A few years ago, when I was still in high school, a person who liked anime was made fun of for it. My school had a manga/book club, and the entire group was often ridiculed by jocks who wouldn’t know good writing if it were mixed in their protein shakes. Despite this, I grew to love the art form, and when I learned that there were whole conventions devoted to it, I begged my dad to take me to one. Surprisingly, he agreed.
Anime conventions were smaller then, including my first, Ichibancon 2012, which was held at a tiny hotel in Charlotte, NC. I originally went with two friends to meet none other than Vic Mignogna, who was–and remains to this day–my favorite voice actor. We stood in his autograph line for about 30 minutes, and when I finally got to his table, I said “Hi” in a talking-to-your-crush-for-the-first-time voice.
Now, five years later, I’m still going to that same convention. It was held this year over New Year’s Day weekend at Embassy Suites Hotel in Concord. Comparing this year’s Ichibancon to the one in 2012 is like comparing the inside of the TARDIS to the inside of my closet. Over 5,000 attendees pre-registered this year, which doesn’t include those who bought a badge on-site. I don’t think 5,000 people even knew about it in in 2012. The cosplayers were awesome. I saw anime, Marvel, and DC characters, plus assorted Pokemon and pop culture figures (the guy dressed as John Cena was meme-tastic). One group of cosplayers was from Undertale, a video game that just came out, which was impressive in its immediacy and quality. Dozens of panels were scheduled on just about any nerdy topic you could imagine, even for Homestuck, the webcomic created in 2009 by Andrew Hussie. The gamers had their own room: dozens of PlayStations and Nintendos (and I don’t mean Nintendogs) projected onto the walls. There was even a TARDIS bouncy house for all the children. I didn’t see the cosplay contest, but I’m sure it was fabulous, especially since, for the first year, a $500 prize was available for first place (this would probably cover the cost of half an automail leg).
Speaking of automail, I got a chance to talk to my five-years-ago idol, Vic Mignogna. Vic is the Johnny Depp of anime. Other voice actors were there, including several members of the cast of Durarara!! (Saki Mikajima, Kasuka Heiwajima, Seiji Yagiri, and Saburo Togusa), whom you don’t see often. But Vic was clearly the biggest draw: one girl came all the way from New Jersey to meet him.
After seeing him a dozen or more times over the years, I felt more relaxed than that initial time. Here is what we discussed.
Me: As Edward Elric, you’re very emotional and over the top. Then you recently switched to playing Kasuka on Durarara!! who is emotionless with a very emotional brother. What was that like?
Vic: You know, I have to tell you, I’m kind of naturally emotional and expressive with my voice. Then, when I was doing Durarara!!, started, and they asked me, can you take the emotion out of it? Can you make it flatter? I’m thinking, it’s pretty flat already. So, yeah, that was a big change.
Me: How long have you been doing conventions?
Vic: Wow. Honestly, maybe a total of thirteen years.
Me: How did you get started?
Vic: Well, I got started in voice acting sixteen or seventeen years ago, and I didn’t know anything about conventions. In fact, there weren’t any at the time. Then, a few years into my career, I saw Monica Rial, and she said to me, “Hey, do you want to go to an anime convention?” I was like, “A what? They have conventions?” I went to Star Trek conventions when I was a little boy, but I had never been to an anime convention. So I went as a guest to one in Ohio, in Columbus, and I was just blown away. I couldn’t believe that there were these wall scrolls with my characters on it and pencil boards and plushies. I had no idea this stuff existed. That was the first one I went to, and of course it ramped up since then.
Me: I’ve also seen you at conventions like DragonCon that are not strictly anime conventions. Talk about the difference between those.
Vic: Anime conventions are very special in and of themselves. There is a real strong sense of community because everybody is there because they love this one specific genre of entertainment. Multicultural, pop culture conventions are more of something for everyone. It’s nice to have an anime presence there, but they don’t typically have the same feeling, a sense of family that you get at an anime convention. I suppose it would probably be the same for any convention that pertains to one thing. If you went to a Supernatural convention, it’s a little more focused. But I enjoy pop culture conventions, mostly because I’m a big sci-fi fan myself, so it’s a real pleasure to get to meet other sci-fi actors that I’m a fan of.
Me: Who is your favorite celebrity you’ve ever met?
Vic: Oh, Bill Shatner, of course. I’ve loved Captain Kirk since I was a little boy. [Want to see Vic as a little boy? Click here.] And you know, when I was young, I used to go to Star Trek conventions, and he is the only one of the original cast I never got to meet. Now, to literally be represented by the same manager who represents Bill, we get booked into conventions together, and we’ve gotten to have dinner together and travel a little bit and hang out, so it’s a real privilege.
Me: Have you had to suppress the urge to squeal like a fangirl?
Vic: All the time. All the time. [Laughs.] I want to respect him and not turn into one of those fanboys he’s dealt with for forty years.
Me: I read on your Wikipedia page that you were once a law enforcement officer.
Vic: I was. Right after college, my mom, who lives on the eastern shore of Maryland, was very good friends with the chief of police in the city where she lived. She always used to brag to him about her son who was a moral, ethical, upstanding member of the community. And so he said, well, I’d like to have someone like that on the police force. I didn’t have any plans right after college, so I went back there and went through the police training and became a cop for two years. It was never a career move. I enjoyed it a lot, but it isn’t something I want to do forever.
Me: It takes a special person to do that job.
Vic: It does. And to deal with the darker side of humanity so much of your life, always having to enforce the laws and deal with people breaking the rules can make a person very cynical and depressed.
Me: I have a copy of your Gospel of John CD. What was the genesis [see what I did there?] of that project?
Vic: Actually, it’s kind of interesting. I was at a convention, and a mother came up to me and said, “My daughter loves your work. She could sit and listen to you for hours. She loves your voice. You could read the phone book and she would listen to it.” I thought, what a nice thing to say. Then I thought, maybe not the phone book, but what if I were to record something of more importance and give it away. So I went home and recorded the Gospel of John and used a contemporary translation and played the piano underneath it to make it easy to listen to. I put a lot of money into it myself to get all the discs pressed, and now I give it away at conventions because what better thing to give to fans of my work than something that is very precious to me?
Me: Do you have plans to do more books?
Vic: I would love to, but it takes a lot of time, and to be honest, I don’t know what book I would do. There aren’t a lot of books of the Bible that stand by themselves, that tell the whole story. If you’re gonna get one chance to tell someone the story of Jesus, why he came, what he did, his ministry, his rising again, all of that, it’s all pretty self-contained in the Gospel of John. So I don’t know what book I would do, and it’s very time-consuming. I don’t have a lot of time, especially now with the Star Trek series I’m doing.
Me: So the Star Trek series is still going well?
Vic: Oh yeah. Bigger than ever. We just finished shooting episode six. Popularity is growing, and viewership is growing. At the risk of sounding partial, it’s fantastic. It looks and feels and sounds exactly like the original series. We have managed to continue the original series in every way, so you feel like you’re watching episodes that were never broadcast.
Me: But they’re all original stories.
Vic: Oh yes. From the recreation of the sets to the lighting, costumes, make-up, story, music, editing, characters—everything. No amount of description can prepare you for the quality. And it’s free. Just go to startrekcontinues.com. The first episode is wonderful, and the second is better than the first, and the third is better than the second. They just get better and better
Me: Last question. What is it like dealing with all the fangirls who are much younger than you?
Vic: Well, it’s kind of funny because, if I were half my age, I would be flattered. But I really look at it more like a father looking at younger people and going, Man, if I can give some joy to this person, if I can make them feel special about themselves, because so many of these kids are struggling with who they are and their place in the world and their security and self-esteem. I feel as if I have been given an opportunity to be an encouragement, somebody that they look up to and notices them and compliments them and puts his arms around them and gives them a big hug and engages with them. I think that’s very important. I didn’t used to realize how important that is, and over the years, with all the emails and letters I’ve gotten and interactions I’ve had at conventions, I’ve come to realize that God has put me here for a very specific purpose, and that is to bring encouragement and love and kindness and support to a lot of people who are at a very sensitive crossroads in their lives.
Of course, everyone has their criticisms no matter how much they enjoy something, and Ichibancon was not without flaws. For one thing, it needs a larger venue. There were lines to get into the dealer room and artist alley, and some of the panels were standing room only. Parking was ridiculous. I squeezed my car in next to a dumpster, and I saw people walking over from car dealerships and other hotels. According to one staff member, however, the only place large enough to expand to is the Charlotte Convention Center, whose surrounding hotels are much more expensive–$240 a night or more. Anime conventions are largely attended by teenagers, who don’t have much money (and spend what they do have on Call of Duty).
It was clear from artist alley and the dealer room that neither of them was “juried.” Some conventions judge vendors’ merchandise ahead of time and then make decisions on who gets a slot. This is done to make sure there is enough variety and quality in the room. Ichibancon, it seems, didn’t do this because there was a lot of repetition in both areas. Merchandise was mostly plushies, posters, and wall scrolls. There was no manga, and I saw only one dealer selling comic-related stuff (usually, there are more).
Even with all these negative things going on in the convention, that is no reason for the muggles to boycott this convention (I saw a picketer in the parking lot). In fact, I believe that this convention is the perfect one for any anime convention newbies.
The cast and Executive Producers of “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” will be heading to WonderCon in Los Angeles! Join them for an exclusive panel Q&A session at the Los Angeles Convention Center on Saturday, March 26.
The “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” panel will be moderated by Marvel’s Head of Television and series Executive Producer, Jeph Loeb, and will include a Q&A discussion where fans can get a glimpse of what’s ahead for the team in Season 3. Fans lucky enough to attend will also get a sneak peek at an upcoming episode of the series before it airs on ABC as well as a limited edition show-themed mini-poster, featuring never-before-seen art by Marvel comic artist, Mike McKone. (Entertainment Weekly has a preview at the link)
Can’t make the panel? Fans can catch the cast at a poster signing after the panel in the private signing room.
SATURDAY, MARCH 26:
“Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” — Panel Session and Poster Giveaway
2:00 PM PT – 3:30 PM PT in Room 408AB
“Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” — Cast Signing Event and Poster Giveaway
4:00 PM PT – 5:00 PM PT in the private signing room.
Please note that signings are ticketed events and passes will be available via a ticket drawing beginning at 7:30 AM PT on Saturday, March 26 in West Hall A.
Tom Angleberger appears at Politics & Prose Bookstore on Wednesday, April 6, 2016 at 10:30 AM to sign Rocket & Groot: Stranded on Planet Strip Mall!
Politics & Prose
5015 Connecticut Ave NW, Washington, DC 20008
Tom Angleberger appears at Barnes & Noble on Thursday April 7, 2016 at 6:00 PM to sign Rocket & Groot: Stranded on Planet Strip Mall!
Barnes & Noble – Barracks Road Shopping Center
1035 Emmet Street Suite A, Charlottesville, VA 22903
Artist Sanford Greene, whose work has graced the pages of comic book series including Runaways, Shaft, Wonder Girl, and more, appears at Borderlands Comics & Games on Wednesday, February 17, 2016 from 11:00 AM till 3:00 PM to celebrate the release of Marvel’s all-new, all-different POWER MAN & IRON FIST #1! The original Heroes For Hire are back!
Borderlands Comics & Games
1434 Laurens Road, Greenville, SC 29607
Artist Hugh Rookwood appears at Stadium Comics on Wednesday, February 3, 2016 from noon till 9:00 PM to celebrate the release of SPIDER-MAN #1 the all new ongoing series from Marvel Comics starring MILES MORALES as Spider-Man!
499 Main Street South, Brampton, ON L6Y 1N7
January 22, 2016 by Colin Solan
Filed under Animation, Collectibles, Comic Books, Comic Strips, Convention News, Kansas, Manga, Movies, Other, Science Fiction and Fantasy, Television, Top Stories, Video Games, Webcomics
Stan Lee, the guy who created and co-created hundreds of iconic superheroes, including Spider-Man, Iron Man, Incredible Hulk, and Thor, is coming to Planet Comicon Kansas City at Bartle Hall May 20, 21 and 22. The legendary former publisher of Marvel Comics is scheduled to sign autographs, pose with fans for photo opportunities, and appear on stage for a Q&A session.
“Every year the show gets better,” said Planet Comicon Kansas City founder and CEO Christopher Jackson. “We are incredibly excited and truly honored to have Stan Lee coming to Kansas City. He is a visionary who has brought a whole pantheon of modern mythology to life. The incredible imagination of Stan Lee fills our theaters, toy stores, and television screens.”
Planet Comicon Kansas City has exploded in popularity and attendance since moving to the monster space at Bartle Hall in 2012. The annual show draws legions of fans of superheroes, science fiction, animation, television, movies, fantasy, and gaming, with acres of interactive exhibits, live art, costumes, performances and collectibles.
Other celebrity guests already announced for Planet Comicon in 2016 include Edward James Olmos (Battlestar Galactica, Miami Vice), Eve Myles (Doctor Who, Torchwood), Sean Maher (Firefly), and Jason Mewes (Clerks, Mallrats). Other comic creator guests include Bill Sienkiewicz (Elektra: Assassin), Jason Aaron (Star Wars, Thor), Joe Staton (Green Lantern, Dick Tracy), Cullen Bunn (Uncanny X-Men, The Sixth Gun), Brian Hurtt (The Sixth Gun, Queen & Country), Matt Kindt (Rai, Ninjak), Don Rosa (Uncle Scrooge), Freddie E. Williams II (Batman/TMNT), Dennis Hopeless (Spider-Woman), Phil Hester (Green Arrow, The Flash: Season Zero), Rick Burchett (Lady Sabre, Batman Adventures), and more!
“We will continue to announce celebrity guests over the next few months,” Jackson said. “The final roster will include more than 25 celebrities who will be available to meet with their fans. Planet Comicon is designed for every fan in the family. We work for a great balance of comic book creators, celebrity guests, cosplay events, vendors, gaming, children’s activities, performances, and panel programming. That’s what has kept our event growing year after year.”
Last year’s Planet Comicon Kansas City drew a record-setting 54,000 fans to Bartle Hall, but Jackson expects the 2016 show to be the biggest yet.
Jackson noted that, “For the past two years, Planet Comicon has been on the same weekend as the Big 12 basketball tournament, which strained the limits of hotel rooms, parking, and other downtown accommodations. Our event has now moved to May, and we expect that to allow us to grow our show and improve the experience for fans even more.”
Tickets for Planet Comicon Kansas City will be available at the door. In addition, advance memberships that include admission to the event can be purchased at the Planet Comicon Kansas City website, www.planetcomicon.com. A limited number of Stan Lee autograph and photo packages will be available and can be pre-purchased on the website.
“This will be Mr. Lee’s first such appearance in Kansas City and we are extremely excited to welcome him as our guest of honor at Planet Comicon,” Jackson said. “We expect the Stan Lee packages to sell out in advance of the show, so fans who want to meet him should book their packages well ahead of time.”
Lee has appeared in more than 30 movies, including cameos in nearly every Marvel movie. He was recently named the most successful filmmaker of all time, as his legendary creations have grossed $15 billion worldwide.
FOUNDED IN 1999, PLANET COMICON KANSAS CITY is Kansas City’s largest and longest-running comic book convention and pop culture expo, featuring the best in comic books, fantasy, science fiction television and movies. Past Planet Comicon guests have included William Shatner, Stephen Amell, Lou Ferrigno, Adam West, Kenny Baker, Cary Elwes, Karen Gillan and many more. Memberships that include admission can be purchased on the event website, www.planetcomicon.com. Tickets will also be available at the door.
Actor/comedian Brian Posehn returns to I Like Comics for a signing on Saturday, January 30, 2016 from noon till 2:00 pm! Mr. Posehn is known in the comics world for writing both The Last Christmas from Image and Deadpool (3rd series) from Marvel. He has also appeared as a recurring character on New Girl, The Sarah Silverman Program, Just Shoot Me, and Mission Hill. In addition to countless other TV appearances, he is a highly sought after stand-up comedian and voice actor.
This event is FREE however, if you’d like a chance to catch one of his amazing stand-up acts from at Helium from January 28th – January 30th, click the link for tickets.
I Like Comics
2101 E 4th Plain, Vancouver, Washington 98661
Cosplayer Jay Justice, cover model for the A-FORCE #1 cosplay variant, appears at Third Eye Comics on Wednesday, January 6, 2016 from 6:00 PM till 8:00 PM to celebrate the launch of A-FORCE!
Third Eye Comics
2027-A West Street, Annapolis, MD 21401
Charlotte MiniCon has announced they have just added the entire creative team of Marvel’s new Patsy Walker AKA Hellcat to their guest list! Writer Kate Leth (Power Up!), artist Brittney Williams (The Legend of Korra), and colorist Megan Wilson (Gwenpool Special) will appear on Saturday January 30, 2016 along with lots of other great comic creators, comic and toy dealers and crafters!
Previously announced guests include:
John Hairston Jr