Comic Con Retains Crown

Comic Con continued to show its chops as the biggest event in the littlest state this year. Overall, the event successfully trafficked what was probably around 100,000 people [final numbers were still pending at press time] through a colossal maze of vendors, celebrities, artists and activities without losing too many to the Upside-Down.

There were tense moments – attendance spiked around the middle of the day on Saturday, producing a sea of superhumanity that in places was unable to move at all for quite some time. And the line for regular ticket entry Saturday morning peaked at over an hour’s wait. But waiting in line is a big part of what a Comic Con is about. Want your favorite celeb’s autograph? Get in a line and bond with other fans over how excited you are to meet him/her. Want a photo op? Get in line and bond with other fans over what his or her best films were. Want to see a panel discussion? Get in line early for a good seat and bond over fond memories of the show or movie. Want to get into the con? Get in line and bond with other fans over how annoying the line is. It’s perhaps the best way to make new friends – remember at Grand Pappy San Diego Comic Con, people will literally camp in lines, waiting full days for their favorite fan experiences.

It really is the other con goers who make an experience like RI ComicCon special, memorable and enjoyable from moment to moment. And chief among those are the army of cosplayers of various levels and intensity, who bring pop culture to added life in every nook and cranny of the event. Even if you’re stuck in a crowd, seeing some of the fantastic creativity in that crowd is entertainment enough.

The most disappointing moment this year was surely the dissolution of the Walking Dead dead center – of the 10 anticipated Deaders, four, including fan favorite Daryl (Norman Reedus), Tom Payne, Lennie James and Khary Payton were unable to come, called back to set for reshoots at the last minute. While this generated disappointment, almost all of the fans understood – you have to make the show before you can celebrate the show. Those holding down the fort were led by Michael Cudlitz, whose Abraham memorably expired last season, and was thus spared from reshoots. Mark Ruffalo, presumably hulking out, also canceled his appearance. To fill the void, well over 100 name celebrities did make it to the con, and there are plans to try to keep some of them.

There was also excitement when Providence Police increased security, closing some entrances and throughways on Sunday and positioning snipers on nearby rooftops. At press time, it was unclear what threat they were responding to, or whether white pick-up trucks were involved, but no incidents seemed to result. “I wouldn’t want to be responsible for security at this event,” said horror author Heather Rigney (Waking the Merrow), noting, “Every other person is carrying a fake weapon. Sure, they’re mostly plastic, but that’s a lot of fake weaponry.” The event, however, was without incident – the police apparently had everything under control.

Overall, things went very smoothly. Shatner (Captain Kirk), who blew the place out a few years ago, hosted a comprehensive “Star Trek TNG” reunion, noticeably lacking only Captain Picard / Patrick Stewart. And folks were civilized about it this time. Other turnkey events included The Winter Soldier, Sebastian Stan, and a collection of kid stars from “Stranger Things,” which created capacity crowds.

Here are some of the highlights and random observations from the weekend. Please remember, Comic Con is sprawling with simultaneous events, and we only had four reporters in attendance. So this is just a sampling from the parallel universes of Comic Con experiences.

Vendor booths keep getting taller. Some of the poster and art booths now stretch half way to the cavernous ceiling of the Convention Center.

Poison Ivy is out. Harley Quinn, while still bouncing around, has lost her female costume dominance and Daenerys is still a top pick for cosplayers – one Dani even came with three friends dressed as dragons, with giant extendable wings. Wonder Women of every era were present and intimidatingly Amazonian. We asked one, “If you see another Wonder Woman, do you throw down?” “No,” she said pulling out her magic lasso. “We bond.” Deadpool is eternal, and distorted mirrors of Dr. Strange were a new popular role. Jedi, Sith and stormtroopers remain plentiful and could probably invade the con if Trump asked them to (er, scratch that, we meant Vader). Speaking of which, no fake Trumps were sighted by our team.

At a panel called Limitless Cosplay: Networking and Making Friends, Motif Contributor Jax Adele and 501st cosplayer Shawn Todd discussed the magical interactions cosplay can make possible, and shared lots of fun tips on how to engage with other cosplayers, with cosplay-related specialists and with photographers (for photogs, remember “If there’s a butt on the floor, photos no more” – respect cosplayers as performers, and don’t try to catch candid moments unaware that might be unflattering). The panel included hunger-inducing analogies between social groupings and baked goods: “It’s a real thing, because it’s been in a book,” joked Adele, describing closed circles as bagels and open circles, with room for new folks to join, as crescents/croissants. “If you’re looking to meet new people, keep your grouping crescent-shaped – take a bite from your donut, and let someone new become your donut hole.”

There was a Rocky IV panel reuniting Dolph Lundgren (Ivan Drago) with Carl Weathers (Apollo Creed). Lundgren made a plea for a movement to add Action Jackson Weathers to the cast of Expendables 4. When asked about his character’s recently revealed illegitimate offspring (see Creed), Weathers said, “That was sure news to me!” Lundgren also dropped hints that he will/is/might be reprising the role of Ivan Drago for a “boxing movie” currently being shot. Lundgren also revealed a secret talent for Sylvester Stallone impersonations (and that he was originally dismissed as too tall for the role). He also made Ivan more sympathetic – of (spoilers!) killing Apollo, he said, “I felt really bad. Here was this great fighter, played by someone I respected. I was a 27-year-old kid. I didn’t want to do it.” Weathers got to explain why he is one of the few Predator alums who didn’t become governor of someplace – and he talked up local senator Sheldon Whitehouse for president. Weathers also got to explain that, by the end of his audition process, “I think Sly cast me because he wanted to beat the stuffing out of me at that point.”

The Gotham panel featured Bruce Wayne (David Mazouz) and Selena Kyle (Camren Bicondova), discussing the adventures of growing up on a set (they were 12 and 14 respectively, when first cast). Their best moment was when a questioner dressed as the Scarecrow found himself so muffled by the costume that his questions sounded like the work of Charlie Brown’s teacher. The teens did figure out what he was asking, and reassured him concerning the fate of his in-show dead namesake: “This is Gotham, so even if you die, it’s not the end of the road for you.” Or perhaps when a random wonder dog ran up on stage to instantly bond with the future Catwoman. When challenged about the quality of the writing by one questioner, Bicondova playfully responded, “Well, you’re sitting here, so something’s good about it.”

John Cusack decided during his panel that if he were on death row, his final meal would be, “I think I’d deep fry a pizza.” Some questions are stranger than others, but to the audience’s credit, no one told him they wanted their $2. The director he hasn’t worked with yet and would most like to? Martin Scorsese.

Bronn the sell sword had to fend for himself against a horde of fans at the massively attended “Game of Thrones” panel, where he tried to explain why he’d survived so long, and whom he was rooting for to take the throne (besides, obviously, Bronn). “I can’t believe I’m in a show that’s such a phenomenon, and that my character survives,” he said at one point, inspiring raucous applause. “And that I get applause for surviving.” As for the throne, he said, “My favorite character is Aria,” and described being tongue tied when he first met actor Maisie Williams (Aria) because he was such a fan. “But she’s had a bit of a funny time lately. And Daenerys is fantastic, but you know there are some things with her that are just … off. And John – he’s a straight up hero, but even he, now he’s getting wrapped up with Daenerys. I don’t know.” He shared his trepidation about getting involved at first (“Americans making a Medieval thing … this could be really bad.”) and his favorite scenes: “The scene where I got to shoot a dragon – That was pretty cool.” His most harrowing shoot: “There was a fight in a room full of candles – they were leaking wax everywhere, on the floor, and my boots didn’t really have a grip, and there was a stunt man with a hangover … that was a bit harrowing.” And his favorite improvisation: “I was reunited with Pod in one scene, and then I strangled him. We did a number of takes, and had a good one, so the director said, ‘Once more, and this time enjoy yourself,’ So that time I grabbed him by the nuts. They used that take, so if you watch his face you can see him trying to hold it together. I really surprised him.”

Finally, he shared the pressure of being involved with a worldwide fan phenomenon: “One needs to center and come into the moment. Usually, part of acting is trying to forget that anyone at all is watching you. You have to forget about the scrutiny. I remind myself, this situation is just a job. I’m just an actor. I meditate, which is very un-Bronn-like.” No word, however, on how much longer Bron will survive in Westeros.

That RI Comic Con will survive to fight another day – and perhaps continue to grow – seem like a very sure bet, however.