Here lies the final chapter in the 2016 Year in Review series. You might be asking you self: why are you releasing the last part in October of 2017? Originally, I was going to finish this series in early 2017 but events kept happening and this project was pushed back. Let’s look at it this way, this final review can give you a chance to see what the events were like last year and check out a few of the things that you might have missed. This final chapter talks about my time at the Grand Rapids Comic Con, Youmacon and the Motor City Black Age of Comics. Considering that these events are around the corner at the time of this article’s publishing, I feel it is a timely and relevant release. Enjoy.
Grand Rapids Comic Con
My review of the Grand Rapids Comic Con can be read here.
I have mentioned many times that I was happy to secure a dream interview with voice actor Steve Blum. Once I found out that he was going to be at the GR Comic Con, I was determined to interview him no matter what. When I do research on people, I usually spend 2 to 6 hours depending on the guest. For Steve, I did close to 10 hours. I watched numerous interviews, listen to many podcasts, read pages of interviews, and I watched every video on his youtube channel. Every Blum Room video, he did for Toonami, required my viewing in preparation for this interview. I was not about to blow my dream interview opportunity by asking the same generic questions as everyone else. This was all in the hope of landing an interview with the guy. Ever since I watched Cowboy Bebop, on Adult Swim in 2001, I was hooked on that show. It is one of my favorite anime series of all time. I was able to secure his agent info through one of my channels. I reached out to ask for an interview and Steve was game.
Friday the comic con arrived and I was ready to have a good interview. The only catch was the question of how much time would I be allowed. I was hoping for 10 minutes if possible. If I was only granted 3-5 minutes, I would have been bummed but I would have made the best of the situation. I introduced myself to the agent and he told me that I was responsible for securing a private place to conduct the interview. I figured that would have been a challenge considering the comic cons I’ve attended have not provided one to begin with. They generally leave that up to the press to figure out. Putting that task aside, I introduced myself to Steve and he was so chill. Upon asking the question of interview time allotment, Steve told me he would grant me 15 minutes and I was ecstatic. Ample time for a good conversation. But where? I didn’t have access to the sweet room I used during JAFAX at Devos Hall. Fortunately Mark (con-chair) was able to provide a room for me. I was set for the most important interview of my life at that point.
Come Saturday evening as the con was winding down, Steve was set to do the interview. I arrived around 5:30, but had to wait until about 6:15 to do the interview. He took the time to talk to each fan for a few minutes instead of rushing them along for the next person. Personal touches like that help validate a fans support of a celebrity. After the last person in line left, we headed to the room where my stuff was all set up and ready to rock. If I was granted 15 minutes, I wasn’t about to waste a portion of them setting up my equipment. That’s foolish. Two mike checks later and we were off. I was nervous at first because I had been looking forward to meeting this man for a very long time. Meeting the voice behind Spike Spiegel was a very big deal for me. This interview was a good mix of Q&A and conversation. He was surprised (at the beginning) that I did my research. This made everything easier from that point on because he probably figured he wasn’t going to endure the typical generic questions. How often is he asked about R&B influences from his days as a musician? How often does he get to do terrible Harvey Fierstein impressions (twice) with the interviewer? At the end of this interview, I closed with See You Space Cowboy which was the closer for Cowboy Bebop. After I said that, Steve replied with “Bang”, which was the final word the Spike Spiegel character said in the show. I didn’t ask him to say that, but I was giddy on the inside because I had secretly hoped that he would do that.
I’m extremely proud of this interview. This is the type of interview that I would use to showcase the skills I’ve been acquiring over time. After the interview, he told me that he was impressed with the amount of research that I did. That is a huge validation of the time and effort that I spend to create engaging interviews. After he left and I was alone, I yelled out in happiness at what I just accomplished. To have an interview with a person who’s work brought entertainment into my life and it turned out great was more than I dreamed of. If I did nothing else that weekend, I would have walked away happy. Shout out to Mark, Kari and Derek for making this happen. Big thanks to Steve’s handlers for keeping people out during our interview. I appreciate you folks.
Also to have my interview featured on Steve Blum’s site still blows my mind. I will be the first to admit that I was secretly hoping that would happen when I submitted it to his site.
I enjoyed having a sit-down meal with Kat, AJ, Noa, Morgan, Michelle, and Alex at Angel Thai on Saturday evening. It was nice getting to know everyone a little more. Thank you all for a memorable evening.
My review of Youmacon can be found here.
I remember being randomly interviewed by this group whose name eludes me. The guy was hitting me with random questions about everything. Since I feel fairly confident in my improv game, I was able to riff back with him. I don’t think he was expecting that. Sadly, I have yet to see this interview anywhere.
I must mention that I managed to score a 160 gb PS3 for $40. The fine folks at Dead State Pavilion were selling off surplus PS3s, Xbox 360s and select flat screen TVs. Since my old 80gb “tank” PS3 was on the fritz, their sale announcement over social media was a great coincidence and I WAS STOKED. On Sunday, I picked up a newer slim PS3 with two controllers and a hdmi cable. That’s what I call a super steal of a sale. Huge thanks to Cora, Jenna and the Dead State crew.
Ian Sinclair (Space Dandy) was the person I was looking forward to interviewing the most when I was heading into Youmacon. I noticed that no one brought up comic books in any of the interviews I used for research. I was totally ready to go total comic book geek with him because our love for the medium runs deep. At first, he was engaged during the first part of the interview. However, his enthusiasm spiked when we ventured down the path of comic books. The dude knows his stuff. I was happy with how the conversation turned out.
Jon St. John (Duke Nukem) was the first voice actor to receive two interviews from me. I must also note that they both occurred during the same year as well. I met him earlier in the year, at the Midwest Media Expo. We had a ten minute interview that was quite fun. Since he and his agent enjoyed the MMX interview, I was granted another. This time around our interview was more conversational. Not to say that the last one was terrible (and it wasn’t) but I favor this interview more. It was two dudes shooting the breeze about various subjects. We talked about his days as a radio DJ. I confessed to him that I originally thought about being a radio DJ, until I realized that I would be forced to listen to a ton of bands who sucked day in and day out. There was a random David Lee Roth impression too. I really enjoyed conducting this hilarious interview. Who knows? Jon might be interviewed a third time down the road. If you get the opportunity to meet him, please do because he is one of the nicest individuals you will ever meet.
Originally, I was hoping to interview Todd Haberkorn (Fairy Tale) during Shuto Con. Sadly, I was unable to contact him. It actually worked out for the better because my interview style had evolved since that March. Upon entering the room, I walked up to Todd to thank him for the opportunity. He then stated: “Let’s make a pact. I will give you an interview if you can ask me questions that I haven’t been asked before.” I asked him if the guest relations people had told him about me and he said no. I then stated: “Ok. Here are the questions I won’t be asking you. How did you get into voice acting? Who’s your favorite character? Can you do the voice for me? What advice would you give to aspiring voice actors?” After I dropped those lines, his face lit up with happiness and we were off to do an interview. We talked about the short film (Green Eyed Clown)
he wrote and directed. We discussed his first album and the upcoming one. How often does he get to talk about Jiminy Glick in any of the numerous panels and interviews he’s been a part of? All in all, I was very happy with the interview. Doing your research and trying to ask original questions tends to pay off while doing an interview. As I was interviewing Todd, I paused the interview to allow Yuri Lowenthal into the press room. As Yuri was getting settled in, Todd gave me the nicest compliment of stating that I was the best interview of 2016. Totally unexpected and it set me up for success with my interview with Yuri. Thank you, Todd. Don’t believe me? Here’s the proof. My only complaint with the video was with how bored I looked during the spliced in footage. I can’t knock myself too much since that was the first time I have ever attempted that. After Youmacon, I made it a point to send a Thank You tweet out to him and he responded back.
The interview with Yuri Lowenthal (Naruto) was my last interview of 2016 and a great one to wrap up my year of interviews. A little background story first, if I may. To be honest, Yuri was not on my original list of interviews for Youmacon. He was suggested to me by a few people and he piqued my interest. I was going to research for my primary list and work him in if I had some time before the event. Thankfully, one of my original choices cancelled their appearance at Youmacon. I won’t say who, but I was really grateful that I didn’t do an interview with them because I was bored out of my mind doing research on them. I don’t feel that it would have been an interesting interview for me to conduct. Now, back to the present. Once I started doing research on Yuri, I found quite a few things of interest to talk to him about. I requested to do an interview with him and was granted the opportunity through my press channel. The only catch, Yuri requested 15 minutes max. Every other guest, I was allowed a half hour for interview time. I can do a lot with 15 minutes but the more time I have to relax and converse, the better the interview. I believe in making the best of the opportunities presented to you.
As mentioned in the JAFAX portion of the Summer Year in Review article, my interview with Yuri is tied (with Tyson Rinehart) for my favorite interview of 2016 and all time……so far. Before the interview, I offered to show my questions to him and he turned that down because he wanted to be surprised. I told him that I would respect his 15 minute request. He told me that we could go for 20 minutes max. More time is what I was secretly hoping for. We clicked right from the beginning and killed it. I felt completely relaxed and confident. Watching the smile on guest’s faces as I blow their mind with my research makes the hours of research worth it. I’ve never had a guest become a little disappointed when I ran out questions until now. We were so involved in this fun conversation that the interview ran for 31 minutes. I am very proud of this interview. I would gladly use it as an example of the type of interview I can conduct if people give me the time and opportunity. I hope to run into him again down the road. Awesome dude.
That interview marked a turn in my ever evolving interview style. I let a natural conversation take place. Sure, I had questions ready, but I was willing to abandon them for the sake of a casual conversation. Ever since that interview, my confidence in my ability to put on a good interview has risen. I want all of my interviews to have that same feeling to them. I’ve also been making an effort to relax more to avoid being awkward. Compared to my earlier interviews during the year, I did notice an awkwardness in interviews that I had thought I did fine in. I want to be better than that and strive to put on awesome interviews.
A huge thanks goes out to the guest relations and press crew from Youmacon. I must be doing something well since they took a liking to me. I was fortunate enough to have one on one interviews with my guests of choice. I am by no means bragging or stating that I am somehow better than everyone else. I was not expecting the awesome opportunities presented to me. I ran with them and did the best that I could.
Lesson That I Learned
I experimented with splitting my videos into parts instead of one long interview. I figured they would be easier to consume. However the first part would receive the most views, while the second didn’t do as well. I decided to edit my interviews as one single video from this point. My interviews with voice actors are designed to be listened to in the background (like a podcast) while you are working on stuff.
I went through a personal crisis that will forever live in infamy as Splittergate 2016. Before I detail about the Friday night incident, a little preface, if I may. Having a press badge grants more access than the average attendee plus a few perks. One of the perks is being on stage (with the DJ’s permission) to take picks of the crowd at the dance. I netted a few crowd shots that were nice in 2015. Why not go for the same effect for 2016? There is about a 3 to 4ft height difference from the floor to the stage. You might ask yourself “Why didn’t he take the steps?” Well, the stairs were backstage behind the curtain separating the audience. I didn’t want to head to head backstage since the height of the stage didn’t present an obstacle for me.
As I hopped onto the stage amongst the lights, music and hype energy, it happened. Somehow under the pulsating rhythms, I heard an audible rip. Are you familiar with the comical sound effect from cartoons? That’s a real thing. I felt a rush of ventilation in the crotch of my pants where there was none before. Thankfully, no one witnessed the splitting of my pantaloons. I took a few shots on stage and exited stage right. Considering it was a dance environment in a dark room, I wasn’t too worried about anyone seeing the hole in my pants. After another hour or so of shooting, I returned to my hotel room to retire for the night.
Upon awakening, I surveyed the damage to see how bad things were. The gaping hole was big enough for my whole arm to fit through to the shoulder with room to spare. Suffice to say, I was panicking since I had interviews to conduct, pictures to take and plenty of con events to experience and it was only Saturday morning. I’ve worked to establish a reliable, consistent and professional reputation amongst the Michigan geek community. All of that would’ve been flushed down the toilet in a heartbeat if I would have attempted to take photos of people while my crotch was exposed. I can’t and will not be that creepy photographer type that ruins the convention experience. Could you imagine if I would have kneeled down to take shot? If this pants explosion would’ve happened in Grand Rapids, there were numerous stores to choose from to save myself the embarrassment. However in downtown Detroit, I had nothing. “ Well Joe, how come you didn’t bring another pair of pants?” Well, imaginary voice in my head, I somehow forgot to pack another pair. Where was I going to get another pair of pants?
Over the course of a year and half, I’ve made numerous friends from all over the state………through Facebook. I was severely lacking phone numbers to reach to any of these friends. A good portion of my Detroit friends were already present at Youmacon, and I had no way to reach them besides Facebook messenger. We all know how reliable that is when you are in an emergency. As I cycled through my phone contacts, I stumbled upon the only person that I was lucky enough to have their phone number. That person was Jen L, of Nerdnite fame. I’ve only met her once in person at the Motor City Comic Con earlier in the year. I dialed her number, expecting the attempt to be in vain. She answered and I explained my desperate crisis. Thankfully, she had nothing going on that day. I was ready to grovel for a pair of pants, if need be. She went out to a Meijer and delivered the correct size of cargo pants that I wanted within 45 minutes. The total came out to $24. I gave her a 50 and told her to keep the change. You help me out in my time of need and I will give back twice fold. Jen was my miraculous savior in my time of need. Being the extremely cool person that she is, she even gave me a ride from my hotel to Cobo Hall to save me some time. After I hugged her goodbye, I headed inside to ditch the “holy” pants with about half an hour to spare before my first interview of the day.
Jen, I cannot thank you enough for saving me from my predicament. I am really glad that we are friends. The fact that you went out of your way to help someone you’ve only met once in person, means a lot to me. You are a wonderful person. I look forward to crossing paths again. Stay awesome.
Lessons That I Learned
Remember to bring a backup pair of pants, for situations like this, when you go to cons for more than one day. Save yourself from your own personal Splittergate scenario. Its always good to be prepared for the unexpected. Also, be sure to secure your People Mover Pass in a secure place. Somehow, being the genius that I am, I managed to lose the pass on the first day. Thus, warranting a purchase of another one was in store for me.
The one thing I regret about my time at Youmacon was that I did not allot enough time to reading the schedule and mapping out events of interest prior to attending the convention. I missed out on so much because I was trying to be everywhere at once. This is a problem that I plan on rectifying in the future. Having an itinerary will help flesh out a review with all of things that I experienced. Youmacon was a great way to experience a big event at the end of the year as a sendoff.
A special thanks goes out to Michelle and Will for giving me a place to stay during that busy weekend. Bonus points to Michelle for the ride to and from Detroit. I would like to thank Morgan, V, El Jones, Echo, Barb, the guest relations crew, Erin S, and the JAFAX crew for their kindness and hospitality throughout the weekend.
Motor City Black Age of Comics
The Motor City Black Age of Comics (MCBAC) was my last event for the year. It was a wonderful journey throughout 2016 and the MCBAC would conclude my convention coverage. This convention focused on black artists, writers and creators in the comic industry. MCBAC was located on Wayne State University. While I’ve heard about this event, I never had the chance to attend due to scheduling conflicts. Thankfully, my schedule allowed me to attend in 2016. The event was the size of four conference type classrooms. The main room consisted of three rooms joined together, while a dividing wall separated the fourth room. The main room served as the dealer’s room and artist alley, while the remaining area served as room for events such as screenings and panels. In the hallway leading to the main room, extra vendors and artists lined the walls.
Thanks to the Motor City Black Age of Comics, I was able to learn more about comic book characters and comics that I would not normally see on the racks at the local comic shop. While characters like Black Panther, Cyborg and Blade are known in the mainstream comics, characters such as Brotherman and Dreadlocks do not seem to be easily found in comic book stores across the world. Brotherman, by Dawud Anyabwile, has been out for 27 years and I was not aware of its existence until I attended the MCBAC. Fun Fact Time: I was curious to see what a copy of Brotherman went for. A used copy of volume 1 goes for $373 on Amazon. Thankfully, the creator offers the comic volumes at the much lower price of $19.99 brand new. Shining Otaku Comics offered their brand of manga which was heavily influenced by Eastern art. Exploring new comics (at least new to me) is a fun time. The MCBAC provided me with plenty of opportunities to do so.
I met many talented artists and vendors that I would love to see at more shows. I was blown away by the artwork of Ashley A. Woods. I think it’s awesome that she is a gamer due to sketches of Bayonetta, Street Fighter and Darkstalkers found in her Fluid Sketchbook. Sherrie Savage (of Naturally Illustrated) offered coloring books that combined her love of natural beauty, natural hair, a natural lifestyle and 80s/90s graffiti art. Her coloring pillows were quite cool too. Juice Studios sold custom skateboard decks with comic book art blended into the board and wood burned art too. These three were a fine example of the numerous talented artists and creative vendors found at the Motor City Black Age of Comics.
This event marks the first time I purchased the most comics in one setting. I purchased both volumes of “Watson and Holmes”. This series reimagines Sherlock Holmes and John Watson as two African Americans in Harlem. Sadly, this Eisner nominated series only lasted for two volumes. Comics journeyman, Arvell Jones introduced me to the wonderful World War II comic, The Specialists. In the first volume, he penciled a spin-off chapter. A young man name Chris sold me his creator owned comic, Clarity Girl. This artist is on his way. Instead of naming every single book that I purchased, let’s just say that I left with a treasure trove of reading material.
In the events room, a documentary called White Scripts and Black Supermen: Black Masculinities in Comic Books was screening. This fascinating documentary was about the history of black male comic book super heroes. From what I viewed, it was an interesting and eye opening experience into the history of black representation in the comic book world. During the 60s and 70s, black superheroes were not necessarily portrayed in the best light. Thankfully, things have been changing for the better. I hope to fully watch this documentary eventually.
Throughout the whole day, the convention had a house DJ. Hip Hop, R&B and Soul music danced throughout the event. Outside of Fantasticon earlier in the year, I’ve never attended a comic con with music playing throughout the day. El Pavo Joe Barrett’s choice of music gave this comic con its own flavor and vibe. I was not expecting music but it was a very welcome choice. It’s not often that I randomly witness attendees and artists nodding their heads to the beat of the music. I feel it would be nice for more events to include more music. Speaking of music, during the event, two mini concerts occurred. Tha Brown Bomber and Kiddo tha Blender rapped to the audience. Comic artist and rapper, Kamron Reynolds (of Kam Komics) donned the mask of Kool Ade Kam to spit some rhymes to the audience.
I had two points of contention with the Motor City Black Age of Comics. Parking was a bit troublesome to get to on the Wayne State campus. My GPS device would only get me so far. I spent about 15 minutes navigating the campus to find close and adequate parking. Once I located the garage and paid for entrance, I was finally able to park. What would look like an easy route to the parking garage, would end up being a one way street opposite of where I needed to go. Upon leaving the garage and heading towards the campus, I encountered the second point of contention. There were no signs pointing to where the event was being held on campus. Sure, it was held in the Student Center. However, there were no signs to point me to the building. After asking a few students where the building was, I was finally able to find the convention. Upon entering the main door, there was a big sign pointing me upstairs to where the event were held. A few more signs outside of the building would help locating the event easier in the future.
I would love to see the date for this convention changed from November to a month with higher temperatures than cold and chilly. I understand that the event is probably held in November due to what’s available at the college. However, I feel if it was held in the warm summery months, it would help in boosting the attendance of this intimate sized event. I realize that there would be more competition from other events, but more people seem likely to be out and about when it is warm outside.
All in all, I enjoyed my time at the Motor City Black Age of Comics. I would love to see this event grow. This convention had a great vibe. I certainly plan on attending again down the road. If you are interested in learning more about black artists, writers and creators in the comics industry, please check out this event.
2016 was a great ride. I experienced more ups than downs during this awesome year. Experience points were gained, friendships were formed and lessons were learned throughout the year. Thanks for reading my monolith of a year in review series. I’m glad that I saw this series to the very end. I learned a lot about myself and it was fun revisiting my many adventures. I look forward to what awaits me in the years to come.