By Jason Harris
Once more, I got to travel to another world or a lot of them, by attending Granite State ComiCon, organized by Double Midnight Comics. I was one of two authors at the Books & Boos table. The other author at the table being Stacey Longo. We were signing books for fans, new and old.
It was an amazing time at a well-run con, with thousands of fun people enjoying themselves and sharing their special likes of comics, TV shows, books, films, graphic novels, games, and cultural icons of all sorts.
You get to see people like The New England Brethren of Pirates.
The Ghostbusters of New Hampshire
The New England garrison of the 501st Legion.
All three groups make appearances to help raise money for charities. These people put a lot of time and effort into their outfits and shows, and they deserve a big hand for what they do.
You get to see celebrities, like Sam Jones (of Flash Gordon and Ted fame) and tough-guy actor William Forsythe, both of whom were
extremely gracious and kind to the fans. You also see the people behind the voices of your favorite animated characters such as Richard Horvitz, who voices Zim in Invader Zim, .
You get to meet writers such as Gordon Bean, Rob Watts, Katherine Silva, and Scott Goudsward, who are all members of the New England Horror Writers.
Author Matthew Bartlett, another NEHW member, was also signing books at the organization’s table.
Besides the NEHW and Longo, Chris Philbrook, another author, had his own table at the convention.
During my time at the convention, I also met author John Murphy, who was recently heard on the Sci-fi Saturday Night podcast. I can’t wait to hear their interviews with the cast members of Game of Thrones.
Speaking of which, lots of folks were Game of Thrones cosplaying to honor the cast members who were there.
Miltos Yeramelou (Syrio on GoT) hosted a Water Dancing class to teach beginning fencers. I watched some of it, and thought it superb– and I’ve been a fencer for over 35 years.
You get to see about every superhero and supervillain you can think of.
And many other costumes. A guy who plays Mr T. emceed the huge costume contest. I sure wouldn’t want to judge that one, because there are so many cool costumes, it would be too hard to choose a winner!
Two days of fun, and we just saw a small part of it. It’s a total experience, with panels, parties, and participation.
Haunted Acres is New England’s most exciting haunted attraction, with Maniac’s Midway, live bands, a beer garden, and lots of food and ride vendors.
HE SAID: The Dark Knight Rises does not advance Christopher Nolan’s Batman franchise. It’s the weakest of the three movies. In his defense, it’s hard to outdo yourself when your last endeavor included Heath Ledger’s performance as the Joker.
The movie starts eight years after The Dark Knight with a memorial for Harvey Dent in front of Wayne Manor. Batman hasn’t been seen since the fateful night of Dent’s death and Bruce Wayne has become a recluse with a limp.
Director Christopher Nolan portrays main villain, Bane, with the right respect, unlike Bane’s portrayal in Batman & Robin. This is the character that in Batman: Knightfall, the serial that ran in 1993, orchestrated the assault on Batman, then broke his back.
Nolan chose Tom Hardy (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy) to play the ex-communicated member of the League of Shadows, the organization created by Ra’s Al Ghul. Hardy was superb as Bane. He was the right size and had the right muscle mass. The only problem is you can’t understand him 90 percent of the time. Since Nolan and his brother Jonathan wrote the screenplay, you would think they would want their words heard and understood by the audience.
Anne Hathaway (Alice in Wonderland) dons the mask and claws of Catwoman in Nolan’s franchise. Her portrayal is right up their with Michelle Pfeiffer’s performance in Batman Returns. Nolan captures the character quite well. There should have been more of Catwoman, though.
Nolan’s script abounds with in-jokes such as when Morgan Freeman’s Lucius Fox shows Bruce “the Bat” and he tells him it does come in black. This is in reference to the scene in Batman Begins where Bruce asks Fox if “the tumbler” comes in black. It also brings the franchise full circle by mentioning Ra’s Al Ghul, who was the villain in Batman Begins. Nolan also shows scenes from the first two movies to show how his trilogy is connected. It’s just too bad the movie couldn’t have had a better connection to the greatest of the previous two movies.
SHE SAID: The Dark Knight Rises clearly draws from the very first scene of the first movie, in which Thomas Wayne asks “And why do we fall, Bruce? … So we can learn to pick ourselves up.” Everything takes a tumble in this film – Commissioner Gordon’s reputation falls, Bruce Wayne has a spiritual fall, and the city of Gotham itself is set up for a fall. What’s a dark knight to do? Get up and save the day, of course. The problem is that all of these redemptions take waaaaay too long.
This movie spends too much time cutting between the looming threat of Gotham’s destruction and Bruce Wayne’s climb out of the depths of darkness, only to emerge a better man (with a hot new girlfriend in a catsuit to boot.) Anne Hathaway makes the Catwoman character all her own, and I have to agree with Jason that she could’ve used more screen time. Michael Caine (Inception) is still formidable as Alfred, but his presence is sorely missed for a good chunk of the movie. Morgan Freeman (The Shawshank Redemption) and Gary Oldman (Bram Stoker’s Dracula) are also still fantastic as Lucius Fox and Commissioner Jim Gordon, respectively. Joseph Gordon-Levitt is introduced as John Blake, a troubled cop who wants to do the right thing. While his performance is fine, it’s not difficult to figure out where he fits in with the Batman legacy.
It would be hard for any D.C. Comics villain to follow in the footsteps of the late Heath Ledger’s delectable Joker, so don’t hold it against Tom Hardy that his Bane falls short. This baddie goes from terrifying to tepid in an instant once his full backstory is revealed; plus, it doesn’t help that his face gear makes him practically unintelligible. However, if it’s hand-to-hand combat and things blowing up that makes a movie great for you, this one has plenty.
Jason and I concur: three out of four stars.
I had no intention to attend Boston Comic Con this year. My son’s girlfriend, Amy, had brought it up a few weeks ago, but no plans were made to go. On Friday night, however, she was over visiting and brought it up again. My son, Devon, had no desire to go either, so she was doing her best to convince him. Now, I haven’t been to a comic con in many years, but the prospect of going piqued my interest. I pulled up the website and checked out the details. There was going to be 74 featured guest artists there. 74! Wow, these things have gotten much bigger since the last time I went.
I use to collect comics. I stopped pretty much cold turkey back in the nineties, when all those endless crossovers became big. They drove me nuts, interrupting the ongoing story lines of your favorite series and also forcing you to buy books you didn’t want, just to keep up. It was a sales gimmick that I quickly grew to despise and drove me away from comics completely. I’m still a fan, of sorts. I see every comic book based movie that hits the screen and I’ve been pretty happy with Hollywood’s attempts to bring some of my old favorites to life. I still have probably thirty boxes of comics in storage. It’s like the fan in me is in hibernation, I guess, like my collection.
So when I looked over that list of 74 artists, I didn’t recognize quite a few of them. I’m guessing there are many who have entered the business since my comic collecting days. But still, there were a few that really caught my eye, like Bernie Wrightson, for instance. Wrightson is an artist I have admired since I started reading and collecting comic books. You see, what first drew me into comics were horror comics. I was reading them for a couple years before I even noticed the super hero books. Maybe it was growing up watching Creature Feature on Channel 56, but I’ve always had this fascination with monsters. Wrightson was of course, an illustrator on many of the horror comics that I grew up loving. These had titles like, House of Mystery, House of Secrets, Tales of the Unexpected, and Vampirella. Did I mention he was the co-creator of Swamp Thing? Yeah, that too.
Wrightson didn’t stop with comic books, though. He did an illustrated version of Frankenstein, which is absolutely beautiful. Later in his career, he went on to do some illustration for my favorite author, Stephen King. Mr. Wrightson illustrated The Cycle of the Werewolf, The Stand, and even did some work on the Dark Tower series. Needless to say, I was excited at the chance to meet him.
Also on the list of artists, I noticed the name Bill Sienkiewicz. Wow! There was another guy who had impressed the hell out of me with his art. You see, Sienkiewicz brought a style unlike any other I had ever seen when he entered the comic book industry. In 1984, Sienkiewicz took over as the artist for the X-Men spinoff, New Mutants and brought an expressionistic style that was mind-blowing. I’m not sure it was for everyone, but I know he gained quite a bit of recognition and managed to work with some of comicbook greats at that time like Frank Miller and Alan Moore.
There were a couple other names that stood out to me like Bob Layton of Iron Man, Kevin Eastman of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and Simon Bisley whose work I remember from Judge Dredd and Lobo. It was enough for me to want to go. To top it all off, my twelve-year-old daughter, who to my knowledge has never read a comic book, begged to go. Between my son’s girlfriend and my daughter, they managed to convince Devon to give it a try. I was happy to drive, so the plans were made. My daughter invited her cousin, Roberta, so she would have someone the same age to tag along with her.
Saturday morning, I picked up Amy and brought her back to the house. She was carrying this trash bag full of costumes because apparently the three girls were determined to dress up. They had the idea that people went in costume to these cons and they wanted to participate. I certainly wasn’t going to put a costume on, but I didn’t mind if they did. There wasn’t a lot of planning involved here, so my daughter Kay ended up as Alice in Wonderland, Roberta was a sort of Victorian age vampire, and Amy wore a Pink Floyd shirt and flag as a cape. With the girls dressed up and ready to go, we headed off to the Hynes Convention Center in Boston.
The first problem encountered is that the Hynes is near Fenway Park, and the Yankees were playing the Red Sox that day. Finding parking was an adventure. As we passed the Convention center looking for a parking garage, we saw this ridiculously long line outside of the building. That couldn’t be the line to get in, we said. Spotting several people in line dressed as comic book characters confirmed our worst fears, though.
The line moved quickly, however, and we probably only waited thirty to forty minutes to get in the building. None of us were prepared for what we found inside. It was wall to wall with people. You really couldn’t get anywhere without fighting your way through the zombie-like horde of comic book fans. At first, this really bothered my daughter. She complained to me quite a bit. I reminded her that she begged me to bring them. After a while, we all just got used to it.
Devon and his girlfriend went right over to the Newbury Comics table to check out The Walking Dead books. My family is a fan of the show, but none of us have read the books. He grabbed the first few, which was okay with me, since I wanted to read them, too. Amy grabbed a few things that she was really excited about, including a Doctor Who book as a thank you present to me. We stopped at an artist who did a portrait of my daughter and niece in anime style. This put them both in happier moods. When we hit the back row, I saw the line for Bernie Wrightson. I stepped up and he asked if I had anything to sign. I knew I had forgotten something. Oh well, he had some prints from his work on Frankenstein, so I bought one of those. More importantly, I got a picture with him.
We fought our way through the mob and did our best to take in the whole thing. I had just about given up on finding Bill Sienkiewicz when we finally stumbled upon him. I got another cool picture and my daughter got an autographed Cat Woman print. We tried to find another vendor called Madknits, who had these handmade stuffed little monsters, on the way out, but after bumping our way up and down a bunch of aisles, we gave up and decided to call it a day. The kids were hot, tired, and feeling a bit claustrophobic.
All in all, Boston Comic Con was very cool, but it definitely needs to find a bigger venue. The Boston Convention and Exhibition center on the waterfront is much bigger and more suited to something that attracts as many people as comic con does. They should probably consider upgrading, even though I heard that this was an upgrade from previous years. We all had fun, which was the most important thing. Well done, Boston Comic Con.