Comic-con or Bust


You’re not really going to put yourself through it again, are you? You are a serious glutton for punishment. How many years in a row has it been now? It’s become an addiction for you, like an alcoholic who very clearly remembers the heavy, cement-stuffed pounding of being unable to lift his head off the bed the morning after but still picks up a bottle again at the end of the day.

You’ll drag yourself out of the hotel room at 6 a.m. and forge your way through the streets packed with shoulder-to-shoulder crowds while being buffeted by 8-foot Pikachu, ratcheting Steampunk wings, enormous fantasy-sized 3-D printed missile launchers, Aliens and Transformers who can hardly see where they’re going or control their enormous robotic feet. You’ll be jabbed by convention bags as big as coffee tables stuffed with action figures and lightsabers and memorabilia while people with smart phones and cameras with lenses as long as their forearms stop abruptly in front of you as they try to take a picture of that girl dressed (barely) as Poison Ivy or that guy with buffed up pecs and biceps wearing a white wife beater and long silver adamantine claws sprouting from between his fingers sharp enough to slice your hand off even though they’ve supposedly gone through weapons check.

Don’t you remember the stifling proximity of 150,000 people giving off body heat and pheromones pressing through the narrow rows of vendor booths gawking at every newly rolled out piece of merchandise while disrupting the natural flow of walking so that you have to dodge through the crowd with your shoulders hunched forward to block any blows coming your way? Maybe you should wear a costume that has a shield this year. Maybe Captain America’s got the right idea. Then there’s the sensory overload of loud speaker announcements, the crazed screaming of celebrity sightings, billboard size posters sprouting from floor and ceiling like a nightmare obstacle course, and the endless neon-lit displays of high-end action figures, weapons, toys, props crushing your senses until you feel your head swimming with flashbacks of previous cons.

Do you really need to relive the grind of walking miles and miles each day from one end of the building to the other and back again and again on the off-chance that you’ll get into the panels you want even though you know that unless you get there at least two hours ahead of time there’s no chance at all? At least you’ve learned not to wait in line for eight hours straight for the Masquerade. You can just go have dinner then slip into the back of the auditorium where there are always empty seats and multiple large screens to watch the same hosts as last year, and the year before that, make jokes about the costume descriptions, and you join in the countdown as people in costumes that have taken them a year to make act out their bits to pre-recorded audio and get cheered or booed by the ravenous audience. Or you could watch it on a big screen in the tent where it’s easy to get a seat, but it’s so f-ing cold that you’ll probably catch pneumonia after sweating your ass off all day.

Your feet still remember the swollen ache from last year as you shift uselessly from one leg to the other to alleviate the pain of standing on them hour after hour as you wait in line in the scorching hot sun hoping upon hope that you make it into Hall H to see the Star Wars Panel. And this after you voluntarily slept all night sitting up in a camping chair just to get a seat halfway back in a 7,000 person auditorium to see a panel of actors bandy about some jokes as you watch them on a screen above your head, because even though they are up there on the stage, they are too far away to make out any facial features. Packed tightly into an unmovable metal chair surrounded by stinking people who haven’t bathed, you get to eat bad convention pizza that contains thousands of calories and untold grams of fat while watching a five minute movie preview that you’ll be able to see on YouTube in two months time. Is it really worth it to be the first to post about it on Twitter?

Damn right, you say! 

©2016 Nancy Steinman All Rights Reserved. To republish in print or online, please contact me. It’s OK to post a link to this page.



Why “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” Isn’t Really a Game Changer

By Nancy Steinman (Mithril)
10_prinzessin-leia_hiresWithout Leia, there would have been no rebellion.

Neither Rey nor Finn were the first.

So many articles about Star Wars: The Force Awakens are saying things similar to the following statement, but it is blatantly untrue:

“There’s an obvious inclusivity mission in these [new] films that wasn’t present in the originals, where women and people of color are on the front lines.” (The Verge)

It makes me wonder why these bloggers are completely disregarding the original movies. Most likely they are jumping on the PC bandwagon in order to get more attention. I am all for equality, and the recent revelations about pay inequity and the lack of good roles for actresses makes me as angry as the next woman, but in my opinion, George Lucas was ahead of the curve when it came to filling important roles in film.

Leia Organa (born Leia Amidala Skywalker). Should be enough said, but apparently, it’s not. How can you say there were no female heroes in the original films in the light of her glare. Played by Carrie Fisher, Leia was a female leading hero on the front lines in all three of the original movies, the first of which was released in 1977. Her role was every bit as significant as Luke and Han’s if not more so.

Leia was the Princess of Alderaan, one of the core world planets with a population of 2 billion. Decades before Disney princesses showed that girls can be strong, she was a member of the Imperial Senate and the leader of the Rebel Alliance. It was Leia who led the plan to destroy the Death Star. Luke, a farm boy, and Han, a smuggler, were drawn into her orbit, not the other way around. If you think Luke is more significant because he became a Jedi, don’t forget Leia had the same parents as Luke, and as Yoda said, the same force potential… “there is another”. And she was kick ass handy with a blaster.

“But it is she who leads the battle, yes, hmm…Princess Leia Organa. Bold. Strong…her mother’s blood flows through her.”

Another strong female in the original Star Wars Saga was Mon Mothma. We see her briefly before the Battle of Endor, but she is a significant leader in the resistance and becomes the first chancellor of the New Republic.

As far as “people of color” having important roles in the original movies, what about Billy Dee Williams as Lando Calrissian? The Trilogy would have been a different universe without him. If you know anything about Lando, you’ll know he is a powerful man in the verse.

Although he never actually got screen time, it really didn’t matter; the voice of Darth Vader, James Earl Jones, pervaded the first three films and is one of the most iconic things about the Star Wars films universe.

Episodes 1-3 are not given much love, and this may have diminished their characters in film goers’ eyes, but they also had heroes of significance.

PadmeLeaderPadme is the Queen of the planet Naboo, a strategic leader and a commander.

Padmé Amidala, played by Natalie Portman, has a resumé that could arguably surpass Leia’s, which would make sense since she was Leia’s (and Luke’s) mother. She was the Princess of Theed, the capital city of the planet Naboo, and was elected Queen of the planet at the age of 14! She led her people during the Trade Federation’s invasion of the planet and helped to liberate them, becoming one of the most respected political figures in the galaxy. When her two terms as Queen were over, her people tried to pass a law so she could continue as Queen, but she declined and accepted the position as Naboo’s senator in the Galactic Senate. She was politically savvy, a leader and a fighter, in the senate and on the battle field. She could also wield a mean blaster. You can find some interesting insights about her here: Queen, Senator, Mother, Hero: In Defense of Padme Amidala

Neither were Episodes 1-3 devoid of important characters of color. Captain Panaka who was the head of the Royal Naboo Security Forces was played by Hugh Quarshie, and the character people love to hate, Jar Jar Binks, was voiced by Ahmed Best. And how dare we forget the great Mace Windu played by Samuel L. Jackson!

With Star Wars, George Lucas created films (and books) that were infinitely diverse. There are many strong female heroes to aspire to – in fact, one of the most inspirational in film history. Go to Comic-con and count how many Leia’s you see walking around if you have doubts. And there was racial diversity – including alien races – long before Episode VII which only continues the legacy and doesn’t invent it. Rey and Finn are new heroes for sure, but they are not the first, nor the most significant.

Above and Beyond

At San Diego Comic-con this year, I spent a good deal of time at the Weta Workshop booth where several of the other staffers were working and hanging out. The copy of “The Hobbit An Unexpected Journey Chronicles: Creatures & Characters” that I bought turned out to be my best purchase of the con. Some of the artists who worked on the film took turn signing, going above and beyond by personalizing their signatures with drawings as well. By waiting patiently for all the artists to show up, I ended up with a treasure. Thanks to all the amazing Weta artists who took the time!

1HobbitChronicles2DanielFalconer3Johnny Fraser-Allen4PaulTobin 5Ben Wooten6AndrewBaker7NickKeller8LindseyCrummett9DaveTremontRichard_Russell web