We've always been ready for female superheroes. Because women want to be them and men want to do them.
So, has everyone gotten into queue for the Avengers tonight? Do kids even do that anymore? Stan Lee has assured me the film is great, so I suppose they avoided the biggest traps of having too many heroes. Take a look at this fan art to tide you over, I know how difficult it is to have to wait to see latex clad Scarlett Johansson, and some other people too, I guess.
With every lap we make around Sol, I find that my ring of power weakens, leaving my mighty prowess of cynical pop culture obsession to wane. Every annum I need to return to my place of power, and regain my nerdtastic puissance, and that place, is Comic-Con.
The big news last weekend at this years Annual Calgary Comic and Entertainment Expo, was the size. Given that Calgary is a city where multi-ethnic, Canadian, white collar office drones, desperately try to pretend that they're American Cowboys, I'm simultaneously shocked, and really not surprised by the explosion of this nerdfest's popularity. Six (possibly seven?) years ago at the first one, it was effectively what I had envisioned, a room, filled with a handful of my fellow Geeks dressed as sailor Mercury (the thinking man's juvenile nymph fantasy) who didn't want to drive for four days to go to San Diego. The thing is, Calgary is an incredibly corporate city, it's populated by accountants, managers, clerks and educated professionals, and outside of ten days a year, you will never see an actual cowboy here. The cowboy persona is a carefully fabricated image created because the Calgary Stampede brings in billions every year from foreign tourists. It's hard to turn away from that much money as a particularly capital fanatic society, unless you have a really good reason, something like Leonard Nimoy. Two years ago, the Expo organizers used the recent J. J. Abrams Star Trek to do something very clever. With the destruction of the planet Vulcan in the film, they decided to bring Spok home to Vulcan, that is, the tiny town of Vulcan Alberta. Leonard Nimoy had a parade through the town flanked by a colourful brigade of Trekkies, before presenting them with a gift of his original prosthetic ears from the show, and the (Paramount backed) title of Canada's official Star Trek capital. This was promptly followed by a guest appearance at the Calgary Comic Expo, making him the first big name nerd icon to ever appear in the city. Surfing on a wave of excitement and support, the organizers managed to top that in 2011, with the (only nominally more beloved) appearance of the irrepressible William Shatner. Our uber geeky mayor Naheed Nenshi come out and made Shatner an official Calgarian, and the city let a little glimpse of its worn Batman T-shirt show from under its starched white collar and cowboy hat. (The mayor made a Star Wars joke, and then apologized for having made a Star Wars joke in front of Shatner.) This also brought out a jaw dropping 30, 000 attendees, making it the second largest comic-con in Canada and launching it up into the leagues of the big North American Pop Culture shows. So 2012 had to be bigger, sticking with the Star Trek theme, the Comic Expo reunited the entire cast of Star Trek: The Next Generation; not to mention the likes of Adam West, Andy Rheingold, Bob Mcleod, George Perez, Geof Darrow, Frank Cho, Ian Boothby, Tony Moore, Dave Prowse, Amanda Tapping, James Masters, Katee Sackhoff, Robert Englund, Billy West and John DiMaggio, and some really neat old guy named Stan Lee (just to name a few.) Going all out, they booked the entirety of the largest space in the city, and prepared for a whopping crowd of 35, 000 to beat last year. It must have been a bit of a shock on Saturday Morning to look out and see a roaring sea of 50, 000 Geeks clamoring at the gates. In less then a hour after the doors opened, the building hit its maximum occupancy, and the fire marshal closed the door, stranding a crowd large enough to sack 12th century Constantinople fuming outside. Organization and communication systems were completely overrun, vendors and volunteers were locked outside, and some vestige of order was only managed on Sunday by refusing entry to any one without an already existing pass.
The space crunch at the Calgary Comic and Entertainment Expo has led to a sudden vigorous discussion around town this last week about available venues. It has been increasingly problematic over the last few years that the city does not have a large enough venue for big shows and exhibitions. There is a lot of money floating around, and Calgary also has a fanatical love of money, so the notion that we'd be loosing money due to a lack of basic infrastructure investment is mildly insane. It turns out that we are currently looking at the tenth largest venue in Canada, despite being the third largest city. (Toronto, Montreal, Calgary; Due to the actual city of Vancouver being technically quite tiny, because its metropolitan area consists of several abutting municipalities, were it to unify into a single mega city as is regularly brought up, it would be twice the size of Calgary. But I digress.) Given how much real, countable money is going back into peoples hands for refunds right now, due to simply not fitting into the building, I suspect a new convention center is going to erupt from the ground like a mushroom in the next few years. --They didn't sell more passes then there was available space, but no one considered the possibility of needing to cap the day entries. What were the odds they'd hit that kind of wall?
I hope the promoters really think about more about maximizing efficiency and organization for the next Calgary Comic-con rather then on growth. We've obviously hit a temporary wall to growth, which is fine given that we have a really comfortable scale right now. It's large enough to bring in recognizable names (maybe next year we'll have a Star Wars cast reunion, or possibly a panel with all the various Bat Men, that'd be cool) but not so large as to be overwhelming like San Diego or New York. There lies a fine balance between not having what you want to see, and not being able to see it when it's there. It is a strange phenomena though, that comic-con is one of the few places I don't mind standing in queue. It's the magic of nerdliness that allows me to hold a conversation with anyone casually standing beside me as though they've been a cherished friend for years. Usually on the morning commute, you can't turn left and start a debate over the technical aspects of Spider-Man's web shooters, that's something very special. Not to mention that I can barely let my gaze linger dangerously focused on latex bound cleavage without being interrupted by a "Hey Dude!" and a round of hugs with old friends. So, I guess I had better get on with the show.
I had quite a number of pleasant interludes last weekend. One of my favorites is always putting a human to an internet identity. Last year I met Scott Kurtz (by "met" I mean I made a fangirl "squee" sound and he drew Scratch Fury in a PVP book for me as I lay there convulsing) so that was pretty awesome. This year I spent some time talking to the very talented and lovely Ms. Laurie B. a local pin up illustrator. I've been a secret internet stalker of her work for some time, as she creates the absolute cutest cheesecake girls I have ever seen. I really think that she is the spiritual successor of Dean Yeagle; half him, half Disney design bible, it's a pretty sexy combination. I bough a little book of pin-ups which includes a gender bent KISS and Han Solo among other delights.
My alma mater (The Alberta College of Art and Design) was there handing out something awesome as a promotion for the school, a cosplay costume field guide. It was like a treasure hunt, you went around the convention and checked off every outfit you saw. I made them promise to do a happy dance or something to that effect if I completed it, but I just couldn't find anyone dressed as Robocop. You win this round, dignity. The spread of costumes this year was rather interesting, with a massive spike of sailor scouts and power rangers, and a heavy emphasis on more obscure video game characters, with a virtual extinction of the Rorschachs, Slave Leias, and non-Wolverine X-men that have been so prevalent recently. (There is never a shortage of Wolverines.) I also noticed an extremely high concentration of Wonder Women, I was pondering if it was in retaliation for the tacky new biker outfit, as I never saw one of those. It does make me wonder, that if there is so much support, why can't we get a Wonder Woman movie together? Come on, D.C. You've gotta do something right on occasion. I would also take the hint that with the persistent concentration of steam punk outfits, perhaps a film or television series is in order; It'd be a huge hit if they bothered with a somewhat better script then Wild Wild West. (Side note: That Steam Punk wheelchair from that particular film was in attendance.)The costume contest was a disappointment this year, yet I'm not sure why. There was no shortage of great costumes in attendance on the floor, but very few entered into the costume contest. With so few entries, the whole affair took only a half hour, and I can only assume it was the tragic result of the doors being locked. The handful of entries that were there were of a very high caliber, and every one deserves a commendation for their efforts. I took particular delight with a lego man Darth Maul, and a genre spanning team up between Scorpion and Sub Zero, and Jay and Silent Bob. Though the thing that really got me, wherein I barely refrained from exploding into a giant green radioactive rage monster, and throwing chairs was the host, Where is Liana K!
I searched high and low and yet found no trace of recurring comic expo darlings Ed and Red (Steve and Liana Kerzner.) This means I've now gone more then a full year without my Ed and Red fix, I don't know if I can take it, I may start cracking up! I'm still in mourning from when City TV pulled Ed and Red's Night Party off the air, one of the few shows I'd actually buy on DVD if it were possible. (Much Music died the day Ed the sock left.) Frankly, if I'm going to have to travel across the entire North American continent just to watch an episode of This Movie Sucks! I'll be highly unimpressed with the modern digital age. Last year they threw a rocking comic-con burlesque after party. It was awesome.
Even without Liana K's surprisingly accurate Power Girl frame, I did happen across a phenomena I have not experienced since being jaded in Art College, a phenomena I have named "cleavage glory." An effect that would be intimately familiar to any male who has passed through adolescence, as it is where the appearance of cleavage flips some primordial fuse that immediately disables all higher cognitive functions. This results in a temporary form of extreme mental retardation wherein one is incapable of forming simple sentences or much of anything, as there is only just enough brain power available to realize how completely stupid you must look. Here, look at this demonstrative example, Super Bat and Double-F (which is, like all things on this website, slightly not safe for work, so get back to work you lousy slacker before the boss finds out.) Je suis desole pour tous mes compagnons Anglophones. But I'm afraid this one is only available in French. (Boo!)
Double-F there is Marie Claude Bourbonnais, a professional model from Quebec city who was in town promoting a new multi-media integrated concept project called Heroes of the North. (Which I won't talk about just now because I'd like to cover it specifically, and this brief overview is already halfway to a novel.) She plays a villain called the Hornet... did I mention recently that I have a massive crush on the Wasp? I bought a print of her drawn by none other then Dean Yeagle, so how about that? She may even replace Scarlett as the girl I'll send my legion of deathbots to kidnap and bring to Mount Evil Skull, in order for her to be my evil empress of Earth. With her unrealistic J. Scott Campbell frame, and cute Francophone accent... O.K. next topic, quick.
Something I was particularly pleased with was the panel with Josh A. Gagen, Pete Williams and Andy Rheingold, who are (to answer your question "who?") the guys that created Undergrads. Easily one of my favorite TV shows ever produced, done back when MTV still had some cool left. It's like the Big Bang Theory, if it was actually made by Geeks instead of being a terrible exploitive cash in by the guy who did Two and a Half Men. It has been a decade since its one, thirteen episode season, and the guys decided to come to this convention to try to drum up some interest in the show. They're currently trying to buy back the rights to the show, to shop it around other networks, or to possibly do an online project. What they didn't realize, is that it has been playing nightly on Tele-Toon (a Canadian cartoon network) for that entire time, as there is massive, nearly fanatical grass roots support for the show up in this country. I know it takes a lot more than fan love to revive a show (otherwise we'd be watching Firefly right now) but it worked for Star Trek, and if there was something I'd like to see crawl back up from the underworld, it's this show.
The last two years I saw Leonard Nimoy and William Shatner respectively. This year, with the complete cast of the Next Generation, (despite how much I love that show) I never saw a single one of them. Not a Sir. Patrick Stewart, no Jonathan Frakes, no Michael Dorn, not even a LeVar Burton (who taught me to read.) It would have been cool to get a photo taken with the full cast, but at $500, I can think of a lot a lot of other/better things that money could get. If I were to cough up real money for someone to take my picture with something, it'd be the Classic 1966 Batmobile, I love that car. I'm thinking that when my shitty, Ford P.O.S. finally dies, I should strip it down to its frame and rebuild it piece by piece into the Batmobile. My unwieldily land yacht isn't that much smaller then the prototype 1955 Lincoln Futura (Batmobile.) Fuck classic muscle cars, this is way cooler. (But I digress.) I did see the spotlight on Stan Lee, I made it a top priority to see him, as given his age, there may not be another opportunity. He started working at (what would be) Marvel back in 1939, and that is a very long time ago. Stan is one of my all time most beloved human beings. I know intellectually that he essentially rode Jack Kirby to success, but I just love him so much, I don't care!
"I never thought that Spider-Man would become the world wide icon that he is. I just hoped the books would sell and I'd keep my job."
Have you ever noticed how many of the best comic creators and illustrators are perverts? Just a though. Stan Lee had far too little time to talk, as he had barely gotten started delving into stories of the early days of Marvel when it ended. He just touched on some of the classic tales of Marvel lore; such as how the Incredible Hulk was originally grey but the magazine printer couldn't keep the tone consistent in the first issue, so they had to switch it to green. It was great to her how the Fantastic Four were created purely by way of Stan's ego (highly believable.) He had a hard time believing the whole Super Man secret identity, no so much due to the laughable disguise, but because if he had super powers, he'd be running around showing off and picking up girls. So no costumes, so secret identities; the Fantastic Four only gained matching outfits because of fan insistence. So Mr. Fantastic is a super genius version of Stan Lee, someone who'd kinda out of it and talks way too much. Ben was created as a counter point to Reed's flightiness, making him very grounded, and solid... like a rock. The other half of the team were added due to the insistence of the publisher, you need a heroine, and you need a teenager (because otherwise kids won't buy it, right?) Not wanting to just have the cliche boy wonder, Stan gave them reasons to be there, Susan became Reeds fiance, and Johnny was her kid brother. It was interesting hearing him just openly talk about the process. How did they come up with the Green Goblin? After the Rhino, Scorpion, Vulture, Lizard, and various bugs they started running out of animals and opted for mythical ones, like Goblins, not too many of those in comics. Additionally "Green Goblin" has a good sound to it, and the colours would print.
One Stan Lee story I loved, and had never heard before was the ballad of Gwen (Gwendolyn) Stacy. Gwen Stacy was the original love interest for Peter Parker (Spider-Man) and first appeared in The Amazing Spider-Man #31 back in 1965. However Stan didn't want them to have such a simple "boy meets girl, they fall in love" plot, since that's really boring. So to keep it interesting, they came up with another girl to distract Peter and have a convoluted love triangle with, a girl Named Mary-Jane Watson. I agree with Stan that it would have been great if they introduced her in the film more like they did in the comics. Peter's Aunt wanted him to meet the "nice girl next door", so like all young men, the notion of meeting a "nice girl" his aunt likes isn't very appealing. So Peter goes out of his way to avoid her until he gets trapped in the house with Mary-Jane coming over, and on the very last panel of the book, he opens the door to see this gorgeous redhead who says: "It looks like you hot the jackpot, Tiger." The problem was, that when they got into writing these characters, Mary-Jane became far more interesting, she ended up with all of the personality while Gwen was "a nice girl." At the same time, they wanted to throw in something dramatic to the story, and so the plan was hatched to solve both by killing Sergeant Stacy, Gwen's father. His death would give the dramatic twist they wanted, and give then something to work with in developing Gwen into a more complex and interesting character. The thing is, that right after that Stan Lee went off to Europe to do some business and left the other writers in charge of Spider-Man. So he was a bit surprised when he got back to see that in the very next issue, #121, June 1973, Norman Osbourne Killed Gwen Stacey. Pater subsequently married Mary Jane.
I had better just stop now, lest I run out of internet. When the internet tubes get full, that's when the sharks get out and start flying out of peoples modems, biting their faces off.