Photos and video by Nate Reininga—Click on image to see more pictures
Where else can you go and be elbowed by Jason David Frank‘s entourage as they blaze a path for the spiky-haired Power Ranger himself, while Hacksaw Jim Duggan shouts “Hoooooooo” in the background? That’s right, the Albuquerque Comic Con.
Upon arrival, we found the parking lot at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino already saturated by people of all walks of ‘nerdom.’ As we headed towards the entrance, colorfully costumed children and adults zipped noisily by us. I felt myself get excited and then a little overwhelmed. I got to get out more, I thought. Lucky for me, I had two others to join me in our pilgrimage into this geeky Graceland.
Armed with some paper, pens, and enthusiasm, we met Nate, our photographer, at the door and moved inside. The inside hall that connected the many rooms was already packed with fan boys and cosplay’ers (costume play) from all over the state — and country (I had no idea people traveled so far for these events, but seemed like fun to me). There were also many seminar rooms off to the sides where guests would be giving their talks. One such door contained a group of youngsters dancing to Happy Hardcore techno, the likes of which I hadn’t seen since my professional DJ days in the early 2000’s.
Further down the hall we ran into a bunch of Star Wars themed costumes, D.C. and Marvel Comicbook characters, and even someone dressed as Kevin Smith. There were also a large number of Amtgard‘ers ( a group dedicated to live-action medieval/fantasy roleplay). My favorite costume was the Predator costume, but there were a many other great ones (some of which containing rather attractive ladies). To my surprise, no Bronies (those who dress as My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic characters), or I managed to miss them entirely.
Inside the largest room there were vendors selling some great artwork, t-shirts (support this local badass), comics, pins, toys, swords, and a plethora of other cool merchandise. It was great stopping by many of the booths to say hello and see what brought them to the event. Most of the vendors were pretty cheery and happy to be there. I enjoyed talking to some of the newer comic authors as well.
However, for me, the most fun was getting to attend the Q&A with Verne Troyer (Austin Powers, most famously) and Denise Crosby (Star Trek: The Next Generation, Pet Sematary). For a larger list of people there see my previous article.
Q&A with Verne Troyer
The talk with Verne Troyer was really interesting. Not knowing much about his background, I found the Q&A rewarding. He talked about his influences: from David Rappaport (Time Bandits) to Billy Barty (a lot of small roles). Troyer talked of his admiration for the talented Peter Dinklage (Game of Thrones) and the pressure actors with dwarfism face. He also recounted how his career started, working his way a employee at Sprint to stuntman and finally feature actor. He was not only well spoken, but a man of humility and humor. See the video below for most of the Q&A.
You will have to excuse the quality of the videos. We tortured our photographer, Nate Reininga, by making him do the whole day without a tripod. There are several more to listen to at www.youtube.com/hipandtrippy
Q&A with Denise Crosby
Being a huge Star Trek fan, I had been looking forward to her talk, and I was not disappointed. Denise Crosby covered a many topics: working on Pet Sematary, being Bing Crosby’s granddaughter, sexism on Star Trek: The Next Generation, and the new Star Trek Online (Spoiler: Tasha Yar is not dead).
Crosby went on to talk about how terribly serious Sir Patrick Stewart was on set of The Next Generation. “No where in our contract does it it say we’re here to have fun,” she quoted Stewart as once saying. We also heard all about the false internet rumors about her being kicked of Next Generation (rumors that didn’t originate from TrekMovie, as one fan stated). See the video below for most of the fun Q&A.
Tom Gibbons talks to visiting comic writers and artists.
The Q and A panel with Jim Valentino was populated by young fans of the extensive work that the comic book artist, writer, and publisher has done for Marvel and Image.
Valentino’s all time favorite projects include Sonic the Hedgehog (his kids were huge fans when he started work on the license) and Guardians of the Galaxy, which he wrote and illustrated for Marvel in the early ’90s. “I just wrote stuff I wanted really badly to draw. Almost everything I did at Marvel was a lot of fun.”
When asked about his favorite genre, Valentino said “I prefer writing humor and drawing humor. I have more fun when I’m in it to make myself laugh.”
Valentino left Marvel to start Image Comics with contemporaries Rob Liefeld, Jim Lee, Todd MacFarlane and others in the ’90s, where he created Shadowhawk, one of the company’s premier characters.
When asked how long it took to get recognized in the comics industry, Valentino replied, “I’m still waiting.” Getting serious, he said, “Once I got serious, it took about twenty seven years.”
Naming Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko, and Kurt Swan as his early influences, Valentino said he was inspired later by Robert Crumb and other contributors to Zap! Comics.
One attendee asked Valentino, “Are you a writer or an artist first?” In response, he said, “I’m a storyteller–for me, the two are inseparable. It’s just the way my head works.”
Valentino advised aspiring comic book artists to draw everything, and to fill one sketchbook a week. “Teach your eye to see and your hand to record what you see.”
“Treat art like a job: if you are a creative person of any kind, you’re in business for yourself. Do you have to have the ability to get up in the morning and start working at your craft?” Valentino said, “As a publisher, that’s the first question I ask.”
According to Valentino, Image receives ten to thirty submissions a month, and the main thing he looks for is new ideas. For a book he recently accepted, Supernatural Geographic, the decision to publish was based on the title alone.
“Me and some friends decided to work for ourselves.” Valentino said on leaving Marvel. “You play ball for years, then you become the coach. It’s fun being the coach.”
-Wendy and Richard Pini
Pioneers of self published, creator owned comics, Wendy and Richard Pini have been collaborating for years on the epic Elfquest. After more than three decades, the two show no sign of slowing down.
Richard Pini explained the decision to self publish. “In the beginning, We took the concept (of Elfquest) to Marvel, DC, and a couple of independent publishers. Marvel said thanks but no thanks, that it was too peculiar.”
“Because the publishing world of 1978 was so different from the way it is now–there was no internet–we had an open playing field. No one else was doing what we were doing, and we ran with it. Soon Elfquest was outselling titles from Marvel and DC!”
When asked if he would take the same approach today, Richard said “it would be difficult for the voice of Elfquest to be heard among so many other voices.” When Elfquest collections began showing up in bookstores, it was the beginning of the graphic novel. Today’s shelves, the Pinis ackowledged, have a much greater degree of competition.
Wendy was eager to reassure me that the current run of Elfquest, titled Final Quest, is not the end for these characters or their world. “This completes a huge cycle,” Wendy said, “one that encompasses generations of characters. We see Final Quest as the completion of a statement, not of the Elfquest Universe.” It is a place that Wendy and Richard have no intention of leaving anytime soon.