Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:
This weekend was that time again: our annual excursion to Rosemont, IL, for Wizard World Chicago. My wife and I took plenty of photos as usual, many of them usable. We’ll be sharing those over the next several entries…
…and so on. Part Six, then: the actors we met, along with a few folks from the wonderful world of comics.
We saved up for months to bankroll this outing. The guest list blew our minds. Some of them were the the highest-ranking names on my wife’s long-standing autograph want list. A few were people you’d never expect to fly out to the Midwest for pretty much any reason. So we made it work. Costs were cut in other areas of life. Discounts were researched and implemented. We ate cheaply for a while, and we’ll likely continue doing so while we’re catching up after the fact.
Honestly: unless you live in New York, L.A., London, or San Diego, how often in your lifetime will a genuine Doctor of recent vintage appear anywhere within 200 miles of your hometown? So yeah, we took the plunge and met former Doctor Who star Matt Smith for a jolly, five-second photo op. To be honest, the photo-op price was a better deal than his autograph prices.
Smith was punctual and hyper, and the other fans in line were lively conversationalists, too. It was also secretly fun to hear other fans of all ages squeak and squeal as they entered the photo-op room and realized they were right there with HIM. With the Eleventh Doctor. Fun times.
Also in the house: Karl Urban! Whether he’s playing the second coming of DeForest Kelley, head Rider of Rohan, the car-chase opponent in the second Bourne film, or the cocky future cop in the late Almost Human, Urban keeps delivering solid performances whenever I watch him at work. Also: really tall.
My wife’s primary targets: the cast of Star Trek: the Next Generation. She’s attended many local Trek cons over the past two decades and met a lot of Trek people, but for years she’s been missing three main Next Generation cast members from her collection. Until now. WWC 2014 staged a very special reunion of all the seven main cast members. If we’d stayed in town through Sunday night and paid for extra extravagant tickets, we could’ve seen then performing a special offsite Q&A hosted by William Shatner. We passed. But she finally met those last three actors.
First up: Michael Dorn, a.k.a. Worf. He’s especially cool on our scorecards because he’s also one of the few cast members we’ve met from Deep Space Nine (my favorite Trek series of all).
(Further down in that photo, you can also see Marina Sirtis, a.k.a. Counselor Deanna Troi.)
On hand later in the day: Commander Riker himself, Jonathan Frakes, who’s more of a director than actor nowadays. A recent episode of Falling Skies had his name on it, in fact.
Met but not pictured: Gates McFadden, formerly known as Dr. Beverly Crusher. In years past WWC staffers have been adamant and vigilant about prohibiting fans from snapping photos of the autograph guests at their tables. This year, we encountered virtually no one enforcing that rule. Some actors didn’t even mind. McFadden’s handler was a polite, professional exception. My wife likes to ask first. He said no and explained why. She understood and put her camera away for the moment. He was suitably impressed. He should be, because my wife is awesome and unique.
Regardless: no Beverly pics. Instead we chatted about health insurance in France. It…just kind of happened.
Number one on my own want list at this show: Gunn from TV’s Angel! Sure, you might know him as J. August Richards, now appearing as Deathlok in Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Extremely friendly.
(I wish I didn’t dwarf him so in this pic. The forced perspective was wholly unintentional.)
The greatest Dark Knight of my generation: Kevin Conroy, longtime star of Batman: the Animated Series. His definitive performance lived on in Justice League, Batman Beyond, a few of the direct-to-DVD animated movies, and even the Arkham Asylum game and its first sequel, my two favorite super-hero video games ever. DC can keep financing live-action Bat-films if they want, but for my money, Conroy is Batman.
We met Aaron Ashmore (Smallville‘s Jimmy Olsen) at a previous WWC, so it would’ve been rude to snub his brother Shawn, a.k.a. Iceman, who deserved many more minutes of screen time.
Another pleasure to meet: Anthony Mackie, costar of Best Picture Oscar winner The Hurt Locker, in which he played a diligent American soldier in Iraq who gets to punch Hawkeye in the face. Mackie was later rewarded for his commendable efforts with the plum part of the Falcon in Captain America: the Winter Soldier. Mackie and Winter Soldier proceeded to win 2014 at the movies.
Also from The Winter Soldier: the Winter Soldier! Remember that recent entry where I mentioned a 100-minute autograph wait on Saturday? Meet Sebastian Stan. His isn’t the longest line we’ve ever weathered. Not by a long shot. Oh, the horror stories we could tell. Our grand champion Worst Line Ever wasn’t even at a Wizard World show.
While we were there, I also had the chance to wander Artists Alley and meet a few recognizable names. Chief among them was Mike Zeck, a Marvel Comics heavy hitter in my childhood. Zeck drew the very first Punisher miniseries, my favorite Captain America run, the definitive Kraven the Hunter story, the original Secret Wars, and more, more, more. On a more relatable point for the average super-hero fan, he designed Spider-Man’s famous black costume.
Pictured with us is his limited-edition art book Raw Fury, filled with his cover artwork from back in the day — not only the published versions that were often painted over by another artist, but shots of Zeck’s original pencils for several of those pieces. They’re fabulous and I honestly think they’re better than the published versions, which buried so many intricate details. The book is a strongly recommended must-have for any of my generation’s Zeck fans.
Another favorite of mine: Hilary Barta, contributor to numerous humor titles from previous decades, including DC’s Plastic Man, Marvel’s What The–?!, “Munden’s Bar” over at First Comics, Image’s long-forgotten Stupid, and more, more, more. Nowadays he’s a frequent contributor to SpongeBob Comics, and he’ll have a story in Bongo Comics’ 2014 Bart Simpson’s Treehouse of Horror Special. He told us the premise, and it sounds like a hoot.
I’d met Barta at a previous C2E2, but this time we caught him appearing for charity at the Hero Initiative booth. This was late Saturday, by which time we were all worn out. We hung out for far too long, watched him pencil and ink a sketch from start to finish, learned details I never knew about that great Plastic Man miniseries, argued over old Twilight Zone episodes, and gave money to that worthy cause.
I’d also like to use this space to thank the following Artists Alley creators who let me give them my money this year. Kudos!
* Danny Fingeroth, a former Marvel editor from whom I somehow felt compelled to buy a copy of Darkhawk Classics, almost as if I were daring myself to do it.
* Dan Mishkin, co-creator of DC’s super-fun Blue Devil. Strictly speaking, Mishkin’s upcoming book, a graphic novel about the Warren Commission Reports, isn’t on sale yet, but be brought promotional materials along to tide us over.
* Metal Hand and Jessica Flores. Flores sold large charcoal and painted prints, while Hand brought his self-published comic Agenda: the Story of Gy.
* Jane Irwin, creator of the Vögelein series and the successfully Kickstarter’d Clockwork Game.
* Paul Sizer, whose graphic novel B.P.M. caught my eye because I’m a sucker for comics about music. Full disclosure: he and Irwin are married, and their booths were adjacent.
* Sarah Benkin, a.k.a. Peppermint Monster, one of several contributors to the Kickstarter’d Playlist: a Comic Book Anthology.
* Novelist/illustrator Donovan Scherer, whose Fear and Sunshine books looked curious and fun.
One last actor pic, just for the longtime MCC readers out there: the fabulous Nicole Beharie! Lieutenant Abbie Mills is a lot more peppy and personable when she’s not chasing acephalous murderers from beyond the grave, or explaining modern gizmos to 250-year-old men.
Remember, folks: Sleepy Hollow returns for its second season on September 22nd, only three short weeks after Labor Day. If you’re not addicted to CBS’ sad sitcom lineup, be there.
To be concluded!
* * * * *
Other chapters in this very special MCC miniseries:
* Part One: Costumes! (Movies, Games, Doctor Who)
* Part Two: DC Comics Costumes!
* Part Three: Marvel and Dark Horse Costumes!
* Part Four: Animation Costumes!
* Part Five: Last Call for Costumes
* Part Seven: The Geek Stuff
* Our Least Favorite Wizard World Chicago 2014 Souvenirs