Scene on Video LIVE: Marvel at SDCC 2017

JULY 20
11:00 AM PST|Good Morning Comic-Con
11:20 AM PST|Booth Tour – Marvel
11:30 AM PST|THWIP Live!
12:00 PM PST|Booth Tour
12:05 PM PST|Marvel Top 10
12:10 PM PST|Guest Interview
12:20 PM PST|Eat the Universe
12:25 PM PST|Marvel Top 10
12:30 PM PST|Guest Interview
12:50 PM PST|Booth Tour
12:55 PM PST|Sizzle Reel of All Original Series
01:00 PM PST|Marvel Merch Spotlight
01:15 PM PST|Booth Tour
01:20 PM PST|Ask Marvel: Signing Station
01:30 PM PST|ESPN College Moment
01:45 PM PST|Jack Kirby D23 Spotlight
01:50 PM PST|Marvel Becoming: How To
02:05 PM PST|Static Cam Shot
02:10 PM PST|Eat the Universe
02:15 PM PST|Marvel Becoming Live!
02:45 PM PST|Booth Tour
02:50 PM PST|Marvel Gaming Segment
03:40 PM PST|Booth Tour
03:45 PM PST|D23/Oculus
03:55 PM PST|Sky Viper Drone
03:57 PM PST|M&M Groot Glass Bowl
04:00 PM PST|Reaction: Marvel Panels SDCC 2017
04:10 PM PST|Static Cam Shot
04:15 PM PST|Reaction: Marvel Panels SDCC 2017
04:30 PM PST|Quickdraw Live!

JULY 21
11:00 AM PST|Good Morning Comic-Con
11:15 AM PST|Marvel
11:55 AM PST|Marvel Top 10
12:00 PM PST|Reaction: Marvel Panels SDCC 2017
12:10 PM PST|Quickdraw Live!
12:25 PM PST|Sizzle Reel of All Original Series
12:30 PM PST|Karen Gillan/Michael Rooker Signing
01:00 PM PST|Booth Tour – Marvel
01:10 PM PST|Booth Tour
01:15 PM PST|THWIP Live!
01:45 PM PST|Cosplay Photo Op
01:50 PM PST|Sponsorship Segment
02:00 PM PST|Booth Tour
02:05 PM PST|Reaction: Marvel Panels SDCC 2017
02:15 PM PST|Black Eyed Peas Signing
02:45 PM PST|Ask Marvel: Signing Station
02:55 PM PST|Static Cam
03:00 PM PST|Marvel Gaming Segment
03:25 PM PST|Booth Tour – Marvel
03:35 PM PST|Marvel Merch Spotlight
03:45 PM PST|Marvel
04:15 PM PST|Marvel Becoming Live!
04:40 PM PST|Static Cam

JULY 22
11:00 AM PST|Good Morning Comic-Con
11:05 AM PST|Ask Marvel: Signing Station
11:15 AM PST|THWIP Live!
11:45 AM PST|Giveaway Hour
12:00 PM PST|Marvel Gaming Segment
12:30 PM PST|Booth Tour
12:35 PM PST|Booth Tour – Marvel
12:45 PM PST|Reaction: Marvel Panels SDCC 2017
01:00 PM PST|Quickdraw Live!
01:15 PM PST|Sponsorship Segment
01:30 PM PST|D23/PB&J Package
01:35 PM PST|Marvel Studios
02:00 PM PST|Reaction: Marvel Panels SDCC 2017
02:15 PM PST|Kids Cosplay Competition
02:45 PM PST|Guest Interview
03:00 PM PST|Marvel Top 10
03:15 PM PST|Reaction: Marvel Panels SDCC 2017
03:30 PM PST|Lockjaw Unveiling
03:45 PM PST|Eat the Universe
03:50 PM PST|Marvel Studios
04:25 PM PST|Sizzle Reel of All Original Series
04:30 PM PST|Good Night Comic-Con

JULY 23
11:00 AM PST|Good Morning Comic-Con
11:15 AM PST|Reaction: Marvel Panels SDCC 2017
11:30 AM PST|Cosplay Competition
11:45 AM PST|Reaction: Marvel Panels SDCC 2017
12:00 PM PST|Cosplay Competition
12:15 PM PST|Quickdraw Live!
12:30 PM PST|Marvel Animations
12:45 PM PST|Reaction: Marvel Panels SDCC 2017
01:00 PM PST|Guest Interview
01:15 PM PST|Marvel Gaming Segment
01:45 PM PST|Reaction: Marvel Panels SDCC 2017
02:00 PM PST|Marvel Becoming Live!
02:30 PM PST|Sizzle Reel of All Original Series
02:35 PM PST|Guest Interview
02:45 PM PST|Goodbye Comic-Con

UPDATED: Scene on Video: Sideshow Collectibles at SDCC 2017

Chicago Comic and Entertainment Expo (C2E2) 2017 Report!

Chicago. I had been there before. It was 2014, and the occasion was Wizard World. April 2017 was my second trip to the city that the poet Carl Sandburg called “Hog Butcher for the World, / Tool Maker, / Stacker of Wheat, / Player with Railroads and the Nation’s Freight Handler; / Stormy, husky, brawling, City of the Big Shoulders.” Railroads are no longer America’s arteries, and big shoulders are now an 80s fashion relic, but I, like Sandburg, “have seen painted women / under the gas lamps / luring the farm boys.”

   

Such women in Chi-Town can mean only one thing: the Chicago Comic and Entertainment Expo, known as C2E2. I went with my convention buddy John, whom you will remember from Spooky Empire, Minneapolis Wizard World, and Florida Supercon. We stayed at the Congress Plaza Hotel. Opened in 1893 in anticipation of the World’s Columbian Exposition–i.e., the Chicago World’s Fair–the place was a blend of grand and shabby. John likened it to “the Stanley Hotel meets Super 8.”

We grabbed some dinner and walked around downtown, which was eerily empty for a Thursday evening. I saw a few people with the telltale Pokémon shirts, beanies, and/or Barbossa beads and thought: convention goers. Things would heat up the next day and be full-bore by Saturday. John was looking forward to panel discussions and stellar cosplays. I had my usual assortment of books to be signed.

One thing going to conventions with John has taught me is the value of the convention app (if there is one). I still like the printed program of course–great for signatures. But John always downloads the app because it is (1) updated in real time, (2) doesn’t require him to keep up with something else, and (3) makes him feel tech wizard-y. And the C2E2 app is sweet! It has autograph schedules, prices, and locations for every celebrity. The prices were an especially nice feature. Most conventions don’t post these in advance, which makes budgeting for the weekend Mulvaney-esque.

Another innovation was getting my badge in the mail. If you read my first DragonCon report, then you know my acrimony regarding registration lines. John agrees: “Just charge an extra 40 cents and mail everyone’s badge.” How satisfying it was to open an envelope in February, slide out my shiny badge, and reflect on at least one queue not in my future.

Of course, it is impossible to avoid lines altogether. It is an axiom that, no matter which line I choose–supermarket, toll road, ATM, wherever–it will the line with problems: a technical malfunction, say, or a non-English-speaking customer, or an employee who skipped training. At conventions, I am similarly thwarted. Steve Blum was scheduled to sign at 11:00am on Friday, which was great. Fridays are the least crowded days, making them best for autographs–except this Friday. All around me, guests were meeting fans, posing for pictures, translating Celtic texts, building additions onto homes. Meanwhile, I waited. And waited. Blum’s line grew longer than the Santa Fe Trail, and still I waited. The con staff began setting up his booth at 11:50, suggesting he would arrive at 12:00 rather than the advertised 11:00. In fact, it was almost 1:00 when he got there.

Autograph lines. Look closely, and you’ll see me with a floor-length beard.

Rob Liefeld was also late, though not as egregiously. His line would have been long anyway–everbody loves Robert–but there was a new thing complicating it: VIP clients. For $125 in advance ($160 on-site), you would get two signed exclusive comics, one signed Deadpool print, one autograph ticket for your own item, and a picture with Liefeld. He is a quick signer, and friendly without being effusive, which moves the line along. But it is a gut punch to get aaaaaaalmost to the table and be superseded by a group of VIPs. I said there should be VIP signing times and non-VIP signing times, but John argued that would dilute the perks of being a VIP, one of which is the freedom not to have to visit the booth at a specific time.

Those who eschewed the VIP ticket could choose from Liefeld’s a la carte menu.

The growing practice of comic creators charging for autographs has been discussed a lot lately. I don’t mind a blanket charge because, as Dan Seitz argues, “sign your name a hundred times in a row. It’s simple work, but it’s work. You pay people for work.” I do mind creators charging more for a CGC-witnessed signature. Is it more work to write your name when a third party is watching? And charging more to sign a more valuable book like New Mutants #98 is merely a money grab. After all, a number of market forces affect secondary value that have little to do with the quality of the product.

But I care less about cost than about time, the latter of which is more precious and fleeting at a convention. Memo, then, to all creators and celebrities: don’t be late to your signings! The convention is your job for a particular weekend. Do your job. I cannot conceive of any legitimate reason for a guest who is in a city where they have no other business and is staying at a hotel across the street to be unable to make an 11:00am appointment. I am at this convention to meet you, be enthralled by you, and then carry your name across the land. Hard to do that when you’re a no-show Jones.

As for the rest of the convention, it was a delight. C2E2 is big–70,000+ attendees–but the open floor plan gives plenty of space, so I never felt pinioned. The dealer room had all the comics dealers together, all the anime dealers together, all the T-shirt dealers together, etc., which made shopping go smoother. The family area had games, a play space, chairs for adults to rest, and circus performers. The selection of comic creators was spectacular–Stan Lee, Frank Miller (too bad he was there Saturday only and sold-out), Greg Rucka, Rob Liefeld, Matt Wagner, and some who don’t do many conventions anymore, like Dan Jurgens. There were fewer actors than I expected, but this reinforces the focus of C2E2–comic and entertainment, not the other way around. John said there weren’t enough panels and seminars for a convention this size, but the ones he attended were good. His favorite dealt with using comics to boost literacy and teach science. Finally, there was a larger selection of (over-priced) food vendors than I find at most conventions.

If you’ve never been to Chicago, go. And if you’ve never been to C2E2, go. Most conventions are run by small nonprofits, who are exposed as amateurs in a number of ways, but the power of ReedPOP ups the professionalism. Despite three different volunteers being unable to tell me where Frank Miller’s autograph sessions would be held, I found C2E2 to be well-managed, well-marketed, and an all-around pleasure.

Want to see more images from C2E2? Here you go!

“Come and show me another city with lifted head singing so proud to be alive and coarse / and strong and cunning.”

 

Must. Catch. Train.

 

I always wanted to be an Ivy League graduate.

 

Look at that chicken . . . and the two cosplayers beside him.

 

At least I didn’t have to queue to see Q.

 

Strangely enough, John lost his voice after this picture with the Sea Witch.

 

“Wait’ll they get a load of me.”

 

“Sure, honey, I’ll go get your purse from the car. Be right back.”

 

Some people put a lot of thought into their cosplays. Others just wing it.

 

Two big reasons to go to C2E2 are . . . um . . .

 

C2E2 just goes on . . .

 

and on . . .

 

and on.

 

Cosplay Central: the heroes behind the heroes

 

Chicago is cold enough without this guy being in town.

 

Triad Anime Con 2017 Report (including Interview with Johnny Yong Bosch)!

Greensboro. Third-largest city in North Carolina. Named for Major General Nathanael Greene, commander of the American rebel forces at the Battle of Guilford Court House on March 15, 1781. Two centuries later, a Greensboro resident, Orson Scott Card, set war at the heart of his novel Ender’s Game. Speaking of war, Greensboro is home to the Atlantic Coast Conference and often the site of its annual men’s basketball tournament, the last conference tourney before March Madness. Syracuse University coach Jim Boeheim told the world what he thinks of the city, and I forgive him his Gotham grouchiness. Perhaps if he spent more time there, he would have a softer opinion. Perhaps if his team had gone to this year’s Triad Anime Con, held March 3-5 at the Koury Convention Center, they wouldn’t have lost their first tournament game three days later.

Triad Anime is done by the same team that puts on Ichibancon in Charlotte (I wrote about this year’s Ichibancon here). It is normally held in Winston-Salem but moved to Greensboro this year and a larger venue. A much larger venue. Here was the view Friday morning.

Bueller? Bueller?

Things heated up throughout the day, and of course Saturday brought in a great crowd, but the whole weekend felt less cozy that I was accustomed to. I expect that to change, however, as the con grows into its new digs. The on-site Starbucks was a welcome sight, and next door was Four Seasons Mall, with plenty of lunchtime options. And for perhaps the first time in my convention-going career, I didn’t have trouble finding a parking spot.

When I first attended Triad back in 2014, there were only two or three guests. This year had three times that number. Vic Mignogna has been every year (read our 2016 interview with him here), and I always enjoy seeing him. I was eager to see Brian Beacock, but he had to cancel (hey, Triad: get a phone app like Ichibancon so you can update us on changes like that). The person I was most excited to see was Johnny Yong Bosch. Power Ranger, voice actor, rock star, Johnny has done a little of everything. Whereas Vic has the personality to fill a lecture hall, Johnny is more reserved. I caught up with him on Friday after his autograph session.

What’s it like going from a character like Ichigo (Bleach) to someone like Izaya Orihara (Durarara!!) or Saruhiko (K – Project)?

Well the thing is, I didn’t work on those at the same time. There’s a lot of separation in time. So things I worked on while I was doing Bleach was Code Geass. And I think that overlapped a little bit with Eureka Seven. They’re different characters in different shows, but once you know your character, you just go in and do it.

How did you get into voice acting after doing live action?

Well, basically I was working on an independent film with the Japanese stunt team from Power Rangers, and the audio got screwed up. So I had to dub myself. As I was dubbing myself for the movie, the producer walked in and heard my voice and he thought I had a decent hero voice and asked me to come audition for some animation. And when I auditioned for that animation, I got the role for Vash from Trigun.

Why do you think Power Rangers has stayed popular for over twenty years?

Well, that’s a good question. A majority of the fans have stayed pretty loyal. I know there have been different actors over the years. I really don’t know. Basically, I think that it’s something that people grew up with and that they want to keep watching.

What has been your favorite role thus far in your career?

It’s very hard to pick one. It’s like picking your favorite child. For me, they’ve all been really great moments in my life, from Vash in Trigun to Bleach, Code Geass. I think one of my most favorites would be Nero from Devil May Cry 4, because I got to do the motion capture. I got to go to Japan for the first time. And I wasn’t limited to the animation. I was creating the character and then they animated it. And it was more of me. That would be one of my favorites.

What is it like doing motion capture?

Motion capture is weird at first. Your motions have to be overdone a bit and you have to overact your body language so that the computer can read your motions. But your face and your voice have to be very natural because they pick up every little detail.

What do you think of all of the fanfiction of Shizuo and Izaya?

I don’t read those. I know they exist. People have brought me books that looked interesting at first and I’m like “Huh, what is this?” So no, I don’t read those, but I did a long time ago with Power Rangers. I was like “Oh, there’s fan fiction?” And I read one. It was a little weird for me, so I stayed away from it.

I thought it was cool that Narita, the creator of Durarara!!, made a fiction of Shizuo and Izaya for April Fools’ Day.

[What Johnny said here was, “Oh my goodness.” But what I heard was this.]

Let’s switch gears a little. How did you get started doing conventions?

In 2001 or 2002, a director of Trigun, whatsherface, went to Sakura Con and said that she had an awesome time and it was really cool and a lot of fun. She recommended to me to go and took me with her the following year. And it was cool. Over the years, little by little, the convention scene (nice shout out) started growing. It wasn’t every weekend then like it is now. I started getting more invites. And now I have a few booking agents that handle me and my appearances.

How many conventions a year do you do?

I think last year it was fifteen or twenty, this year I’m already doing far too many. It’s neat to come out and meet fans. If I’m in the booth working on a project, nobody is saying “great job”. The director might say “Okay, next one. Okay next one.” It’s not like in theatre where everyone cheers. You don’t get to see the reward. Coming to a con, is seeing that reward. Seeing whether it was a success or not. The only drawback for me is my family. My family is back home. My kids are little. My son, for the first six months of his life, didn’t know me and was afraid of me. That’s where I had to pull the brakes a little and make some changes.

How did you start your band, Eyeshine?

Basically I couldn’t get a job to save my life after Power Rangers. There weren’t a whole lot of half-Asian roles at the time. I was very depressed, and I was near homeless. I had two trash bags full of clothes and a guitar. And in that time, I started teaching myself to play the guitar. Out of all that, I formed the band.

How many concerts a year do you do?

I have no idea. There are so many. We have quite a few this year. We have a lot of albums now. Got a new one coming out this April.

Between conventions and your band, when do you find the time to do acting?

I do that as well! Every day. My weeks are usually booked a couple of weeks in advance. Sometimes more than that. For voiceover work especially because they know their schedule and when things are coming along. The end of this month and going into next month, I already have bookings for voice over.

Are you able to record at home?

Sometimes I record at home. I do have a studio at home. But sometimes they like you to be there, but on occasion, they’ll ask for pickups or something to be done at home.

Okay, last question. What are some of your favorite TV shows?

I am watching Walking Dead at the moment. Breaking Bad was a really good one. Sons of Anarchy was a very interesting show. I watch a lot of terrible shows. Not terrible as in inappropriate, but terrible as in really bad.

Do you ever think, when you’re watching a bad show, “I could do better”?

I may have thought that. The thing about bad TV shows is they stay with you forever.

Fellow Convention Scene writer Michaela McPherson and I pose with Johnny.

Another thing I enjoy about Triad and Ichibancon is the Otaku Flea Market. Held all day Sunday, the flea market is a chance for any convention goer to sell merchandise. It is a feature I have seen at no other convention. The intent is for people to sell their own used stuff–manga, costumes, DVDs, toys, cards, etc.–but sometimes vendors who couldn’t get into the dealer room will grab a table. I have also seen people selling original art, which is against the rules: art belongs in artist alley. It is a good rule though hard to enforce in the first-come-first-served madness of getting flea market tables. Besides, who says the person made the art they are selling? I had trouble finding this year’s flea market because it wasn’t in the room designated on the convention map, which probably explains why all the sellers had their wares on the floor instead of on tables. One of the hiccoughs of being in a new venue, I guess. Again, however, a phone app would have made the room switch easy to announce.

To all my readers, I’ll say this: come out next year and check out Triad Anime Con. It is terrific value–the weekend pass was only $42!–and I guarantee you’ll have fun. Don’t let Jim Boeheim have the last word on Greensboro. And before you go, enjoy these photos.

A view of the dealers room

Security was pretty tight at this convention.

“Near, far, wherever you are . . .”

The long and short of it

Not your typical cosplay car

Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the LORD God had made, especially an old guy picketing an anime convention.

Ballers

Nice tat-Tardis!

Was she trying to tell me I need more Right Guard?

I guess only MOST exits are an entry somewhere else.

The family that cosplays together stays together.

So sad when a convention ends. I’m looking forward to next year already!

Sword Art Online: Ordinal Scale Premiered at Anime Boston 2017

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.”

Cherami Leigh: voice of Asuna in Sword Art Online

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

 

 

Scene and Heard: Agents of SHIELD at Wondercon 2017!

The cast and producers of Agents of SHIELD pose for the cameras at Wondercon!

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!

Ichibancon 8 Con Report (with Interview with Quinton Flynn)!

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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.

ichiban 037

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.

Screenshot_2017-01-07-11-21-59[1]

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.

Screenshot_2017-01-07-11-22-29[1]

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.

Quinton and me

Quinton and me

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.

An artist at work

An artist at work

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!

It was great seeing Vic Mignogna again.

It was great seeing Vic Mignogna again.

This couple decided not to leave the kids in the hotel room. Understandable.

This couple decided not to leave the kids in the hotel room. Understandable.

This couple decided not to have kids. Totally understandable.

This couple decided not to have kids. Totally understandable.

A look at the Ichibancon video game room.

A look at the Ichibancon video game room.

Artist alley can be a little cozy.

Artist alley can be a little cozy.

This Cruella is a fella.

This Cruella is a fella.

Coffee, tea, or LSD?

Coffee, tea, or LSD?

I thought I was coming down with something, so I asked to see the nurse. Then I really came down with something.

I thought I was coming down with something, so I asked to see the nurse. Then I really came down with something.

Spellcheck, where are you when I need you?

Spellcheck, where are you when I need you?

Stan Lee & Joe Sinnott Receive Military Honors at RICC 2016

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Press Release:

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.”

000_ricc-sinnott-tucciMr. 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!”

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LINK: A Look Back at WonderCon 2016

WonderCon Photo: R. Manahan © 2016 SDCC

Comic-Con International has photo galleries for each day of WonderCon 2016.

DragonCon 2016 Con Report!

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Overheard on an Atlanta street corner:

 

“Look at that person with blue hair.”

“Over there?”

“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.

 

So THIS is the horse of a different color I've heard tell of.

So THIS is the horse of a different color I’ve heard tell of.

The official store is the place to get your swag on.

The official store is the place to get your swag on.

No, Storm Shadow isn't wearing a hat. Some pirate photo bombed us.

No, Storm Shadow isn’t wearing a hat. Some pirate photo bombed us.

Pikachu takes some pictures with fans.

Pikachu takes some pictures with fans.

Recognize the guy in the middle? Here's a hint: it rhymes with Bash Jordan.

Recognize the guy in the middle? Here’s a hint: it rhymes with Bash Jordan.

Christopher Paolini pauses for a pic during his (only!) book signing of the weekend.

Christopher Paolini pauses for a pic during his (only!) book signing of the weekend.

I want a suit like that, but my wife probably wouldn't let me wear it.

I want a suit like that, but my wife probably wouldn’t let me wear it.

The dealer room was closed on Friday afternoon due to overcrowding. I can't imagine why.

The dealer room was closed on Friday afternoon due to overcrowding. I can’t imagine why.

Peter, meet Victor. Victor, Peter.

Peter, meet Victor. Victor, Peter.

This guy had been to 44 Weird Al concerts in 2016, with plans to attend several more. Check him out on Facebook at Mandatory Fun Al.

This guy had been to 44 Weird Al concerts in 2016, with plans to attend several more. Check him out on Facebook at Mandatory Fun Al.

Bring me the head of Alfredo Garcia . . . or a George R.R. Martin autograph, whichever.

Bring me the head of Alfredo Garcia . . . or a George R.R. Martin autograph, whichever.

This cosplay (yes, a person is inside) was made using 318 ballons!

This cosplay (yes, a person is inside) was made using 318 ballons!

Ran into this couple at the convention. They're crazy for each other.

Ran into this couple at the convention. They’re crazy for each other.

DragonCon is a place to spare no expense.

DragonCon is a place to spare no expense.

Mr. Roper doesn't know how good he has it.

Mr. Roper doesn’t know how good he has it.

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