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Monday, 15 June 2015

Mother's Day weekend and Ottawa's 4th ComicCon, May 2015

Hello! Today's post is all about how I spent this Mother's Day at Ottawa's ComicCon! Pictures, celebrities, costumes, special events, and a lot of fun were had, and I felt like sharing the experience! So come on! Check it out!

Ever since Ottawa's first ComicCon, my sister and I have made it a tradition to celebrate Mother's Day with our Mom at the convention. Each year brings new celebrity guests, new artists, and new events! 

With my friends' wedding taking up most of my time the month before, I was worried that I may not be able to come up with a costume. I don't like to do things half-way and I take my costuming pretty seriously. After some thought, I decided what I wanted to do.

This year, I went as Obi-Wan Kenobi, from Star Wars!

Considering my long hair and beard, it may have been easier to go as Qui-Gon Jinn, Liam Neeson's character, or as a younger Obi-Wan, portrayed by Ewan McGregor. But, I love Alec Guiness' interpretation of the character and I wanted to pay tribute.

So, I bought a white bathrobe, borrowed a brown robe from some friends, and had my Mom help me whiten my hair and beard. The result turned out much better than I expected!

My Mom, in the meantime, was gathering her Steampunk clothes. For those who are unaware, Steampunk refers to a genre of fiction, and also a lifestyle/fashion which incorporates 19th century industrial steam-powered machinery into current times. My Mom and sister love Steampunk, and, as you'll see later in the post, so too do a lot of other people.

Upon entering the doors of the convention, one of the first things we saw was a tribute to efforts in space. It featured a cardboard set of the Cupola (a section of the International Space Station, provided by the Italians, used to view the Earth below), and a cardboard cutout of Canadian astronaut Commander Chris Hadfield. The tribute was sponsored by the Canadian Aviation and Space Museum and my Mom and I thought it was a great way of engaging the public. So, we stopped and took some photos with it!

We spent most of the first day checking out the exhibits. The convention has been held at the Ernst and Young Centre and, each year, the building is completely full of great things to see. Local artists, famous artists, stores showcasing nerdy props, t-shirts, even several armourers selling chainmail, helmets, grieves, and swords! 

I remember thinking a lot about Dungeons and Dragons on our first day. When my friends play D&D, early adventures often involve the adventurers needing to shop for items. To do so, they don't go to your local convenience store, but to the local market, or bazaar! The scene is often described as full of people, activity, booths of all kinds selling items from here, there, everywhere! It is always crazy and a lot of fun, and so too was checking out the booths here at the convention. Strategically, we always do this on the first day so we get an idea of what's available and where everything is, so that we can think on any purchases we may wish to make and come back later.
I liked this little Norse/Thor Teddy Bear
He makes a pretty decent Riddler
Cute Minions

Throughout the day, we scheduled time to go see some of the Q&A panels. Here, interesting people who have worked on interesting things, present themselves before an audience and answer questions from their fans. This year, we saw Wil Wheaton's panel, also known as Wesley Crusher from Star Trek. Wheaton was hilarious, talking about his love of Canada, some experiences from Star Trek, and some new work he's doing.

We also saw Malcolm McDowell, who starred in many things including: A Clockwork Orange, Heroes, and Star Trek: Generations! Known for playing serious, and sometimes evil, characters, it was interesting to see him relaxed, funny, being a nice guy.

We also saw Jonathan Frakes, and Marina Sirtis, who played Commander Riker and Deanna Troi on Star Trek. Their panel was my favourite because they were so funny! As soon as they took the stage, Frakes left it. He just started wandering through the audience while Sirtis kept yelling to him that he didn't have a microphone. 

Frakes, sitting in the audience, listening to Marina

They had such a chemistry, bouncing jokes off of each other, making fun of each other, it was great to watch. What I really liked about them is that they a) loved Star Trek and b) remember their work. All too often, actors become tired of all the pressure and repetitiveness of playing in a role like that and they start to begrudge the fans. Also, many actors don't know their work as well as their fans so there's a weird disconnect between fan and actor. However, Frakes and Sirtis knew their stuff and were so thankful and appreciative of the love and attention they have received. They told some great stories, were very honest, very nice, and thanked everyone for coming, wishing us a great time at the convention.

While waiting in line for one of the panels, I suddenly borrowed my Mom's phone. She thought I was just checking out old pictures, but I was actually texting with my sister. Unbeknownst to my Mom, my sister Danielle had taken several late buses and taxis, travelling more than 6 hours just so that she could surprise our Mom at ComicCon. It worked out perfectly! I told Danielle where we were, and she moved through the crowd, finally stopping to stand near my Mom and me. My Mom, impressed with this young woman's Steampunk outfit, asked to take a photo and when the woman turned, there was my sister! My Mom was in shock, she just held the camera and said, "Oh! It's mine! What are you doing here?"

So tough to get these girls to pose for photos. It's a good thing I'm a funny guy.
Another similar aspect was that some friends from out of town, newly married Mike and Sarah, came to their first ComicCon, bringing Mike's mom, Peggy. Despite the long hours driving, they seemed to have a really nice time, and Peggy, who is a fantastic seamstress, was really excited by all the potential to be had for making nerdy costumes in the future!

One exciting opportunity at these conventions is the chance to get an autographed picture from celebrities. I have not been to many conventions, but I really like how Ottawa's convention does this. Autographs, while a little expensive, are more fairly priced at the Ottawa convention than I've seen elsewhere, and the best part, in my opinion, is being able to have a few moments to speak with the celebrity. At my first convention, I told Adam Baldwin that a friend of mine and I really bonded while watching his show, and Baldwin gave me two autographed pictures! One for me, and the other for my friend! This year, I didn't have much to say exactly. I was happy for the opportunity, but the people I saw were so relaxed, so funny, that we had just really nice, short, but pleasant conversations. I remember Frakes smiling when he saw that the picture was to say "Happy Mother's Day" and I remember Sirtis teasing Frakes. 

One of the nicest moments was our conversation with Nichelle Nichols. Famous for her role as Uhura from Star Trek, Nichols has been a real force of change. She was involved with the first interracial kiss ever shown on television (between her and William Shatner), and she has continued to promote equality and respect in and out of the television and film industries. Nichols even helped astronaut Mae Jemison, the first African-American female in space, appear on Star Trek, and was the first astronaut to do so.

Nichelle Nichol's Q&A panel was touching and a lot of fun. Afterward, my Mom and I visited her at the autograph tables where my Mom told her a special story. Years ago, Nichols had been present at an event in Ottawa, and was scheduled to see a cousin of mine. Through a charity foundation, my cousin Josh, a big Star Trek fan, was slated to see Nichols but his sickness got worse and he was called in for surgery. Upon hearing this, Nichols went to the hospital, delayed her flight as much as she could, but she did not get the chance to see Josh. When she landed back in Los Angeles, she phoned the hospital and spoke with him and the family, ensuring he was okay.

As my Mom told this story, Nichols said she remembered the event well. That she still thought about him and prayed for him. We told her that Josh is doing much better now and she asked us to select a photo he may like. We did so, and she signed and gave it to us.

A cynical person may think the celebrities are just doing this for attention, or they may think my family is conning celebrities out of extra photos, but neither are the case. We just wanted a more personal connection with the celebrity, rather than "I love your work", and even without the extra picture, these are memories we'll treasure forever.

Our last day was all about final purchases and photographs. Danielle had been looking for some new art pieces to hang on her wall. I showed her one artist I thought she may like, and she surprised me by buying something for me!

The artist is Brian Hoang, and his Facebook page for his illustrations is here. I really like this piece! It combines the setting of Christopher Nolan's Batman: The Dark Knight, with the classic characters from the late 1960s, starring Adam West and Cesar Romero! It looks fantastic and I can't wait until I have a place to hang it! 

We also did a Star Trek photo op, with all of the celebrities I have previously mentioned, except Wil Wheaton, curiously enough. The photo ops are often way too fast, the moment vanishing quickly, but my family and I have always been able to make the most of it. Last time, I teased Marina Sirtis about her Q&A panel, and this time, we all laughed as Malcolm McDowell showed a little too much enthusiasm in my Mom's outfit, haha.

After, we ran over to get our pictures taken with the DeLorean from Back to the Future! I was really happy with all the charity exhibitors this year. There were several different organizations featuring booths with amazing costumes and props, asking you to take photos with them and make donations. In one corner, there was the TARDIS and Daleks from Doctor Who! The Daleks were so cool as they were life-sized "robots" which people can control and move around. They shout at people to "DONATE! DONATE" and it is really fun. Sadly, that exhibit closed before we got there, but like I said, we were rushing to the Back to the Future exhibit.

There, they had the classic DeLorean, equipped with all the lights and props from the movie, including the hoverboard and the Flux Capacitor! The exhibit was all part of a foundation raising money for research into curing Parkinson's disease and we were happy to make a donation. The photographer was really nice, not only taking the shot with his camera, but taking a few extra ones on ours as well.

A truly fantastic moment was when we had our pictures taken with the 501st! The 501st, also known as Vadar's Fist, is a group of fans dedicated to wearing screen-accurate costumes and props from Star Wars. They too were raising money for charity, taking pictures for donations. 

It was Juliette's birthday that day, and we were all missing her. My Mom, sister, and I knew that she would have loved to have been there so we decided to do something special for her birthday. We made some signs up, saying "Happy Birthday!" and "Bonne Fete Juliette!" and approached the 501st. 

Now, while the French don't typically say bonne fete, but rather joyeux anniversaire, we all thought the rhyme was fitting. Plus, it allowed us to make the joke seen in this next picture!

ComicCon is always a really fantastic experience! The environment is so open, so inviting, so fun, that I feel everyone from the slightly curious to the super-fans would enjoy it. There are props, toys, comic books, art, clothing and costumes, and other memorabilia from almost any nerd fandom you can imagine. Most of the time, you're not surprised to see Star Trek, or Star Wars characters running around, but sometimes you'll turn a corner and see a creature from Jim Henson's The Dark Crystal walking around! The friendly environment does great things for the nerdy community, allowing people to learn about new things in which they may be interested, and respect things in a greater perspective. This year, I noticed obvious work being done to bring the idea of consent to the attention of convention attendees. The idea is that you must have consent to talk to, touch, or take photographs of a person. It seems obvious, but sometimes people see a costume and lose their manners. However, I myself saw no problems and was very glad that we all carried on, tipped our hats accordingly, and got along. 


No-Heart and Obi-Wan Kenobi

This was an impressive costume

Mom, trying some new Steampunk earrings
The Queen of Hearts from Alice in Wonderland, and two Datas from Star Trek

A couple of bounty hunters
Very cool family, dressed as Tauriel, Gandalf, and Bilbo Baggins from The Hobbit
This man's went beyond costuming, building this device and acting out the part of a Steampunk inventor

Sniper and Heavy Weapons Guy from the Team Fortress 2 video game
Yours truly 

This guy's wings were made from those foam floor pads that look like puzzle pieces 

Harley Quinn

Speaking of which, it is interesting how the Steampunk collective is a more widely-reaching and loosely-based collective than any other fandom. The advantage here is that if you're dressed as Steampunk, you will be politely acknowledged (through a smile, bow, or hat-tip) by anyone else wearing Steampunk. It is an interesting point since there are often many people in other genres who do not acknowledge each other. 

Some very impressive Star Command uniforms (including Buzz Lightyear)

Me, being sillier than usual
Excellent family costume!
For myself, I always appreciate a great costume, and whenever I saw someone wearing a costume of a villain, I waved my hand performing a "Jedi mind trick" and hid myself deeper in the hood of my robe. I was pleased to have been complimented on my costume, and adherence to character, all throughout the weekend. Even R2D2 acknowledged my presence and asked for help!

This next group was particularly fun! They had some impressive costumes and everyone was stopping them asking for photos!

Deadshot, (Green) Arrow, Captain Marvel, Deadpool, Ms. Marvel, Ace Ventura, and the Hulk

They were all also good at staying in character, especially Ace Ventura who was wild and active and as annoying as Jim Carrey's character.

Right after these, my Mom and sister stopped Arrow asking for some photos with him. My family has been watching the show and really enjoying it, especially my grandmother. About a week before the convention, my 86 year old grandmother asks us, "Do you watch Oliver Queen?" She's normally so quiet that we were surprised and my Mom said, "Yeah, Arrow? We'll probably watch more tonight." To which my grandmother responded, "That's a good show, he's a good looking fellow!" So we just knew that we had to get some photos with this Arrow.

In the future, I hope to go to many more conventions. My Dad has even promised to go, in costume, as a Klingon from Star Trek! He wants to learn the language to accompany his costume, which would be really fantastic! That would be something really fun to see!

I hope you have enjoyed my pictures and words accompanying this year's Ottawa ComicCon! Thanks for reading, and stay tuned, for in the next couple of months, I'll be blogging about Scotland!

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