Super MegaFest 2012 con report

On Saturday, 17 November 2012, I met former co-worker and fellow fan Ken G. at the Sheraton Framingham for the tenth annual Super MegaFest. We had a good time at the genre entertainment convention, which had an even stronger lineup of celebrity guests than usual.

I thought the show‘s organizers did a decent job of handling crowd control, since attendance has grown and space is limited. On the other hand, I did have to wait in several long lines, and I heard some complaints about guests having to wait for rides at the airport.

In addition, the pop culture portions have squeezed the space available to vendors and comic book artists. I’ve noted previously that support for tabletop role-playing games has all but vanished from such multimedia events, and DVD and toy sellers aren’t far behind. I have to admit, though, the assorted actors and artists were a strong draw for me this year.

I had met Kevin Sorbo, the lead of Hercules: the Legendary Journeys, Andromeda, and Kull the Conqueror at a previous con, but Ken and I got to join his joking conversations with other fans and Bruce Boxleitner, who sat at the next table.

I’ve watched Boxleitner in Tron (including Tron Legacy and Tron Uprising), Scarecrow and Mrs. King, Bring ‘Em Back Alive, and Babylon 5. During his panel discussion, Boxleitner gave us insights into Tron and B5, balancing his bitterness toward meddling network TV executives with kudos for his fellow actors and fondness for history. I agree with his statement that there should be more heroic, idealistic space opera on television, continuing in the tradition of John Carter, Star Trek, and Stargate SG1.

I was happy to meet Adrian Paul, star of Highlander: the Series, one of the best modern fantasy TV shows of the 1990s (or indeed any time, in my opinion) and one of the strongest parts of that swashbuckling franchise. He has aged nearly as gracefully as his immortal Scotsman. I told Paul that his former castmate Roger Daltrey was in town performing with The Who. I was surprised that relatively few people sought Paul’s autograph, but he was a last-minute addition to the roster.

Dean Cain, best known as Clark Kent/Superman in Lois & Clark: the New Adventures of Superman, was smiling and pleasant to everyone, just as any Superman fan could hope. A bunch of models ran over to get their photos with the beefy actor, who had one of the longer autograph lines at the MegaFest.

Like Boxleitner, Cain was complimentary of his fellow actors during his panel. He talked about being a single father, his own love of history, and how he and Sorbo had both auditioned for the role of Superman. Cain also talked about his and Christopher Reeve’s cameos on Smallville and wished Henry Cavill good luck with the upcoming Man of Steel.

Speaking of TV superheroes, I found John Wesley Shipp from The Flash to be very friendly. It’s hard to believe that close to 20 years have passed since that wave of live-action superheroes on TV, which arguably paved the way for more recent cinematic blockbusters such as The Avengers.

The guest of honor was Stan “the Man” Lee, co-creator of Marvel icons such as Spider-Man, the Fantastic Four, and the X-Men. After waiting in long lines, Ken timed my photo op with him at 6 seconds, but it was nice to exchange words with one of the most recognizable comic book creators.

At the Boston Super MegaFest 2012
Greetings, true believers! Excelsior!

I was out of cash after getting various autographs, so I didn’t buy anything else at this year’s con. (Not to mention, I’ve had a busy year, from the Boston Comic Con and Steampunk City to the Rhode Island Comic Con.) There were lots of other actors, models, and fans in costume to see and talk to. See also Ken’s review of this event.

Coming soon: More belated game updates and Skyfall review. Have a safe and Happy Thanksgiving!

The Force is strong with the Mouse House…

By now, genre entertainment fans may have seen the news that Disney is buying Lucasfilm for $4.05 billion. I’ve already seen lots of snarky comments online, but this purchase might be good for the franchise, and by extension, space opera.

Disney buys Lucasfilm
George Lucas and Walt Disney’s creations

I have no love for megacorporate deals, some of Lucas’ more stilted dialogue, or the “nerd rage” of many fans. Get over Jar Jar Binks already — yes, the character is unintentionally offensive, but most small children I observed loved him as previous ones loved R2-D2, Yoda, or Ewoks.

My sources have hinted that Disney has been interested in Lucasfilm for some time, for much the same reason it recently bought Marvel Comics — as intellectual property to mine for profitable ideas.

On the other hand, the fact remains that the Star Wars movies and multimedia helped rescue science fiction from obscurity in the late 1970s, and Lucas handing off his creation to the next generation of directors isn’t necessarily a bad idea.

Lucas has shown greater wisdom when collaborating with other writers than when tinkering with his earlier works, as the excellent Young Indiana Jones Chronicles and Star Wars: Clone Wars demonstrate.

The “expanded universe” of Star Wars novels, comic books, games, toys, and TV shows has generally maintained consistent quality (notwithstanding the occasional cheesy Christmas special). As much as I love other franchises from my youth, such as Doctor Who, Star Trek and Planet of the Apes, I’ve become more of a Star Wars buff.

We’ll have to wait and see if Disney’sEpisode VII” and other sequels continue the dreams born from a kid in California watching old Flash Gordon serials or whether the worst fears of hypercritical fans are again realized. May the Force be with us — always!

Gene the Christmas Jedi
As a Jedi, Christmas 2009

Catching up: San Diego Comic-Con 2012 reflections

Superheroes and villains have been in the news a lot lately. My heart goes out to the families of the victims of this past weekend’s shooting tragedy in Colorado. Let’s look back for a moment to happier times.

San Diego Comic-Con 2012 included the usual movie and television previews, toys and games, large numbers of brave fans in costume (also known as cosplay), and even some comic book announcements. Although I missed Spike TV’s coverage a few weeks ago, I caught much of G4’s programming, including its three-hour block on Saturday, 14 July 2012.

The CW's upcoming "Arrow" TV series
The CW’s upcoming “Arrow” TV series

Movies

Of the movies previewed, I’ve become more interested in the science fiction remakes Total Recall and Dredd, as well as animated comedies ParaNorman, Hotel Transylvania, and Rise of the Guardians. A few other flicks caught my eye, including Django Unchained, Looper, Elysium, and Pacific Rim.

Of course, there are the obligatory prequels and sequels, including James Bond in Skyfall, comic book superheroes Iron Man 3 and Thor 2, Star Trek 2, and last but not least The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey and The Hobbit: There and Back Again.

Live-action TV

With the recent genre TV season ended, it was bittersweet to look back at departed or soon-to-end series such as Awake, Fringe, and Spartacus. Fortunately, there are lots of new shows to look forward to this fall, including supernatural melodrama 666 Park Ave. and postapocalyptic Revolution.

I’m a longtime fan of DC Comics’ Green Arrow, so I’ll definitely try the CW’s Arrow, which gives Oliver Queen the Batman Begins/Smallville treatment. I hope that it can focus more on Ollie’s awakening as a champion of social justice and archery prowess and less on the soap opera aspects, but the trailers are a mixed bag.

Of course, there’s lots to watch in the meantime, like midsummer cable shows such as Leverage, Warehouse 13, Alphas, and White Collar. As a longtime “Whovian,” it’s nice to see the cast of Doctor Who (and Torchwood) treated as returning heroes. We’ll see whether CBS’s Elementary will be a worthy companion to the BBC and PBS’s Sherlock and Masterpiece: Mystery.

Beyond the speculative fiction of Fringe, other procedurals with twists that I recommend include Castle (fanboy shippers), Person of Interest (domestic espionage), and Grimm (modernized fairy tales).

Cartoons

I’m disappointed that Batman and the Brave and the Bold and Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes are being replaced so soon, but at least Young Justice and Green Lantern: the Animated Series will be joined by new lighthearted Teen Titans Go! episodes. As I’ve mentioned before, Star Wars: the Clone Wars is carrying the torch for space opera on TV and continuing to expand George Lucas’ universe.

I’ve enjoyed the worldbuilding of Avatar: the Legend of Korra and the underrated Tron: Legacy. I suspect that the next animated Teenaged Mutant Ninja Turtles will be better than the live-action revision would have been.

Comic books

In comic books discussed around Comic-Con, I’m amused that Marvel is also doing a “soft reboot” with its “Marvel Now” after the much-criticizedDCnU” of the past year. I’ll be sorry to see Ed Brubaker leave Captain America, which he presented as a technothriller, and I hope that Marvel can rein in its proliferating Avengers and X-Men titles.

I’m still sifting through various “Batfamily” issues, but I’ve enjoyed some of DC Comics’ series after its continuity revision. Superman and Wonder Woman have benefited most from de-aging and new creative teams, and (some) Green Lantern and the Flash have changed the least. DC’s treatment of its female characters and younger teams still leaves something to be desired, however.

Of the comics from publishers other than the “big two,” I’ve enjoyed the Star Trek: the Next Generation/Doctor Who — Assimilation crossover, the similarly retro Steed and Mrs. Peel, and Brian Wood and Becky Cloonan’s atmospheric adaptation of Conan the Barbarian: Queen of the Black Coast.

I’ve been busy with work, games, and summer activities, but I hope to post my belated reviews of The Amazing Spider-Man and The Dark Knight Rises soon!

The superheroes of spring 2012

I’ve fallen behind in blogging again, but here’s the first in what I hope will be a series of posts to catch up on what I’ve been up to as spring slides into summer. Now that the genre television season has wound down, let’s look back at some shows that I liked.

As I’ve mentioned before, there has been a lot of good animation to enjoy this past year. Avatar: the Legend of Korra is my favorite of the recent batch of cartoons. Nickelodeon’s sequel to its successful Avatar: the Last Airbender continues that show’s Asian-style artwork, inspiring world-building, and escalating intrigues. (Note: some of the enclosed links have “spoilers.”)

Korra wallpaper
Nickelodeon's new Avatar TV series

As fellow blogger Thomas K.Y. has noted, Korra‘s adolescent characters are a bit harder to sympathize with than Avatar‘s wandering children. However, the setting and story more than make up for that to me. Republic City resembles a dieselpunk/fantasy China of the early 20th century, and the conflict between people who can “bend” or control the elements (air, earth, wind, and fire) and those who can’t has led to some tense moments.

I’ve also been impressed with the first episode of Disney’s Tron: Uprising, which may join the Cartoon Network’s Star Wars: Clone Wars in using computer animation to flesh out a cinematic sequel that initially underwhelmed critics. In contrast, Kung-Fu Panda: Legends of Awesomeness, Transformers: Prime, and G.I. Joe: Renegades are entertaining, but they’re not as memorable as additions to their respective franchises.

Cartoon’s Green Lantern: the Animated Series started out slowly with simplistic designs based on Bruce Timm’s, but it has steadily incorporated elements of recent comic book storylines, including the proliferation of cosmic factions based on different colors and emotions. How to Train Your Dragon: the Series will joining a competitive field.

In more traditional animation, the Cartoon Networks’ Thundercats revival has also mixed retro nostalgia with more modern animation and world-building to good effect. It’s friendlier to younger audiences than Korra or Tron, but I’ve enjoyed the reboot so far. I hope that the next Teenaged Mutant Ninja Turtles can do the same.

I wasn’t sure about the five-year jump within the Cartoon Network’s Young Justice, but seeing the pre-“52” reboot “Batman family” and returning favorites such as Beast Boy and Wonder Girl has won me over. On a related note, I enjoyed the direct-to-video Justice League: Doom, which had favorite voice actors and lots of fights between superheroes and supervillains, if not a plot accessible to non-fans. Superman vs. the Elite comes out next week, to be followed by the long-awaited Batman: the Dark Knight Returns. I also look forward to next year’s Beware the Batman.

Disney XD’s Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes has also incorporated bits and pieces of classic and recent plots, from Loki’s treachery (also seen in the live-action Avengers movie, which is still doing well with critics, fans, and the box office) to the infiltration by the shapeshifting Skrulls (“Secret Invasion”). The animation and writing aren’t quite as tight as for Young Justice.

Avengers‘ companion, Ultimate Spider-Man, has several snarky nods to the movie continuity, but I still miss the four-color Spectacular Spider-Man and am not thrilled by the silly humor or de-aging of characters such as the Heroes for Hire.

Cartoon Network’s “DC Nation” animation block of programming on Saturday mornings — Green Lantern and Young Justice (followed by Korra on Nickelodeon) — includes very funny shorts with “Super Best Friends Forever” and Aardman stop motion, as well as glimpses of past favorites such as the Teen Titans Go!

Disney Channel’s “Marvel Universe” block on Sundays (Avengers and Spidey) does give some nice glimpses into the art and characters of its shows, plus how real-world athletes can approach comic book moves. I don’t particularly like the “Marvel Mash-ups,” which dub modern jokes over weakly animated scenes from the 1960s through early 1980s. I may be in the minority of people who prefer the gags of The Looney Tunes Show or Metalocalypse on weeknights to most of Fox’s Sunday night programs.

Coming soon: Police procedurals, supernatural series, and movie reviews!

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!