Monday, April 26, 2010

Wowza! Thrills, Chills and Geeks Galore at the 2010 Calgary Comic Con

Hey, it's been a while since I said anything and damn if it doesn't feel good to be back. So I just went to central-Canada's biggest comic, gaming, anime, and Sci-Fi extravaganza geekgasm; the 2010 Calgary Comic and Entertainment Expo; and it was a most worthy and bodacious event!

This was the second convention that I've ever been to, and if it wasn't for the fact that I met Adam West at my first Con, I'd totally say this one was the top of my list. This Con had everything a major Con needs: row after row of vendors shlocking their best deals on comics, trade paper backs, non-sport collectible cards, gaming, anime, and enough brightly painted plastic toys to choke a geeky elephant; tables full of happy, cranky, excited, and slightly apprehensive celebrities ready to meet and greet their fan-legions; and armies of obsessive fans dressed head to toe in their lovingly home-made costume/devotional robes. It was a mess, an absolute zoo of geeky-fan flesh, an ocean of brightly coloured fabric, a torrent of human was AMAZING! (and maybe just a little overwhelming.)

It's really hard to nail down a favourite aspect of a good Con. On one hand, it is not only the perfect place to indulge one's collectible-obsessions, but also one where you can do so relatively guilt free. For instance, I'm a major non-sport collectible card freak(non-sport means any cards that deal with super-heroes, comics, movies, games, T.V., or anything else that is not a sport). I absolutely love these things. A complete collection organized into those lovely 9-card plastic pages acts as not only a modular art-book, but also an encyclopedia of anecdotal information about your favourite media. Normally a full set of cards will set you back anywhere from $20-$100 depending on rarity; but at the convention, sets average from $5-$10 depending on size! I was able to get 6, hundred-card sets for less than $60 and that includes fan-boy favourites like the 1992 and 93 Marvel series 3 and 4 sets (which I've wanted for SO long) !!! You like toys, comics, games? I guarantee you will find a deal at a Con. that you have been waiting for since before you could earn your own disposable income.

Then there's the fellow fans and their fabulous, flamboyant, festival costumes! As a fan, there's just something wonderful about being in a room full of fellow devotees, an undeniable sense of camaraderie, joy, and acceptance that flows out of everyone and creates the freedom to fully express your love of un-popular media. When you're walking along and suddenly come face-to-painted face with a six-foot tall, head-to-toe, full-body Cheetara, you know she won't mind if you wanna gush about how much you love Thundercats.
And let's not forget the celebrities, they're the whole reason a Con exists in the first place. For the most part, the celebrities are AWESOME! At any given Con. there will be a list of creators in every genre and media style you can imagine ready to meet and greet their mostly appreciative public. At both of the Con's I've been to the celebrities were organized into two areas: the “artists-alley”, where your favourite comic artists and writers hang out, and the more “high-profile” guests area reserved exclusively for actors. My favourite experiences always seem to happen with the artists and writers in artists-alley. The alley consists of long tables with three or four creators per isle sitting under a small name-plaques modestly advertising the presence of such greats as Scott Morse, Bruce Timm, Doug Ten Naple, Steven Niles, and Eric Powell (which only barely scratches the surface of amazing creators who graced this year's Calgary-Con).

The lines to meet these creators are usually small, and if you keep an open eye you can usually find a time during the day when there is no one in line and you can walk right up to your favourite creator and have a short chat. Most fans bring along a sketch-book of blank pages or sometimes a specialized convention art-book with pages from the attending creators that the creators can sign, and if they're pencillers, most will do a small sketch; absolutely free of charge! Best of all, you get to meet the people behind the names of your favourite creations. Almost everyone I met in artists alley was not only amazingly friendly, but seemed genuinely humbled by the fact that I liked their creations so much; they were such amazing people, I kinda love their works even more now... Plus, if you're a fellow artist you get to meet and network with professional creators who are always looking for a fresh creative mind to play with. Artists love to tell how they got where they are and more often than not are thrilled to see what you've created and even give tips on how you can improve and relate some of the steps to take to start getting into the business.

Then there's the “main-guests” area, which I find to be much less fun. First, the lines to meet these “major” celebrities are WAY longer than in artists-alley, usually consisting of a snaking row of felt-covered partitions that could take hours to make your way through, after which you get to view a table of snap-shots of the actor you're about to meet, which will cost anywhere from $20-40 depending on the degree of “celebrity” that each person offers, then you get a 10-30 second period during which the actor takes their photo, writes their name, listens to your comments or questions, smiles as they hand back the photo and make some easy cash. At one point Malcolm McDowell's line was really small so I wandered in and made it to the front before deciding that despite my intense love of McDowell's works, I couldn't justify paying him $30 dollars to scribble his name on a picture of his face. How could I justify that kind of expense when creators like Scott Morse and Eric Powell gave me a sketch that they personally created, on the spot before my eyes, for FREE?!? Or how about Tom Grummett, local Saskatoon artist who does $20 sketches at Free Comic Book Day and donates all of the proceeds to charity? There's got to be a better way.

Finally, no convention would be complete without celebrity panels. This is where the creators that attend the Con do open panel discussions on any number of topics based on their area of expertise where they get to pontificate on their creative process and field questions from fans. Panels are just like meeting celebrities, sometimes it's great, sometimes its a waste of time. For example, I attended a panel by Scott Morse on the challenges of working in 2D and 3D animation which was absolutely wonderful. Scott started by telling us about his career as an animator starting out as an assistant to the one and only Chuck Jones at Warner Brothers before transitioning his way through a variety of animation and self-published comic book gigs to Pixar studios where he currently works as a story artist. Then he opened the floor to the fans and proceeded to lead a wonderful discussion on animation and the style, challenges, and implications of animating in 2D and 3D; as an art-aficionado and a cartoon fan it was spectacular.

Then I went to an X-Men panel starring Chris Clairmont and Len Wein, the creative team responsible for the all-new all-different X-Men; Colossus, Storm, Night Crawler, and Wolverine as well as the death of Phoenix story line. This panel had no preamble and went straight to the fan questions, which is all well and good, but Chirs and Len were downright rude to some of their fans and their questions. One of the first people to stand up and ask a question asked why Len Wein decided to make Wolverine come from Alberta Canada (where the Con was taking place) and all Len and Chris could say was how much they hated the Origin story-line and what a mistake it was to finally reveal Wolverine's past (yeah, like we could do with another 30 years of the same story elements with no innovation over and over again...), it wasn't until three or four questions later when by fluke of another fans question they mentioned that X-Men was selling better in other countries than the U.S. so they decided to make the new X-Men come from other countries, including Canada. I left the panel early when a Con-worker brought out Len and Chris's lunch sandwiches which they proceeded to eat as they talked to the fans; I mean seriously guys, really? You can't wait 30 minutes to tuck into your lunch so you're not talking to your fans through a mouthful of food?!? Grow up, I learned that lesson back in preschool.

All in all this con was a beyond amazing experience; one that I truly recommend to any and all pop-culture fans. Line-ups can be a hassle, but you pick and choose your battles. For some, standing in line for 2 hours to meet Leonard Nimoy is a sacrifice you'd gladly lay down, for others it is more fun to sneak a picture from 20 ft. away like an overly obsessed stalker-fan-boy then go spend 10 minutes in a face to face conversation with Eric Powell who is thrilled that you appreciate the deeper elements of humanity he managed to bury under 22 pages of fart-jokes. You get to immerse yourself in your favourite culture, you are surrounded by legions of fellow fans and friends ready to be made, and you get to meet the creators that have touched your heart, thrilled your senses, and expanded your mind with books, movies, comics and cartoons; there is no greater good for a fan.

Stay tuned for future posts detailing the juicy gossip about upcoming projects by the above mentioned creators! Till then, "face front true believers"!  --Big G

*(pics from the Con will be forthcoming...I'm tired and it's late)*

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