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Embracing the Chaos — Rhode Island Comic Con Rights the Ship

Once upon a Comic Con … A Nick Iandolo Odyssey

Wow! What a difference a year makes! Rhode Island Comic Con (RICC) took their blows last year, licked their wounds, and got back into the goddamn fight!

And fought they did.

I won’t sugar coat it. I saw a few things that were a bit awry but instead of shrinking from the inevitable mishaps that will always occur, the organizers of RICC 2015 rose to the task and fought back to make this year’s con a resounding success.

I’m serious. I was there from beginning to end, had seen and talked to tons of people from fans to vendors, exhibitors to celebrities to artists and I’ll tell you there were very few unhappy people this year. I won’t say there weren’t any but given the fact that there must have been fifty thousand people or more there this year, there were a lot of smiling faces – especially those in costume!

So I’m going to give you my post-con wrap up straight, and let my fellow pop-culture loving Comic Con going fans decide for themselves if I’m right not. Sit back and relax because with now three days of Rhode Island Comic Con to cover, this is gonna be a long one.

Day One — Gettin’ It Together

First up, was to pick up my press badge. I got there at around 10AM on Friday morning. One of my expectations (and there were many) was a press junket that was supposed to begin about an hour later. There were going to be celebs from Star Trek: The Next Generation and Power Rangers among others.

Well, as soon as I picked up my badge I was told that the press junket was cancelled due to logistical issues. Okay, that put me off a smidge. In fact, there were a few instances where the press was getting put off a bit but I think that that had more to do with individual RICC volunteer staff than an overall policy towards the press – but I’ll get to that later. The simple fact that my press badge got me into just about everything (including the afterparty Saturday night) was a huge improvement over last year.

Oh, and another awesome thing about my press badge was that it had a hologram of Harley Quinn on it to the envy of lots of fans and vendors who wanted to trade me for it. No way was I giving up my badge, but it was a great conversation starter.

The other thing that was a bummer, was finding out that Carrie Fisher wasn’t going to be there because she was sick. I was so looking forward to meeting her, and with the new Star Wars movie coming out next month (that has her in it), I was worried that RICC’s headliner guest no-show was going to dampen things a bit. Fortunately, I was wrong about that!

With no junket to go to, I decided to do my thing and go around and talk to people. Here’s where Day One gets interesting…

I was very pleased when I first heard that RICC was going to add an extra day to the convention; furthermore, they were expanding into the Dunkin’ Donuts Center (A.K.A. The Dunk) which was a capital idea in my book. Last year I wrote that there just wasn’t enough space in the Rhode Island Convention Center to handle a growing-by-leaps-and-bounds Comic Con. There are just way too many fans out there, and the entire industry of pop-culture is so vast that you need more space and more time than you could ever imagine to pull off a convention of this magnitude (okay, I just tried to paraphrase Admiral Ackbar from Return of the Jedi)!

So I was down with The Dunk as an integral part of the con. In fact, the RICC organizers were using The Dunk as the main entry point for all the fans attending the convention, including The Ribbon-Cutting Ceremony with the Mayor of Providence later that day!

I wandered over into The Dunk’s main arena floor an took a gander at a lot of vendors furiously setting up for the 3PM opening time.

The first person I talked to was Jerry Mendoza of The Wolf’s Den (a collectables vendor). He was not happy. It turns out that having the vendors set up on top of the ice of the arena may not have been a good idea after all. Certainly, the ice was covered by huge plastic tiles but water was definitely seeping through the edges between them. “This is the stupidest idea!” Jerry tells me. “Someone is going to fall here—especially when the kids come running through! The water is ruining my merchandise!”

Other vendors on The Dunk’s floor were voicing the same concerns.

However, by the end of the convention they seemed to be okay with the situation, placing their merchandise up on elevated platforms and such.

I don’t think this was a showstopper by any stretch of the imagination. And I’m sure they’ll figure out how to address this for next year.

Now what really surprised me was that the lower level periphery of The Dunk was being utilized. At first it seemed strange but now I realize that they were making sure that every bit of available usable space was being pressed into service.

This is where I met Andi O’Connor (www.andioconnor.net), a fantasy author from Pennsylvania. She was sitting at a table directly across from The Tumbler and the Bat Pod (Batman’s rides from the movies Batman Begins and The Dark Knight).

She’s got several books out including Silevethiel, which was named to Kirkus Reviews’ Best Books of 2013 and is the Best Indie Book Award 2015 winner for Sci-fi/Fantasy.

We got into a lengthy discussion about being an independent author versus a traditionally published author, traded war stories about agents and editors, and discussed how writing is more than just a way of life – it is life.

I asked her if she felt that being down here in the bowels of The Dunk was going to be a problem, she didn’t seem too worried about it. The next day when I checked on her, she and her husband John were having a great time being there. “I sold a bunch of books so far, and the foot traffic by my table has been great!” She told me. The only question John had was who was doing the driving back to PA.

Moving right along, I went over to the Convention Center proper to see how the big room (the main exhibit hall) was getting along.

At this point it wasn’t so big. In other words, only about half or two thirds (I can’t be sure) of the space was being used for RICC. There was some kind of Navy convention going on as well, which was why I noticed several women in uniform walking around on my way in.

I come to learn later that there was a strategy being attempted this year with getting vendors set up. The RICC organizers were staggering the times when vendors and exhibitors could come in. Some were allowed in the day before, some during the day on Friday, and some later that evening (Motif Magazine being one of them). By the end of the night, the Navy was out and RICC had the whole Convention Center to itself.

The strategy was a good idea but it didn’t go off without a hitch as a few vendors I talked to were wondering why they couldn’t just get set up the day before, and some of them had pre-paid specific spots that were then reallocated to others.

Kate, a graphic artist, voiced her frustration about having to wait until 7PM to set up. “I’m losing a day’s worth of business here!”

It was definitely chaos watching all of these vendors and exhibitors trying to get set up but when I checked on them later that day, they had pulled it off and everything looked great.

Like this massive superhero airbrushed banner that I watched being hung from the ceiling by two lifts and a team of guys – even though it was located nowhere near the artist who painted it!

      This is what I mean about embracing the chaos.

Somewhere around here I got my first of a series of photo ops with a brilliant and gorgeous cosplayer named Serafina (www.serafinacosplay.com). I spotted her in an amazing Supergirl costume – the one from the new CBS TV series that premiered like two weeks ago.Supergirl_Serafina-and-Nick

At this point, it was time for The Ribbon-Cutting Ceremony. Yep! Something I’ve never really seen before at a Comic Con, so I figured this ought to be interesting.

Before I went in (thank you, magic of the press), I noticed the hugest line ever of fans waiting to get in. They went around the arena and all the way down the side streets!

This was a good sign. The debacle of last year did not deter the fans from coming back and then some.

In fact, I took a moment to speak with some fans in line. “We are very excited about being here this year; we only hope it’s not a repeat of last year.” Tory (in costume as a Pokemon character) and her boyfriend Mike told me.

But things were looking good, even the weather was cooperating in one of the most unseasonably warm and clear November weekends we’ve seen in a long while. A far cry from last year’s Rainy Con!

And then I bopped in and found myself standing between a massive crowd of fans in the lobby and the Dark Lord of the Sith, Darth Vader himself, with his Stormtrooper entourage (plus R2-D2, Padme Amidala, and an eight-foot Incredible Hulk), all awaiting the Mayor of Providence, Mayor Jorge O. Elorza and his special guest, none other than the original TV Hulk himself, Mr. Lou Ferrigno.

“Good afternoon everybody. Now who’s excited to get this Comic Con started?” The mayor began to a ton of cheers. “I am excited just as much. The City of Providence welcomes all of you. This is a very, very important day for this city; we’ve been waiting to get this going. Over the three years that Comic Con has been here in Providence, we have seen this event just continue to grow and grow and grow. And it adds to the vibrancy, it adds to the flavor, and it adds to the fun – right here in the city center. So I’m excited to welcome you once again. I can tell that The Force is strong with this crowd, and I am sure that every single year we’re going to continue to grow because Providence is a place that welcomes this kind of show, these kinds of activities. I hope you have a wonderful time while you’re here; let’s get this started. And let’s have a wonderful convention Comic Con 2017. Let’s get this going!”

I’m sure the mayor meant Comic Con 2015! Clearly he was just way too psyched about Comic Con.

Then he turned the mic over to Mr. Ferrigno, who revved up the cheering crowd with, “Come on, louder than that!” He continued, “Well great to be here. Because I couldn’t make it a year ago … But I have to tell you I’ve done a lot of different conventions but this is exciting because I feel the warmth of you people and great fans. You know when I was a child; I didn’t have anything like this to attend. … And I know they’re expecting over sixty thousand people, and I know all of you, every one of you, you want to feel incredible…. It’s beautiful, nothing to do with drugs, sex, or violence. It’s still amazing and great for families. And let’s all have fun. Thank you so much for coming. I love you all!

And with a ten countdown to the Star Wars theme song, the ribbon was lightsaber cut. Rhode Island Comic Con was officially on, as R2-D2 whistled and the eager crowds poured into The Dunk and the Convention Center to have a killer time. It was a great moment!

I talked to another fan not long after that, Svetlana who had a Legend of Zelda cosplay thing going on, and I ask her how she was liking the con compared to last year. Her answer, “So far, so good.”

Now it was time to meet some celebs!

As I wandered around The Dunk I saw that there were a lot of photo ops/autograph stations peppered throughout the lower level periphery. And so I found myself meeting the Khal/Aquaman himself, Jason Momoa!

There is no question that this man is the Dothraki Khal Drogo (from HBO’s Game of Thrones) or Conan The Barbarian (from the 2011 movie remake of the same name). Holy cow was he imposing! I honestly didn’t know what to say to him. He did give me a fist bump, and I asked him about his role in the upcoming Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice movie. To which he said, “Wait ‘til Justice League [the movie].” But the best thing was his panel the next day – wait ‘til I get to that!

Back on The Dunk floor I talked to a few more exhibitors. Someone told me that Kristen Hughey, another professional cosplayer was not happy with her current accommodations. However, in keeping with the embracing the chaos theme, the next day I noticed that her table had been moved to the Convention Center floor, right across from the Motif table. See what I mean?

Now as I was getting into the evening hours I made my way over to the celeb area at the Convention Center. The best thing about this Day One (or Preview Night as I call it) was that there was plenty of room and opportunity to check things out and talk to celebs without the crazy crowds of the next day.

So without further adieu, I went over to Mr. Lou Ferrigno’s table and struck up a conversation with him. In 2013 at San Diego Comic-Con I ran into him as he was exiting “the john.” I tried to introduce myself but he gave me a curt, “How are you?” and kept on walking.

Well, not this time, I got talk to him at length about his cameo in the 2003 Erica Bana Hulk movie directed by Ang Lee. Then I asked him when he’d be doing another cameo and he said, “Ask Marvel that.” To which I replied, “Well, I’d love to see you in another Marvel film.” He thanked me and I moved on to the highlight of my evening: meeting cast members from Star Trek: The Next Generation (TNG) & Deep Space Nine (DS9).

Part of my goal this time around was to meet these actors and I was bummed when the press junket with them in it was cancelled. However, just like with William Shatner last year (read my 2014 RICC post-con wrap-up here at MotifRI.com), that old Comic Con Magic set in to make things right!

With virtually no one at their tables, I was able to saunter up and start chatting with them. First on my hit list was Michael Dorn.

I told him how much I loved his character (Lieutenant Commander Worf, a Klingon) on TNG, and would love to see a Captain Worf show.

And here’s where he won a million points with me…

It’s just been revealed that CBS is now putting into development a new television Star Trek series. Sounds great right? Unfortunately, the show runner behind it is one of the writers from those abysmal JJ Abrams Star Trek reboots: Star Trek (2009) and Star Trek: Into Darkness (2012). Now it’s no surprise that I am not a fan of these films or the NuTrek alternate timeline. In fact, I did a whole Motif Magazine MoTiV show Take 2 Into Darkness where my co-host Rosemary Pacheco and I battled it out over that disastrous second reboot film.

So when Michael told me that the new Star Trek series was going to be set in that NuTrek alternate timeline, and that he was so not happy about it, I became his friend for life!

As for RICC, here’s what he had to say about it, “I think it’s starting off a tiny bit slow but that’s the nature of the business, and it’s probably going to be insane tomorrow.”

Then on to Marina Sirtis where I almost accidentally unleashed her wrath upon me!

Yep! You see we fans don’t know everything that goes on between the celebs on their shows, on other shows, with their associates, producers, directors, and in the industry as a whole. Which means that there’s always a possibility of saying something stupid to a celeb out of sheer ignorance! Like when I asked James Doohan (the original Scotty from Star Trek) back in the late 1990s at a convention in Boston about how things were between him and William Shatner. He looked like he wanted to kill me.

So Shatner again got me in hot water, this time with Marina Sirtis (Commander Deanna Troi from TNG).

You see Shatner recently put out another one of his Star Trek documentaries called, William Shatner Presents: Chaos on the Bridge. And it’s a bit of a scathing biopic of Gene Roddenberry’s (the creator and executive producer of Star Trek) last days (just before he died in 1991) while he struggled to retain control over his Star Trek franchise as the network execs were trying to take Star Trek: The Next Generation away from him. Shatner painted Roddenberry as a Nero-like emperor who was constantly at war with the execs, and who didn’t even want a TNG series to begin with. Shatner, through his interviews with writers and producers of the show at the time, claims that the first two seasons of TNG were utter chaos.

Well, like an idiot I mentioned this to Marina and, oh, did she almost take my head off! “What does Shatner know about what went on, on TNG? He wasn’t there! All he wants to do is make money! All we ever did was laugh on that show! That’s why I’m not in that documentary!” Talk about me wanting to crawl into a hole, shrivel up, and die! But then she calmed down when I explained that we fans don’t know everything that goes on out there in Hollywood. And finally she was genuinely pleasant again and had this to say about Rhode Island Comic Con: “It’s fantastic! It’s packed full of people, which is what we love to see. I’m meeting old friends that I haven’t seen in twenty years. And it’s a chance for us to thank the fans a bit for being so loyal to us all these years.”

And loyalty will come into play later as far as Marina is concerned when I get to the Star Trek TNG/DS9 panel on Day Two!

Finally after the faux pas with Marina, I got to enjoy what might be the most pleasant conversation with a celeb I’ve ever had, with Terry Farrell (Lieutenant Commander Jadzia Dax from DS9).

What a joy it was to chat with this woman! In fact, I watched her, Michael Dorn, and Marina Sirtis banter with each other, having a ball, telling jokes, like the old friends they are.

Terry and I got into a great conversation about the DS9 episode Trials and Tribble-ations. You see, the remarkable thing about that episode was that, through the magic of time travel and green screens (not widely used on television yet at that time), some of the cast of DS9 got transported back in time to Captain Kirk’s Enterprise, with Kirk and other members of his crew. And it worked!

She told me that they made a mock up of the entire bridge of the old Enterprise, but all in green. From the Captain’s Chair to the crew stations, walls, panels, everything green! Though I didn’t get an actual quote from her about RICC, she had some great things to say at the panel on Day Two.

With that, I shimmied over to the Motif table and helped my fellow Motifers set up, and then it was time to call it a night!

But the best was yet to come because Michael Dorn was right; Day Two was going to be insane – in a good way!

Notable Day One costumes and other happenings of the day:

  • Sitting on the Iron Throne of the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros from “Game of Thrones.”
  • Hellboy but a girl, complete with red face and horn nubs!
  • A troupe of Teen Titans.
  • Wayne and Garth have a lightsaber battle.
  • A life-size Simpsons family sitting on the couch, which was a photo op setting.
  • Acquiring a Litchfield Penitentiary T-Shirt for my wife from the Netflix series Orange Is The New Black.
  • An Angelina Jolie style Maleficent.
  • Boba Fett (who was psyched to meet the original Boba Fett, Jeremy Bulloch at the con).
  • Batgirl, from another professional cosplayer, designer, seamstress, and exhibitor Jennifer Rose (fb.com/JenniferRoseNY). Yeah, I got a picture with her too. Her RICC quote: “The floor here is so much less crowed than San Diego Comic Con. Also the programs and the guests are way more accessible. Plus I love the community and the feel.”

Day Two – Ming-Na Wen Sends Me Into Orbit!

Wait ‘til I tell you about my encounter with Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. star Ming-Na Wen! But first let me kick off Day Two with what I saw outside The Dunk from the highway.

I saw a line of people so long waiting for the doors to open, on another beautiful day mind you, that those sixty thousand plus fans/attendees estimates seemed to be right on target!

This was an excellent sign that RICC 2015 ship, the RICC Mystery Falcon (yeah, I made that up!) was now righted!

I bet a lot of people went home and Tweeted/Facebooked that RICC was rocking this year because by the time I got into the Convention Center, I had heard that the entire con was completely sold out!

And, I want you to know, that I also heard that the Fire Marshal was very happy with the way people were moving in and out of the Convention Center and The Dunk. No more problems there (see video).

Now onto my eagerly awaited first panel: Faces Of Star Trek with Michael Dorn, Marina Sirtis, Terry Farrell, and Gates McFadden (Commander Doctor Beverly Crusher on TNG). Sadly, John de Lancie (Q, the omnipotent pain in the ass from TNG, DS9, and Star Trek Voyager) was unable to make it. The panel was moderated by Clare Kramer of Buffy The Vampire TV series fame. In fact, Clare moderated all the major panels at the con.

This was one of the liveliest and most awesome panels I’ve ever been to at any con!

The cast members bounded onto the stage all looking great, like they just came off a Star Trek set. They were all eager to interact with the fans but the real star of the panel was Marina Sirtis – no surprise there.

She ruled. That woman was on fire! And I should know after the “scorching” I almost got from her the night before.

For example, when Gates talked about how Star Trek TNG helped an Iraq war vet deal with his injuries, and how Star Trek in general offered a positive version of humanity’s future, Marina added, “Plus, all the girls were stacked!”

So one fan asked Michael if his character, Worf, ended up marrying the wrong woman. Oooh, that started a lively rivalry between Marina and Terry. You see there was a brief interlude between Worf and Troi on TNG but ultimately Worf ended up marrying Jadzia Dax on DS9 (until she was killed off shortly thereafter).

Michael’s response, “Do I feel that Worf married the wrong woman? You shit!” Because that question got him in hot water with Terry. And then Marina called the fan who asked the question up to the stage and kissed him!

After that, Michael confirmed to that audience that day what he told me the night before about the new CBS “Star Trek” series being set in the JJ Abrams NuTrek universe. Much to the pleasant boos and hisses of most of the fans in the audience, myself included.

Gates son called her right in the middle of the panel. She took the call and got him off the phone quickly. But Marina took a few friendly jabs at her. Gates was like, “What? I miss my son; he’s in Germany right now.”

To which Michael replied, “Gates, it’s time to cut the cord.” The audience got a kick out of that.

Michael then joked about the fun they had on DS9, while working on TNG was very serious.

But Terry ribbed Michael about how he used to question the DS9 scripts when the writers were mucking up Worf’s character. They would be ready to shoot, then Michael would complain and delay the shoot!

Marina then added, “The writers thought their scripts were Shakespeare!” And added that it took extensive meetings just to get one line changed.

Then Marina talked about how Brent Spiner (Lieutenant Commander Data on TNG) and Jonathan Frakes (Commander Will Riker on TNG) found a way to double team and trick the producers into authorizing line changes. To which she also added, “Men. Can’t live with them, can’t kill ‘em!”

Later a fan asked a question about whether or not the actors were anything like their characters.

Marina’s response was, “I’m nothing like my character.” No surprise there.

The rest of the panel’s response was pretty much the same.

Gates remarked about Jonathan Frakes and Michael Dorn both being good kissers!

They were also asked to reveal their favorite episodes:

Marina – The Measure of a Man and A Fist Full Of Datas. The latter because she loves doing comedy but very rarely got the chance on TNG.

Michael – Drumhead, Soldiers Of The Empire, and Once More Unto The Breech.

Gates – The Prime Directive and The Host

Terry – The first Worf DS9 episode and all the shows that she did stunts in and worked with Michael. But what pissed her off was how the producers were bullying her for leaving DS9 because Rick Berman (Executive Producer of all of Star Trek after Gene Roddenberry died) made her an insulting compensation offer.

And this is where Marina stepped in and talked about loyalty. “We made all of these producers and writers famous like Ronald D. Moore [Battlestar Galactica 2003-2009, Helix], who was some kid who pitched a Star Trek script, because “Star Trek: The Next Generation” was and still is the only show on TV to have ever allowed unsolicited script submissions (i.e. without a professional Hollywood agent representing the writer, which is damn near impossible to get, especially if you don’t live in Hollywood). He [Moore] went on to become a highly successful producer, and never hired us for a job [on his non-Star Trek shows]! Buch of effin’ ingrates!”

And the crowd went wild when she said that! Wow! What a panel!

As I was walking out of the ballroom I noticed a woman with a huge original series Star Trek USS Enterprise tattooed on her shoulder. I had to take a snapshot of it. She also had the Starfleet insignia tattooed on her clavicle as well. Her name was Meghan and she was a hardcore Trek fan!Star_Trek_tat-fan_Meghan

Now it was time to reach the personal pinnacle of my RICC experience: meeting Ming-Na Wen!

Very few Comic Con experiences are as awesome as this one, like when The Godzilla Encounter was sold out at San Diego Comic-Con, but I happened by pure chance to run into the guy who was running it and he got me and my buddies in without a problem. Or when, because of mishaps at last year’s RICC, the William Shatner photo op/autograph signing was reshuffled and I accidently found myself in a nearly empty line, enabling me to meet one of my childhood icons.

With Carrie Fisher out the picture, I was angling to meet Ming-Na Wen. As soon as I heard the call over the loud speaker about her photo op/autograph signing, I headed over there.

Even in the VIP line the wait was about forty-five minutes.

As I got closer to meeting her, she actually stood up on her table and started tossing out Hershey’s Kisses to the crowd. The fans went wild as she said, “I’m giving you all kisses because I love you all!”

I’m not a superficial person but I’ve got to tell you, seeing Ming-Na Wen in real life smiling and happy – as opposed to her pissed off, brooding character Agent Melinda May on Marvel’s “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” – made me realize something: she looks better in real life than she does on TV! And at 51, she’s a stunningly beautiful woman! Yep! I admit it, I was completely enamored.

So along with getting a quote from her (because I was still on the clock with Motif), I had to get a picture with her. And boy did I get great one! I was so psyched that afterwards I emailed the picture to myself just in case anything happened to my iPhone!

But before I left her awesome company I asked her two things. First, I mentioned that I had tried to get into the AOS panel at San Diego Comic-Con and it was impossible, but that was certainly not the case here at RICC, and I asked what she thought about that. She said, “San Diego Comic-Con has rooms that accommodate over 4000 people but here fans can actually have a one-on-one with us!”

And then I asked her if there was any inside info on the upcoming Marvel film Captain America: Civil War and any connection to AOS. She said, “Unfortunately, they won’t tell us anything but I do know it’s going to be a BIG surprise in May!” And as a huge Marvel films and AOS fan, meeting Ming-Na Wen, well…that just sent me into orbit!Ming-Na_Wen-and-Nick

After that, I didn’t think things could get any better but I was wrong because I then wandered into the Q&A With Jason Momoa and got to sit right up front, no more than six feet from him. This “panel” of one was again moderated by Clare Kramer.Jason_Momoa-Rocks-RICC2015

Clare introduced him and he came out on stage drinking a beer! The crowd, especially the ladies, went wild. This man is larger than life – literally! But he also exudes a sincere charm, a gentle quality, and one hell of a sense of humor.

Of course everyone knows he’s going to be the new DC film’s Aquaman but his real claim to fame was the one season stint he did as Khal Drogo on HBO’s “Game Of Thrones.” Lots of people wanted to know all about what it was like to play that character.

He said that the audition for the role was the hardest he had ever done. In fact, as a native Hawaiian with strong ties to his culture and history, he actually did a Haka War Dance for the audition and landed the role immediately!

He loved playing the role but unfortunately there was almost no fighting for his character in that entire season. In fact, SPOILER ALERT, in the first book by George RR Martin most of Khal Drogo’s warrior exploits happen off-page.

So Jason insisted on at least one Khal Drogo fight in the HBO version. Since he had played another sword and sandal warrior character, Conan The Barbarian, in the oft maligned 2011 remake of the 1982 film, where he chopped off about thirty heads, he pitched the fight to the GoT producers and they went for it, giving Khal one action sequence.

Then a self-proclaimed terrified fan got up and asked Jason a question. “Why is Aquaman awesome?”

Jason reassured the fan he didn’t have anything to worry about and then answered the question by saying, “I didn’t grow up following white superheroes. But the water gods are awesome and Aquaman is awesome. He does cool stuff…”

And that’s when he almost let slip either a BvS, Justice League, or Aquaman (the 2018 movie directed by James Wan) spoiler!

The fans went crazy. And that’s when Jason said, “Look if you want to have to some fun with me here then keep what we talk about private and don’t put this shit on the Internet! Ah, I can see all of you posting to the Internet right now!”

But that didn’t deter him, he was cagey about details of his upcoming movies but still open about himself and his work, and very, very freakin’ funny. At one point he said something pertaining to that Conan remake disaster. “Most producers piss on stuff and make it worse.” Which is pretty much what happened to that film, and why Jason has been campaigning for another Conan film that he’d like to produce.

As for Aquaman, he had this to say, “I’m gonna make one badass motherfucker! And if you don’t like Aquaman [the movie] and Justice League, you can try to get your money back from me!”

He feels that since the Hawaiian people are the people of the water he was appropriately cast as Aquaman.

Then another fan asked, “When you were standing next to Ben [Affleck playing Bruce Wayne/Batman in BvS] and Henry [Cavill playing Clark Kent/Superman in BvS] what up?”

To which Jason replied, “I feel Wonder Woman [played by the statuesque Gal Gadot in BvS] could kick all our asses!”

As for small screen stuff Jason Momoa is doing a Netflix series called “Frontier” playing a badass native in the 18th century Hudson Bay trading period.

Another fan wanted to know when Jason would be on “Saturday Night Live.” To which he replied, “That would be a great moment of my life!” He also told the audience that he would love to do some comedy because he thinks he’s a very funny guy.

Well he certainly had the audience in stitches!

“I am the chosen one!” For Aquaman that is, Jason shouted out. “Don’t put that on the fucking Internet!” He added. The audience roared with laughter.

Then Back to GoT with a question about which house Jason Momoa (not Khal Drogo) would side with. He replied with, “Well I guess I’d have to go with House Targarean despite my whore wife [Daenerys Targarean] sleeping with all these guys after my character gets killed off!”

As for horseback riding, especially on Conan he said, “That horse wanted to kill me! I would eat that horse!”

Just about anything that Jason said was a riot.

Then he said, “I love ‘Drunk History,’” as he drank his beer, referring to the Comedy Central show that started off on YouTube (more about the YouTube panel on Day Three) where a couple of drunken guys effectively and hilariously rewrite history through their inebriated eyes.

“Have you ever had a shark encounter while surfing in Hawaii?” Another fan asks.

To which Jason replied, “This is what this tattoo [raises a massive left forearm] is for. It’s for the water gods to protect me. As soon as I see a shark I show ‘em this tattoo and tell them to go get ‘whitey’ over there!” Another round of laughter.

In the end, he conceded that his hardest and favorite role so far was Khal Drogo on GoT. He also joked about his co-star Emilia Clarke, who played his wife Daenerys, used to want to cuddle in between scenes and he’d have to tell her to beat it, he’s married!

Jason also mentioned to the fans that he has his own production company and a film that he’s producing and starring in called Braven, which comes out after BvS.

Finally, Jason stood up, thanked everyone for coming and said, “Remember, all this shit stays here, or I’ll come to your fucking house and kill you!”

Totally badass! And this article is being posted just hours after I secured a brand new life insurance policy.

The only thing that wasn’t so cool, and I found this out later, was that one of my fellow members of the press had to hit the bathroom just as the Jason Momoa panel got started. A volunteer guarding the door reassured my colleague that he’d be able to get back in. When he got back from the bathroom another volunteer staff member was now guarding the door and refused to let my colleague back in – even though his jacket and camera equipment were still on his chair in the room. This was a recurring theme throughout the con, where not every volunteer staff member was on the same page. It happened to me on Day Three, but I’ll get to that later. Not the end of the world, but similar to vendor experiences getting set up, it’s still an area for added future improvement.

Before I go any further, I want to make note of a very, very important aspect to this convention that sets it apart from every other Comic Con I’ve been to, including San Diego: this year, they started serving booze all throughout the convention!

That’s right, I should have mentioned this in Day One but so much happened that I’m just getting to it now. Right after The Ribbon-Cutting Ceremony at The Dunk I noticed all the beer stations were open. I couldn’t believe it! And I couldn’t help myself, I picked up a nice 16 oz of Harpoon UFO White and kept smiling ever since.

Now I’m sure the booze has nothing to do with this favorable review of Rhode Island Comic Con 2015. Really!

And with a totally responsible pop-culture cosplaying sci-fi/fantasy loving geek/nerd creative fandom hanging out drinking good ales, wines, and mixed drinks, no one got out of hand! That’s cool!

Seriously, I was having a great time, beers or no. In fact, I went back over to The Dunk and ran into the Rhode Island Comic Press Manager Susan Soares. We struck up a great conversation about how the con was going so far. I think that they were really putting the fans first here—and that’s what it’s all about. We also talked about how her husband was the one who got her hooked on sci-fi and now she’s addicted.

Then I ambled over to meet Michael Rooker! One of the stars of Guardians Of The Galaxy (my all-time favorite movie so far), whose character Yondu Udonta was just spectacular in the film.

I told Mr. Rooker that I have been following his career since his role in Oliver Stone’s JFK, and he told me, “Boy you need to get out more!”

I also told him that I must quote Yondu a few times a week, and that I hope he’ll show up in GoTG2. He said, “Well, you better get on the phone with Gunn then!” (James Gunn is the director of the first film, and slated to direct the second.)

The guy was awesome, and he seemed to have a lot of fun with the fans at his table taking selfies with him.

So now it was starting to get late in the day and I was fixing to attend the afterparty later that evening. It was called, 1.21 Gigawatts: The Future Is Now!

Clearly a Back To The Future (BTTF for short) theme, check out the drink list:

  • The Future: Malibu red, Orange juice, Grenadine
  • 21 Gigawatt: Vodka, Red Bull
  • The Pinhead: Midori, Absolute Citron, Malibu Coconut, sour mix, pineapple juice
  • Wild Gunman: Midori, Sprite, White Rum
  • The Biff: Midori, Peach Schnapps, orange juice, pineapple juice, cranberry juice

After a quick dinner, we headed over to the 1.21 Gigawatts Afterparty. There was me, the Uber-Geek, our intrepid leader and pop-culture loving publisher, Mike Ryan, our very own Beer Advocate, Pete Larrivee, and our exceptionally dynamic and beautiful Dare Me Girl, Katie Lewis (who came to work that day dressed up as an awesome classic Scarlet Witch!).

The first thing I noticed when we arrived was that Big Nazo (and if you don’t know Big Nazo, what rock have you been hiding under?) was jamming away on the upper level of the Convention Center, bringin’ down the house!

Actually, I had been seeing Big Nazo all over RICC 2015, they are a staple at this event. It wouldn’t be RI Comic Con without them.

We had a round of BTTF themed drinks while Mike was working up the courage to take a spin on the mechanical bull.

Oh, didn’t I mention there was a mechanical bull at RICC as well?

Of course there was! And Mike was determined to tame it. He gave me his stuff to hold and then mounted the beast. And in not one, not two, but three fell swoops he took a dive into the padded walls. Not to be defeated, he gave it another go. And this time he made it for a few more fell swoops! I’ve got it on video.

Then came time for the dance party. The Convention Center’s Rotunda was turned into a wall-pounding disco with a Jumbotron behind the DJ stage showing clips from all three BTTF movies.

  • Brian O’Halloran of Clerks fame was there.
  • And many cosplayers were cutting a rug.
  • An Asian Spider-Man was break dancing like he was infused with superpowers.
  • One of the Disco Boys from the Ben Stiller superhero spoof movie Mystery Men was bustin’ big moves on the dance floor.
  • And, I kid you not, a giant puffed out Baymax from Big Hero 6 lit up the dance floor with his robo-dance-moves!
  • And there was way more than I can describe here, I’ll probably post the video to the Motif Facebook page so you can see it.

Anyway, I managed to get a dance in with Katie before I called it a night. Michael Dorn was so right, Day Two was insane!

Biz_Nazo_accosts-Katie

Notable Day Two costumes and other happenings of the day:

  • Saw a life-sized mockup of the Millennium Falcon cockpit being used for photo ops on the upper level of the Convention Center.
  • A live band calling themselves The Cantina Band played all kinds of genre-related tunes, including the Ghostbusters theme, The A-Team theme, “Hooked on a Feeling” by Blue Swede (featured in the Marvel film Guardians Of The Galaxy) and of course the actual Cantina Band music from Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope!
  • A giant demon cosplayer about to behead a fan!Giant_Demon_Beheading_Fan
  • My second picture with Serafina as Yellow Power Ranger – she also came by the Motif for additional pics for our webzine. She later posed with Green Power Ranger in the Convention Center lobby.
  • Hawkgirl, complete with a six-foot fully extendable wingspan!
  • Princess Leia’s capture and by Darth Vader and his Imperial Stormtrooper entourage – a mini-drama played out on the Convention Center upper level.
  • Meeting one of many Sailor Moons (including Motif’s own Jade Moon!)
  • I did not get to attend any of the screenings for the Film Festival but fans definitely should. There were titles like Star Wars: Episode IV – A Toy Story! How could you go wrong with that? Several talented local filmmakers also represented.
  • I only saw part of the costume contest this year but believe me those costumes were truly amazing! Especially this mind-blowing Voltron: Defender of the Universe costume!Voltron_Defender-of-Universe
  • Holding a real-life Glaive in my hand from the movie Krull, thanks to Hole In The Ground Productions (www.holeinthegroundpro.com) who came all the way up from their creation studio in Pennsylvania to exhibit and sell their props. The owner, Eric Berry, and I had a great discussion about how the new Star Wars movie will be using more practical effects than VFX/CGI, and how the latter put many physical artists out of business. That all could change on December 18th the movie opens, and that would be an ironic twist if such a change were shepherded by the same franchise that ushered in the shift to digital effects in the first place.

 

Day Three — The Ship Keeps on Sailing to Strange New Worlds!

Exhausted but still raring to go, I made my way back down from Boston (Yep! that’s where I’m from but my wife is from RI so I’m married to Rhode Island!) for another amazing journey on the RICC Mystery Falcon!

Today though, I was getting down to business and asking some important questions of the artists, vendors, and exhibitors. Like I said, I’m not sugar-coating anything. Embracing the chaos comes back into play.

First up, Mystic Gem exhibitor/vendor at the upper periphery of The Dunk, Glenn Boudreau, who said about RICC, “No complaints, the staff got me right in. Business has been good this year at the con.”

Next up was Matthew Phillion (www.theindestructiblesbook.com) author of his YA superhero 3-book series The Indestructibles, named one of SuperheroNovel.com’s top five novels of 2014. His thoughts were, “Not my best con but still very good. Been treated real well by the staff. I was a little worried about being in The Dunk but the foot traffic has been great.”

Then I tried to get into the Peter Cullen (the voice of Optimus Prime from The Transformers movies and cartoons) photo op/autograph signing. At first one row of RICC volunteer staff members let me right in but then the next row kicked me out, which made no sense what-so-ever.

But after my press colleague’s story about the Jason Momoa panel, I figured I just got hit with the same the right hand doesn’t know what the left hand is doing issue among the volunteer staff. I don’t know. That put a slight damper on my RICC 2015 experience for a bit that day.

But then the Comic Con Magic settled in again as I ran into an old college friend I hadn’t seen in over twenty-five years. He was working as a handler for voice actor Gregg Berger. I ran into them both at the celeb area and we got caught up! Mr. Berger told us he too just ran into a friend he hadn’t seen in twenty-plus years. Coincidence? Or just that good old Comic Con magic doing its thing? That put me in a great mood again.

And finally it was time for me to get my third and final picture taken with Professional Cosplayer Serafina as she donned her Harley Quinn. The results were amazing: red and black hair, ghost white face with black diamonds for an eye mask, black and red leather Harlequin mid-riff outfit and boots, and an oversized pop-gun! I really had no business standing next to such a sultry and mischievous beauty!

Then I got a quote from her about her experience at RICC this year. “It’s been great. Everyone here is so friendly – they all want to tell me their life’s story! I’m from Colorado, so I’m not used to that. The convention staff has been great as well. Things were a little chaotic on Friday but it all worked out great!”

Then I saw something that I just had to take a picture of: the best reproduction of Captain America’s Vibranium Shield from the Marvel Captain America and Avengers films. I’ve searched high and low at many Comic Cons for an exact replica of this shield because WWII Captain America (from the movie Captain America: The First Avenger) is my next big costume. But I can’t do it without the shield. And most of the shields out there are more of the comic book, discus kind, not the movie kind. So when I saw this kid – his name was Billy – walk by the Motif table with the shield, I darted right after him. He gave me the info on how to get one for myself. I took a pic with me holding the shield – glorious!

Finally, I asked how he was liking the con and whether he came last year. His answer surprised me.

“I was the first guy who they stopped selling tickets to. They literally closed the window on me once the Convention Center was locked up and no one could get in. However, this year it’s all good and I’m having a great time!”

Wow, to get so close and get locked out and then come back this year with no gripes, that says something about how right RICC was doing by the fans.

I still had more talking to with artists, vendors, and exhibitors to do.

Next up was Casey from Well Played Clothing (www.wellplayedclothig.net). She got me to buy these awesome polo shirts with the S.H.I.E.L.D. and Hydra logos on left breast. They’re so fine that I plan on wearing them to work!

I asked her about last year compared to this year. She said, “Last year somebody cut my booth but this year it’s been good. We’re having a great year here with sales.”

Sounds good, so then I went upstairs to attend the How To Be A YouTube Star panel. This one was a good one to attend – very informative. I love when comic cons have information or how-to panels that help artists and creatives get a leg up in oversaturated media arts industries. Since I have my own YouTube channel (www.YouTube.com/user/NicksSciFiCornershameless plug), I was looking for some insights on how to grow it. The hilarious guys from CinemaSins were there as well as the Super Beard Bros. They offered some great advice like:

  • Get a good microphone, like a Shure, and a camera like a Canon T5i.
  • Submit videos to Buzzfeed, Reddit, and Deadspin. Find email addresses of bloggers and forums. Find people online who can help get your video out there and send them the link.
  • Do a video with another YouTuber.
  • Know your genre and community. Focus on the people in that genre and always send out your link.
  • Always be yourself on YouTube. Do what you want to do on it. The opposite happened to Laina Walker, A.K.A. The Overly Attached Girlfriend, who became so known for that skit/character that she struggled for years to be herself on YouTube even taking a three month break from it and then pouring her heart out on her channel to tell her fans she wants to be herself. The responses she got were incredibly supportive and she’s doing fine now.
  • Find a niche that no one else has done on YouTube. (ed note – good luck with that.)
  • Don’t do a review show! There are waaaaaaay too many of them now!
  • Keep trying, keep working at it, and make it as good as possible.
  • Do regularly scheduled vids. Consistency is key, even if most viewers don’t notice.
  • Someday the right person is going to see your video and send up, and it’ll go viral.
  • You don’t’ benefit from SEO (Search Engine Optimization) until you’re popular. Focus on your content.
  • Find video influencers on YouTube like the Double Rainbow Guy.
  • Read the book The Tipping Point by Malcomb Gladwell.
  • There is no formula for going viral on YouTube. Content is king.
  • And finally, the audience is a great bullshit detector. Be genuine and honest.

Wow! I have my work cut out for me!

Then I went downstairs to the Artist Alley as I always do on the last day of a con.

There I spoke with several artists and asked them the same questions I’d been asking the vendors and exhibitors.

Sara Richard (www.sararichard.com), a very talented graphic artist said, “No complaints. This year things have been great.”

Not so much for Adam Wallenta of Adam Wallenta Entertainment however. He tells a different story about his experience this year. “My mother, who is part of my staff with her own vendor badge, left the Convention Center for a bit and they wouldn’t let her back in through the vendor entrance – with an approved vendor badge. They also confiscated her water, forcing her to buy the $4 water here. That’s bad for the vendors and artists and the environment. Also, we artists are so crammed in here that I have to jump over my neighbors just to go to the bathroom. Also it was so disorganized getting set up. My booth was supposed to be 209 but they ended up putting me in the 300s so I couldn’t fully promote my location to my over eleven thousand Twitter followers and fans. I’ve been to cons all over the world and this one needs to listen more to the needs of the artists.”

Here’s a little chaos embracing that needs to be done on both sides (artists and RICC organizers).

And I’m sure the RICC staff will reach out to Mr. Wallenta and make it right for him.

To be fair, the “no outside water or food policy” is a Convention Center thing and has nothing to do with Rhode Island Comic Con. Hence the reason why I never bother with the convention center food (here or in San Diego), it all sucks, and I head out to places like the Union Brewery in Providence and Lolita’s At The Park or Bubs in downtown San Diego.

Ian Ally-Seals, graphic artist for Rare Earth Comics (www.RareEarthComics.com) has a different perspective on the chaos. “The disorganization at this show, like last year, is to be expected. When I got here this year, they had given my table away – a specific location that I had paid for. But once we got settled in, the show is great and we’re doing great business. With Rhode Island Comic Con all the anger and disappointment happens before the show begins. Then it’s all good.”

      That’s embracing the chaos!

Jordan Bourne, a graphic artist known as CISCOLL (ciscoll.storenvy.com or Facebook.com/Ciscoll) said this, “First Rhode Island Comic Con for me. A little disorganized getting in, no one seemed to know what’s going on. However, after I got settled in, everything was good. Being treated very well by the staff.”

And as I was nearing the end of my RICC 2015 experience I found myself inadvertently at the Karen Gillan (Doctor Who’s companion Amy Pond and Nebula from Guardians of the Galaxy) photo op/autograph signing. I actually had no intention of going in and meeting her. I just wanted to see how much her hair had grown out after shaving it off for her GoTG role. But she wasn’t actually there yet.

However, the bright young volunteer named Steve who was managing the line asked me if I wanted to get in. Then he saw my press badge and said, “Oh, you’re press. Your line is here [points to a wide open express lane].” His kindness and respect absolutely undid the slight I got from the whole Peter Cullen thing a few hours earlier.

Finally, finally, finally, I ran into a woman named Christina who wore her costume permanently, i.e. full body tattoos. She was with her tattoo model, Jenna, because Christina is a professional tattoo artist with Acme Ink Tattoo Studio in Coventry RI. They were meeting Ron Perlman but Kristina was drawing attention to herself as admirers, me included, wanted to take snapshots of her beautiful body art. I asked her how she was liking RICC, and she said, “First time here. It’s spectacular.”

To which Jenna added, “Ron Perlman is spectacular!”

Kristina-From-Acme-Ink

Notable Day Three costumes and other happenings of the day:

  • Meeting Lori Petty, of Tank Girl and Orange Is The New Black After she fist bumped me, I asked her when there was going to be a Tank Girl 2. Her reply, in a totally Lori Petty way, was, “Don’t hold your breath!”
  • Encountering Lynann Wilkinson, Rieke Master, Music Artist, and Cosplayer several times, who as Harley Quinn with her own homemade Harley’s Hammer kept trying to get me to trade my Harley Quinn RICC badge every time I ran into her. I’m not giving it up, so I’ll plug her businesses instead here. You can find her on Twitter or Facebook or call (401) 862-8627. Tell her Nick Iandolo sent you!
  • Big Nazo jamming on the steps of The Dunk and playing with the crowds before the doors opened.
  • Big_Nazo-Rocking-The-Crowd-At-Dunk-StepsFacing off against a cookie-wielding Dalek from “Doctor Who.” I kid you not!
  • Awesome Batman and Catwoman costumed duo.
  • Motif’s Katie Lewis as the hottest Slave Leia in any galaxy!Slave_Leia_Katie-and-Nick
  • Running into Peggy Carter (founder of the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s H.I.E.L.D.) while wearing my Hydra polo shirt! Good thing she didn’t shoot me on sight!
  • More Batmans (including a demonic, red-eyed one).
  • A great MCU Ant-Man costume. First time I’ve ever seen one at a con.
  • Nearly getting attacked by Chewbacca! No, not really – he just growled at my like he did at Lando Calrissian in The Empire Strikes Back.Chewbacca-Roars-At-Me

 

Rhode Island Comic Con 2015 — Final Thoughts, Keep Hitting the Moon and Beyond!

 

Even though I’m an Italian-American I’m going to quote from a Russian friend of mine whose daughter, Natalie Glebova, was Miss Universe 2005.

      “Aim for the stars and you’ll hit the moon!”

Every year since 2012, the first Rhode Island Comic Con, I’ve felt that they’ve been trying to do this very thing. And every year (including the last one) I certainly think they’ve hit the moon. But this year, they bypassed Mars and Jupiter and got as far as Saturn!

They’re well on their way to reaching the stars.

And even though I walked my legs off for three days, talking to everyone I could, seeing and hearing and reporting on every amazing thing that I encountered, there was still infinitely more than one intrepid reporter (and hardcore pop-culture/sci-fi/fantasy/comics/cosplay fan) can cover! That is what my fellow members of the press and colleagues from Motif and the other publications/webzines/blogs are for. Go read those accounts of this massive event as well.

Of course, there’s still a lot of work ahead for the Mr. Steve Perry, President of Altered Reality Entertainment (the company that organizes Rhode Island Comic Con) and his team.

For example, I love the extra day (Friday) concept but it seems more like the San Diego Comic Con Wednesday Preview Night than an extra day.

In my opinion, they should get everyone (vendors, et al.) loaded in on Thursday and get the Friday going in full-swing with panels, shows, exclusives, celebs, the works. The fan support (and the financial support) looks to be there. People will come, and with the con ready to go Friday morning there’s no way that wouldn’t be good for business.

Or better yet…get everyone loaded in on Wednesday night into Thursday morning and have a preview night Thursday with special exclusives like: RICC exclusive collectibles that cannot be gotten anywhere else – like they do at SDCC), a Hollywood-style preview screening of sweeps weeks genre shows or advance previews of premieres. I saw “The Flash” pilot episode at SDCC 2014’s Preview Night. I think it’s time RICC starts talking to Hollywood to make new things happen – this includes exclusive movie clips at panels for unreleased films that fans will camp out the night before to get into!

There’s definitely an Entertainment Industry/Hollywood component missing with RICC. And it cannot be avoided much longer. The very thing that fans complain about with San Diego Comic-Con is the very thing they demanded over the years: bigger, BiGGer, BIGGER!

And speaking of preview nights and exclusives – and this has nothing to do with Rhode Island Comic Con and its organizers – where the heck is Hasbro?!

At San Diego, people line up for hours just to get a ticket to then get in the line for the Hasbro Toy Shop! And on the Preview Night, they line up by the thousands to get exclusive Avengers or Star Wars collectibles that they cannot get anywhere else!

I’ve seen people come out of that convention center with armfuls of oversized SWAG bags busting out with merch! Imagine how much money Hasbro would make if they backed a Hasbro Toy Shop right in their home town, right in their backyard, literally across the street at Rhode Island Comic Con?

But in four years I haven’t seen any Hasbro-owned toy shop, toy showcase pavilion (there’s both at SDCC), kiosk, table – hell – not even a guy passing out flyers! Nothing! Come on Hasbro! These are your people, show up and show your local support. The business is there and you won’t have to cart your stuff across the country to sell it!

I’m actually not going to say they need to be better organized because no one, not even San Diego, can run conventions like these without glitches and an element of chaos. In fact, it’s out of the chaos that some of the best experiences are had: like my Shatner one!

As the convention matures, the organizers are simply going to get better and better at what they do. They’ll eventually have lines so long that they’ll have great line managers who will keep the lines going and entertain the fans at the same time. They’ll get giant pavilions in for big studios and companies like Warner Bros., Disney, Hasbro (yes!), Microsoft, and Oculus Rift, moving them in and out with ease. They’ll have a whole new wing to the convention for gamers with huge MMO arrays for the latest Halo, Destiny, Alien, Star Wars video games, and casino-like tables rocking classic RPG games like GURPS, Feung Shui, Dungeons & Dragons, Magic The Gathering, Call of Cthulhu, and more. The entire downtown area will be pressed into service with game review companies like GameSpot or artsy video-streamers like Machinima taking over pubs and joints pumping out tunes, free drinks, and Comic Con giveaways all day – literally taking over Water Fire! More celeb afterparties happening in the evenings than any one ever dreamed of! More off-convention site events like zombie walks or runs for your life, a free giant MTV Party at Burnside Park, outdoor exhibits with rides and VR experiences like the Adult Swim Carnival, the parkour mega obstacle course Assassin’s Creed Experience, and the return of THE GODZILLA ENCOUNTER!

And if all of this sounds way too big and San Diego Comic-Con-like for your tastes, my fellow pop-culture loving, Comic-Con-going fans, consider this:

  • 2012, RICC attendance was around 14,000 fans with a third of the main Convention Center exhibit hall in use.
  • 2013, RICC attendance nearly doubled, some say up to 30K and ALL of the Convention Center exhibit hall was pressed into service including the lower levels.
  • 2014, RICC attendance peaked, IN ONE DAY, to over 40-45K fans, maybe more, and despite all of the Convention Center’s available spaces being utilized the Fire Marshal had no choice but to close the doors because attendance exceeded the fire safety capacity.
  • 2015, RICC attendance may very well have easily reached over 60,000 fans, as Mr. Ferrigno said in his ribbon-cutting speech. All of the Convention Center was in use, all of The Dunk was in use, and STILL they were busting at the seams running out of space for vendors, artists, and fans. Fortunately, the Fire Marshal was happy. However, with over 60K in attendance that’s nearly half of the total attendance of San Diego Comic-Con in 2012!

That’s right. So in four short years Rhode Island Comic Con has grown to half the size of the granddaddy of all comic cons during the beginning of its peak years – or quadrupling in size since the first RICC in 2012. And SDCC is still growing like crazy; so much so, that the city of San Diego is spending half a billion dollars – billion, with a “B” – to double the size of its convention center to keep SDCC there!

This growth pattern clearly means that RICC in a few scant years may well be seeing the crowds that San Diego sees today at around 150,000 fans/attendees – never mind all the staff, volunteers, vendors, exhibitors, artists, celebrities and their staff, all the food and service people, printers, painters, sign makers, genre-themed pedicab drivers, actors/promoters walking the streets passing out flyers and such, religious freaks with massive signs telling us we’re all going to Hell because there are now gay comic book characters (oh yeah, they’re coming, you wait and see), and more and more and more!

And since SDCC brings in over $200,000,000 a year to the city of San Diego, you think that Providence is going to snicker at that kind of annual booty and tell RICC to scale it back? Let’s hope not! At this rate, and with what I saw this year, The Biggest Show in the Smallest State is going to get a HELL of a HELL of a lot bigger!

This is only the beginning as the RICC Mystery Falcon sails off into the stars! You want chaos baby? You’re about to get more than you ever dreamed of, so start embracing! Excellent comeback Rhode Island Comic Con!!!

See all of you November 11th – 13th , 2016!

Be sure to visit more images at www.Facebook.com/MotifRI

 

Nick Iandolo is a producer, screenwriter, and author from Boston, Mass. He is the Writer/Producer/Director/Host of Nick’s Sci-Fi Corner for Dedham Television (Facebook.com/NicksSciFiCorner) among other genre-style and educational shows. He is also the author of the New Las Vegas (NLV) sci-fi eBook series. Follow him on Twitter @NicksSFCorner, email: nick@tenthsphere.com.




RI Comic Con-versation

Earlier this month, this article was posted by Nick Iandolo – after the posting we were able to get on the record with Steve Perry, the founder of Rhode Island Comic Con and, this time of year, one of RI’s busiest individuals. This post has been amended to include his responses and information acquired in that interview. Unfortunately, this meant cutting out a lot of geek-speak-laden meta-sarcastic pop-culture references. Fortunately, we now have a lot more information. Reporting by Nick Iandolo and Mike Ryan.

 

Many of these questions were drawn from online fan postings, which blew up on Twitter and Facebook a year ago when Rhode Island Comic Con (RICC) lit up social media over a situation where ticket holders were unable to enter the venue, shut out by the fire marshal out of concern about crowding. We had a frank conversation with Perry about last year’s challenges, what they’ve resulted in for this year, and what lies in the future for the overwhelmingly popular con.

Here is a list of issues from Twitter last year:

  • Tickets being sold after the venue was closed by the Providence Fire Marshal.
  • Fans waiting in line outside longer than expected.
  • Families and friends separated when some went outside and were then not allowed back in.
  • Vendors, exhibitors, and artists not being allowed back in.
  • Fans missing out on their photo ops and seminars.

These have been addressed this year by the addition of entire additional building’s worth of space, adding another day to the convention and better crowd and access management that will include color-coded and micro-encoded badges for different entries and real-time capacity tracking.

Motif: Tell us how you feel about last year, and specifically about the period when some people were shut out of the event:

SP: Sometimes you just have to take a step back and look at what happened and fix the situation. Things could have been handled a little bit differently from all angles. Everyone who needed to be handled was taken care of, and that situation’s not going to happen again.

Motif: How does it feel to run what has become such a monster of an event?

SP: It feels great. We’re very proud of what we have accomplished as a group and as a city to bring one of the biggest events in the country to Providence. We plan on continuing to grow the event into a citywide event.

Motif: That sounds intriguing for next year.

SP: Yeah – We have plans to encompass more and more of the city, and to involve more local businesses and organizations into the show.

Motif: I understand you have a projection of 60,000 attendees this year.

SP: That’s the plan.

Motif: And you think it can grow even bigger.

SP: Yes, definitely. We have plans to grow the show. We want to become the San Diego of New England.

Motif: Tell me about Eliza Dushku. Her luggage was taken, but that didn’t have anything to do with the Con?

SP: Not at all. It happened outside the hotel at night. She wasn’t with anyone from the show.

Motif: Did her stuff ever show up on EBay or something?

SP: Hotel security handled that and they were able to get her stuff back.

Motif: There were some ticket holders who couldn’t get back in for events they planned to see. How did you deal with that?

SP: For people who were adversely affected last year, we took the traditional 7-day period for refunds and extended it to 31 days. We reimbursed or refunded people who had legitimate problems stemming from the restricted access [ed note – that’s about 1.25% of last year’s attendees]. While the waits were very unfortunate, the fire marshals did continue to let people in, as others came out.

We also learned a lot from that experience that we’ve applied to this year’s show. We’ve added a third day, for the fans. We added another entire building of space, and significant changes in how badges work. That’s to try to meet the demands of the fans and to improve the experience for everyone – to make sure everyone can have the best Con experience possible.

In the first version of this post, Nick suggested, “Don’t let the lawyers speak for you Mr. Perry — speak for yourself, and let the fans empathize and understand where you’re coming from” — challenge accepted.

Nick summed things up with, “I want RICC to get as big as SDCC; I want them to succeed. I want to know that when I go there I will feel right at home with my people — both out on the convention floor and behind-the-scenes. I don’t want to have to fly to the other side of the county to get my pop-culture fix. And I’m not the only one. I think it will be a great con this year! Just look at the line up of guests: Carrie Fisher (Princess Leia from Star Wars), Jason Momoa (Kal Drogo from ‘Game of Thrones,’ and DC’s new Aquaman), Ming-Na Wen (Melinda May from “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.”) and Ron Perlman (Hellboy I & II) to name a scant few!”




“Once More Unto the Breech!” The 48 Hour Film Project Calls its Banners

Just like Robb Stark of Winterfell in George R.R. Martin’s A Game of Thrones, who calls the loyal banners to rally to war against the evil Lannisters who beheaded Winterfell’s Lord Eddard Stark and usurped the Iron Throne of the Seven Kingdoms from its rightful heir, Stannis Baratheon, so too does the 48 Hour Film Project — but in a far less violent way!

The empty bottles of Red Bull and cups of Dunkin’ Donuts coffee reek of insomnia, and the bleary-eyed women and men scurry around like caffeinated zombies. But none of that matters, for a film is being made, and made fast. 48 hours fast!

It’s time for the famous (or infamous, depending on whom you ask) 48 Hour Film Project. The 48 is a national filmmaking competition that including PVD’s most resilient creatives pushing the boundaries of what can humanly be done in so short a time.

For months these teams been getting ready, and then the day comes; they get their assignment: a genre, a prop, a line of dialogue, and a character. Now they’ve got just 48 hours to make a movie. And it’s going to be an intense, sleepless, caffeine-driven madhouse of creativity and chaos!

Not unlike the Battle of Whispering Wood, hard choices need to be made; a filmmaker’s mettle will be tested in a brutal trial by combat. But that’s what makes The 48 so awesome!

For Melinda Rainsberger, city producer for PVD, it’s both a passion and a challenge that she has loved for the last nine years. “It’s the most intense 48 hours of my life every year,” she once told me over a beer at PVD’s Wild Colonial Tavern.

For the 10th straight year the Rhode Island Film Collaborative (RIFC) is running PVD’s chapter of this internationally renowned film competition. RIFC President, Anthony Ambrosino, remarked about the virtues and the challenges of The 48. “The amount of hard work and creativity that goes into one 48-hour period is staggering. The RIFC is very proud that we can continue to give local filmmakers this opportunity to showcase their talents in the spirit of friendly artistic competition.”

This is no rinky-dink filmmaking contest; this is the granddaddy of them all! The 48 spans 130 cities on six continents, from San Diego to Taipei. Over 60 teams will compete in PVD alone! Winners of the local contests get to compete for the international title of Best Film of the 2015 48 Hour Film Project.

The competition runs Jul 17 – 19, with registration open ’til Jul 7. Local winners will have their films screened at the RISD Auditorium on Jul 24, 25 and 26 at 7pm and 9pm. Cash prizes and bragging rights are also awarded. The world champion will get $5,000 and a screening of their film at Cannes. Local winners will receive $300 plus a Best Use of Providence prize package sponsored by the Providence Warwick Convention & Visitors Bureau.

The stories of valor and heroism that will arise from enduring such a gauntlet will be sung throughout the kingdoms of PVD, the fields of Agincourt, and possibly as far as Westeros as well!

“Valar Morghulis!”

Well … maybe not to that extent. But it is a great way to launch a filmmaking career. One New England team won first place over five times becoming one of the most winning-est teams ever, and two of PVD’s youngest award winners in 2015 were 9 and 12 years old!

“When you’re spontaneous, it really shows how creative you can be,” Melinda says, “especially under such a super tight deadline.”

Visit 48hourfilm.com/providence/ for all The 48 details and registration information.

“For he today that sheds his blood with me shall be my brother…that fought with us upon Saint Crispin’s day.”




Rhode Island Comic Con Growing Pains

Part One — All hell breaks loose!

Ah Nerd Rage! This is definitely the age of the nerd because when a comic con goes wrong, social media blows up with lambasting Facebook posts, furious Tweets, hashtags like #RIComicConFAIL2014, and tons of protest pics like the one of a guy in a dog costume holding a sign to rouse the public into action against the unjust organizers of a major pop-culture event!10547786_750087765070615_5771002006295309067_o

And it so happened in Providence’s backyard at the now infamous 2014 Rhode Island Comic Con!

Was it all bad? Well, having attended San Diego Comic-Con (SDCC) and Rhode Island Comic Con (RICC) every year since 2012 (that being the inaugural year for RICC), I feel like I have a unique perspective on this whole unpleasant situation at this year’s RICC that I’d like to share. And then I’ll write about all great things that went right at The Biggest Show In The Smallest State!

First let me start off by saying, “Calm down people!” Look, I understand your frustration believe me I do. And I know that you feel wronged in a way that just eats you up inside. And that you want to be compensated for your losses; I agree completely and I feel that the RICC organizers do as well.

But all of you have to understand that RICC is becoming a victim of its own success. Believe me when I tell you, standing in line for 2 – 4 hours in the rain (which sucks) is minor compared to camping out in line for half a day the blazing San Diego sun only to NOT get in to the panel that you’ve flown thousands of miles and spent thousands of dollars to attend.

I’ve had that experience at SDCC and many other super-unpleasant ones that make the disarray at RICC look a lot less like a disaster and more like an inconvenience.

And yet, I love San Diego Comic-Con with a passion. Why? Because at the end of the day where can you see at twenty-five foot tall Godzilla, Harrison Ford, The Guardians Of The Galaxy, a nine foot tall Apocalypse, all the Batmobiles, sit on the Iron Throne, and get spit on by a giant walking talking monster all in one place? And more and more and more!

And so too does RICC offer its unique series of magical encounters that I will get to in a moment.

But everyone’s pain is different to one’s own, and I do empathize, so let’s deal with what happened and how the organizers, which includes a man by the name of Steven Perry from Altered Reality Entertainment, can make it all right again and even better.

10403991_750087771737281_6205468088561506079_oOkay, so what went wrong with RICC?

Simply put, the event was oversold. Somewhere upward of 20,000 tickets to RICC were sold and it appears that the Providence Convention Center can only handle about 14,000 people (according to Cvent.com). There’s also about 100,000 square feet of useful convention space to put all of those people in. The expectation of the RICC organizers were that there’d be so-called  “turnover capacity” that would keep people flowing in and out of the convention center so more people could come in (hence being able to oversell tickets) like in other conventions such as CES (Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas) or SIGGRAPH (the mega computer graphics conference). Only a comic con is not like other conventions!

I know from my experiences with SDCC that fans will linger for nearly the entire day checking out every little thing they possibly can with the exhibits, events, artists, photo ops, signings, panels, and of course waiting in line after line! After two successful years of RICC you think that the organizers would have realized that.

But they didn’t and hence you got this:

  • Tickets being sold long after the venue was closed by the Providence Fire Marshall
  • Fans waiting in line outside in the freezing rain for hours. Fans with kids!
  • Families and friends separated when fans went outside in search of food (since the convention center ran out of it) and then not being allowed back in.
  • Vendors, exhibitors, and artists who paid huge sums of money to have a table on the exhibit hall floor not being allowed back in and potentially losing all kinds of business.
  • VIPs and celebrities getting locked out, or their photo ops getting radically rescheduled because of the lockout.
  • Fans missing out on their paid-for photo ops, paid-for VIP access to the panels, and the precious few hours they had to attend the con in the first place—after long out-of-state drives and struggling to find parking.
  • Tales of inhospitable RICC volunteers who had no clue was going on or how to address the fans’ ire and needs.
  • Eliza Dushku’s (True Lies, True Calling, Dollhouse) Louis Vuitton handbag getting stolen—though that might be the Omni Hotel’s issue but still, you can’t have a con celeb getting pissed off like that and then trashing the con on social media—not good!
  • Reports of vendors not getting paid.
  • Reports of vendors, celebs, and exhibitors getting treated poorly by the con volunteer staff.
  • Facebook and Twitter blowing up with mountains of negative posts about RICC to the tune of #RIComicConFAIL2014, and the con organizers both downplaying the problem and then furiously deleting the posts from their pages.
  • And the con organizers not taking any responsibility at first for this mess, not offering any apologies or solutions, and ostensibly scapegoating the Fire Marshall.

This is not how a comic con is run!

And as I’ve been writing this article, Steven Perry (the con’s head honcho) has also realized that. He has posted an extensive public apology to the con’s Facebook page, plus lots of details on how they’re going to reimburse jilted ticket holders and make things better for next year.

But really what happened was that the RICC organizers panicked when all hell broke loose. It happens, we all do. This event got too big too fast, and they didn’t know what to do, so they panicked. Give them a break. Now that everyone’s had a chance to calm down, Perry and his people are owning up and addressing the problems.

That’s the perfect first start.

For if they didn’t, it’s not just the fans who won’t come. If the vendors pull out, and then the sponsors pull out, and the celebs pull out or won’t come at all, then the convention would be dead in its junior year!

It’s not an easy thing. Even the New York Comic Con is having these problems and more in spades.

San Diego Comic-Con has been struggling with this very thing for the last five or six years! For all of its immensity and popularity, major studios like Sony and Paramount were not as prevalent at this year’s SDCC. And one of SDCC’s most longtime venerated vendors pulled out for next year as well, Mile High Comics.

Believe me when I tell you, between the insanely long and grueling lines, the crowded and often times in accessible panels, the lack of services like water and bathrooms, the inescapable noise and commotion, the way overpriced everything, the prurient occasional trouble makers who violate female cosplayers’ space with inappropriate behavior, and the overall missed opportunities and aggravations of San Diego Comic-Con; what happened over the weekend at RICC was just a series of unfortunate but fixable circumstances.

And SDCC takes great pains to address these issues year after and year and will not rest until they can make everyone happy to the best of what’s humanly possible. And that’s why people will always love and return to SDCC.

Here’s the shortlist of what Steven Perry needs to do to regain the fans’, vendors’, exhibitors’, and celebs’ trust so there will be a Rhode Island Comic Con next year:

Spread out the convention, and utilize more of the unused space at the convention center! An entire level of the convention center was wholly underused. Like at SDCC take the celebs out of the exhibit hall and move them somewhere where there’s room—the lower level or off site. SDCC puts them up above the exhibit hall in the Sails Pavilion. No muss, no fuss.

Also SDCC has tons of events off site from the convention center itself. They absorb the whole downtown area from the Gaslamp District; Petco Stadium and park; the local hotels like the Hilton, Marriott, and Omni; the marina, nearby parking lots, and even way off site at colleges accessible via shuttle buses.

There’s plenty of available space in and around the Rhode Island Convention Center to move lots of the convention off site and make it way more accessible to fans.

Also, do away with the wristbands. This is not and over 18 nightclub scene. SDCC uses printed onsite badges in lanyards with adverts on them. The badges go into a special transparent sleeve. The badges also have a forge proof hologram and a bar code on them. The bar code allows vendors to scan them for fans to offer them special deals, discounts, entries into contests, and more. Between selling ad space on the lanyard ribbons and the bar code thing, that’d help pay for the cost of printing up badges that are way easier to track and maintain.

And no badge sales at the door!

This may be a hard reality for SDCC fans but it solves more problems than it creates. Everything is done online, and when it’s sold out, it’s sold out months in advance. That’s it. The San Diego Convention Center holds about 65,000 people (yeah it’s that big and the city is spending half a trillion dollars to double its size!) and they never close the doors!

Also, there needs to be line managers and line routes. SDCC organizers are masters at managing long lines. They snake around hallways, out doors, under awnings, split apart so people can get through, and it’s all done in a super organized fashion with line mangers.

Crazy lines are awful but when they are managed well, then it’s tolerable.

And the line managers along with the rest of the volunteers have excellent communications with walkie-talkies. They know what’s going on. And they’ll tell you if you’re not getting into a panel. And they are nice, kind, courteous, well trained, and professional—lots of them are even in costume!

Have lots of panels happening both on site and off site. There was no reason why RICC shouldn’t have had a Farscape panel with Gigi Edgley, or a The Flash panel with John Weseley Shipp, or a ton of others about making comics, Kickstarter campaigns for creative ventures, or the future of Star Trek from a Fan’s perspective. Even at SDCC George RR Martin had his panel at the nearby Hilton hotel. In other words, get the fans to move around off site!

Also for the big rooms there’s giant projection screens that show what’s happening on the panel stage so people can at least see celebs.

Perry also has to make it easier for the fans, vendors, exhibitors, and celebrities to get in and out of the convention center exhibit hall. There should not be only one entrance. That RICC arch has to either go or there needs to be two or three more. The massive SDCC exhibit hall has lots of doors for people to move in and out of.

Vendors need to be reassured that they’ll get paid. Artists and exhibitors need to be reassured that they’ll be treated professionally so they’ll keep reserving their spots for the following year.

Celebrities need to be reassured with gusto that they will always have a positive experience at RICC.

Perry, if he hasn’t already done so, needs to give the SDCC organizers a call and get their advice.

And the fans need to be reassured that something like this will never happen again!

There’s many more examples but that’s all I can think of right now.

Fortunately for me, I was not locked out, which allowed me to report for you on all the amazing things that I had seen and heard.

All in all, when you look past the overselling/lockout debacle, and the panicked approach to handling the crisis at hand, and the untrained mistakes some of the volunteers made, it was still a great convention.

No convention is going to go off without a hitch. And RICC has a few hitches right now but that only means that it is growing faster than anyone realizes. People want this kind of super-sized pop culture event. Where else are you going to let your cosplaying geek flag fly without fear of ridicule from the more so-called conservative elements of our society? And where else are you going to find all the things you love about sci-fi/fantasy/comics/pop-culture in one place?

For a few precious days, people can express their inner geek and enter into a “nerd-vana” that we only catch glimpses of on television, at the movies, or in the solemnity of our own pads. At comic cons we are with our people, just like Woodstock in 1969—and we all know what a mess that was!

The only difference is that we get our Geek-stock all year round, every year, everywhere!

From the fledgling Rhode Island Comic Con to the granddaddy of them all, San Diego Comic-Con, our people gather to rejoice in our pop-culture passions!

So give RICC a break people and let’s see how they bounce back from all this!

That being said, in the next part, here’s what went totally right at the 2014 Rhode Island Comic Con.

Welcome to the big leagues, Rhode Island Comic Con!

Part Two — Shatner Gives Me The Finger!10269168_750087891737269_2826173780505939044_o

So Day One of RICC started out like any first day at this event for the last couple of years. I got in early, parked my car at Providence Place, headed over to the Rhode Island Convention Center, charmed my way in without a badge or wristband because I write for Motif (woohoo!), and headed over to the Motif table.

But this time, I was in my Batman costume! Yep! I decided to do the whole day dressed as the “Caped Crusader Journalist!”

And I got a lot of nods for it. In fact, several times people kept asking me to take photos with them! Awesome!

That’s one of the great things about cosplay!

So, the first thing I did was instead of the heading straight to the exhibit hall—which I always seemed to do—I decided to seek out the less beaten comic con path.

And that’s when I found the mechanical bull on the upper level of the convention center!

That’s right! A mechanical bull! Hahaha!

I spoke with the owner of the company who runs the bull and the adjoining laser tag adventure in one of the ballrooms nearby, Jennifer Routolo of Okees Old Fashioned Amusements (www.okeesoldfashioned.com) out of Johnston RI, who had this pithy observation to make, “Having the bull at Rhode Island Comic Con for the first time has been a real adventure. I love getting people off—the bull that is!”

Then it was over to the New England Brethren of Pirates (nebpirates.com/) where I spoke with Brandon Berry the owner of this fascinating group of scallywags! Dressed in all Jack Sparrow he had this to say about his irascible troupe of brigands, “We have big chests and lots of booty!”

Then he introduced me to Lola, the Kraken!

After that, I walked over to the celebrity photo op area at the convention centers’ grand rotunda and I was amazed at that sight of the massive lines. It was a scene reminiscent of San Diego Comic-Con and my first indication that this year things were going to be different—and oh they were!

Good and…not so good.

But now it was time to attend a panel.

As you know, what’s a comic con without great panels? And this year, I was impressed that RICC had a good line up of these unique events. Though I would have loved to see more available, the ones that they had were fine and quite enjoyable.

The first big one was the Eliza Dushku Q&A. And boy was she in a bit of a snit. You see her Louis Vuitton handbag was stolen the night before when she was checking into the connected Omni Hotel. The idiots who took it were eventually caught but that didn’t diminish Ms. Dushku’s ire. And it showed even during her panel when she was struggling to be jocular and friendly. Who can blame her though?

She did generate a lot of goodwill and it was definitely enjoyable to listen to her stories. And who knew there were so many Buffy/True Calling/Dollhouse/Bring It On! fans! Wow! The biggest ballroom where the panel happened was packed with about 2,000 people! Good for her!

She talked about putting acting on hold, going to college, and her desire to enter into the social work services field. She credits her acting for inspiring her change of career. “A woman came up to me and told me that my character gave her the strength to confront her abuser,” Dushku remarks to a generous applause.

Then it was downstairs to the exhibit hall!

But first I had to check out the plethora of sci-fi TV/movies and comics themed vehicles that lined the periphery lobby of the main convention center level:

  • K.I.T.T. from the show Knight Rider
  • An Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. battle truck
  • The Dark Knight Bat-Pod
  • The Ghostbusters’ ECTO-1 ambulance
  • Luke Skywalker’s landspeeder from Star Wars: A New Hope, complete with an R2-D2 droid
  • The Back to the 0Future Delorean complete with Flux Capacitor Time Travel Engine
  • The Mystery Machine from the Scooby-Doo cartoons
  • And even a Breaking Bad bullet-ridden truck obviously from a drug deal gone bad!

But at this point I begin to see the swelling crowds trying to move around that are definitely giving me San Diego Comic-Con flashbacks! What’s happening here?

As I try to head into the exhibit hall, I stop by the Motif table and learn that the Providence Fire Marshall had just closed the doors not allowing anyone else into the convention! This unprecedented act is a first in the convention center’s 22-year history! Wow!

I’m astounded. I knew right then and there that this was going to be a big part of my story.

I had a feeling that all of us were in for a rough ride.

I pulled one fan, Ayah, out of the crowd and asked her what she thought about this overselling/overcrowding situation. She said, “My friend, who left to get food at the mall (because they ran out of food here) bought a ticket for a Vic Mignogna photo shoot for her birthday and now they won’t let her back in!”

Wow!

Even when the 65,000 people capacity of the San Diego Convention Center is reached (and it is every day of SDCC!), they never shut the doors! I’ve never heard of such a thing. I was blown away.

And that wasn’t all. Aside from problems with the celebs like Eliza Dushku, local talent and exhibitors were also having problems like Sarah Michelle, Miss Terror Con 2014 (RICC’s sister convention held in the summer).

Sarah was having all kinds of problems with getting to her table, getting set up, and getting help and professional treatment from the volunteers. “I’m really sad that the weekend went the way it did. This was something that could’ve been great but was disorganized and handled unprofessionally. On top of what happened to attendees, I was completely disrespected by staff members. I did not return on Sunday due to the way I was treated and the uncertainty of having a table. Steve Perry and Joe Goulart apologized to me and said they would handle them. I truly hope this company makes things right with not only myself, but all the attendees.”

And as we all know now there were many, many more stories like this.

But to RICC and Steven Perry’s credit they have finally issued several formal apologies and are now offering refunds and assurances to make things right for the fans, vendors, exhibitors/sponsors, and celebrities.

Here’s a snippet of what Perry posted on the RICC’s Facebook page recently.

“I’d like to apologize once again to all of the guests who had disappointing or frustrating experiences at this past weekend’s RI Comic Con.

“After we learned of the doors being shut at 2:00 pm on Saturday, my staff and I were so busy dealing with various issues onsite that we didn’t have a chance to respond to social media postings in a timely manner. For that I am sorry, and have learned a valuable lesson that swift timing of responses is critical on all social media channels…‘Hindsight is 20/20’ and I can guarantee that combined with our experience running RI Comic Con, we have learned a valuable lesson in how to run an event of this magnitude here in Rhode Island and will be training hard to ensure that what happened this weekend simply will not happen again.”

See the event’s Facebook page for the entire apology.

But I was still going strong and got into the huge exhibit hall and took a look around.

The whole space was completely filled with one side full of artists, the middle full of vendors and exhibitors, and the other side full of celebrities. Probably not the best layout for an oversold event.

But the stuff that was there was great! Lots of items on sale from books, hard-to-find DVDs, t-shirts, swords, fantasy jewelry, props, costumes, toys, and much, much more. Tons of exhibitors from 5-Wits Adventures, the Rhode Island Science Fiction Club, the local CW affiliate, Subway (why?), Providence Night Out, Motif magazine (gotta plug my people!), and Sarah Michelle (who is also a local celebrity and should have been treated as such), plus many, many more.

And of course tons and tons of great cosplayers everywhere—myself included! Hahaha!

It was everything and more you can expect from a comic con exhibit hall scene—I only wish they had more physical space for more stuff!

Next up was the These Are The Voyages Panel with Star Trek alums Nichelle Nichols and Walter Koenig (Lt. Nyota Uhura and Ensign Pavel Chekov respectively).

They told their usual Star Trek stories like how Dr. Martin Luther King told Nichols that she had to remain on the show to help further the cause of equality for all races. And how her character and William Shatner’s Captain Kirk character shared the first television broadcasted interracial kiss (that was actually banned in the south in the 1960s!). Now-a-days with the likes of the big torrid interracial love affair between Olivia Pope and President Fitz Grant on ABC’s Scandal it’s no big deal at all. But back then a lot of barriers had to be broken down and Star Trek was at the forefront doing so!

Koenig told the audience a crazy story of how he was asking for directions while on the way to a movie shoot and the only person around was a black lady who offered for him to feel her breasts in lieu of directions!

Okay!

Now on to Shatner!

That’s right baby! William Shatner, Captain Kirk himself, and the big headliner star of this year’s Rhode Island Comic Con!

And I was determined to meet him after all these years!

He arrived late at the biggest totally packed ballroom at the convention center, and left early. Figures. He fielded only three questions from a line of fans at the microphone. He mostly talked about breeding his dogs and other un-Star Trek-related stuff.

But he did open with how after he was asked to cameo in the next Star Trek movie, it was all over the Internet the day after—especially when he told nobody about it! Guess that’s the power of social media for you! It was funny. And he also told the audience that he’d only do it if it were a meaningful role. Guess we’ll see.

His best quote from the panel was, “Anything is possible in Science Fiction!”

I completely agree!

After the panel, I couldn’t get near him but I did so on the next day that I’ll get to in a bit.

Then it was back to the exhibit hall. Sensing a pattern yet?

Comic con fans don’t leave. Since this event was only in the convention center, there is no reason to leave unless to get food. In fact, that’s one more thing that RICC and SDCC have in common: lack of on-site food options.

For all its grandeur, the San Diego Convention Center is a little light on food options. There’s a few concession stands and nooks that sell hot dogs and other quick bites, and lots of Mrs. Field’s Cookie stands, and now there’s a Starbucks in the convention center lobby, plus an almost never open cafeteria, but in reality, you have to go outside to get decent food—of which there’s endless choices! One of my favorites is Lolita’s at the Park near Petco Stadium with the best breakfast burritos anywhere in the US!

Same is true for the Rhode Island Convention Center. You’ve got to go over to the Trinity Brew House, Fire and Ice, and the Union Station Brewery, among many others for good food and beer during the convention. The only problem was that once you left, you couldn’t get back in.

But they’re going to fix that for next year.

This year, I decided to forego too much coverage of the vendors and exhibitors in the exhibit hall and focus on the local artists: writers, illustrators, filmmakers, and actors.

The first one I met was author Stacey Longo (www.staceylongo.com). Writer of several horror genre books such as Secret Things: Twelve Tales to Terrify and the children’s book Pookie & the Lost and Found Friend, among many others.

comicSWe had a long chat about the current state of the publishing industry, whether it is advantageous for writers to seek representation and traditional publishing or go independent, and about how venues like RICC allow independent authors a great way to showcase their work sans the nascent help that large press publishers don’t seem to provide now-a-days. “This is my third year at Rhode Island Comic Con, and it’s a fabulous event for meeting new readers, connecting with other authors, as well as illustrators, and networking. I wouldn’t miss it for the world!”

And finally as the day was drawing to a close, it was time coup de grâce of the day: the Costume Contest!

This year’s costume contest was exquisite. The level of costume design and performance has definitely reached the San Diego Comic-Con Masquerade level. I couldn’t believe the complexity of some of these original works!

Works such as: Apocalypse from the X-Men comics (that will be the main villain in the next X-Men movie), a mesmerizing Snow Queen and Disney’s Frozen’s Elsa, a crazy indescribable chair thing that turned into Marvel’s Red Skull complete with a glowing Tesseract/Infinity Stone, a winged creature girl with a branch-like wingspan so large she couldn’t even get on the stage, amazing kid’s costumes like Lilith (one of the Teen Titans), and the sci-fi themed Yellow Brick Road Warriors troupe of post-apocalyptic rogue cosplayers!

And many, many more!

As great as all of them were the best one was hands-down Space Marine. A giant blue and silver armored soldier/mecha behemoth that simply stole the show. In fact, it won best in show, and was created and worn by last year’s Rhode Island Comic Con Costume Contest Best in Show winner (for his giant foam Incredible Hulk) Austin Vincent!

At 16 years old, I asked him how it felt to have won this contest two years in a row. He said, “It’s a great honor, and hopefully I’ll be back next year!”

And I would be back the following day for more RICC and Shatner!

***

The second day started off with the George Takei (Lt. Hikaru Sulu from Star Trek). This was a well-received Q&A session with the star to a packed audience.

And for good reason.

A few years ago he came out publically about his sexual orientation and his support for marriage equality and the LGBT community. He talked at length about the struggle it’s been in California and across the country to recognize same-sex married couple’s legally. In fact, his husband and partner for many decades was also in the audience. People cheered when he waved.

Though Takei was a little light on talking Star Trek-related stories, he did mention that the movie Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country should really have been titled Captain Sulu To The Rescue!

He did have some great observations about how Star Trek presaged technological realities in our world today like smartphones (e.g., the communicator the crew of the Enterprise used). And that he’d love a device like the transporter that would allow him to bypass security at the airports!

Of course Takei’s little rivalry with William Shatner was alive a well even here in Rhode Island as Takei mentioned that he patterned one of his characters (Dr. Ed Matsutani from the film Larry Crowne) after a certain “…puffed up ego-centric Star Trek colleague.” (Read: Shatner).

He also put the recent announcement that Apple’s CEO Tim Cook is gay in Star Trek terms as being part of the Vulcan IDIC philosophy: Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations.

Then it was back to the exhibit hall to talk to more artists and some celebrities—including Shatner, but I’m getting to that!

On my way, I couldn’t help notice how packed the convention center was on a Sunday even after all the craziness of the day before.

Fans love comic cons! Bottom line.

Back in the 80s and 90s I used to go to Star Trek conventions. They were kind of the precursor to the all-out mega-pop-culture-fests that comic cons are now. However, by the end of the 90s Star Trek conventions started dying down in both number of events and size of venues. Plus they were mostly about Star Trek with a smattering of other sci-fi/fantasy universes. So I stopped going.

And then came the 2012 San Diego Comic-Con. I originally went out there to promote my own independently published sci-fi novel NLV (a.k.a. New Las Vegas), Chapter One — The House Always Wins.  I knew SDCC was going to be big but I never dreamed it would be galactic-ly mind-blowingly big! And in that same year Rhode Island Comic Con started up, and it was small but had doubled in size last year. This year was overwhelming for this venue. And even though I knew I was not in San Diego, I very much felt like I was in some ways!

Comic cons cover everything from sci-fi, fantasy, comics, cosplay, movies, TV, pop-culture, wrestling, gaming, technology, artistry, kids’ interests, music, dance, performance, and just about anything else you can think of. And when you add in big studio, game makers, and publisher money like at SDCC and New York Comic Con, then things get taken to a whole new level!

That’s the draw of comic cons way beyond that of the old-school Star Trek conventions.

On this second day of RICC, there was definitely a huge presence of fire marshals, police, security personnel, and extra staff. And the chaos was tightly organized. Only a few people at a time were being let into the exhibit hall.

No one was taking any chances.

Of course the damage was done but the RICC organizers just needed to get through this day without any more disasters and then figure out how to fix all the issues.

Which I believe they are judiciously working on now.

But I got in and started talking to more writers, illustrators, and finally celebrities.

I spoke with Chris Philbrook author of the zombie series Adrian’s Undead Diary (thechrisphilbrook.com/), an indie publisher putting out books under his own name. I told him about my own war stories in the indie publishing world and my Herculean efforts going to NYC and LA, among other avenues, to find representation and getting traditionally published. We both had a lot of stories to share.

As for the con, he had this to say, “For me Rhode Island Comic Con has proven to be one of the best shows I’ve attended this year.”

Awesome!

Next I spoke with Eric Dimbleby (White Out, The Fetus Cloud) another independently published author from small presses such as Severed Press and Damnation Books. His website (www.ericdimbleby.com/) has a rather funny title: “Here Lies Eric Dimbleby.”

“It’s good for me personally. I’m not selling a book; I’m also selling my worldview. Here they get to know who you are.” He tells me when I ask him about his thoughts on RICC as a venue for indie authors.

Next up were the celebrities. With a huge selection of celebs this year at RICC, I decided to focus on a select few, as I knew I wouldn’t have time to talk to everyone. So I chose the following three to talk to, and much to my pleasure, I got them!

First was Gigi Edgley who’s best known for her rascally character Chiana, a white Nebari alien of the SciFi Channel’s Farscape. Farscape was one of my favorite shows on that channel (now foolishly rebranded as SyFy) before it was cancelled in 2003 and brought back briefly for a mini-series in 2004. The crazy characters, the crazy sets, and that absolute crazy writing made that show an instant classic. And to hear that the show creator Rockne S. O’Bannon recently announced that there would be a Farscape movie, I knew I had to talk to Ms. Edgley.

The first thing I wanted to know was whether or not her first name was pronounced like “jee-jee” or “ghe-ghe.” She said it was the former. Then we both talked about how awesome Farscape was. I cited a few of my Chiana-specific episodes. Then we talked about the upcoming Farscape movie. I told her that I hoped her character would be in it. She told me that Mr. O’Bannon showed her the printed script but didn’t let her read it, so she has no idea yet.

Finally, I asked her what she thought of our beloved Rhode Island and here’s what she had to say. “I absolutely love Rhode Island. Everyone here has been beyond amazing, so welcoming, so down to earth, and that you guys absolutely have the most sexiest accents that I’ve ever heard in my whole life. So thank you very much for having me. My motto to life is to always wake up happy and to dream the life and live the dream.”

Yeah!

And then it was on to John Wesley Shipp of the 1990s TV series The Flash fame.

Now here I am totally psyched to talk to him because I’ve been watching the rebooted The Flash TV series on the CW. In fact, I saw the pilot episode on the preview night at this year’s San Diego Comic-Con. And the best thing is that John Wesley Shipp who played the title character on the 90s show (a.k.a., Barry Allen) now plays Barry Allen’s father, Henry Allen. I think it was a great way to pay homage to the original series while welcoming in the new series with absolutely amazing special effects.

In fact, we talked about “the flash effect.” Back in Shipp’s day, he told me they used to put him on the back of a moving truck in costume with a wind cannon blowing in his face while he pretended to run fast (actually he was on a treadmill), then they green-screened in all the stuff around him. Now it’s all CGI, and impressive CGI at that. The last episode had a “flash” rescue that was on the same level as the Quicksilver Pentagon jailbreak scene in this year’s movie X-Men: Days of Future Past.

It was great to meet him and here’s what he had to say about RICC, “It’s great man! I think they call it the biggest con in the biggest littlest state! Something like that. It was great.”

He even remarked about the overcapacity issue as well. “It has grown so fast, and that we had so much more people even overcapacity. They’re gonna have to find even bigger venues!”

And finally he said he’d be heading back to Vancouver to film episode number 12 of The Flash that he’ll be in!

Cool!

And finally it was time to attempt to meet my boyhood icon, William Shatner!

Told you I’d get to him.

Part of the comic con magic is when something so cool and unexpected happens that it just makes the whole event for you. Just like when at SDCC when I thought I wasn’t going to get into the super exclusive Godzilla Encounter, it just so happened that when I was lamenting that to my buddies in the hotel lobby some guy popped up his head and said that his company made and runs the exhibit and he could get us in. And he did!

Same here at RICC. I was wandering around, and saw the autograph area where Shatner would be but because his photo ops were drastically rescheduled due to the overcapacity issue the day before, there was no line. But I wandered into the line anyway, and then Shatner magically showed up not two minutes later to do a super brief autograph signing.

What timing!

Actually, I was second in line. But no matter. The person in front of me though, had her kid’s picture signed by Shatner and then the picture was taken by a staff member who then took off! Neither me nor Shatner had any idea what was going on but the mother was pissed!

I then seized the opportunity to say a quick, “Hi,” to Mr. Shatner and told him that I write for Providence’s only remaining pop-culture magazine: Motif—now that the Providence Phoenix is defunct.

He seemed to dig that and then it was the right time to get a quick quote from him. Here’s what he said, “It has been a wonderful comic con; everybody has had a great deal of fun. And I’m glad to see my fans come out in the cool weather.”

Short but sweet.

Even though I was told to take no pictures, like ten times, I did manage to shake Shatner’s finger! That’s right, his finger. I was hoping for his whole hand but all I got was his right index finger. At least it wasn’t the middle one!

To be fair, he did have a Sharpie in that hand so, and I get the sense he doesn’t do too many handshakes—germs and everything. So I’ll take the finger!

It was a boyhood dream come true, and the highlight of the 2014 Rhode Island Comic Con for me!

Mission accomplished!

Okay so now it was back to the artists but first I went back out to the lobby where I was treated to Providence’s Big Nazo (www.bignazo.com/) rocking the RICC fans. I don’t even have to describe who they are. If you know Motif, and you know Providence, you know Big Nazo!

They were the perfect act to be performing here!

And upstairs during the con you had live music going jamming out tunes like the Ghostbusters theme.

Downstairs there was the Kidscon! A great RICC component of arts and crafts and entertainment designed specifically for the kids. That’s something that you don’t have at SDCC.

Back in the main lobby there was also a kooky strongman challenge where you wield a hammer and ring a bell to win a blow up Spider-Man!

All cool stuff!

Back in the exhibit hall I came across the Boston Film Family. A group of indie filmmakers from my hometown, Boston, Mass.!

Richard Chandler is the head of the Boston Film Family, a group that makes some crazy indie horror flicks that have actually starred Miss Terror Con herself, Sarah Michelle!

What a small world.

“We’re promoting the release of Gilga Mesh and the DVD release of Boston Massacre. Rhode Island Comic Con is a challenge to promote for the horror genre but it’s still been going well—getting the word out.”

They’ve got a Facebook page under the same name if you want to see what ghoulish tales they’ve done and what macabre stories they’re working on next!

Then I wandered over to the artist alley (that’s what they call the section of the exhibit hall at SDCC where all the graphic artists and illustrators hole up). Here I met Rich Pellegrino (www.richpellegrino.com), a real up and comer whose work has been seen on Wes Anderson’s The Grand Budapest Hotel.

Also Hugo award-winning artist Bob Eggleton, who did the famous Cthulhu Motif magazine cover! Of course it’s famous!

And finally Megan Yui a fine young illustrator who finds RICC a worthwhile venue to drum up new business. “A lot of people are looking for commissions, and I’m finding that I’m getting work out of it [RICC]. Mostly tattoo designs.”

The RICC artist alley has one feature that the SDCC one does not: lots of space! At San Diego Comic-Con the artists are so packed in as tight as sardines, you can hardly move. Here at Rhode Island Comic Con the artists have double the space to showcase their work and move around. May it always be so.

Lastly, just before I pick up my new Marvel Deadpool wallet from the Newbury Comics vendor table, I run into a long-time friend of Motif Thomas Broadbent and his posse. Tommy’s a regular at these events so when I asked where he was the day before he said, “After hearing about all the craziness yesterday I decided to wait; I would have come, but wouldn’t have stood out!”

And with that so ends my 2014 Rhode Island Comic Con adventure!

Whew!

Look people, I think though the organizers reach this time may have exceeded their grasp, I can already tell from the public statements that Steven Perry and his colleagues have some big plans in the works to not only repair and redeem this event but also make it bigger and better than ever!

Starting with adding a third day to the convention, moving some events to the Dunkin’ Donuts Center, training new staff, consulting with comic con experts maybe even the people at Comic-Con International (i.e., San Diego Comic-Con), and reworking the entire ticketing system to name a few.

Hang in there folks, because when it comes down to it, all of these overcapacity issues (overselling tickets to fans, the need for more staff, the need for more vendors/exhibitors, the need for more food, the need for more everything) are actually good problems to have.

Rhode Island Comic 2015 is going to be a vastly different event from this one!

Steven Perry can rebuild it—faster, better, stronger!

Da, da, da, da …




48 Hours of Filmmaking Madness

48 Hour Film Festival Comes to Providence

For months you’ve been getting your team ready, and then you get the assignment: a genre, a prop, a line of dialogue and a character. Now you’ve got just 48 hours to make a movie!

48film

It’s going to be an intense, sleepless, caffeine-driven madhouse of creativity and chaos. But that is what makes The 48 Hour Film Project so awesome!

For Melinda Rainsberger, city producer for Providence, it’s a passion and a challenge that she’s loved for the last eight years. “It’s the most intense 48 hours of my life every year!” she tells me.

For the ninth year, the Rhode Island Film Collaborative (RIFC) will run Providence’s chapter of The 48. RIFC president, Anthony Ambrosino, said, “The amount of hard work and creativity that goes into one 48-hour period is staggering. We’re proud to give local filmmakers this opportunity to showcase their talents in the spirit of friendly artistic competition.”

This is no rinky-dink film festival; The 48 spans 130 cities on six continents, from San Diego to Taipei. Winning films from local contests compete for the international title of Best Film of the 2014 48 Hour Film Project. Cash prizes and bragging rights are also awarded. Winners of The Providence 48 will compete in New England’s ITVFest, and the winner of that will receive $1,000. Other prizes for local winners include gift certificates, studio time at Kay Studios, acting lessons with LDI Casting Director Anne Mulhall and tix to the SENE Film Festival. Nationally, winners will get $5,000 and a whole host of bonuses including screenings of their films in venerated venues such as Filmapalooza, South by Southwest and Cannes.

But there’s more than just money or prizes involved. Some contestants started their own production companies, some found their calling as actors or directors, and some simply managed to get out of their comfort zones and try something truly amazing — instead of just talking about being creative, The 48 gives them the chance to be creative.

“When you’re spontaneous, it shows how creative you can be,” Melinda says, “especially under such a tight deadline.”

Registration is available until Friday, July 11. Visit 48hourfilm.com/en/providence for details and registration information. Providence’s best films will be screened at Cinemaworld in Lincoln on July 15th through 17th.




Terror Con — It’s Like Halloween in June!

Rhode Island hosts its first horror convention

Terror Con - Costume Contest WinnersI barely escaped with my life! Well, not really. But man was Terror Con a horror gore fest like I’ve never seen before. I’ve been to a few Halloween-themed events like Spooky World, haunted hayrides, and even a crazy Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios in Florida, but they were all pretty slim on the macabre and scariness. And there’s also something to be said for a two-day convention that is all about horror where the visitors are totally into gruesome cosplay and frightening experiences. Well, Terror Con in Providence’s Convention Center on the weekend of June 7 and 8 certainly fit that bill.

It started with the exhibit hall that was filled with all kinds of genuinely creepy things from a giant Kraken owned by the local chapter of The Brethren of Pirates; the snakes, tarantulas, and more from Grimm Reaper Reptiles; the head of Jaws devouring eager photographers; the sideshow freaks and amazing feats from the Coney Island Sideshow Circus; to Miss Terror Con herself Sarah Michelle clad in a leather bikini embossed with skulls. And bone-chillingly, more! This was the place to be if you wanted pure unadulterated soul-freezing chills and blood-curdling thrills.

Sadly, however, the convention was not as packed as I expected it to be. There were a lot of people who found out about it just days before. Just like the 2012 inaugural year for Rhode Island Comic Con (organized by the same person, Steven Perry), Terror Con clearly is going through some growing pains. However, if the overall sentiment about the event is any indication, then just like Rhode Island Comic Con, Terror Con’s sophomore year will be huge and a massive hit. Steven knows what he’s doing, so stay tuned.

Now after a few passes through the exhibit hall, I went up to the ballrooms to attend a couple of panels. I sat in on the Michael Jai White (Spawn, The Dark Knight) panel and also Dee Snider’s Killers Corner. That’s right! Mr. Twisted Sister himself moderated a panel that included Kane Hodder (Jason from Friday The 13th), Fred Williamson (From Dusk ‘Til Dawn, Black Cobra), Tony Moran (Michael Meyers from Halloween), and Roger L. Jackson (the voice of Ghostface from Scream) all talking about their favorite kills (from the movies that is!) and other crazy horror stuff. It was a riot! Especially when Sheena Ford offered up her own “scary voice” for the entire room. “I love horror!” she tells me after the panel. “I’ve visited Mercy Brown’s grave [RI’s first vampire], spent the night in Lizzie Borden’s house, and I don’t get scared at all!”

After the panels, I sampled some strange brew (coffee that is) at the Deadly Grounds [coffee roasters] table. Their motto is, “Coffee to die for!” Tom Lialios, the owner and chief coffee addict, said to me, “You don’t have to look very far when your coffee has a toe-tag cadaver on the package!” He also said it’s the only coffee delivered in a hearse!

Often, the lines between horror and science fiction get blurred, like in the films Alien or John Carpenter’s The Thing. This was evident even at Terror Con. While a good deal of the crowd was all decked out with fake blood, prosthetic gore, spikes, fangs and just about everything creepy-crawling scary you can think of, there were a few sci-fi cosplayers kicking around. One guy, Brad Alsobrook, who wore a Darth Vader costume, came up to me after noticing my S.H.I.E.L.D. t-shirt and whispered, “Hail Hydra!” This was a direct reference to the events that occurred in the recently released film Captain America: The Winter Soldier and the last few episodes of season one of the TV show “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.”

By far the best part of the convention was the costume contest. Pop-culture cons costume contests are always a blast and most of the costumes are really mind-blowing. The effort, expense and time put into any serious cosplayer’s garb can be quite exquisite. And for a horror con, it had an extra dimension of insidiousness, macabre and the playfully freakish. I saw some disturbingly bloody psycho knife-carrying nurses, a Nosferatu-type vampire, chain-saw wielding killers, zombies, of course, demons, a hilarious brain-eating ghoul, and much more! But the best of them all was the winner of the contest—who I’ll get to in a minute.

I want to make a special mention of the winners of the best group costume. It was a father dressed as a bloodied up priest performing an exorcist on his 5-year-old demon daughter! The little girl was both adorable and frightening as hell! I think some parents can actually relate to that!

Anyway, the best overall costume winner was Mark Poutenis for his amazing rendition of Herman Munster from the old TV show “The Munsters.” Not only was the costume crazy spot-on in its accuracy, but also he had the whole Herman Munster demeanor down to a T! Fred Gwynne (the original Herman Munster) would have been proud.

“It’s fun. Just goofing off, but it’s great!” Mark says when I asked how it felt to be the big winner at the first Terror Con in Rhode Island.

Another honorable mention should go to Kristina Bianco for her freakishly unsettling Zombie Tinker Bell. I told her that I thought that this would scare the hell out of most little girls, but she said to me, “The kids kind of like it!”

Finally, I decided to head back down to the exhibit hall so I could talk to a few celebrities. I ran into both Fred Williamson and Michael Jai White hanging out and chatting. I went up to both of them and asked what they thought of Terror Con and after a quick conversation, I figured they must have had a long day. So I moved on to Dee Wallace of E.T. and Cujo fame. What a delight it was talking to her!

When I asked her what she thought of the inaugural year of Terror Con she said, “I think it’s awesome!” She also told me how much she loves Rhode Island. I asked her if she ever gets to comic cons like San Diego and her reply was, “I do strictly horror [cons]. They are always new and refreshing experiences!”

Then I told her a funny E.T. story about when my girlfriend, now wife, and I saw the re-release of the film. And about halfway through the movie, my girlfriend said to me, “Didn’t E.T. go home?How come he’s back?” I told Dee that my girlfriend thought we were watching a sequel to E.T. and I had to break it to her that this was the original and there never was a sequel made.

Dee said to me, “And you still married her?”

“Oh yes, I did,” was my reply.

There was certainly much more that I didn’t get to like the Terror Con Film Festival. Also, there was a whole room dedicated to psychic readings; lots of graphic artists showing off their great work; great performance art by a traveling ghoulish troupe; and even a trip back into my childhood meeting the guy behind Gary Gnu of the old 1980s kids TV show “The Great Space Coaster” (GSC for short). Jim Martin (A.K.A. Gary Gnu) is now the president of a non-profit trying to digitally preserve the old show and revive it for a new generation. And what a great show it was!

“There is nothing like ‘GSC’ on TV today. Everything is all CGI, no more puppets—except on PBS.” And even PBS shows have gone decidedly digital as well. “We were on the cusp of ’80s cable television already making music videos even as MTV was trying to get off the ground!”

Martin and his wife now own all the rights to “GSC” and have a Facebook page where you can learn all about the effort to preserve and revive the show and the Kickstarter campaign they have going on to help finance that. This was another great horror/sci-fi tie-in at Terror Con that I really appreciated. I used to watch that show as a kid everyday before I took off for school; I’m so glad that the Martins are trying to bring it back!

“This is Gary Gnu. And remember: no G-news is good G-news!”

Terror Con’s maiden voyage was really great, and I have no doubt that next year’s will be even more killer! Pun intended.

And don’t forget that Rhode Island Comic Con is coming up on November 1 and 2. You know I’ll be there. And so will Shatner!




Freddie, Jason and Chucky, oh my! — 
Miss Terror Con Talks RI’s First Horror Convention

Sarah Michelle is Miss Terror Con 2014

 terror

Hide under the stairs, no wait … don’t! Don’t have sex in a haunted house! And most of all, don’t go to sleep! Why? Because Terror Con is coming to the Rhode Island Convention Center in Providence Saturday and Sunday June 7 and 8. This epic 2-day convention is the inaugural event of the state’s first horror genre gathering brought to you by the same man who heads Rhode Island Comic Con, Steven Perry.

If you’re a fan of this ghoulish flavor of pop culture, then you’re gonna love Terror Con. I know one person who certainly does: Miss Terror Con herself, Sarah Michelle.

I caught up with Sarah, a native Rhode Islander, as she prepares to represent the maiden voyage of this horrific (in a good way!) event and asked her how she got to be Miss Terror Con.

“I love horror!” she tells me. “When I heard that there was going to be a Terror Con in Rhode Island, I contacted Steven and told him how much I would love to be a part of it. I told him about my acting and modeling experience, and fetish clips, which include sexy/gory pics. He then asked me if I wanted to be Miss Terror Con. Of course I said, ‘Yes!’”

Growing up in a conservative Catholic family, Sarah was prohibited from watching horror movies, which made her all the more interested in them. Over the years, she sought ways to combine her traditional sultry modeling with her horror/genre cosplay such as vampires, bondage, pantyhose, zombies and even superheroine getups. She loves horror and geek culture, so the upcoming Terror Con is the perfect venue for her creative expression.

Not only will Sarah be the official Miss Terror Con, she also has a special performance planned. “It’s kind of a burlesque show, but I can’t really say much about it. It’s a surprise!”

And surprises there will be! There’s going to be a huge gathering of horror-focused exhibitors and vendors, so be prepared for a lot of fake blood and gore, and tons of evil-dead prosthetics. Also, there will be an international film festival featuring works from many independent filmmakers showcasing their macabre visions. And it doesn’t stop there! Terror Con will feature special guests from all over Hollywood’s darker side and other entertainment platforms such as Michel Biehn (Terminator), Dee Wallace (The Howling), Linda Blair (The Exorcist), Kane (WWE Superstar), Dee Snider (Twisted Sister), Amy Bruni (“Ghosthunters”), Tiffany Rice (“Spiritual Medium”), and Naomi Grossman (“American Horror Story”) — plus many more!

“I love Naomi Grossman!” Sarah remarks. “Her transformation on that show is astounding!”

What’s also astounding is the rising popularity in this type of event. Brad Hodson of the Horror Writers Association tells me that attendance went way up at last year’s World Horror Convention in New Orleans, which is primarily a literary-based con, and the film-based horror cons are attracting even greater numbers.

This year proves to be an unprecedented year in the frightener/fear genre convention business. With the success of last year’s Rock and Shock Convention in Worcester, Mass., it was only a matter of time before The Ocean State had its own house (or convention center) of horrors!

Sarah also says there’ll be other eerie happenings at Terror Con such as the freak and side show, psychic readings, panel discussions, a costume contest and an after party.

Sarah will have prints to sell as well as info on where you can pick up her fetish clips — especially the morbid kind! Go to Facebook.com/ILoveSarahMichelle to learn more about Miss Terror Con or visit her booth at the convention and meet her in person. And visit Motif‘s booth, too!

Cue the Psycho violin screech!

Programming and ticket information available at terrorcon.net.




Forgotten Heroine — The Story of Newport’s Ida Lewis

In the pantheon of great American heroes from the 19th century, the vast majority of them are men. I mean, who can argue with the accomplishments of Captain Meriwether Lewis and Second Lieutenant William Clark (i.e., Lewis & Clark), Thomas Edison, Frederick Douglass, Sam Houston, and everyone’s favorite, President Abraham Lincoln? However, there is a collective mass amnesia in the American memory of the great women from The Victorian Era. Or should I say The Anthony-Stanton Era?

Well, writer/director/producer Marian Gagnon has done a remarkable to job in trying to rectify that oversight with her new documentary about Newport Rhode Island’s own Idawalley Zorada Lewis (a.k.a., Ida Lewis). The film is called America’s Forgotten Heroine: Ida Lewis, Keeper of the Light from Goodnight Irene Productions and funded by the Rhode Island Council For The Humanities.

Lewis was the first American woman given the honor of Official Lighthouse Keeper at Lime Rock, posthumously changed to Ida Lewis Rock in her honor where the Ida Lewis Yacht Club stands today.

Lewis’ accomplishments are nothing short of an epic tale of bravery, hardiness, grit and humility. She embodies all the noble traits of the aforementioned male American icons in a small, yet indomitable, frame. That’s because aside from her work as the lighthouse keeper for nearly 40 years, she was credited with numerous rescues at sea — her first when she was just 16 years old! She was once lauded as “the bravest woman in America” by such publications as Harper’s Weekly and the New York Tribune, and awarded the highest civilian honor at the time, a Gold Lifesaving Medal.

Her fame reached the highest echelons of American society, earning her visits from President Ulysses S. Grant, Elsie Vanderbilt, General William Tecumseh Sherman, and coincidentally enough, Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, the remembered American heroines from the 19th century. It’s ironic that Lewis now has been forgotten despite her venerated supporters!

Gagnon does a wonderful job portraying the title character of her documentary through expert commentary from noted authors and historians: Lenore Skomal (author of The Lighthouse Keeper’s Daughter, The Remarkable True Story of American Heroine Ida Lewis), Jeremy D’Etremont (author of The Lighthouse Handbook New England), and Mike Muessel (Commodore – Ida Lewis Yacht Club 2010-2011); vintage photographs and illustrations; and in Ida Lewis’ own words as portrayed by actress Marilyn Murphy Meardon in period costume.

The film flows smoothly through the phases of Lewis’ life from birth to passing, and truly extols the greatness of her legacy that time has misplaced. The visuals from vintage to modern are crisp and artistic. The music is spot-on with period tunes and more modern strains that complement the visuals beautifully. And the overall cinematography is sublime.

What I really like about this documentary is its unassuming quality, much like Lewis herself. Gagnon does not need to rely on any gimmicks or grandstanding to hold audience members’ interest on the subject matter. The stories of Lewis’ rescues and accomplishments speak for themselves, and the film is a pleasant exploration of a true American heroine.

A fine work worthy of the subject who inspired it!




Nick’s Sci-Fi Corner — Aliens with Benefits

scifiNick Iandolo (Motif‘s Comic Con King) is at it again in the latest and craziest episode of his zany sci-fi comedy, news and talk show, “Nick’s Sci-Fi Corner.” This episode is called “Aliens with Benefits,” and this time Nick is joined by Motif writers Rosemary Pacheco (Scene and Heard) and Katie Lewis (DareMe) in some all-out, close encounter sci-fi adventures of the ludicrous kind.
In this episode, Nick boldly goes where no one should go at all, fends off an overly attached girl-fan, throws down with a famous xenomorph killing space trucker, goes to town reviewing the epic space adventure Gravity and the super spy show Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., talks about the Rhode Island film scene with RIFC president Anthony Ambrosino, and takes his friends on two wild real-life espionage and steampunk adventures! And finally Nick treats his audience to some shots from last year’s Rhode Island Comic Con featuring cosplayer Sarah McGinnis.
See it on YouTube: http://youtu.be/xrpXahBtjLg

 




Memories for Sale — An Exploration of Morals and Money

twistyFilmAs a screen and teleplay writer, I can always tell when movie dialogue was crafted by a playwright. Perhaps it was my years studying Shakespeare at UMass Amherst, or learning the art of screenwriting by watching great playwrights turned screenwriters, like David Mamet or Aaron Sorkin. Whatever the case may be, stage dialogue is crisp, snappy and highly emotive. And it’s a pleasure to listen to.

So when I watched Christian De Rezendes’ short film adaptation of Jerry Bisantz’s award winning play Memories for Sale, I was immediately taken in by the dialogue. But soon after, the story itself became my main focus. The underlying subtext of this story is quite poetic. It scoffs at the lack of morals by modern day publishers and the lack of ethics found in literary agents; yet, it is crafted by a professional playwright who must have dealt with such challenges in his own writing career.

The basic gist of the story is that struggling writer Charlie O’Neal (David Sullivan) is pressured by his less-than-scrupulous literary agent Bruce Halpern (played wonderfully slimy by the screenwriter himself!) to get some final dirt on a venerated senior performer, Sid Freedman (played beautifully by Bob Colonna), from a bygone era whose biography Charlie is authoring. It turns out that the publisher won’t go forward with the project, after four years of development, until Sid comes clean on some salacious details of his past—an ostensible requirement in order to sell a damn book these days!

You can sense Charlie’s disdain to have to put his subject through this unnecessary invasion of his privacy for the sake of profit. Charlie begrudgingly accepts the task. What choice to do writers have these days but whore themselves out in order to even make a dent in their careers, right? This is a bold and brilliant statement made by De Rezendes and Bisantz, which asks the question: how much of one’s soul must an artist sacrifice in order to be recognized?

The same is true not only for Charlie, but for Sid. His granddaughter, Rachel Wagner (Melissa Penick), pressures him to give Charlie the information he’s looking for because Sid needs the money. In fact, there’s more going on with her self-interests than just fealty to her grandfather.

I feel for both characters as they are caught between a rock and a hard place. Sid has secrets buried deep down that he is loathe to share but must; Charlie feels the loss of his artistic integrity and a piece of his soul as he finds himself asking questions of Sid that he is loathe to ask. What a great duality that crosses generations and still shows that no matter what era we live in, people’s privacies are always the first casualty of mainstream media — right along with the truth!

This short film in some ways reminded me of Mamet’s American Buffalo insomuch as the dialogue was spot on, whole and immersive, unlike dialogue you find in most popular films today that are simply intercut in post between characters, choppy and down-right irritating! Furthermore, De Rezendes’ choice to keep the entire film confined to one room makes for some interesting direction and editing, as the visuals and camera work are thoroughly flawless. The dialogue, staging and acting talents carry the scenes making a small set seem big.

I was very impressed with this film, its message and its style. If I were reviewing this for Rosemary Pacheco’s and my film review show Take 2 for Motif’s MoTiV, I’d give it a Motif Must See!

Memories for Sale will be shown at Brooklyn Coffee & Tea House on January 24.