Friday , 20 October 2017

A Day at New York Comic Con

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As the amount of entertainment content, and the sources which bring it to us, continues to grow, so do the conventions which celebrate it. Providing a place where people from all walks of life can come together to share their love for movies, TV, videogames, new technology, and yes, comics, these comic cons also give people the opportunity to dress up as their favorite pop culture characters while still letting them be themselves. New York Comic Con, held at the Jacob Javits Convention, has finally surpassed San Diego Comic Con as the largest in North America, with over 180,000 attendees over the past 4-day weekend. (However, the title holder of comics-oriented events worldwide is Tokyo’s ginormous Comiket show, held twice a year. This past summer’s event drew a total of 550,000 over three days.) With so much space to cover and so much to see and do, the Gore 4 tried to take in as much as we could at Thursday’s show, and here’s a look at what we saw.

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The Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim’s rickdiculously hilarious, sci-fi trippy, animated hit, Rick and Morty, is one of the Gore 4’s favorite shows, so it was great to see it represented as soon as we entered the convention hall. A transmographying, transporting transponder-something gave fans a chance to have their image travel though time and space into the lens of a camera from which a photo would miraculously appear to commemorate the event. And Rick and Morty themselves took time away from their planet-hopping adventures to pose for a few pictures with their devoted followers. If you haven’t yet watched this show, which is a sort of Johnny Quest meets The Twilight Zone by way of South Park, from the delightfully demented minds of Dan Harmon (Community) and Justin Roiland (who provides the voices of both Rick and Morty), you are missing out on some of the funniest, crudest, mind-bending stuff on television. Check out our Time for more Rick and Morty to learn more.

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Though we were disappointed we weren’t able to get to the nearby Hammerstein Ballroom (where some of the panels and events were held) in time to see Bruce Campbell and the rest of the cast from Ash vs. Evil Dead, we were more than happy to spend some quality time with our fellow Garden Staters, Kevin Smith and his Comic Book Men. The Clerks‘ director, who has veered into horror of late, with his Red State, Tusk and recent Yoga Hosers (see our review here), moderated, or should we say, took over the panel with his four Jersey friends. Going right to audience questions, after spending half an hour answering one of them, Kevin turned to the panel and said, “That’s me, what about you guys?” to which Walter Flanagan, replied, “Ditto” and Bryan Johnson added, “That was my answer, word for word.” When another guy asked if he could have his upcoming bachelor party at the Secret Stash, in beautiful Red Bank, and use the store’s poker table to play Dungeons & Dragons, Mike Zapcic asked if his fiancé was imaginary, to a raucous crowd. Indeed, the guys at the Stash, even put upon Ming Chen, are all funny dudes.

Later, in response to a devoted fan who wanted to work for Kevin more than anything, Kevin promised him a job working on Comic Book Men if it were to get picked up for a 7th season. How about that? As the gang just finished shooting their 6th season, which will begin airing Oct. 23, the night of The Walking Dead’s hugely anticipated 7th season premiere, that remains a strong possibility. Kevin clearly beamed with pride that the show, as one member of the audience exclaimed, made people happy. The fact that Kevin’s “friends can talk to each other for a living,” is more than he ever could have imagined. With that evidence to back him up, he went on to tell the audience to try and do the same. While some would rather sit at home, “sh*tting on people, others are chasing their dreams.” And instead of looking at everything that’s perceived as wrong about, say, the movie, Batman v Superman, be happy that there even is a BvS movie (which he has watched at home over 25 times since the extended edition was released, much to his wife’s bewilderment.) All in all, amidst all the laughter at this panel, it was one of positivity, to enjoy all the great things out there, and to figure out what you love and keep doing it. Snootchie bootchies to that!

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With The Walking Dead panel featuring the cast and producers not happening until Saturday, the Gore 4 had to settle for one held at the Hammerstein on the graphic novel series the show is based on. Creator Robert Kirkman was joined by Sean Mankiewicz of Skybound, which publishes the comic book, and moderator, Jason Mantzoukas, the wildly funny dude from The League and Brooklyn Nine-Nine. It wasn’t long before the Gore 4 wondered if being there was a mistake, as a number of comic spoilers were unleashed, many of which may or may not happen on the television show. Here, we’ll refrain from delving into too much, and stick with more general info that doesn’t give anything away.

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With Mantzoukas steering the proceedings, and blending with Kirkman’s dry, dark humor perfectly, there was a decidedly comic approach to the death-filled comic. In thinking of new things to keep the series fresh, they came up with ‘live sharks on hoods of cars.’ So if you see that at some point in the comic, you’ll know where that idea hatched. When asked by Jason, “who are the actors on the show you don’t think are talented?,” Kirkman responded, “Norman Reedus could try harder.” Upon being asked by an audience member if he’ll ever reveal the source of the outbreak, Kirkman answered, as he’s done countless times, with a definitive no, even though, he himself knows the answer. He just doesn’t feel it wouldn’t serve the story any purpose, especially after everything Rick and co. have gone through, and would veer the comic/show more into sci-fi territory. Jason, however, suggested the cause of the infection was the Zyka virus.

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On a more serious note, there was some discussion on the science behind ‘walkers’. If someone was in good shape and trimmer before becoming ‘zombified,’ they would, naturally, move a bit faster than someone who was perhaps, overweight and out of shape after turning into a member of the living dead. There was also some discussion regarding Negan’s language salted and peppered with a plethora of f-bombs in the comics, which had to be trimmed for the AMC network. Kirkman actually preferred keeping it that way, and instead, adding them in for the home video Blu-ray release as was done with the last episode of season 6. Finally, Kirkman said he planned “for The Walking Dead to go for a very, very long time,” and was looking forward to incorporating characters and storylines already in the comic into the television show down the line. The Gore 4 says “Long live the Dead!”

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Next up at Hammerstein was the panel for the new Fox series, The Exorcist, based on one of the greatest horror films of all time. Stars Geena Davis and Brianne Howey joined show creator/executive producer Jeremy Slater to explain what the hell we can look forward to the rest of this season. For one, the main question everyone has been asking, is when will we be seeing an actual exorcism? The answer is, very soon. Episode five, which airs on Oct. 21, will be fully devoted to Fathers Marcus and Tomas attempting to rid the Rance daughter of the demon which possesses her. It should make for a very compelling hour of television.

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It was pointed out by the moderator that Geena Davis was no stranger to horror, having co-starred in the acclaimed David Cronenberg remake of The Fly. Geena declared that she loves horror and she jumped at the chance to take on the role of a mother whose family is threatened to be torn apart in The Exorcist. Davis explained that her character was already burdened without having a demon in the mix. And Slater mentioned that evil may have had its sights on this family for quite awhile. He added that the city of Chicago, the setting of the show, which is facing turmoil of its own in the real world, figures very much into the story of the forces of good pushing back against those of evil. Finally, he said they are very much respectful to the Catholic faith, and that Catholic groups have started to embrace the show and its depiction of the Church and its constituents. In fact, the original Exorcist film served as a recruiting ad for those seeking to join the Priesthood, as the Church saw a marked increase in those looking to enlist. This panel was relatively short, as they devoted the bulk of the time to showing the complete third episode, which wasn’t to air until the next night, to an enraptured audience who stayed to learn more of Howey’s character’s backstory. This episode featured a spontaneous immolation, a vicious subway attack and more of the creepy man known as ‘The Salesman.’ While another recent show, Cinemax’ excellent Outcast, another creation of Robert Kirkman, deals with demonic possession, Fox must be commended for bring The Exorcist to network TV. It airs Friday nights and it could prove unwise to miss it.

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The Gore 4 decided that The Exorcist was a good way to wrap up the panel portion of the day, and it was back to Jacob Javits and the multitudes of dealers, guests and cosplayers. It was here that we ran into an old friend, the one and only Lloyd Kaufman, writer, director, actor and co-founder of Troma Entertainment, one of the most successful independent film studios in the world. Kaufman will always be near and dear to the Gore 4’s bloody heart for bringing into the world New Jersey’s first superhero, The Toxic Avenger. Toxie himself was on hand, as you can see in the picture above, along with a woman who came in all the way from Belgium. From The Toxic Avenger films to Class of Nuke ‘Em High to Terror Firmer to Poultrygeist, Troma has created a world like no other. Their latest additions to cinematic culture are the recent Return to Nuke ‘Em High Vol. 1, which features b-queen, Debbie Rochon, Stan Lee and the late Lemmy from Motorhead, and it’s follow-up, the soon to be released Vol. 2. We lamented the loss of another beloved Troma player and friend,  Joe Fleishaker, who left this plane of existence earlier this year. We also discussed Lloyd’s scene in Rochon’s directorial debut, the yummy Model Hunger (read our review here), which unfortunately was excised from the final cut, but which you luckily can see on the DVD extras. Lloyd said he considered it amongst his best work, which is high praise indeed!

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Troma fans can rejoice in knowing that they have their own YouTube channel which you can subscribe to, The Troma Channel, where you can watch a variety of movies and shorts. It’s updated daily, and the best part is, it’s free! In addition, they have another channel, Troma Now!, which features world premieres, Troma classics (of which there are many), and loads of video content. It’s only $4.99/month and the first month is free! You sure can’t beat that with a radioactive mop!

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After saying so long to the town of Tromaville, it was time to patrol the rest of the convention floor. We caught an entertaining booth from Funimation, promoting their upcoming North American release of Shin Godzilla (read our review here!), where you could take on the big lizard himself or serve as lunch to one of the colossal mutants from their Attack on Titan.

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We also managed to witness an autopsy being performed amidst all the other hectic activities occurring in the vast assemblage of dealers, artists and fans. Our hearts go out to the unfortunate soul who gave her heart and body to medical science and convention attendees. And kudos to the doctor able to keep a steady hand with all the surrounding distractions.

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The artistic folks from Nyx Cosmetics were on hand to showcase some of their profession makeup techniques for cosplayers and others who forgot to get dressed up for the event. We also ran into this lovely female version of one infamous slasher. Now this is one Freddy Krueger we wouldn’t mind having enter our dreams.

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And just when we were beginning to feel blue because we knew our day was coming to an end, we met up with cover model/gamer/cosplayer/self-proclaimed nerd and former Czech Playmate of the Year, Holly Wolf, and suddenly things looked brighter after all. You can follow her adventures and career at http://hollywolf.ca/

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Alas, it was time to leave the world of comics, geeks and a hundred or so Harley Quinns behind and get back to the real world. While we didn’t get to see him this time ourselves, this marked the final appearance at New York Comic Con of the legendary Stan Lee, creator of Spider-Man, the X-Men and the Fantastic Four. At the ripe young age of 93, even Stan the Man needs to slow down a bit and he’ll be limiting his appearances for the most part to the West Coast. Although, as anyone who is familiar with his work is well aware, anything is possible. Excelsior and beyond!

While we only attended the first of four days at NYCC, there were plenty of other events lined up we would loved to have seen, like the aforementioned Walking Dead panel, those for the final Underworld and Resident Evil films, and panels for the TV shows Gotham, Doctor Who, SyFy’s The Expanse and Netlix’ latest Marvel series, Iron Fist, where the Defenders were assembled and Sigourney Weaver was announced as their upcoming villain. We hope to see you again next year. Until then, keep going to the movies, watching television, playing games and reading comics and books. Maybe catch a wink or two while you’re at it.

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— words and music by Brian de Castro

About Brian de Castro

Brian worked at NBC in New York, writing and producing promotion for everything from Saturday Night Live to Letterman, Leno and Conan, as well as The Today Show and Nightly News. A graduate of Rutgers University, the New Jersey native, when he's not working on the Gore 4 website, can usually be found on a baseball field.

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