By JAY ROBERTS
The following takes place between Saturday, November 3rd, and Sunday, November 4th. Events occurred in real time…even if I don’t write about them in chronological order.
Some might recognize my paraphrasing of the opening of the TV show 24. I think given the fact that Kiefer Sutherland was one of the parade of stars in attendance at the 2018 Rhode Island Comic Con, it is appropriate.
I spent two days at this year’s event and bore witness to many of the available options for entertainment in both the Dunkin Donuts Center and the Rhode Island Convention Center. With the exception of a couple of celebrity encounters, I decided to focus most of my time on other aspects of the convention. This recap includes interviews with writers and podcasters, photos galore and my impressions of a number of experiences. So settle in and enjoy the ride!
THE ALAN TUDYK EXPERIENCE
Long before I had decided to cover this year’s convention for an article, I knew that I wanted to go to the show. This was due to the fact that actor Alan Tudyk was scheduled to be in attendance (he was actually supposed to appear at last year’s convention but had to cancel).
Given the fact that I am a huge fan of the TV show Firefly and the follow-up movie Serenity, (I’ve met three other members of the cast in the past) getting to add Tudyk to the “I have met list” was the one true “me” moment that I had planned for in the midst of the more impartial look at the convention.
The first thing I had to do when I arrived to the convention was check in and pick up my media pass. This took about 30 seconds and then it was off to wait in line at his booth in the Rhode Island Convention Center. Or so I thought. As it turned out Alan Tudyk had been moved to the Dunkin Donuts Center for his autograph signing, so I had to backtrack and stand in line there instead. While I was waiting in line with a sizeable contingent of his fans, I ended up striking up a conversation with more than a few people, including one couple, Jordan and Amanda, for a bit about a variety of topics. This was something that repeated itself a few times over the two days I was at the convention with other people as well. Just good naturedly talking about the shows we like and the people that made them. Camaraderie seemed to be a watchword that was taken quite seriously by all the fans. At least the ones I ended up talking to anyway.
Of course, the chat with Jordan and Amanda was ended abruptly when it was learned that Tudyk hadn’t arrived yet and wouldn’t be showing up until 2:30 pm. As all the waiting fans departed the line, I wondered what that meant for his scheduled 1:30 pm pro photo shoot.
To get that answer, I headed back to the Convention Center to purchase my photo ticket from Epic Photo Ops. It was there that I was told Tudyk would indeed be there for the 1:30 pm time. When the appointed time arrived, all the people waiting for their photos were told to stand in line to be given a new time to get our photos taken because Tudyk still hadn’t arrived. As we we all waited, I struck up a conversation with Victoria Shepard and A.J. Szymanowski, another couple of Tudyk fans. While the conversation was essentially a variation upon a theme from the signing line, it at least kept us occupied. It was becoming a bit annoying to stand around waiting but all of a sudden we were being led into the photo area instead of just being told to come back at a later time. Alan Tudyk had arrived! The line moved quickly and soon it was my turn. We shook hands in greeting and a few seconds later the photo was snapped and I was headed out of the room to pick up my print of said photo.
I should mention that this was my first experience with Epic Photo Ops and it couldn’t have gone better. As I followed the exit line, I passed by the table where my printed photo was already waiting for me to pick up. When I got scanned out of the photo aread, my digital copy of the photo was automatically sent to my email address. I certainly can’t find any fault with their performance as it pertained to me.
I spent a few more minutes talking to A.J. and Victoria (where I learned that A.J. and I had the fact that both of our fathers had been cops in common) before heading back to the Dunkin Donuts Center and stood in line for about an hour or so for Tudyk’s signing session. When it was my turn with him, I had him sign my copy of the Firefly The Official Companion Volume 1 book that I’d brought with me. When I mentioned that I’d had three other cast members sign the book already he said, “Oh, you got Morena to sign it today?” (Morena Baccarin was also a guest at the convention) I told him that I’d actually met her a few years back and that his appearance was the main reason I came to the show in the first place. I didn’t see the inscription he personalized the book with until after I’d left the line but it said “I am a leaf on the wind”, likely the best known line of dialogue from his character.
That was Saturday. On Sunday morning, I crossed over to the Omni Hotel for Alan Tudyk’s Q&A panel. As it was the only celebrity panel I would attend all weekend, I made sure I got there pretty early. As I waited in the designated press line, I made conversation with a couple of other press attendees including Tracy Allen from PopHorror.com. Once we got in the ballroom and both moderator Clare Kramer (who played “Glory” on Buffy The Vampire Slayer) and Alan Tudyk were introduced, the questions came quickly and covered a variety of topics ranging from his casting in the upcoming Doom Patrol series and how he came join the Star Wars franchise. Once the questions from the audience started, Tudyk’s work in Firefly, Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story, Wreck-It Ralph and numerous other projects were covered.
Tudyk shared details about a possible third season of Con Man or as he put “or not.” He talked about people he wanted to work with, projects he’d like to be involved with, stuff he’d taken from the sets he’d worked on. What he took from the Firefly set ended up being a rather touching story related to the eventual making of the Serenity movie.
There was a lot more ground covered but those were some of the highlights. Each person that asked a question got a signed item from what Alan laughingly described as his “bag of crap”. Some of the stuff was old room keys from other hotels he’d stayed at, a packet of coffee, a road map of the state of Georgia or some gift cards from his celebrity swag bag.
While I didn’t feel the need to ask any questions, it was an entertaining 45 minutes full of stories and laughter and a rousing ovation was given as the panel concluded.
In all, the time spent face to face with Alan Tudyk was brief, but as a Firefly fan totally worth all that extra walking around in order to accomplish the personal goal of meeting him. Lacking any sense of impartiality, it was a complete blast for me and helped illustrate why the Firefly motto of “Keep Flyin'” still resonates to this day with every Browncoat and I’m no exception.
COMIC-CON INTERLUDE #1
If you happened to be looking to make a possible love connection or at the very least a new friend or two to hang out with at conventions, you could always check out The Geek Speed Dating. The company held four sessions each day for prospective geeks looking to make a match with a fellow attendee. I didn’t attend the sessions myself because that is definitely something for the younger crowd. However, from all that I’ve heard, this does seem to be a pretty popular destination at the con.
TALES FROM ARTIST’S ALLEY – MICHAEL GOLDEN
While there were a number of well known comic artists at this year’s show, the one that interested me the most was Michael Golden. He’s known for a lot of work with both DC Comics (Detective Comics, Nightwing) and Marvel Comics (The ‘Nam, G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero, Savage Sword of Conan) as well as being the co-creator of Rogue from the X-Men and Bucky O’Hare. But for my brief encounter with Golden, I was mostly interested in his work on the first twelve issues of Marvel’s The Micronauts. There had been a small desire in acquiring a sketch from him but that turned out to be impossible. Still, it was great to meet him and I did come away with my copy of the first issue of The Micronauts signed.
THE COMIC CON INTERVIEW – JENNIE WOOD
I was rather pleased to once again encounter writer Jennie Wood. Her graphic novel series Flutter was a big hit with me when I first met her at the 2013 Rhode Island Comic Con. Since then I’ve only become a greater fan of her work. This year, Jennie was the writer of the Altered Reality Comics The Rhode Warrior comic. I picked that up from her on Saturday along with a couple other projects she had a hand in creating. When I returned on Sunday, Jennie took some time out to talk to me about Rhode Warrior, the upcoming Dark Horse Comics collection of her three volume Flutter series and a few other topics. Here’s how that conversation went:
LIMELIGHT MAGAZINE: I wanted to start with The Rhode Warrior. How did it come about that you got the job to write the story?
JENNIE WOOD: Well, I know Ian Chase Nichols, who is the guy who created Rhode Warrior. He’s a fantastic artist and writer and he works for Altered Reality Comics. He and I had been wanting to work together for a while and he finally got the green light to do another Rhode Warrior comic, to kind of reboot it for this year’s Rhode Island Comic Con. So he asked me if I wanted to take it on and I said “Yes!”
LIMELIGHT MAGAZINE: When you were writing it, did the story come easy? Where there guidelines you had to fit? Did they have an idea of the story they wanted you to write or did they give you what would pass for free rein to creat the story before edits and everything?
JENNIE WOOD: Ian gave me free rein. I know that it is a character near and dear to his heart because he created her, so you know, I wanted to make sure that I did it justice.
He’s very passionate about the character and he and I are good friends so I felt that same passion. I wanted to just do it right. Also, she’s the Rhode Warrior, you know? She’s of Rhode Island, she’s part of Rhode Island. She’s very proud of that, so I wanted to do Rhode Island proud to.
So when I sat down to do the story, I was given free rein which was great. Altered Reality, it’s a world that’s already created that I was writing within so I had those limitations. We also wanted to keep it as kid friendly as we could. We have Little Rhodie for young kids but keep it PG-rated, which is fine. But me, I just really wanted to make a comic that would do Rhode Island and Rhode Island Comic Con proud. So I created a story that involved Rhode Island Comic Con and it possibly being cancelled. I set the story in Providence. I really tried to make Providence a character and just put as much love for Rhode Island as I could into it.
I’m not from Rhode Island. I live in Boston, but I come here a lot and there’s a lot of stuff I can relate to in terms of being the scrappy underdog that is often overlooked, which I feel like Rhode Island and Providence is. This is a beautiful city, it’s a beautiful state but people forget about it. And I put a lot of that into the comic and I could relate to that. And that’s what I tried to do, just relate to The Rhode Warrior as a character and the setting on a personal level.
LIMELIGHT MAGAZINE: I’d like to switch gears and go to Flutter. You have the three graphic novels out in singular format but you have the trade collection of all three coming out on Dark Horse on, I believe November 21st, or somewhere around that.
JENNIE WOOD: Yes.
LIMELIGHT MAGAZINE: I remember reading a post on social media that it was your dream to have them publish it, so how did you get the deal with them to publish the collection of all three (graphic novels)?
JENNIE WOOD: About four years ago, Dark Horse Entertainment, which is separate from Dark Horse Comics, wanted to sign a “right to shop” to build a movie deal for Flutter. So I’ve been working with them for a while on that. And that’s still very much in progress.
But, they explained to me that Dark Horse Comics was a separate entity but I had been going back and forth with Mike Richardson of Dark Horse Comics about doing something for Dark Horse Presents, like a short comic. And just the timing on that was never right. You know, I sat down to do it, Dark Horse Presents was cancelled again.
So when I finished Volume 3 of Flutter, I approached Mike Richardson about putting it out as a collection, cause I wanted to do that anyway and I said, “All three are done. How about Dark Horse putting it out?” I’ve always felt that Flutter belonged at Dark Horse, it just feels like a Dark Horse book. And he got back to me and said yes. So it’s coming out later this month.
LIMELIGHT MAGAZINE: Now you had mentioned that you had been working with Dark Horse Entertainment and you said that there was progress. Is it is still progressing or is it stuck in “development hell”?
JENNIE WOOD: (Laughs) They decided to switch gears and focus on it as a movie, as a screen play. And I’m actually taking a crack at writing that screenplay. And that’s hard to do just because I’ve been very close to the graphic novel story for so long. So we’ll see where all of that goes, but it’s exciting.
LIMELIGHT MAGAZINE: Now you also have other works that you do. You work on the series Fubar, which is zombie tales.
JENNIE WOOD: Yes.
LIMELIGHT MAGAZINE: There never seems to be a lull in that lately. You have zombies and it sells. When you’re writing them, are you writing the stories and them someone’s doing the art or is there a collaboration between both you as the writer and whomever happens to being doing the art for any particular story?
JENNIE WOOD: With anthologies, it’s usually you write the story, you send it in to whomever’s putting the book together, editing the book. And then they find the artist that they think would be the best fit and then the artist takes it and runs with it. Sometimes they get back to you and want to make edits and say something like, “We’re going to take this one page and make it two.” Or “Do you want to make a dialogue tweak based on how this was laid out.” But there’s much less back and forth with something like that than with a bigger series like Flutter.
LIMELIGHT MAGAZINE: I’m looking at your table here and you have your Singularity- Rise of the Posthumans. I know that was a prose novel anthology. What is the overall concept and your story in particular?
JENNIE WOOD: Singularity is a steampunk anthology set into the future. Basically, “madman destroys the world and the world has to rebuild itself”. It’s funny because I wrote, well it’s not funny, but I wrote this story two, three, maybe even four years ago. And, you know, post-apocalyptic but the new ruler is…basically there’s another genocide going on and killing off all the Jewish people but set into the future.
So it’s (her story) about two women who basically work together and they’re a couple. It’s about them trying to escape all of that. And I’m not going to tell you if they do or not because that’s a spoiler! All the stories are connected in this kind of post-apocalyptic world. It kind of goes back to the Victorian era. There’s no electricity. So you have this interesting mix of futuristic technology but 1800s type world.
LIMELIGHT MAGAZINE: I can’t wait to read it! Now, where you’ve worked on both anthologies and you’ve worked on your own stuff, do you find…is it different? Do you have to be more collaborative with the anthologies as opposed to your own work? Or because you’re working with an artist on your own work as well, do you have to be open to changes or alterations to what you envision for your characters or your story?
JENNIE WOOD: It really depends on who I’m working with more than the project. I mean, when its a graphic novel series like Flutter, I’m creating that whole world but I’m doing it with an artist so there’s just a lot more back and forth as we build this world together. With an anthology, it’s a shorter story, so it’s really just tossing the ball. The script is the football and I’m tossing that ball to someone, to an artist, and let them run with it and see where they go.
LIMELIGHT MAGAZINE: How has the weekend been going here for you?
JENNIE WOOD: Amazing! Everyone’s super friendly, super supportive. The Rhode Warrior has been, (points to table) that’s my last copy…almost sold out of that. Getting a lot of great feedback from that and a lot of enthusiasm about Flutter as well.
LIMELIGHT MAGAZINE: I’m always glad to hear that. One last thing, we share a love of sports. How about the Red Sox?
JENNIE WOOD: So excited about the Red Sox. That weekend, Games 3, 4, and 5 was a roller coaster. Not a lot of sleep, but very, very exciting.
LIMELIGHT MAGAZINE: I just want to thank you for talking to me today. Continued luck and I can’t wait to see Flutter on the big screen!
For more on Jennie Wood, check out her website by clicking HERE.
COMIC CON INTERLUDE #2
Speaking of the Red Sox, if you are still basking in their World Series title as a lot of us are, the convention had you covered. You could take the “Sox VR Home Run Challenge” and through the use of virtual reality, take some cuts at the plate.
A SPIN AROUND THE VENDOR’S FLOOR(S)
A big part of any comic convention is, of course, the vendor’s floor. And at the Rhode Island Comic Con, there was much to behold because not only did they have the main floor at the Convention Center but there were just as many vendors inside the outer hallway of the Dunkin Donuts Center as well.
And the treasure troves of stuff to be had could boggle one’s mind. You had everything from toys and T-shirts, to comic books and original artwork. If jewelry is your thing, you were covered. Need a new book to read or maybe some prop weapons? Check and check!
There was a whole lot of everything and whatever your particular focus, you were sure to come away with something that you just HAD to have!
For me, I took many a walk around the vendor’s area all weekend long and even if I didn’t make a purchase at one booth, there was always another booth down the line that had me reaching for my wallet.
I stopped by the Pawpetual Pins booth and spoke ever so briefly to Holly Smith who was running the booth.
While they didn’t have the size I was looking for, Nineteen Sixty Three, who’s tagline is “We Make Nerd Gear,” had a great Serenity T-shirt that I’m going to have to hit their website (click HERE) to get my hands on.
There was the Thirteenth Floor Art & Clothing Store (click HERE) that had some outstanding artwork from Billy Ludwig.
And believe me, this is just barely scratching the surface.
Federation Comics had a great selection of movie posters and one sheets. I ended up making a Christmas purchase for a friend of mine and grabbed up a couple things for me too.
Comic books vendors were in decent supply for the convention. Pleasant View Comics had a nice setup and Ally helped me fill a couple holes in my comic collection. Another vendor, who requested to remain anonymous as they are getting out of the business and don’t need the publicity, gave me a great deal on a certain single issue that I’d been looking to get my hands on for a long time.
When I attend a convention, I invariably come home with at least one prose novel. And at this year’s Rhode Island Comic Con, there were plenty of authors to choose from. The majority of the authors were based in Rhode Island, so they were also promoting the upcoming Rhode Island Author Expo (to be held December 1st). Between promo cards on their tables and when they were talking to me, they all had a genuine enthusiasm for that event as well as Rhode Island Comic Con. For more on the Expo, click HERE.
While I myself am mostly a mysteries and thrillers fan, I was intrigued by a number of the stories that were on hand at this convention. You had science fiction from the likes of R.K. Bentley (click HERE), who’s Where Weavers Daire sounds amazing. There was also horror writer Christa Carmen (click HERE) and Emily Tallman (click HERE) who writes both horror and romantic fiction. I spoke briefly to all three of them and came away eager to check out some of their work.
In short, the vendor’s floor would be an easy way to quickly find yourself broke if you didn’t exercise some caution. You’d be happy because you’d found something that you wanted and/or needed but with so much to see, only a lottery win would let you afford it all! Still, it sure was fun to “window shop” a bit!
THE COMIC CON INTERVIEW – MICHAEL TERRACCIANO
Among the many new discoveries for me while I was walking down each aisle of Artist Alley was the web comic/graphic novel series Star Power. You can check out the webcomic online by clicking HERE, or you can pick up one of the four (at this point) printed graphic novel collections of the story so far. I spoke with Star Power writer Michael Terracciano on the Sunday of the convention and here’s what he had to say about the comic.
LIMELIGHT MAGAZINE: Can you give us a brief synopsis of the series that you’re writing, Star Power?
MICHAEL TERRACCIANO: Sure. Star Power is a web comic that I do with my friend Garth. I’m the writer, he’s the artist. We update new pages every Monday, Wednesday and Friday at our website StarPowerComic.com.
It’s about an astronomer on a space station in the far future who gets granted “the star power”. Now she has to figure out why it chose her, where it came from, what the hell’s coming after her now and why, and what happened to the rest of the galaxy beyond the borders of her interstellar civilization.
I do think it has action like Star Wars and heart and optimism like Star Trek. It’s the bright shining future that, like, no one writes about anymore.
LIMELIGHT MAGAZINE: Is it geared toward kids, all ages or it’s pretty much anyone can read it?
MICHAEL TERRACCIANO: Anyone can read it. The same way that classic Star Wars is a lot of kid’s first sci-fi space adventure. Classic Star Wars wasn’t geared towards children, but I watched it when I was 6, 7 maybe even 5. I have very early memories of it. So Star Power is in that vein. Not for kids, but kids could easily get into it.
LIMELIGHT MAGAZINE: What made you decide, was there a specific design to making the lead character a female? Was that how it developed originally? Did you start writing it as a male character and find it worked better as a female?
MICHAEL TERRACCIANO: Star Power has a kind of an interesting, well I think it’s interesting, backstory. It started out as a pulp two fisted ray gun adventure called Captain Space. It had a male space cop protagonist, but it didn’t really work. Our villains were more interesting than Captain Space.
When I was talking…when Garth and I were really looking over the scripts, we need to change things up a bit. This was around the time of the New 52 reboot in DC Comics when all the great female characters were rebooted into just crappy versions of themselves. We’re not seeing what we want, let’s make it. Let’s do it without patting ourselves on the back, like “look at how progressive we are. Look how we are two guys making a female lead.”
We didn’t want to make a big deal out that, we just wanna do it. By virtue of just doing it, make that be the big deal by itself. So, we played with the character. We found out that she was way more interesting than Captain Space. Compromised some more, bounced some ideas back and forth until she turned out as you see her in the books.
LIMELIGHT MAGAZINE: Now your artist is Garth Graham. Were you a team before? Did you discover each other’s work trying to find someone to work with? How did your partnership come about?
MICHAEL TERRACCIANO: Prior to teaming up to do Star Power, we were both doing individual webcomics and we both met at a convention we were both exhibiting at. It was ConnectiCon in Hartford, Connecticut…Gawd I want to say back in 2005, maybe even earlier.
We just struck up a conversation, made friends, stayed in touch over the years. I brought my previous work to a close, he brought his previous work to a close. I said, “Hey dude, do you want to work together on something?” and after some convincing he signed on to do Star Power, well Captain Space and then it turned into Star Power.
LIMELIGHT MAGAZINE: You said that it’s a webcomic so that you update that first. How long before it goes from the webcomic to your printed volumes, the four volumes that you have available right now?
MICHAEL TERRACCIANO: It takes about a year. That’s just due to the update schedule. We put up a new page every Monday, Wednesday and Friday so three new pages a week. Every chapter is 24 pages and every story is five chapters. There’s a set limit on how long the story is. With the update schedule, plus some breaks or convention weekends, holidays. It takes us about a year to finish the story, run the Kickstarter and then it gets printed and we distribute it to the people who have supported us or who meet us here at conventions.
LIMELIGHT MAGAZINE: You have the four volumes available, about when would volume 5 come out?
MICHAEL TERRACCIANO: We’re updating the last chapter of our fifth storyline online now. It should be done the end of this month, early next month. I should know the exact date, but with convention weekends and other real life happenings, it could get pushed back and forth. So we’re hoping by maybe January or February 2019 we should have the Kickstarter for Book 5 ready to go.
LIMELIGHT MAGAZINE: Now the webcomic is available at Star Power Comic.com.
MICHAEL TERRACCIANO: Star Power Comic.com, yeah. Anybody can read everything we’ve ever done over the past five years on that site. But there’s some “lore junkie” stuff in the books. If you need to know the individual histories of aliens and characters that are just way too exposition heavy to fit into a story. But if you like to know that sort of stuff, there’s “lore junkie” stuff in the back along with Garth’s sketchbooks to see his design process.
LIMELIGHT MAGAZINE: That’s always a good thing. Especially for people first starting out with it, the books give them more of the background.
MICHAEL TERRACCIANO: More of the background, some of the histories that would be too clumsy to explain in a natural narrative or a dialogue. And maps of the star system where space station Sanctuary 6 is. Again, just like extra stuff you can’t find online.
LIMELIGHT MAGAZINE: We’re here at Rhode Island Comic Con, have you exhibited here in the past?
MICHAEL TERRACCIANO: Nope, first time Rhode Island Comic Con, just giving it a try.
LIMELIGHT MAGAZINE: And how has the reception been so far?
MICHAEL TERRACCIANO: Pretty good. Lots of people who come by seem very very interested. If they can’t buy books, they are definitely interested in taking a card, wanna check us out online. But the people who have bought books, either want them all at once or at least want to try the first one. A couple of people have come back the next day and said, “Alright, I need the rest of these.” So it’s been nice.
LIMELIGHT MAGAZINE: That’s always nice. Especially at a con, if they’re coming back.
MICHAEL TERRACCIANO: Yes, Yes. I mean, people stop by because Garth’s artwork is stunning. It catches their eyes and they go like “Oh my gosh” and sort of linger. But when they come back because they like what they’ve read, that makes my heart happy…”Oh you like the story too, oh thank you.”
LIMELIGHT MAGAZINE: I know for me, being a long time comic fan you always appreciate the art. But for me, it wouldn’t matter how beautiful the art is, if the story isn’t there, so I can imagine how good that feels when they say “I’ve come back for the story”.
MICHAEL TERRACCIANO: It feels very, very good. And that Garth’s artwork and my writing seem to compliment each other so well and work so well together as a team really makes Star Power feel like something special. I hope other people think so too.
LIMELIGHT MAGAZINE: Well, I’m certainly looking forward to reading it myself.
MICHAEL TERRACCIANO: Thank you, thank you.
One of the best innovations on the part of Rhode Island Comic Con is their Kids Con. It runs simultaneously with the regular convention but is completely geared towards the younger crowd that attends with their parents. It gives the youngsters something to do that is FOR THEM. I’ve seen this in action at previous RICC shows I’ve been to and this year’s installment was exceptional as well.
You had entertainment options like April’s Balloon Creations and artist Jim Weicherding. You could have painted on tattoos or henna tattoos from The Bling Stop. They also provided kids with a chance to make their own sand art.
The Providence Children’s Museum, including Madeline Cirullo, was on hand to provide kids with the opportunity to design and make their own super hero gadgets.
As you can see, this particular option went over well with young Gwendolyn Lochelt who was very intensely making her project.
Later on Saturday afternoon, the Mad Science of Southern MA & RI put on a science demonstration that drew a fair number of kids and their parents. I went to the show as well and have to say that while the experiments done where squarely aimed at the age level of the kids, it was more entertaining than anything I saw in 12 years of science classes when I was in school. “Jolting Jonathan” Breindel was a lively presence as he walked the audience through the presentation. His light-hearted manner drew the kids in and drew out laughter at times from everyone. Also on hand were “Atomic Allen” Converse, the chief mad scientist and “Terrestrial Teresa” Gisburne. I know that I wasn’t the target audience but still I really enjoyed the show. You can learn more by clicking HERE.
THE COMIC CON INTERVIEW – SEAN WANG
Comic writer and artist Sean Wang has over 18 years of professional illustration to his credit. On the Saturday portion of the convention, I stopped by his table and ended up picking up the first two volumes in his science fiction graphic novel series Runners. When I returned on Sunday, I spoke to him about the series, here’s what he had to say:
LIMELIGHT MAGAZINE: To start off, very simply, can you give me an overview of the story behind Runners and how came upon creating everything to go with it.
SEAN WANG: Yeah sure. It’s basically a fun sci-fi action comedy about alien smugglers. So if you if like the original Star Wars trilogy or Firefly or Guardians of the Galaxy, it’s very much in the vein of space opera.
Basically, it just follows the exploits of a group of smugglers. In each of the two books so far, they take on a different smuggling job for the Mob and get in over their heads as you would expect them to. So they wind up on the run from bounty hunters, pirates, the police and the occasional conscience.
LIMELIGHT MAGAZINE: Conscience, I notice how that one came last.
SEAN WANG: Yes. They have their moral dilemmas over what they’re doing and sometimes it takes a little longer to cross that line than others.
LIMELIGHT MAGAZINE: Now you have your website, runnersuniverse.com, do you do the graphic novels…do you put anything online in advance, how does that work?
SEAN WANG: I am posting it as a webcomic. It’s been fallow for a few years as I was doing freelance. But I’m right now in the process of ramping it back up. So starting sometime in early 2019, it’s going to be starting up again in webcomic form. And I’ll be posting new pages a few times a week and then once a whole book is done, I’ll probably go through Kickstarter to get a print volume done.
LIMELIGHT MAGAZINE: You have two volumes so far. Do you have a set idea for how you are doing it, for how many volumes you wanna have it, how you are sketching that out.
SEAN WANG: Yeah, actually that’s a great question. I’ve been working on this since probably the late 90’s when I first came up with the story and I had a whole lot of story ideas and enough material for pretty much a lifetime’s worth of work. But I wasn’t sure how much work that actually meant. So I took a good chunk of last year and actually decided to plot out the entire rest of the series and figure it all out. I actually have the story wall at home covered with colored Post-its, each color assigned to a different character and it filled up an entire wall. And through that I planned out the whole rest of the series, which will be another eight graphic novels. So the total will be ten books and at this point I have every major plot turn and every character arc figured out. And knowing all that, I’m more excited to get back to it than ever. So book three is already fully written and the rest is already plotted out, but book three I’ll start jumping into next year.
LIMELIGHT MAGAZINE: Switching gears away from Runners for a moment, you also were involved with The Rhode Warrior comic for Rhode Island Comic Con this year. I believe it was a pin-up that you did. How did you get the call to do the work.
SEAN WANG: Oh okay. With that, actually before Runners, I got my start in the industry writing and drawing for The Tick comic books for New England Comics. So I did a number of those books and seasonal specials and continued to do a bunch of covers for a number of years.
Through that, I got to know Ian Chase Nichols, who has been working on The Tick more recently. He’s also involved in the Rhode Island show so he reached out to me. I guess he liked my artwork enough to want to see if I wanted to contribute a pin-up for The Rhode Warrior this year.
LIMELIGHT MAGAZINE: Going back to Runners, what’s your pitch to draw people in at the comic cons?
SEAN WANG: It’s a fun sci-fi action comedy about alien smugglers. And if you if like Star Wars, Firefly, Guardians of the Galaxy, that kind of fun space opera then you’ll definitely like it. It is the sort of thing where I feel like everyone who has picked it up and been willing to give it a try has really loved it. And has been eagerly waiting for the next one and gets really involved in the series and into the characters.
So it’s definitely the sort of thing where if you if trying it, I’m pretty sure you’ll like it especially if you like fun space adventure. And if you like your comics to be fun. Because even though I have like a whole ten volume intergalactic war story planned out, I never want my comics to be dark and gritty. I still want to be fun, like color-wise, character-wise…a lot of fun banter, a lot of fun action scenes. While still having some dramatic stakes.
So if any of that sounds interesting to you, then definitely it’s the book you should be checking out. And also, you can read it for free at runnersuniverse.com so you don’t even have to pay for it if you don’t want to. Although if you want to buy it, that would be wonderful.
LIMELIGHT MAGAZINE: Well, I know I picked up the two volumes yesterday. I’m really looking forward to having time to sit down and read through it. How has the Rhode Island Comic Con been for you this year? How’s the reception to the book, the whole weekend been progressing for you?
SEAN WANG: Oh it’s been really good. It’s always fun doing these shows and it’s always great meeting new people and finding new people to get enthused about the book. So yeah, it’s been a great show.
For more on Sean Wang, click HERE.
COMIC CON INTERLUDE #3
If you are a movie buff with an emphasis on short films or fan made films, then you might’ve wanted to take in the Geekfest Film Festival 2018. Over Saturday and Sunday, you could check out over 30 films that covered everything from the aforementioned fan films, horror flicks, sci-fi movies, animated films and more.
THE REAL JOEY PANTS
In my original plans for the Rhode Island Comic Con, I had thought about meeting actor Joe Pantoliano. He’s also known by the nickname Joey Pants, which is why the header says what it says. I wasn’t sure if I was going to do it, but on Sunday afternoon I arrived at his table in the celebrity room and spent a few minutes talking to the prolific actor (seriously, the man’s been in over 100 movies and TV shows) about his work on the sadly almost forgotten CBS crime drama EZ Streets. He played mobster Jimmy Murtha and for my money it will always be my favorite performance from Pantoliano. This was the year before his role on The Sopranos started and unfortunately EZ Streets was a failure in the ratings. When I brought out the sole DVD that has been released for the show (featuring the pilot episode and two random episodes), Pantoliano exclaimed that I was a “connoissieur”. Pantoliano really enjoyed the show and remembered that there had been an attempt to remake the show years later that also failed. In the course of our brief chat I mentioned that the show was so rare that not even the bootleggers at the convention had it and that I had begun to bother Shout Factory! to get the rights to the show released in full.
THE COMIC CON INTERVIEW #4 – ALEX PEREZ
During the course of my time on the floor in Artist’s Alley, I came across the booth for the Comic Crusaders / Undercover Capes. On Sunday morning before the convention opened up to the general public, I sat down with Alex Perez, the man in charge and talked to him about the Comic Crusaders website and the Undercover Capes podcast. Here’s what he had to say.
LIMELIGHT MAGAZINE: You own Comic Crusaders, are you the owner of Undercover Capes as well?
ALEX PEREZ: I’m the CEO. Comic Crusaders, that’s just me and I have writers from all over the world and then on Undercover Capes it’s myself and I have several partners under that.
LIMELIGHT MAGAZINE: Let’s start with Comic Crusaders. That’s your comic news and reviews website.
ALEX PEREZ: Exactly. That’s exactly what it is. Comic book previews, news, reviews, interviews. We’ve spoken to a lot of great independent artists, a lot of fantastic artists from Marvel and DC, we’ve even spoken to the godfather of comic books in the UK, Pat Mills, the Stan Lee of the UK.
So we’ve had people come and notice the brand and say, “Hey, you wanna talk to me?” So I’ve been blessed with having people approaching us asking us if we want to talk to them.
LIMELIGHT MAGAZINE: How did Comic Crusaders come about? What was the germ of the idea that got you started?
ALEX PEREZ: The germ of the idea people want to be an entrepreneur and own their own business. So back in about 2006, I said “I love comic books, it’s always been a big part of my life. Let me attempt to try to do a store. Me and my friends had always talked about that. So the early beginnings were to be a store. However, the economy started tanking, times got difficult, I moved from New York to Massachusetts. When I landed here four years ago, my wife looks at me and says, “Why don’t you change this and be the TMZ of comics?”
I’m like, “I’d like to be the TMZ of comics, without the gossip.” She goes, “Then do that.” So I started changing my website around to look more newsy and then I put out a call for reviewers, to start with. The first reviewers that I got came from England, the UK, “Oh we’d be interested, what are you guys talking about?”. Cuz in the UK, there are some different books, probably sometimes there a little delayed, so we would have the opportunity to probably get things a little earlier. Something like that we’re very excited about.
So once I built at least three guys to come on board, I started pitching to the publishers what we’re trying to do. A very positive landscape for comics, build a good community. And they were with it, and began to send me PDFs for previews and whatnot and review copies. And then my team started banging out reviews and the next thing you know, we caught the notice of a lot of creators and other publishers. So anytime we’d ask, “Hey would you like us to take a look at your line?”, (They’d say) “Absolutely, here. Here’s the portal.” I’m like, “Wow!”
So we got a very early start and a good start because we started with positivity.
LIMELIGHT MAGAZINE: That’s a good way to go.
ALEX PEREZ: Absolutely!
LIMELIGHT MAGAZINE: You see a lot of the negativity online, stuff that they just get a glimpse of it and declare it stinks so a little positive reinforcement is actually an uncommon way to go.
ALEX PEREZ: Absolutely. Because there’s a lot of things going on in the comic book community. Comics-Gate, arguments about POC and diversity, diversity hires only for diversity hires sake and whatnot. So there’s a lot of noise in the industry when you look at it in the social scale through apps and whatnot. But when you come to a show like this at a comic con, you see none of that. You see nothing but love and community between fans of all types. Whether it’s games, comics, Hollywood fans. But they all come here together, it’s amazing, you see none of it. It drives me nuts when I see that socially via the apps, you see so much negativity. There are some people like Gail Simone, trying to fight the good fight with love, not bad words. So that’s great not to see it here in person.
LIMELIGHT MAGAZINE: Moving on to Undercover Capes, how did your podcast come about?
ALEX PEREZ: Okay, so when Comic Crusaders was born, two years later my guys started rumbling cause my team grew. I started getting a lot more female writers from all over the world and a lot of other males added up to the team. And they said, why don’t we do podcasts?
But I knew nothing about podcasting. But one day, another writer comes to the team and this guy named Dusty Good comes out of nowhere and says, “I’d love to be a reviewer.” Tried him out, everything worked out. After one month, he goes, “Hey, I’m a podcaster and I would love to work with you on a podcast. I said, “I know nothing about it.” He says, “I’m an engineer, I got you.”
He basically helped me set up the podcast. We called it “The Capes” at first and it was basically myself, him and two of my other writers from the team and it went well. Dusty had a lot of personal issues he was going through within that first year and unfortunately had to step away.
When he stepped away he said, “Alex, I’m going to give you Undercover Capes. It’s yours, do with it as you wish.” So from there I just looked at my team and said, “Ok guys, this was given to me. The first thing I want to do is thank you guys for your service. I want to make you partners in this.” Once we pulled the partnership stuff, then it’s let’s start building the shows and the next thing you know, I have people again in the UK, West Coast, down South. Even as far as Australia now, my podcast team.
LIMELIGHT MAGAZINE: So, a worldwide reach then?
ALEX PEREZ: Exactly. And it’s amazing because we can talk to any type of creator no matter where they are in the world. Where going to have someone that will be available at whatever time, just because of all the different time zones we’re hitting. I mean, in Australia, it’s already tomorrow.
LIMELIGHT MAGAZINE: Yeah, it’s like 15 hours ahead I think it is?
ALEX PEREZ: Exactly. Can you imagine trying to do to a podcast with an Australian on American time? So when I’m drinking a beer at night, he’s drinking his first cup of coffee.
LIMELIGHT MAGAZINE: We hope. You had mentioned that you have a cast of characters for writers. You have a large, diverse group of writers working for Comic Crusaders. Do you feature a lot of turnover to that? When someone leaves, do you put out an open call?
ALEX PEREZ: I put out an open call. Sometimes guys gotta take a step away. Whether’s it’s health issues, family concerns or just kind of reinvigorate/refresh. Some of them step away for a month, some of them don’t come back. Those that don’t come back, so long as you let me know, I don’t mind. I have an open door policy cause I appreciate what my writers do. And so long as you never do anything negative to hurt me, why shouldn’t I not bless you back in.
So as soon as someone does leave, yes, I put out a call via social forums. You know, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram. My most successful forum has been Twitter, but some of my best come out of Facebook.
LIMELIGHT MAGAZINE: Now you’re at Rhode Island Comic Con this weekend. How has it been going for you, the foot traffic? Have you had a lot of people stopping by to check it out and been able to talk to them and get them to check out your site and your podcast?
ALEX PEREZ: Yes, it’s been great. The foot traffic Friday looked a little slow, but it’s something you can expect on a Friday. However, Saturday was great foot traffic. I mean I’m giving away free goodies.
People have been leering at me when I say “free”. I don’t want blood, I don’t want nobody’s soul. It’s really free. It was donated by a lot of great publishers for the fans. So yesterday, they were much more receptive to the freebies, to the business cards, what we were about. And it was great to see after the show, when I looked through my social media on Comic Crusaders and Undercover Cape, fans were reaching back out saying “Thank you for the freebies, thank you for the free raffle.” So it kind of made me feel really good that people were appreciating what we are doing.
LIMELIGHT MAGAZINE: That’s always good to hear. Now I had spoken to you yesterday in advance of setting this interview up and you had mentioned that you were possibly going to be interviewing artist Joe St. Pierre for Undercover Capes. Did that come about?
ALEX PEREZ: It happened. Joe was just walking around looking for our table cuz our number’s not listed. But I told him down the corner on 400. Came on down, sat with my host for the No-Prize Podcast, Bud Young. And Bud and JSP kicked it for about 30 minutes talking about the show, all of Joe’s future projects. And obviously with Venom being out, Joe got a little hot because he was early on in those Venom artwork on Marvel. So I was very happy that he got a lot more attention this year, cause he has a great project on Astronaut Ink called The New Zodiax.
LIMELIGHT MAGAZINE: Oh yes, I’ve read it.
ALEX PEREZ: Isn’t that a great book?
LIMELIGHT MAGAZINE: Every time I’ve seen him at maybe three or four other cons, each time since the first time when I bought the trade, I’d ask him, “When’s the next one coming out? When’s the next one coming out?” So like you, I’m really excited and think it’s a really great read.
ALEX PEREZ: I’m trying to make him make sure that “Taurus” looks like me. (laughs)
I had a couple of new experiences in attending my third Rhode Island Comic Con. The first was simply going to both weekend days of the event. Whenever I’ve attended a comic con (the 2005 Wizard World Philly convention being the sole exception), I’ve just gone up for the Saturday and gone home afterwards. It was always one and done for me. But since my media pass covered the entire weekend, I took advantage of it and immersed myself that much more.
That second day featured the other new experience. My friend Roger was at the show handling guest wrestler Road Warrior Animal. Back when I was about twelve and the Road Warriors were the dominant tag team in wrestling, I worshiped at the altar of Animal and Hawk. So being able to ride up with my friend and Animal for Sunday’s closing day of the convention was a fun little treat. It’s not that anything earth-shattering happened in the car ride or anything, but I got to have a chat with Animal in a setting where I wouldn’t be interrupted all that much. Believe me, the twelve-year-old wrestling fanatic inside of me was pretty excited the whole ride up.
This year’s convention was, as would be expected, packed with cosplayers that hit pretty much the entire spectrum with their character choices. You had more than a few Harley Quinns (in her various incarnations) as well as dozens of other comic book characters), zombies, Game of Thrones characters and a whole lot more. Of course, I was on the lookout for anyone doing Firefly cosplay and I was not disappointed. One of my favorite random cosplayers was dressed as Spoiler from the Batman family of characters. I was rather amazed and impressed to see a relatively unknown character being so well represented. The following photos are just a sample of the all the costumed wonderment that there was to behold.
So there you have it!
My experience at the 2018 Rhode Island Comic Con was one for the books. I got to meet someone that I’m a big fan of but even more importantly I got to really dive deep into all that a convention has to offer. It gave you plenty of avenues to explore your individual passions. Whether it was meeting a celebrity, buying a comic, talking to and making new friends, or dressing up as your favorite character, it was all there waiting for you to make it happen at the 2018 Rhode Island Comic Con!
I should mention my special nod of appreciation to everyone involved in the show for providing the media pass for the event.
After having an overall positive experience like this, I am actually quite looking forward to what’s to come for Rhode Island Comic Con 2019!
PUBLISHER’S NOTE – This year’s Rhode Island Comic Con also featured an exclusive black and white Pennywise Funko Pop that was available exclusively at the Toy Vault booth. It was such a treat to purchase one of these!