These Year in Reviews are not, what I call, official “reviews”. Like last year, they will be a series of musings, learned lessons and stories of what I experienced through out the year. Of course, reviews are featured but they are blended in with everything. The theme of FIRSTS sum up the beginning, middle and end of my year, as you will see. Enjoy my year of 2016 in the Michigan Geek Scene.
When May arrives, winter is nothing but an afterthought. No snow or ice in sight. The cold weather is gone (for the most part since it is Michigan after all.) Con season is in it’s stride. What events did the fifth month of the year bring me? Let’s find out.
Superheroes Vs Villains Dance Party
The Pyramid Scheme hosts costumed themed dance parties throughout the year. Every time I went, I had a fun evening. Usually, they are packed with people dancing the night away. Sadly, this time around, that was not the case. I believe the attendance suffered due to scheduling conflicts with college. It might have been an exams week by chance. Regardless, the attendance was very low. I stuck around for about two hours and went home. Dance parties feel like there is something missing when there are only a handful of people on the floor.
Motor City Comic Con
In 2015, I was only able to attend the Motor City Comic Con for one day. Thankfully, Saturday’s are basically the marquee day of any event. My visit during that Saturday was enough to elicit a little jealousy into my being. How could I not be envious of those who were able to attend the biggest comic con in Michigan for three days? I made it a point to experience this convention for all three days this year.
The Motor City Comic Con suffered from a few of the common issues that large events tend to have. Long lines for admission, to meet a guest, for food, and for the bath room. To circumvent the bathroom line issue, all you had to do was walk out of the main convention room. If you sought out the bathrooms outside of the convention room, you would find there were non-existent lines. The food at the Suburban Collection Showplace was vastly overpriced. The vending machines inside the main convention room were unplugged and moved away from the outlet. Essentially, you were forced to buy food at the convention. I can’t blame that decision on the convention itself since the Showplace controls that.
If you wanted an autograph or a photo with a media guest, you better bring your wallet because it was going to cost you. Autographs or photos ranged from $20 to $160 depending on the guest. A photo and autograph combo package with the 4 Horsemen (of wrestling fame) would cost $289 and that did not include the price of admission to the show. From what I understand, the guests set their prices as a way to compensate for an appearance fee at a show.
Cosplay was great as always. Wonder Woman was everywhere. Surprisingly, there was not an armada of Deadpool cosplayers throughout the weekend. Considering that the movie was out and the DVD was being released that weekend, the Deadpool turnout was tame. The Serpentor costume by, the always talented, JFK Costumes, came with the air chariot. I was pleased to run into Indiana Jones and Henry Jones Sr, complete with the Holy Grail. I’m glad that I ran into the obscure Dr. McNinja cosplayer.
The dealer’s room and artist alley was huge. It could easily take twenty minutes to walk a full circle around the convention room. I have not encountered that many vendors and artists at other comic cons. While impressive in scope, the layout of the dealer’s room and artist alley was uneven depending on where you were located. The high capacity crowd limited movement at times. Bottlenecking happened from time to time depending on the traffic.
It felt like the gaming and anime rooms, while nice additions, were tacked on as an afterthought to the convention itself. The main focus was on the comic and celebrity part of the convention equation. The anime room did have a nice variety of series screening throughout the weekend. There were not enough seats in the anime room which led to people sitting on the floor. When you have Christopher Sabat, who is a well known and popular anime voice actor, as a guest, it is confusing when you underestimate the amount of anime fans who will come to the convention to meet him. More than likely, those same fans would gravitate to the anime room. The game room was small with 6 tv displays and a few nintendo consoles. I must admit that the cushioned couches were quite comfortable.
Depending on what panel was going, there were not enough seats available. While waiting for the Daredevil panel with Elden Henson and Jon Berenthal, people were lined up against the wall, sitting on the floor off to the sides and in the back. It seemed like there was roughly 75 to 100 people without seats. More seats would be a welcome addition.
2016 took away a lot of people and this convention was not immune to it. Former pro wrestler Joanie “Chyna” Laurer passed away before her appearance at the convention. Influential comic artist (and an awesome one at that) Darwyn Cooke cancelled his appearance two weeks before the convention. He passed away from cancer during the convention weekend. A noticeable pall was cast over the comic artists after that announcement. I never met the man but I was bummed out myself. In retrospect, I would like to offer my condolences to the families of both individuals. May they rest in peace.
The Saturday night afterparty was split into two sections. In the main ballroom, live music was featured by a classic rock cover band called Tenth Street Tuesday. A few people were dancing to their music. After their first set, a DJ came on and the people flocked to the dance floor. Then, Tenth Street Tuesday came back for another set which lead to people leaving the floor in droves. For a finale, the DJ finished out the night. The switching back and forth between the two musical acts seemed like it was disrupting a natural flow. There were far more people dancing when the DJ performed. Tenth Street Tuesday was very talented but they appeared not to be the musical choice for people who wanted modern music to dance to. The other part of the afterparty was located in a bar/restaurant setting where live music was performed by the Sanctuary band. It was more of a laid back setting with a cash bar. I feel that one area should’ve been designated for live music while the other was designated for a DJ with dance music.
I must give props to the person in the T-Rex suit flaying nunchucks to Kung Fu Fighting on the dance floor. Superman was dancing suggestively to Bump N’ Grind. Then, out of nowhere, a dude dressed as the 1940’s Captain America got in on the business too.
Every person I encountered from staff whether volunteers, security or general personnel were quite nice. They were helpful with information whenever I posed a question or assisting me with equipment. This level of professionalism is what I like to encounter when I go to conventions or events. Kudos to the staff.
The interview with the Rogue’s Gallery marked the first time I had villains as guests. Super villains who were serving community service hours while on a public radio station in Midway City. Freakuency and Fugitive Color were on my list of people to interview for a very long time and this interview did not disappoint. It also marked the first time where I interviewed people who stayed in character the entire time. I enjoyed the improv aspect from both of them and it was hard to keep a straight face due to how much fun I was having. Sadly, I must note that I ended up feeling bad for them because a feud over Vernors was born that day. A feud that they will lose in the long run. They fired the first shot not too long after that interview. One day, Rogues. One day.
Landing a rare interview with Vince Locke was quite the achievement for me. Vince is known as the artist behind all of the Cannibal Corpse album covers. Attempting to contact him proved difficult. I tried a few times and never heard back. Finding new info or interviews on him was difficult as well. I didn’t have a clear idea of what he looked like. The only concrete thing that I knew, was that he lived in Grand Rapids. That’s it. I did the best research that I could in hopes of an interview with the man at the Motor City Comic Con. I strolled by the Caliber Comics booth to find him and he was not there. It turns out that I had barely missed him by a few moments. After I came back later, Randy (of Flint Comix) introduced me to the tall gentleman. Who knew that behind some of the sickest and grotesque album covers was a quiet and shy man? Even though he’s created all of the album covers for one of the most renowned death metal bands in the world, he doesn’t listen to death metal that often. To be honest, I was rather nervous about meeting him and asking for an interview. I was ready for rejection but he said yes, thankfully. While doing research, it was interesting to learn of the other projects he was involved in, such as a few pieces of art for the Aqua Teen Hunger Force show. I was pleased to learn that he was a Nine Inch Nails fan. I figured we could go back and forth about that awesome band. During the interview, his answers were short and to the point. It was not as conversational as I hoped for but it was not terrible by any means. After the interview, Vince admitted that he was nervous and shaking throughout the whole thing. I felt bad because I don’t want people to feel that way. Nonetheless, I was lucky to have the opportunity to interview the man. Vince is a cool guy, in my book, and I say hi to him when I run into him at events.
My interview with Christopher Sabat was very fun. Chris is known for his roles as Vegeta and Piccolo from Dragon Ball Z and numerous characters in the realm of voice acting. He was the first voice actor to attempt my usual greeting, to the audience at home, at the beginning of my interviews. Except, he was doing it at the exact same time that I was doing it. He also tried to put me on the spot for a surprise engagement to my girlfriend. My hilarious response was not what he expected. Plus, he snuck in a 9000 reference. James Marsters ,of Buffy the Vampire Slayer fame, had a brief cameo in the interview as well. I hope to interview Chris again, down the road.
I was the only person from free press that was able to secure an interview with Elden Henson. Elden is known for his role in Mighty Ducks, the Mockingjay movies and the Netfilx Daredevil series (Foggy Nelson). I managed to run into him before the show on Saturday. I told him that I thought it was cool that he was into the band, Electric Wizard. He introduced himself to me and we talked for less than a minute. I asked if he was granting any interviews and he told me he wasn’t opposed to it. I told him that we would talk about music since he was really into it. The fruits of my research had ripened.
During the day, I encountered numerous obstacles on the way to the interview with him. Press were not allowed to approach the media guests about interviews without going through a media agency first. I was told by the media agency that his management was only granting select interviews and to try again later twice. When five people were in Elden’s autograph line, I contacted the media agency about doing an interview since that seemed like my best opportunity. At first, I was told the same thing but I urged Frank, from the agency, to give it a shot since the line was low. I mentioned that if he brought up Electric Wizard, Elden would likely grant the interview. Frank approached the guest handler who then whispered to Elden. Elden looked up, saw me and gave me the thumbs up. Third time was the charm. After 40 minutes, he stopped the line to give me a quick interview. We had a decent interview given the 6 minute time frame. While it was a cool opportunity, I wish I had more time with it but I made the best use of my time. I stopped by his booth on Sunday to tell him thanks. We talked for about 3 minutes and he told me that if we crossed paths, he would like to continue the conversation on music. Elden was a cool down to earth dude.
The moral of this story was I succeeded because of a few reasons. I did my research to find something he was interested in but never gets to talk about. That is the better alternative compared to the same thing over and over again. We had a common interest in doom metal and I wanted to talk about it with him. I was persistent with the agency despite the numerous “rejections” that I received. Why settle for a no when he was interested? Free press have a difficult road to interviews with “celebrities” and I usually don’t pursue them. Finally, I treated Elden like a regular human instead of a superstar. I didn’t place him on a pedestal and fan boy over him. I believe that guests appreciate that. Sure, I was lucky but I made my interview request appealing enough to land one.
I would like to thank Frank from the agency for helping me attain all three of my interviews with the media guests. I appreciated his help and effort. Stay cool, my friend. Stay awesome.
Level Up Time
I debuted my business card to the masses. For over a year, I would be asked repeatedly if I had a business card. I will admit that I felt stupid when I had nothing to show for it. Granted, they are either thrown away, lost or forgotten by the majority of people you give them to. Business cards are very helpful in advertising yourself for the few that use them. The 1.0 version of my card had a small QRS code to scan, which I have since enlarged on the later versions. I still shake my head when people ask me if I have a Facebook page when it is clearly listed on the back of the card along with my twitter and youtube info.
Granted, I posted a lot of negatives, this is not a terrible convention by any means. If you know what to expect and come prepared, you can make this convention work for you in an enjoyable manner. I would suggest checking this convention out at least once in your life.
Just like last year, I was only able to spend a small amount of time at this event. Unfortunately, I was only able to spend about two hours and then take off for the Cherry Capital Comic Con in Traverse City. The layout for the event changed for this year. It was not focused in one central location. The dealer’s was nice and spacious. The artist alley was not since it was very cramped. I learned about a game called Cards Against Furmanity.
I would go to the convention again to see all of the people. I think furries get a bad rep, which I find unjustified. No deviants lurking around the corner doing unsavory acts to the public. Everyone is hanging out in a friendly and welcoming environment. From what I understand, the convention is leaving Grand Rapids for Holland in 2017. I wonder how the new location will turn out.
Cherry Capital Comic Con
This medium sized convention was held in the Grand Traverse Resort, below the main lobby. I remember the steps on the way down were steep. The convention was composed of four main areas, the outer hallway, the dealer’s room, the panel room and the game room. The dealer’s room became full at times with the high amount of traffic peddling through since this event was well attended. I think the space issue would be alleviated if they expanded the dealers room into the game room which had more space to stretch out. On Sunday, the panel room was turned into kids room where there was face painting, coloring, and target practice with nerf guns. Local company Bricks & Brushes provided legos for the kids to play with.
The Drink and Draw, on Friday, was a nice gathering of artists and guests for socializing. I watched Brian O’Halloran (Dante from Clerks) shoot a game of pool with Michigan artist Jay Jacot. He was a down to earth celebrity. I had great conversations with Terrell Smith (Rapid Fire Comics) and Tyler Sowles. Since I don’t drink or draw, soaking up the atmosphere and good conversations was enough for me.
On Saturday evening, I encountered numerous examples of the moments in life that I live for. I was able to tag along for dinner with a massive group of artists. I remember catching a ride with Rich Bloom and Corinne Roberts (both are extremely talented artists) to dinner. We talked at length about what anime series that we liked. I talked with Jason Jimenez about our mutual love of the Berserk manga series. Afterward, we ventured out for ice cream in the evening. I witnessed one of the most beautiful sunsets (ever) take place over a huge body of water. I recall telling Travis McIntire how happy I was that I took the chance to go on this journey that MIGeekScene has opened up for me. I would have never met so many awesome people or been all over the state if I would have never followed this all consuming driving force of chasing my dream of being a respected geek journalist. Sappy as it may sound, I am very thankful for each positive experience that comes my way.
The karaoke after party was a good time Saturday night. The reigning “champs” of karaoke in the convention circuit go by the names of Dirk Manning and Dan Dougherty. Danzig’s “Mother” and Taylor Swift’s “Shake It Off” were their weapons of choice. They managed (barely) to hold onto the title of karaoke champs despite Brian O’Halloran doing a good cover of “Creep” by Radiohead. Some would argue that Brian was robbed. Comfort Love did a killer cover of “Blitzkrieg Bop” by the Ramones. I couldn’t help myself while shouting out “Hey Ho. Let’s Go”. Also, the co-creator of Ren and Stimpy, Bob Camp performed The Royal Canadian Kilted Yaksmen Anthem. The closing notes of Bon Jovi’s “You Give Love a Bad Name” was my cue to exit for the night.
I looked forward to doing an interview with Jeremy Bastian, of the Cursed Pirate Girl fame. If you are not familiar, look him up. His artwork is insanely detailed. The part that I enjoyed, the most, was when we got super nerdy about fighting games. He was throwing out some nice titles besides Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat. The dude knew his stuff. I was not expecting him to name drop King of Fighters and Fatal Fury. Mad respect.
Level Up Time (I think)
While I was editing the Jeremy Bastian interview, I noticed my heavy breathing into the microphone while he was talking. From that point on, I’ve been scrubbing the audio of any breathing, clicks and other sounds. It takes a long time to do this process. Often longer than the whole video editing process. I’m debating on continuing this practice because proper mike placement can reduce the breathing greatly.
On Sunday morning, quite a few people walked out to find that their vehicle was vandalized. During Saturday night into Sunday, an individual did over ten thousand dollars worth of damage to 30 vehicles with a golf club. Three of my artist friends had a window smashed. He destroyed all the windows of the expensive car parked next to me. The 19 year old genius behind off all of this was caught. He didn’t even bother to leave the scene of the crime because it turns out he was staying at the resort with his family. I learned that he was sentenced for 12 months and will be on probation for 60 months.
His actions are not indicative of the Cherry Capital Comic Con or the comic con communities that I have come to know. The blame is all on him. However, his actions made me question the security of the resort. While walking in the parking lot to survey the damage, I did not see a single security camera. Where was the security patrolling the parking lot? For an establishment with a ritzy reputation, I find it hard to believe that neither were available. How could this have happened? I bet things changed from that point forward after he tarnished the image of the resort. I will note that the hotel did take care of cleaning out the vehicles and paying for a professional service to dress the window for people to travel. One individual told me that the resort moved cars in to covered areas to prevent weather damage from possible rain while working on them.
A huge thanks goes out to the Source Point Press crew of Travis, Rich, Jason and Greg for letting me crash with them over the weekend. I was given a keycard in which I proceeded to lose immediately. I am not kidding since I have no idea where that card disappeared to.
Thanks to Travis, I have an appreciation of the Step Brothers movie. Catalina Wine Mixer.
The season of Summer is the next stop on the ride through my year in 2016. The month of June is first on the list with it’s own entry. I cover my time at the Cedar Springs’ Renaissance Faire, the Mid Michigan Renaissance Festival and my beloved JAFAX. Come back and find out what happened in this Year in Review series.