conventions

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Another amazing C2E2 has come and gone. This is the marquee comic convention event in the Chicagoland area and that’s saying something, because the “Region” has become filled with comic events in recent years. C2E2 continues to be the standard bearer for all comic and comic book entertainment in the area. The Infinite Hollywood crew was once again on the scene, with our ace photographer Beth Tague and of course Jake there as well. This year saw a lot of new vendors pop up with tons of goodies. I was most impressed with the artist’s alley this year and the entire section dedicated to independent toy companies in “The Block”. It’s really a testament to how good C2E2 is when they continue to shine a spotlight on smaller talents, many from the area.

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As always there was a ton of really cool cosplay on hand. I suspect the real winner was the giant dragon that took several people to operate and assemble. It was really cool to see it moving around McCormick place doing it’s thing. I also quite liked the Angel Spawn and the rather incredible Princess Peach. There was just so many great cosplayers over the several day event that I plan to make another post just highlighting all the various outfits and perhaps even ranking. I am really hoping in 2015 to do more of our web series interviewing various cosplayers who make it out to C2E2 every year. Some come from all over the country (if not world) to be a part of the show.

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Diamond Select along with several other toy companies were on hand. While the “toy” presence has diminished some thanks to places like Mattel skipping out on the event, it is great to see DST doing so much there. They had some incredible Minimates on hand, revealing the Ninja Turtles and Godzilla Mini Mates in epic fashion. They have a ton of TMNT products coming out, but you can expect to see some of the Ninja Turtles Minimates reviewed here when they hit shelves in 2015. Zach Oat even said there could possibly be vehicles down the line. YES!

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I really enjoyed the various panels I sat in on and was surprised to see some unique ones like the Chicago Ghosthunters and various other local troops. While this is definitely an event that appeals to crowds from all over, it’s always great to see local involvement and shows ReedPOP know their audience when it comes to pop culture coming to Chicago. This doesn’t feel like a traveling circus coming through town, but rather a part of the Region culture, with all of the great aspects of comics, movies and overall “geeky” entertainment. Can we even call it geek entertainment anymore, as everything has gotten so mainstream?


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That’s the other great thing about C2E2, is that it brings both kinds of people together. Nerd and jocks, cats and dogs living in harmony, mass hysteria! Seriously though, this convention is ran so smoothly that everyone feels at home and no one feels left out. Whether you’ve been working on your costume all year long, or simply just has a passing interest in Iron Man and Deadpool, you’ll like this con. C2E2 is truly a one of a kind event.

Gfest99
So part of as part Ultraman Week, I decided to head out to the 20th annual G-Fest event. G-Fest is put on by Daikaiju Enterprises and G-FAN magazine every year. It has been running since 1994 and is a really well put together event. Not only is it the largest Godzilla and Kaiju convention in the country, it’s pretty much the only one. It’s held in the Crowne Plaza O’Hare just outside of Chicago, which is a fantastic venue.

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The hotel that is beautiful, well organized and the staff is incredibly friendly, despite the hundreds of super nerds that are running around the building. Never did I feel like an outcast or anything. A lot of times you’ll find that the staff at events like this don’t really want you there. That’s not the vibe I got at all, so hat’s off to the Crowne Plaza O’Hare. Another neat thing is that they had a specific channel in the hotel rooms set to only play monster movies and Godzilla trailers and stuff. It’s little things like that which help set this event apart.

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On a humorous note, while most of the hotel is taken over by G-Fest, there were a few rooms that weren’t. One area had a hilarious sign to prevent you from having any confusion. I had to take a photo of it.

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The event is attended by over 1,000 people, so it’s considerably smaller than say C2E2 where there was over 60,000 people in a single day. Honestly that was a huge breathe of fresh air, as the much more intimate setting allowed you to move around without feeling overwhelmed. It was also nice because there wasn’t thousands of people there just to gawk. At lot of the bigger conventions draw in people who aren’t really genre fans. Everyone at G-Fest was a fan of some sort. Now I’ll admit, some of these people certainly appeared as if they didn’t go out much, but the vast majority seemed like regular folks.

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As a sidebar, there was a father there with his son who was probably around 12 or so, that I thought was awesome. The dad was clearly there for his kid, but he was making sure they had a blast. It was just strange to me, because I could have never seen my dad taking me to a trip like this. Kudos to you guy. We kept running into them for whatever reason and it just made me “childhood jealous” if that’s a thing.

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G-Fest has plenty of panels, discussions, Q&As and other things to keep you busy. In fact I was busy pretty much the whole time, going from one panel to the next, with almost no time in-between to visit the rest of the “show floor” area. The first panel was a screening of Frank H. Woodward’s documentary film Men In Suits. The documentary was really good and if you’re interested in the history of suit acting you should definitely pick up a copy. While it has a focus on Godzilla, it’s not really about Kaiju suit acting. It’s just about the world of suit acting in general, with lots of stuff from Doug Jones and other famous American suit actors. There was a Q&A after, but most of the room left (which made me feel bad) because there was a bit of a delay between the film and the Q&A. I left too, because I had to make it to another panel and wasn’t sure if there was time.

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There was an interesting panel from SyFy’s Monster Man Cleve Hall. I only caught the last part of this, but Cleve ran a bit long (more on this in a bit) but he seemed pretty interesting. It was a bit odd for him to basically say that his reality show was overly fake, but he had a lot of neat photos to show and quips about his various experiences within the industry. He was a real whirlwind of energy and no doubt could have provided a few hours of interesting stories.

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The other major panel that I wanted to attend was a screening of the “lost” Wolfman vs. Godzilla film. This was the first time that so much of this film had been screened to the public. I videotaped it, but I’m not allowed to show it on the net. Supposedly this film may see an official Toho DVD release… But truth be told, I am doubtful that will happen. This panel was both a highlight and a low point for me, with G-Fest. Continue reading

Lollipop Chainsaw Cosplay

C2E2 2013 – The New Batch

Finally, it’s time for my annual C2E2 report. Usually I do a day by day deal, but honestly C2E2 took a lot out of me this year. Rather than give you a detailed daily analysis, I’ll just give a wrap up. Of course this year I did C2Tweet2 with all the live details and photos anyway, so I pretty much covered most of that stuff already. Part of the problem this year was that I had a lot of stuff to do when I got home, so recovering from the convention took longer than usual.

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Overall C2E2 was a lot of fun. There had to have been record attendance this year as it’s the first time I’ve ever had an issue parking. There were over 60,000 people at one point at the Con on Saturday and they were “at capacity” in the main hall. Pretty insane honestly, because McCormick Place is gigantic. The parking situation was a nightmare and its obvious to me that I’m going to have to seriously work to combat this next year because C2E2 just grows in leaps and bounds each year it seems.

GWAR's Oderous and two hot "women" who I'm certain are dudes.

GWAR’s Oderous Urungus and two hot “women” who I’m certain are dudes.

While the convention was HUGE this year in terms of attendance, there was a serious lack of presence from both entertainment and comics industry professionals. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t small by any means, but DC lacked a booth (they did have panels), Round 2 didn’t have a booth, CS Moore wasn’t there, etc. I think the problem is that last year C2E2 was shoved into a much smaller hall at McCormick Place and I think certain people in the industry thought perhaps the con was shrinking. After this year’s gangbuster attendance, I hope we’ll see more toy and comic setups in the coming year. I was particularly disappointed in Round 2, as they were there all weekend with the Captain Action crew… But no booth. Guys, have a booth!

This is what I imagine a new Disney version of Han and Leia would look like.

This is what I imagine a new Disney version of Han and Leia would look like.

On the positive side, there was a huge area set up for indie toy makers. God Beast, Galaxxor, Warlords of Wor and Mystical Warriors of the Ring all had great stuff there. I stopped by the Nerd City booth at some point, but ended up not buying anything. I kept thinking I was going to go back and buy the Armorvor Infection, but never did. Not to begrudge those guys, but I don’t think they were as welcoming as they should have been. They seem content playing to their audience and not expanding it. How about throwing us at Infinite Hollywood a bone once and a while, eh? But I digress. A lot of that stuff is very pricey and I don’t know how they were doing on sales, but it was cool that they had a nice presence there. C2E2 specifically went out and coveted those connections so maybe in the future we’ll see more of that.

USS Flagg

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The Toy Hunter was there with a big booth. I heard through the grapevine that he sold his Flagg there. The price tag on that thing says $7,500 so if someone actually bought it at that price, god help them. He did have some neat stuff in his booth for reasonable prices and he brought a lot of stuff from the show. I probably should have pressed him for an interview, but I would have likely asked stuff he didn’t want to hear. I’m always cautious about that. Continue reading

Wizard World Chicago Infinite Hollywood
This weekend the Infinite Hollywood team was hanging out at the 2012 Chicago Comic Con/Wizard World Chicago event. As usual, these conventions are a lot of fun if you’re into a weekend of nerdom, cosplay, toys, celebrities and tons of comics. Unfortunately the Chicago Comic Con does not quite pack the punch of C2E2, our preferred convention in the area. Still, here is a recap of the events that took place.

Chicago Comic Con Cosplay Wizard World Chicago Infinite Hollywood
The Chicago Comic Con was held in the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center, which is a huge building. The place is actually quite beautiful, with high hanging chandeliers in the ballroom and plenty of space throughout. One of the rooms had been turned into an old school arcade, which was quite cool. The prices to play the games were reasonable and they had some classics like the original Konami TMNT game.

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One of the main ballrooms had been transformed into the nicest Yu Gi Oh/Magic The Gathering tournament room around. The entire setup was different than last year, despite being in the same building. Things had been moved around and generally I thought the arrangement was better. It seemed huge and you could easily get lost in the rows and rows of comics and collectibles.

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Cosplayers were out in full force, including a few who stuffed themselves into outfits they probably shouldn’t have. I still think the Chicago area has seen a downturn in the amount of people who show up in costume. Not just at Wizard World, but at several events I’ve been to in the last year or so. I’m not sure why there aren’t more costumed folks, especially when the weather was so nice this year, but there’s still plenty to see.

There were some great celebrities in attendance and I got to see Stan Lee in person, which was pretty neat. He took credit for creating this website. I’ll confess that I didn’t spend much time around these areas (hence only a photo of Kevin Sorbo) but there was a pretty good flow of traffic throughout. The usual suspects were there (Ferrigno, Mayhew, etc) but also lots of people I don’t normally see at these things. Dean Cain had remarkably huge lines. I had no idea he was so popular. There were not near as many wrestlers at this year’s event, but CM Punk, Booker T, Kevin Nash, Lita, Melina, John Morrison and John Cena made appearances.

We attended a couple panels, including one from the Star Wars 501st. Unfortunately some of the panels I was looking forward to, didn’t happen. Lloyd Kaufman from Troma was supposed to have a panel, but he ended up not being at the event at all. I guess he’s off filming “Return to Nuke Em’ High” or something. So much for getting my MOC Nozone figure signed.

The good news for toy collectors is that there was a lot of new and old product there. I saw some decent deals on Marvel Select stuff, but there were so many vendors I had trouble finding stuff I had seen one minute when I wanted to buy it the next. On the MOTUC front, lots of figures were for sale, but nobody had the one freaking figure I need and that’s the re-release of King Grayskull. Prices were all over the place, but I felt bad for the guy who wanted $40 for Spector. I doubt he’ll ever sell him at that price.

Amongst the chaos I noticed a trend for Legos as they have really grown in number and popularity at the convention scene. One of the most popular tables was a huge pile of Legos where you could make your own Lego man out of a variety of parts for like $4. It was really quite a sight to see.

The saddest booth probably belonged to the guy who had nothing but stacks and stacks of old nudie magazines. I always get a bit creeped out when that sort of stuff shows up where there are rows of kids in Batman costumes. On the toy front though, I did see some really neat custom homemade Spiro’s Greek Myths Zeus figures. I meant to stop back and grab one, but got caught up and forgot until I was already in the parking lot. Maybe I can snag one online.

I spent a fair amount of time chatting it up with the folks at the Kotobukiya booth. They had some neat statues on display from the anime and Marvel/DC ladies line as well as some early sculpts that hadn’t quite been finished yet.

A lot of those sculpts are really amazing. The work Kotobukiya does is second to none. It’s great that they hit up these conventions as well, because some toy and collectible companies have started skipping everything short of SDCC.

The prices were actually reasonable too. I’m not huge into statues or Star Wars, but their work with C-3PO and R2-D2 had me quite tempted. I can see why these items are such big hits.

The only bad part about the whole weekend was the food. Last year we ate one day at the The Great Expoteria Restaurant and didn’t much care for it. For whatever reason, we gave them another shot this year (mostly because we were hungry and didn’t feel like trying to leave to eat) and it was an absolutely horrible experience. I can’t tell you how sick and tired I am of convention centers taking advantage of Comic Convention fans with the food. For over $30 we got an underdone cheeseburger (the burgers weren’t great last year but were edible, this year not so much) and a salad bar that actually looked pretty good… But tasted like crap. The salad dressings were so watered down that I’m not certain they WEREN’T just water. My french fries looked like they had been stomped on and the best part was the macaroni and cheese, which although it looked super cheesy was absolutely devoid of any flavor at all. This year they refused you free refills and the choices were much more limited. There is no reason why for nearly $35 we couldn’t have gotten a decent meal. It’s just an absolute disgrace that these places continue to rip off con goers like this. I’m not sure if there’s anything the folks behind the Chicago Comic Con can do about it, but the Donald E. Stephens center should be ashamed for their con gouging and the Great Expoteria Restaurant should be renamed the Great Diarrhea Restaurant or be just plain shut down. Needless to say, we didn’t eat there again. Nor will we if the con is held there again.

Lastly, on the way I out I noticed some guy had taken a bunch of his World of Warcraft cups and stacked them in his hotel window. I am easily amused. Aside from the food debacle, we enjoyed the convention again and hope to cover more events next year.



C2E2 2012 has now officially come and gone. The second day of C2E2, Saturday, is always the biggest. This is when the core panels happen and it’s when we see the most people show up. Sunday is typically kids day and it’s when you can get the best blow-out deals at the booths. Let’s take a look at the second half of C2E2 and see how the show shaped up this year!

John Barrowman Panel
 


First up was the John Barrowman Q&A panel. Barrowman is most likely known in the US for his work on Doctor Who and Torchwood, but Barrowman has done a ton of other stuff including a lot of musical theatre. For a guy who literally had nothing to necessarily plug and no “current” projects, he had a lot to talk about and was roaring out of the gate and entertaining the entire time.


Barrowman is also openly gay. This is irrelevant except to say that he has an amazing ability to, much like Captain Jack Harkness, go between being the gayest person you’ve ever seen and a very manly anti-stereotype image in an instant. I would say that was one of his biggest talking points, discussing how important it was for him to be able to break down some of the stereotypes. He danced, he sang, he told funny stories and he likely inspired many in the audience. There was mention of a Torchwood book he has written that will continue the show in some form and also an ABC pilot titled “Gilded Lilys” that sounds like it might be a good show if it gets picked up.


It was a whirlwind performance and I do say performance, as Barrowman left it all out there. Sometimes you go to a panel or a Q&A session and it feels like a sort of bland conversation. This felt like a show. He was a consumate professional and I don’t think it would be possible not to have enjoyed yourself at this panel. In fact, although I’m hardly someone who would be into musical theatre, it definitely made me think that if Barrowman ever did a show of some sort in my neck of the woods, it would be worth seeing just because of the passion he puts into it. He was also honest and candid in the Q&A and didn’t even mind the influx of dopey audience questions… Which of course, there was plenty of.

The biggest takeaway would probably be how humble he was and generally excited to have fame and be a big part of a fandom. You could tell he worked hard and was appreciative of all he had. This was his first US Q&A panel without being part of a group, but I think he’ll likely be invited to do more after the reception to this one.

Minimates Panel

Unfortunately at the MiniMates panel there were no photos allowed. Zach Oat did a pretty impressive “one man” panel and tried to answer as many questions as he could. This was an absolutely “no frills” kind of panel, but it was probably one of the best at C2E2 as a result. Zach was open, honest and willing to admit things that you often don’t see toy companies having the guts to say.

There wasn’t much to learn necessarily, other than the Halo line is done, Ghostbusters is also done and they have a few more Universal Monsters planned. Perhaps the biggest news (although this has been said before) is that he confirmed Battle Beasts has nothing to do with vintage Battle Beasts and that it was not a remake or a reimagining. These are simply beasts that battle. Of course it’s hard not to compare the concept to the vintage line and no matter what Diamond Select says, it’s clear they purchased the name because of it’s brand history… But this is not that project in any fashion. Even though it’s similar in some sense.

I asked about Nintendo and if they’d ever sought out that license. Zach said he’d never heard anything about it. Honestly I have to wonder why. It seems like that would be a great line to mine for tons and tons of waves and it would be a popular seller. Perhaps they’ll look into it after my suggestion! To that end, Zach took suggestions and gave away MiniMates to folks who asked questions and did a drawing for MiniMates design art. Fun stuff.

Voltron Panel
 


I’ll confess that I’m hardly a “hardcore” Voltron fan, but I liked the toys and cartoon as a kid and the new Mattel line has made me somewhat more interested in the franchise again. I’ve watched a few episodes of Voltron Force, but I haven’t gotten too into it. The panel which was hosted by WEPs’ Director of Project Development, Jeremy Corray, was surprisingly entertaining and kept me interested throughout and never made me feel “lost” even if I wasn’t 100% up to date on the property. Although I did buy the Blazing Sword Voltron last year and it was my favorite Mattel toy for the year.


Jeremy was amazing (he should host all panels!) as he was able to keep the action fast and furious. The only time that things got bogged down a bit was when the other panel guests spoke about Voltron and the comics. Unfortunately some of them just did not have the passion or they just weren’t good at engaging the crowd. This panel was sort of a catch-all for Voltron and it was running into the Walking Dead panel’s time, so a lot of folks were checking out early to go to that panel.


Honestly I felt a little bad at that, but Jeremy kept things fun anyway. They also gave away a crap ton of stuff, but unfortunately I didn’t get any freebies. Perhaps another time. They even gave away a Club Lion Force membership. I would have loved to win that! They did manage to make the cartoon and comics sound kind of epic and it was enough that I may start picking the comics up and checking the show back out.


There was a Q&A as well, which featured hilarious questions from kids who had no idea what Voltron was. It begs the question why they were at the panel (or the convention for that matter, but that’s another rant for another day) but to his credit Jeremy gave hilarious answers in which he explained science fiction in the most complex terms to young children in rapid-fire style. This panel also had another moment of hilarity as some dude wandered in and bungled around the whole panel for about 5 minutes as he was clearly lost and in the wrong room.

Overall the panel made me a bigger Voltron fan and that’s not an easy accomplishment. I wish everyone at that brand well, because it’s clear they are trying to do everything they can with the property. Also here’s a sneak peek at the 2 part season finale of the new Voltron show. Looks pretty sweet.

C2E2 Wrap-Up
 


There were quite a few more cosplayers in the second half of C2E2 although I still think the show was down a bit from last year. There wasn’t a single Power Girl this year. What gives? Regardless, there was a lot to see and do and plenty to enjoy whether you are a hardcore comic fan or just someone who’s into general nerdery.


C2E2 proved to be a lot of fun again this year and the food was infinitely better. We ate at a pizza place one day inside McCormick place and it was tasty and not overpriced. I didn’t find as many good deals as in year’s past, but there was a nice variety of stuff and I’ll review a few of the items I bought in the days and weeks ahead. C2E2 was also a great meeting spot to have conversations with friends from Twitter like Greymattersplat and Paul of Robots Pajamas.


Which led to probably the best part of C2E2 and that was hanging out with the guys from Planned Banter and geeking out with a variety of likeminded folks. We even went to dinner on Saturday night which was a debacle in and of itself, but was fun nonetheless because of the company. Hopefully C2E2 can continue to be the hub that brings the net’s best toy geeks together.

Tons more photos of John Barrowman, Cosplay, Voltron and more in the: C2E2 Wrap-Up Gallery and of course, feel free to laugh at the sight of the Flash waiting for the bus…

UNTIL NEXT YEAR!