Having successfully rolled out his new memorabilia technology system culminating with a profitable event at Boston Comic Con in August starring Futurama voice actor Billy West (characters including Philip J. Fry), Gary Sohmers is bringing his IMAGE (Interactive Meet and Greet Entertainment) Online and IMAGE In-Person Experiences autograph apparatus to New York Comic Con, Oct. 10-13, at the Javits Center.
Sohmers, whose fall IMAGE events schedule also includes the Chiller Theatre show in Parsippany, N.J., the Rhode Island Comic Con and the Boston Super MegaFest, will again feature West at New York Comic Con, as well as Kathy Najimy, who voices Peggy on King Of The Hill, and fellow Futurama voice actor (Bender) John DiMaggio, who is also the voice of Jake the Dog in Adventure Time.
He’ll have two IMAGE rigs set up to record video of his celebrity autograph signings for authentication and personalization, with the IMAGE In-Person Experience allowing the fan to be in the video with the celebrity when the item is being signed. The IMAGE Online Experience is for those fans who can’t get to the event in person, but order their autographed item online.
Both in-person and online customers get a video emailed immediately documenting the experience as soon as the piece is signed, with the online fan getting the item in the mail as well.
According to Sohmers, the IMAGE system, which he launched last year with a Marky Ramone signing event, can process some 200 video-recorded autograph signings per hour. The merchandise being signed is the celebrity’s own merchandise, or their licensee’s, and is pre-purchased.
“We were very happy with the response from the fans and from Marky and his management—who were above and beyond the call of duty when it came to being patient with our understandable first-time technical glitches,” says Sohmers, who has since held successful IMAGE events with the likes of Mickey Dolenz, Butch Patrick, Jane Monheit and Andrew W.K.
“The main thing is the authenticity of the autograph,” says Sohmers. “If you want to invest in an autograph, you want to make sure it’s real. Marky said several times that he’d seen people selling stuff online that he knew he’d never signed, and that he didn’t want his fans to get ripped off—and I think most celebrities embrace that concern.”
Ramone, who will rejoin Sohmers Nov. 2 and 3 at the Rhode Island Comic Con, signed his original limited edition drumhead art pieces.
“I think it’s ingenious,” says Billy West. “I spend time with people in the autograph line, and [IMAGE] streamlines the whole process, and makes people feel like they’re being handled personally.
Besides Futurama, West is famed for, among other things, his role as Ren in The Ren & Stimpy Show, voices for commercials (characters currently including the Red M&M and Buzz the Honey Nut Cheerios Bee) and his years as a radio regular on The Howard Stern Show.
"It means an awful lot to people, that autographs are genuine,” West notes, citing another IMAGE benefit. “You get right up close and personal to see what happens—and know what you’re getting.”
Significant for West, too, is that the system allows him to “treat people with such respect.”
"I love that, because they love-bomb me! You might have a bad day, and they give you such validation: Everybody knows what you do, and they know who you are just from hearing your voice.”
[The Examiner wrote the first book on The Ramones, Ramones--An American Band. He also worked for Gary Sohmers' Madcity Music Sheet in Madison, Wis., in the 1970s.]
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