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….

Watch City Festival 2013 and food outings

On Saturday, 11 May 2013, Janice and I met Beruk A. and Ken G. for the annual Watch City Festival in Waltham, Mass. We also ran into other acquaintances at the steampunk fair.

Beruk chatted with various exhibitors and fellow attendees, and Ken took pictures of people in neo-Victorian garb. Unlike past years, Janice and I tried to attend more panels and performances. It was interesting to see an academic track at the “Author’s Den.”

We sat in on “Ay-leen the Peacemaker’s” (Diana M. Pho’s) panel on “Steam Around the World: Steampunk Beyond Victoriana.” Her discussion of the multicultural aspects of the burgeoning subculture was interesting, and I was glad that Avatar: Legend of Korra was among the many works she cited. Exploration of social issues is part of the “punk” in steampunk.

We enjoyed a little of Shin Daiko’s drumming as we went to Margarita’s for lunch. We then browsed a bit among the vendors on the Waltham Common before attending artist James Gurney’s excellent discussion of “Dinotopia: Art, Science, and Imagination.” Gurney’s talk was a master class in how to combine elements for fictional world-building.

Ken left for another event, and we then went to “Seeing What the Old Masters Sought: Thoughts on 19th Century Design,” by Steve Ebinger. It was a good analysis of how real-world architects, painters, and inventors reacted to the politics, trade, materials, and expectations of their time and how they’ve influenced the do-it-yourself ethos of those developing the alternative styles of steampunk.

Overall, the turnout for the International Steampunk City was good, but the cool, damp weather may have turned some people away on Saturday. Janice and I had dinner at City Streets Restaurant, one of our regular haunts.

The next day, we returned to downtown Waltham after Janice’s usual stint volunteering at the animal shelter, and the sun shone on a crowd that included families celebrating Mother’s Day. It was much easier to be in costume.

Steampunk fair May 2013
At the Charles River Museum of Industry and Innovation

We went to Brandon Herman’s panel on “Clockwork Beyond Thunderdome: Steampunk in the Movies.” While I think that Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome shares only a few aesthetic elements with steampunk and dieselpunk, the genres are inclusive. Granted, there have been more bad movies and TV shows — such as Wild, Wild West — than good ones — see The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr.

I do think the literature (including some tabletop role-playing games) is ahead of other media in terms of quality. I have fond memories of Tim M.B.’s GURPS 3e “Arth” and my “Gaslight Grimoire” scenarios. Speaking of RPGs, Janice and I then had an early dinner at the Skellig before heading home for the latest “Vortex: Terra’s Pride” telecom space opera.

In the past week or two, I’ve also eaten lunch with co-workers at the Newton St. Deli, Coconut Thai CafĂ©, and Taqueria el Amigo. Although I didn’t run the “Vanished Lands: Vistel’s Circus” fantasy campaign for my regular Monday night group this week, we did go out for dinner at Angelo’s House of Pizza and Seafood, watch the amusing animated Despicable Me, and discuss upcoming games.

The “Escapists” book club of former co-workers had dinner at Habaneros, one of Janice’s and my favorite Mexican-American restaurants in the area. At Lizzy’s, we had dessert and discussed Robert A. Heinlein’s The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress, which I liked more than everyone else.

This coming weekend, I look forward to hosting Byron V.O., an alumnus of the Boston-area social/gaming groups who now lives in St. Louis. But first, I’ve got to survive the workweek!

Catching up: Raiders, Halloween, and the Rhode Island Comic Con

On Sunday, 28 October 2012, Janice and I went to the Brattle Theater in Harvard Square, Cambridge, to screen a remastered print of Raiders of the Lost Ark. I broke out my fedora and leather bomber jacket (but not my whip) for the occasion.

The cliffhanger movie has held up well after 30 years, and it was great to see Harrison Ford again as the charming scoundrel, John Rhys-Davies and Denholm Elliott as Indy’s pals, and most of all, Karen Allen as the spunky Marion Ravenwood, who’s every bit the equal of the adventuresome archaeologist and his Nazi nemeses.

Janice and I also browsed among our usual bookshops and had a good meal at Grendel’s Den. Unfortunately, former co-worker and fellow blogger Ken G. wasn’t able to join us because his return flight from Peru had been delayed.

For Halloween, I dressed in full chain armor for my weekly historical weapons class. It was fun to practice our moves with metal weapons for once.

At GuardUp!
Dueling in Norman-style chain armor

On Saturday, Nov. 3, I drove down to Providence, R.I., for the first Rhode Island Comic Con. The genre entertainment convention was a success, with strong attendance, numerous dealers and artists, and several celebrities, including (but not limited to) the following:

  • Star Trek: John De Lancie, Robert Picardo, Gary Graham
  • Star Wars: Peter Mayhew, Tom Kane
  • Buffy: the Vampire Slayer: Nicholas Brendon
  • Buck Rogers in the 25th Century: Gil Gerard, Felix Silla

And last, but not least, from the original Battlestar Galactica:

  • Richard Hatch (Cmdr. Apollo and Tom Zarek)
  • Dirk Benedict (Lt. Starbuck)
  • Herbert Jefferson Jr. (Lt. Boomer)
  • Jack Stauffer (Capt. Bojay)
  • Sarah Rush (Cpl. Rigel)
  • Noah Hathaway (Boxey)

As a child of the 1970s, I was excited to meet more actors from one of my favorite military space operas of all time. While I was disappointed that Laurette Spang (Cassiopeia) and Anne Lockhart (Lt. Sheba) couldn’t make it, it was still cool to see so many classic BSG actors together.

The actors still resemble their characters, almost 35 years later. Hatch was as gracious and philosophical as I remember from our previous meeting, and Jefferson still has his military bearing and is down to earth. Rush was perky as ever, and during the BSG panel discussion, ailing Stauffer talked about giving back to the acting community.

Benedict was as roguish as ever, soft-spoken one on one but sarcastic and funny during the panel. Hathaway, who was also Bastian in The Neverending Story, has grown into a tattooed, wiry guy with an attitude closer to that of Starbuck than adoptive father Apollo.

Everyone spoke highly of the professionalism and courtesy of the late Lorne Greene, a.k.a. Adm. Adama. They acknowledged classic Galactica‘s debt of inspiration to Star Wars, as well as the problems with producing a grand space adventure in the face of TV network opposition to its budget and tone. The cast even mentioned the derivative Galactica 1980 and Ron Moore’s grim BSG reboots, as well as plans to return the Galactica franchise to movie theaters.

Among other people, I enjoyed chatting about Buck Rogers with Gil Gerard (I had met Erin Gray at a previous event) and about Alien Nation with Gary Graham. I was pleased to find both actors approachable and good-humored about their respective television careers.

It was also nice to chat with artists Bob Eggleton and Craig Rousseau, whose works I’ve followed and whom I’ve met at past conventions. I also talked with Star Wars reference book author Ryder Windham, who agreed with me in being optimistic about Disney’s purchase of Lucasfilm and plans for more films in the saga.

In addition, there were many creative and confident cosplayers at RICC, and I was impressed when a zombie flash mob broke into dance to Michael Jackson’s “Thriller.” I didn’t have time to participate in any of the games that were being played in one ballroom.

I’d definitely consider attending the Rhode Island Comic Con if it is held again next year. Sure, the organizers could have done a better job of handling the crowds for certain panels, but I hope that the event was profitable enough that it can join the Boston Comic Con and this coming weekend’s annual Super MegaFest.

Our continuing mission…

As some of you may know from my report of this past weekend’s successful steampunk festival, I collect costumes, among other things. As a longtime “Trekker/Trekkie,” I already have the boots, phaser pistol, and gold command tunics for the classic 1960s television series. In addition, I recently ordered a shirt and jacket in the style of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine/Nemesis uniforms. The space opera garb arrived from China less than two weeks after I ordered it.

Star Trek garb
These are the voyages....

The materials and stitching are good, especially for the gray yoke. I’ll have to be careful with the small zippers. I may eventually replace the red mock turtleneck with one of a heavier material and use my metal rank pips and comm badge pin rather than the plastic ones that were Velcroed or sewn on. The jacket’s sleeves are a bit short, and the cuffs are a bit wide, but that’s because of my personal proportions and can be altered by a tailor (paging Elim Garak).

Capt. Tzu Tien Lung
One to beam up!

This costume resembles my image for “Capt. Tzu Tien Lung,” the commander of the U.S.S. Tempest in a homebrew GURPS 3e Space game that Steve M.R. ran in Virginia back in the mid-1990s. Although J.J. Abrams has rebooted the movie franchise and is working on a sequel, as the Star Trek Online MMO and some tabletop campaigns have shown, many fans are interested in continuing the universe of Star Trek: The Next Generation.

Sketch of Capt. Tzu
Sketch of Capt. Tzu

While I don’t have a Blu-Ray player, I am curious about the latest remastered episodes of Star Trek. I also hope that we can recover and build on real-world human spaceflight capabilities. Live long and prosper!

Watch City Festival 2012

On Saturday, 12 May 2012, Janice and I met Thomas K.Y. & Kai-Yin H. at the Waltham Common for the third annual Watch City Festival. Before exploring the steampunk fair, we walked to Carl’s for a filling steak sub lunch. (I’ve also recently eaten with co-workers at nearby Baan Thai and Bombay Mahal.)

Customized vintage vehicle
At the Watch City Festival 2012

We enjoyed perusing the tents and shops of the farmer’s market and assorted vendors, watching some performances, and seeing fellow steampunk fans in costume. We also went to the Charles River Museum of Industry and Innovation and associated galleries and workshops.

Janice and I went to last year’s International Steampunk City, and we were glad to see strong attendance, including many young people. We didn’t get to any of the panel discussions, but I did get to chat with some authors and artists in a variety of media.

The weather was warm and pleasant, so even though I’ve been fighting a cold and allergies, it was good to be outside after another week of rain. I admire the energy of steampunk enthusiasts, who are more open to creative experimentation than fans of other subgenres. Janice and I later walked up Waltham’s Moody Street, where we stopped by some bookstores and got ice cream at Lizzie’s.