This past weekend saw Anime Boston, the northeast’s largest convention dedicated to anime, manga, and Japanese culture, held at the Hynes Convention Center. Several thousand otaku, the majority of which in cosplay, braved the cold and snow to mingle with their fellow fans. On Friday, a band named The Beach Episode, greeted con-goers with renditions of popular anime, video game, and cartoon theme songs such as The Legend of Zelda.
One of the highlights of this year’s show was the grand premiere of the English dub of the eagerly anticipated movie Sword Art Online: Ordinal Scale. Following the events of the popular television series, SAO: Ordinal Scale finds protagonists Kirito, Asuna, and their friends once again playing a video game, but this time instead of immersing themselves in a digital realm a new technology allows for enhanced reality where players engage in combat in the real world against virtual foes. Naturally, a sinister plot threatens them once again.
Special guest Cherami Leigh was on hand for a Q&A session in which she discussed her ten years of working in the voice acting industry. When asked about her experience making this movie and reprising the role of Asuna, Ms. Leigh said, “She goes through a lot of changes in the movie and her relationship with Kirito grows. You kind of see how much of a positive effect being in SAO series affected her.”
She went on to say that it spoke to real life issues in that many fans of games and animation are misunderstood by others in their lives who do understand their passion. “I think that something for people, specifically parents, who don’t think that games or anime can positively affect someone. There are things you learn about yourself, gain confidence levels, and things you didn’t know you had in when you’re playing once you step outside of yourself and realize, “I can do this.” A lot of the characters in the series realize this in the movie. So I hope that it opens people’s eyes that aren’t as accepting of anime or games.”
In discussing the themes of technology taking over one’s life Ms. Leigh said, “But at the same time there’s that cautionary tale that’s been very prevalent with SAO of being careful with what technology is now able to do, like getting trapped in this virtual world or what it might do to our brains and the crazy things that happen. It’s definitely scary but it’s really cool and I was excited to work on it.”
She also mentioned that the recording sessions gave her a rare opportunity to collaborate with the Japanese creators, “I watched it subbed and met the creative team from Japan and they were able to guide me in some of my recording sessions which is very rare to have the director, Tomohiko Ito, present. He told me about the process of recording in Japan and there were a couple of moments he said he wanted to be sure were exactly right for this version. It was great to have our English writer/director, Alex von David, and the Japanese creative team working together.”
Fellow voice actor Patrick Seitz, who plays Agil in SAO, was also a guest of Anime Boston 2017. He said following the screening, “The SAO fans were really hyped for this movie. It’s great to see that reaction and that the fanbase is still so strong after all these years. I liked that the movie was an original story continued the series and not a rehash of previous episodes.”
Ms. Leigh was quick to point out that one does not have to any prior knowledge to enjoy the movie. “They did a really great job with the movie because you don’t have to have seen the entire series in order to watch (it). “You can pick up with the movie and they’ll do some exposition to catch you up on what you might have missed. My husband hadn’t seen much of the series when he watched the movie (in its original Japanese) and it didn’t affect his awareness or catching up with the story at all.”
Sword Art Online: Ordinal Scale hits theaters on April 22, 2017. For further information, please go to their website: sao-movie.net/us
The cast and Executive Producers of Agents of SHIELD spoke to the media at Wondercon 2017, and Convention Scene’s own Richard Oh was there!
In 2014, I began my career at Convention Scene with an article about Ichibancon, the Concord, NC anime convention that is now a staple of my family schedule. “Ichiban” means “number 1” in Japanese, a fitting appellation for a convention held over New Year’s Eve weekend.
We have attended since 2012, when my daughter was fourteen and stayed up all night in her bedroom watching one anime after another. Now she is nineteen, and she stays up all night in her bedroom watching one anime after another. She does have a job as a Pizza Hut deliverer, which is why she couldn’t go to the convention. This year was her first time missing Ichibancon, and I hated that for her.
I wrote in 2014 that the convention had grown. After spending its first three years at the Blake Hotel in Charlotte—which, after pissing off more Democrats than Donald Trump, was split into two hotels in 2013—Ichibancon moved to the larger, family-friendlier Embassy Suites in nearby Concord. It needs to move again. Fridays are usually the slowest days at conventions, but by 5:00pm on that Friday, this is where people were parking.
I stuck my head into Vic Mignogna’s Q&A on Saturday, and it was less than standing-room only. A con staffer asked me to “choose another place to enjoy the presentation.” That sounds feng shui and all, but it was like telling a sardine, “You might be more comfortable at that end of the tin.” Managing growth is a problem all conventions face, and it is a good problem. Means you’re doing something right.
Ichibancon’s sister convention, Triad Anime Con, is moving this year from a hotel to the roomier Greensboro Coliseum. Ichibancon could step up to the Charlotte Convention Center, but that might be cost-prohibitive. Still, more space should be a priority in the next year or two.
Another consideration of managing growth is figuring out ways to smooth the experience for attendees. For that, Ichibancon developed its first mobile device app.
The app was great for updates. Throughout the weekend, I got announcements for session delays and cancellations, price changes, and other things. The app was also a repository for policies and maps, relieving attendees of having to carry a program. Here, for instance, is the autograph policy.
One criticism of the app is that I couldn’t find a master list of changes and updates. Once, I saw an update pop up, but it vanished before I could read it all, so I still didn’t know what was going on. This left me to dig through the calendar to find the change.
The best part of Ichibancon has always been its guests. We have seen Vic Mignogna there every year, and I still marvel at his star power. For a 5:00pm autograph session, his line started forming at 3:30. By 4:15, it stretched out of the room, around the corner, and down the hall. My colleague, Michaela McPherson, interviewed Vic last year, and I recommend the read.
I got a chance this year to talk to Quinton Flynn, a veteran of video game and anime voice work.
How did you get started doing voice acting?
Well, the long story short is, I got a voiceover agent in Los Angeles, and he started providing me with copy to audition. I started auditioning in a recording booth at their offices, or I would go to outside casting director offices to record me in a booth reading from copy, making it come alive on the page. Eventually, I started booking work for commercials on radio, some on TV, and then I started doing animation, where I voiced the Human Torch and Johnny in The Real Adventures of Johnny Quest. And then I replaced Nathan Lane in the role of Timon in The Adventures of Timon and Pumba.
The longer answer is that I started doing impressions as a little boy. All through school, I did theater. I was also into rock and roll, so I had rock bands, and in college, I studied radio, television, and film. Once I got out of the university, I took some local voiceover workshop classes in Cleveland. Eventually, I knew I had to bounce to one of the major cities. That city became L.A. I took some animation voiceover workshops, and in that process, made a proper demo to go around knocking on doors in Hollywood that eventually yielded me an agent who got me to that place where I started answering your question.
You also do video games. What are the differences in voicing for a video game as opposed to a TV show?
Well, in video games, it is nonlinear recording. You might show up to a session and be jumping around in the script to different time lines, and you have to kind of turn on a dime. It’s great if one has an improvisational background, which I do, and if one is easily flexible in terms of taking direction and interpretation and using their mind in the way we always did as children: pure imagination.
That is different from an animated series in that, more often than not, we record alone for a video game. It’s just me in the booth. On the other side of the glass is the engineer who is working the knobs and the buttons and the faders. There is a director and sometimes a writer and producer.
In an animated series, if it is an original one, like when I did Johnny Quest or Timon and Pumba, or when I guested on Scooby-Doo or Animaniacs, the whole cast would be in there, and we would start the script from beginning to end, so you’d have the whole story in linear fashion. We would often get the script beforehand, and we’d get to read it and know it, and we’d also have the opportunity to work off one another. So you’d have some fun organic things happening in the moment. Sometimes, we’d be allowed to improvise, and then you’d have some kind of camaraderie.
Interestingly enough, in the video game world, depending on the writers and producers and actors, but largely those in charge of the cutting and editing, they have to be very sharp and clear about the scenes they are recording separately, so that when they bring the characters together, such as Axel and Roxas in the Kingdom Hearts series, they actually sound like they are talking to one another in the same scene, and I can tell you that, listening to the playthrough on YouTube, I was even blown away. It sounded like Jesse McCartney [who voices Roxas] and I were in the same room.
But you weren’t? You recorded separately, perhaps not on the same day?
No, never. In fact, I met Jesse at a release party the first time we had done Kingdom Hearts. We had said hello in passing, but we didn’t really know who we were to each other in the game. I’ve never seen him since. And yet, the relationship and the end result is very heartwarming, and I love it.
When I was growing up, video games didn’t have voice actors, and I’m always surprised at the number of video game fans who show up at conventions.
Oh, it’s true. I’ve done a huge body of work in animation, and some like it. Then I’ve done anime, which I have a bigger fan base for. And then, as you said, I’ve done video games, and the fan base is crazy. The way these things are released nowadays, they’re making major motion picture money, topping some of the biggest films that are coming out.
I once heard that the video game industry is bigger than the motion picture industry and the music industry combined.
Yeah, they’re making money hand over fist.
When you are preparing to voice a character, how do you get into the role?
Usually, I’m given a breakdown of the character, which tells me where the character is from, the character’s age, the tone and register of the character’s voice, what his position or role is, or title, what his background is. Based on that information, I then create and develop one character for them that I believe they are asking for, and I give it my Quinton Flynn take or spin. And then I might provide them with an alternate second or third read, just to give them something different, maybe something they hadn’t thought of, something that I think does apply to the character. I might sound older or add a different dialect, just to think outside the box. It’s kind of like painting or drawing, except I do it with my voice.
How did you get started doing conventions?
About ten years ago, my friend Jeff Nimoy, who was directing me in a show called Digimon Data Squad, was invited to a convention, and I believe another actor bowed out. He and I had done lots of improv together, and we had a fantastic relationship. He asked if I’d like to go, and I said sure, I’d love to go. I didn’t know anything about these conventions, and I didn’t know if anyone was going to know me. We showed up, and the attention, the adoration, the appreciation, the gratitude, the love, the interest, and the knowledge of the fans was immense. I had no idea. So over the last ten years, I’ve gotten to go many places in the U.S., Canada, England, and Ireland, and I’ve met people from all over the world. Recently, when I was in New York City for the New York Comic Con, I met people from Egypt, Scotland, Bangkok, Dubai, and Paris. I’ve had fans from Belize and Italy contact me on the Internet. It’s mind-blowing.
Switching gears a little, I love impressionists, which I know you are. Your YouTube video in which you tell the story of Little Red Riding Hood using 30 different impressions is terrific.
How did you develop your skills as an impressionist?
That is something I started when I was a little kid. My boyhood pal Billy Russ and I used to do impressions of impressionists’ impressions. At the time on TV, we were watching Frank Gorshin, Fred Travalena, John Byner, and Rich Little. Those were the four biggies. We started doing impressions of their impressions, and I was obsessed with entertainment, so I watched the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, and I would do Johnny. I also watched Dinah Shore, Merv Griffin, and Mike Douglas, who would provide us with hours of entertainment, impressionists, actors, and characters that I would kind of sponge off and recreate with my voice. Then in 1975, when Saturday Night Live hit, I watched it until the 90s solidly, and I did impressions of those characters. It’s just been a skill I’ve had and developed since I was a kid, and I have found a method by which I’ve been able to do it. Some things take work. Other things just kind of fall into place. As I tell people, the characters talk for me; I don’t talk for them.
I always wonder whether impressionists ever get feedback from the people they do. Has anyone ever commented on your impressions?
I haven’t met any face-to-face, but I once did an impression of Paul McCartney on a morning radio show, and someone close to the McCartney camp called the radio station and said, “How did you get Paul’s private number, and why did you wake him up on tour?” Then they had to tell the truth: that this was an impressionist. That did get back to Paul, and he was actually impressed.
There was another convention I was attending, and I had been on a panel doing impressions of Christopher Walken and Christopher Lloyd. I found myself on a break speaking with Christopher Lloyd. His handler had been at the panel, and he said to me, “God, I loved your panel and all your impressions. Which was your favorite?” My Christopher Lloyd/Doc Brown impression went over like gangbusters and was by far the most fun. But there I was, as close to Christopher Lloyd as I am to you, and I was thinking, Do I tell him he was my favorite? If I do, will he be honored? Or will he be upset? What if he asks me to do it? I didn’t know him well, and I was afraid he would think I was mocking him. So I didn’t tell him. But I promise you this: if I see Christopher Lloyd again, I’m gonna flat out tell him.
Okay, last question. What’s the next convention you’re going to, and acting-wise, what are you working on now?
I will be in London for their anime convention [London Anime and Gaming Convention, February 3-5]. That is my next convention. I am currently working on an animated series on the Internet called Cartoon Hook-ups, in which I voice the role of Deadpool.
I saw a picture of that series on your table, and I wasn’t familiar with it.
Right. Not a lot of people are. It is put together by a gentleman named Jared Winkler, who is a terrific writer, and he has a fantastic artist with him. These are adult-themed, sitcom-type animated episodes where different cartoon characters and sometimes video game or anime characters end up hooking up in hotel rooms. They are cliffhangers in a way because the question is, are they going to hook up? Will they be accepted, or will they be rejected? It’s a lot of fun, and I got to do Deadpool, which was a thrill for me.
Who does Deadpool hook up with?
The closest he came to hooking up was with Harley Quinn. It is one of the best, and the actress who plays Harley Quinn [Lauren Taler] is spot-on. I encourage anyone to look that up. You’ll get a big laugh.
What else are you working on?
I’m a character named Jhin on League of Legends, which is a platform game you can sign up for online. I’m also creating a show called The Snozzberries, which is about three brothers who have the same mother who was a groupie, so they all have different fathers. They were latchkey kids who ended up living in front of the TV set, and their whole life is seen through a veil or prism of popular culture. They do a musical thing that is akin to Spinal Tap meets Hedwig and the Angry Inch. It will be a combination of animation themes, sitcom themes, movie themes, and original songs along with comedy interspersed. We may start out in the clubs playing it as a show, or we may do it into a little theater venue that tours. We’re not sure yet, but we will start out shooting episodes to post online, so look out for The Snozzberries starring Quinton Flynn, Scott Vaughn, and a third brother as yet to be determined.
Another area of Ichibancon that has grown is artist alley. In a world that increasingly devalues the fine arts, a convention artist alley is still a place where painters, sculptors, jewelers, and other artisans can make a living. I remember when the Ichibancon artist alley had only three or four members. This year, over a dozen artists were there, offering something for everyone.
Ichibancon was one of my first conventions, and it remains one of my favorites. The venue is posh (if a little crowded), the staff is among the best I’ve worked with, and North Carolina in January is not the deep freeze that other parts of the country are. Check out Ichibancon next year. Maybe I’ll see you there!
United States Military Honors Comic Book Legends Stan Lee And Joe Sinnott At Rhode Island Comic Con
Providence, Rhode Island – On Veterans Day, representatives of the United States Army and Navy, along with chapters of the American Legion, the Marine Corps League, and Texas State Guard, surprised comic book icons Stan Lee and Joe Sinnott with military accolades.
Awards of appreciation and recognition were presented to Mr. Lee, 93, who served as a Sergeant in the US Army Signal Corps during World War II, at his VIP panel Friday night. Army Captain James R. Whitney, Navy Chief Petty Officer Kurt Anderson, their respective staffs and several former US Service members, imparted the honors.
Army Staff Sergeant Joshua Mitchell tendered an American flag to Mr. Lee at the request of Major General Anthony C. Funkhouser. The flag was flown in his honor on the occasion of Veterans Day “for his faithful service to our Nation as a United States Soldier during World War II.” MG Funkhouser is the Commanding General, Center for Initial Military Training, US Army Training and Doctrine Command, Fort Eustis, VA.
“Next to my marriage and the birth of my daughter. This is the most sensational moment in my life. I will never forget this…” Stated a very emotional Mr. Lee, “It is such an honor which I’m sure I don’t deserve.”
Mr. Sinnott’s awards were handed out at a dinner attended by his family, friends and fans later on that evening. His flag was presented on behalf of MG Funkhouser who bestowed the title of “SEABEE For Life” to the sailor, 90.
After his older brother Sgt. Jack Sinnott, was tragically killed in action in France, Mr. Sinnott joined the US Navy Seabees shortly after his 18th birthday. He served in the bloody World War II Battle of Okinawa rising to the rank of Machinist Mate 3rd Class.
As restaurant patrons applauded with a standing ovation, the legendary artist who created thousands of comics for over sixty years, humbly confessed, “I’m speechless, I really am. This is just unbelievable. One of the greatest honors I’ve ever had. Thank You!”
In addition to the flags, certificates, challenge coins, plaques and “swagger sticks” of appreciation were also awarded to both veterans. “They got me mixed up with someone else” Mr. Lee said in disbelief. “But I can’t thank you enough and I will never forget this moment… We have the greatest military in the whole world.”
As uniformed service members past and present presented arms to a saluting Mr. Lee, he exclaimed to the teary-eyed audience, “If someone isn’t filming this, I’ll never talk to you again!”
Comic-Con International has photo galleries for each day of WonderCon 2016.
Overheard on an Atlanta street corner:
“Look at that person with blue hair.”
“No, over there.”
“Oh, I see.”
“Cool, isn’t it?”
“Yeah. What other place can you say, ‘No, the other person with blue hair.”
The “place,” of course, was DragonCon. September 2-5. I have been for the last six years, but this year was special: the 30th anniversary. It started in two downtown hotels, Hyatt and Marriott. The Hilton was added later, then the Sheraton and Westin. When five hotels were not enough space, the vendors were moved into the AmericasMart, a four-building, seven-million-square-foot trade show monolith. This year, AmericasMart became the new home of two other DragonCon mainstays, tabletop gaming (formerly in the Hilton) and Comic and Pop Artist Alley (neé the Hyatt)—evidence that DragonCon, despite its venerability, is still figuring things out. Perhaps that is how it became venerable: refusing to be complacent.
And more growth is on the way. Some programming was held on Thursday this year, and according to media director Dan Carroll, we will see Thursday “full-time real soon.” My colleague Michaela McPherson has written about shifts in the Saturday morning parade. This was the inaugural year for the Dragon Awards, a fan-driven awards program to “recognize the creators of science fiction and fantasy in books, comic books, games and filmed entertainment,” according to a press release. (Awards results are located here.) Attendance grew this year as it does every year, with over 77,000 showing up–and, in some cases, suiting up–for the weekend. These attendees walked (Walk to End Lupus Now), gave blood (about 6,000 units), raised money ($98,000 for the Atlanta Center for Self-Sufficiency through auctions, karaoke, a lip-synch battle, and other events), and enjoyed the 400+ actors, artists, writers, and other guests who formed the convention’s foundation.
I was excited about one guest I had never seen at DragonCon, or any convention: Christopher Paolini, author of the four-volume Inheritance Cycle. Paolini wrote the first volume, Eragon, the story of a farm boy who protects a dragon egg from an evil king, when he was a teenager. His parents self-published the book, and for a year, Paolini promoted it himself at libraries, book shows, and other events. In 2002, the book came to the attention of the publisher Alfred A. Knopf, which re-released the book a year later. This led to three other books, the last one appearing in 2011.
On Friday night, Paolini was one of several panelists for a discussion of self-publishing. The other panelists were freelance writer/editor Jaym Gates, editor Dayna Linton, Baen Books publisher Toni Weisskopf, writer Chris Kennedy, and Todd McCaffrey, son of Anne McCaffrey and custodian of her Pern universe, to which he has contributed several volumes. Some highlights from the panel:
- McCaffrey: The biggest mistake in self-publishing is to “think you can do everything yourself.”
- Eragon was a family project. Paolini’s father, who had press experience, designed the book. Paolini drew the cover and the maps. They borrowed money to finance the printing (the first 50 copies were cut wrong). He dressed in medieval costume and made presentations to schools, libraries, and bookstores. Sold maybe 15 books at a time. Two chain bookstores rejected him, saying the novel was “not commercially viable.”
- Gates: “Readers and writers have different ideas of what works.” This led to a vigorous discussion of the value of editing. It’s the biggest difference between professional publishing and self-publishing (a view echoed by this Slate article). Writers know their own story, but editors are storehouses of stories. They understand the market, and what will appeal to readers. Thus, they can guide the author, helping to bring out his/her voice. As Gates said, “it is the editor’s job to help the writer say what he/she wants to say in the best way.”
- Paolini was skeptical of the wisdom of a beginning writer paying for editorial services, but the other panelists–I won’t say they shouted him down, but they were unified in saying that it would be money well spent. Paolini did agree on the worth of an editor, saying an editor “can fix bad writing. They can’t fix a bad story.” Bottom line: the author has a job, and the editor has a job. Good books result when each person does their job.
- McCaffrey talked about “hybrid authors”–authors who write for traditional publishers and do some self-publishing. Here is a good discussion of this type of writer. The panel agreed that the hybrid approach is the best, blending the advantages of self-publishing (speed; flexibility; more profit per sale) with the comfort of traditional publishing (editorial, design, and marketing services; bulk sales; multi-book deals; advances against royalties). More authors are taking this approach, which is new in the history of publishing. According to Weisskopf, the “received wisdom” used to be that, if you self-publish, you’ve “tainted the waters and will never get a traditional contract.” The panel agreed that this is no longer the case.
- On traditional contracts: beware the predators. Gates brought up two blog posts by John Scalzi (here and here), who has always been an advocate of authorial self-interest, about Hydra, an imprint of Random House with shockingly bad contract terms. The panel’s message: don’t be so desperate to publish that you’ll sign anything.
All the growth in DragonCon has brought some irritation. At 2:30 on Friday afternoon, the vendor room in the AmericasMart reached capacity and was shut down. I have never experienced that at a convention (I read about it happening a couple of years ago at the Rhode Island Comic-Con). The room was open an hour or so later, I think–I didn’t wait around to find out–so it wasn’t a disastrous inconvenience. But I did find myself wondering, is there no building in Atlanta large enough to handle DragonCon?
The lines in the hotels were certainly longer than ever. I waited nearly two hours to buy Saturday-only badges for members of my party. (It is useless to buy these in advance because DragonCon mails you a card that you have to redeem on-site for a badge.) There may be no space to do this, but I would love to see registration expanded. Or split into two buildings. Why do one-day badges have to be claimed on site? Why can’t they be mailed? One thing is for sure: a single ballroom in the basement of the Sheraton is inadequate for the thousands upon thousands of people who opt for one-day badges.
DragonCon is a study in lines. Walking around the sidewalks, you’ll often see a line with no discernible beginning snaking into an unmarked side door. It’s like a speakeasy line. If you ask someone what they’re waiting for, they respond without confusion, but what if they’re wrong? What if the real purpose of the queue has been miscommunicated all the way down, so that someone who thinks they’re waiting for William Shatner’s photo op is actually in line for the blood bank?
It isn’t that hard to form a line, after all. My wife and I did it for Chris Paolini’s Sunday autograph session, which was scheduled for 2:30. Jim Butcher had started signing in the same room at 1:00. His line was capped at 1:30, and we knew that people looking for Paolini would start showing up soon. So we stood a few feet behind the last person for Jim Butcher and declared it the Start of the Line. Within minutes, a hundred people were standing behind us, and when a DragonCon staffer came along and legitimized us, I felt like Saul Alinsky.
If you have never been to DragonCon, you need to go. It is not the largest convention in the U.S., but it is unique, being spread across five Atlanta hotels. I have often wondered why it doesn’t move to the Georgia International Convention Center or the Georgia World Congress Center. It may need to, especially when attendance reaches 100,000, as I believe it will. But I hope DragonCon doesn’t move. I love the atmosphere of hotel-based conventions. There are other hotels in downtown Atlanta, and maybe DragonCon will incorporate those. Whatever happens, I look forward to many more years of attending this convention, which was my first and will always be one of the best.
Cinderella, Wonder Woman, and an assassin walked into a bar. Sounds like the beginning of a bad joke. Actually, it was the first day of DragonCon 2016.
DragonCon is one of the largest conventions in the Southeast. This was my third year, but my first as a journalist. Even as a veteran convention goer, you really never know what to expect, especially for a place such as this. With over 75,000 attendees, it’s hard to find the same cosplayer twice, and it’s easy to lose your companions, like the Doctor loses Rose in every episode.
This is especially true of the Saturday morning parade. Several streets in downtown Atlanta are blocked off, and the sidewalks are covered in Disney Princesses, Deadpools, and Batmans (Batmen?) all converging together. It’s one of the few places you can see the Punisher pull Bullseye out of the street to prevent him from being run over by Doc Brown’s DeLorean. Until recently, people could register to be in the parade up until the day before. It has grown so popular, however, that last year registration for the 3,200 slots closed in August. This year, registration closed on March 1st. Also, for the first time, the parade was broadcasted on the CW Network. One of the best things about this parade is the fact that they have a specific place for just the Deadpools to roam, and it’s certainly one of the most popular cosplays done in any convention I have been to.
And then of course, due to the new movie that came out recently, Suicide Squad, my colleague, Anthony Aycock, and I were curious to see just how many Harley Quinns and Jokers there were, but only from that movie. We counted a total of ninety-one Margot Robbie Harley Quinns and nineteen Jared Leto Jokers. Most of the Harleys were in her usual outfit, complete with the shirt that says “Daddy’s Lil’ Monster,” but we noticed some variations. One Harley was wearing the prison uniform from the beginning of the movie, a few were wearing the “stripper” Harley outfit, and then there were a couple that had dressed as Harleen Quinzel, the pre-Harley Quinn – long white lab coat, no nonsense blond bun, and leading a prisoner Joker with a makeshift leash. I also saw one Charlie Quinn, a male Harley with “Mommy’s Lil’ Monster” scrawled on his pecs. I suppose one reason that there were more Harleys than Jokers is because most people seemed to have had a distaste for Leto’s portrayal of him. It might be because I was a fan of 30 Seconds to Mars far before the movie was even thought of, but I actually quite enjoyed it. One criticism I have though is that we didn’t see much into the abusive relationship, and now most couples who are unfamiliar with the characters are thinking “OMG hashtag relationship goals!”
One of the most popular areas of DragonCon is the Walk of Fame, which is overflowing with beloved actors of the traditional and voice kind. A few of my favorites were Carlos Valdes (Cisco from the CW TV show The Flash), Jason Isaacs (Lucius Malfoy, Commander Zhao, and Captain Hook), Nolan North (voice of Deadpool in the Deadpool video game, Nathan Drake from Uncharted, and Desmond Miles from the Assassin’s Creed series), and of course William Shatner (you already know who this is).
We stood in line for Nolan North (who was tardy to the party), and ended up talking to his agent for a while. She told us that voice actors usually make around $900 per four hours of work plus residuals (i.e., they get paid each time the episode they were in is broadcast). Anime voice actors make a lot less, roughly $65 per hour. Most conventions guarantee their celebrities a certain amount of money. For example Lana Parrilla of Once Upon a Time gets $10,000 per convention. If her autograph sales fall short of that, the convention makes up the difference. DragonCon, however, does not make guarantees like that. Not even for ol’ Bill Shatner. I found this fascinating, especially how undervalued anime voice actors are. I expect that to change, however, as anime becomes more mainstream.
Finally, Nolan arrived, and I managed to speak to him as he was signing a Deadpool Pop figure for me (I am not a nerd, I swear). Interviews are not allowed in the Walk of Fame, but I wanted to ask him a couple of questions out of my own curiosity. He was so friendly and engaging that it might as well have been an interview.
My first question was what he thought of Ryan Reynolds stealing the spotlight for Deadpool. He said, “There is no spotlight. Ryan does a terrific job, but I do have an idea for a cameo for the next movie. Deadpool is chasing someone, fires a gun, blows a hole in the wall, and behind the wall, I’m standing there wearing headphones, recording Deadpool’s voice for a video game. And Ryan looks at me and says, ‘You sound nothing like me’ and shoots me.” Nolan went on to say how funny Ryan is on Twitter, and I second that since I stalk him too.
My second question was how Nolan felt about the Assassin’s Creed movie coming out in December. He replied, “I’m a big fan of Michael Fassbender [co-producer and star of the movie]. What I like about it is that it will be an original take on the story. It won’t just be the game translated into the movie. The game is the inspiration for a unique movie.”
I stood there with Nolan so long that his agent started clearing her throat—thank goodness I didn’t have a third question—but it was interesting getting his perspective. As a fan of the Assassin’s Creed franchise, I was a bit tentative to see the movie, but after hearing Mister Desmond Miles himself praise it, I have a bit more hope for how it will turn out. Oh, and when I got his autograph on Friday, it was only $20, but two days later, he was charging $40. Way to up your game, North.
Are you thinking about going to DragonCon? Here are five morsels of advice:
- Bring all the money you have plus what you can bum from your parents and what you can earn by selling a kidney. I’m not saying stuff is overpriced; you’ll just want to buy it all.
- Prepare to stand in line for an hour and a half, feet tired, arms dragging the floor, just to be told to come back later after the actor’s friggin’ panel (I’m looking at you, Carlos Valdes).
- The hotels in downtown Atlanta fill up fast, but don’t worry: you can stay outside the city and just take the MARTA in. It’s quick and cheap. But don’t let the homeless guys take your money—you need it for the autographs and the plushies and the posters and . . . you get the idea.
- Prepare to walk. I know a lot of you like to wear heels everywhere. Don’t. You will not be able to feel anything beyond the blisters that will begin to appear after just the first day.
- Have fun, but not so much it’ll land you in Erewhon.
Now have a look at these pix from DragonCon 2016 . . .
I know many of you are asking: who in the name of J. Jonah Jameson’s sideburns is John Stover? In fact, you have met him before. He introduced me to DragonCon in 2011. In 2014, he was my boon companion in Mouse-town for Spooky Empire. In 2015, we took a break from Florida to stay a few miles from the oldest Baptist church in America (founded in 1638) for Rhode Island Comic Con. This year, over the July 4 weekend, we were back in the Sunshine State for another convention new to me: Florida Supercon
John and I have been tight since eleventh grade, when he transferred to my high school midyear, walked into my Spanish class, and took the only available seat—next to me. Twenty-eight years later, we have seen each other through four divorces (two each), five weddings (I lead 3-2), a knot of children (my 2 step, his 3 bio), the near death of his first son, new jobs, new homes, graduate degrees, and a Playboy bunny ex-girlfriend (his, wouldn’t you know). Spooky Empire and Rhode Island were new to me, and I’m glad I could experience them with John.
Held in Miami, Supercon is the largest comic book, anime, cosplay, sci-fi, fantasy, video gaming & pop culture convention in South Florida, according to Instagram. Over 51,000 people attended in 2015, and it seemed this year’s total would surpass that. Four-day passes had sold out weeks before, and Saturday-only passes were gone by Friday afternoon. Unlike smaller conventions, which tend to be held in hotels, this one was at the Miami Beach Convention Center. I am biased toward hotels for their intimacy (Michaela McPherson discusses this in her Anime Fan Fest article), but except for DragonCon, which is unique, shows of 50,000+ people need the vastness of a convention center.
They need this vastness for, among other things, effective line operation. There were some major celebrities at this convention: William Shatner, Henry Winkler, Ben McKenzie, and some members of the Deadpool cast. Lines were long, but they never felt crowded or unruly. (For line management, it doesn’t get much worse than the George R.R. Martin debacle at ConCarolinas 2014.) I don’t mind the waiting part of being in line. You learn a lot by talking to other attendees. One couple talked about how accessible the mega-celebrities are at San Diego Comic-Con. The year they went, they were waiting to get into a panel when Ian McKellan showed up and started mingling. Another guy said he waited in Stan Lee’s signing line at Mega Con for five hours. Why? Stan was a no-show for the morning session—his M.O., according to the guy.
And sometimes cool things happen in line. Henry Winkler stood in front of his signing table, and he occasionally walked to the end of the line, shaking hands and thanking people for their patience. (Of course, if he didn’t take these breaks, there wouldn’t be such a need for patience.) Once, he stopped to perform a magic trick for a group of kids. John and I went to Henry’s Q&A, which was held in an honest-to-goodness theater next to the convention center. From the moment Henry stepped on stage, he owned it. I had read before that Henry was dyslexic, but I didn’t realize how problematic that was for him. He said that, academically, he was in the bottom 3% of the United States. He can’t spell and isn’t good at math. In high school, he took geometry four times, finally passing with a D.
But he had wanted to act since he was seven years old, and he found a way to do it. How? Tenacity and gratitude: “two words I live by.” Both traits power his lifelong advocacy for literacy and education. “If you have trouble in school,” he said, “it has nothing to do with how smart you are”—good advice from a man who overcame his obstacles. He has a new show coming out on August 23 called Better Late Than Never. He lauded the cast and writing of Arrested Development, and of course, he talked about being the Fonz, whom he based on Sylvester Stallone’s character from Lords of Flatbush. “One of the things I brought to the Fonz,” he said, “was loyalty to my friends,” which was why Fonz was always watching out for Richie, Ralph, and Potsie. Fonz was the anti-bully, at a time when bullying was becoming an epidemic. And when someone asked him about working with the late Robin Williams on Happy Days, he gushed for five minutes about Williams’s brilliance. The next person asked about Ron Howard and got this response: “Ron Howard looks like a loaf of Wonder Bread.” He didn’t say “Ayyyyyy” after that line, but it was implied.
What else can I tell you about Supercon? Actually, I’ll let John Stover tell you in his words. John and I have been to a lot of conventions together, and he tends to give thoughtful feedback on things.
Me: Tell me about a couple of the panels you attended.
John: Okay. I attended a tap dance show which was based on video games such as The Legend of Zelda. Link was the lead, and there were about 6-7 other tap dancers.
Me: Were they children performers?
John: No, I’d say late teens or early 20s. It was set to music inspired by video games. I watched about 15 minutes of the hour and decided that was enough. Then I went to watch a short film which was part of the short film festival. It was okay. You know how those are. Some of them are good, some are mediocre.
Me: The one I watched with you, Attack of the Killer Donuts, was worse than mediocre.
Me: Thirty minutes of my life I won’t get back.
John: I stuck my head into one session that had something to do with light saber technology [actual title: The Lightsaber Combat Global Movement and How to Participate]. That was a little over my head.
Me: It turned up the nerd factor. That’s like the people who teach themselves to speak Klingon or Elvish. They are immersed.
John: Yes. That is one reason why I liked this convention more than any of the others we’ve attended. I like the breakout sessions. Those to me give it a more local feel. They are organized by local fans, and I feel like there is more enthusiasm and more energy in the convention when that happens.
Me: As opposed to, say, Wizard World conventions, which are more commercial.
John: Yes. This is not a bunch of experts. It’s local fans volunteering their time for the thing they love.
Me: So you would recommend Florida Supercon?
Me: What does someone need to know before coming here?
John: Don’t be a fuddy-duddy. At least buy a nerd-related T-shirt at Target or something. We made that mistake for the first few years. I was looking this weekend at all the people not dressed up or even wearing a T-shirt, and I thought, get some enthusiasm. I would also recommend wearing comfortable shoes. But that’s what I liked about the panels. Whenever you get tired of walking, just find one that interests you or that you want to learn about.
Me: I liked the eating choices. Often, in conventions held in a convention center, there is only one restaurant, the convention center snack bar. This one had several food courts with Papa John’s Pizza, a Chinese place, a taco place, a French place, gyros, barbecue. There were lots of options for dining—all overpriced but lots of options.
John: The biggest food court could have had more tables, though. Did you see that?
Me: Yeah. It had a huge open floor with nothing on it where they could have put in more tables.
John: I liked how, at the photo op area, there was a schedule of all the photo ops for each day with prices. There was a big screen monitor with a spreadsheet listing them all. Too often, it is hard to know when the photo ops are scheduled and how much they cost. It might be printed in the program, but then you have to dig that out and flip through it. Here, the information was right up on the screen, so I appreciated the organization.
The whole convention was well organized, in fact. I saw few signs rescheduling things, and as far as I know, only three guests cancelled: Jerry Lawler, Karl Urban, and Arthur Darvill. I liked the extended dealer room hours: until 8:00pm on Friday and Saturday. And the cosplays were among the best I’ve seen. I guess my only disappointment was the schedule on the web site, which was not a single printable sheet. Each day had its own web site page. There was a convention app, but my antediluvian Android is not app-friendly, meaning I had to rely on the web site—not good for a place where 50,000+ were soaking up the Wi-Fi.
I agree with John: Florida Supercon is terrific, well-organized and fun. Despite its size, it is not unwieldy. We’ve all attended conventions that were too much for their staff, but this is not one of them. Check out the pix below for more fun!
Check out all the great videos we saw coming out of the 2016 San Diego Comic-Con. More will be added here as we come across them.
The voice actors of Batman: The Killing Joke spoke to the media at San Diego Comic Con 2016, and Convention Scene’s own Richard Oh was there!