Monday, March 2, 2015

Con-Man: Long Beach Comic Expo

After a night of birthday celebrating it was down to Long Beach for the Comic Expo on Saturday. This is usually the smaller of the two LB shows but this year expanded so much that they had to move it to another section of the convention center. There was some science technology summit or other happening where LBCC usually is so we were around the back by the Performing Arts Center and Aquarium. Replica cars from Knight Rider, Jurassic Park, The Blues Brothers and Back to the Future welcomed you, it was a breeze to grab tickets and head inside. Right away we saw one Lance Henriksen at the non-RAW, RAW booth with The Lone Gunmen actor Dean Haglund along with a local artist. I immediately searched the floor for NECA's new Bishop figure and took it over to Mr. Henriksen to sign. Having already bought his book last year, The Lance was still just too Damme cool and gracious, chit chatting about Alien 5 (He hasn't heard anything) and how he actually hadn't seen the new figure yet. Again, just a great guy and here's hoping I put together an event he can attend. Why was it the non-RAW, RAW booth? Well convention specialist Mike was on hand, the RAW Studios banner was up, but neither Messrs Thomas Jane or Tim Bradstreet were attending. The Jane is still shooting new show The Expanse up in Canada while Bradstreet was also out of town. Here's hoping the duo return to Long Beach soon as their previous years have been outstanding with screenings and panels.

From there we walked the floor which was nice and padded with carpet checking out comics, toys, arts and crafts, Big Trouble in Little China ReAction figures and Funko's were around. I recognized some vendors from previous shows, guess we're becoming regulars huh? The floor boasted over 165 exhibitors and artists but strangely didn't feel much bigger than previous shows. Star Wars Laser Tag was set up in the back, there was a signing area where Futurama's Phil LaMarr and martial arts heroine Cynthia Rothrock were set up near a new addition, video games projected on a big screen. Street Fighter and Super Mario Brothers action ensued. Writing legend and X-Men mainstay Chris Claremont showed up and had a line at his table the entire day.

11:00 AM marked our first and only panel of the day, G.I. Joe Cartoon Voices! Hosted by combat fatigue clad Flint aka Bill Ratner, the panel included Keone Young (Storm Shadow), Hal Rayle (Deep-Six), Mary McDonald-Lewis (Lady Jaye), Jerry Houser (Sci-Fi) and Neil Ross (Shipwreck). There was a great camaraderie between the actors and they started things off with a reading of a funny G.I. Joe skit where Cobra ninja assassin Storm Shadow is actually trying to help the Joes. The panel included much talk of working for Wally Burr who would push his actors to provide a realistic, non-obvious cartoony performance in sessions that went 7-8 hours versus the typical 4. Basically if you didn't leave blood on the music stand, you weren't doing it right. Burr also strove for authenticity and instead of having an actor play ethnic, he'd just go out and get a person from the community aka Asian or black characters being played by Asian and black actors. Many a tale spoke of Megatron voice actor Frank Welker who would help the young guys while also being able to give you the sounds of a rocking chair or a male or female dolphin! Lewis was proud that her character wasn't fetish-ized and her action figure was the first female toy to have short hair. Lewis was great, very cool, very smart and just a ball of fire. She made sure everyone was involved during the panel and offered some terrific insight into being a positive force in the world. This was Houser's first time at a convention and he was really funny with a voice you swear you recognize but don't know why. Rayle went into Deep-Six and I immediately thought he was doing Charles Bronson, which he was! Rayle based the voice on Bronson as Tunnel King Danny in The Great Escape.

There was some enlightening stuff like the script girl encouraging the cast to buy Hasbro stock as the toy giant knew FCC regulations were changing so the cartoons could have commercials for their products during the run-time essentially make it a 30 minute advertisement. Ratner said if he would have invested $1,000 dollars in 1985, it would have been worth $28,000 just a few years later. Jokes about their figures selling poorly leading to being featured less on the show were common place during sessions of 10-12 voice actors. Houser said Sci-Fi was really good at sitting still in silence...I asked when the panel realized they had jumped generations and started going to cons with Lewis and Ratner saying they'd only known about the show's impact in the last ten years. Frank Welker couldn't make it but doesn't believe people still love the shows 30 years later. Rayle has only been going for a few years and is headed to Australia for a show soon. A few passionate fans spoke of their love for the show and Lewis shared that the percentage of first responders and EMT's in the Joe community is extremely high when compared to the rest of the population. She and Ratner also attended the official G.I. JoeCon where they watched the new live action movies and Lewis mentioned that there wouldn't be cons for those in 30 years. Young was asked about working for supposed tough guy writer-director Kurt Sutter on Sons of Anarchy to which he responded he'd worked with guys like Billy Wilder so Sutter was nothing and that was the point of being a professional. I ran into Young in the hallway after and asked him about Surf Ninjas, he said it was a lot of fun and they shot it in beautiful Thailand. On and on it went, just a really great time, lots of laughs, stories and heart. If that weren't enough, Neil Ross gave next week's Sunbow Celebration a shout out, Yo, Joe!

It was off to get our Dublin Donkey's on across the street at The Auld Dubliner and next door to collectible store Geeky Mamas where they have an awesome selection of toys old and new, accessories and clothes. I totally meant to get a Transformers or Joe shirt for next week but didn't see any good ones...Back at the show we walked the floor some more, checking out artist alley and digging through random boxes. That Hashtag Show is coming to Sunbow Celebration and I introduced myself, cool guys who like Long Beach the same as I do for it's chill vibe, guest approachability and nice surrounding area. Grabbed a few Captain America Annuals and Sgt. Rock issues from a 3 for 1 booth as well as a collection of time traveling mutant soldier badass Cable for a solid $5! Created in "1990, the dawn of the most action-packed decade in comic-book history" by Louise Simonson and wunder-kid Rob Liefeld. "Body-Slide by one". I would have liked to stuck around to see Claremont's panel, it had been a full and fun day so we headed home. Just when I thought Long Beach Con wasn't evolving, they shut my face by putting on a terrific show. Here's hoping to an even bigger one in the fall. Bring on Emerald City!

No comments:

Post a Comment