By JAY ROBERTS
If you are a sports fan, at some point or another you’ve probably hear the phrase “If you ain’t cheatin’, you ain’t tryin'”. You are probably wondering what a sports cliche like that has to do with a comic / pop culture convention. Well, it’s simple really. If you couldn’t find something fun to do at the recent New England Super Megafest Comic Con (a.k.a. Super MegaFest), you just weren’t trying very hard!
Making a much hailed return to Framingham, Mass., after holding the event in Marlboro, Mass., the last couple of years, the October 13th-14th event packed in so much into the weekend, you’d be hard pressed to have tried to experience it all. But that’s not for lack of trying, let me tell you. Spread out over two floors, there was something for everyone from across the fandom spectrum. (For clarity’s sake, everything described in this article took place on Saturday, October 13th, the day I attended the event.)
Though Super MegaFest actually kicked off with a Cosplay/Comedy Kickoff Party on Friday night, it was Saturday morning that the festivities kicked off in full. Truth be told, the fun started before you even walked in the door. That’s because surrounding the entrance to the venue was a number of famous movie and TV vehicles. You could check out the jeep and SUV from Jurassic Park as well as the Batmobile and the Joker-ized Gotham City police car.
But if famous cars weren’t your thing, you ended up doing what I did which is go inside, get checked in so you could get your wristband and head into Super MegaFest proper to really get the good times rolling!
“Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth”. Nope, I didn’t say it, Mike Tyson did. But I did have a plan of action that got shot to hell before I even got into the Dealer Room from which every other section of the con was accessible. I was still in the hallway waiting to get in and my plan to not buy anything died a quick death.
Much like all conventions, the vendors at Super MegaFest were selling a wide range of items. You could get rare movies and TV shows on DVD, comic books, swords, masks, brownies and so much more. What killed my “no buying anything right off” plan? One comic dealer in the hallway had a trade collection I’d been looking for and I couldn’t resist the lower than expected price. Thankfully, the line sped up and I was in the big dealer room before I could spend any more money.
Of course, being in the bigger dealers was like throwing gasoline on a fire but I managed to restrain myself and instead focused on getting the lay of the land. Plus I had a schedule of events so I had to be at certain places at certain times. This was not the time to dawdle.
I quickly found that the first floor was dedicated to not just the dealer’s room but the guest artists area as well. Meanwhile, the staircase leading to the second floor of the convention was manned by members of the New England Brethren of Pirates, one of the many groups raising money for charities over the weekend. The members at the top of the staircase were all dressed as pirate wenches while once you went downstairs, the male pirates were offering the chance to “Fight A Pirate” in the foyer before you went down the hallway leading to the rooms where panels, Q&A’s and celebrity meet and greets/photo ops were being held. For more check out http://www.nebpirates.com
ARTISTS ALLEY DEALER FLOOR PART 1
I had some time to myself before the first panel I was planning to attend was scheduled. This allowed me to take a slightly more in depth tour of the dealer’s room. As I said, there were a wide variety of wares on offer. The first stop that I made was the Galaxy Creations booth. They specialize in making highly detailed masks worn by many different characters in pop culture. The focus is mostly Star Wars related, but there are a number of other shows and movies represented in the various masks on display. I had met the owner Jaycee at another con last year and was impressed by his work. So when I saw he was here, I made a point to reconnect with him. He’s got a couple of stunningly rendered masks for the DC Comics villain Deathstroke that kept calling my name while I was there. Check out their work HERE.
Comic book dealers were well represented as well as those selling artwork, toys and clothing. One dealer I talked to went so far as to point out that this convention was the second to last one he was doing before he went out of the business. This statement explained why he was offering his large display of books up for bargain prices.
Threaded throughout the room were authors, comic creators and artists too. I ended up talking to a few of them including Jay Mooers, the creator, artist and writer at Eden Park Tales. His books, comics and artwork were quite eye-catching and he had this one piece that featured a zombie Santa Claus that really stood out the most. You can check out all he has to offer at http://www.edenparktales.com
COMIC ARTIST AREA
The comic book guest artist list criss-crossed the entire comics universe. You had a rare appearance from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles co-creator Peter Laird, TMNT artist Steve Lavigne (who’s line never seemed to get shorter all day long), Jason Badower, Sean Chen, Tim Estiloz and many others.
I spent some time talking to four creators in particular: Joe St. Pierre, Ron Wilson, Mike Grell and Arvell Jones. Each artist was engaging and took the time to chat.
I’ve met Joe St. Pierre at a couple other cons in the last few years. I’m not sure if it was there at those other appearances but this time around he had a banner proclaiming that has done more #1 issues of Spider-Man than anyone. Given the banner and the focus of the material at his table we almost HAD to chat about the Venom movie (we both liked it) as well as prose novel thrillers and his creator-owned series The New Zodiax.
Ron Wilson is probably best known for his Marvel Comics work, including the Marvel Two-In-One series that featured The Thing from The Fantastic Four. But he’s done a lot of other work which included a couple of Conan stories. I had brought along a copy of a Savage Sword of Conan trade paperback collection that reprinted one of those stories. When I showed it to him, he perused it rather carefully and told me that he couldn’t remember having done it despite his credit on the first page of the story.
Arvell Jones is another artist who’s work I read back in the day. Some of his work was used in the teaser posters for the Black Panther movie but he’s worked on some of the biggest comics for both DC and Marvel, co-creating Misty Knight while working on the Iron Fist comic with Tony Isabella. I loved his work on DC’s All-Star Squadron but when I talked with him I asked him if there was a reason that he was credited only as “Arv Jones” on a particular issue of Marvel Two-In-One. He told me that it was one of his earliest works and they (I’m guessing he meant Marvel) weren’t sure about him yet and that the first five pages were actually his sample pages. He added that when he showed them to John Romita, he was told that he should finish the story. Misunderstanding what Romita was saying, he said again that they were just samples. Romita finally told him to finish the story and he’d cut him a check. So he did, but he didn’t like the story he was telling and that was how Bill Mantlo ended up writing the story that was eventually published in issue #15 of the series.
Before heading off to my first Q&A panel, I stopped off to talk with writer and artist Mike Grell. Best known for his work on Green Arrow and Green Lantern comics, he was also the driving force behind The Warlord for DC Comics. I got to watch him work for a brief moment and then talked to him about his Green Arrow story The Longbow Hunters and about The Warlord as well.
Before I headed into the room where the Q&As where being held , I stopped off and got some pictures with Oscar the Grouch! Yep, I got to “meet” one of my earliest attitude role models. It was for a charity called the Yellow Feather Fund and for $5 you got your pic taken with the Sesame Street trash can denizen.
It was one of a number of charity fund-raising going on during the weekend. The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society was raising money with the chance to have your photo taken sitting on the couch with The Simpsons. And there were a few other endeavors going on as well.
Q & A PANELS PART 1
The Q&A panels were quite popular throughout the day. The first one held was for Mike Grell. The moderator started off getting Grell to talk about the early days of his career. Unsurprisingly, being a gifted storyteller is not limited to the stories he writes and illustrates. More impressive was that while he was talking, he was working on what I can only guess was a commission and yet never seemed to be distracted from answering questions from the moderator and later the audience.
He talked about working on Superboy and the Legion of Superheroes, the inability to sell some comic strips he had worked up. He gave a pretty detailed re-telling of The Warlord’s publication history. It had been canceled pretty quickly by DC’s Carmine Infantino but that the series got saved by Jeanette Kahn. Grell said that it was apparently her favorite book. He also mentioned how he knew early on in the book’s run how he wanted to end the story, adding that it took 35 years to do it but he ended the original story the way he’d envisioned.
The moderator asked about his series Shaman’s Tears and Grell talked about the book and how he’d always been interested in native cultures.
The audience got to ask a few questions as well. One woman asked him how early on did he realize that he could draw. This elicited Grell’s reply talking about growing up without TV and drawing in place of it. He also mentioned that pictures were secondary to good storytelling and detailed the difference with examples of each.
Not shy about sharing his opinion, when asked if he’d like to see a Warlord movie he said yes but emphasized his hope that it wouldn’t be like Batman vs. Superman or Justice League, two movies he didn’t like. He did specify that he liked the Wonder Woman movie though.
I asked him if he could forsee a situation where he’d do a new Warlord story in comics form and Grell said yes he could. He figured a way to bring back the character but that it would be tricky and added that maybe the story would be a good idea for the 50th anniversary of The Warlord. He said that in comics, “It’s hard to keep a good man dead”.
Remember what I said about everyone having a plan? Well, at this point I got the metaphorical punch in the mouth. After the Mike Grell panel had ended, I needed to duck out of the room for a quick minute before the start of the Lost In Space panel with Bill Mumy, Mark Goddard, Angela Cartwright and Marta Kristen. But when I got back and looked in, the room was quite packed with enthusiastic supporters of the show and actors. This made me decide to skip the panel altogether.
I did later find out that Bill Mumy was asked about his time on Babylon 5 during the panel, so I likely should’ve squeezed in somehow. That will be a regret of mine for sure.
I also ran into an acquaintance of mine later in the day. I didn’t know he was coming to Super Megafest so seeing him there was a surprise. He told me that they’d had a death in the family and that his daughter ended up not coming to the event as planned. He told Bill Mumy about it during the panel and Mumy recorded a video message for the girl to see.
WANDERING THE HALLS
With some unexpected free time on my hands from not being in the Lost In Space Q&A, I ended up checking out the rest of the second floor.
A couple of podcasts, The Dorkening (click HERE) and The Angry Geeks Show (click HERE), were in attendance and recording live shows as well. While I didn’t spend a lot of time checking out their tables, I did catch some fun chatter from the hosts of The Dorkening as I passed by. There was also a comedy/magic show running three times a day.
You could also meet wrestling luminaries Scott Steiner, Vickie Guerrero and Mean Gene Okerlund. Meanwhile, horror fans could spend some time with A Nightmare On Elm Street alum Mark Patton or Halloween’s Tony Moran.
The rooms set aside for the other celebrity meet and greets had Nicholas Brendon and Charisma Carpenter from Buffy The Vampire Slayer, the Lost In Space cast, actors Rusty Goffe, Cerina Vincent, Rochelle Davis and a number of others. The attending fans were lined up to meet their favorites throughout the course of the day. Some lines were longer than the other at various points, but it seemed that everyone was steadily busy whenever I wandered past the open doors leading into the rooms.
There were a number of cosplay guests lining the hallway, selling photo ops and such as well as interacting with other cosplayers who came to their tables including Koi Fish Asylum (click HERE).
CELEBRITY MEET AND GREETS
While waiting for the James Marsters panel to begin in the mid-afternoon, I ended up having the chance to talk with actor/director Tony Dow. Now I know that most people when thinking of Dow will say “Wally from Leave It To Beaver!”, but for my purposes I was interested in talking to him about his directing work on Babylon 5.
I accidentally timed things perfectly too. I got to his table in one of the meet and greet rooms during a lull and got to spend ten minutes talking about Babylon 5 with him. He spoke about the differences between directing B5 and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and the ins and outs of being on set directing the episodes. He seemed genuinely surprised but pleased that someone would ask him about directing and he asked me if the show was airing on TV anywhere. I told him that I didn’t think so but couldn’t be certain and that I just watch the show on the DVD sets.
By the way, Tony Dow was at the show with his former cast mate Jerry Mathers and if meeting them for an autograph and photo wasn’t enough for you, there was an extra option of having “Dinner with the Cleaver Boys” on Saturday night after the floor closed for the day.
I also got to briefly chat with Bill Mumy at his table after he returned from his pro photo op obligations. Besides his work on both Lost In Space and Babylon 5, he’s an accomplished musician and author. While waiting in line for my brief minute or two, I listened as he talked with other fans and answering their questions. Mumy had a packed weekend at Super MegaFest as he was performing an acoustic concert on Saturday night just after the con closed down for the day.
Q & A PANELS PART 2
As it turned out, I was late for the James Marsters panel and when I got there it was even more packed than the Lost In Space one. But I wanted to hear what was being said, so I found a spot in the back of the room for the last portion of the Q&A.
One fan asked about improv and if any had ever happened on the set of Buffy. Marsters said that it didn’t ever happen because if they tried to, Joss Whedon would let it go and essentially say now let’s do it right. The one time it did happen, Marsters and David Boreanaz were sent into another room to improv a verbal argument. This story saw Marsters go into his British accent and play out part of that dialogue. He concluded by saying the Joss was in the other room laughing his ass off over what was being said.
The panel concluded with a fan asking if, like Nathan Fillion has stated, Marsters would drop anything to go work with Joss again. He said that he told Joss whether it was 5 lines or 50 he’d be there so long as he wasn’t contractually obligated to be somewhere else.
Much like Bill Mumy, Saturday night after the convention closed for the day, James Marsters was booked to play an acoustic show for those fans who were staying around for the evening’s festivities.
While there were other non-celebrity Q&A events going on during the day like a video game tournament, a Star Wars trivia contest and a costume contest, the one that grabbed my attention the most was the panel “Anthologies and the New Writer”.
It featured authors Stacey Longo (click HERE), Rob Watts (click HERE) and Stephen Lomer (click HERE) talking about ways for new writers to possibly break in to getting their work published via anthologies. They spoke about and offered suggestions for looking for online open calls. They also talked about how important it was to follow the submission guidelines and etiquette.
The three authors also spoke to what red flags to watch out for including some talk about “anthology mills”.
It was an informative discussion with some humor thrown in as well. The people in attendance asked a few pertinent questions. This included my question regarding their thoughts on how important reviews are, particularly on Amazon.com which is the barometer website for such things.
I was pretty intrigued by the whole discussion and spent some time after the panel concluded talking to the authors both in the room and back at their tables just off of the dealer room.
ARTISTS ALLEY DEALER FLOOR PART 2
Towards the end of the day, after talking to the three authors, I made my way back to the dealer floor where along with making some personal purchases for myself, I ended up talking to author Colin Carlton. He was at Super MegaFest promoting his book Infinite Velocity. The poster for the book had a quote that said fans of Star Trek and Firefly would find a lot to love with the book.
You can say that I was interested. So I asked Carlton what the book was about. His 10 second pitch was absolutely perfect. He said, “Imagine the crew of Serenity found an abandoned Enterprise”. All I can say to that was my reply was “SOLD!” You can check out more about the book HERE.
Carlton was sharing his table with Christian Hegg of Sterling Arts & Design (click HERE). Hegg designed the cover for the book. I’m looking forward to checking out the book for sure.
As with all conventions, there was a sizeable portion of the fan base that came dressed up in some costume or another. And there was a lot to be said for many of the cosplay that I saw. From the family dressed up as The Incredibles and Mera from Aquaman, from multiple Poison Ivy’s and Harley Quinn’s to Batman, Batwoman, Wonder Woman and many others, creativity was not in short supply. One guy came dressed as music superstar Prince and his costume was amazing! My favorite was probably the woman that was dressed up as Captain Marvel from the upcoming Marvel movie. I thought the entire look was so well done that she was the only cosplayer I wanted a picture with rather than just taking a snapshot of.
The cutest moment involved the couple dressed as Belle and the Beast. I had taken a photo of them and then ten minutes later saw them as a little girl no older than three years old and dressed as Elsa came down a stairway, turned towards them and about lost it. She was smiling and overjoyed to see Belle and the Beast! Her enthusiasm brought a smile to my face.
With Super MegaFest 2018 now in the books, what are my final thoughts about my Day at the Con?
First, I should mention that while my interactions with the staff were limited, the times I did interact with them, they were very helpful and professional. This might seem unnecessary to mention but I’ve been at conventions where this was not the case.
Otherwise, all I can say is that I had a great time and I’m sure other attendees did as well. I was there to cover the event so it was a work day for me, but I still managed to carve out some “me” time amidst all the running back and forth (seriously, if you want to get your steps in on your FitBit, go to a comic convention!) to get the material I needed to write this article. And believe me, this could’ve gone on a lot longer. This is just the highlights really. But after skipping the event the last few years, I was rather pleased to find Super MegaFest to be an entertaining, fun-filled way to take part in the pop culture fandom I love so much. Getting to experience it alongside others who felt the same way only heightened my level of enjoyment.
So, circling back around to the beginning, if you weren’t having a ball at Super MegaFest 2018, you just weren’t trying!
For more on this year’s event or to follow the news for Super MegaFest 2019, click HERE.