Written by John Edward Betancourt
When it comes to conventions, and the routines that now come with them, we all have a pretty standard set of expectations in mind when it comes to a celebrity panel. They’ll come out, they’ll entertain and tell us amazing tales of their time on a particular show or movie, and someone will undoubtedly ask a question that’s not really a question, and well, while that sounds like a diatribe against such events, that’s simply not the case. After all, it is cool to meet your favorite celebrities at cons and hear their stories because we know little about them, but I make mention of such an issue because it goes back to one key thing I just made mention of, routine.
The celebrity knows the drill, we know the drill and we’re happy to accept it because for the moment, is there any other way to handle such an event differently or better? Well, after having attended DiNK Comic & Art Expo this past weekend, I’ve come to realize there is a different way to handle the celebrity panel because this convention managed to make that happen with John Leguizamo’s time on the main stage, and I have to admit, that this turned out to be the most refreshing celebrity panel I’ve been to in years, and credit goes to DiNK for making it look like business as usual at first.
After all, the process to get into the panel and the setup was pretty by the numbers. As was the introduction of John and everything that preceded that. But, once Steve Bessette, our awesome moderator from the Alamo Drafthouse, settled in with John on stage, that’s where everything began to change, because it quickly became evident that this particular chat was going to be far different than what we are used to and while there were plenty of moments that were of the norm; such as stories from the set, or John’s thoughts on his various roles throughout his career, I was quite frankly unprepared for how intimate his panel was about to become.
Because John really opened up in front of the audience, speaking to the fact that success can impact an actor by making them feel as though they are special, when they are in fact, just like everyone else, they just happen to do something that they love and they’ve been able to share what they love with others, which in turn has put them into the limelight and well…hearing him speak like this was refreshing and humbling as a fan and I love the fact that he even spoke to the catharsis that comes with art, and how it can heal and artist and well, I left this panel wondering why more weren’t like this one.
I say that, simply because, we do often forget that celebrities are people too, who struggle with issues in life like the rest of us and this felt like an hour long chat with a friend instead of what you find at other panels like this and it was just wonderful to see John open up like that with his fans and speak with confidence about such matters and really, this truly was a reinvention of this kind of panel and well, I shouldn’t be surprised that such a change up would happen at DiNK. Because all weekend long I heard from first time attendees about how different and relaxed this con was, and I love that that mantra snuck its way into John’s panel, and I really do hope that other conventions and moderators take note of panels such as this, because was powerful and meaningful.
If anything, my thanks go out to John Leguizamo for his candor on stage, because it served as an inspiration. Because if John can battle his demons, and still create art that all of us can enjoy while doing so, imagine what we can accomplish if we put our minds to it? And my thanks also go out to Steve Bessette for moderating this wonderful conversation and the staff and creators of DiNK, for putting together a convention that allows for the core of art, emotion, to be put on display in every facet of the event and I look forward to checking out this incredible convention again, next year.
Written by John Edward Betancourt
When one plans or prepares to attend a convention of any kind, a particular routine immediately comes to mind. For me, it’s to hit up the Vendor Area first thing when I get there to see if there's anything I need to take home, then I get a solid lay of the land to know where everything is at before I dig into the con, and really, we’re taking the moment to talk about routine today because let’s be honest…there is a certain familiarity that comes with conventions now, to the point where we are able to game plan every last one of them.
This is of course, not an insult toward conventions in the slightest, because their design and setup are business models that work and they’re easy to navigate and familiarity helps every nerd and geek out there to plan. But the best part of a convention, is the sense of awe and wonder we experience when we walk through the doors and when you get into a routine, some of that goes away. But thankfully, the convention world is evolving so that it doesn’t become stagnant through and through and there is one particular event that has managed to properly reinvent the con experience; DiNK Comic & Art Expo.
This event, which happens to take place this weekend, is unique for one particular reason…it brings back the down-home feel of a convention, where it’s all about hanging out and having a good time with your friends and it accomplishes that, in several ways. First and foremost, it removes some of the barriers between guests and fans that one normally finds at events such as these. The big names that come to DiNK are extremely accessible, and while I’m sure eyebrows are being raised over the possibility of big time celebrity guests being mobbed and harassed by legions of fans by being accessible, that brings us to the next reason why DiNK is so unique, because it focuses on a different kind of celebrity…artists.
After all, this is a Comic and Art Expo, and because of that, the big names in question that are going to be in attendance are some of the finest artists around. Jeff Lemire will be there this weekend for instance, as will Melanie Gillman, and what’s awesome about this con is that you’ll be able to hang out at their tables and chat and learn what makes them tick and what has influenced their incredible work and even when they do bring in a star of the silver screen like a traditional con does, they still find a way to make their appearance unique for the fans since John Leguizamo will be at this convention as well, and he will be participating in upgraded meet and greet sessions throughout the weekend.
If anything, DiNK can basically be considered to be a convention that goes back to basics, since conventions sprung forth from our love of comics and art and perhaps what I truly enjoy most about this con, is the sheer fact that so many local artists will be in attendance as well so we can discover new stories to captivate our imagination and really, this is just a wonderful way to spend a weekend geeking out and if you’re interested in finding new stories, like BEARCANO from Creephouse Comics or anything Wicked Awesome Tales has to offer, head to DiNK’s website today and snag some tickets and we here at Nerds That Geek will see all of you there this weekend.
Written by John Edward Betancourt
Stephen King once said, and I paraphrase, that one of the keys to a successful writing career is in essence to diversify. Because the creative mind needs to be challenged and pushed in order to stay vibrant and hungry and truth be told, that’s advice that extends well beyond the creative sector because pushing one’s self to be more and to do more often equates to great success. But, that aside, that mantra is absolutely paramount when it comes to the creative field, and the titans and legends of that industry have taken that lesson to heart.
After all, writers that work outside of their comfort zone, often see longevity in their careers and oddly enough, that same rule applies to actors as well. Because the men and women that we see on screen that try new things and take on challenging roles are the ones that stick around for a good long time and it’s why you see your favorite actors pop up in a movie or a show with a role that seems out of place from what they normally do and really, if there’s one actor out there that truly lives and breathes this notion, it would have to be John Leguizamo.
Because John is an actor who has dared to try anything and everything when it comes to acting. There’s no genre he’s afraid to take part in and that mindset has provided him with an illustrious career that’s allowed for him to portray memorable characters throughout the years such as Toulouse-Lautre from Moulin Rouge! or Cholo DeMora in Land of the Dead and that kind of diversity acting wise has in fact made him a household name. But what separates John from the rest of the pack, is the sheer fact that he is willing to reach beyond the acting world to challenge and push himself creatively, to the point where he has adapted some of his biographical stage shows…into comic books.
In fact, Freak and Ghetto Klown, are such magnificent pieces of work that the latter of those two books has been nominated for an Eisner Award and we’re celebrating John’s incredible career in print and on screen today for one reason and one reason alone, because DiNK Denver is bringing him in as a guest this weekend, and in classic DiNK style, fans of this talented actor and writer will get to spend time with John in unconventional fashion. Because often times when a celebrity comes to a convention, you stand in line and shake their hand and move on, but at DiNK, John will take the time to participate in upgraded meet and greet (and selfie) sessions, and panel discussions with the fans over the course of the weekend and by way of a private movie screening and Q&A session.
Unfortunately, that event, which will be hosted at the Alamo Drafthouse Denver is SOLD OUT, but the lucky fans that will be in attendance there can get their hands on a copy of Ghetto Klown and have it signed the following Sunday. As for the rest of the fans out there looking for an opportunity to shake hands with John, don’t waste any time and head to DiNK Denver’s website today to purchase your tickets and when all is said and done, this is just a stellar announcement for DiNK. Because John is a modern screen legend, and a ridiculously talented writer, and it’s just awesome to know he will be in Denver to celebrate his career with his fans and I have no doubt that his appearance at this event will serve to remind all of us that trying something new…can pay off in spades…
Written by John Edward Betancourt
It's springtime and you know what that means. The sun is shining, the temperature is just right and every nerd and geek in the midwest is staring to plan for Denver Comic Con 2018, and while that may sound like a bit much, it's not when it comes to this con. Because DCC is one of the largest conventions in the nation and well, it's essential to plan early for this con since they pack it in when it comes to their programming and their guests. Which means it's time to highlight the already incredible guest roster this convention is putting together so that you can decide how to best spend your time in Celebrity Summit, starting with the talented folks from Film and Television that are coming to the Mile High City.
The 80's Icons
Molly Ringwald and Andrew McCarthy
Every decade in cinema features actors that more or less cement themselves as icons for the generation that discovers them with the amazing stories they take part in and for children of the 1980's a pair of incredible icons from that era will be in attendance at DCC this year. For those unfamiliar with their work, Molly more or less became the girl next door on screen with memorable roles that landed her membership in the infamous 'Brat Pack' and her career has endured long beyond her early roles in John Hughes' work since she now appears on Riverdale on the CW.
As for Andrew, he too was a member of the Brat Pack and appeared with Molly in several films in the 1980's before branching out on his own to establish himself as quite the versatile leading man with roles in Mannequin and Weekend at Bernie's and much like Molly, he has enjoyed a rich career in both film and television throughout the years, most recently appearing on the ABC Series The Family in 2016.
Alanna Masterson and Ross Marquand
The Walking Dead continues to be a juggernaut for AMC, making anyone from that show a valued guest at conventions and this year, Denver Comic Con managed to land a pair of important Alexandrians. After all, if it wasn't for Ross, Rick Grimes and his friends could have perished in the wild and Alanna has been a vital member of the group after joining forces with them in season four and if anything, one can expect some long lines for these two actors at the convention because come on, it's The Walking Dead we are talking about here and these two actors are just downright awesome!
A Visit to the Upside Down
David Harbour, Sadie Sink, Matty Cardarople, Caleb McLaughlin, Galen Matarazzo, Noah Schnapp
There are few shows out there right now that are hotter than Netflix's Stranger Things and it just so happens that DCC has managed to land a fair chunk of of the cast for this year's convention. From new faces from season two such as Sadie and Matty, to series staples in the rest, it should be a blast if scheduling allows for this dynamic cast to come together on a panel at the same time to discuss their experiences from this incredible series.
A Doctor, a Companion and Jack Harkness Walk Into a Con...
Matt Smith, Billie Piper and John Barrowman
Doctor Who is a television show that has captivated audiences everywhere with its incredible storytelling and memorable characters and Denver Comic Con has landed quite the lineup for Whovians this year by bringing in two of the Doctor's dynamic friends in Billie and John since fans still adore everything they accomplished during the Tennant Era.
But while it will be awesome to meet the both of them, one cannot forget that DCC is bringing in one of the most popular Doctors out there in number Eleven, since Matt Smith's turn at the role is one of the big reasons the show is so incredibly popular today and it will be utterly incredible to shake hands with this legendary Time Lord!
From a Galaxy Far, Far Away...
Daniel Logan, Ray Park and Joonas Suotamo
What would a convention be without a Star Wars guest or three and DCC has delivered on that front as well, by bringing in a trio of important characters from this storied franchise. Fans will get to meet the man who has helped Peter Mayhew bring Chewbacca to life in recent years, Joonas Suotamo, and for fans of the prequel trilogy they'll get to meet Daniel Logan, who played the younger version of Boba Fett that we came to love in the original trilogy, and there will be a Sith Lord lurking about as well since Ray Park, who made waves with his incredible moves as Darth Maul, will be joining his interstellar cohorts in Denver this June.
The Hogwarts Express
Bonnie Wright and Matthew Lewis
To call the Harry Potter franchise anything outside of a phenomenon would be an outright insult. Because the movies and the novels took the world by storm and ignited the imaginations of fans around the world and wouldn't you know it, a pair of important characters from this storied franchise are finding their way to Mile High City this summer when fans get the chance to meet both Bonnie and Matthew and well, I am fully expecting to see incredible lines for both of these actors because Potterheads will be happy to wait patiently for their chance to meet and greet both Neville and Ginny.
Go, Go Power Rangers!
Amy Jo Johnson and Jason David Frank
Few franchises have withstood the test of time as well as the Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers and this saga has stuck around for good reason...it was freaking awesome and downright relatable. After all, who among us didn't want superpowers as a teenager and this show allowed for us to live vicariously through these teens and now, fans of this storied franchise will get the opportunity to say hello and thank you to a pair of beloved Rangers in Amy and Jason who played the Pink and Green/White Ranger respectively, and it's just awesome that DCC will have this dynamic duo at this year's con.
The Modern Icons
Mark Sheppard, Cress Williams, Jason Lewis, Graham McTavish, Pom Klementieff, Alan Tudyk, Lotte Verbeek and Ron Perlman
As if this list isn't quite epic enough, Denver Comic Con has added some modern day icons to their lineup as well. After all, Mark Sheppard has made quite a name for himself by popping up on some incredibly beloved shows such as Battlestar Galactica and Supernatural and Cress Williams is quickly becoming an iconic superhero with his role as Jefferson Pierce on the CW's Black Lightning and while Jason Lewis is establishing a new role on NBC's Midnight, Texas, he is no stranger to iconic shows since he was a part of Sex and the City, and Graham McTavish is another actor who has carved out quite the niche for himself when it comes to big time franchises since he played Dwalin in The Hobbit trilogy and most recently appeared as the Saint of Killers in AMC's Preacher, and Lotte Verbeek is quickly making a name for herself in recent years with an appearance in the big screen adaptation of The Fault in Our Stars and she also plays Geillis Duncan on the wildly popular show, Outlander.
As an added bonus, they will be joined in Celebrity Summit by Ron Perlman and Alan Tudyk, a pair of actors that always bring a smile to fan's faces. After all, Tudyk is still a hero to many thanks to his turn as Wash in Joss Whedon's Firefly and let's be honest, Ron Perlman has been everywhere in film and television. From Beauty and the Beast to Star Trek, Mister Perlman has found a way to leave his mark in every single genre out there, plus we have to talk about the fact that DCC landed a Guardian of the Galaxy in Pom Klementieff, who blew all of us away in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 with her incredible performance as Mantis and well...snagging someone from the MCU is a huge deal, and this entire group is a welcome addition to this magnificent roster.
Greg Cipes, Monica Rial, Eric Vale, Christopher Sabat, Charlet Chung, Lucie Pohl, Jamie Marchi, Jeremy Shada and Tara Strong
Sometimes our favorite characters are brought to life by talented voice actors and DCC is more than happy to spotlight this important part of the industry by bringing in some of those actors to meet their fans and this year, they've done an impressive job with that. After all, you can't go wrong in having the voice behind Michelangelo at your convention since Greg Cipes will be in attendance, plus Monica Rial, Eric Vale and Christopher Sabat, who were all involved in the Dragon Ball Z franchise will be in Denver this summer, as will Charlet Chung and Lucie Pohl who voice D.Va and Mercy from Overwatch respectively.
This year's con will also feature also Jamie Marchi, who is best known for her role as Rias Gremory in High School DxD BorN, and Jeremy Shada who voices Finn on Cartoon Network's Adventure Time and as an added bonus, Tara Strong will be in attendance and much like Ron Perlman, she too has in essence done it all when it comes to her craft, taking part in iconic franchise after iconic franchise such as Rugrats and The Powerpuff Girls and let's be honest, this is just a powerhouse roster when it comes to voice actors.
But, this is merely scratching the surface for this year's con since there are more wonderful guests to discuss as we countdown to the big weekend, and we will be covering the rest of the roster in the weeks to come and for your chance to meet any of these incredible Film and T.V. stars, head over to DCC's website today to snag your tickets, and we will see you at the Colorado Convention Center on Father's Day weekend for Denver Comic Con 2018.
Written by Zeke Perez Jr.
DreamHack Denver 2017 was a convention that marked a lot of firsts. It was the first time that DreamHack, the world’s largest digital gaming festival, made a stop in the Mile High City. It was the first time the humble National Western Complex ditched the cows and sheep to play home to an event centered on gaming. As I wrote in my preview piece, it was my first time ever attending a gaming festival. After spending some time checking out all that it had to offer, all I can say to DreamHack is…please come back!
The event spanned three days (open 24 hours a day), three floors, and two arenas. It featured as many possible activities as you could dream up, including professional eSports competitions, panels, archery tag, tabletop gaming, drone flying, and much, much more. My Nerds That Geek colleague Joel Lewis and I checked everything out and we had a blast doing so!
Right upon walking in, I was greeted by the Freeplay Arcade zone. There aren’t many better ways to start your day than with a round of Marvel vs. Capcom followed by a game of Dig Dug. I raced around in Fast and the Furious and brought back some great memories with NFL Blitz 99. Folks of all ages hovered around those, Dance Dance Revolution, Street Fighter, and several other featured games. You could hear people clamoring nostalgically about the games they used to play as they walked around the area. With people lining up to share in and enjoy games, the area truly fostered an old-school arcade feel, perfectly embodying the spirit of the event.
I ventured on and checked out the event floor more broadly. The DreamHack website was helpful in covering the layout of the event, but unfortunately there wasn’t an app (that I knew of) or any printed guides to help with exploring the sprawling festival. With past events I’ve attended, apps or guides have been a great tool for paring down a massive schedule, allowing me to pin can’t-miss events and sort out my day. They could be useful tools for DreamHack in the future, given the sheer number of things taking place at any given time. Nevertheless, everything was very organized and maps were posted throughout the venue.
Speaking of the venue, I feel like the National Western Complex was a perfect spot for DreamHack. As a Denver native, I’ve rarely ventured to the NWC over the last few years. The NWC and the Denver Coliseum aren’t popular destinations outside of the stock show and rodeo or other very occasional regional events throughout the year, so it was great to see the complex land an international event. I feel like the NWC complemented the feel of DreamHack more than the Colorado Convention Center or another arena would, especially in its spacing, setup, and ability to allow for 24-hour use and overnight events.
Exploring the festival grounds, I found that the setup lent itself to everything going on. Despite being so massive, each event felt intimate. The roaring crowds of the eSports championships didn’t interfere with the more relaxed tabletop gaming or the solitude of the LAN space. The merch and art zones were not as big as those at Denver Comic Con, for comparison, which makes sense because the focus of the event was obviously gaming. And gaming was definitely elevated at DreamHack.
No matter where you went, you could feel a buzz of excitement, especially as the day went on and more people flooded into the NWC. The hallways rumbled as people moved between events. Cheers, oohs, and ahhs erupted from the crowds surrounding the massive screens displaying championship bouts. I’ll cover my thoughts on the eSports competitions in more detail in posts to follow, but to sum it up: it was captivating.
I wasn’t sure what to expect from DreamHack Denver 2017, especially since I was unfamiliar with many aspects of it going in. I had never watched eSports, there are many tabletop games and PC games I’ve never played, and I’m a stranger to LAN parties. But DreamHack Denver was a welcoming and vibrant event; one that allowed me to dive in and sample a bit of everything. On behalf of the Mile High City, this gaming festival rookie hopes to see you again in 2018!
Written by Zeke Perez Jr.
This weekend (Friday, October 20th through Sunday, October 22nd), DreamHack is hosting its inaugural DreamHack Denver festival. Taking place at the National Western Complex, the sprawling event is home to a number of experiences, including eSports competitions, tabletop gaming, panels, a 24-hour LAN party, cosplay competitions, and much more. The stacked schedule is sure to provide a little something for everyone.
For me, it’ll be my first time attending anything like it. I’ve attended Denver Comic Con, but I’ve never been to an event where the emphasis is on gaming. So, before I go to DreamHack Denver 2017, I think it’s only fair that I put all my preconceived notions on the table for the sake of honesty. I’m a newcomer to eSports and I have to admit that there is a size-able disconnect there for me…
Two interests have run the course of my entire life: sports and video games. I’ve been watching and attending games for every sport imaginable for as long as I can remember. I’ve been playing video games for just as long. While I absolutely love the two, I also have to admit that sports are much more of an area of expertise for me, with my gaming knowledge (and skill) lagging behind quite a bit. Interacting with each separately in my own life, I never thought I’d see those worlds collide in the way that they currently are. Sponsorships, massive crowds, a billion-dollar valuation on the horizon, arenas being built specifically for eSports…it all makes complete sense, but it’s still very foreign to me.
In recent years, the amount of eSports coverage by major sports networks has obviously gone up. With that, there has been pushback. Internet commenters (because, of course…) respond to every article with ‘video games aren’t a sport’, ‘these people aren’t athletes’, any number of nerd jokes, and a bevy of other insults. While I don’t share a disdain for eSports, I would be lying if I said that eSports’ presence on ESPN and Sports Illustrated didn’t catch me off guard or that I haven’t had some similar thoughts about whether video games qualify as a sport.
All that being said, I’m working on it. I’m holding off on knocking something before I experience it. I mean, I’ve spent countless hours watching other people play sports. Who’s to say it’s any different when the games being played are virtual? There is undoubtedly a market for it. Even pro sports teams are beginning to see that, investing in the establishment of their own eSports teams. I’m also trying to understand the athleticism that it requires. I know it doesn’t come easy. If it did, maybe I’d be better at video games. It takes superb hand-eye coordination, quick reflexes, and - like anything else - hours and hours of practice honing your skills.
I’m clueless when it comes to the appeal of watching eSports competitions, as I’ve never had the opportunity to do so. But I’m heading into DreamHack with an open mind. I am excited to sit in the crowd for the event’s Grand Finals and feel the energy that you get at any live sporting event. I hope to chat with people and see where they are coming from, what drives their passion for the sport. ESports are an ever growing hobby; let’s see if DreamHack Denver can make it one of mine!
Follow along with my adventure on Twitter (@NerdsThatZeke) and check back on NerdsThatGeek.com for follow up articles after the event.
Written by John Edward Betancourt
You never quite forget the experience of your first convention and with good reason. After all, you had no clue what to expect from that con, which means that your stomach was filled with butterflies as you stepped through those doors before relief washed over you when you realized you were in the right place once you laid eyes upon costumes and elements from your favorite fandom. Such a spectacular moment truly meant that you belonged and the awe and wonder that comes with such a realization…is near impossible to ever experience a second time around.
Because the familiarity that comes with conventions settles in when you attend your second, or third one. You know what to seek out and what to expect when you walk through those doors, and you simply settle in to a routine and go about your personalized experience. Which is why it is so supremely important to talk about conventions that manage to find a way to leave us breathless and surprise us and believe it or not, I managed to attend a con this past weekend that not only stunned me with its sheer awesomeness, but it did the impossible and replicated that sense of awe and wonder I remember from so many years ago, and the con in question that accomplished such a feat, is Fort Collins Comic Con.
Now how FCCC pulled off such a feat is equally as impressive in that, there we no gimmicks to be found at this con, nor did it reinvent the proverbial convention wheel. Simply put, Fort Collins Comic Con took its fans back to basics, by providing an absolutely fun experience for the ages. Now, this was my first time attending FCCC and walking up the Aztlan Center and seeing how intimate a setting it was going to provide evoked something within, that sense of awe of wonder that I made mention of. Because I had no idea what to expect, and the memories and emotions of that first con I ever attended washed over me in an instant and that was only further enhanced when I walked through the doors.
Because within the walls of the Aztlan Center, was a sight to behold. There were people everywhere. The main lobby was packed to the brim with attendees, all of them smiling wide as they headed toward the main floor and the joy painted on their faces didn’t stop once they crossed that threshold. Because in addition to the wall to wall crowds present in the main room, smiles were to be found on everyone’s faces. Vendors, attendees, cosplayers and myself for that matter seemingly had a grin plastered on our mugs over the fact that this convention only wanted everyone to have a good time and indulge their nerdy side to the fullest and we were certainly more than happy to accomplish that.
Not to mention the fact that I cannot recall the last time I’ve been to a convention where I saw every single booth be as busy as can be, and if by chance the folks at that booth weren’t busy, they only needed to wait a minute before fans of all ages stopped by to chat with the artist or the vendor and make a purchase at their table or booth. That was, in fact, another thing that struck me by surprise…the sheer accessibility of everyone at their tables. It became obvious early on for me that FCCC wanted to give the fans the opportunity to really take the time to talk with the people at these tables and by encouraging that in the first place, fans were able to discuss anything and everything with the artists, and I even had the opportunity to do that myself and it was refreshing to not feel rushed in my conversation and really be able to take the time to get to know the folks showcasing their creations.
But really, what impressed me most about this convention, was the sense of family that it exuded. Not only did I see families in cosplay everywhere, enjoying this con with glee…I also felt like I belonged there and that’s what matters most, that we feel like we aren’t just among friends, but our own nerdy extended family and it is for that reason, along with the many others that I have made mention of today, that I will definitely attend this convention next year. Fort Collins Comic Con truly understands the core elements of what makes a con worthwhile and I cannot wait to experience that sense of awe once again, all while taking in the other wonders that this convention has in store for us.
Denver Comic Con 2017 Panel Spotlight - The Colorado Symphony Presents: Wonder Women - Symphonic Music’s Pop Culture Heroines
Written by Tim Girard
The Colorado Symphony Presents: Wonder Women - Symphonic Music’s Pop Culture Heroines
Saturday 10:30AM - 11:20AM Gotham City Room - Mile High Ballroom DCCP5
Catherine Beeson, Shari Myers, Matt Krupa, Danielle Guideri, Carolyn Kunicki, Tristan Rennie.
Join members of the Colorado Symphony as they explore and discuss how strong female characters in film are represented in both story and music.
Catherine Beeson, who led the panel, wanted to show the progression of musical themes written for strong female characters, and how they evolved into the current Wonder Woman theme in the DC Cinematic Universe. It began with Wagner’s Ring (not Tolkien’s Ring, Precious), and his character Brunhilde, a Valkyrie (not to be confused with the Marvel character...then again, it’s all the same basic mythology) from his opera cycle ‘The Ring of the Nibelung.’ Probably the most familiar music associated with her is the ‘Ride of the Valkyrie’ (which was used in the film Apocalypse Now), which Tristan performed on bassoon for us. Another musical signature for Brunhilde is her battle cry ‘Ho-yo-to-ho!,’ which, though it sounds very different, connects to another strong female character: Xena, the Warrior Princess. Xena’s battle cry (demonstrated by audience members who were familiar with it, for those of us who weren’t), is meant to strike fear in the hearts of her enemies.
One of the biggest contributions of Wagner (seen here, holding a dragon), is the use of a theme or motive called a leitmotif, which usually references a specific character, item, idea, place, etc. and helps to musically guide us through the story. This was originally used in opera, but is also very common in film scores. Probably the best-known film composer to use leitmotifs is John Williams. An example, performed on cello by Danielle Guideri, is Leia’s Theme, which has a ‘searching’ quality, that doesn’t really find a resolution. Rey’s Theme, performed beautifully by Catherine on viola, has a very different ‘musical grammar’ which captures the qualities of her character. She is alone almost all of the time and she is not heroic, but we have empathy for her. She isn’t searching the way Leia is; instead, Rey is surer of herself and accepting of what her situation is. It starts off jaunty, but becomes very expansive, just like her journey. One of the advantages of using leitmotifs is that the composer can layer the different melodies associated with a specific character on top of each other in counterpoint, so that different aspects of their personality can be expressed simultaneously. This was demonstrated when Catherine, Danielle, and Tristan performed a later part of Rey’s Theme on viola, cello, and bassoon.
It was pointed out that one big distinction with the music for Marvel’s movies is that the studio allows the scores to be genre driven, meaning, Captain America: The First Avenger is a World War II film, so it is scored similarly to other WWII films, Thor is a space/alien/Norse/fantasy (?) so it is scored like other films in that genre, etc. This is opposed to the DC Cinematic Universe where all of the music seems to match and be very much part of the same world. Jessica Jones is a private detective, so her show is scored in a typical Film Noir Jazz style, but as we learn more about her dry humor, wit, and hard edge, the music moves to heavy rock with the addition of guitar.
Moving to another strong, female lead, we next discussed the main theme of Game of Thrones with its driving 3-beat rhythm (Dee Daa Dada, Dee Daa Dada, ...). The composer, Ramin Djawadi ‘quotes himself’ by taking material to make other themes (even the melody is based on the opening rhythmic figure). The music often used for Daenerys (or as Matt reminded us: ‘Daenerys Stormborn of the House Targaryen, First of Her Name, the Unburnt, Queen of the Andals and the First Men, Khaleesi of the Great Grass Sea, Breaker of Chains, and Mother of Dragons’) is based on the opening theme music, but it is slower and broader, and builds over time to seem unstoppable. Combined with a slow version of the melody over it, it creates a sense of, as it was said during the panel, ‘She’s comin’ for ya’.
Finally, we arrived at the core of the panel: the music for Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman. We first hear her new theme in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, during the battle with Doomsday. Hans Zimmer wanted a more feminine theme for Wonder Woman, but one that was also a warrior’s battle cry. Zimmer worked with electric cellist Tina Guo to come up with a theme that sounded like a ‘banshee wail.’ Catherine drew the connection from Brunhilde’s ‘Ho-yo-to-ho!’, and Xena’s battle cry, to Wonder Woman’s electric cello theme. This melody is accompanied by drums that are reminiscent of a 7-beat rhythm that you might hear in Balkan folk music. The drums are playing on all seven beats, but accenting beats 1, 3, 5, and 7 (1 2 3 4 5 6 7 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 etc., which Catherine had us clap so that we could really experience the rhythm). While Hans Zimmer composed that memorable theme for Wonder Woman, it was actually Rupert Gregson-Williams who composed the score for Wonder Woman’s solo film. Since the film told her origin story, and how she became the warrior we know, he composed another theme that expressed the hope, peace, and kindness of her character at the beginning of the film. This theme ‘reaches upward’ to show Diana’s optimism about the world and how good it could be. He does eventually use the theme from BvS, once Wonder Woman is in full ass-kicking mode, but then quickly drops the electric cello, continues with the drums, and adds the rest of the orchestra to arrive at a more full, ‘cinematic action’ treatment.
Oh, and the presentation ended with a picture of Bugs Bunny Brunhilde.
Next: Colorado Film School.
Written by John Edward Betancourt
It’s truly quite incredible how big the convention scene has become over the past few years. Everywhere you look, there seems to be a con that caters to just about any fandom you can think of and the real beauty of seeing convention after convention pop up is the sheer fact that it gives us all more opportunities to hang out with our fellow nerds and geeks and bask in all the wonderful fandoms that bring us joy.
However, with so many cons at our fingertips, fans tend to be a touch more selective as to which ones they would like to attend and often times, that means picking up a ticket to the big-name cons for the sake of sheer convenience, but that can have it drawbacks. Sometimes it’s simply too busy, or the con is 100% concerned with being a business over anything else and when you don’t feel as though your dollars matter, or you can’t find a good personal tie to said con, it makes for a mediocre or poor experience.
Thankfully, there are still cons that believe in interaction and community and that family feel and one such con that has my attention when it comes to this, is Fort Collins Comic Con. Now, I will fully admit that I have yet to attend this con, something I’ll be changing this weekend, but people love to discuss their experiences at a particular convention and what has me piqued about attending this one, is all the feedback I’ve received about how inclusive this con is and how much fun it is every single year.
In fact, everything I’ve seen when it comes to this con, screams ‘geeks are family’. Take the activities scheduled for example. Between live music and a cosplay catwalk, to a Ghostbusters Training Camp for the kids and a Nerd Prom for teens, it truly seems as though Fort Collins Comic Con has something to offer everyone and it doesn’t end there, because their guest list is pretty impressive as well. You’ll find a bevy of comic book artists at this con, such as Peter Krause, Jolyon Yates, Zach Howard, Ron Fortier, Lee Oaks and Mike Baron. Plus, you’ll be able to interact with some folks from the animation business such as, Victor Cook, Greg Guler and Michael Toth and there’s even a television writer in attendance this year since Kevin Hopps will be at the con.
As an added bonus, the show will also have a doctor in the house since Erica Macdonald, Phd, who has traveled the world to educate people on space science in popular culture and science fiction will also be in attendance. It’s a wonderfully diverse group of guests and it reinforces inclusivity for geeks from all fandoms and in the end, the impression that I’m getting when it comes to this con, is that it is all about a relaxed experience. Between the layout and everything we’ve talked about today, it really feels as though Fort Collins Comic Con is the kind of event where you can chat it up with the artists and the guests in a comfortable environment, giving us everything we love about conventions…all while making us feel like we matter. FCCC kicks off Saturday, 10 a.m. at the Aztlan Center in Fort Collins, Colorado, and I look forward to seeing everyone there.
Written by Tim Girard
Shakespearean Wars in the Stars
Friday 7:00PM - 7:50PM Room 505 - Reel Heroes Film Series
Ernie Quiroz, Stacy Quiroz, Neil Truglio, Derek Nason, Andy Ray, Nicolas Horn, Dan O’Neil, Parker Jenkins, Chantelle Frazier.
With a beginning like “A Long Time Ago, in a Galaxy Far, Far Away”, it feels like our favorite film franchise could have been written by The Bard. Join the Denver Film Society as we see what ‘Star Wars’ could have looked like on a stage with actors taking inspiration from arguably the world’s greatest playwright.
On the Friday night of Denver Comic Con weekend, members of the Denver Film Society performed a reading of the book 'William Shakespeare's Star Wars: Verily, a New Hope' by Ian Doescher (which is a retelling of ‘A New Hope’ as if Shakespeare had written it). They began by recruiting some audience members for a few key roles, including Greedo (which I was NOT selected for, unfortunately), and the audience as a whole was instructed to be the voice of Chewbacca. They also explained that, in keeping with the tradition of the times, there were only male actors...which meant that Princess Leia was going to be played by a man. With only a handful of actors, that meant that each one would play multiple roles. There was also a soundtrack provided in the form of the original score being played on vinyl.
Shortly after the show began, they revealed an added layer to their performance: their use of props. They had toy laser guns for the sounds of blasters, and when Darth Vader first spoke, his deep robotic voice was enhanced by a megaphone with voice modulating effects. Similar effects were also used when any of the Stormtroopers spoke and also when anyone use a communicator, Luke calling C-3PO when he was in the trash compactor, X-Wing pilots, etc..
All of the voice acting was top-notch. The (male) actor voicing Princess Leia used a beautiful, yet authoritative falsetto, while the actor playing R2-D2 whistled all of his lines (and at one point stood up exasperated and made a comic outburst about being a trained actor who was only getting to whistle). Luke was appropriately whiney, and the actor who played C-3PO captured his soft-spoken, articulate voice perfectly. Obi-Wan Kenobi announced his appearance when the actor playing him comically tossed his hood up over his head… and half of his face.
In the Mos Eisley Cantina scene, we met Han Solo, and the audience had our collective-voice-acting debut as Chewbacca. After Luke and Obi-Wan left, the chosen audience member came up to a mic to deliver all of Greedo’s alien dialogue. When Han shot Greedo (first), it signaled the end of the Cantina scene. This ‘should’ have been followed by the deleted-then-re-inserted scene with Jabba the Hutt talking to Han outside the Millennium Falcon, but as the actor playing Jabba the Hutt began to walk on stage, delivering his first line, the cast ‘booed’ him off. The audience laughed, realizing that this was the cast’s way of showing their disapproval of that scene.
The next memorable moment was the confrontation between Darth Vader and Obi-Wan Kenobi. The two characters stood up and incorporated a makeshift lightsaber fight across the other seated actors while still delivering Shakespearean dialogue. After Obi-Wan’s death (spoiler alert…), the full cast revealed the mightiest, most impressive of their performance-enhancing props when they performed ‘The Force Theme’…with an orchestra of kazoos.
After Obi-Wan’s death scene and the buzzing majesty that followed, it was about 7:45, meaning they technically only had five minutes before the end of the panel. I thought that they were going to end there, but instead, they decided to push through and try to finish in a hurry. It was like watching the rest of Star Wars on fast-forward (or as performed by the Micro Machines Man). They were all still in character, but they were spitting the dialogue as fast as they could. Luke squeezed in one more monologue before heading into the trenches in his X-Wing and destroying the Death Star. Their performance concluded with a return of the kazoo orchestra to perform the ‘Throne Room Them’ for the award ceremony, and the audience giving one final howl as Chewbacca.
Next: The Music of Wonder Woman (and some other bad-ass women).