This Saturday saw thousands of enthusiastic pop culture disciples descend on the Phoenix Convention Center with costumes, cameras, cash and a craving for cool collectibles. Insanely large crowds filled the halls at Saturday’s Phoenix Comicon, but the re-imagined lay out of the exhibit floor, with much wider aisles, made for a far less claustrophobic atmosphere than last year’s weekend show.
A slew of spectacular events happened on Saturday, including an appearance by Captain Kirk (William Shatner), Brain Eating Contests, Geek Speed Dating and the Geek Prom. You would have to be faster than Speed Cameron (see Amazing Arizona Comics) to cover more than a handful of the almost 300 programming presentations that went down on Saturday, but here is a recap of some of the incredible events I was able to cover (and a couple that I unfortunately missed).
Spotlight on Erin Gray – While Mr. Shatner was at the top of the must-see list for most of the Science-Fiction geeks at the con today, some of us prefer our commanding officers a little more curvaceous (in the RIGHT places – sorry Bill.) Enter Erin Gray, Colonel Wilma Deering, from the Buck Rogers in the 25th Century movie and television series (1979 – 1981).
Ms. Gray has become a popular regular on the convention circuit and she wowed the large crowd at her panel with stories about her career, how she got into acting and how that led to the celebrity representation agency she now runs (Heroes for Hire). She also talked about her experiences playing one of TV’s first strong female lead roles, Colonel Deering , in the Buck Rogers series.
Erin related a funny and touching story about her two-year old son’s introduction to Hollywood movie-making when she brought him to the Buck Rogers’ Draconian spaceship set. They arrived just as an action scene was being shot that involved Buck (Gil Gerard) running from an explosion, carrying his robot sidekick ‘Twiki’ in his arms. The set exploded and faux rubble covered the hero as he fell to the ground. Erin then noticed her son who was crying, “Mommy, Buck Rogers is dead!”
The hero got up and tossed the boy a big fake boulder and made him laugh, as the crowd in this panel did as well. The group’s excited reaction to Ms. Gray’s appearance proves that Buck Rogers is indeed alive and will remain so for many years to come.
SEE Buck himself (Gil Gerard ) this Sunday at 10:30 a.m. in room 121.
Marvel Comics: Spider-Men – The Spider-Men panel was made up of Marvel Comics’ artists Mike McKone, Victor Olazaba and Mark Brooks, each of who has spent time working on the iconic hero’s comic books. This was a very entertaining panel, but the audience seemed focused mainly on the Spider-Man movies and many cartoon series, which was odd given that they were talking to artists of the comic books. I felt this was a very interesting, if not sad, commentary on how movies have permeated and melded with the world of comics, in that apparently many people do not see the difference between the two mediums.
The panel artists were very gracious nonetheless and had some great answers to silly questions, like “Who would win in a rock, scissors and paper battle between Spider-Man and Deadpool?” Artist Mark Brooks immediately snapped this hilarious answer, “Deadpool would bludgeon [Spidey] in the head with the rock, stab him with the scissors, then cover him with the paper!”
I asked the group why modern comic book covers are so generic and lack any details regarding the story contained within, unlike old-school covers that had word-balloons and art that hinted at the book’s storyline. The consensus was that it often just comes down to a lack of time, in that artists are often commissioned for the cover art long before the comic’s story is even written. Another consideration is the “5-foot rule,” that the artists must adhere to, meaning that the book’s cover must be easily recognized and read from 5-feet away and that it must stand out in order to compete with a wall of other comics. These are all understandable issues, but I still want my word-balloons and to be able to tell what the story is about, just by looking at the cover. [Let’s hear your thoughts on this?]
I also queried the panel about artist/writer relationships in regards to character creation and ownership, using the Stan Lee/Jack Kirby creative controversy as an example. Mr. Brooks summed up his stance by saying that neither creator has ownership rights in this case, because the character(s) belong to the company in the end, so it’s really not a problem that any of these artists have encountered.
This was a very fun and informative panel and Mr. Olazaba promises some very cool things in the works for Peter Parker/Spider-Man for the web-spinner’s 50th anniversary coming up this summer.
Steampunk Weapons – The Steampunk Weapons panel showcased local gizmo designers Diana Given, Mike Syfritt, Mike Strong and the Brose Brothers (Casey, Ben and Mitch – Brose Brothers Productions) who shared some of their creative techniques with a huge crowd of steampunk enthusiasts.
The Victorian-era artisans covered where to find genre-themed weapons and weapon accessories, what type of paints & putties to use on your creation; how to avoid the “steampunk tax” when merchants realize why you want their goods (i.e. clock parts, etc.) for steampunk purposes; and some dos & don’ts of weapon manufacturing, including why you don’t want to use real steam, unless you are a qualified engineer. Hint – it’s very dangerous!
Steampunk Fashion Show – I missed this one (regrettably) but the word on the exhibit floor said it was amazing and included steampunk versions of the Wizard of Oz characters as well as many other marvels of fashion-model mechanization. I’ll be firing up the time-machine (or hitching a ride on the TARDIS that I keep seeing moving about the main convention floor) to go back and check this show out.
Don’t Adjust the Set: Nextgen of Horror Hosts – This is another panel I had the misfortune to miss Saturday evening, but you can bet I’ll be staying up late to see the debut of the Dr. Midnite Show this summer. It’s the new “horror-hosted” cult movie show, created by Jeremiah Wilkerson & Andrea Beesley (Nurse Nocturna and the Midnite Movie Mamacita) that will be both web-based and ‘live’ in valley theaters in venues like the FilmBar and Monsterland.
Don’t Adjust the Set also featured the sultry Becky B, creator of Camp Cinema, a monthly event that gives cult favorites a chance to shine on the big screen once again. Becky will be hosting The Exorcist at the FilmBar on Friday, June 8; and Child’s Play on Friday, June 22, 2012. The goal of both movie hosts is to bring back the fun movie-viewing experience in the tradition of Vampira and Elvira.
Sunday at the Con – Monday is a holiday, so stay and play ALL day at the last day of the 2012 Phoenix Comicon. Programming for the day includes meeting movie stars like Ed Asner, Gil Gerard, Jon Bernthal and Alexis Cruz, Science-Fiction & Fantasy Poetry, How to build your own Dalek, the Phoenix Comicon Film Awards and “Being Nerd in the Workplace.” There will also be a plethora of pimped-out costumes, amazing artists and spectacular shopping opportunities. Don’t miss the last day of the con!