In quest of plot 

The Lizard of Fun is twitching with excitement, holding a pair of Phantom Menace advance tickets in its paws. It looks at them with a mixture of reverence and frustration.

"I can’t stand it anymore," it says, its eyes bugging out like Jar Jar Binks. "I’ve gotta know everything."

"You can’t wait even just a little bit longer? Not even a day?" I tease.

The Lizard shakes its head. "Nope. Gotta know the whole plot, gotta know it now. We’re going in search of geeks."

We drive out to the Novi Expo Center, where the Motor City Comic Convention is in full swing. "Ah-hah," shouts the Lizard. "One-stop, till-you-drop, pop culture shopping. We’re set."

We wade in among the rows and rows of comic book-filled booths, dodging fans dressed as science fiction or action adventure heroes. Sailor Moon whizzes past us, holding a bag of comic books. Darth Vader towers over us, brandishing a Pepsi.

"You think we’re likely to find anyone who knows something about the new movie here?" I ask. It’s a rhetorical question.

"I’m beginning to wonder," says the Lizard, eyeballing a woman dressed as Princess Leia in her full-metal-bikini guise. "It’s possible these fine folks were too busy building their outfits to bother sleuthing down the unauthorized script."

The Lizard accosts a pair of geeks wearing C-3PO T-shirts. Its eyes gleam fanatically. "You must know. You must."

The geeks shrug. Turns out they just liked the T-shirts.

We stop at a booth displaying Darth Maul posters, dozens of Phantom Menace action figures and postcards with tempting images from the film. "Say, how’s business?" says the Lizard, sidling up to the table.

The disgruntled guy in the booth shrugs. "It’s terrible. Nobody’s buying anything. They’re just here for the autographs. And no, I haven’t seen it."

"Autographs?" says the Lizard. "The actual people are here? Lemme at ’em! They’re bound to know!"

We scamper through a mob of brightly clad wrestlers pretending to liquidate each other. The Lizard sucker-punches a tough-looking guy in a Captain America outfit, and we’re about to get dragged into the ring. I remind the Lizard of its mission.

At the back of the Expo hall, dozens of comic book artists and minor celebrities wait to sign copies of their books, drawings and publicity shots. There’s the guy who played the jawa who shot R2-D2 in Star Wars, and nearby is Kenny Baker, the guy who played R2-D2. ("No animosity left, I’m sure," says the Lizard wisely.)

Behind a long line is Billy Dee Williams, who looks remarkably well-preserved for an aging actor. "I had no idea they’d encased Lando Calrissian in carbonite, too!" says the Lizard. "Now come on, someone here is bound to know the dirt."

The Lizard scampers up and down the line of autograph hounds, polling people on what they think happens in Episode One.

"Oh, Anakin Skywalker turns out to be a cute little kid," says one guy.
"And there’s a lizard kind of character, too," says another.

"This is more frustrating than not knowing anything," I say.

The woman sitting beside Kenny Baker looks bored, so I go and talk to her. Turns out she’s Valerie Gale, Baker’s "lady friend," as she puts it.

"All right, R2-D2’s girlfriend!" shouts the Lizard. "She’s gotta know something."

But as it turns out, not much Star Wars gets discussed in Baker and Gale’s Manchester, England, home. "He just goes in, does his bit and comes home again," says Gale, admitting she hasn’t even seen the movie yet.

"Oh, come on!" says the Lizard. "You mean to say he doesn’t even talk in his sleep? R2-D2 is critical to the plot! He’s a key character! Without him, the whole Rebel Alliance would’ve been crushed!"

Gale smiles and shrugs. "It’s a big job."

Just then, we hear the familiar opening chords of the Star Wars theme music. Nearby, a gathered crowd is transfixed by a television showing the three Phantom Menace trailers, which play in a continuous loop.

"Whoooo!" shouts the Lizard. "Jackpot! Someone here is bound to know more than they’re telling."

It sidles up to the nearest Yoda-shirted viewer, and proceeds to ask leading questions. Judging from its expression, it’s finding out good stuff.

Finally, it tears itself away from the crowd, eager to tell all. I stop it as it takes a deep breath.

"Wait a minute. How do we know that these guys really know what’s going to happen?" I ask. "What if they’re just making it up?"

"Hmmm," says the Lizard. "You’re right. The bit about C-3P0 being a gay android clone of Darth Vader’s mother seemed a little far-fetched. I felt weird paying the guy in line five bucks to hear it."

"You paid to hear a rumor?"

"I paid to get Billy Dee Williams’ autograph, too. Wait a minute. That gives me an idea."

The Lizard whips out a magic marker and grabs the cardboard backing from someone’s copy of Superman No. 1. "Episode One dirt?" it writes. "Ask Me. Tip$ appreciated."

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