San Diego Comic Con 2019 Megapost 2: Star Trek, Space Command, and a BIG shark…

Lessons learned; the ecstasy and agony.

Sometimes you have to step away from the hustle and bustle of Comic Con to realize that San Diego is truly a gorgeous city.

The first lesson of San Diego Comic Con attendance should be choose where to spend your time wisely. Try to sift through what sounds good versus what has real substance. Of course, it’s difficult to say what is actually worth your while until you’re actually there, right? It’s a bit like trying to guess which wrapped Christmas gift will be your favorite by its weight. I spent Preview Night (as abbreviated as its name suggests) donating blood to the annual drive. Donating a pint has become a tradition for me at WonderCon, and my friend and I do it in San Diego now as well. After donating blood and eating dinner at the hotel (a delicious shawarma sandwich), I did an hour-long tour of duty in the Dealer Hall; a labyrinthine-maze of bodies, sounds and full-scale media bombardment that is not for the faint of heart (or the agoraphobic). The SDCC Dealer Hall (or SDCC in general) is the geeky, 50-year old offspring of Hollywood and Las Vegas.

“The first duty of every Starfleet officer is to the truth!” From the 5th season Star Trek: The Next Generation episode, “The First Duty”, for which this amazing exhibit of Jean-Luc Picard memorabilia was appropriately named.

The official Day One (really Day Two, if you attend Preview Night) was where my own poor judgment marred my experience a little bit. The day started off very promising, as I went to the Gaslamp Quarter of old downtown San Diego (across from the actual convention center) to the “First Duty Starfleet Museum”, set up at the Michael J. Wolf Fine Arts gallery.

Some of the good folks I’ve run into at Star Trek Las Vegas, including the terrific lady on the left, who recognized me and called me by name! If my own pitiful memory weren’t so godawful, I’d return the favor here, but at any rate, I look very forward to seeing her and other members of the Star Trek Las Vegas tribe in two weeks!

A mother and daughter who’d flown all the way from Peru (!) to attend their first Comic Con. I very much enjoyed talking with them, and their delight in being there was contagious.

Though I’d arrived nice and early, there was still a long wait to get in. Standing in line (near the front…yay!), I reconnected with some familiar friendly faces from the Star Trek Las Vegas convention, as well as a lovely mother and daughter who’d flown in from Peru to attend their first Comic Con together. Despite occasional online squabbling and rancor, Star Trek fans (in person) tend to be some of the sweetest people on the planet. They made the nearly-hour long wait to get into the exhibit well worth it.

Jean-Luc Picard’s first starship command; the USS Stargazer, which was a modified mix of several Star Trek USS Enterprise models kits combined with custom pieces. The ship was seen in Picard’s ready room, and was referenced in several episodes, including “The Battle” and “Relics”.

The “First Duty” exhibit was a relatively small, but priceless collection of props, miniatures and costumes relating to the Star Trek character of Jean-Luc Picard (my favorite Star Trek captain), as played by Sir Patrick Stewart. The pieces were mainly collected from the “Star Trek: The Next Generation” TV series and movies, as well as a few from the upcoming CBS-AA TV series, “Picard” (scheduled to stream sometime next year).

The USS Enterprise NCC-1701-D (1987-1994); above and below.

The USS Enterprise NCC-1701-E, first seen in the 1996 feature film, “First Contact” and last seen in 2002’s “Nemesis.”

Jean-Luc Picard’s sister-in-law Marie (wife of his brother Robert) with Picard’s beloved nephew Rene.

Picard’s two-piece uniform, first intruded in the third season of TNG, and subtly modified in subsequent seasons.

Picard’s Deep Space Nine-style uniform, worn only once, in the 1994 feature film, “Generations”, which also saw the loss of the USS Enterprise-D (though her crew survived).

Picard’s dress uniform, first introduced in the 1998 feature film “Insurrection.”

From the deservedly revered episode, “The Inner Light” (1992): Jean-Luc Picard’s beloved Ressikan flute; a tactile artifact from an embedded life given to him by the long-extinct people of the planet Kataan. Picard seemed to live an entire lifetime on Kataan as an iron-weaver named Kamen, only to awaken minutes later aboard his starship. The flute is the only cherished thing he has of that entire life spent in a virtual existence. This episode is easily my single favorite of all Star Trek: The Next Generation.

Bottles of Chateau Picard, from his family vineyard, which we see Picard tending in the sequel series “Picard”, coming to CBS-All Access.

My wife cosplaying as the angel Michael, from “Good Omens,” (Photo by Jennifer Cappuccio Maher, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin/SCNG)

After attending the Exhibit, I bumped into my wife (out of 130,000 people, what are the odds?) who, as usual, does her own thing as well during the convention. This year, she cosplayed as the angel “Michael” from the miniseries adaptation of the Neil Gaiman/Terry Pratchett novel, “Good Omens” (available on AmazonPrime streaming). Her costume was both impeccable and unmistakable, and she got a lot of positive notices, including an interview with the Orange County Register! My wife’s cosplay skills/talent deserve any and all notice they receive

Tom De Santo, director of “The X-Men” (2000) and current Marvel Comics EIC C.B. Cebulski were two of several panelists honoring the legacy of the late Marvel Comics cofounder and entertainment icon Stan Lee. Marv Wolfman was also in attendance.

Stan Lee and Kermit the Frog!

The panel also announced several new comics and TV series based on Stan Lee’s life and works, including “The Amazing Stan,” a fictionalized biography which features a young Stan and the things that inspired him.

From there, I wolfed down my usual perfunctory Comic Con lunch (hot dog, chips, diet Soda) and prepared to ‘squat’ for several panels I wanted to attend. The first was a 3 pm panel commemorating the 40th anniversary of “Star Trek: The Motion Picture” (a film near and dear to my old Trekkie heart) and a 40th anniversary of “ALIEN” at 7:15 pm.

Mark Altman, Daren Dochtorman, Ashley Miller, Robert Meyer Burnett and Bill Hunt sit on a panel honoring the 40th anniversary of “Star Trek: The Motion Picture”; one of my favorite movies as a kid, and a film I still very much appreciate into adulthood, despite its flaws.

Of the two panels I’d waited (forever) to see, only the Trek panel was truly worth attending, since moderator Mark Altman (producer, author, “Free Enterprise”), panelists Daren Dochtormann (FX artist/designer), Ashley Miller (“Thor” “X-Men: First Class”), Robert Meyer Burnett (“Free Enterprise”) and Bill Hunt (TheDigitalBits.com) are a wickedly witty group whose panels (including the famed “Starship Smackdown”) have become the stuff of geek legend at Comic Con and WonderCon.

Producer David Fein of Paramount, who’d worked on “Star Trek: The Motion Picture Director’s Cut” (2001), took to the mic to mention that talks are underway to finally release the previously DVD-only Director’s Cut of TMP onto both Blu-Ray and 4K formats!

The panel was also boosted by a surprise appearance by producer David Fein, who confirmed that Paramount is in talks to (finally) do a proper blu-ray/4K release of “Star Trek: The Motion Picture: The Director’s Cut,” which was released in measly 480p resolution nearly 20 years ago.

Above and below: Loren Bouchard, Brandon Small, H. Jon Benjamin and Melissa Galsky of the 1999 cult TV series, “Home Movies.”

The first panel I’d waded through for the ALIEN anniversary panel was for the TV series “Home Movies”, which was celebrating its 20th anniversary. To be perfectly honest, I’d never heard of this series…ever. Not even a whisper. It was done by the same folks that did “Dr. Katz”, which I was only vaguely familiar with. The cast and producers seemed very witty and charming, and I enjoyed their repartee even if 9/10ths of their references to the show flew past my noggin at the speed of sound.

“Harry Potter and the Cursed Child” panel which included illusions designer Jamie Harrison and Chris Fisher, who put on an interactive magic show for the audience. Sadly, I’m just a big fan of magic tricks, but the panel itself was very energetic.

Next up was a gathering of producers and a couple of the actors from the current Harry Potter-verse stage play, “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child” (a massive hit, touring globally at the moment). The illusionists involved with replicating some of the book’s/movie’s magic for the stage were on hand to give live demonstrations of simple magic tricks (palming coins, etc) that were fairly routine, but got the audience on their feet in active participation (I sat it out; not a big “Harry Potter” fan either, I’m afraid…).

Two of the young actors from different touring productions of the live play, “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child”, a sequel to the Harry Potter books and movies which attempts to recreate some of the magic FX of the films live onstage, in front of an audience.

I felt pretty damn bad taking up a seat that should’ve gone to a more dedicated fan of this clearly cultish little show, but that’s the dark side of ‘squatting’ at Comic Con…risking atrophied muscles and aching joints attending events you couldn’t care less for in order to see those events that you do care about.

The panel for ALIEN’s 40th anniversary……..documentary. Moderator Clarke Wolfe, documentary filmmaker Alexandre O’Phillippe (“The People Vs. George Lucas”), Diane O’Bannon (writer Dan O’Bannon’s widow), Will Linn and David Baxter.

Finally came the panel I’d waited over three hours for; the ALIEN 40th anniversary panel that turned out to be a massive goose egg. Despite the promise of ‘a few surprise guests’, the biggest name connected to the ALIEN franchise was the widow of writer Dan O’Bannon. Most of the panel was spent pimping the upcoming documentary “Memory”, which promises to be the tell-all retrospective of the film. Well, based on the fairly common ALIEN knowledge trotted out during the panel, I’m not holding my breath. Some of the footage of the late Swiss surrealist designer H.R. Giger that was used in clips from the documentary was footage I’d seen used in the ALIEN “Quadrilogy” DVD box set, which I’d bought nearly 16 years ago. Much of the panel seemed fixated on the rape/impregnation/grisly-death of “Kane,” played by the late John Hurt (a delightful man I’d briefly met 4 years ago at a convention before he’d passed away).

The only panelist with any remote connection to the movie ALIEN was the widow of writer Dan O’Bannon, who was estranged from him at the time of the movie’s release in 1979 (!).

My arthritis was on red alert by this time, having sat off and on for the better part of 6 hours, and by 8:10 pm, I began the hobbling, painful march back to the hotel…wishing the entire time that I had the good sense to simply leave after the Trek panel, and enjoy other parts of the convention. My wife and our friend Alison (who’d rejoined us this year, after being unable to attend the last two) went to an “Animaniacs” event downtown, and returned a few hours later.

Day Two: It Gets Better…

Day Two started off well and ended great.

Looking down upon downtown San Diego from the bridge (convention center is on the left).

“Just when you thought it was safe to cross the bridge into San Diego…”

“You’re gonna need a bigger city…” This Discovery Channel Shark Week 40 ft. megalodon was one of the attractions at the carnival off the Harbor Drive Bridge….

I took a nice long walk to the San Diego Library (over the bridge, across from the convention center, down the street..can’t miss it) to attend a presentation for author/screenwriter/producer/director Marc Zicree’s “Space Command” series; a Kickstarter-funded, ongoing web series that I’ve grown very fond of.

Writer/producer/director Marc Zicree (“Star Trek TNG/DS9” “Twilight Zone Companion” “Babylon 5”) introduces a concurrent comic book series based on his own crowdsourced series “Space Command.”

Taking its cue from more optimistic space stories like TOS Star Trek and even a page or 1950s fare such as “Space Patrol” (lead character Capt. Jack Kemmer, is named after Space Patrol’s late star Ed Kemmer), the fan-supported show boasts nice production values and a solid cast.

Some of the energetic (and talented) cast of Marc Zicree’s crowdfunded epic, “Space Command”; the pilot of which can be watched for free on YouTube or space commandmovie.com Donations towards future episodes can be made at Kickstarter.com

Many of the supporting characters are played by genre favorites like Robert Picardo (“Stargate” “Star Trek: Voyager”) and Doug Jones (“Hellboy” “Star Trek: Discovery”), with many of the leads played by unknowns who hold their own with the veterans. The message of the pilot episode (“Redemption”) is simple; altruism for its own sake. Being a better being because you’re able to do so, not because it’s easy or expected. The panel also included trailers for two forthcoming installments (“Forgiveness” and “The Great Solar War”). For more info on this exciting series, check out their website (http://spacecommandmovie.com) or on Marc Zicree’s YouTube channel (“Mr. Sci-Fi”). Zicree has worked for decades in television and feature films (“Star Trek” “Twilight Zone” “Babylon 5” etc). His wife Elaine, also an accomplished writer/director, works on Space Command as well.

“Seinfeld” anniversary is celebrated in the Gaslamp Quarter of downtown. Commemorating 30 years of “nothing.” Used to love this show back in my bachelor days, but I don’t relate to it quite as strongly now.

Just when you thought it was safe to attend a panel at Comic Con!
“JAWS” meets “ALIEN” cosplayers Elliot Shev and Wendi Maurer!

Afterward I took a nice stroll to the upper deck of the convention center overlooking the marina for some fresh air. It is truly beautiful along the San Diego coast, looking out to the boats in the bay. Devouring most of a delicious shawarma lunch (saved the rest for leftovers…yum!) I went to get an early seat (around 5:30pm) for my next panel (which started at 7pm).

Brian Ward moderates the panel for “What We Left Behind”, a DS9 documentary produced by David Zappone and Ira Steve Behr (former showrunner/writer of DS9). Included in the panel were former castmembers Andy Robinson (“Garak”), Cirroc Lofton (“Jake”), Aron Eisenberg (“Nog”), Penny Johnson Jerald (“Kassidy Yates”) and Chase Masterson (“Leeta”).

The panel centered on the “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine” documentary “What We Left Behind”, which I saw theatrically a few months ago. It is a fitting tribute to this terrific show, arguably the best Star Trek series of all. Producer Ira Steven Behr was there, as was documentarian David Zappone, DS9 writer/producer Ira Steven Behr.

Brian Ward moderates the panel for “What We Left Behind”, a DS9 documentary produced by David Zappone and Ira Steve Behr (former showrunner/writer of DS9). Included in the panel were former castmembers Andy Robinson (“Garak”), Cirroc Lofton (“Jake”), Aron Eisenberg (“Nog”), Penny Johnson Jerald (“Kassidy Yates”) and Chase Masterson (“Leeta”).

The panel breaks, as Cirroc Lofton, Aron Eisenberg and Penny Johnson-Jerald take a few moments to meet and greet with fans. No matter how rushed they were (by their handlers), they all took whatever time they could to say ‘hi’ to fans.

Also on hand were cast members Andy Robinson (“Garak”), Cirroc Lofton (“Jake Sisko”), Aron Eisenberg (“Nog”), Penny Jerald-Johnson (“Kassidy Yates”) and Chase Masterson (“Leeta”). The panel was hilarious (Lofton’s paper towel roll story had everyone crying tears of painful laughter), as well as never-before-seen bloopers from the series (including Odo planting a big kiss on Quark). The cast managed to meet and greet with fans (including myself) afterward, even though we were all being ushered out… this is how Comic Con after dark rolls. The cast and crew of that show are lovely people. They really did their best to give the waiting fans special attention.

Fans of DS9 cosplay as a Vulcan, a Starfleet captain, Dax (with tribble), and Major Kera Nerys.
Below is that same “Niners” baseball uniformed Kira posing with a near-perfect Captain Sisko cosplayer!

I was thrilled to take a selfie with producer/writer/showrunner Ira Steven Behr, the man who wrote, produced and oversaw so much of what I love about Deep Space Nine! And yes, I’m wearing my Fred Flintstone cosplay.

The ever-affable Aron Eisenberg. I got to interview him in Las Vegas for this site (check Aug. 2018 archives at the bottom of the “Musings…” main page). He is a true mensch. Check out his podcast “The 7th Rule”; it’s a gas!

So, without too much time wasted squatting, and allowing for a bit more spontaneity, Day Two ended well.

Allons-y to Day Three!

Professional cosplayer Sherman (Tank) poses as “John Coffy” from “The Green Mile.” I first met him last year at Comic Con Revolution in Ontario, and he is as kind and good-natured as his character!

Despite Day One’s descent from delightful into painful dreariness, I still wouldn’t forgo the privilege of being anywhere else right now. Attendance of SDCC is a privilege, especially when you consider the tens of thousands (possibly hundreds of thousands) who try so very hard to attend, but can’t. That I made a few bad choices is all on me. Day Two was very different; I had two events, and I stuck with them. They were very rewarding, and I didn’t wait all day for them, either. After 15 years of attending SDCC, my best times here usually occur when I don’t overly plan things and allow the overall experience to simply happen.

With their parent’s permission, I took this pic of these two adorable “Oogie Boogie” and “Jack Skellington” cosplayers from “The Nightmare Before Christmas”; my favorite animated movie of all time!

Here’s looking forward to Saturday and Sunday. Should have a final post up by Sunday night. Stay tuned!

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2 Comments Add yours

  1. Paul Bowler says:

    Wow, awesome post! Great costumes and Star Trek spaceship models! Been enjoying All the Star Trek news, Picard sect, from SDCC 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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