Tag Archives: Comic Books

ConnectiCon 2017 Recap

BTCTCON2017Title

Have you missed me? Well, I’m back after a packed three-day weekend. It was this year’s ConnectiCon, one of the higher profile conventions in my neck of the woods. For those who don’t know, it’s a three-day convention that aspires to be as varied as possible. The show makes an attempt to have representation from comics, anime’, film, television, books, online personalities, and gaming.

Last year’s show was a tough act to follow, as it had many more recognizable names to the casual observer. But there were plenty of good, and even great things for visitors to look forward to this year. Operationally, I can only speak as a paying visitor, but I saw improvements in terms of managing lines, addressing concerns, and trying to make things a bit easier to navigate. Getting my weekend pass was pretty seamless. The pre-registration line was easier to find. Wait times went down, and it looked like even though paying at the door was more complicated, I didn’t really see any outbursts from customers about it.

 

BTCTCON2017OC

Line management to get into panels was easier to follow. There were a couple of panels that probably should have been scheduled in bigger rooms though, as a number of the guests they had, were pretty big draws. If you didn’t find out about some of them early enough, you weren’t getting in. Among them being Sylvester McCoy (Dr. Who), Jeremy Shada (Adventure Time), Courtenay Taylor (Regular Show), the cast of The Nostalgia Critic, Andre Meadows (Black Nerd Comedy), and Team Four Star (Dragon Ball Z Abridged). That being said, there were still plenty of great panels in addition to these, hosted by some talent some may not have been aware of.

Friday

My first day went pretty swimmingly. After waiting in a long, but quick-moving line, I had my badge, and began walking the floor. I started out with the Opening Ceremony panel, where there were a few segments covering the general behavioral rules, reminders to stay hydrated in the heat, and a fun game of Mad Libs. They also introduced Bruce Nesmith of Bethesda, who was doing a game industry panel. Unfortunately it was one of many panels I didn’t get into. I also missed the Andre Meadows panel that day due to panel overlap.  As I mentioned earlier, while there may not have been as many big names this year, there were still a ton of great panels. I managed to get into the Art The Hypnotist panel this year. It was a very interesting one. Hypnotism isn’t something I’m very knowledgeable about. Up until this panel, I’d only had a bare-bones, stereotypical movie understanding of what exactly it entails. I’m not a sudden expert on it now either. But I did get a bit of entertainment, and education out of it.

BTCTCON2017MadLibs

Art started out by explaining the process. Everyone would be tired out, and put into a sleepy state through a combination of soft music, and meditation. Then he would go around the room, find people who were in a deeper sleep state, and ask them if they were comfortable going on stage. Eventually, when there were enough volunteers the show began. Over the course of a couple of hours, Art would demonstrate that he could make them think they didn’t know the number 9, which perplexed the volunteers. There was also a point in which three volunteers were asked to go on stage in front of the hypnotized, and the subjects were made more or less attractive using the words Iced Tea, and Beer.  There were a bunch of other tricks too. But the great thing here, is that by the end all of the volunteers would remember everything, and everyone in the room was in on it. So it was funny, and exciting. But it also didn’t leave anybody feeling embarrassed or mortified. If he ever does a show near you, check it out. It’s something different from the norm. At least it was for me. My buddy Dan from The Best Spuds was also there, and he loved every minute of it.

BTCTCON2017Hypnotist

I spent a good amount of time after that panel checking out the gaming section, and this was greatly expanded this year. Not only were there even more arcade games than last year, they even added some pinball machines to the mix. So I spent a few times over the weekend playing the Simpson’s Pinball Party Machine, Double Dragon, and Street Fighter II. They also had a pretty cool Gundam themed fighting game I’d never seen before. So that was pretty awesome. Of course I was surprised, and overjoyed to see one of the many PS4’s they had set up was running Rogue Stormers. If you still haven’t played this one yet, you really should.

BTCTCON2017BFG

This year the convention also coincided with Hartford Riverfest  So the Best Spuds, and I checked out some of the food trucks in attendance. We found one called Chompers, that served bacon cheeseburgers, and chicken parmesan in deep-fried ball form. They’re deceptive in that the size of them makes you think one order isn’t going to be enough. One order really is. But I’m still glad I bought one of each kind. They were awesome.

Saturday

On Saturday, I managed to get into a couple of panels. The first being the Nostalgia Critic Q&A panel. Doug Walker has said that ConnectiCon is one of his favorite conventions to attend, and so this year he returned along with his Father Barney, Brother Rob, Tamara Chambers, Jim Jarosz, and Malcom Ray. But there was also a surprise appearance from Andre Meadows who would arrive before Malcom arrived, as Malcom was feeling a little under the weather. As in previous years, fans got to ask questions to the cast about the show, which is in its tenth year. As well as any other questions. There were some you’d expect, and some you wouldn’t. But the best part of the panel was when a nervous child was reassured by a kind Doug who traded places with him. The kid sat at the desk with the other Channel Awesome players, and Doug would sit in the audience while the kid asked everyone his question. Which escapes me as of this writing. But it was a kind moment.

BTCTCON2017NC1

One fan asked the group what their favorite guilty pleasures were, which elicited a number of answers. The first Transformers movie. Moulin Rouge. Watching a child do better at running a panel than Doug Walker. (That was Rob Walker’s answer.) But through it all, the panelists were very kind, and appreciative of the fandom.

BTCTCON2017NC2

After the Nostalgia Critic panel I found a short panel on Hip Hop music. Basically, it was a short history of the genre, and some of its subgenres. But later in the panel it covered some newer subgenres like Nerdcore, as well as some of the experimentation going on in some of the more obscure circles of Hip Hop. Overall it was pretty decent for anybody looking to get more into the genre. Later on I would get into a content creation panel hosted by Mark “Cornshaq” Davis the 3rd. Which was a very insightful look at getting a foothold in making YouTube video content. But the really great takeaway from it, was just how much of the knowledge presented is applicable to most any creative endeavor. How to interact with readers/viewers/etc. properly. How to get the word out, and advertise without coming off as desperate. Digging deep, and having the courage to try new things. Differentiating between genuine criticism, and those who just want to be jerks. Listening to genuine criticism. Differentiation. Links to other resources. The importance of branding. How seemingly small, unimportant details can actually be a great assistance at times. As well as practices to avoid! Obviously, for the purposes of a recap, I can’t go into great length here, but there was a lot of useful information. If you like game content in video form, check out his channel too. It’s pretty good stuff, and he often mentions things you may not be aware of.

BTCTCON2017Cornshaq

After the panel, I got a chance to talk a bit more with Cornshaq, and the guys over at Nerdfit Network. We just had fun talking conventions, pro wrestling, and craft beer for a while. I had a really fun time talking about the events leading into WWE’s Great Balls Of Fire Pay-Per-View. Like the sometimes hilarious over-the-top levels of violence between Roman Reigns, and Braun Strowman. Like when Braun tipped an ambulance over with Roman inside. All of whom were very kind, and friendly.  If you haven’t seen any of their material, give them a shot. They were a really swell group of people.

BTCTCON2017Kline

Speaking of swell people, when I was in the dealer area, I met some of the creators from Darby Pop. They were very cool people, and they have some interesting spins on traditional comic book themes. Writer Jeff Kline was even kind enough to sign the Indestructible trade I picked up at their booth. It’s a really cool premise, about a man who is mistakenly identified as a super hero, and is suddenly thrown into a world of celebrity. All the while wondering how he is going to last before everybody learns the truth. I haven’t gotten that far into it yet, but so far I really like what I’ve read. The artwork is pretty slick too. You can find their stuff online if it sounds like something you’d be interested in checking out for yourself.

 

BTCTCON2017CitySteam

Every year that I make it out to ConnectiCon I look forward to meeting up with friends at the City Steam Brewery. They make some of my favorite beer, so when their old Brewmaster retired, his successor had a tall order to fill. Well since then, the current Brewmaster has made a bunch of new recipes. On top of that, the food in their restaurant is as awesome as ever. I tried their new IPAs, Jungle Crush, and Woo! (Which immediately made me remember The Nature Boy Ric Flair.). Both of which were excellent, though the fruity, citrus notes in Woo!, make for one of the best new things I’ve tried recently. I can only hope they start bottling, canning it, and getting distributors to pick it up. It is really good. Also really good was the Macaroni & Cheese Cheeseburger.

Sunday

Sunday was surprising because it was a much shorter day than previous years. For all intents, and purposes the day was over by 3pm even though the Convention Center was open until 6pm. But that being said, I did get some panels squeezed in. The biggest being the Team Four Star all-ages panel. These guys are hilarious online, but even funnier in person. I was unable to get into their 18+ panel the prior Friday,  but this panel was still really good. It was another Question, and Answer format. But there were a lot of varied questions this time around. Not only about their work on the long running Dragon Ball Z Abridged series, but about what is coming next. As the DBZ material begins to run dry, the group is looking to branch out into more original series. They didn’t give much in the way of details. But after getting to ask them if they had considered doing mash-ups or skits like Nicolas Cage as Robocop, Anthony Sardinha immediately did a spot on impersonation. Scott Frerichs also stated they’re steering away from doing much with Dragon Ball Super, as the show is newer, and involves a lot more red tape. Throughout the panel there were many jokes, character voice gags, and friendly banter. A lot of fun.

BTCTCON2017TFS

After that panel, I made it into Jay Little’s panel on making gaming more accessible. Which was pretty insightful. He’s been designing both video games, and table top board games for over 20 years, as well as teaching design in Wisconsin. The experience came through in the panel.The presentation went over how creators could make steps toward making design decisions that would make things more palatable to those with a disability. Or taking balance into consideration to make things deep enough for die-hard fans, but not so difficult to turn off any potential new players. As well as making games more appealing to players of all stripes, and backgrounds. There were also some figures about how much more a game’s development costs rise when a team decides to add these features further along in development, rather than including them in the planning stages. For anybody who follows the creative or business end of video games, it was a really good panel. If he’s slated to give one of these panels at a convention in your area, you should check it out.

BTCTCON2017Accessible

My day closed out with a cool panel about creating pixel art. It was hosted by the same person who gave a tutorial on creating levels for the original DOOM at last year’s ConnectiCon. It was an interesting look at the medium, and the creative benefits of limited color palettes in retro games. Be they the JRPGs that graced the NES, the deep adventures that awaited on the Super NES, and Sega Genesis. Or even the vintage computers like the Commodore 64, or Atari ST. There were even some examples of creating sprite sheets for animation, and layering.

BTCTCON2017Pixel

After the final panel, I took a final run through the dealer’s area, and gaming area. I didn’t get into as many panels as I would have liked this year. But while there weren’t as many celebrities this year, there were still a lot of excellent guests. Steve Lavigne was there. He did a lot of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles stuff for Mirage, and Playmates. He still does. Guy GilChrist was there. He’s done a ton of work for Jim Henson. I didn’t get to meet either of them either. But the point being, there were still a lot of interesting people. Even if meeting creators or celebrities wasn’t your thing, there were other things to do. the RKO Army Shadowcast show came back again. The Cosplay Death match was back, and if you were over 21 you could buy beer while watching it.  The annual AMV contest, and masquerade were back too. And if all else failed, there were the karaoke, and expanded gaming areas to take part in.

BTCTCON2017Pinball

Still, there were a number of workshops, and panels from previous years that didn’t return this year. So for some attendees things might not have been as exciting as in previous years. Hopefully next year retains the pluses of this year’s event, and brings back more of the stuff that this year didn’t seem to have. I was also perplexed that the program book for this year didn’t list any of the panel descriptions or schedules. The book just directed readers to look at the times on their computers, tablets, and phones. The thing is, this isn’t always as convenient as a book, and not everyone has a modern smart phone. Those with a prepaid phone, or without a phone at all, basically had to walk to every room in the building to see what panels were going on. Some of the panel titles weren’t listed on Friday too. Which meant that if you didn’t have your phone, or if it was out of battery power, you couldn’t see what panel was happening.  It was the one big grievance I had with the show this year. Even if it hadn’t affected me, it still would have affected some.  That said, I still had a fun three-day break from every day life. So overall I can’t complain too much. 2017 wasn’t as good as 2016. But it was still worth the annual commute to Hartford.

ConnectiCon 2014 recap

Every year in Hartford, ConnectiCon comes around.

This year was packed with a large amount of guests, activities, and panels. So many in fact, that it was impossible to see everything between the variety, and overlap. Still, I just like to recap my convention experiences. I always have a lot of fun,  getting to go to panels, talking with other fans, and taking in a really great meal.

Some of the highlights for me over the weekend began almost immediately upon arrival. One of the first events I attended was an Epic Rap Battles Of History event. Some of the most notable episodes were played on a screen. After each one of them the hosts of the event, and the fans in attendance debated which characters won. Historical Accuracy, the number of good insults, rhythmic flow, were all factors in picking a winner.

A large number of attendees loved the He-Man costume I roamed about the convention center in. I probably stopped every 15 minutes or so, so that someone could take a snapshot. It was more over than my Dr. Insano cosplay from last year, and that had gone very well. But there were far many more impressive costumes than mine.

One of the best moments was when Alan Oppenheimer’s booth assistant saw me coming down the aisle. Then proceeded to put her head face down on her arm on top of her table, and laugh. But both Mr. Oppenheimer, and his assistant were very kind, hospitable, and friendly.  Of course Masters Of The Universe was a huge part of my childhood.  So meeting the guy who provided the voices of many of its most iconic characters like Man At Arms, and Skeletor was a really awesome moment for me.

I also got to see Alan Oppenheimer, and Noah Hathaway talk about their time working together on The Never Ending Story, and other projects in a panel together. Like many of the various panels I attended it was pretty informative. Noah talked in-depth about how the scene where Artax dies in a swamp was done, taking several shoots on  a giant sound stage. The stage had a lowering platform for the horse to simulate sinking, and was covered in mud. The set designers also brought in the trees, and other props for the scene.

He also talked about leaving, and returning to acting, as well as the fun of nitpicking movies. Alan also talked a lot about voice acting, and the importance of being able to visualize a voice for a character. He also talked about using traditional acting techniques in voice acting. Notably, how much of acting is actually listening to the other performers in any given scene.

Like last year’s ConnectiCon, Doug Walker was in three panels. Doug is best known for his long running Nostalgia Critic web show. The first panel was on Friday, and it focused on how to better debate movies with other people by listening. The set up, was that each of the attendees in line would bring up a movie they loved that the internet at large seemed to hate, or vice versa, and why. The point of the exercise was to show how much you could learn about someone in just hearing why they did or didn’t like a movie. It also made for the argument that you can have a strong opinion about a film, and still remember that that’s ultimately what it is:  An opinion. Often times we can forget that when we talk about pop culture. We may have all of the evidence in the world that a movie is bad, and justify our opinion. But someone else is going to like it anyway, and it doesn’t make them terrible for doing so. In fact, really listening to someone’s opposing point of view may bring out some interesting things you may not have considered.

Doug was also part of a web series roundtable panel with Marble Hornets, internet comedian Uncle Yo, and Signal Crash. This Q&A session was geared more toward production of content. Advice was given to creative people in attendance. What kinds of techniques to use in any given craft. What avenues to take in furthering a goal. But there was also the rather frank theme of doing what one loves because they love to do it above all else. Not only from Doug Walker, but from all of the members of the panel. It was an encouraging panel that acknowledged challenges, acknowledged that there will be rejections, and failures. But it also left a theme of persistence, and sense of pride in whatever our passions are. Whether we ever get to do them professionally or not.

Of course there was also the That Guy With The Glasses panel in which Doug, and Rob Walker fielded questions of all kinds. As in the roundtable, some of the questions were about production, promotion, and professionally furthering one’s creative output into a business. Others were about the content of the TGWTG flagship series. Then there were other moments that came out of left field. One fan brought in a script, and wanted the Walkers to produce. They couldn’t do that, but they did recite the first page in the voices of Chester A. Bum, and Jeff Goldblum. At one point during the panel the Nostalgia Chick herself; Lindsay Ellis showed up with the rest of Chez Apocalypse. Posing as a con goer, Lindsay asked Doug when Nella (of Chez Apocalypse) would be getting top billing in lieu of the Nostalgia Chick. Fans cheered as Lindsay, Nella, and Elisa would celebrate the run in during their exit.

 

Chez Apocalypse were also part of another panel with other internet media creators including members of Steam Funk Studios, and Overclock Remix. Similar to some of the other panels, it was a Q&A session filled with some insight into the guests’ creative processes, how they keep things fresh, and how they handle criticism. There was also a lot of advice given to the audience at hand. The biggest piece being perseverance. Being able to see where one began, and the level of improvement over time as a driver to keep going.

Actor Walter Jones was also at ConnectiCon. Most know him as the Black Ranger from the original Mighty Morphin Power Rangers show. He talked about his life growing up in Detroit, Michigan. His early days working as an entertainer on cruise ships, and of course his time on Power Rangers. He joked about how difficult the helmets were to see out of at times. He described some of the impressive stunts he did during shoots only to have parts lost during edits. He was also asked if he had seen himself as a role model for African-American children by someone in attendance. He told the audience that he saw himself as a role model for all of the children watching the show, and that nobody in the cast risked doing anything to jeopardize that. When asked if he would ever return to Power Rangers, he said it would be an option provided it would be backed by The Writers Guild Of America. The original show wasn’t, and it was the main reason he left after the Mighty Morphin era of the series ended. Another person asked if he still talks with the rest of the cast, and he replied that he did from time to time when schedules line up. He added that he actually knows some of the cast members from other iterations of the series.  It was an intriguing panel even if you weren’t a Power Rangers fan.

I also found my way into a Cosplay Court event during the convention. Hosted by Steam Funk, it played a lot like a small claims court show like The People’s Court. The spin on it was that everyone in the room had to play in their cosplay character. Audience members were chosen for the character on trial, prosecution, defense, and even the witnesses. In one case I was called to the stand as He-Man, and was cross-examined by a cosplayer who was The Mad Hatter from American McGee’s Alice.  In one case a Mario cosplayer was on trial for the extermination of the Koopa race, as well as the Mushroom Kingdom’s citizens. Another case was against Frozen’s Elsa, and of course there were many Disney themed cosplayers involved. Including a pretty good Ursula of The Little Mermaid fame.

Voice actors Maurice La Marche, and Rob Paulsen also had two events. I managed to get into the second one. It was a Pinky & The Brain Q&A, and it was certainly one of the highlights of the convention for me. Nearly the entire session was done in character. Both actors talked about many of the shows they’ve done over the years, in addition to a lot of the cartoons that inspired them. There were some zany moments too. One member of the audience wanted Maurice to determine if a photo of his daughter looked more like him or his ex-wife. There was another point when someone had asked P&B which fan was the worst they had experienced. Maurice pointed into the front of the crowd saying “That guy right there.” to which the crowd erupted in laughter as it was revealed to be Doug Walker. Doug  pretended to fail to be conspicuous while walking to an exit that turned out to be a hall filled with chairs. He then sheepishly walked back to his chair. Later in the panel, the two actors actually listed Doug in a list of some of the most pleasant entertainers they’ve known over the years. A list that included names like Jon Lovitz, and Steven Spielberg.

I was also lucky enough to catch a Voice Actor roundtable near the end of the final day of the convention. Lauren Landa, (Dead or Alive 5, Attack On Titan) Danielle McRae (League Of Legends, Skullgirls), Chris Cason (Dragonball Z), Brittany Lauda (Prince Adventures) were on hand to make for a nice sendoff. All of the guests were laid back, very friendly, and were funny. As with all of the previous panels fans asked the panelists what some of their favorite works were. What some of their dream roles would be, and some of the things voice acting entails.

Speaking of interesting people, I do want to give a shout out to Jenisaur, a blogger who introduced herself to me at the convention. She writes over at  http://www.sub-cultured.com/ about all kinds of things. Comics. Conventions. Novels. You name it. If it sounds interesting to you, check it out.

There were a lot of other panels, and events I missed that I would have loved to have seen. But you can only get out to so many over the three days. I would have loved to have made it out to the Jennifer Hale panel. She has done so many interesting video game, and animated television roles over the years.  I also missed seeing Ellen McLain, the voice of GLaDOS from the Portal series.  Her husband John Patrick Lowrie was there with her, and he’s done voice work for Half-Life 2. Hearing a bit about voice work for Valve would have really been a blast for me, and sadly I had to miss them. TV’s Diedrich Bader was there too. I also had to miss his panel. I did get to see him for a split second roaming the dealer’s room, and shared a very brief “Hello”.  I loved seeing him on The Drew Carey Show back in the day, and his role in Office Space was pretty great. Apparently he has done a myriad of cameos, and voice work that I never knew about. Alas, another interesting panel I missed out on. Others I missed? TeamFourStar was there. There was a Cards Against Humanity panel. There’s just so much to do, and so little time.

But I suppose that’s a testament to just how much there is to do every year. Cosplay death match, creative workshops, heavily discounted movies at the theatre across the street. Video game tournaments. Table top game tournaments. Japanese import rhythm arcade machines. Swag. Obviously the panels. It really is a great time, and I love it when I attend it. I can’t wait to see what next year brings. Plus there’s always City Steam Innocence IPA waiting for me a mere two blocks away.