Monday, April 29, 2013

Calgary Comic Expo 2013

(This has turned out to be really long, so feel free to skip to the steampunk video at the end. :)

Comic Expo last year was a great experience for me, because I'm driven to be early and organized, so we didn't have any problems with the lineups and getting locked out that other people did. I found the crowds overwhelming, and the Sanctuary panel was too short, but otherwise it was pretty good. This year they capped the ticket sales, which was a good plan. The tickets were more expensive, but I figured it was worth it for small crowds.
I went down on Thursday for the early badge exchange - trading in the paper ticket for a wristband and badge. I got there about half an hour before it started, and there were already a ton of people in line. They started moving us in only a little late, and the process went pretty smoothly.
On Friday I had a final in the afternoon, so I only went for about an hour. The doors were to open at noon and I got there about 11:30, I think. The line up was crazy long, the farthest back I've even been from the doors, but I was still in by about 12:20. My goal was to check autograph prices and do a bit of shopping, since Friday is traditionally a slower day and I thought there'd be fewer people. IT WAS SO CROWDED. And I noticed that people who checked in for their wristbands on Friday got shopping bags of stuff that people who checked in early on Thursday didn't get. Blergh...
Anyway, signs for autograph prices weren't up (after the repeated loud demands for them last year, I figured they'd have them for sure this year). I did see Cary Elwes sitting at his table, which made me happy/sad since I was missing the Princess Bride panel for my final. I commissioned a pair of steampunk earrings from a vendor, and then I got out of there and headed for school. I think I did ok on my final...I guess we'll see. :)
Saturday morning we got there around 9, for doors opening at 10. We were a lot closer to the front then I'd been the day before, and we were in the hall by shortly after 10. I tried to check autograph prices again, but there still weren't signs for most tables - just a few handwritten ones. (So frustrating to try to plan around a lack of information! Apparently it's due to the actors' managers setting the prices, which apparently are subject to changes based on how the manager is feeling that day, and apparently there was one person who's rates even changed over the course of the weekend!)
There was a bit of a schmoz with the lines into the Palomino conference rooms where the panels were, and if one more person asked what we were lining up for (the implication being that it was a strange and awkward place to line up, but the doors weren't open yet), I was going to say something rude... :P The first panel we went to was about Lord of the Rings, and there were four guys on it. Craig Parker and Mark Ferguson played elves, and Sir Richard Taylor (who has a pile of Oscars) founded WETA. The other guy's name I can't remember, David something, I think, but he's the head model-builder at WETA. They were very funny, and it was quite entertaining, talking about props and effects for Lord of the Rings and the Hobbit. It was hard to get decent photos because it was a flat room, and despite the very large screen in the corner, they weren't projecting on it, AND the lighting was terrible, and flashes weren't allowed. Anyway, here's the least terrible of the photos... :)

LotR Panel
The very dark-haired, tanned guy on the far right is Craig Parker

This is Craig Parker's elf character. I would NEVER have recognized him.
Next we went to see Lexa Doig, who we know as Dr. Lam from Stargate. She was really funny. I don't know much of anything about the other shows she's (been) on, although Continuum is my to-watch list, but she was very entertaining. She's married to Michael Shanks, and she had some funny stories about the life of a family with both parents working in show business. (Shanks has action figures and she doesn't...)
We caught the end of Stan Lee's panel (he like, invented most of the traditional superheroes) because we wanted to see the one after it, and it was a good choice. He was HILLARIOUS. The man is 90 years old, just had cataract surgery and can hardly see, and he still came. He tells it like it is, and had some really interesting things to say. Someone asked him what he thought about the way comic books seem to be getting darker, and he said something to the effect of the producers of comic books wouldn't make them dark if they didn't think anyone would buy them, which was insightful. :) There's a short article in the local paper about his panel.  

Stan Lee
The reason I wanted to be in the stadium so early was for the next panel, Carrie Fisher. It was the priority things on my list for the day, and I wasn't disappointed. She's SO funny, and seems quite genuine. She talked a lot about how fun it was to strangle Jabba the Hutt, and talked about how she and Harrison Ford stayed out all night with the Rolling Stones, "like people do", the night before they filmed the Cloud City scenes. There's some more about her in this article. I would definitely pay to see her again. 
Carrie Fisher / Princess Leia

Next up was a Supernatural panel. I don't watch Supernatural myself - I think it looks creepy - but the friend I was with is a big fan, and I wanted to stay in the corral area anyway, and it was a good choice. I know one of the actors (Mark Sheppard) from Firefly, and another (Mitch Pileggi) from Stargate Atlantis, and they were also very funny and highly entertaining, talking a lot about the on-set pranks. 
Sheppard, Pileggi, and Misha Collins

Then it was Stargate time. Trevor introduced me to Stargate when I met him, and while I haven't yet managed to see all of the episodes, I really enjoy it. I've also been following Michael Shanks in Saving Hope, which is a great medical drama with a twist. 
Shanks has great facial expressions.
Richard Dean Anderson has changed a LOT. I would not have recognized him.

It was a slightly odd panel, but SO, SO funny. They moved their seats from the middle of the giant stage right up to the edge of it, so they could be closer, which was nice! They took audience questions, and then they'd get silly and go off on tangents. They warned at the start that they might or might not get around to actually answering any of the questions...but I think they did manage to at least sort of answer them all. RDA has gone a bit Shatner - it was hard to tell if he was behaving oddly on purpose, or if he was really odd. He actually seemed to forget Chris Judge's name for a minute! I don't remember most of it now, but there was one fan who mentioned "A-Tapps" in her question, and Shanks took a second to catch up and the he said, "Did you just call Amanda 'A-Tapps'?", which made me laugh. It's the internet fangirl name for her but I didn't realize anyone actually called her that in real life... I wish she'd been there though, that would really have been amazing. Anyway, I heard some people complaining about it, but I was definitely entertained!
We wandered around a bit after that. I got Cary Elwes' autograph, which was exciting. He was really nice and shook our hands, and when I told him I hadn't gotten to go to his panel, he said that he'd have to come back next year.
If I had to choose between the Princess Bride, and Robin Hood: Men in Tights, I'm not sure I could!
Usually when you buy an autograph, if the actor's not too busy, you can ask for a photo and they'll pose for a quick one, but there was a $10 extra fee this year! From the sounds of it, most actors have added that on, which is kind of sad. I mean, I know they need to make a living too, but I assume they get an appearance fee, and then at least $30 per autograph, and at least $30 per professional photo op, and each of those only takes a minute at most, so it just seems like a lot to add one more charge on top of all of that...
We did a bit of shopping - I really wanted a Stargate shirt, but I couldn't find any decent ones. There was one vendor that had a couple, but they were $25, which is a lot for a cheap shirt, and the designs weren't that fun. (I mean, I love Amanda Tapping, but I'm not sure I need her face on my front...) So I'll have to keep an eye out online for a good one. We did find seasons 8 and 9 of Stargate, gently used, for a great price, that made me happy. Wil Wheaton actually walked right passed us, wearing one of those giant Doctor Who scarves, which was fun. The vendor area wasn't too crowed, and I didn't have any of the claustrophobia issues I had last year.
All in all, Saturday was a fantastic and I was really happy about how it went.
We mad a stop at Walmart on the way home because I hadn't found a mini hat or fascinator I liked for my steampunk, so I found a headband I liked, and then I stayed up till all hours finishing steampunking things, which involved gluing gears on things, and then supergluing my fingers together. It took a long time, nail polish remover and isopropyl alcohol to get them unstuck again...
Sunday morning we were there about the same time and about the same place in line, or maybe even a bit closer to the front, but the weather was not nearly as nice, and the wind was so strong it was blowing over the metal gates that were dividing the lines. They let us in a bit late, but the line moved quickly once it started, it wasn't too crowded inside, and the doors to the Palomino rooms were open, so we decided to wander around and check out who was signing autographs. They we got told off by a volunteer/security person for loitering (!!!) and as we headed in a different direction, we passed a group of girls with their programs open, deciding what they wanted to do, and they got told to move along too! I didn't realize at the time, but that was a bit of an omen/recurring theme for the day.
The first panel we went to was Sylvester McCoy who's best known for playing the seventh Doctor, from Doctor Who. He was also Radagast the Brown in the Hobbit, and the fool in an adaptation of King Lear I watched recently. He was so funny, charming, and sweet, I would just keep him.

I mean, look at his hat! And his pinstripes! And his CANE! Dapper!

He talked a bit about Doctor Who, and I know enough that I could follow along, even though I've never watched any (there's 50 years to catch up on, apparently!). He told a story about how a stuntman saved him from a concussion or worse when filming the Hobbit, and he talked a bit about doing Lear with Ian McClellan. He was the only guest we saw this year (or maybe ever?) who came down into the audience in person to walk the mic around and take questions, so I did manage to get some decent pictures, because he was standing right in front of me!
We wandered around a bit, and then went to part of a panel with the guys from WETA again, then ducked out early to catch the end of Peter Dinklage's panel (he was in Narnia) and be in the corral for the start of Nathan Fillion's panel, which was supposed to be the high point of my day. We were about half an hour early, which I thought would be plenty of time, because hadn't encountered any lineup issues to that point. Sadly, the corral was FULL and they weren't letting anyone even through the doors in that general direction. So there were a whole bunch of confused people milling around, not sure what to do, and loud announcements being made to the effect of 'move along', and 'no sitting in the concourse'.

We decided to find a place to sit down and eat and regroup, which seems reasonable, BUT THERE WAS NOWHERE TO SIT! Even the area that has chairs had all the chairs turned to the wall, and if someone came and sat anyway, staff came and chased them away. If anyone sat down against a wall anywhere, someone came and chased them away. There were no benches and no eating area (we found one later in a separate building, but that wasn't very helpful...) so we ended up leaning against a wall to eat. Then we went back to the area where Fillion's panel was, and the door was open, so I got hopeful, but then they closed it again.
I found out later on Twitter that when Fillion's panel started, the corral still had a ton of seats available. I also found out that the supposedly sold-out Expo had released a batch of Sunday tickets partway through the day. I don't know if the ticket sales are related to the supposed capacity issue, but it does seem suspicious.
Anyway, at that point I was almost in tears from sheer frustration and ready to go home, but then we got a message from a friend who was coming and almost at the grounds. So we went outside and finally found a place to sit on a flower bed-wall. And then we got more food. And then I felt a little better, but I was still annoyed. We decided to go back in for one last panel, and as we were walking past a bank of windows, we saw Nathan Fillion go by in a golf cart, so that was as close as we got!
The last panel was Ian McDiarmid, who played the Emperor in Star Wars. He apparently doesn't go to cons very often, but I don't see why. He's got a lovely Scottish accent and was very charming and interacted really well. I quite liked him. He'd never been to Canada before, but said he hopes to come back. The room was mostly empty, which was sad, but it was the last panel of the day. I was also sad about the mostly empty room, because if I'd known it wasn't going to be packed, we could have squeezed in going to Walter Koenig's right before. The problem was that they were in the same room, and they clear the rooms between sessions, so if we'd gone to Walter's, then we would have been at the back of the line for Ian, and would then run the risk of not getting in. It was worth staying for though, and I'm glad I didn't run the risk of not getting in.
The Emperor! Back in the flat room with the bad lighting...
I'm torn on the clearing the room versus not clearing the room debate. Part of the reason why Saturday was so low stress was that we were in the corral for hours, and didn't have to move around or line up or anything, and you're allowed to eat in the corral. If they tried to empty that space between panels it would be a traffic nightmare, with people being kicked out only to line right back up again. But then you have people who camp out all day on one spot, even if they don't care about the panel, potentially taking seats away from people who really want to see that actor, which kind of isn't fair. I think I'd rather have seat camping though, just because it's so much less stressful, and Expo can be stressful enough as it is! 
The no lurking and no taking photos in the autograph area definitely irked me. When you're on a limited budget, there's a lot of fun to be had in just walking around and at least seeing the actors, and maybe taking a few really poor-quality photos from afar, just to say you saw them. The lack of fee signage is frustrating, although I see that that's probably not the Expo's fault. But how hard could it be for publicists to set rates and policies and send them to the Expo ahead of time? Especially when some of these people do a lot of cons.

I think the saddest part of the day was the constant refrain of 'move along, no pictures', and 'move along, you can't sit down'. It just got really old, really fast. It felt like stormtroopers... I guess they were trying to keep more on top of crowd control then they did last year, but it felt like they were being too controlling, and over-compensating. Hopefully next year it'll be a bit more relaxed!

Sunday turned out to be kind of disappointing, although overall the weekend was really enjoyable. There was an article in the paper the other week about how after last year's epic mess the founder of Expo almost didn't have another one, so I'm very thankful, despite the things I didn't like this year, that he continued on with it. When we got home, while we were eating, there was a documentary on about the Queen's mother-in-law, who lived in Nazi-occupied Greece and hid Jews in her home. So that kind of put my problems in perspective!

I only ended up taking one photo of my the end of the day I was just too tired and crabby to care! And there's a few things I'd like to tweak, so I'll do that and then do pictures another day! Now, to study for my last final...

My wrist cuff....
Just glue some gears on it, and call it steampunk, that's the trendy fashion nowadays!


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1 comment:

Shelli said...

Wow! You're right - I was missing out by not attending any of the panels! The WETA one seemed really interesting! Yeah + what is up with Richard Dean Anderson?! Oh lord! I can't believe they charge $10 for a picture at the Comic Expo! I mean, aren't they there for the fans?!