Sunday, November 1, 2009

Victoria Comic Book Industry & Movie Festival Day 2

Okay, back from the last day of the convention, grateful for that extra hour to energize me due to the time change. Even so I was a bit fatigued and glad for some of the workshops.

I arrived for the second day just as the convention was opened. Michael Adamthwaite recognized me and immediately waved hi when I arrived, and I waved back, but I was still getting my bearings and there were organizers at his table, so I waited until a bit later to talk to him. But he was definitely one of the friendliest celebrities at the convention.

I went over to the comic section and got more comics autographed by Dave McCaig, including more issues of Deadman, since it was a series we both quite liked.

Back in the movie/tv area I got into a discussion with location scout Tim Moshansky, asking about movies set in Seattle but filmed in Vancouver. I was surprised to find out that most of Battle in Seattle was filmed in the Vancouver area; unlike 88 Minutes or The 4400, enough of that movie was filmed in Seattle that it created the illusion of more of it being filmed there.

I visited Michael Adamthwaite. He autographed some more movies, once again quite enthusiastic about the projects he's been in, and we chatted some more about Watchmen and I think other movies. The conversation went so well that he gave me a free signed photo. I hope he eventually gets a greater amount of recognition because he’s a class act and I’m going to try to keep an eye out for him in future projects.

I bought a couple of 1977 calendars at the comic side: one DC, one Marvel, both more far more elaborate than newer calendars, with text in a lot of the squares. I also got a 25% off coupon at Curious Comics, good only during the convention.

I think it was right after that I located one of the people I couldn’t find before, James Tyce, Heath Ledger’s stand-in in Brokeback Mountain. I probably should have asked him for details of that that entailed but hindsight's 20/20. I did get a photo of him and myself, with him holding my newly autographed copy of Brokeback.

I went to the Troma table; Lloyd Kaufman was there but had to head out, but he promised to autograph some more movies later. I bought all the remaining DVDs on the table that I didn’t already have (beyond package variants) and got a discount again.

I briefly spoke to William Katt again, to mention another aspect of The Greatest American Hero that I liked (its giving the characters political leanings).

It was now 11:30 and Lloyd Kaufman was due to conduct a Make Your Own Damn Movie workshop at 12:30, so I decided to head to Curious Comics to use the coupon on a trade I wanted, then grab lunch.

Back at the convention Lloyd Kaufman made good on his earlier promise to autograph one more set of DVDs (again, he was very friendly and appreciative of his fans), then I went to where his workshop was to be held.

After a while of watching bit of Terror Firmer in that room it became clear that something had gone south. I checked a few of the other rooms, catching tiny bits of a Q&A with Robert Picardo, and then asked a guy at the room the workshop was to be in (he didn’t know).

I went downstairs and told Margot Kidder I liked how she had been nice to a Santa Monica Blvd “Superman” in the documentary Confessions of a Superhero (hey, she’s Margot Kidder; couldn’t pass up a final chance to say hi to her). I also noticed that Lloyd was still there, further suggesting that things had gone south with the workshop.

I went back upstairs and met up with a friend who I chatted with (unfortunately I missed her the day before so I didn’t get to see her in her Halloween costume except in photos she showed me). She pointed me in the direction of another convention worker who also didn’t have the answers. It later turned out that she didn’t know about the vent in question despite all the colour signs. As noted in my last blog, a common theme was people working at the convention who would have liked to have help but just didn’t know what was happening. I finally asked Lloyd Kaufman himself and found out that the event was cancelled, though there was to be a Q&A later.

I attended a Q&A with Nhi Do (again, the Vietnamese girl in Watchmen) and make-up artist Ryan Nicholson. It was a lot of fun. After the first question (asked by Gareth Gaudin, who does the Perogy Cat strip and who runs Legends, the comic shop I patronize the most) I asked a Watchmen-related question. Thereafter most of the rest of the discussion involved Watchmen, but I’m pretty sure that Q&A would have gone that way eventually even if I had kept silent. The only quibble was that one enthusiastic audience member (no, not me) interrupted Nhi a couple times.

After the Q&A I wandered around some more, complementing Nhi Do on the Q&A seminar. I also saw Lloyd filming an ad for I believe the website at the booth to the left of his (the ad seemed to be a mock fight of sorts). I finally worked up the courage to ask the guy from the day before who seemed a bit sour about the other makeup artist who was supposed to attend. This time I got confirmation about the cancellation. I wanted to ask about a couple other possible cancellations but he still looked annoyed, so I decided not to push my luck.

I attended one more Q&A, this time with the interesting combo of William Katt and Lloyd Kaufman. That was also a lot of fun, and the two had a great rapport together. Katt said he would have liked to have been on Heroes longer. He also said his most rewarding acting was actually his stage work and mentioned typecasting due to The Greatest American Hero, noting that it seems to be less of a problem for superhero roles these days. Lloyd Kaufman expressed mixed feelings about been blacklisted by Hollywood, noting that even when his movies were well attended in theatres, then tended to be forced out by studios who would pull out of a theatre if they didn’t devote enough screens to their latest blockbuster; on the flip side it frees him up not just in terms of what he makes, but also when he makes and distributes the film.

After that I bought some more comics, and then located Ryan Nicholson and got one more movie autographed, knowing that things were winding down and it would probably be my last chance.

After that I decided that with everyone leaving I’d head out. The day went full circle when I passed Michael Adamthwaite on the way home and he again said hi to me as we passed. So again, very nice person.

Overall I think with the stress of the $20 autographs out of the way, and between the direct conversations and the Q&A’s, I had a lot more fun overall the second day. I wished the one guy I asked for info had smiled a bit more, and think that by getting everyone a bit more organized and on the same page, he’d probably have had more to smile about. When I look back on the convention I’ll recall a lot of very nice moments, though I’ll also recall some of the frustration from volunteers usually not knowing answers to questions; things will always go wrong with this kind of thing, so having a backup plan is wise, including communicating the changes to the volunteers either directly or by having a volunteer act as relay for news. So mixed feelings but overall worth it, especially for the second day.

Victoria Comic Book Industry & Movie Festival Day 1

[Note: I wrote this blog post originally after first day of the convention but before returning for the second day. I made some minor edits after the 2nd convention day was over, but in order to preserve my initial impressions, have not changed anything based on new knowledge from the 2nd day].

Okay, I’ve attended the first day of a two-day comic/movie convention in town and my reaction was… decidedly mixed. I probably look at it more favourably now that I’ve had some sleep than I did at the time. As I describe the below, understand that for the negative stuff I generally won’t post people’s names. Also, it was a long day so a few bits of chronology might be off.

When I arrived I asked a volunteer where the actors would be situated and was told, “We’ll learn together”. This would be a theme repeatedly during the convention. I think was needed was a briefing of the various volunteers regarding floor layouts and the like. I eventually worked out that there were three distinct sections: the actors’ area just to the left of the lobby, an events area on the floor directly about this, and a comics section on the right side entrance.

Just before entry I traded my physical pass for a wristband. Since a few of my questions had already been met with confusion I decided not to ask about taking it off at the end of the day and getting a new one for day 2, and instead just keep it on until the convention was over.

There was a program booklet but it cost $2 so I decided to pass. Where the doors opened to the actor’s area I went in and found that none of the actors were actually present yet. There was a note saying that Erin Gray (Buck Rogers couldn’t attend). I made a mental note of where some of the other people were to be situated, though I couldn’t find Margot Kidder’s name.

I went over to the comic section. I got stuff autographed from artist/colourist Jim McCaig, who was clearly appreciative of one of my own underappreciated titles, the early 2000s Deadman series. I should stress that all the celebrities that I actually talked to were friendly to varying degrees.

I couldn’t find any of the other artists I wanted stuff autographed and never did locate them. Through the grapevine I eventually learned that a couple of them had cancelled, though no one volunteer seemed to have a list of who all had cancelled. One did mention a lot of last minute cancellations but didn’t have a list; the comic side seemed more heavily hit with cancellations than the movie side. So I can’t say for sure that everyone I couldn’t find wasn’t actually at the convention.

I returned to the movie side and got things autographed by the two youngest actors present: Calum Worthy, Lightning Lad on Smallville; and Nhi Do, the Vietnamese girl the Comedian kills in Watchmen. Both were very nice and professional, and neither fit the negative clichés you sometimes here of with younger actors. For my Smallville set, Calum made a point of locating the specific disc of the episode he was in, and Nhi later complemented me on my Marvel Comics themed bag.

I then met Margot Kidder, where I learned for the first time that most of the major TV/movie celebrities present charge $20-$25 per autograph (rising stars, crew members, and Lloyd Kaufman did not charge). I didn’t mind that fact so much as there was no advance warning of this. For the bigger stars who charged per autograph I decided to limit myself to one item per celebrity, so I could have saved some packing time, as well as having much less to carry, had I known in advance. Margot Kidder was very nice and was the first celebrity to have me in the photo when I asked to take a photo of her. In contrast to autographs, no one charged me to take or have taken a photo. Unsurprisingly, I had her autograph my Superman set

I got a couple DVDs autographed from location scout Tim Moshansky, who told me some anecdotes avoid location scouting for Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem.

Then I think it was when I met up and coming actor Michael Adamthwaite; people who've seen the longer version of Watchmen (Director's Cut) might know him as one of the Knot-Heads; he was also the voice of Balder in Hulk Vs and of Thor in Next Avengers. He was happy to autograph my stuff and was glad I brought the quirky independent film Walk All Over Me (a very fun film).

I returned to the comic section for a bit, and then back to the movie section. I got autographs Ethan Phillips (Neelix on Star Trek Voyager; who seemed to still have mixed feelings about appearing in the well made but challenging film The Babysitters, where he played one of a number of pedophiles; I told him I appreciated the risky project). I forgot to get his picture but he was agreeable later in the day to my rectifying that.

Robert Picardo (the Doctor on Star Trek Voyager; he signed my copy of Justice League vol. 1 and included the name of his character, Amazo; he also seemed to have the demeanour of a butler, proper but processional). My timeline’s a bit fuzzy, but think the next bit of chronology went like this: I tried to locate the two main makeup people who were supposed to be there without much luck. I asked some volunteers/organizers in the lobby with no luck. Either they didn’t know or in one case seemed annoyed at me for asking and simply directed me back to the room with no indication of which table I should be looking for.

I returned back and met with William Katt, Ralph Hinckley on The Greatest American Hero, who of the big TV stars was probably the friendliest and most interested in the guests. He guessed that I was a fan of the show from when I was a kid; I admitted I hadn’t wanted to say that but it was true. With the autograph of Greatest American Hero season 1, he through in an autographed glossy publicity photo from the series.

I then visited the Troma booth, where co-president Lloyd Kaufman (co-creator of the Toxic Avenger) was present (I previously met him at an earlier convention in town). Lloyd Kaufman is very much the life of the party for any event like these, were appreciative of his fans and happy to autograph stuff. I bought a lot of DVDs so he knocked off some of the price and threw in some promotional stuff. He had one person there dressed as the Toxic Avenger. When I asked to get a bit of him, he had myself, “Toxie”, and one of his “Super-Tromettes” in the photo and made sure that the Troma banner was in the background of the shot. I should stress that this is not a negative: Troma movies are never going to be as well known as Hollywood films, so the studio's survival is dependant on a grassroots effort to get the Troma name out there. So I was happy to have the Troma name in my pics. Fortunately for the survival of Troma, Lloyd’s very much the promoter, which is probably a key reason for Troma’s longevity as an independent movie studio.

I then visited the booth of Chase Masterson, who was on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, a show I only watched a little of. I waited briefly as she got out her (somewhat risqué) photos and then she autographed my copy of Trekkies. I don't really have an anecdote of her regarding anything she's been in, but she was friendly.

I returned to the comic section and after another unsuccessful search for more of the comics pros found a place with a nice selection of $1 comics. The guy there offered to let me store some of my stuff near his table, which was much appreciated.

I thought that one seminar was at 12:30 but found out that I’d misread the sign and the seminar was actually day 2. I finally found one of the special effects people, Ryan Nicholson and got things autographed; the other one apparently didn’t attend but I’m not sure. I accidently brought the one version of one film (same name, different film) but he was gracious enough about the error.

One of my buddies arrived for a short time. She did a bit of a whirlwind tour and said hi to the people she most wanted to see, including Margot Kidder. I had turned her into a Troma fan and she was most looking forward to see Lloyd Kaufman, so I got a couple of shots of the two of them together, again with the Troma banner in the background. She also grabbed some stuff from the comics section, and we toured the upper floor together.

I needed a break so when she headed home, close to my place, I walked with her to my place. I dropped off most of my stuff, got some more money, had lunch, and almost made it back to the convention when I realized I had left my camera behind. I retrieved that, took a few more photos, then noticed I had left behind the second set of DVDs I wanted autographed. I went home and grabbed those.

When I got back I had a nice chat with Michael Adamthwaite and Nhi Do when I got Michael to autograph a few more things. Michael mentioned he was only in the Director’s Cut version of Watchmen so I quipped that I was glad I brought the right version. Again both of them were very nice people to talk to.

I wandered back and forth a few more times and got some more comics from the same booth as before (I never found any at the other booths). During one visit to the comics I saw two women inventively dressed up as Ms. Marvel and the Black Cat.

On the cast/crew side I also got a zombie short DVD from Ira Hunter, whom I’ve know for a while and who is probably the main ringleader for zombie-related events in Victoria. He also tossed in a few freebies. In one booth I heard a couple young women casually tell someone that he could see them naked on the website they were promoting.

Then I got some more autographs from Lloyd Kaufman. During this he got a call from co-president Michael Herz. Herz was at the Toronto premier of Toxic Avenger: The Musical, which apparently was going well. He even gave me another free DVD. I was feeling tired and most of the other celebrities had left for dinner so I decided to call it a night and recharge for day 2.

I suspect day 2 will be a bit quieter because I’m not paying for autographs today, which gives me less of an excuse to chat with/get photographed with some of the stars, but we shall see.