As I walked through the doors of the San Jose Convention Center on Saturday, May 18, the first thing I encountered was a line --- it seems you can’t have a con without lines. After I figured out which line to get in, thankfully not the one for people who wanted tickets to meet Stan Lee, I was harassed, or I should say judged, by a couple of uniformed Judges from the Dredd series and found not guilty of cutting in front of dozens of other attendees waiting in the myriad snakes of people. Whew!
Here Come Da Judges
After scanning the program, the Geek Fashion Show caught my eye and I sauntered over to the panel rooms. Holy Batcave! Sauntering was the wrong pace to take since the double-sized room was packed to the rafters. As Pat Benatar blared from the speakers, the models strutted down the runway in their five-inch sparkly heels. Fashion lines included the Mermaid Atlantis, who toned down her trademark sequined tails and presented street wear…my favorite was a Nemo-inspired tank dress in alternating orange and white stripes. Mia Ballistic’s line for the gym or dance floor featured active wear designed to embrace your nerd pride. Her models reflected people of all sizes (gotta have the basketball shorts with the Shazam lightning bolt). Nerds with Vaginas’ line of tighty-whitie inspired lingerie sported tease-lines like “Let’s Make Wookie” and “The Doctor Is In.” Unicorn Sushi by Rachel Elsten unveiled its line of Star Trek-inspired cocktail dresses based on different iterations of the show --- beam me into one of those --- I really liked the asymmetrical numbers. Castle Cosetry by Lauren Berman featured her geek-inspired corsets and Damefatale wowed the audience with her latex designs including a Silk Spectre number and Tron Girl. Carlyfornia fashions are “gothic, Lolita, pop culture”-influenced dresses that are super cute with lots of tulle.
Carlyfornia also led a panel on “How to Make the Perfect Zombie Costume.” Some tips: Take your costume outside, lay it on top of gravel, and then run over it with your car “hella” times and make sure you fray, fray, fray to get the correct zombie aesthetic. Be strategic with blood placement; if you have a bloody mouth, you must have a bloody chest. The key to a good zombie costume is to make it look organic.
Marvel Heroes MMO by Gazillion Entertainment hosted a panel explaining the game and its varying levels of complication, character development, and settings. In Marvel Heroes you get to be your favorite character and can do battle with 25 to 50 players at a time. There was a discussion of the varying Ironman and other character costumes and how players can upgrade costumes or choose old-school varieties. When I passed their booth later, it was packed with players who made it look easy, especially the nine-year-old.
Other breakout panels included How to Break into Animation with Dean Yeagle (Playboy), Figure Drawing with Frank Cho (Liberty Meadows), a portfolio review by Dan Brereton (Nocturnals), and Filmmaking and Costuming experience.
Superman and Son
One thing to appreciate about Big Wow! is the level of outstanding cosplay. Batman and Spiderman can catch up on the their crime-fighting exploits, while Ironman is free to wield his gold-plated steam iron, and the 501st Legion can swap stories with Thor. But it’s not just the over-the-top, I-spent-six-months-and-$6,000 costumes either. Superman and his son Robin (who’d a thunk it?) made the perfect family duo while the sweetest little Princes Leia beamed with enthusiasm and a very shy Doctor Octopus tried to figure what all the fuss was about. In addition, all these cosplayers are more than willing to take pictures with attendees, the perfect souvenir. But those comic costumed cosplayers would be nowhere if it weren’t for their mainstream comic creators and artists.
Best Group Costume Winners
Big-name creators included guests like Stan Lee (a first for Big Wow!), Sergio Aragonés (Groo), Neal Adams (Avengers, Batman), and Humberto Ramos (Amazing Spiderman). Inker Mick Gray was signing a darkly beautiful Requiem poster where a grief-stricken Batman mourns atop a light post with an outline of the recently deceased Robin (Damian Wayne) penciled in the background. Another top inker, Joe B. Weems, was busy autographing Hulk comics and discussing the proper brushes to use for that perfect line.
Alexis E. Fajardo
Big Wow! also featured some of the best independent artists. Alexis E. Fajardo displayed his trio Kid Beowulf, The Song of Roland, and The Rise of El Cid, which he describes as a graphic novel series of a childhood gone heroic. His books are “a gateway drug to the classics” and are appreciated by both schoolteachers and librarians. He’s planning on creating a teacher guide for his works that should appear late this summer.
Nick Pino and Gansukh Munkhorgil
The gang from Diablo Valley College featured their work Holy Trisicle versus Olympus by Nick Pino, Gansukh Munkhorgil and Josephine Fealy. Holy Trisicle is described as a collaborative reimagining of Greek mythology in an art book where monsters, gods, and heroes are all unleashed to challenge the Holy Trisicle. These independent artists are all members of BASA (Bay Area Sequential Artists) based in Pleasant Hill, California, artists who meet up monthly to share portfolios, bounce ideas around, and get to know each other as creative individuals. These newbies were blown away by the warm reception they received from other artists and fans.
Lydia Harari, Etanna Sack, and JC Mendizabal showed off Man with a Gun, a comic that also features a music CD. The art is a lively cross between a paint-by-numbers canvas and surreal expressionism with muted colors that highlight a mythic western tale (no spoilers here). Another western (one of my favorites) is Nick Dragotta’s East of West, an alternative history where the civil war never ended. It’s a mashup of Star Trek meets Once Upon a Time in the West, lots of action and great characters.
Also on the floor was the cast of Neighborhood Watchmen, a mockumentary-style web series set in your everyday generic workplace about a local superhero team and their quest for legitimacy. The cast, including David Studebaker, Dash Kwiatkowski, Ryan Cronin, Stephen Ku, Carmen Mitchell, Blake Rosier, and Jesse McGrath, present a mash-up of The Avengers meets The Office with all the inter-office politics and personalities.
The Cartoon Art Museum of San Francisco had an awesome 75th anniversary Superman Exhibit on the convention floor with loads of great artwork. This year, Big Wow! attracted Superman artists Arthur Adams and Terry and Rache Dodson. The mini exhibit also included figurines and toys featuring the boy in blue, including this cute little toy jet (I know collectibles aren’t “cute” little toys, but it was). The full Superman show runs until September 8, 2013, in San Francisco.
I eventually wandered over to the Kids Korner, where Bill Morrison (The Simpsons) was teaching youngsters how to draw Bart Simpson. They were annoyed at the lady who elbowed them out of the way for the dandelion crayola to color in her primitive version of Bart. Morrison was patient and encouraging showing children how to draw Bart’s hair, Bart’s smile, and Bart’s bug-eyes. Cowabunga, man!
Coloring at the kids' table
Just when you thought it was time to go home, an announcement came over the loudspeaker: “Costume Contest, five minutes.” The show this year featured 42 entrants from all over the verse, as they say, and the lively audience gave the littlest entrants the biggest applause. The winner of best group was Joker, Harley, and Scarecrow. Honorable mentions went to Alien, Spiderman, and Alena. The third place overall winner was Psylocke, played by Jo-Jo; the second place winner was Storm, aka Diana Oliveras; and the winner was Thor!
As I left the show, I walked by the newly formed rock band made up of Thor, Spiderman, and the quintessential comic book guy as they strummed their electronic karaoke guitars and sang an off-key rock ballad. Where will you ever see that again? Oh, yeah, at next year’s Big Wow, on May 17-18 at the San Jose Convention Center.
-- Doré Ripley