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.
Spring is the season where new life blossoms into the year. Con season really picks up. Warm weather kicks in and everyone is happy to be rid of the cold weather. How did the months of March through early May go? Let’s find out.
A small comic/pop culture con held in Lansing. The setup for the admission line was confusing. Initially, there was one line and then it turned into three lines suddenly. People who were waiting in line in the front ended up waiting longer since other people were cutting ahead into the new lines. Once I was in the con, things improved. The artist alley and dealer room was well done with spacious aisles. The DJ for the room did an excellent job with the music. Note for note, he featured great songs through out the day. I applaud him for his efforts.
This convention would be a good choice for someone attending a comic con for the first time. It would give them a taste of what things are like before they set foot into the massive comic cons such as the Motor City and Grand Rapids Comic Cons. This is not a knock on smaller cons. I tend to enjoy smaller comic cons because it affords the opportunity to talk to artists, vendors and guests without the pressure to move along because of the long lines of people waiting for their turn.
I was interviewed for the first time on camera by Get Geek’d. Big shoutout to Alex and Bryan for inviting me to do it. Having fun while being interviewed is what I strive for. I returned the favor the next day by interviewing Alex (dressed as the Joker) about the group. Alex if you are reading this, I have to say that I managed to get my interview (with you) up first. Ha!
My interview with Travis of Source Point Press was my first favorite interview of the year. I had a list of the standard who, what, where and how questions about this independent comic publishing company. Sure, we went through those type of questions but the real magic happened because the two of us were riffing of each other. I really enjoyed this interview because of how fun of a time I had while conducting it. This interview was a precursor of the engaging conversations I enjoy.
Level Up Time
I learned how to inject photos into videos while editing this interview. I have since incorporated that practice while interviewing artists. It makes sense when the artwork flashes across the screen whilst the artist is talking. Turns out that this helps the audience know what we are talking about. Who’da thunk?
I already wrote a review about Shuto Con. I will admit that I am proud of myself for how much I have grown since my debut in 2015. To be able to go from being an attendee in 2015 to being there in press capacity was quite an accomplishment. Not to pat myself on the back but I have worked hard to build my professional reputation in the Michigan con circuit. All that work is paying off because I am being recognized in a positive manner for all the work that I do.
Lesson That I Learned
At Shuto Con, I had an epiphany on my interviewing skills. The Freezepop interview made me realize that I needed to tweak my interviewing style. Instead of going for nothing but random and obscure questions (proving that I did my research), I need to mix in regular questions to help the audience know who I am interviewing. By no means, am I blaming Freezepop. Those folks were incredibly nice. After reviewing the interview, I felt it came off awkward because my questions seemed weak to me. I prefer my interviews to be conversational and engaging. My interview style has gone through an evolution since the Freezepop interview and I am happier with the results overall.
Christmas Disco-Marie Sagan (of Freezepop) loves terrible B-movies. She checked out my recommendation of Hard Ticket to Hawaii and it “improved her life”. That movie is so bad, it is great. 80s cheesy cinema royalty at it’s finest proving that Andy Sedaris was a true auteur in his field. It’s always fun to find people who enjoy terrible movies.
Macomb-A-Con marked my first time in Macomb. This convention garnered my attention shortly after Shuto Con because it popped up out of nowhere on my newsfeed. Macomb-A-Con was a first year event held on a Friday at Macomb Community College on April Fool’s Day. To say that this campus was HUGE would be an understatement. Multiple buildings everywhere for this one campus alone. I was told there were three more campuses for this community college. That’s insane. How is it that this is not a university due to sheer size? Well, I don’t build the places and I don’t make the rules.
At first, it was perplexing as to why a one day anime con was being held on a Friday during the day. I figured that attendance would’ve been murdered by that decision alone. I was wrong. There was a decent turnout for this event. From what I understand, this event was held on a Friday because the school was testing the waters on an anime convention. The staff managed to throw a convention together about a month and a half before April Fools Day.
There were no lists of what anime series were screening. In one room, they were taking requests for potential shows to screen. Youtube was being utilized instead of DVDS or a streaming account. I found out that this event was restricted to using youtube because Funimation and Crunchyroll did not grant permission at the time of the convention.
I had a positive impression of this event overall. $10 at the door was a fair price for a one day event that was close to 10 hours in length. The laminated badge was a nice touch compared to flimsy badges that I have encountered in the past. The video game room and table top rooms had nice selections. In the artist alley/dealer’s room, music from random anime shows was playing in the background. I wish there was more of that an anime cons because it can add to the immersion.
The cosplay contest was enhanced by a very enthusiastic audience. Case in point, they yelled out the catchphrase for Adventure Time as Finn was walking across the stage. A few unique cosplays that stood out to me was the guy who dressed as mixture of Goofy and Marty McFly. I have never encountered a Goofy Movie/Back to the Future mashup before. Thumbs up to that guy. Cosplayer Christina Juneeee mixed Monokuma (of Danganronpa) with a Sailor Scout outfit from the series Sailor Moon. Everyone did an excellent job.
At the “How to Survive a Con” panel, I met two people who told me that Macomb-A-Con was their first convention ever. I was stoked when one dude admitted he was a closeted geek since his friends were not into anime. He had the look of relief on his face because he was able to be at a convention and have fun in an environment where he fit in. The other first timer asked me if there were rules to how to dress at a convention. I told him to have fun and that there were no set dress codes (outside of common sense) for attending a convention. We need more people to come out to conventions. Fun is had and connections are made that you wouldn’t necessarily see in the outside world. Quick shout out to Lady Justice Cosplay and EmCat Cosplay for hosting that panel.
Honestly, I was initially going to write this event off as a first year event that was making mistakes. After doing some research, I understand why certain actions occurred. With the limitations imposed on them, the staff did a good job with this convention. I want to see it continue and thrive. The date for 2017 will be on April Fools Day and it will fall on a Saturday this time around.
Midwest Media Expo
My initial review of the Midwest Media Expo is here.
The press and media relations crew gave me an idea of what a proper press/interview room looks like. They had a list of guests who were granting interviews with time slots for said interviews. Press would conduct the interviews in a room specifically utilized for this very reason. I must have been insane since I did nine interviews that weekend. I don’t believe that I will never do that many again. Fun Fact: My interview with Kawaii Besu was not in the press room but the room next door because I picked the wrong room by accident. Thankfully, the lighting wasn’t terrible. My interview with her father, Jon St. John (Duke Nukem) was my first interview to take place in the official room. I enjoyed cracking him up at the beginning.
Press would split the half hour time slots amongst themselves. Once the half hour was up, the guest went on to other obligations. Since I like to be fully setup when the guest arrives, I tend to show up rather early to make sure everything is a smooth process when the guest walks through the door. Another press outlet was waiting ahead of me for Billy West to arrive. Billy actually arrived 15 minutes early. The other press representative started right away so we could have more time for our interviews and it paid off. While I was interviewing him, I noticed that other press outlets were arriving 15 minutes late. It boggles my mind how people would show up late to an interview that they are supposed to conduct. I feel that is completely disrespectful to the guest who is taking the time out of their day to grant interviews. It worked to my benefit though. Outside of one cut question (to allow the other groups some time), I was able to have a full interview that lasted 15 minutes. The other two press groups who arrived late had five minutes each while I was tearing down my equipment from my interview.
Never did I dream that I would interview a voice acting god called Billy West. As I was giving a rundown of the characters he has voiced, he started doing the voices for them. I never ask voice actors to do that because they are not jukeboxes. It was a pleasant surprise indeed. The interview went to a dark place shortly after we started. That was certainly not my intentions going into the interview. I even told him that I would not bring up the abuse part of his childhood. If you watch the interview, you can see the look on my face change when I realized that we were going down that route. Thankfully, we were able to steer into positive subjects as the interview progressed and we ended on a good note.
My personal favorite interview of the weekend went to Jessie Pridemore aka Rufflebutt Cosplay. She wasn’t going to grant any interviews but I was lucky enough to secure one with her after we had a nice conversation during the weekend. Normally, I do about two to six hours of research on a person before interviewing them. For this interview with Jessie, I threw that method out and we talked about our mutual interests in anime and manga. Battle Angel Alita and Berserk are two series that do not get enough attention. I even learned that there is a third arc in the Battle Angel Alita series. Jessie is a cool person that I hope to run into again.
Shout out to the Rae, Lesley, and Jon for giving me a place to stay that weekend. A big thanks to Erin, Morgan, Barbara, Kathy and V for their professionalism and help with setting me up for success with my interviews that weekend.
I was only able to attend this mid-sized event for one day. This con was described, to me, as an amalgam of different geek genres under one roof. It focused on open source, hacking, DIY and science fiction. There seemed to be a little something for everyone’s geek interest too. Events related to anime, comics, and video games were available. This convention was extremely panel heavy. There were many opportunities for learning and experimentation.
The one two punch of the program and schedule booklets for Penguin were, by far, the most comprehensive booklets I have ever encountered at a con. To say that they were loaded with information would be an understatement. All 424 events, panels and room parties listed in the schedule booklet, came with their own description and a brief label for what type of event genre (for example: tech, gaming, science, comics etc.). That is mind blowing. Most conventions would not dedicate the time to write a description for everything except the main events. I tip my hat to Penguicon for an impressive program combo.
As an attendee, you had the option of displaying your level of contact comfort via a stoplight sticker located on your badge. A green sticker would indicate that you are fine with physical contact. A yellow sticker suggested that permission would be required first. Finally, a red sticker stated that it was not ok to initiate physical contact (such as a hug). I have never seen this before at a convention and I find it very commendable.
I enjoyed the ribbon additions to the con badge. Over the weekend, you had numerous opportunities to have your badge adorned with unique adhesive ribbons. How you earned a ribbon depended on the situation. Talk to a certain vendor, you get a ribbon. Perform a certain task, you get a ribbon. Meet the right person, you get a ribbon. I witnessed people with a multitude of ribbons hanging off of their badges. This would be an interesting concept to see at other conventions.
Penguicon was the only convention that I have encountered that would feed you for. In the convention hospitality suite or ConSuite, you had the ability to eat for free. Various deli meats, cheeses, condiments, and breads were available. Snacks, water and sodas were also available to tide you over while you waited in line to grab your food.
Two giant sized games of Operation and Tetris met my sight in the lobby of the hotel. The Operation game was at least 6 feet long and 3 feet wide. Like the original board game counterpart, you were required to remove the ailments using metal tongs without touching the metal edges or the nose buzzer went off. A giant wooden framed LED based Tetris game stood roughly 8ft tall. The descending blocks were controlled by an attached Wii Nunchuck. The only thing missing from the game was the iconic Tetris theme song.
Penguicon was not without it’s faults. If you pre-registered, a badge for a one day visit on Saturday was $30. If you did not pre-register, the same badge would cost $40. That is a hefty price for a mid-sized event compared to a few of the larger events that I have attended. A one day ticket, on Saturday, to the Motor City Comic Con would be $35. Going to the Michigan Renaissance Festival, for one day, would cost roughly $23. It would be wise to pre-register ahead of time, if you plan on attending this event.
The artist alley/dealer section aka the Maker Market in the hallways were spaced out in an uneven fashion on the first floor. It was quite spacious in certain areas and rather cramped in others depending on location. The vendors close to the panel rooms had the benefit of foot traffic coming through. The vendors in the opposite section close to the windows of the lobby did not seem as fortunate. One would have to venture towards the window vendors to see what they had to offer. Having two vendor tables face each other on the opposite sides of an already small hallway is not a wise idea because bottleneck situations were created depending on how many people were present at the time.
Lesson That I Learned
Always make sure the correct mike is on before you record. I accidentally recorded two separate thoughts but the wrong mike was on. Thus, all of those thoughts were lost into the ether. Thankfully, I was able to recall most of what I recorded. A simple tip to save you a lot of frustration down the road.
The review for May was so big, it received its own article. Comeback for Part Two of the Spring Review. I will cover my experiences from a costumed dance party, the Motor City Comic Con, the Great Lakes Fur Con and the Cherry Capital Comic Con. See you soon.