21 July 2017
Size matters (during scheduling)
So, this probably goes without saying, but Comic Con is big. Fucking big. Fan Expo in Toronto has grown steadily over the years, but it pales in comparison to the sheer size, scale, and scope of Comic Con. It takes up several city blocks, with hotels dedicating lobby space to installations; every cafe, restaurant, and bar has Comic Con specials and nods to fan culture (some better than others, like my San Diego ‘office’ The Social Tap, whose happy hour specials include an excellent JedIPA – their pun, not mine), but aside from the physical space is the human scope. There are SO. MANY. PEOPLE. This seems self-evident, but it’s almost impossible to imagine without seeing it. The crowds at Fan Expo are a good primer and have prepared me fairly well for how to get around (ditching my backpack for a small sling bag, packing deodorant, etc), but what they didn’t prepare me for is how when numbers increase, so too do lines and interest for niche events. Panels that, if arrived at early enough – usually an hour or so, in Toronto were accessible here are full at all hours. You have to be absolutely cut-throat about what you want to see and willing to sacrifice anything else to see it (for example, as I write this, there is a line for tickets TO WAIT IN LINE for Hall H tomorrow, that started last night at 8.30pm. It will dissipate at 7.30pm tonight, only to reconvene at 7.30am tomorrow. The first panel is at 11 am.) Yesterday, this manifested as not being able to get into the Kevin Smith-hosted Adam West tribute panel; granted, it was in too small a room – as everyone, myself included, did while he was alive, Comic Con underestimated how much Adam West mattered and matters to the fan community, but the fact remains: a tonne of people wanted to pay their respects to ‘The Bright Knight’. I wasn’t too disappointed to not be able to make it in; I’d have loved to have seen the panel, of course, but the respect and love shown to a man who meant so much is a hard thing to be mad at (besides, Adam West would’ve hated that like he HATED baseball cards). It’s humbling, in the way going to any Convention or even just university or college can be: you go from being the Star Wars guy to a Star Wars guy; and you’re happy for it! You’re amongst your people, folks who share your interests and can speak intelligently about them with you…but it does alter your perception of your individuality a little bit. In this context, niche interests are no longer niche…everyone who is the only person who likes the thing you do is the you of their group…and here there are a goddamn lot of them.
Ask anyone in line for the nerd dance party at Fluxx nightclub last night, hosted by Alpha and Geek & Sundry that wrapped around the block: things only you thought you liked are as popular as playoff games here. You need to plan and sacrifice accordingly.
Snooch to the Nooch! …and a venti skinny latte. Extra hot.
My first real ‘Holy shit, I’m at Comic Con’ moment came courtesy of none of other than Jason Mewes of Jay and Silent Bob fame. I was busy documenting a Harry Potter themed Starbucks and looking forward to stronger caffeine than my motel’s swill, when I turned around and there he was, chilling in line, watching Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire with the rest of us. I got heavy into Kevin Smith’s films in high school, dressing up as both Jay and Silent Bob on different occasions, and for whatever reason randomly meeting Jason Mewes had never crossed my mind. But, there he was. And I was holding up the line by subtly checking over my shoulder every few minutes to confirm that it was him. Huh, I thought, I’m making Jason Mewes wait for coffee. I ordered with the practiced speed of a caffeine addict, balked at the $3.50 USD price (still needed my drug, so whatever) and went to get a selfie with the wall of Public Enemy Number One: Harry Potter posters (impressively, they themed the Starbucks for the Ministry of Magic take-over time period. Awesome and soooo specific) when suddenly, there Mewes was beside me, jumping up and down yelling, “GO HARRY! GO HARRY!” The entire line applauded and laughed. He’s exactly as Kevin Smith describes him from their earliest encounters forward: a genuine, goofy human who just wants to make everyone smile. Possibly because of Mewes’ support, Harry won the challenge and advanced to the next round of the Goblet of Fire challenge and I advanced to the main hall, to see what I could see.
Small though it was, this is destined to be one of my favourite moments at Comic Con; it was unscripted and delightful. Snooch to the nooch, good sir.
So Say We All
As a long time Battlestar Galactica fan, this wasn’t the first time I’d heard most of these people talk about the show, though it was the first time I was seeing them talk about it together. On the panel were Helo, Chief, Boomer, Rosalind, Six, Anders, and David Eick and Ron Moore, the producer and show runner respectively. They swapped a lot of the same stories I’d heard before, but in their always entertaining fashion; many casts talk about being a family, but these guys embody it. By the end of the show, they’d become as close as any of the successful Star Trek casts and it’s fun watching them reunite and poke fun at each other.
You always hope, with an ensemble show, that they are as fun as they seem and happily in BSG’s case, they are (as a side note, Edward James Olmos is apparently a huge prankster. Didn’t think he could be any cooler, I was wrong.)
Two things stood out from this panel, however: the first was that this was the first BSG reunion since Richard Hatch, the original Apollo, Tom Zarek in the reboot, and BSG’s longest and most vehement proponent and defender died earlier this year. This led to some great stories, particularly from Ron Moore, who described how Hatch defended him at an ill-advised Galacticon appearance before the new show had aired, but it also gave the cast time to memorialize this. This culminated in Edward James Olmos (via video) leading the room in a chant of ‘So Say We All’, a fitting tribute to a true hero of the Galactica franchise. Zarek has long been one of my favourite characters (in both the show and in the excellent Battlestar board game, where I insist on roleplaying him as a man of the people. It’s gotten me jailed a few times, even though I was 100% human. When will they learn? #TomZarekForPresident) and I was happy for a moment to eulogize the longstanding champion of the property. Though the guy next to me booed the mention of the reboot in a previous panel, we were united, in that moment, in our mutal respect for an actor who had transcended the shows. Hatch continues to be a unifier of the Galactica family, even after he’s passed.
So say we all.
The second thing that hit me was that eight (EIGHT) years after the end of the series, this reunion panel felt like a Star Trek reunion panel. I was excited for it, delighted by it, and enjoyed the trip down memory lane to those episodes and who and where I was when I watched them. They managed this in such a short amount of time, comparatively, but it’s also the first time in my adult life that I’ve clocked one of these shows that I only watched in adulthood has passed into nostalgia. I was a kid when Star Trek: The Next Generation ended, so it didn’t seem so odd to be nostalgic about it, but I finished Battlestar Galactica the year after I finished university. Time is marching on, as it always must, and it’s a curious thing seeing a big part of my life become a shelved nostalgia piece, to be dusted off and admired, but ultimately long done.
And hell, I’ll be just as excited for the next panel…though I see now that more and more of the shows and properties I care about are going to enter this nostalgia realm…and that’s as it should be. Ironically, it’s just new to me).
- Cosplay Report Day One: Rick Sanchez of Rick and Morty seems to be the most popular character this year; there’s always one: last year it was Eleven from Stranger Things, I’ve seen it be Deadpool for YEARS, Dark Knight Joker was also a big one. I’ve also been struck by how every kid I’ve seen cosplaying Star Wars has been a little girl: I’ve seen Reys, Leias, Jyn Ersos, but also a Cassian, and a Vader (with a skirt. It was adorably menacing). This is the greatest signal that the continued diversification of the franchise is working: little boys have been dressing up as Star Wars characters forever, but too many girls seemed to feel limited to Leia (who, admittedly, is an awesome fucking character to be ‘limited’ to). That’s all changing and it does my heart so glad to see. I knew too many awesome girls when I was a kid who were constantly shuffled into the one girl role when playing with boys (I remember a friend’s frustration with constantly being told she could be Kimberly or Trini but NO ONE ELSE from Power Rangers. She was a Jason, through-and-through). But today, at least, the little girls are dressing like whoever the hell they want to. And that is a beautiful thing. Special mention goes to the family dressed as Rebel Pilots who had pinned on their baby backpack: ‘I can be a backpack while you run’ from the brilliantly bizarre Seagulls video from the Bad Lip Reading series. It was perfect.
- Strangest thing that happened to me yesterday: I watched Orlando Jones marry two nerds to the Jurassic Park theme. Actually. It was all kinds of fun (though, frankly, still 60% less nerdy than my actual wedding).
- Social Tap at J Street and Eighth Street is my favourite kind of place to work: cheap food and beer (Seared Ahi Tuna Slider and JedIPA), free WiFi, Canadian soccer game on (we lost), and a cool breeze.
- I attended the Comic Book Defence Fund opening night party at the Westgate Hotel, which seems WAY TOO FANCY for Comic Con, but I misjudged the nature of the event: the CBDF has done vitally important work over the years to battle misguided censors from banning work such as Art Spiegelman’s seminal Maus amongst other comics over the years. They are a vital protector of freedom of speech in the visual arts and their contribution to culture can’t be understated. To this effect, some of the industry’s greatest contributors donated work to be auctioned off, which although much MUCH higher than my pay grade were awesome to see in person. It’s a damn fancy hotel, but the CBDF deserves it.
- I’d planned on writing a piece about party culture at Comic Con (there are a tonne! If you’re a Torontonian, the closest parallel is tiff parties), however I found myself trapped in a line around the block for the Alpha, Legendary Pictures, Geek & Sundry, and Kraken Rum party. After waiting for an hour I figured I’d rather get home and get caught up on some writing than fly-on-the-wall report from the dance club and so absconded to the motel. Despite my earlier sentiments of denying yourself FOMO (Fear of Missing Out), I found myself enviously eying the photos from the event (hand painted Kraken tattoos!). It looks like people had a blast, which is always great to see, but it also struck me as fascinating and telling of how nerd culture has advanced that there was a line around the block for a dance party (in my early days of nerddom, partying at a dance club would sound not only unpleasant, but impossible). Maybe it’s just a product of my experience, but it struck me as neat, nevertheless.
- Tomorrow morning, I’ll be getting up damned early to try and get into the Westworld: Enter Into Night interactive exhibit. I’m a bit stressed about it, but I really want to see it. Even just seeing the player piano, cranking out Ramin Djawadi’s brilliant player piano cuts of Black Hole Sun, No Surprises, and the Westworld theme amongst others had me fired up to return to that world. We’ll see…
Coming tomorrow: Day Two or, “Not getting to a panel early because you’re writing about how you need to get to panels early…a tragicomedy”