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CONVERGENCE 2014 CON REPORT
DAY 5 AND DAY 6
SUNDAY, JULY 6
11:00 AM CDT
A few things happened in this hour, all of which I tried to get done as quickly as possible to make it in time for most of Greg's first panel of the day: "Protofeminists in Shakespeare."
The main thing was picking up my one successful acquisition from the charity auction: a coffee cup that Chris Jones had used at CONvergence 2013, with the caption…well, I'll just let the image speak for itself:
I had, naturally, bid on the thing as a lark - more or less solely for the reason of being able to say I did. But apparently nobody else at the con shared my particular sens d'humour, because I was the only one who bid. So while I lost out on all the posters and plushies and whatnot that I actually WANTED…Chris Jones' residual DNA was mine.
Which should make the reason for my hurrying clear, I think. Because Chris was doing his final signing of the weekend right at that moment…and if I was gonna be known as the guy who paid $5 for his coffee cup, then I figured I might as well MILK it.
So in addition to getting my "Recruits" print signed, I asked Chris to go ahead and personalize the cup; perhaps, with something that'd commemorate just how crazy I was to pay ANY amount of money for a used coffee cup.
And that is how the cup signed to "Krazy Kevin" that can be seen in the Flickr photos I linked in my first post came to be.
Anyway, with all that out of the way and my farewells said to Chris, I headed back into the Edina room for the aforementioned panel. I'd caught the first ten minutes or so while I was waiting for Chris' line to shorten, and overall I managed not to miss more than about 5-6 minutes, thankfully.
The conversation itself was really quite fascinating - an intelligent, scintillating discussion on some of my favorite of the Bard's plays and characters. It reminded me of being back in college, actually…y'know, in a good way.
This was also where I first learned, through Greg's discussion of the strong women in Will's life and the influence that might've had in how he wrote female characters, what the premise of "Doc Shakespeare" would've been. I'd heard the name bandied about on Ask Greg for years, but I never knew what it was ABOUT.
But now I do. And I want it to exist so very badly. Damn you, Greg Weisman.
I asked one question myself, though as it was at the tail-end of the panel there wasn't much time to really go into depth with it. My question was whether the backlash that "The Merchant of Venice" receives - rightfully - in the modern day over issues of race diminishes Portia's status as a "protofeminist" character (seriously, she spends pretty much the entirety of the final act making everyone else in the play her bitch). The answer Greg gave was that being a feminist character is not mutually exclusive with being a terrible person…and considering he's written for Demona, Nerissa, and Queen Bee, he certainly can say he knows what he's talking about.
A fun discussion, overall, that gave me a lot to think about - something that's been increasingly rare for me since I graduated last May, unfortunately.
SUNDAY, JULY 6
12:30 PM CDT
The last of the numerous, numerous events dedicated to Gargoyles that weekend was this "Gargoyles Fan Panel," composed of a mix of creators, long-time fans, and newer ones.
This one felt a lot more like the Harry Potter "panel" that'd started my weekend than anything else: an intensely, unabashedly geeky outpouring of gushing about how awesome the show was and still is, except with Greg Weisman happening to also be there.
I mean, Jennifer and Karine were up on the panel as well, but it was clearly in more of the capacity of "promoted fans" than as industry professionals. As Karine's epic Hunter cosplay made evident. :)
Favorite moments, episodes, characters; moments that made us laugh, and moments that made us cry; two decades' worth of stories of people discovering, falling in love with, and continuing to enjoy the series, even years after the last piece of canon material was published. All of it was shared, compared, and squeed upon in short order, in a space that felt perfectly safe to fans of all stripes.
Nothing new really came up, but it didn't have to. After a full weekend of bombshells and revelations, it felt good to kick back with the rest of the fandom and just CELEBRATE this show that has meant so much to all of us.
It's been a fantastic 20 years. And this mini-gathering was a great way to welcome many more to come.
SUNDAY, JULY 6
2:00 PM CDT
This was the last space open for walking around that was really available before the end of the con, and I took advantage of it for one final walk around Artist's Alley and the Dealer's Room. And for the first time since Thursday, I did indeed find some art I felt was worth spending my money on: a couple of prints based on Vinyl Scratch from "My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic," and a collage of various villains from the same.
Heading back upstairs, I wandered over for the final Gargoyles-themed signing to make my last rounds. Ironically, despite getting over a dozen items signed across the course of the con by him, I had nothing left for Greg Weisman (indeed, all I ended up getting at that time were Greg Guler's and Frank Paur's autographs to complete my radio play script).
But I said goodbye to all of them, and wished them well on their flights back home. Though ironically, it actually WOULDN'T end up being my last time speaking with one of them that weekend (but I'll leave that little nugget until the end).
Anyway, most of the rest of this time was spent waiting in line for the next panel, as it was taking place on the Main Stage and we wanted to be sure to grab good seats. Which we definitely did.
I spent most of it chatting with Brainiac, Chip, and Bookwyrm on numerous topics, from Yu-Gi-Oh! to classic video games to various anime.
But eventually, it was time for one last chance to grill the Wise Man for details. And oh, did we take advantage it.
SUNDAY, JULY 6
3:30 PM CDT
This was the last actual "panel" of the day, but was certainly a great one to go out on: "Young Justice Q&A," with Greg, Chris, and Marina.
There were lots of details big and small dropped here, though there were just as many spoiler requests denied with the now memetic line. This naturally came full-circle when someone asked if Stephanie Brown would be showing up again; I mean c'mon, dude, what'd you EXPECT in response to that question? ;)
Of course, I got largely the same response when asking about the circumstances of Ocean-Master's disgrace, banking - obviously unsuccessfully - that he might be willing to share more about events that occurred during the timeskip by this point.
Still, he did at least share one little tidbit: that the reason Orm never got an episode to himself to be the Big Bad was because the "Under the Surface…Here There Be Monsters" two-parter from the tie-in comics was originally meant to be the A-plot of "Downtime," but the executives nixed it for some reason.
It worked out well enough, since subbing in Black Manta allowed them to build on that appearance in Season 2. But I still would've loved to hear Roger Craig Smith belting out Ocean-Master's great lines from those issues, which remain my favorite story from the comics run.
Other "SPOILER REQUEST; NO COMMENT" earners included Shining Knight (considering that one version in the original comics was married to Firebrand, AKA Red Inferno) and the aforementioned Steph. After a few of these, Chris was quick to re-term the panel "Young Justice Q, no A."
All kidding aside, though, there were a number of interesting details presented. When asked about the process of selecting the members of the Light, for example, Greg noted that he was tired of villain team-ups that essentially "defeated themselves" through infighting. As such, he wanted the Light's leaders to be characters whose temperaments would allow them to genuinely collude and work together toward a singular vision, without the constant mistrust and backstabbing previous comics/adaptations have taught us to expect.
Well…maybe except Klarion. But he can at least be kept in line with shiny new toys, LOL.
Speaking of Klarion, Greg also mentioned - in response to a very nice cosplayer of the Witch-Boy, stuffed Teekl included - that the reason he chose Klarion as a member of the Light was because he felt the main villains of "Young" Justice really should be composed of at least one kid (in appearance and disposition, if not literally.
Greg also dropped the bomb that he'd slipped a rather major YJ spoiler into the radio play, which he was EXTREMELY surprised nobody had asked him about to that point. Cue us all jumping to our scripts and flipping through without success…proving beyond a shadow of a doubt that I am selectively blind.
It wasn't until a few days after I'd returned home and reread the script that it became insanely, excruciatingly obvious; the spoiler was clearly in Tigress' line, "I left Roy at home alone watching Lian and J.W." Which I'd noted as a little odd every single time I read it, and then somehow promptly forgot about (several times in a row!) in the midst of all the action.
Not that it would've helped me much, of course, had I figured it out while I was still there. Because if my theory about the identity of "J.W." is accurate, then there is NO WAY IN HELL Greg would ever comment one way or the other on it.
At least, not without some serious pie-making skillz that I, unfortunately, sorely lack. ;)
Marina was (as always) an enormous hoot at this panel, butting into various topics to note that we were "the quietest and best behaved" audience of fans she'd ever seen…as well as that we tended to ask much more intelligent questions than she is used to. As she put it:
"If I get asked 'What's it like to work with Sir Patrick?' one more time…"
She also mentioned, when asked about her thought process in approaching the character of Queen Bee, that when she was initially cast she looked up the wrong reference image and actually thought she'd be playing a…well, a bee-person. So she asked during recording whether they wanted her to add a buzzing sound to her voice. XD
And finally, at one point she ended up going off on a random tangent involving comparing David Xanatos to Donald Trump (context has long since eluded me, though it didn't take much for Marina to go off-topic in the most delightful way). Greg took mock-offense to that, and she quickly noted:
"Of course not. Xanatos is much smarter. And he has better hair."
Since the topic we'd started at was the Light, I then couldn't help but shout from the crowd:
"SO DOES LEX LUTHOR!"
That got a lot of laughs. It was definitely one of my favorite exchanges of the con, and a great way to move toward finally wrapping it up.
SUNDAY, JULY 6
5:00 PM CDT
This was it. The final hurrah. One last celebration of everything this weekend had meant to us, with a chance for the "actors" to take their bows before the "curtains" came down.
After we filtered out of the Main Stage, Chip and his brothers elected to return to the hotel room, while Brainiac and I got back in line to await the Closing Ceremonies.
There really wasn't any more reason to walk around - the artists and dealers were packing up, the panels were over and done with, and we'd run all the errands we needed to (such as grabbing a couple items we'd picked up for Station 8's Algernon, who lives in Ireland and as such couldn't be with us that weekend). So we mostly just stood around and continued to chatter on about video games.
Brainiac was the only one of us who'd attended the Opening Ceremonies (I was busy watching Madoka at the time), so he had a bit more of an idea what to expect than I did.
The festivities started with a sort of elaborate skit involving superheroes, hobbits, and Time Lords…little of which I understood, and almost none of which I found particularly interesting. But there were some good lines here and there, and I certainly didn't begrudge the con's organizers the chance to take a victory lap and enjoy the fruits of their hard work.
The guests would each be individually presented and celebrated at a later point, but as Marina had to catch an early flight she came on shortly after the skit to say her goodbyes. And to my surprise, after seeing her in all her frankness and bluntness (meant only in the best possible way, I assure you!) all throughout that weekend, she was…overwhelmed.
With not even the slightest trace of snark, she thanked us from the bottom of her heart for making her feel so welcome. And she made it clear that, while she wouldn't have considered coming to CONvergence without Greg recommending it, she was extremely glad that she did.
Okay…so there was a LITTLE snark. Namely that when saying goodbye to Connie, she actually started to tear up, and blamed our favorite robotic mascot for making her makeup run. But it was all in good humor, and I won't lie - it warmed my own heart to see it unfold.
Speaking of Connie, I really came to fall in love with that cute little gynoid as the Ceremonies unfolded, as she interrupted the ongoing presentation repeatedly to complain about traffic laws and the DMV; it WAS her Sweet Sixteen, after all. Her material was pretty much all pure gold, and it made me kind of regret not attending Opening Ceremonies, if only to see what she might've come up with.
Anyway, while every Guest of Honor got thanked and applauded by name - complete with Chris Jones-created logos for each one - Greg's was a bit more…involved.
One of the con organizers mentioned that Greg had shattered their record for total numbers of panels sat at a single con, with a whopping 26! A clearly exhausted but excited Greg then took the stage to give a great speech about how grateful he was that CONvergence had so graciously opened itself up to the Gargoyles fandom for our little "con within a con"…going so far as to say that, with the Gatherings retired for the foreseeable future, CONvergence was without question his favorite con to attend.
Then, in what can only be described as a grand exercise in good-natured humiliation, said organizer had Greg play a very weird game to guess the total attendance number for the weekend. Various people were holding up signs with various digits, and Greg had to determine which four to use and what order to put them in.
Obviously, the odds were pretty strongly against him getting it with only one shot, and indeed he did not. But it was certainly entertaining - if more than a little bit strange - to watch him make his best attempt.
And for the most part, that was it. There was lots more applause, both for the guests and for the numerous, wonderful volunteers. There were slide shows and videos from the con, including both the rather unfortunate picture of "the role of Lexington will henceforth be played by PILLAR" and the much nicer one of me "on stage" with Marina. There was more Connie, interviewing various congoers in her uniquely cheerful style.
And finally, there was the announcement of CONvergence 2015's theme, which will apparently be run by Connie's totally trustworthy "little sister" Connie Mk. II on account of good behavior. The maniacal laughter and crowd-chanting of "All hail Mk. II!" that followed were only mildly disconcerting.
I haven't yet made up my mind about whether I'm going to try to attend again; I had an unbelievably amazing time, and 2015's "dystopia" theme is right up my alley ("1984" is my favorite book of all time). But scrounging the money for even this year was difficult enough, so I'm not counting anything as a guarantee yet.
Still…I'm thinking about it. And that definitely means they did SOMETHING right.
SUNDAY, JULY 6
6:00 PM CDT
We were informed during Closing Ceremonies that free pizza would be coming shortly, so Brainiac elected to stick around and wait for that. I, on the other hand, was absolutely starving after four days of eating basically only one meal of substance each, and so decided to return to TGI Friday's and splurge a bit.
This was a mistake.
I'll spare the gory details and just say that I had a wonderful ribeye steak that just so happened to give me severe food poisoning, which took me nearly two weeks to fully recover from.
Not that I realized it at the time, of course. After my dinner, I returned to the con to meet up with the rest of the gang - Chip and Dragonlord having returned due to the promise of pizza. We had a last round of chatting with other congoers and saying goodbye to the Doubletree as we waited, before finally driving back to spend our final evening together.
With all the action over with, we occupied ourselves with more Yu-Gi-Oh!, a few rounds of "Super Smash Bros. Brawl" (all of which I won handily, suck it Brainiac), and general geeking out about our various hauls.
Those still hungry ended up ordering in calzones for delivery, while I headed to the Crowne Plaza's business center so I could check my e-mail and Skype one time before takeoff.
I got most of my packing done once the games were over with - not that I really had all that much to pack - since I would be the one leaving first in the morning. Then at around 1:00 AM, we finally all turned in.
Not that I could fall asleep, myself, given what was beginning to happen with my stomach. Yeah, I'll leave out the details, but…let's just say I didn't end up getting to sleep until a couple hours later.
MONDAY, JULY 7
6:00 AM CDT
Unfortunately, since my flight was at 8:48 AM, I needed to get up fairly early to be sure the hotel shuttle would get me there in time to board. Skimping on sleep didn't exactly do wonders for my already precarious health, and by the end I was pretty much limping out of there, hoping my stomach would hold for the journey ahead.
The trip held no surprises - good or bad - until I finally made it to the gate, where I was extremely shocked to run into Susan and Karine. Both proceeded to point out the Wise Man himself, whom they were dropping off there and whom I had somehow utterly failed to notice, despite sitting only a few meters away.
For in the strange but happy coincidence to end all strange but happy coincidences, we were going to be heading back on the same flight to Los Angeles; only a couple rows apart, in fact.
Despite feeling utterly like death by that point, this one last chance to speak one-on-one with the man gave me the energy to keep going. It was, to be sure, utterly surreal - only a few years ago, meeting Greg Weisman was this mystical, unattainable thing. And now we were just holding a friendly chat as we awaited our (naturally, delayed) plane.
It was, I suppose, one last opportunity to wrangle answers to the countless questions that I hadn't gotten a chance to ask that weekend…though I didn't really take advantage of it. Mostly because I was WAY too out of it to remember any of the questions I still had burning within me, but also because that really wasn't how the encounter "felt."
Instead, we talked about his kids. About his rather grueling con-schedule that summer. About how Rain was doing, with encouragement that I was excited as all hell for Spirits. About "Young Justice: Legacy," Scooby-Doo, and our impressions of how the radio play had gone.
Not nearly for the first time that weekend, I also reiterated my interest in having him as a guest at Kawaii Kon 2015, and he reiterated his interest in coming. So far, not much has come of my attempts to push the organizers I know on the issue, but it's an ongoing process and I hope to have something more concrete to report soon.
It was an extremely low-key conversation, not the least because we were both pretty exhausted (he, Chris, and co. had made a run on Denny's at 3:00 AM the previous night, which "seemed like a good idea at the time, not so much now"). But it was exactly what I needed at the time.
The entire exchange truly underscored what I loved most about that weekend: that Greg and the rest of the Gathering alums had seen fit to really make me feel like one of their own, rewarding all the effort I've tried to put into Ask Greg with kindness and acknowledgement.
I initially volunteered to help out when Todd reached out in the Comment Room because I so appreciated everything that Greg's work, and Ask Greg itself, had done for me over the years. But no matter how grueling dealing with the umpteenth "Where is Season 3?" or angry rant about Wally can be, I absolutely feel that I've gotten ten times more out of it than I've ever put in.
And that means the world to me.
I said as much to Greg, at least to the degree that I had the energy to articulate it. But all good things must come to an end, and eventually the plane arrived and it was time to board.
We wished each other safe travels, and said our farewells.
And with that…CONvergence 2014 truly came to a close.
MONDAY, JULY 7
9:00 AM CDT
I'll be brief here, just to give an idea of what the aftermath of the con was like.
I flew to LA feeling like hell. I had an hour layover there, in which I felt like hell. I had another, longer flight back to Honolulu, if anything feeling worse than hell (since I hadn't eaten anything I'd kept down for well over 24 hours).
Eventually, though, I made it back home and was able to get the long rest and digestible foods I needed. I managed to make it back to work by Wednesday, though I'd be at least mildly off my game for the next couple weeks.
I called the Friday's in question to let them know about my situation, and calmly requested a full or partial refund; they called back at 6:00 AM two days later to tell me their investigation into the matter showed that they "did everything right that night" and so they wouldn't be able to accommodate my request.
I was too sick to really be willing to argue the point, but rest assured that I won't be visiting that particular restaurant again, should I ever return to CONvergence. And I urge any fellow attendees to do the same.
On a more positive note, Spirits arrived just a couple days after I got back, so once I was sufficiently recovered I got to reading. Once again, I'll be putting together a detailed review for Amazon/Ask Greg as soon as this report is finished and edited….but suffice to say, I dug the hell out of it.
Algernon got his package soon after as well, and was very happy with what we'd managed to find (a figure of Irish deity Brigid, a signed "Recruits" print, and a cuddly pink plushie of Cthulhu). And everyone else managed to get home with their own hauls without too much issue, thankfully.
Overall, despite the rather crappy end, I have little but positive things to say about the whole experience. I'm very proud of what I got to do, who I got to meet, and what I got to bring home…and it's definitely something I'd love the chance to do again.
It was my first "Gathering," such as it was, and it exceeded each and every one of my expectations.
Here's hoping it won't be anywhere close to the last.
NEVER THE END!
For the record: It was Brandon Vietti who wanted Klarion in the Light. Not that I disagreed, but my initial choice had been Wotan. But Brandon pointed out we needed a "kid" on our villain team, and as usual, Brandon was right.
Md - Thanks for this. And for all the work you do, here, at ASK GREG!