Belated 2014 Star Trek convention report

I had a good time at this past summer’s Creation Star Trek Convention in Boston, even though the actors I was most interested in meeting — Deep Space Nine‘s Avery Brooks, Quantum Leap and Enterprise‘s Scott Bakula, and Into Darkness and Being Human‘s Karl Urban — all canceled at the last minute.

Other cancellations included Voyager‘s Kate Mulgrew and Into Darkness‘ Bruce Greenwood. Still, the show was entertaining enough for any longtime Star Trek fan, and I wasn’t expecting this year’s event to live up to last year’s reunion of most of the Next Generation cast with moderator William Shatner (whom Janice and I just saw at the Rhode Island Comic Con).

Most of the guest stars this time around were from the casts of Star Trek: Voyager and Enterprise. Last year, I went with fellow blogger Ken G., who this year attended on Saturday, June 21, but I was busy with Free RPG Day. As usual, there were many excellent cosplayers.

Star Trek cosplay
Capt. Tzu Tien Lung and Adm. Montgomery Scott

Fortunately, I had gotten a discount ticket for this year’s event, and I still got to meet Deep Space Nine‘s Nana Visitor (Maj. Kira Nerys) and Terry Farrell (Lt.Cmdr. Jadzia Dax). Much of the cast of Voyager was also present, and Max Grodenchik and Aron Eisnberg did a hilarious standup routine as Ferengis Rom and Nog, respectively.

Star Trek 2014 photo op
Nana, Gene, and Terry

As with most genre entertainment conventions lately, there was a big crowd and numerous cosplayers. In fact, last year’s Super MegaFest got so crowded that it was often a challenge to move around the Sheraton in Framingham, Mass. Fellow blogger Ken G. and I did get to meet Manu Bennet from Spartacus and Arrow, Barbara Eden from I Dream of Jeannie, among others.

Even though Waltham’s annual steampunk festival was canceled this spring because of finances and construction downtown, we haven’t lacked for other shows, such as the funny Monty Python reunion concert that was simulcast in U.S. theaters. Creation will be taking a year off and returning with a major Star Trek confab in Las Vegas to celebrate the franchise’s 50th anniversary in 2016.

This year’s Star Trek convention was inspirational, since I’ve been running occasional “episodes” of my “Star Trek: Restoration” space opera scenario.

We’ll see what genre entertainment events I get to next year, and I’ve found it easier lately to follow the news online from huge events such as the San Diego Comic Con rather than deal with traveling to them.

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Rhode Island Comic Con 2014 report, Part 2 — farewell to Warehouse 13

On Sunday, 2 November 2014, Janice and I returned to the overcrowded Rhode Island Comic Con (RICC). The lines moved more smoothly, and we took in more of the sights at this latest genre entertainment convention.

We were pleased to join a full room for the Warehouse 13 panel. Saul Rubinek and Eddie McClintock shared the same chemistry as their characters — seasoned agent Artie Nielsen and wisecracking Pete Latimer — did in the treasure-hunting TV show. Rubinek explained that SyFy canceled Warehouse 13 because of its expensive production, dwindling audience numbers (not counting DVRs), and a shift back to “harder” speculative fiction.

Warehouse 13 cast
A fun SyFy show

McClintock took several questions from the audience and was just as charming as goofball Pete was on the show. Both actors also described how they bonded with the precise but philosophical Joanne Kelly as agent Myka Bering and youthful and professional Allison Scagliotti as wunderkind Claudia Donovan over five seasons.

While I appreciate NBC/Universal choosing to return to the channel’s roots, I also think there’s room for quality comedies and family shows that still fit under SyFy’s umbrella. I’d prefer reruns of the Twilight Zone or The IT Crowd to wrestling or dumb “reality” competitions. At least fans got a decent sendoff for the underrated Warehouse 13, and there has been no shortage of supernatural procedurals lately.

Janice and I walked through the celebrity and cosplay areas, vendor aisles, and artists’ alley one more time before heading back to Massachusetts. Among other things, I picked up the complete Young Justice on DVD. We had planned to get a group photo with Rubinek and McClintock, but because of scheduling snafus, it was not to be.

We had a good time overall, and I’m glad that Janice was a good sport in dealing with the lines and crowds. The annual Boston Christmas Craft Festival this past weekend was easy in comparison.

Coming soon: A look back at this past summer’s Creation Star Trek Convention in Boston, a review of Big Hero 6, and my take on the current television season!

Rhode Island Comic Con report, Part 1 — Trekking in the rain

This past weekend, Janice and I drove down to Providence for the Rhode Island Comic Con (RICC). Despite the ever-growing crowds, we enjoyed the latest genre entertainment convention.

In addition to seasonal arts and crafts festivals, I usually try to get to some of the local events featuring TV and movies, comic books, and games each year. Because of family-related travel, I ended up skipping this year’s Boston Comic Con, the huge New York Comic Con, and the upcoming Super MegaFest, as well as various Renaissance festivals.

Popularity brings problems

I’ll write more about other recent cons soon, but back to Providence. Janice and I tried to get to the convention center early, and we had to wait outside for two hours in various lines before we finally got on the right one for our wristbands and admission. As with last year’s Boston Comic Con, it might have been easier to get in without advance tickets.

At least it was raining only lightly rather than snowing as in Massachusetts, and the cold I’ve been fighting was manageable. I felt particularly bad for the underdressed cosplayers shivering farther back in line. Extra layers or overcoats never hurt, at least until we get inside (Janice and I ran ours back to my car once we got in).

All of the events I’ve attended in the past few years have struggled with growing attendance. While I’m glad to see a new, more diverse generation of fans sharing some of my interests, organizers and venues have yet to catch up. Vendors can’t sell things if people can’t get to their tables or booths, and fans excited to meet artists or actors come away with negative feelings about communal experiences.

According to people I talked with, the Rhode Island Convention Center can hold up to about 10,000 people at a time, and the RICC had to turn people away by Saturday afternoon after 20,000 showed up. If a total of 17,000 people attended last year, it was a mistake to plan for 50,000 over the course of this weekend. Understandably, many people were very unhappy, but I hope that everyone can learn better logistics for the sake of safety and fun.

What should organizers do? I recommend planning for more frequent events, finding larger venues if possible, and making the events more specific — just pop-culture celebrities or graphic artists, for example. If nearly every state in the U.S. has a Renaissance festival or two, some of the pressure could be relieved with more numerous, local shows.

On the show floor

Once we got into the RICC, it was crowded but worthwhile. There were many celebrity guests, including the original Star Trek‘s William Shatner, George Takei, Nichelle Nichols, and Walter Koenig. I had seen these actors before, but it was Janice’s first time to see them in person.

We also got to chat with John Rhys-Davies and Karen Allen from the Indiana Jones movies, former Doctor Who Colin Baker, and The Flash‘s John Wesley Shipp. All were very gracious and took the time to speak with each autograph seeker.

At last year’s RICC, I got to hang out with both Buck Rogers and Flash Gordon — Gil Gerard and Sam Jones! This year, Farscape‘s Gigi Edgley complimented Janice’s and my “positive energy,” and “Whedonverse” (and Agents of SHIELD) alumnus J. August Richards was much more pleasant than his tortured characters. I’m friends with Jacqui B., who runs his and others’ Web sites.

We browsed the vendor area and walked through Artist’s Alley, which included luminaries such as Neal Adams, Jim Steranko, and Bob Eggleton. I bought sketchbooks from Michael Dooney and Chrissie Zullo. As collectible card games and video games have displaced tabletop role-playing games, anime seems to be more popular among many younger consumers and cosplayers than traditional superhero comics.

After a quick lunch at Charley’s Grilled Subs, Janice and I attended Vic Mignogna’s panel on “Star Trek Continues,” fan-made movies set right after the original TV series with professional-grade production values and actors. Janice and I then watched his latest episode, “Fairest of Them All,” which returned to the popular alternate universe of “Mirror, Mirror.”

The acting was solid, with Mignogna as Capt. James T. Kirk, Mythbusters‘ Grant Imahara as Lt. Hikaru Sulu, and Chris Doohan a dead ringer for his late father James as chief engineer Scotty. Asia De Marcos is also a strong reflection (sorry, couldn’t help it) of BarBara Luna as Marlena Moreau, the “captain’s woman.” Michael Dorn provided the computer voice for the alternate universe’s Enterprise.

For any fan of classic Trek, this is more true to Gene Roddenberry’s idealistic space opera than many of its subsequent spin-offs and certainly more so than J.J. Abrams’ reboot. We missed Shatner’s panel, but we did catch a brief one with Nichols and Koenig in which they reminisced as the franchise approaches its 50th anniversary.

Janice and I sat through part of the costume contest — my favorites included characters from Invader Zim and Marvel’s Modok — but we eventually left to eat. Not surprisingly, most of the restaurants in the adjacent Providence Place Mall were full, so we ended up grabbing dinner at Panera before checking into the comfortable Hampton Inn & Suites Downtown. We had better luck than actress Eliza Dushku, who was robbed, but all’s well that ends well….

I’ll post soon about our second day at the con!

Boston Comic Con 2013 report

On Saturday, 3 August 2013, I went to the Boston Comic Con, which had been postponed and relocated because of the marathon bombings this past spring. David I.S. had hoped to attend it. The convention was crowded but worthwhile.

BCC 2013 wallpaper
Superheroes visit Boston

I got to the Seaport World Trade Center by 9:30 a.m., and the lines to get in were already around the block. Advance ticket holders like me, Beruk A., and Thomas K.Y. & Kai-Yin H. ended up waiting an hour or more, while those who bought their tickets that day, such as Sara F., didn’t have to wait as long. I hope that the organizers will have more people working admissions next year.

As with last year’s con, which I attended with Janice, it was great to see a diverse range of fans of all ages, races, and genders. Even though the site was bigger than the Hynes Convention Center, which was originally supposed to host the show, the crowds likely exceeded the expected attendance of 15,000 by a significant percentage.

Although it’s too bad that Dave and Janice weren’t along, it was nice to be at the con with a group. I ran into several people I know, including a co-worker and folks from Bedrock Comics, Newbury Comics, and New England Comics.

Readers looking for back issues could find excellent deals on trade paperbacks and graphic novels, and toy collectors had many booths to choose from. There were also several vendors specializing in arts and crafts, if fewer of fan-made films, costume accessories, or tabletop role-playing games.

Getting beyond the dealers’ area were some celebrities and the artists’ alley. Although Walking Dead and Hobbit fans were eager for autographs, we focused on the latter this year. We also didn’t get to any panels or the film festival because of staggered arrivals and the crowds.

I was glad to see comics greats such as Neal Adams, Colleen Doran, Mike Mignola, George Perez, Don Rosa, and Tim Sale. Even though I had met several of them before, we were happy to chat with the likes of David Petersen, Joe Quinones, and Daixong. I bought sketchbooks from some of these artists.

Of course, there were lots of fans and exhibitors in costume. DC and Marvel Comics characters were well-represented, as were anime and videogame properties. There were also some steampunk cosplayers and impressive homemade garb. I didn’t wear a costume because of comfort, but I always appreciate those who make the effort.

I’ve already been to a few local genre entertainment events so far this year, including the Watch City Festival and Creation Star Trek convention. For next year’s Boston Comic Con, I’ll have to plan more carefully to account for the crowds, and I hope that friends will again join me.

In the coming months, I look forward to the Rhode Island Comic Con and the Super MegaFest, as well as possibly the New York Comic Con! Coming soon: Other genre news and reviews, food outings, and game updates….

San Diego Comic-Con 2013 observations

In between other things this past weekend, I caught a bit of the online coverage of this year’s San Diego Comic Con, especially the following highlights.

Disney/Marvel showcased Agents of SHIELD (Joss Whedon’s upcoming TV show), The Wolverine and continuity-patching X-Men: Days of Future Past, and Thor 2: the Dark World (with a hilarious Tim Hiddleston in character as Loki). A little further out are espionage-flavored Captain America 2: Winter Soldier, likely blockbuster Avengers 2: Age of Ultron, and Guardians of the Galaxy, at whose panel Doctor Who‘s Karen Gillan revealed she had shaved her head.

X-Men cast, past and present
X-Men: Days of Future Past reunited cast members across eras

Warner Bros/DC had panels on the 20th anniversary of the excellent Batman: the Animated Series and the successful CW series Arrow. It also announced the title of live-action movie Superman/Batman, as well as Justice League: Flashpoint and War, which bring DC Comics’ “new 52” to animation. I’ve already blogged on how I’d approach the DC universe.

I’m not sure that Age of Ultron, which Whedon said won’t be based on comic book storylines involving Hank Pym, or the adversarial Superman/Batman, which draws from Frank Miller’s Dark Knight Returns, are good ideas. As much as I’ve enjoyed the latest wave of superhero adaptations, I’d like to see more variety, such as female-led movies, flicks that don’t rehash different origins in a formulaic way, and less tinkering to follow current trends.

There were panels for several of my favorite shows, including Doctor Who (which is celebrating its 50th anniversary), the potentially ending Psych, and the darkly fun Grimm. Conspiratorial Person of Interest has proven to be prescient, and I’ve been touting the underrated clone drama Orphan Black as the best new genre TV show this past year.

I also look forward to Season 2 of the animated steampunk/fantasy Avatar: Legend of Korra and Season 3 of the BBC’s Sherlock. Of the upcoming TV shows previewed in San Diego, I’m looking forward Almost Human the most.

Hollywood continued its domination of Comic Con, with previews of upcoming movies, including Godzilla and Veronica Mars. There was some comic book news, but it was overshadowed by other media. Of course, there were lots of fans in costume.

I’ve been to a number of genre entertainment events already this year, and I look forward to the Boston Comic Con, Super MegaFest, the Rhode Island Comic Con, and possibly the New York Comic Con!