new show Comic Store Heroes and he was in it. I sent off one email to the producer to see if this was the same project I had been part of. I got no response. I sent off another email to someone else on the crew and got a response explaining that my entire part has been cut from the pilot because the network, despite “really loving my story and character” wanted to go in another direction.
Here’s one of my bones of contention: I’m not “a character.” I’m a person. This was my life they were filming. If I had auditioned to play a “part” and memorized a script and gotten an agent, then I’d be playing “a character.”
I shared very personal parts of my life. My divorces, breakups, my severe depression, my difficult struggles to be healthy with my weight, and those are things that I do not easily trust with people who may edit it to misrepresent who I am. I think production companies are looking for the cheapest way possible to compete with each other. To do that, they come up with fake “reality” TV where people don’t get paid as an actor would but are expected to be “characters” not themselves. An actor – even an extra – would get paid per union regulations. They would get IMDB listings. They would get agents. (etc. etc. etc.)
I know Jill Pantozzi has been interviewed about her role in the show. She also interviewed Thor from Midtown about his experience. There’s a shot of Chris Notarile being interviewed on camera. As far as I know there’s less than three seconds of me at the Midtown “Not at SDCC” party and that’s all I know of my part thus far. It’s on at 8pm tonight on NatGeo. I plan to watch while enjoying a a very strong lemon martini.