Dispatches From Denver Comic Con Day 1: Morphin Time with the Power Rangers and Singing with Levar Burton
My wife Stacey and I began our day early (at least for me anyway) as Denver Comic Con officially opened at 10 am this morning (much earlier compared to starting on Friday afternoons in previous years). Having a new puppy has added an extra hour into our morning routine as we needed to take Faraday on his morning walk and drop him off at his “human grandparents” home to be cared for while we were gone. To answer any questions; Yes, we named him after the shaggy haired twitchy character on Lost, but my wife tends to default to saying he’s named after Michael Faraday (a scientist famous for studying electromagnetism) since she’s a research assistant. Halfway to my in-law’s place I realized that I made a really dumb mistake and left our badges at home. Shit! And I forgot to grab a sharpie as well. Shit! Next to our car having issues starting and delaying us by 15 minutes, we are now also looking at a good 30 minute delay to our planned schedule. Shit! Shit!
Fortunately, we made good time and got to the line as it was already moving. Having learned from the disaster that was associated with the lines to get in last year, I really have to applaud the Denver Comic Con organizers for really stepping up their game in that respect. Last year, the lines were really terrible but everything ran very smoothly this year. There was also a lot more floor support to direct people to the proper lines for panels and locations. So for Organization, this year was a night and day difference in comparison to last year’s event. As stated in last year’s coverage, I feel that there are 4 types of Classes of Con-goers (and several species/groups that branch from those classes into their own subcultures of geekdom). First, there’s the memorabilia seekers that seek out those holy grails of collectables, then there’s the professional cosplayers that hang out in the lobby solely to pose for photos all day, there’s the attendees that sort of explore the floor to take it all in and then there’s the panel junkies. I’m the latter. I find the panels to be the absolute best part of the conventions. It’s a way to see some of your heroes of pop culture in the flesh and get a chance to observe or participate in their discussions of their contributions to pop culture. At the cons I roughly spend 85-90% of my time sitting in the panels.
Our first panel was to be Lou Ferrigno, which is fitting as I too nearly turned into a green rage monster after realizing that I forgot to get our badges on the way out. I did see Lou a year or so ago at an autograph signing and was told that he would love to meet fans for free (autographs/photos had a charge) and I didn’t want to bother him so I observed him from a safe and respectable distance. Stacey made fun of me saying that I was afraid of the Hulk. True, when I was a kid the Hulk sort of scared me as he was a growling Rage Monster, but as a 30 year old man, I’m not scared anymore. I wanted to prove it once and for all by attending his panel. However, due to a scheduling conflict, Lou was a no-show. My Wife still believes that I’m scared of the Hulk.
Due to the cancelled panel, we went across the hall to the Main Events Room to see a panel with David Yost, Walter Jones and Robert Axelrod (respectfully the Blue Ranger, Black Ranger and voice of Lord Zedd from Mighty Morphin Power Rangers). Prior to the panel, a staff member asked Stacey if she had any Kleenex for one of their elderly panel members. During the introductions I found out that she basically gave Kleenex to Lord Zedd, so that was kind of cool. David Yost and Walter Jones appropriately wore blue and black shirts today and have really aged well the last 20 years. Unfortunately this was the first main event panel and it was completely plagued by audio issues as the panelists had no monitor to hear questions being asked and hearing bad acoustics echoing in the room. David Yost took some form of control by moving the microphones more or less right in front of the stage. Being that there was no moderator this was 100% a Q&A panel. Some topics addressed were whether or not they felt they were typecast after Power Rangers, their memories of the late Thuy Trang (original Yellow Ranger whom died in a car wreck in 2001) and on-set antics (Post-production audio pranks and Jason David Frank’s pranks of autographing David Yost’s couch and some that seemed more mean-spirited than funny such as feeding him a sandwich with a fly…making one wonder if he was part of the well-documented bullying that caused Yost to leave the show after several seasons). Both Rangers said that they would be open for a cameo appearance if asked in Lionsgate’s recently announced reboot film of Mighty Morphin Power Rangers. Axelrod was the quietest of the three, but I believe this was largely due to the audio issues causing him not to hear most of the questions and having Walter Jones whisper the questions to him, but when he spoke he had some really funny answers. The panel ended with a prize for the best question (a bracelet of the power rangers signed by Yost and Jones) and a prize for the worst question (a blue “Ermagerd” bracelet signed as well). Obliging the inevitable request of doing the “It’s Morphin Time” call, the panel ended with Yost and Jones calling upon the power of the Triceratops and Mastodon. Overall, I think it was a good panel despite the obvious frustrations of the audio issues.
Following the Power Rangers panel, we headed out of the Main Events room only to get back in line to attend the Walking Dead Panel 15 minutes later. Due to a scheduling conflict of doing a photo op with the one and only Bruce Campbell, I was sad that we would miss Michael Rooker’s solo panel on Sunday. Fortunately, the Walking Dead panel had him front and center in all his rock star personality glory. Within seconds it became very clear that the character of Meryl Dixon is not much of a stretch for Rooker…save for Rooker is a lot funnier and nicer than his Walking Dead character. I was very pleased that one of the first things Rooker brought up was his role in Mallrats having been a fan of the movie for several years. He was asked about the makeup effects on the show, to which he referred to as “sexy dirt”. Rooker briefly switched roles with the moderator and started asking the moderator questions about his life and job at Whole Foods and then brought out 2 stuntmen that portray zombies on The Walking Dead. Topics brought up included how he became friends with one of zombie actors that he brought out after accidentally punching the actor in the face with “Little Meryl” (aka Meryl’s prosthetic hand/knife combo) favorite people to work with and who Meryl would pick as his survival team. True to his character’s nature, his team would basically be the fattest and slowest people so they could be zombie food instead of him. The topic of the famous Walking Dead “Death Dinners” was brought up as well, which prompted the zombie actor to complain about not ever getting one, but it was discovered that he “died” on the show 43 times so far due to playing so many different zombies to which Rooker joked that he alone would kill their death dinner budget. The panel’s final minutes were referred to “Rooker vs. the Audience” as he would take quick questions with a rapid fire and humorous answer. The final question was by a really young girl that couldn’t be any older than 6 asking him “What would he put on his hand if he lost it just like Meryl did”. Rooker said that he would have to think about that answer and then the little girl admitted that her mother told her to ask him the question which Rooker answered “Well Mommy, what do YOU want on my hand?” which she answered “No comment” ending the panel on a hilarious note.
After 2 hours of panels, we decided to leave the convention center to grab some food at Illegal Pete’s and to cash in on some free beer and food vouchers that I’ve won in some internet contests a while back. I was able to drink this year’s official Denver Comic Con beer “Brews Wayne”; a hoppy amber beer brewed by Breckenridge Brewery. The brewery has helped sponsor the con and have created an exclusive beer every year in the event’s 3 year history. Past beers “The Fantastic Pour” and “Caped Brewsader” were more wheat-y and light beers, but this time around they went a bit more bold and wasn’t afraid to let the hops come out to play. Pretty good beer overall.
After lunch, we decided to hit up the exhibit floor and check out some of this year’s very cool treats such as Weta Workshop’s display/store and some Batmobiles. I didn’t really get to check out artist alley too much today due to being pressed for time, but I did manage to meet Spider-man artist Humberto Ramos and get a fun Star Wars photoshoot in before having to attend our next planned panel. Tomorrow, I should have more exploring time and will probably scope out Artist Alley a bit more although most of last year’s guests were creators and writers that I liked more than this year’s line-up.
Our afternoon panels began with Jeremy Bulloch, whom is probably best known for playing Boba Fett from Star Wars. Bulloch was very much into creating improv scenes on stage with panel attendees while discussing acting methods. He did share a funny story of “mucking up a line” in Empire Strikes back by saying “Put Captain Cargo in the Solo Hold”, which embarrassed him due to only having 6 lines in the entire series of film (one being a scream) and messing the line up. He also said that landing the role of Boba Fett was attributed to him simply fitting into the suit and discussed how he would annoy the actor portraying Greedo with their vastly different makeup sessions (Greedo actor endured hours of makeup, while Bulloch simply had to just put on a helmet).
We decided to skip our planned Walter Koenig panel (Chekov from Star Trek) in order to try to score a free swag bag at the Denver Comic Con Opening Ceremonies Panel. However, I did catch a fleeting glimpse of Koenig when leaving the exhibit floor and got to see a bit of the televised panel. Unfortunately, the line was already enormous for the Opening Ceremonies and we missed out on scoring a bag. We decided 10 minutes into the panel that we would probably enjoy the upcoming Levar Burton Reading Rainbow Panel more and left to get in line.
Levar Burton’s Reading Rainbow panel found us in quite possibly our best seats for this year’s con thus far. The panel began with Burton coming to stage appropriately leading the crowd into singing the theme song to “Reading Rainbow” and commenting on some books that panel attendees were holding up. He did crack a Star Trek joke when trying to make out a title of a book saying “Sorry. My eyesight is bad and I forgot to bring the visor” referring to his iconic character of Geordi La Forge. This panel was probably one of the most humble panels I’ve ever attended as Burton thanked the fans for their recent kickstarter campaign’s success to bring back Reading Rainbow to a new generation of fans. Much of the panel was focused on the new life of Reading Rainbow as an ap to reach out to kids of today’s generation and his love of reading originating from childhood, claiming that if he wasn’t reading a book that his mother, whom was a teacher , would hit him upside the head with one. The panel’s Q&A session was very heartwarming as many attendees, some on the verge of crying, reflected on the TV show’s importance to their childhoods. There were plenty of fun moments as well, such as a Rock, Paper, Scissors game with a questioner and Burton sassing a questioner that was dressed as a Jedi. He ended the panel by discussing some of his favorite books and encouraging the panel attendees to engage in the “Daily 20” this summer where all electronics are turned off to read for a daily 20 minute period and wrapped with his “But you don’t have to take my word for it” catchphrase.
Overall, day one of Denver Comic Con was very fun. I have a hard time picking if I enjoyed Michael Rooker or Levar Burton’s panels the most as both were incredibly fun to be an attendee for. I did see some really cool cosplayers including a giant Lego Batman and Mr Potato Head and I cannot express enough how happy I was to see that the horrendous line issues were resolved this year. Saturday tends to be Denver Comic Con’s biggest day, in which the largest panels are held and the cosplayers are out in full force. Even now as I type this, I fight the urge to participate in the cosplay fun and revive my Nightcrawler costume from 2012, but I usually kill that urge by reminding myself that I would have to shave off my beard, spend an hour ½ on makeup, make my hair blue, and manage the entire day with really itchy paint and 3 fingers per hand. I do think I may go with the traditional and simple Dharma Initiative jumpsuits (from LOST), as they only take a few seconds to put on and it’s a lazy method to participate. Tomorrow looks like it’ll be a fun day starting with a panel by The Oatmeal and ending with a panel by Bruce Campbell. For now, I’m feeling extremely sleep-deprived and need to go to bed. Tomorrow night, I’ll recap day 2 and Sunday I’ll post a gallery of this weekend’s adventures on this blog’s Facebook page.