This year marked the third for the relative newbie convention Comic Con Revolution, which is in three cities (Chicago, West Palm Beach, Florida and Ontario, California). The Ontario CCR just wrapped up today (as of this writing, Sunday May 19th), and it has grown exponentially since its humble beginnings. In 2017, my wife and I had parking right at the convention center itself (just outside the main entrance, in fact), and there was a lot of elbow room. In 2018, it seemed to double in size, with new lots of off-site parking opening up, a lot more vendors and a few more celebrity guests. This year, the little convention that could seemed to grow yet again, as the off-site parking lots filled up even faster. There were also more celebrity guests and a bit more buzz as well.
The autographs used to be signed in the main dealer (exhibit) hall, but his year they were moved to the main ballroom area to give the lines a bit more breathing room. Seeing Comic Con Revolution unfurl over these past three years has been like watching a coltish kid mature into an adult. Right now, CCR is a teenage convention, with many new faces, but keeping that local energy. It’s not nearly as big as WonderCon (yet), but it has a lot of potential. CCR is cleverly exploiting a niche that is ripe for exploitation; small city/town conventions. It’s pretty sweet to have a convention like this that’s only about 20-odd minutes away from my house...
The Force Awakened in Ontario.
While the dealer hall packed full of Marvel, DC and independent comic books, fan art, toys, jewelry, and other neat collectibles, there was also a lot of love for Star Wars and Ghostbusters…which was fortuitous, since our friends brought their 7 year-old son Joshua, who is absolutely crazy about both. In fact, Joshua wore his Ghostbusters costume and even had a few memorable encounters with some fully-functional R2 units.
I then had the sincere and genuine pleasure of meeting legendary model-maker/spaceship designer Colin Cantwell, whose work I’ve read about in the pages of Starlog magazine (the internet before the internet) since I was about 11 or so. He designed many of the spaceships and miniatures for “2001: A Space Odyssey” (1968), and was the third person to read the early script for George Lucas “The Star Wars,” which lost its “The” to become 1977’s “Star Wars” (no “A New Hope” yet…that came a couple of years later in rerelease). Colin Cantwell and the late artist Ralph McQuarrie (whose production paintings helped sell the movie to 20th Century Fox) worked on the film’s visual aesthetics even before the formation of the now legendary special effects house ILM (Industrial Light & Magic) came into being c. 1975. Cantwell also designed and built prototypes for what became the Millennium Falcon, the X-wing fighters, the Y-wing fighters, the TIE fighters and the Death Star. I came back the following day (Sunday) with my copy of J.W. Rinzler’s “The Making Of Star Wars” (2007) to autograph, as it had many pictures of Cantwell’s work, and even a photo of a young Cantwell in there, too! One of the joys of a smaller convention is the generous time you get to spend with the celebrities (unlike San Diego Comic Con, where you often only have seconds at most). Cantwell leafed leisurely through the pages of Rinzler’s book, reliving memories and giving me context to some of the photos. It was a bit of magic for me…reliving Star Wars’ early history with one of the people who literally made it happen.
Also met a face from current Star Wars, actor Sam Witwer (“Star Wars Rebels,” “Solo,” “Battlestar Galactica”, the US version of “Being Human”). Currently, Witwer is playing the right-wing villain Ben Lockwood (aka “Agent Liberty”) on “Supergirl”. Tried to meet him on Saturday but didn’t have the time. Coming back to the convention on Sunday, I finally got my chance to chat with him and it was worth the wait. No matter the length of line, Witwer gave his all to each and every fan, and is surprisingly knowledgeable about pop sci-fi (I overheard some protracted discussions about Mr. Spock and the original Star Wars trilogy that sounded very familiar to me…).
When I got my chance to meet with Witwer, we talked about his work in the 2004 version of “Battlestar Galactica” (he played the ill-fated Lt. Alex Quartararo, aka “Crashdown”), and his character’s subtle slide into a full-on mental breakdown, collapsing under the pressure of a planetside command which resulted in his getting “Fragged”. I told him that I thought his character’s breakdown was a bit more subtle than that of, say, Michael Biehn’s Navy SEAL “Lt. Coffy” in “The Abyss” (1989). Witwer seemed genuinely surprised that I used Biehn’s example, as he used that same example himself in a recent podcast (which I didn’t know of). Witwer said he didn’t want his performance to be like Biehn’s, since Biehn was playing acute pressure psychosis (a physical condition) whereas Crashdown’s break was purely psychological. We also got on the subject of the late Anthony Perkins when I mentioned that Witwer could play a terrific Norman Bates (luckily for me, he took that in the intended complimentary sense). Turns out Witwer and I are simpatico in a few of our tastes, as he is also a big Anthony Perkins fan as well. Wish I had time to do a proper interview with him. Someday, hopefully…
The Force was also well-represented in a panel we attended on Star Wars fan films We watched five of them, and were given pencils and scorecards to rate them. Little Joshua got to play film critic as well, as he gave his likes/dislikes to his mother Kathy, who dutifully recorded them on his scorecard. The easy favorite among us, and most of the audience I think, was the first film, “Star Wars: The Toys Awaken” (2018). The film is a delightful mashup of “Toy Story” and “Star Wars” and was created/written/edited & directed by Raymond Montemayor, who was in attendance himself (we found that out after we filled out our scorecards). The film deals with a little girl whose Star Wars toys come to life in her absence, and accidentally shake loose one of her three tickets for the premiere of “The Force Awakens”, leaving her a ticket short! In Toy Story-style, the figures work together (yes, even the Kylo Ren figure) to deliver the errant ticket to their child companion on time…just as she is about to enter the theater.
There were other fan films, each of which were interesting in their own ways. All of them had excellent visuals that were far more professional-looking than what I’d seen in sci-fi fan films of only a decade ago. An Eastern European effort called “One Day I’ll Become…” was on a par with the current level of visuals seen in cinematic Star Wars. But Montemayor’s “The Toys Awaken” stole our hearts… in fact, I think it’d be ideal to screen theatrically before a new cinematic Star Wars release. Joshua had a big grin on his face the entire running length. After the films finished, we had a nice chat with Montemayor and he was gratified by our reactions. He also told us that he is working on a new film at the moment called “Home Solo”. You can see more of his work at http://starwars.pixelplex.com
Cosplay and Cool Cars!
Cosplayers are, for me, the heart and soul of any good sci-fi/fantasy/comic book convention. And CCR’s level of cosplay is getting higher and higher every year. My wife and I also partake, of course, as we’re just a couple of big kids ourselves at heart. In addition to the colorful, creative cosplayers, there were also a bevy of famous replica cars outside to drool over as well!
The full set of ALL of my convention photos (with captions) are in this link to my Flickr account: https://www.flickr.com/photos/18703657@N03/albums/72157707153966971
Last Look Around.
There were other celebrities signing in the autograph area, such as Gigi Edgley (“Farscape” “Star Trek Continues”), whom I’d met a few times at various conventions. I really enjoyed her performance in the superlative web series, “Star Trek Continues,” where she played Lt. Eliza Taylor, in “Come Not Between The Dragons”. Edgley and her husband (wearing his ALIEN “Nostromo” cap) brought their adorable little baby girl, Skywalker, whom Edgley calls her ‘baby alien’ ever since she took her to see Stonehenge last year. Upon arriving at the iconic stones, the previously crying baby girl immediately quieted and uttered her first softly spoken word… “Home.” Cue Twilight Zone theme…
Also talked a bit with Herb Jefferson Jr. (“Lt. Boomer” from the 1978 version of “Battlestar Galactica”). I’d met Jefferson at conventions many times since I first got his autograph back in 2004. He recognizes me now, as we’ve seen each other more times than I can count. He’s quite a trouper, and I admire his stoic professionalism.
Even on the way out of the convention, I paused to take a ‘cover shot’ of the convention center for this article, when I caught a glance of one of the ushers mockingly pretending to pose for me! I got such a kick out of her antics that I told her I was going to put her in this story, and so…
… I did! She was a character. I also put her on my Instagram account, hash-tagged under #OntarioConventionCenterUshers . It’s people like her that best embody the spirt of these smaller local conventions, where everyone who participates is part of the show. I had a blast at Comic Con Revolution Ontario this year, and I look forward to seeing how much this ‘little convention that could’ will grow in 2020…