TX – An Evening with Neil Gaiman


Writer Neil Gaiman (The Sandman, American Gods) appears on Friday, November 13th, 2015 at 8:00 PM at the Long Center in Austin, TX. Gaiman will tell stories and read stories, answer questions, and in his own words “amaze, befuddle and generally delight.”

Details and tickets are available at the link…

The Long Center
701 W Riverside Drive, Austin, TX 78704
(512) 474-5664

OH – Deep Roy Signing


Press Release:

Packrat Comics hosts a Halloween Comicfest on October 31 with our annual comics for canned goods food drive (free comics for non-perishable food items), comic creators, Mikey’s Late Night Slice pizza truck, a costume contest along with a special guest appearance by Deep Roy.

Mr. Roy played the physical Yoda in Return of the Jedi along with a Cantina band member and THE Oompa Lumpa in the 2005 remake of Charlie & The Chocolate Factory. He is in the current Star Trek movies as Keenser and was Teeny Weeny in the Neverending Story. His list of credits is impressive including a recurring role on Doctor Who and you will get a chance to meet him during our annual ComicFest!

WIN A BATMAN ADVENTURES #12, FIRST HARLEY QUINN – Bring the most non-perishable food items and it’s yours!

Artists & Writers
Writer: TALES OF MR. RHEE; NIGHTMARE WORLD; WRITE OR WRONG, etc. (Devil’s Due/Image Comics)



Artist EL MARIACHI, etc. (El Arto Studios)


Pin-Up and Sketch Cover Artist; Graphic Designer

Free Comics and food drive


Costume Contest & More!

RSVP on Facebook!

Packrat Comics
3872 Lattimer Street, Hilliard, OH 43026
(614) 527-8450

DragonCon 2015 Report (with an Interview with Caroll Spinney)!

DragonCon log
It started with my friend John, whom you may remember as my sometime convention companion. He was with me at Minneapolis Wizard World and at Spooky Empire in Orlando, where we discussed the popularity of horror movies while waiting to meet Tobin Bell.

Back in 2011, John sent me an email that read, “Son, look at this.” John and I have called each other “son” for twenty years. It’s our oldest invention, the stone tools of our friendship. His email included a link to a convention called DragonCon, which I was unfamiliar with. “We should go to this to watch all the freaks,” he went on. “We’d have the time of our lives!”

We went to DragonCon that year, plus the next two. In 2014, John was unavailable, so I took my wife and daughter, who went with me again this year, marking my fifth Labor Day weekend spent in Atlanta, Georgia.

* * *

DragonCon has been held in the Dogwood City since 1986, when it was started by a science fiction and gaming group, the Dragon Alliance of Gamers and Role-Players (DAGR). From the outset, it was different. In an era when most conventions focused on a single universe (Star Wars, Star Trek, Doctor Who) or medium (comics, games, science fiction), DragonCon was founded as a multi-genre convention, and it has remained one ever since.

That first gathering drew 1,400 fans and featured some surprisingly renowned guests: Robert Asprin, Lynn Abbey, Michael Moorcock, and the band Blue Öyster Cult. Attendance grew every year, doubling in some years. By 1995, it was at 14,000. It topped 40,000 in 2010, and in 2015, just five years later, over 65,000 were expected. Heck, there are now more volunteers (2,300+) than inaugural attendees!

Most gatherings of that size take place in convention centers, but DragonCon is still hotel-based. Initially confined to the Piedmont Plaza, it now swamps five four-star venues: the Hilton, Hyatt Regency, Marriott Marquis, Sheraton, and Westin. Vendor booths are located in a sixth building, the AmericasMart. Over 3,000 hours of programming are spread among those hotels, divided into fortysomething tracks. Tracks such as comics and Tolkien are the DNA of DragonCon. Others like podcasting, Whedon Universe, and filking are newer. The curriculum is always changing, always improving, according to Dan Carroll, DragonCon’s director of media. The alternate history track, for example, was added seven years ago when a panel on the topic was planned for 400 people. Over 3,000 showed up.

I went to one panel this year. Cacophonously titled “Legendary SW Authors Talk Mythos,” it featured four writers—Rebecca Moesta, Timothy Zahn, Michael Stackpole, and Kevin J. Anderson—who have totaled no fewer than 50 Star Wars novels. To call these authors “legendary” carries a double meaning, as their works, like others of the Star Wars Expanded Universe, are no longer canon thanks to a 2014 Lucasfilm decree. (This article describes the new continuity in detail.)

The authors talked about this decision, not to bellyache but to explain that it isn’t the degradation most fans seem to think. They knew from the start that they were scribblers, hired to tell tales from someone else’s world. They didn’t feel betrayed; they felt lucky for the opportunities. After all, it isn’t just any world—it is Star Wars, one of the best worlds in this, or any, universe. Besides, there is nothing to stop Lucasfilm from taking their work—say, Michael Stackpole’s X-Wing books—and turning it into a separate movie or TV series, a possibility hinted at during last year’s San Diego Comic-Con.

The panelists discussed other topics, including their tastes in stories (westerns, Doc Savage, Edgar Rice Burroughs, and fortuitously, romances like Gone with the Wind), what influenced them as writers, and how they collaborate. It was a fascinating colloquy despite the feebleness of the moderator, a supposed Star Wars blogger whose questions were rambling and confused the panelists. One question had already been answered by Stackpole, and after the moderator asked it, Kevin J. Anderson said, “Mike, you want to run through that again?” The moderator smiled, turned to the audience, and said, “Never mind. We’ll take your questions now.”

* * *

One of the biggest attractions of DragonCon is the Walk of Fame, where all the TV, movie, gaming, and other guests interact with fans. Over 400 guests attended this year, a few of them household names: Stephen Amell, John Barrowman, Katie Cassidy, Karen Gillan, Nichelle Nichols, and Edward James Olmos. I wanted to interview some guests, a process DragonCon manages better than most conventions. Reporters who are granted press passes must be separately approved for interviews. These approvals are based on the size of their media outlets. Once I got my approval, I could request interviews with up to ten guests.

With over 500 interview requests for 114 slots (according to Samantha Douglas, the interview coordinator), not every reporter approved for interviews actually gets one. Imagine my surprise when I was offered two: one with Sylvester McCoy, who played the Seventh Doctor on Dr. Who, and one with Caroll Spinney, who played Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch on Sesame Street. The interviews were actually press conferences held in one of the Marriott meeting rooms. About twelve reporters were at each one. Most represented nerd-news sites like ConventionScene, though I also saw CNN and Georgia Public Broadcasting.

Through no fault of DragonCon, the press conferences were disasters. After we waited thirty minutes for Sylvester McCoy, someone came in to say that he was cancelling. His panel had run long, and because he was leaving that afternoon, there was no time to reschedule. Carol Spinney was over an hour late (he simply forgot) and stayed only about ten minutes. Here is a bit of what he had to say:

Reporter: I heard in other interviews that you based Big Bird on a four-year-old child. Over the years, have you had to adjust your characterization of that four-year-old child version of Big Bird based on the generations?

Spinney: Actually, initially, since I decided Big Bird could not read or write, he was four-and-a-half. Then I had to go up to six. And now he has been six for years. He is a precocious child of six. He travels by himself with a dog. And he went to China, somehow. I don’t know how he got tickets. I think it’s just fun playing him as a kind of wide-eyed child. I get letters all the time from children saying, “Big Bird, you’re my best friend. Please come and play with me.” One said, “How about next Thursday?”

Reporter: When the movie [Follow That Bird, 1985] came out, Big Bird had already been around for a while, and a whole generation of children had been watching him and relating to him as a friend, and kids really felt that their friend had been kidnapped. Were you expecting Big Bird to connect to a whole country of children at that deep of a level?

Spinney: I didn’t really know what to expect. When Jim Henson hired me, we were both puppeteers. I would do whatever characters needed performing, but by the third year, with Big Bird, I was so busy. They tried to have me continue doing the incidental stuff too, but one day, Big Bird was in almost all the scenes, and I had to keep taking a taxi up and down Broadway [performing as different characters in different scenes], so one day I said, “Let’s not play this game anymore.” On the fourth year, I said I was busy enough that we needed more puppeteers. So we got some more.

Reporter: I saw that you visited the Center for Puppetry Arts yesterday. Can you talk about what you saw and did there?

Spinney: Well, the museum is going to open by November. They have so many things to display. I saw the place where they are building and repairing puppets, a lot of the Henson puppets that are worn-out. Some of the material has decayed. It has turned to powder. The only puppet I ever created myself is one that has gone to pieces. It was Bruno, who carried Oscar’s trash can around. There were fake arms going to Bruno’s shoulders, and my hands were inside. Oscar would come up and try to boss him around, but Bruno would not be bossed. I designed Bruno so that my head was in his head. I could see out through where the bags under his eyes would be. He looked like a Bert-type puppet. That way, we could get Oscar out on stage for concert tours. I asked a couple of years ago why we don’t use Bruno in shows anymore. He doesn’t exist. He has turned to powder. I asked why they don’t make a new one. It would cost $20,000, so good-bye, Bruno.

Reporter: You are an animator as well. Are you planning on making any future animations?

Spinney: Not really. After four years of doing it in Boston, I kind of got tired of it. I was glad it didn’t have to be my permanent career. I was hired by Disney Studios to be an animator, though I didn’t take the job. This was 1957, and the pay was only $56 a week for the first two years. I decided I’d try for something different, so I did. Walt [Disney] actually walked into the room during my interview. I never actually got to speak to him. I had always had a bucket list of three people I would like to meet: Andrew Wyeth, who I spent an afternoon with once and his son Jamie; Walt Disney—at least I was in the same room with him, and I turned his company down; and the other one was Jim Henson, who personally hired me. So I guess I accomplished all those.

Caroll Spinney in the interview room

* * *

Suppose you are thinking of going to DragonCon in 2016, which will be its 30th anniversary. What do you need to know?

  •  Book early. Tickets are plentiful, but the hotels fill up fast. The marketing manager at the Hyatt told me that it takes fifteen minutes to sell his 1,250 guest rooms for DragonCon weekend.
  • Prepare to wait. You will wait for autographs. You will wait for panels. You will wait for the Heroes & Villains ball or the DragonCon Burlesque or panels with the biggest celebrities. Heck, you will wait for an elevator or a restroom. Get used to it.
  • Pay in cash. I have a dream that someday the DragonCon decision-makers will realize they need to mail pre-paid badges. What’s the point of buying online when you have to pick them up in-person? This means 65,000 people standing in line. Yes, registration starts on Thursday, but this benefits only those who buy a weekend pass. Those who want a one-day pass on Saturday can only buy it on Saturday and must pick it up on-site, even if they paid online. You may as well pay for a one-day on-site, and if you do, pay cash. The cash line is terribly shorter and faster than the credit card line.
  •  Account for the parade. A highlight of the weekend is the Saturday parade, which starts at 10:00am and stretches through downtown. Over 80,000 people show up to watch, making it the second largest parade in the state of Georgia (the first is the Savannah St. Patrick’s Day Parade). Along the parade route, every inch of sidewalk bears a geeky gawker. It’s like a Marvel mosh pit, so plan accordingly. I heard one woman complaining that she had missed her Saturday morning photo op (which she had paid for) because she could not reach the hotel through the throng.
  •  Schedules are bunk. The program you are handed at registration contains a detailed schedule for the entire weekend. It is outdated the moment it is printed. There is a smartphone app that is kept current, but even it is not omniscient. For example, when I entered the Walk of Fame on Saturday, I saw a handwritten sign taped above Karen Gillan’s booth announcing that she would arrive on Sunday. DC Comics luminary George Perez left at 1:00pm on Saturday, and that was announced only when his signing line was cut off at noon. And I’ve already mentioned the press conference bloopers. Bottom line: No one can manage a convention of this heft flawlessly, so be flexible. Don’t have a meltdown when something goes awry.
  • Take care of yourself. Dan Carroll calls DragonCon an “immersive experience.” This can be dreadful if you don’t manage it. He told me about an attendee some years back, a diabetic, who fainted during a session in the gaming room. She told the EMT who restored her that she hadn’t eaten in two hours. “When did you last eat?” the EMT asked. “Around 2:00,” the woman answered. The EMT looked at her and said, “Honey, it’s now 11:00.”

Six buildings. 65,000 attendees. 2,400 volunteers. A $55 million economic impact. You may have attended conventions in the past, but none compares to DragonCon, one of the United States’ largest and most venerable. Nowhere is this more evident than in the cosplays, which are more sumptuous than those you’ll see anywhere. Check them out for yourself below. Maybe I’ll see you there next year, when I plan to be dressed like this.

* * *

twenties DC

Gotham City’s underworld, circa 1925

Big Trouble

I didn’t want trouble, but these guys brought it. Big trouble.

Star Wars

George Lucas’s first casting attempt


Here’s Sam. Where’s Dean?


It’s always hot in Georgia in early September. Some people respond by practically going nude.

Scooby gang

Who you gonna call? Sorry, wrong ghostbusters.

scooby villains

Maybe Mystery Inc. was looking for these guys. I found them instead.


I went to DragonCon looking for a life-size Barbie doll. Here it is.

Steampunk ood

This was a ood cosplay . . . I mean, a good cosplay.

Kermit & Piggy

An impromptu Muppet Show breaks out.


I found a baby once. Then this guy took him from me.


Preach it, Deadpool. Preach it.


Want to know what 3,000+ cosplayers in a parade look like? Here’s a glimpse.

Wife and daughter

Want to know what happens when my wife and daughter spend an entire weekend together? Here’s a glimpse.

UK – Doctor Who: Deep Time Signing

0drwho-ukTREVOR BAXENDALE will be signing DOCTOR WHO: DEEP TIME, at Forbidden Planet Liverpool on Saturday 12th September from 1- 2pm!

‘I do hope you’re all ready to be terrified!’

The Phaeron disappeared from the universe over a million years ago. They travelled among the stars using roads made from time and space, but left only relics behind.

But what actually happened to the Phaeron? Some believe they were they eradicated by a superior force. Others claim they destroyed themselves. Or were they in fact the victims of an even more hideous fate?

In the far future, humans discover the location of the last Phaeron road – and the Doctor and Clara join the mission
to see where the road leads. Each member of the research team knows exactly what they are looking for – but only the Doctor knows exactly what they’ll find. Because only the Doctor knows the true secret of the Phaeron: a monstrous secret so terrible and powerful that it must be buried in thedeepest grave imaginable.

Trevor Baxendale has written both Doctor Who and Torchwood novels for BBC Books, including Eater of Wasps, The Undertaker’s Gift and the award-winning Prisoner of the Daleks. His novel Fear of the Dark was reprinted in 2013 as part of Doctor Who’s 50th Anniversary celebrations. He has also written scripts for Big Finish’s Doctor Who, Robin Hood and Highlander audio plays, and most recently the full cast audio drama Blake’s 7: Scimitar. His Blake’s 7 novel, Criminal Intent, was published in November 2014.

Forbidden Planet: Liverpool
92 Bold Street, Liverpool, L1 4HY
0151 707 1491

UK – Doctor Who: Royal Blood Signing

uk-drwhoUNA McCORMACK will be signing DOCTOR WHO: ROYAL BLOOD, at Forbidden Planet Cambridge on Thursday 10th September from 1:00 – 2:00 PM!

“The Grail is a story, a myth! It didn’t exist on your world! It can’t exist here!”

The city-state of Varuz is failing. Duke Aurelian is the last of his line, his capital is crumbling, and the armies of his enemy, Duke Conrad, are poised beyond the mountains to invade. Aurelian is preparing to gamble everything on one last battle. So when a holy man, the Doctor, comes to Varuz from beyond the mountains, Aurelian asks for his blessing in the war.

However, all is not what it seems in Varuz. The city- guards have lasers for swords, and the halls are lit by electric candlelight. Aurelian’s beloved wife, Guena, and his most trusted knight, Bernhardt, seem to be plotting to overthrow their Duke, and Clara finds herself drawn into their intrigue…

Will the Doctor stop Aurelian from going to war? Will Clara’s involvement in the plot against the Duke be discovered? Why is Conrad’s ambassador so nervous? And who are the ancient and weary knights who arrive in Varuz claiming to be on a quest for the Holy Grail.

Una McCormack is a New York Times bestselling author. She has written two Doctor Who novels featuring the Eleventh Doctor, Amy and Rory: The King’s Dragon and The Way through the Woods, as well as several audio dramas for Big Finish. She lives in Cambridge with her partner, Matthew, and their daughter, Verity.

Forbidden Planet
28 – 30 Burleigh Street, Cambridge, CB1 1DG
01223 301666


UK – Four Doctors Signing


Join TRAVELLING MAN YORK on Saturday the 22nd of August from 1:00-3:00pm for a signing event with the amazingly talented PAUL CORNELL.

PAUL CORNELL is an award winning writer of novels, comics, short fiction and non-fiction, as well as a TV screenwriter for Doctor Who and many other series.

Paul Cornell has written for some of the world’s greatest comics characters and series – including Batman, Black Widow, Captain Britain, Demon Knights, Fantastic Four, Saucer Country, Stormwatch, Superman, Wisdom, Wolverine, X-Men, XTNCT, and Young Avengers.

Paul is currently writing two new series; DOCTOR WHO: FOUR DOCTORS (Titan Comics) and THIS DAMNED BAND (Dark Horse).

RSVP on Facebook!

Travelling Man
54 Goodramgate, YO1 7LF York, UK

UK – Star Trek/Planet of the Apes Signing


Press Release:

Orbital Comics is excited to welcome rising star and local talent Rachael Stott (artist on Star Trek and the upcoming Doctor Who: The Twelfth Doctor: Year Two) to the store for a special signing to coincide with the release of the Star Trek/Planet of the Apes TPB from IDW Publishing on Wednesday, August 26 from 6:00 – 7:00 PM!

RSVP on Facebook!

Orbital Comics
8 Great Newport Street, London WC2H 7JA, United Kingdom
020 7240 0591

UK – Doctor Who Day 2015 Signing


Nick Abadzis, Al Ewing, and Rob Williams appear for Titan Comics’ Doctor Who Day at the Forbidden Planet Megastore on Saturday 15th August 1 -2pm!

Signing Doctor Who 10th Vol. 1 Revolutions of terror, Doctor Who 11th Vol. 1 After Life and Doctor Who 11th Vol. 2 Serve You

In Revolutions of Terror, the Doctor thought he was done with new companions after Donna’s tragic exit – but that was before he met Gabriella “Gabby” Gonzalez during an incursion of psychic parasites in Brooklyn, New York! Now she’s traveling the cosmos as the Doctor’s latest companion – and life couldn’t be more exciting! Battling invisible creatures on the Day of the Dead, uncovering a galactic conspiracy in the universe’s most famous art gallery – the only downside is the constant threat of death!

In After Life, Alice Obiefune was at her lowest ebb when the Doctor burst into her life; she’d lost her mother, her job, and her apartment. But it didn’t take much of the Doctor’s compassion to get her on board the TARDIS, rediscovering the beauty in life, one time-lost adventure at a time! From tackling an alien pet in the streets of London, to exposing a devilish mystery in the 1930s Bayou; from discovering the truth behind an austerity-hit pleasure planet to facing a shapeshifting horror in a scientific research station – every day with the Doctor brings a new, impossible, life-threatening experience!

In Serve You, meet a threat in reverse as time inside the TARDIS flows backwards! An ancient alien war for supremacy in the sky comes to near-future London! And the machinations of SERVEYOUinc revealed, when the Doctor hits them where it hurts – their wallets! Three companions, three times the danger, three times the excitement! Experience every twist and secret reveal in the thrilling second act of the eleventh Doctor’s first year in comics!

Forbidden Planet London Megastore
179 Shaftesbury Avenue, London, WC2H 8JR
0207 420 3666

IL – Four Doctors #1 Signing


Artist David Carr appears at Twilight Comics on Saturday, August 15, 2015 for their Doctor Who Day celebration and to sign his exclusive variant cover of FOUR DOCTORS #1!

RSVP on Facebook!

Twilight Comics
208-6 Frank Scott Pkwy East, Swansea, IL 62226
(618) 416-2797

SC – Four Doctors #1 Signing


Artist Kelly Yates appears at Borderlands Comics & Games on Saturday, August 15, 2015 starting at 11:00 AM to celebrate Doctor Who Day 2015 and sign their exclusive variant cover of Four Doctors #1!

RSVP on Facebook!

Borderlands Comics & Games
1434 Laurens Road, Greenville, SC 29607
(864) 235-3488

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