THOMAS FARRAGHER

In Boston this weekend, it will be super to be a fan

Thousands of fans will descend on the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center starting Friday for three days of Fan Expo Boston.
Thousands of fans will descend on the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center starting Friday for three days of Fan Expo Boston.
David L Ryan/Globe Staff

There’s a big convention in town and if you’re thinking business suits, stylish dresses, and mind-numbing PowerPoint presentations, you’ve wandered into the wrong break-out room.

This is a place of spandex and light sabers. The captain of the show is a guy named James T. Kirk. Fifty years after its premiere, “2001: A Space Odyssey’’ is headed back to Jupiter.

Michael J. Fox will be here. You can probably spot him standing next to that silver DeLorean alongside Christopher Lloyd, who no doubt will slip into his professorial character and exclaim: “Great Scott!”

Advertisement

“There’s a connective tissue here and it’s sort of like the geeks have inherited the Earth,’’ said Rob Paulsen, an acclaimed voice actor who made Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles come alive. “And that’s not a bad thing.’’

No, not a bad thing. A big thing.

A big thing stretched across three days and 250,000 square feet at the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center, which through Sunday becomes the intersection of science fiction and horror, of comic books and fantasy.

It’s a place called Fan Expo Boston (formerly Boston Comic Con) where geniuses and nerds, Baby Boomers and Generation Xers, can walk up to a guy like Gary Lockwood and shake hands with a veteran actor whose real-life experience makes space travel seem sedate.

“I get this a lot,’’ said Lockwood, who portrayed astronaut Frank Poole in the 1968 Stanley Kubrick masterpiece “2001: A Space Odyssey.’’ “An older lady will come up and say: I had such a crush on you since you were a young man. I’ve been getting that since I was 13. I’m a cowboy, dude. I was in the rodeo.’’

Advertisement

Lockwood played football at UCLA. He played Lieutenant Commander Gary Mitchell in Star Trek’s pilot episode. He’s a football fanatic who once taught Kubrick the intricacies of an NFL defense. He’s a survivor too. One night, after dropping a lighted cigarette in his lap while driving his Porsche through Malibu Canyon, he flew off a cliff and lived to tell about.

And he’s still telling tales. Mostly people want to know about Kubrick, whose film was once panned by critics and went on to join most lists of the best films ever made.

Models of superheros (from left) War Machine, Black Cat, and Weapon X on display.
Models of superheros (from left) War Machine, Black Cat, and Weapon X on display.
David L Ryan/Globe Staff

“Stanley is a genius,’’ Lockwood, 81, told me. “The press kind of took me down before it came out because I said I thought we’d made one of the best movies of all time. Normally people say ‘Citizen Kane.’ But if you take any single frame of ‘2001’ and blow it up and look at it, it’s amazing. It holds up as a work of art.’’

Get Metro Headlines in your inbox:
The 10 top local news stories from metro Boston and around New England delivered daily.
Thank you for signing up! Sign up for more newsletters here

Blowing up a single movie frame is just the kind of thing aficionados of this slice of pop culture would do.

They’ll be busy. There’s a Harry Potter-themed escape room. There’s speed dating for sci-fi fanatics. There’s pop culture live shows and panel discussions with those who have dared to go where no man has gone before. And, for $40 to $60, you can get an autograph with people like Keir Dullea, who played astronaut David Bowman opposite Lockwood in Kubrick’s film.

Advertisement

He’s the guy who uttered perhaps the movie’s most famous line: “Open the pod bay doors please, Hal.’’

“A lot of people ask me to write that next to my autograph,’’ said Dullea, 82, who now drives a 2016 golden tan Tesla that comes complete with a computer that does everything for you. Sound familiar?

“I’ve met astronauts who told me that they became astronauts because they were so inspired by the film when they were young people,’’ Dullea said.

Tom Yee packed comic books on a shelf while setting up Thursday for Fan Expo Boston, which will stretch across 250,000 square feet of space in the convention center.
Tom Yee packed comic books on a shelf while setting up Thursday for Fan Expo Boston, which will stretch across 250,000 square feet of space in the convention center.
David L Ryan/Globe Staff

Interactions like that are not unfamiliar to Andrew Moyes, the vice president of Fan Expo Boston, who I met this week as he was attending to last-minute logistics.

He’s 39, a native Australian and the son of a stockbroker who found his passion as an actor. Now, he’s the man behind the scenes at a place where fantasy is the coin of the realm.

“This might seem like an acquired taste,’’ he told me when I asked about the demographics of what he does. “But you can’t judge it. You have to experience it. You have to immerse yourself in it before you say: ‘That’s not for me.’ ’’

Amy Jo Johnson would never say such a thing. She’s a Cape Cod native and the original pink Power Ranger. Her trip home coincides with the 25th anniversary of “Mighty Morphin Power Rangers,’’ a live-action superhero show that debuted in 1993.

“I’m lucky to have been a part of a character who has inspired a bunch of little girls to kick butt. It’s kind of a cool thing,’’ said Johnson, who now has a little girl of her own. “It’s kind of cool to be part of something that’s lasted 25 years. It just kind of blows my mind. It’s a little crazy. I was wearing pink spandex on national television!’’

Fans of these niche Marvel and DC comic titles will likely seek out these vintage copies at Fan Expo Boston.
Fans of these niche Marvel and DC comic titles will likely seek out these vintage copies at Fan Expo Boston.
David L Ryan/Globe Staff

She’s in good company. She’ll be appearing with a bunch of people who’ve had supernatural abilities. People who have made comic book characters come colorfully to life. Actors who’ve been chased by dinosaurs through Jurassic Park.

If you’re the sort of person who rolls their eyes or snickers at that kind of stuff, be careful. These fanatics are everywhere.

I have a colleague – a decorated and accomplished journalist — whose cell phone ring tone is that unmistakable screechy noise the Star Trek communicator makes whenever Captain Kirk urgently needed to speak with Mr. Spock.

I’ll be on the beach with my brother for a week’s vacation later this month and at some point – probably after our second beer – he’ll turn to me, and flash Spock’s famous Vulcan salute: “Live long and prosper.’’

Rob Paulsen, that voice actor who has spoken for 250 animated characters and performed in more than 1,000 TV commercials, cautioned those tempted to look down their nose at that kind of enthusiasm.

“It’s a great example of how to behave with people you don’t know – people who are a little bit different,’’ he said. “People who might be a little socially challenged. But here, they are not only not judged, they are embraced. And that is a beautiful thing to witness.’’

Paulsen, a self-described hockey nut who has shaken hands with hockey immortals like Gordie Howe and Bobby Orr, said he learned how to treat people with grace and respect from those legends.

“I get paid essentially for what got me grounded in high school,’’ said Paulsen. “I know how lucky I am. It’s the second wind of the last act of my career. I know I’m closer to the end than the beginning.

“I have a fan base – or should I say my characters have a fan base. So when they meet me, it’s ultimately an expression of joy. It’s an incredible experience. And I can’t not be there. I really don’t know how to express how much gratitude I have for it.’’

So when you walk around the Seaport District this weekend and you greet people in Spider Man outfits, people with masks, people with swords, tell them to live long and prosper.

Encourage them to please open the pod doors.

Mean it when you say: May the force be with you.