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CONVERGENCE 2014 CON REPORT
DAY 1 AND DAY 2
After twiddling my thumbs on it for about a month, it's finally time to write up my reflections on the absolute highlight of my year thus far: CONvergence 2014. Only the third con I've ever been to in my life (discounting political ones) - but without a doubt, my favorite to date.
Admittedly, one of the reasons I've procrastinated so long on writing up this report was that SO MUCH happened that weekend that the prospect of putting it all down in words is rather daunting.
So to spread things out a bit, I'll be submitting a report on each day of the con as separate posts, with the con's handy-dandy pocket schedule to use as a guide. Which means timestamps. Yay, timestamps! :)
There's a TON to share, so let's just get right to it!
WEDNESDAY, JULY 2
12:30 PM CDT
Flying from Hawaii to a destination deep in the mainland US is never exactly fun, and being a redeye didn't make things any easier. Still, overall, this was a pretty decent flight.
Was tired as hell by the time we landed in Minneapolis/St. Paul, though. After taking off from Honolulu around 9:00 PM on Tuesday, flying for about six hours, a layover in Salt Lake for about two, and then one more leg for a little under three…yeah, I was ready to collapse for a while there.
Also wasn't happy with the hotel shuttle for the Crowne Plaza. While it advertised on their website that it came to the airport every hour on the hour, apparently the truth was more like "we come somewhere around the top of the hour…but only if you call us fifteen minutes ahead of time." Which I only learned after waiting there for about an hour-and-a-half, naturally.
In any event, I managed to get to the hotel around 2:00 PM, and after a brief scare regarding putting the cost of the room on my credit card (apparently it just barely exceeded my credit limit, though thankfully a call to Bank of America and a visit to the hotel's business center to make a payment fixed all that) I got the keys to the room.
In order to split costs for the event - and keep it within all of our budgets - I was going to be rooming with four of my "online friends," none of whom I'd ever met in person: Brainiac and Chip from the Station 8 Comment Room, along with Chip's brothers Bookwyrm and Dragonlord.
As it so happened, thanks to the numerous delays I'd had to deal with by that point, Chip and his brothers (who were driving up from Missouri) arrived at the hotel at just about the same time I did. Indeed, they actually came in while I was on the phone with BoA at the front desk, which made introductions…a little harried. But all was well in the end, and we started unpacking Chip's car and dumping stuff in the room.
The room itself was…adequate, at best. It certainly wasn't built to hold five people. The main result of this was that I spent the entire trip bunking with Brainiac, and that the whole time was spent playing "pass the parcel" with the room's constantly occupied electrical sockets.
In addition, the room's Wi-Fi was pretty terrible, meaning that my already weak laptop antenna (weak because I'd snapped the wire about a month prior while attempting to fix a broken hinge, admittedly) couldn't get a signal.
Thankfully, I at least wasn't COMPLETELY without internet, as I'd decided to bring my Wii U game system with me in case anyone wanted to play - and it has an internet browser I can use in a pinch. Still, I wasn't really able to check e-mail or Skype throughout the trip, which was a bit of a bummer.
Once everything was unpacked, the first order of business was a short exchange of gifts. As it'd been my birthday just two days prior, Chip gave me a plushie of Kyubey from the anime "Puella Magi Madoka Magica"…which, if one is familiar with the character's role in the show, is actually a rather sick and horrifying present.
Naturally, of course, I then proceeded to carry that plushie around with me for the entire convention.
In return, I gave each of the brothers some of my old Digimon toys, which I used to collect in a big way when I was a kid but haven't touched in years. As the show was a big part of all of our childhoods, I figured they would better go with people who'd appreciate them more.
Brainiac wasn't scheduled to fly in until early that evening, so we largely spent the intervening time trading "Yu-Gi-Oh!" cards and playing matches. Chip and I (and occasionally Bookwyrm) play a browser-based version of the game against each other every once in a while, but I hadn't actually touched my physical cards in years.
Suffice to say, a blast was had by all. Plus, Chip had also picked up new card sleeves for me at a hobby shop during the drive up, featuring my favorite pony Fluttershy. Which made every victory all the "yay"-er.
Anyway, several hours and many card games later, Brainiac arrived from Ohio. He'd gotten me the Blu-ray of "Superman: Unbound," to which I responded with a piece of "pixel art" featuring flowers from the Super Mario games. Then, after giving him some time to unpack, we headed out in Chip's car for dinner.
Being the only one of us with a decently comfortable income, Brainiac graciously elected to treat us to burgers at Five Guys. Over a month later, I'm still trying to figure out if that makes up for his "wonderful personality"…*shivers*…the rest of the year. ;)
Oh, and I should note that at Five Guys, I got my first compliment of the weekend on my "My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic" t-shirt. It would not be the last, proving that all is truly right with the world.
WEDNESDAY, JULY 2
8:30 PM CDT
After dinner, we stopped off for the first time at the Doubletree in order to pick up our badges. The line was lengthy, but nowhere near as bad as I've seen at other cons; we were probably in it for about half-an-hour, and kept busy largely by discussing video games and "The Legend of Korra" and other geeky, geeky things.
Also got a chance to meet a few people while we were hanging in line. Ran into Greg Bishansky for the first time in real life, and he introduced me to Karine Charlebrois, both of whom were quite gracious throughout the con toward the lowly Gathering virgin that is (was?) myself.
Karine also showed off her newest piece, a gorgeous spread of the Redemption Squad fighting Falstaff's robots - a print of which is now posted on the wall next to me. But more on that at a later point.
Anyway, I had a fun chat with the girl who confirmed my registration, as she was very interested in the fact that I'd traveled all the way from Hawaii. When I told her it was because of Greg Weisman and the Gargoyles 20th Anniversary, she said that I must be a "super fan."
I definitely wasn't able to disagree with her there, LOL.
In any event, once we all had our badges and attendant materials, we headed back to the Crowne and began to outline our (tentative) schedules for the days ahead. The night was rounded off with a few hours of "Mario Kart 8" and the pilot episode of the utterly ridiculous anime "Squid Girl" because I am a weird person.
Also I won all but one of the couple dozen Mario Kart races, but that should really go without saying because I am also awesome.
Anyway, after spending approximately 34-35 hours straight awake, I finally collapsed into the warm embrace of slumber.
THURSDAY, JULY 3
12:30 PM CDT
The first "real" day of the con was probably the slowest overall, but it still definitely started up in earnest.
It was also the only day we were able to sleep in even a little bit, since there were no morning panels or events. If I remember correctly, I ended up getting up around 10:30 AM or so, with all of us heading off to the Doubletree at around noon.
With everyone else wandering to attend to other matters, I shrugged my shoulders and decided to stop in on my first panel: "Harry Potter is Alive and Well in Our Hearts." It'd been a few years since I discussed the finer points of the Wizarding World with anyone else, but it was really the first fandom I got deeply, deeply into, and I was curious as to what might be going on.
As it turned out, the event was one of the great surprises of the weekend (the first of many to follow). More or less just a panel of Harry Potter geeks shooting the breeze with a room full of Harry Potter geeks, gushing about favorite moments, scenes that made us laugh, scenes that made us cry, character deaths that destroyed us emotionally, the revelations coming out of the ongoing experiment that is Pottermore…and it was GLORIOUS.
There really isn't much else to talk about from this panel; it's not like there was any great news to share or any guests of note, so I wasn't expecting much. But sometimes just reminiscing, even with a room of complete strangers, can be a ton of fun on its own.
I definitely left my first event of the con with a smile on my face.
THURSDAY, JULY 3
2:00 PM CDT
Unfortunately, that enjoyment did have its price.
After stopping in for a quick bathroom break after the panel, I went to get in line for the Radio Play auditions being held at 2:00…only to find that about 20 minutes before the doors were opened, the line had already been cut off. As such, I'd need to come back Friday morning for the second and final round of auditions.
[Thankfully, it all still worked out quite well…but more about that in Friday's report.]
Fortunately, all four of my compatriots had been much timelier than I in getting in line that afternoon; unfortunately, this left me with a fair bit of time to kill on my own.
As such, I used the opportunity to take my first trip around the Art Auction, Artist's Alley, and the Dealer's Room. Most everything I liked in the former was WAY outside my price range, though I did pick up three of Karine's prints (the Redemption Squad, Demona, and the Trio/Angela playing "Rock Band") as well as Christopher Jones' print of the Team before/after the timeskip, so that I'd have them ready for signing later.
Those, along with all other autographs and artwork I will be mentioning throughout this con report, can be seen in the "CONvergence 2014" collection on my Flickr here:
The Dealer's Room, meanwhile - while unbelievably packed - didn't really have very many booths that were selling things I was interested in. Oh, I spent a fair bit of time (both on Thursday and during occasional downtime periods on subsequent days) perusing the great variety of old comics, DVDs, pins, cosplay gear, etc…but very little of it made a compelling case toward my poor wallet.
The sole exception was one of the only artists set up there, whose ridiculously detailed and feature-accurate fanart would've caught my eye even if he wasn't the only one peddling such wares. Steve "LOR" Raffill was another one of the con's quiet surprises, and I enjoyed both chatting with him as I looked through his wares, as well as checking back in to see how his business was doing on subsequent days. I definitely hope to run into him at more cons in the future.
Plus, in addition to being an all-around fantastic guy to meet, he was willing to offer the steepest discounts I've ever seen from someone running a fanart booth at one of these things (and I've certainly bought from my fair share of them).
So for $30 I ended up getting six prints, each of them of a quality high enough that I'd easily have paid $20 individually: Goliath; Misa Amane from the "Death Note" anime; the Rogue Titan and Female Titan from the "Attack on Titan" anime; and Liara T'Soni, Garrus Vakarian, and Tali'Zorah vas Normandy, all from the "Mass Effect" video games.
THURSDAY, JULY 3
3:30 PM CDT
By this point, I had wandered the entire con twice already, and was getting a little bored simply waiting for the more interesting stuff in the evening to get there already. But none of the panels going on during this period jumped out at me, so I shrugged and decided to just go with the one Christopher Jones was sitting on at the time.
God, am I glad I did.
The panel was all about "Parallel Man," which I'd never even heard of prior to the con but which has a premise that seems to have pretty much been written with me as the intended audience. Alternate Universes are one of my favorite concepts for sci-fi to play around with, and it looks like Jeffrey Morris and co. are going to be squeezing every last interesting nugget they can out of it.
I think what impressed me most about his presentation was that it was clear he'd given a lot of thought to the POLITICS of the story he was crafting - the element that I find most fantasy/sci-fi writers shy away from even going near. As cool as it all looks, all the neat future-tech doesn't mean much to me unless the effect they've had on the political and social history of his Alternate!Earths is explored.
Combine that depth of world-building with Chris' great art, and I am DEFINITELY looking forward to "Parallel Man" hitting shelves/airwaves.
THURSDAY, JULY 3
5:00 PM CDT
This was another hour I mainly just spent wandering around. I'd intended to visit the "Shakespeare and Fantasy" panel, but after sitting in on it for about 10 minutes without anything particularly interesting being brought up, I left to venture elsewhere.
Lots of little things happened during this period, as I recall. I stopped in to view the Charity Auction for the first time, though nothing was actually up for bid until Friday. I also ran into Bookwyrm and showed off my "Attack on Titan" artwork to him, as he is a big fan.
In addition, I briefly stopped into "The Importance of Storyboarding," which Karine was hosting. She had a ton of really interesting insights to share about her work storyboarding for a few kids shows she's worked on, including how the work has changed with advents in digital technology and the differences between the animation industries in Canada and the U.S.
Best of all, however, I discovered that while it wasn't listed in the program as a signing session, Greg Guler was doing one at CVG Central…and when I got there, there was no line to boot! One person was chatting animatedly with him, but once that guy was done I got to meet my first "big name" guest in person.
Greg was, thankfully, a ridiculously delightful guy to be around. After hearing that I was from Hawaii, he jokingly asked if we could switch places on our return flights. I then mentioned that I have a friend who helps organize for Kawaii Kon, Hawaii's biggest annual convention - at which point Greg immediately turned semi-serious and gave me his card, making it clear that he was very open to attending.
As with the other Greg (and again…more on that later), it's something I've been trying to push said friend on ever since.
Regarding Mr. Guler, I got two items signed by him: my Clan-Building: Volume 2 trade, and my Mecha-Nation: Androidology trade. We talked a lot about both properties, and in particular about how much of a shame it was that so few people checked out Mecha-Nation. It really is a ridiculously fun and creative little piece.
I also purchased prints of the "Nightwatch" and "The Journey" comic covers, getting those signed to two of my best friends back here at home. Each had given me a ride to the airport when I really needed it over the past year (one of them, so I could go to this con in the first place), and it seemed like a nice, small way to thank them.
THURSDAY, JULY 3
6:00 PM CDT
This was the first of several visits I made to CONvergence's "Theater Nippon," where they were screening various anime shows/movies throughout the weekend.
In this case, I was there for the first four episodes of Gen Urobuchi's masterwork, "Puella Magi Madoka Magica." Which…I've already seen about ten times previously. At least.
Still, it remains easily one of the best-told stories I've ever seen in any medium, PERIOD. So I wasn't about to forgo the chance to join in a "public" viewing.
It was an interesting experience, to say the least; listening in on the crowd, it was clear that it was an even mix of fans quite familiar with the emotional ride that Madoka is infamous for providing, and people who had absolutely no idea what they were getting themselves into.
I probably shouldn't enjoy the sight of people smiling at the superficial cuteness of Madoka's Magical Girl setting, not yet realizing the rather twisted subversion lying underneath…but hey, everybody has to get their kicks somehow, LOL. And if there's one story I'll never get tired of watching people experience for the first time, it's this one.
Plus, I had multiple girls (presumably, in the part of the camp that was unfamiliar with his wider role in the plot) coo over my Kyubey plushie, which I had - naturally - kept on my lap throughout the screening. Oh, the dear sweet irony… ;)
In any event, I had tons of fun revisiting my favorite anime once more, as well as chatting with various others in the audience between episodes. But we - and by "we," I mean myself, Chip, and Dragonlord - had to rush out shortly afterward to grab a quick dinner at the hotel restaurant, as we had a date with destiny just around the corner.
And that destiny…was pie.
THURSDAY, JULY 3
9:00 PM CDT
He has gone by many names. The Wise Man. The Joss Whedon of Animation. He-Who-Shall-Not-Comment-Upon-Thy-Spoiler-Requests. But on the night of July 3, 2014…he WAS the Fancy Bastard.
Funnily enough, while I'd come to the con entirely because of his presence and I'd end up spending so much time with him that weekend that I'm CERTAIN he must be sick of me by now, I hadn't actually ran into the man at all for most of Thursday.
Indeed, it was my first time seeing him face to face since we'd first met during the Young Justice meet-up at WonderCon 2013. Thankfully, he DID remember me; all my long hours dealing with the worst the Ask Greg queue has to offer paid off in that sense, at least.
The five of us had jointly entered an apple pie from Trader Joe's into the competition, though we had no real expectation to win. Chip is actually a professional chef by trade, but there was no chance of a pie retaining high quality if he baked it in Missouri and then drove up, nor did either hotel have facilities he could use to prepare it there. So Trader Joe's was the best we could do at that point.
As Brainiac, Chip, and I had all predicted, the winner was an "Elvis pie" with banana cream (Hudson would be proud) and peanut butter crust. Oh, and I think there was bacon in it too. Not sure, myself; Greg turned over the rather copious amounts of leftovers to the public, but I'm not really a pie guy myself, so I did not partake.
In any event, though, the party rooms were all in full swing by this point, and as a result the aftermath of the contest was a highlight of the day. I got to meet Patrick and Phoenician from the Comment Room, and we spent a good amount of time chatting with the latter.
Then none other than Frank Paur made a surprise appearance, and over pie we had a lot of fun discussing his history with Gargoyles, Batman, and various Marvel animated properties. He had some choice words to offer regarding the…direction that Marvel has taken its animation department lately, as well as ideas he didn't get to use for Season 3 of "Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes." Which didn't mean all that much to me (Spidey excluded, I'm not a big Marvel guy) but it's clear my compatriots enjoyed it.
After that was done with, we split up, with most everyone else heading back to our hotel room. But I was feeling wired, so I decided to do a round of the other party rooms first. I got some lemonade and cake (which was not a lie) from the Aperture Science room, and later popcorn from an anime room; they were screening "Fairy Tail" however, which I have not yet seen, so I didn't stay long.
In any event, I eventually found myself back at the GPS Clubhouse, where Greg and Frank were still chatting with fans. Greg in particular had sort of settled into a chair right outside the party room, having a rather eclectic conversation(s) with the people surrounding him in a formation that vaguely resembled a semicircle.
Since I hadn't really had time before the contest to do more than say "hi," I shuffled into a gap in said almost-semicircle and joined in the kinda-discussion. Lots of stuff got covered, all in a very casual and lighthearted manner - something I was quite thankful for, because despite regularly corresponding with Greg over e-mail for a couple years now, I still haven't quite outgrown my natural nervousness around people I admire so much.
Among the topics that came up were the Gargoyles vs. Power Rangers rating "wars" (when I admitted that I watched both shows as a kid, Greg gleefully declared that we should all totally blame me for everything), how SpecSpidey stacks up to various other Spider-Man shows before and after, and how Greg's been coping with his rather grueling con schedule this summer. We also got to chat a bit about Thom Zahler's "Love and Capes," which we're both big fans of.
I also couldn't resist asking him about the three SPOILER REQUEST questions the winner of the Fancy Bastard contest was allowed to ask. I knew there was no way he'd even hint at what they WERE, so instead I asked if any of them surprised him. Interestingly, he replied that what surprised him most was what they WEREN'T; he assumed that the first question out of the winner's mouth would be about Wally, but they didn't ask about our favorite young speedster at all.
Anyway, I wound up spending a lot more time there than I'd been expecting - especially after someone left and I ended up in the chair directly to Greg's left. In total I think we were all chatting for two hours or more, dispersing only when Greg admitted that the sleep-skimping that used to be second nature to him…err, no longer is, shall we say.
At that point, there really didn't seem to be much else to do; I considered heading back to the Theater Nippon to catch the first "Berserk" film, which I've been meaning to get to but haven't managed yet, but by that point I was feeling pretty tired myself and so decided against it.
As such, I caught the con shuttle somewhere around midnight, headed back to the room, and set the alarm for an early start the next morning.
I was NOT going to miss the next round of auditions.
Of course, I remember you. Not sick of you either. NOT YET ANYWAY!
Definitely fun to revisit these memories. Can't believe that was a year and a half ago.