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Expos and Conventions

C2E2 2010: The Con Chicago Deserves

That was of course the tagline for  the newest comic convention from Reed Exhibitions, (the group that runs other conventions like New York Comic Con, and PAX) which is better known as C2E2.  While I have never been to PAX I have attended NYCC and it was a very similar feeling to its east coast sibling.  The exhibitors who came, the layout, the style of the brochures, the type of guests and events planned.  However even though there were many similarities, you could tell that this is a very new con, one which is trying to find it’s comfort zone, and it’s general attitude.  So while it was very good there was a lot of room to improve.

The panels and screenings themselves were for the greater part phenomenal.  Kevin Conroy (the voice of Batman in the 90s animated series) hosted a discussion panel, which recently got a little bit of media due to him accidentally leaking information about the videogame.  However this wasn’t even the highlight of the panel which was essentially the Conroy having an intimate discussion with the audience and telling various personal stories ranging from working on Venture Bros. to volunteering at Ground Zero after 9/11.  There were many such events going on all day, many educational, some with teasers for upcoming comics, but one notable factor was not only that there was always something going on, but that there was always room to come in, which meant that you didn’t have to rush around frantically.  The one exception to this was a special event Saturday night called An Evening with Neil Gaiman. The legendary writer known best for his fantasy novels and comic series Sandman, hosted an event for the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund to a packed auditorium, the first such event he has hosted for nearly a decade.  After DC’s Jim Lee gave a short introductory Gaiman walked on stage to thunderous applause.  Still the event remained rather intimate. The soft-spoken British author read a few of his poems and short stories in a way which only a master story-teller can, and then after a short intermission proceeded to answer questions the audience wrote down for him before the start of the event.  They ranged from topics like the author’s personal life, to questions on the industry, to the truly bizarre, but each one was answered honestly and given the same amount of respect, which was very refreshing.  

Those were just two of the great panels, and besides just panels there were guests from every comic book imprint, and publisher, as well as from webcomics, movies, TV, and so on, too many to recount, but most signed, and participated in various events.  However while there was a decent range, the amount of comic book guests vastly outweighed the guests from all other forms of media.  This isn’t too surprising though, as this show was billed as a comic book convention.  Still I went with friends who weren’t as into the comic book scene as I was, and while they certainly enjoyed themselves and found events and panels to go to, there was significantly less for them to do.  At last year’s NYCC there was a much wider range of guests, and a greater variety of stalls notably in the video game genre.  Whereas NYCC not only had booths for a many different video game publishers as well as a separate gaming room, C2E2 had a small booth for Nintendo, and a few previews of the Iron Man 2 game at the Marvel booth.  This is just a matter of finding the right balance.  Reed has been very good about listening to criticism and comments from the fans, in the past and there is no reason to think that will change now.

There were other problems as well, such as the ridiculous amount of walking due to the sprawling placement of rooms and the vast size of the convention center, or the general lack of good food (though this is prevalent at most cons).  Of course there are many other spectacular things to say about this convention, like the fact that there was natural sunlight.  The point being that it’s a convention still in its infancy.  It was still one of the best conventions I have ever been to, without a doubt, but there are a lot of things which the can improve about it, so this one felt more like a dress rehearsal for next years convention.  With all of the news lately about the so-called “Convention Wars” that have been raging between Wizard Entertainment, and Reed Exhibitions, C2E2 rises as a serious contender.  I wouldn’t be surprised if in a year or two it becomes the biggest convention in the Midwest, possibly even surpassing NYCC.  It’s off to a good start, and I’ll definitely be back next year, so for everyone who missed C2E2 2010, I strongly recommend that you keep an eye out on this one.

Montréal Hosted The 67th World Science Fiction Con

The 67th World Science Fiction Convention (or Worldcon), dubbed Anticipation, was hosted in Montréal, Québec, Canada, on 6-10 August 2009. The fifth Worldcon to be held in Canada - and the first one to be held in an officially French-speaking city - Anticipation also incorporated the annual Canvention, the Canadian national sf con.

Author Neil GaimanGuests of Honour (sic; Canadian spelling) at the convention were:

Neil Gaiman and Elisabeth Vonarburg (Invitée d'honneur, the con officially being bilingual)
Taral Wayne (Fan Guest of Honour)
David Hartwell (Editor Guest of Honour)
Tom Doherty (Publisher Guest of Honour).

Julie Czerneda was Master of Ceremonies.

As traditional at Worldcons, the Science Fiction Achievement Awards, or Hugo Awards, voted on by all Worldcon members (attending and not attending, or supporting), were presented. Recipients were:

 Best Novel: The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
 Best Novella: "The Erdmann Nexus" by Nancy Kress
Best Novelette: "Shoggoths in Bloom" by Elizabeth Bear
Best Short Story: "Exhalation" by Ted Chiang
Best Related Book: Your Hate Mail Will Be Graded: A Decade of Whatever, 1998-2008 by John Scalzi
Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form: WALL-E, story by Andrew Stanton and Pete Docter; screenplay by Andrew Stanton & Jim Reardon; directed by Andrew Stanton (Pixar/Walt Disney)
Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form: Doctor Horrible's Sing-Along Blog, written by Joss Whedon, Zack Whedon, Jed Whedon, and Maurissa Tancharoen, directed by Joss Whedon
Best Editor, Long Form: David G. Hartwell
Best Editor, Short Form: Ellen Datlow
Best Pro Artist: Donato Giancola
Best Semiprozine: Weird Tales, edited by Ann VanderMeer and Stephen H. Segal
Best Fanzine: Electric Velocipede, edited by John Klima, Cheryl Morgan, and Frank Wu
Best Fan Writer: Cheryl Morgan
Best Graphic Story: Girl Genius, Volume 8: Agatha Heterodyne and the Chapel of Bones, written by Kaja and Phil Foglio, art by Phil Foglio, color by Cheyenne Wright (Anticipation was the first Worldcon to include the category graphic story on the Hugo ballot.)
John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer (not a Hugo Award): David Anthony Durham

Elsewhere at the convention, the Association of Science Fiction & Fantasy Artists (ASFA) awarded their 24th annual Chesley Awards. The winners for 2008 were:
Best Cover Illustration: Hardback Book: Donato Giancola for A Book of Wizards, edited by Marvin Kaye
Best Cover Illustration: Paperback Book: John Picacio for Fast Forward 2, edited by Lou Anders
Best Cover Illustration: Magazine: Matts Minnhagen for Clarkesworl

Best Interior Illustration: Donato Giancola for "The Wraith" by J. Robert Lennon

Best Color Work: Unpublished: Simon Dominic for "The Gift" (digital)

Best Monochrome Work: Unpublished: Simon Dominic for "Kraken" (digital)
   * Best Three-Dimensional Art: Vincent Villafranca for "The Celestial Itinerant" (bronze)
   * Best Product Illustration: Dan Dos Santos for Hellboy II promotional art
   * Best Gaming-Related Illustration:  Volkan Baga for Stoic Angel Magic Card, Shards of Alara
   * Best Art Director: Lou Anders of Pyr Books
   * Award for Artistic Achievement: Julie Bell
In addition, the Sidewise Awards for Alternate History were announced by its panel of judges:
   * Long form: Chris Roberson, The Dragon's Nine Sons
   * Short form: Mary Rosenblum, "Sacrifice"
and the winners of this year's Prometheus Awards (for libertarian sf/fantasy) by the Libertarian Futurist Society:
* Best Novel: Little Brother by Cory Doctorow
* Hall of Fame Award: The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien

In its role as Canvention, Anticipation oversaw the presentation of the Prix Aurora, or Aurora Awards (or “Canadian Hugos”):

   * Best Long Form: Marseguro by Edward Willett
   * Meilleur livre: Les vents de Tammerlan by Michèle Laframboise
   * Best Short Form: "Ringing in the Changes in Okotoks, Alberta" by Randy McCharles
   * Meilleure nouvelle: Le Dôme de Saint-Macaire by Jean-Louis Trudel
   * Other, in English: Neo-opsis Science Fiction Magazine, Karl Johanson, editor
   * Meilleur ouvrage (autre): Solaris, Joël Champetier
   * Fanzine: The Original Universe, Jeff Boman, editor
   * Fan (Organizational): Randy McCharles (Chair of World Fantasy 2008)
   * Fan (Other): Joan Sherman for Heather Dale Concert (organizer)
   * Artistic Achievement: Looking for Group by Lar deSouza

Besides the Hugos, the other important decision made by Worldcon members is future site selection. Reno, Nevada, was chosen to host the 69th World Science Fiction Convention, to be held in 2011 and to be called Renovation, and Raleigh, NC as the hosting city for the 10th North American Science Fiction Convention (or NASFiC), to be held in 2010 and to be called ReConStruction. Both were decided by uncontested elections. Additionally, the Canadian Science Fiction and Fantasy Association selected Winnipeg, Manitoba (the site of the 1994 Worldcon, Conadian) as the site of Canvention 2010 and the 30th Prix Aurora/Aurora Awards.

The 68th World Science Fiction Convention, Aussiecon Four, will be held in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, 2-6 September 2010.

Actor Michael Keaton Soars To Heights of Award Season Through "Birdman"

Norton & Keaton at 2014 NY Comic Con

Of all the Mexican new wave directors who emerged in the ‘90s, Alejandro González Iñárritu always pushed the envelope further than cohorts Alfonso Cuarón and Guillermo del Toro. And he does so once again with Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue Of Ignorance), a dark comic tragedy co-written with Nicolás Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris and Armando Bo.

Few films deconstruct the effects of mega stardom in such a unique way as does this film, with its long singular tracking shots, hallucinatory superpower sequences (exhibiting levitation and telekinesis), and 4th wall-breaking monologues.

Famous for portraying iconic superhero Birdman, actor Riggan Thomson (Michael Keaton) struggles to mount a Broadway play as a form of redemption from having played this one-dimensional character in three mega-hit films.

In the days leading up to opening night, he battles his ego, family miasma, career record and himself. While doing the play, Thomson copes with neurotic co-stars — particularly difficult and demanding Mike (Edward Norton) and the insecure Lesley (Noami Watts) as well as  on-again/off-again girlfriend Laura (Andrea Riseborough), close friend/manager/producer Jake (Zach Galifianakis), ex-wife Sylvia (Amy Ryan) and daughter Sam (Emma Stone).

if any actor could play Thomson, Keaton was the man. The Pennsylvania native has had the kind of career the film deconstructs — in and out the media spotlight, coping with and running away from the mayhem of Hollywood.

Keaton’s own career turns have, at times, been surreal, he’s gone from being known as a great comic actor to a favorite of wacky director Tim Burton who transformed him from the cranky miscreant Betelgeuse (in Beetlejuice) into an emblematic Batman evolving a franchise then leaving it before it become a self-parodied costumed geek series.

keaton-closeKeaton himself has been in the wilderness literally, away from the spotlight on his Montana ranch; being tapped for this part has brought the 63 year-old actor back into the spotlight but also at the forefront of the awards season winning a Best Actor Golden Globe, several other awards and is in the running for the Best Actor Oscar.

As Thomson wonders in the film whether he has the talent or insight to be the both the actor and artist he believe he can be, so has Keaton. Playing Batman made him an iconic figure, one that could earn the big bucks just if he wanted to (working the conventions; reprising his iconic Tim Burton-directed roles), but he has shied away from Hollywood, directing (The Merry Gentleman) or doing interesting indies (Game 6 based on a Don Delillo story).

Besides, few films that address superhero worship actually star two people — Keaton and Norton — who have played two superheroes that stirred fan obsession.

This Q&A is culled from a Birdman press conference, the 2014 New York Comic-Con Birdman panel and some remarks to the press after his Golden Globes win.

Q: What does your amazing career resurgence feel like for you?

MK: How does it feel…??? It feels good!

Q: How did you get involved with Birdman?

MK: I got a call that Alejandro [González Iñárritu] was making this movie. When I asked what it was about, I was already working on another movie and they said, “Unfortunately, you can’t fly home because you’re in the middle of this movie.” But when his name was mentioned, I thought, “Well, maybe I should find a way to fly home.” I was a big, big fan of his movies. So, I flew home.

They couldn't tell me what it was about. Now that I've done the movie, I understand why they couldn't explain it, because I'm not sure what happened.

I went and had dinner with him. It was very pleasant and really interesting. [Alejandro] is a really interesting, extremely passionate guy, which is contagious. At the end of the meeting, he said, “Here, read this.” It took me about 27 seconds to decide, “Yeah, I probably want to do this.”

Q: What do you think of the Riggan Thomson character? Is he crazy? Is he depressed?

birdman posterMK: The character is Alejandro, so you should ask him… No, the character is really one of the most difficult things I’ve done, not in terms of the character necessarily, but in terms of how the film was made.

Within sometimes 30 or 49 seconds, you have to surf a lot of different emotions and fit them into this giant picture. Because this picture is always shifting and moving, and it’s got so many levels, therefore, it was really, really difficult. But I like that. I like "difficult" most of time…

Q: Did the director make you suffer?

MK: He tried. I go through what Alejandro goes through, the same thing. I think, “You’re the greatest. You’re wonderful.” And like Alejandro, 20 minutes later, the difference is, I go, “No, you’re actually more than that, Michael.” [jokingly] It keeps getting bigger.

Q: There’s a lot of underwear shown in Birdman… [a scene involves Riggan getting locked outside a theater mid-costume change, forcing him to walk through Times Square in his skivvies.]

MK: That’s Alejandro [smiles].

Q: What were rehearsals like?

MK: In this, as hard as it was, and as grueling as it could be, we had the luxury of saying the words over and over again. And as you start to hear them, being in a play, you go, “Oh, I never heard that line coming out of my mouth.” You find another level to it, without sounding totally pretentious and obnoxious. That was a great luxury to have. It was hard, though.

Q: Riggan clashes with an influential Broadway critic. You were also involved with a movie called Game 6, which also dealt with how a critics can affect a Broadway show. What are your thoughts on how critics can affect careers?

MK: This is where I’m a dope. I make it really simple. The first play I ever did, in Pittsburgh, someone walked up and said, “Hey, I read the thing in the paper. Someone said you were real good” or something like that. I hadn’t even thought of that part. And I still often don’t think of that part.

What I thought originally was, “You should be courageous and read everything.” I did that a couple of times. And then I thought, “I don’t want to do that anymore.” That’s just miserable, so I don’t really bother. I just don’t do it.

Admittedly, when someone says, “Hey, you got a really nice review,” I’ll read it. I’m willing to make myself feel better. I ain’t going to fight that.

It’s real simple for me. I think  — unless I’m really stupid here and there’s a strong possibility that’s true — I’ve basically been treated fairly, but I’m the wrong person to ask. There’s probably a lot of you out there going, “Oh no, you haven’t.”

But I think it’s been pretty fair. I don’t know, I’m the wrong guy to ask. By the way, I really liked Game 6. That was a Don DeLillo story.

Q: Is this a movie about a man going through a crisis/breakdown, or is he kind of becoming enlightened?

MK: Not “kind of.” There’s no “kind of” about it. It’s kind of tricky. I don’t want to be coy by saying, “I don’t want to give away too much.” I really don’t, because it would be unfair, frankly. But yeah, that’s the thing that you get.

the-batmanI’m in the movie and I read the script, and I did all the discussions, and I did all the rehearsals. And yet when I saw it, I go, “Wow, he had to go that crazy to get that sane." He had to go that crazy to find that little sweet spot.

Q: So now, how would you describe Birdman to people who haven’t seen it?

MK: When people ask me, I always tend to say, “It's not like anything you've ever seen before.” And then I say, “No, literally, it’s not like anything you’ve seen before.” It's not just a glib expression.

I don't know that I've seen any of my movies in 10 years, outside of looping and little bits and pieces in 10 years, but I've seen this movie two-and-a-half times…. And I'm going to watch it all the way through tomorrow [at its premiere]. And I'll watch it many, many times after.

I was watching it the other day, and I kept looking at the screen. I noticed things that I didn’t really get [before]. And I think, “Man, I could love this movie.” And then you realize, “Wait a minute. I’m in this movie.”

Q: Did you get to keep your Birdman costume?

MK: No, and what a great idea! How stupid am I not to keep one of those. Now I’m thinking of a way to get one.

Q: The superhero genre is part of the debate about and within this film. Having starred in superhero films -- Batman and Batman Returns -- what did you think of them?

MK: When Tim [Burton] called and I took the original Batman script home, I was mostly unfamiliar with the superhero books and wasn't that big a comic book reader. I thought, "I can’t imagine anyone making this movie the way I see the character, but I'm sure glad to read it."

I told Tim what I thought, and Tim was just nodding, his long hair going up and down. He was smiling and looking excited. I said, "OK, they're not going to make that, are they?" He said, "I don't know, let's find out!"

Q: Would you star in another superhero movie in the future?

MK: [I'd have to ask,] Who's directing, what's the cast and is the script good? What's it all about [before I could say.]

keaton-comic-conQ: You’ve always given spectacular performances, especially in comedies like Night Shift where you were cutting your comedic teeth. In a movie like that as opposed to a movie like Birdman, do you approach them the same?

MK: When I saw Fast Times at Ridgemont High, I had seen this kid as a young guy. Holy moly! This guy’s approach to comedy was so good and authentic, so I called and said I saw this guy in this movie, I want to do a movie with him. As it turns out, he was this wonderful actor Sean Penn. He happened to be funny, but what I dug about it was how authentic it was. Jonah Hill is the same way, so committed to the comedy. So I approach them the same: Do your homework and go to work.

Three Generations of Comic Authors at NYCC '14

With attendance numbers at over a hundred thousand, New York Comic Con at the Jacob Javits Center is an event that is so massive that it’s easy to get completely swept up and miss some of the finer details. But we at Film Festival Traveler wanted to take the time to give you some one-on-one with some great minds from the world of comics, both old and new and we are presenting a series of video interviews with some of the talented people that make events like NY Comic Con worth going to.

From drawing friend’s D&D characters in high school, to working in advertising, to creating comics online, Megan Levens’ artistic trajectory has been a self made one. Her art combines clean linework with an eye for the horrific in her comic Madame Frankenstein, written by Jamie S. Rich (Cut Your Hair) for Image Comics. Madame Frankenstein combines 1930’s style with a tale of obsession and flesh, as the myth of Pygmalion meets Mary Shelley by way of F. Scott Fitzgerald. Having cut her teeth on her semi-autobiographical webcomic,  Somewhere In Between, Levens’ Madame Frankenstein and her upcoming Ares & Aphrodite for Oni Press reinterpret classical myths in a thoroughly modern way.

Paul Pope has made a career for himself as both an avant-garde artist on the fringes and someone trying to get more kids into reading comics. Born in Philadelphia and having a strongly European aesthetic to his comics, Pope actually got his start in comics in Japan, working for publisher Kodansha and allegedly cranking out over 15 pages a week. His early works like Escapo (which was recently reprinted in a new colored edition) and THB got his kinetic style noticed, landing him work with DC and making Batman Year 100. But dissatisfied with DC’s unwillingness to let him helm a story aimed at a younger audiences, Pope set off to create his own series of graphic novels for young readers with Battling Boy, The Death of Haggard West and The Rise of Aurora West from First Second Books.

Possessing a dynamic style rooted American aesthetics of the 1950s, Howard Chaykin is the quintessential New York comic author. Having got his break into comics with the help of Gil Kane and Neal Adams at DC, Chaykin has created a comics with themes of noir, sci-fi, action, fantasy, eroticism, crime, and sometimes combining all of the above. Chaykin came into renown in the 1980’s with his contributions to Heavy Metal, his take on the pulp hero The Shadow for DC, and his own sci-fi political satire, American Flagg!. Currently Chaykin is working with Fantastic Four and Sex Criminals scribe Matt Fraction on Satellite Sam for Image Comics.

You can follow Renzo on Twitter @RenzoAdler or email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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