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!

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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!

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.