Monday, October 7, 2019

Cincinnati Comic Expo 2019: Holy Star Trek and Superheroes, Batman!

      Cincinnati Comic Expo was September 20-22, 2019 at the Duke Energy Convention Center in Cincinnati, OH. The programming was pretty full with celebrity and fan panels. Like all corporate cons, there was a huge vendors room that included comic artists and celebrity autographs. The venue was just the right size for the amount of people at the con. It was pretty crowded, but not too crowded. The vendors room and registration were on one floor, while the panels were on another floor, with an escalator in between. The rooms weren't as spread out as they are in a lot of convention centers. For once, I didn't do so much walking that my feet started hurting.
Mostly what I attend cons for are the celebrity Q&A panels. Star Trek: The Next Generation actor Brent Spiner is always a thrill to see. Of course, at this con, everyone already knew that he is going to be on the new Star Trek: Picard series. He said he signed a Nondisclosure Agreement, so he wasn't allowed to say much about it. Dangit! He did say that he is not in it a lot, but he is in it for more than 1 episode. He said everyone on TNG was given a TNG pinball machine of their own when the show ended. He also said that if there was ever any emotion in his performance as Data when he didn't have the emotion chip, the audience painted that emotion on him. In other words, we see what we want to see. Then he delighted the audience with his impersonation of Patrick Stewart. He has always been able to do Patrick's voice spot-on!
                Ben McKenzie was unexpectedly joined by his wife Morena Baccarin for the first half of his panel. Since their show Gotham just finished up, they could speak candidly about it. When the show started, it was supposed to look like New York in the 1970s, but the producers quickly changed their minds about that and made it a little more modern looking. Morena didn't like when her character was with Nygma at first, but later it all made sense. She loved any scene with Professor Pyg. Her favorite Batman was Michael Keaton. Ben was always a big Iron Man fan growing up. He is kind of stoic like his Gotham character, Jim, but much more fallible. He would definitely do the next Batman movie if asked. He loved directing some episodes of Gotham. He said directing uses a different part of the brain than acting. Directing is more analytical. And it made him a better actor.

Gotham panel notwithstanding, the con also happened to fall on Batman Day, a day to celebrate Batman comics' 80th anniversary. I was wearing a Robin (as in Batman and Robin) t-shirt. It also happened to be another day I celebrate annually, National Dance Day. So I recorded myself doing the dance routine while I was at the con. National Dance Day is a day to celebrate dance that was started on the TV show So You Think You Can Dance. The show doesn't fall into the sci-fi/fantasy genre, but I've always been a fan. They post instructions for a different dance routine to a different song each year. This year the song was Electricity by Dua Lipa, and the dance was choreographed by Matt Steffanina. Now it's time for my little rant. I was at a panel at a con several years ago (I don't remember what the subject was) when one person said, "Other people watch stupid shows like So You Think You Can Dance." Needless, to say, I was ticked off. The geek life is supposed to be about INCLUSION and acceptance of everyone's innocuous interests, even if your interests aren't the same. So You Think You Can Dance is a show that promotes art, talent, fitness, self-improvement, tenacity, sportsmanship, and individuality.

Well now, that's the perfect segway into Wil Wheaton's talk. Wil doesn't do a lot of cons. This was only my second time seeing him, as opposed to the fifty-plus times I've seen a lot of the other Star Trek actors! Wil, of course, played Wesley Crusher on Star Trek: The Next Generation. Very few people ever named Wesley as their favorite character. But Wil is a very straight-up person who has overcome a lot of adversity. He was a child actor who didn't grow up with many kids his own age. He has had mental health problems due to parents who weren't too good at parenting. He would make an awesome motivational speaker. He said you should find your tribe, as he finally did in the world of gaming. He has made an lot of friends and found a home in the gaming community. His favorite episodes of Star Trek were when he got to work with others his own age. But the regular cast of the show also became great friends to him. The loved him unconditionally.

One of the guests I was really excited about was Jessie Usher, who played A-Train on The Boys. In case you don't know, The Boys is a show on Amazon Prime based on a comic book. I never read the comic, but I loved the show. It's very edgy, and portrays superheroes in a way that no other show or movie has ever dared. A-Train is one such character. He is so self-important that he kills without remorse. But the actor Jessie was nothing like that. He seemed a very nice guy. It was too bad there weren't a lot of people there to see his panel. I guess the show hasn't quite reached that level of popularity yet. Jessie has been acting since he was 5. He started graduate school at 15. Wow! He was always a fan of comic books. The producers of The Boys gave all the cast members digital copies of The Boys comics, but Jessie went out and bought the hard copies, because that's what he's more comfortable with. He admits that Karl Urban, the star of The Boys and veteran genre actor, gave him advice on doing cons and dealing with fans.

I went to a panel on action figures that was pretty cool. The panelist was Greg Autore, a toy designer and toy marketer who has worked for a lot of big toy companies and happens to be a toy collector himself. He said very few collectors actually work in the industry like he does. He talked about how the first toy action figures were the green army men. They were tiny plastic figures that were shaped in different poses and had no articulation. Sure, I remember them because my cousins had them. Greg had lots of action figures with him, such as Spider-man and Black Panther, to show how they were made with different articulations and different features. Some didn't really have mobile arms and legs, but had great features, such as wings.

The Harp Twins did a beautiful concert. They are identical twin ladies who play their harps all over the world at cons and in their own concerts. They play geek tunes, such as Doctor Who and Star Trek themes, and other tunes by popular artists. They also do some nice banter in between pieces. "Who here saw our concert last night? Notice anything different? We changed places." Yeah, real easy to notice with identical twins who even dress the same. LOL! I've seen some of their videos on YouTube, and they are always a pleasure to hear.

One thing I always have a problem with is that some cons, like this one, don't have printed schedules. Yes, I printed a copy beforehand, but I always like to get an updated copy at the con that's nice and neat, preferably with a nice map of the venue and nice bios and pictures of the guests. The people at the information booth told me to download the app. My smart phone doesn't have enough space for a new app, plus it would use up the battery faster. I know I'm old school, and cons are adapting more and more to a younger crowd.
                The fan tables were pretty neat. The had some backgrounds set up where you could do some cool fan photo-ops, such as a wampa cave or climbing up the side of a building like Batman. There was a nice Lost in Space display from the classic show that was totally the bomb! They even had mannequins in screen-accurate Lost in Space costumes. And I ran into some friends and had dinner with some people in my Starfleet club. It was a very laid back con where you could hang out and meet people or shop or do panels.

-by The Honorable Kavura


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