Sunday, August 14, 2011

Geeking out at the Chicago Comic Con!

Well, I just returned from my third Chicago Comic Con at the Convention Center in Rosemont, IL (just outside Chicago). As usual, big crowds, lots of vendor booths selling all kinds of collectibles, comics, swords and props, action figures, and a decent list of celebrities offering autographs, photo opportunities, and if you're lucky a decent conversation. (One of these days, I am going to get to the San Diego Comic Con)

The Convention started on Thursday, August 11 and ended today (Sunday). My son Ryan and I got 4-day passes so we could take our time and see everything. We even got my wife Christi to come with us on Saturday (I threw in a one-night stay at the Hyatt next door as a bonus). This is her first Comic Con (I got her to go with me to the Las Vegas Star Trek Con last summer -- another 'first' for her).

The Con this year seemed a little smaller in some respects than last year. I think that is partly because last year, there was a large Star Trek (and to some extent Star Wars) presence here and that really brought out the crowds. But don't get me wrong, there were still thousands of people there, especially on Saturday. Plenty of people dressed up in costumes, plenty of collectors looking for great deals on merchandise, and plenty of people looking for their favorite celebrities at booths and panels.

This year the big draws were Bruce Campbell, Felicia Day, Patrick Stewart, Christopher Lloyd, and most of the cast from Buffy (James Marsters, Charisma Carpenter, Julie Benz, Nicholas Brendon). Other celebs that I saw were Vivica Fox (Independence Day), Tia Carrera (Relic Hunter), Lou Ferrigno (The Incredible Hulk), Louis Gossett Jr (Officer and a Gentleman/Iron Eagle), Mimi Rogers (Austin Powers), Gil Gerard & Erin Gray (Buck Rogers), Peter Mayhew (Chewbacca), Ray Park (Darth Maul), and Pam Grier (Foxy Brown/Smallville).

The floor was pretty filled with vendors and displays, and I think the Artist Alley was the largest I have seen over the past three years. Comics were the majority of vendor booths present, but there were a lot of action figures (mostly Marvel and DC stuff) and weaponry and the like. There was a tattoo artist this year (I met his girlfriend while waiting for photo op tickets). I thought that was interesting.

Star Trek Represented

This year, there are only a few notable Trek celebs in attendance: Patrick Stewart (who had to back out of last year's Con at the last minute), LeVar Burton, and Daniel Stewart. On Friday, Ryan and I stood in line to get a photograph with LeVar Burton who played our favorite engineer Geordi LaForge on Star Trek: The Next Generation. Then on Saturday, I had the opportunity to get LeVar to sign that photograph and to speak with him for a few minutes.

Then about an hour later, I attended his Q&A Panel and live-tweeted the event. You can check out all those tweets at @rpeete on He was very genuine and funny. Did you know that the VISOR was screwed onto his head? Yep! Two screws on either side! He said after about 45 minutes, he always ended up with a headache, and seeing out of that thing was difficult.

There was also a running joke throughout his panel with people asking him to dance, because of a comment made an hour earlier during Patrick Stewart's panel when Sir Patrick said LeVar had some killer dance moves and that everyone should ask him about it. Well LeVar elected not to demonstrate any "moves" and pretty much said that he had his ways of reeking vengeance on Patrick and I quote "Patrick's bald head will be MINE"

Unfortunately, I was unable to attend Patrick Stewart panel. The main ballroom for his panel filled up before the line got to the doors. They would not let me in. What!!? Don't they know WHO I AM? Guess not! Hmmph!

StarGate SGU

Another highlight for me this year was meeting Alaina Huffman, who played Lt. Tamara Johansen the medic on the show. She was the only person from Stargate at the Con this year. Ryan and I took a photograph with her on Friday afternoon and then spent quite a while talking with her at her booth later that day. She was very personable, spoke equally to both me and Ryan, and shared her good news: she is pregnant with her fourth child! She is expecting a son (I thought she looked pregnant at the photo-op but knew better than to say anything). Her youngest is a boy and he is very excited to be getting a baby brother as his two other siblings are older girls.

Among other things, Alaina and I talked about the cancellation of SGU and she was candid about feeling "bummed" by the initial negativity by Stargate fans regarding the show. And even though there were many who liked it, she thought that perhaps that negative minority was a lot more vocal than those who quietly enjoyed watching the show. We agreed that SciFi shows with a balance of tech/SFX, action, and character development/story are the best. It was a shame that SGU did not get the chance to realize its full potential.

When I asked her what she is working on nowadays, she mentioned that she is the main baddie in the upcoming Alphas TV show this Monday on SyFy. She said it was a lot of fun to do, so I encourage everyone who reads this before Monday evening, August 15th, to check it out.

Other Celebrity Panels

Bruce Campbell, Felicia Day, Patrick Stewart, and Christopher Lloyd were the big draws for the Q&A panels and were assigned the Large Ballroom A. Bruce was hilarious albeit most of his humor is definitely for adult ears, which was a little distracting since I was sitting next to a bunch of kids ages 8-13. He was definitely different. He was actually giving out dollar bills to people who had gotten tattoos of Evil Dead and other shows he was connected with via a little fashion show he held up on stage. Towards the end of his panel, he had a woman come up and talk with him and then asked her boyfriend to come up and join them. Then the boyfriend proposed to her on stage. It was pretty coo that Bruce and the guy had set this up.

I only got to hear the last 15 minutes of Felicia Day's panel but she was awesome! Very engaging with the audience and answered questions very openly. She was quick to point out that she is NOT going to be in the next Avengers movie (evidently Josh had made some passing comment about it).


You may not have heard of Valerie Lapomme and her video blog (VLog) called the "Sexy Nerd Girl" but I do subscribe to her YouTube channel and find her pretty entertaining and funny. She is a self-avowed sci-fi, fantasy, and gaming fangirl who loves Star Trek, Star Wars, Harry Potter, Nintendo games, and pretty much anything geeky. Her vlog posts are usually 2-3 minutes and altogether wacky (and sometimes a bit on the adult humor side).

I noticed Valerie's booth on Friday and tried to set up a time to interview her for Treks in SciFi (a weekly podcast and web online community that I love). But that girt was busy! She was all over the Con doing her own interviews! In fact, I saw her interviewing the guys at the Extreme FX booth and got off a quick photo. Her booth was giving out small posters, business cards, and other free stuff. And they were holding a raffle for a Sexy Nerd Girl T-shirt (which you can buy from her web site).

So, I met her staffers at the booth as I visited it probably 6 times between Friday and Saturday and each time, Valerie wasn't there. I told them all about Treks in SciFi and they were pretty excited to know that we all love her Vlog! They told me that Val was entered into the Comic Con Costume Contest on Saturday night but Steph said she didn't win. So we decided to give it one more try on Sunday morning.

Success! I finally got to see Valerie on Sunday morning! The first thing I noticed is that she is taller than me. Looks like she might be 6'1" compared to my 5'10" stature. But the smile gave her away. She is pretty friendly and wanted to know a bit more about the Treks in SciFi crew. So I explained that we were going on our 6-year anniversary, and since many of us are followers of her vlog, I wanted to know if she would record a little greeting for the podcast. She readily agreed!

So we discussed it a bit more and her camera crew rolled the tape! We made a short little clip for the podcast which they promised to send to me for inclusion in the Treks in SciFi Anniversary special this fall. Awesomeness!

One cool thing was that as we talked, they asked how I watch her Vlog. I told her that I used my iPad most of the time to view it. Well, Valerie had never seen her show from an iPad. So I brought my iPad 2 out and we watched her latest post on it right on the convention floor. That was pretty sweet and she was pretty pleased with how it looked.

So I will keep you in the loop when the video is finally available (I wonder if she will use any of the footage on her channel). And if you are a SciFi fan and you aren't listening to the Treks in SciFi podcast, then you should go over to iTunes right now and subscribe. It is awesome! And the online community is a great place to hang out. Look for me there!


Well, I have to admit that this year I did not buy as many collectible items as I have in the past. I did, however, pick up three large prints from Lightspeed. Two were Babylon 5 prints -- one of all the ships in the show autographed by all the Captains and the other was a nice print that included all the primary cast members in the series. These were for Ryan, who I have turned into a major B5 fan.

For myself, I found a very nice print of Kirk, Spock, and Kahn that is autographed by both Shatner and Nimoy. Unfortunately, Ricardo Montalban passed away about a week before this was created so it does not have his signature. But even still, it is an awesome print that depicts one of my favorite Trek movies -- The Wrath of Kahn.

Other than that, we got some miscellaneous stuff: t-shirts, Star Wars Lego guys that Ryan didn't have, and an awesome Star Fury model to put together. I also found some cool mock-up ID badges and parking passes so I now have a Hogwarts Parking Pass on my car.

I saw an awesome Captain America shield for sale at $500. I was sorely tempted but in the end, decided to walk away from it. But that shield might be in my collectible future if I see it again next year!


Well, I guess that is about it for my Comic Con report. Ryan and I had an amazing time there this year, and staying overnight at the Hyatt was a nice little getaway bonus for the family.

I missed not having my "Treks in SciFi" buddy Rico Dostie there with us this year (but hey, maybe he can come out here in the Fall for the Trek Con). By the way, this will be the last Convention for Leonard Nimoy (I heard that from his agent who also manages LightSpeed. Nimoy was at the Vegas TrekCon this weekend and it was his last Creation Entertainment Con)

Until next time, "Live Long and Prosper"!

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