Wizard World Chicago 2017

After missing its 2016 iteration, I was so happy to be back at Wizard World Chicago this year! Like all Chicago Comic Cons, this event took place at the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center in Rosemont, IL August 24th-27th.

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I attended with my sister, Little Dove Cosplay, who was showcasing a new Sansa dress on Friday & Saturday… but I am getting ahead of myself.

Since we were presenting two panels, we picked up our badges in the ‘Exhibitor/Vendor’ section in Hall B. In past years, we were able to pick these up from the VIP or other sections, but this year we waited longer in line.

On Thursday evening, we walked the con floor and established what we wanted to see before heading to the “Make a Nerdy Living” panel. This panel featured The Pumpkin Geek, Amanda Meyer, Emily Evans, Scott Larson, Onrie Kompon, and later Mogchelle showed up (who was overbooked and hustled from panel to panel with nary a moment’s rest!). Make A Nerdy Living PanelI was really impressed by what The Pumpkin Geek had to say; he was incredibly personable and gave good advice, like how reaching out over social media allowed him to save money traveling to different cons by staying on folks’ couches. Despite the panel being titled “Make a Nerdy Living” (emphasis mine), the majority of the panelists have a “day job” that pays the bills separately from their nerdy passion projects. This disappointed me because I still don’t know how to turn my passion into something that pays the bills. With six panelists, the conversation felt crowded and no one really got enough time to talk. Friday, my sister wore her X-Men: Days of Future Past Jean Grey cosplay, super comfy for a short day at the con, and I wore my coveralls.

On Friday, with an increased attendance, security had folks go through several metal detectors set up outside. Though some lines were dedicated to folks without bags, everyone filed through whichever line they could. My sister was dressed as Sansa in her black, season 6 dress (the one with all the feathers) and had her trusty direwolf purse with her (it’s name is Lady), and I wore my blue silk jacket and flip flops along with my coveralls for more of a pilot episode look. Once we got through security, I hosted my panel on ‘The Expanding Firefly ‘Verse,’ which is always shiny. This year, I incorporated new info on upcoming board games and some rumors about the fabled Firefly Online. AKF and Firefly Cosplayers WWCC17I met with a bunch of other Firefly cosplayers for pictures with them before going to Artist’s Alley. This year (unlike my last Wizard World Chicago in 2015), the Artists Alley had its own huge area between vendors. I think this was a nice set-up, though I didn’t care for the second floor of the convention center being only cars and a haunted house. Oh well, it meant me and my sister didn’t have to crowd on the escalator!

We closed our Friday night watching “Dungeons and Dragons Improv,” featuring a Bloodrager Dwarf named Buttsteak, a punny bard halfling named Matthew McConaughey whose signature tune was “Take On Me” by Aha, and a shapeshifting gnome by the name of Cuddles who could only turn into marbles. These three were on a quest to rid Detroit of the Unicorn plague, fight a Spiderman-o-taur (half bull, half spider-man), and get a lapdance from Striptease the Unicorn, but in the end it turned out they might have been part of the problem. We left the con with tears of laughter streaming down our faces.

On Saturday, we returned bright and early so I could catch a panel called “Intro to Podcasting.” Intro to Podcasting Panel WWCC17Despite several experts (David Vox Mullen, John ‘Bear’ Kolb, Patrick Newson, Paul Hinic, Nick Mataragas) clearly knowing what they were talking about, the panel was not very planned out. The panelists didn’t follow an outline and it was more of a Q&A than an introduction… and they kept pimping their new website which is a podcasting platform. Vox Mullen advocated paying for all of your own things (a website to host, etc.), and spoke most of the time, leaving very little time for Hinic and Mataragas to speak. I don’t think this panel was wasted time, but it definitely wasn’t what I was hoping for or expecting.

Saturday, I wore my screen accurate floral top with my coveralls, and we naturally went to see “One Season and a Movie: A Conversation with Summer Glau & Jewel Staite.” The panel started late, but it was refreshing to hear Lindi of PureFandom instruct everyone in the Q&A line for “No Personal Requests!” When asked where they would want their characters’ stories to go, Jewel answered that she wanted Kaylee and Simon to have lots of babies, and Summer offered River as babysitter. Jewel politely declined.

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Jewel’s favorite episode was “Out of Gas,” while Summer’s was “Objects in Space.” “I don’t know if you can recapture something in the same way,” Summer said, when asked about a Serenity 2 focused on River. “I really respect what the show was.” Finally, if Summer could change one thing about Firefly, she’d wear shoes and brush her hair more. Ha!

After that panel ended, we headed down to Game Of Thrones Trivia, though sadly we didn’t participate (or win). It was a nice way to get excited about the season finale and hear speculations on how it would end. Tess was again wearing her black Sansa dress, and a lot of folks really loved it. After that, we went to the Creative Stage which was at the back of Artists’ Alley near a food station. I really like how this Creative Stage was set up and I think C2E2 could learn a thing or two from Wizard World. Not only was there more than one microphone, there was also an A/V set up to show a powerpoint! This was the first time I presented my panel “Getting Started With Etsy” and I was really glad to have Laura of Rebel Among the Stars Studios alongside to help me. We both have very different ways we use Etsy; they do it full time for a living, whereas I do it to fund going to conventions. We got some excellent questions and I can’t wait to see new Etsy stores that I hope were inspired by our info!

Sunday was a much more relaxed day since we were quite tired! We love that 5 Hour Energy has a booth at cons, because drinking those made us able to get through our last day! On Sunday, I wore my Elizabeth Swann cosplay and met up with friends (Sparrow Style Entertainment & Gormassmuss) who were both cosplaying Jack Sparrow! Elizabeth & 2 Jacks WWCC17Since I was walking around with my sister as Sansa Stark, a lot of people thought I was a Game of Thrones character too. Whoops! I may have to start cosplaying Margaery again! My sister had opted for her pink King’s Landing Sansa dress, which she loves to wear because it makes her feel like a princess.

Overall, I had a really great time at Wizard World Chicago. I was excited to present both old and new panels, while spending time at a convention with my sister

My next convention is New York Comic Con, October 5-8th. Stay tuned for a panel announcement soon!

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Browncoats: The Musical

Zoe is pregnant, Mal relives his glory days, Kaylee and Simon want to take the next step in their relationship and Jayne… wants to become a preacher? Sounds like it could be the long desired second season of Firefly but it’s actually Browncoats: The Musical!

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Produced by Tea Time for Mad Girls, this one-night-only event brought our favorite characters back to life in an immersive theatrical production at the Gemini Scorpio Loft in Brooklyn, NY. Complete with themed drinks and cookies (the latter provided by Simple Sweets by Melissa), the event was a mighty fine shindig!

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Part of the stage set up at Gemini Scorpio Loft

This production took place about 9 months after the events of Serenity, with Zoe preparing to give birth and the crew figuring out what that meant for them in the aftermath of the political climate surrounding the events on Miranda. The musical disregarded the canonical comic Serenity ‘Verse, and instead choose to feature Mal preoccupied with re-joining the war effort. This means different things for each of the members of the crew: though Mal thought he could count on Jayne and Zoe, Jayne wants to follow in Shepherd Book’s footsteps and Zoe wants to be with her baby, even if she isn’t sure how to be a mother yet. Mal wants Kaylee and Inara safe and planetside, and doesn’t really care much where Simon ends up as long as River is expertly piloting the ship (what with her psychic-ness, and all). Simon won’t leave River and Kaylee doesn’t want to leave Simon and, despite Mal’s wishes, Inara wants to fight.

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From left to right: Paul White as Simon, Dava White as Kaylee, Francesca Negron as Mal, Ann Patricia as Zoe, Jen Wu as Inara, Kati Kane as Jayne

It takes the near-death of every crew member and the surprise visit of a beyond-the-grave Wash to get everyone’s head in the right place and keep them together on Serenity where they belong.

Though the set was fairly minimal with small details here and there, it worked as a representation of Serenity where actors ran between stage areas as they would do on the ship herself. However, all the running coupled with a full audience crowding a 2nd floor loft meant the venue was very warm. What’s more, the stages were not set up in such a way that the audience could see all the action. I learned later that the actors had only been to the space for the first time earlier that day. Given that, I was especially impressed with their set-up.

Browncoats: The Musical is a brand new production and that showed. Certain characters were written incredibly well, while others were portrayed superbly. I was disappointed to hear the word “damn” so many times when there’s an in-Verse alternative (gorram!). More complex characters like River and Inara had weaker writing, and unfortunately the actors’ interpretations did not feel like the characters I love.

Inara (Jen Wu) and Mal (Francesca Negron) lacked any real chemistry.

Mal and Inara lacked chemistry, and Jayne felt a bit sassier than I was used to. However, Jayne’s acting choices were some of the strongest, especially because the actor committed to said choices. Kaylee’s writing and performance were spot-on, while Simon fumbling between his sister and the mechanic he loves brought me right back to the TV show. Zoe brought the whole production together, though I was disappointed that she was played by a white actress. At times, the singing was weak, but I do want to note the heartbreaking performance of ‘’Lullaby’’ by a back-from-the-dead Wash, which brought tears to many eyes.

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Laurel Detkin as a heartbreaking Wash

This musical weakness is understandable, since this is a brand new production with little to no budget featuring volunteer performers rather than professional actors. Like most shiny Browncoat productions, the musical was more a labor of love than of cashie-cashie moneys.

Because the singing was rough at times, it did not do justice to some of the more well-written songs, for example, Kaylee’s love song to Serenity. I did like River’s interpretive dance though!      

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At times, the writing for Aleks Kovacevic as River felt too “on-the-nose.”

The production needs to work out some kinks if they hope to perform it again, but I was thoroughly impressed by much of what was provided and performed in this show. Plus I’ve had “Here’s to the Browncoat Cause” stuck in my head goin’ on a few weeks now… I hope to see more done with Tea Time for Mad Girls’ Browncoats: The Musical!

My First C2E2

Last weekend at McCormick Place in Chicago, I had the pleasure of attending the Chicago Comic and Entertainment Expo (C2E2). It was an awesome way to round out my trip to the midwest which involved two conventions, Wizard World St. Louis and C2E2. The two conventions were very different but both were excellent experiences!

The disorganized coat check on our way in the 1st day
The disorganized coat check on our way in the 1st day

C2E2 is run by ReedPop, the same folks who run Emerald City Comic Con (a con I hope to attend soon!) and New York Comic Con. The latter two are four day events but C2E2 is only three days: Friday through Sunday. Since this con is local to my family home, my sister & I took public transport into downtown Chicago and met up with our friend in time to catch one of the C2E2 shuttles to the actual convention center. I really like the shuttle service, because it saves me a bunch of money that would be used on parking, but more on that later.    

Friday was our lazy(ish) day. I cosplayed Elizabeth Swann, my friend cosplayed Flint (from Black Sails), and my sister debuted her Jean Grey cosplay from X-Men Apocalypse. As soon as we got to the con, we had to go through a very frustrating bag check, especially since my sister and I only had very small purses– anything that would have fit in them reasonably would have fit in our pockets! Our friend, on the other hand, brought a real sword, which we have taken to several other conventions since it is not sharp.  While it would be very easy to peace-tie so that the blade isn’t accessible, security confiscated it and told us there was no coat check so they would hold it in security check. We later checked the program and found out there was a coat check but at least we ended up having the sword babysat for free all day! In the future, we know not to bring live steel to C2E2, since it wasn’t worth the hassle.

Wil Wheaton panel C2E2Once inside, we headed upstairs to the opening panel on the mainstage, featuring Wil Wheaton. I recently started watching Star Trek: The Next Generation and friends who have met Mr. Wheaton have told me how nice he is. Though I’m not familiar with his recent work, he has an amazing panel presence (coming from folks who consistently run panels at conventions!), turning awkward questions into excellent anecdotes. After the panel, we walked the extensive show floor and artists’ alley. The show floor for C2E2 is smaller than NYCC and it seemed a touch smaller than Wizard World Chicago, which surprised me.

geek career panel c2e2We finished up Friday at the panel “Professional Geek: How to Turn Your Passion into A Career.” I hoped for a panel that would talk about monetizing your passion. Instead this panel featured folks who were in the right place at the right time. Their advice amounted to “do internships” and “work hard and sometimes for free,” which are both things I do not support. At times, passion-projects can mean you work for free but artists deserve to be paid for their work.This panel’s advice only contributed to the idea that if you love something, you should not make any money from it. Disgruntled, we left the panel early, picked up the sword, and headed home for the night.

On Saturday, I wore my Kaylee coveralls with the blue silk jacket & parasol,c2e2 blue jacket my friend wore Luffy (One Piece), and my sister wore her pink Sansa dress (Game of Thrones). Since the Sansa costume is so delicate and hair so intricate, we drove to the convention. The cheapest lot was $15, but that amounted to roughly the same price as public transport for the three of us. It also meant we spent a lot less time getting to the con, could bring food with us, and could get home much earlier. Luffy got several compliments on their pants and mentioned I had made them, which I did not realize at all until I looked more closely at them. Hah! The first panel we attended focused  on gender identity in comics and we were happily surprised by the diversity in the panel as well as their recommendations. Since we had walked the floor on Friday, we spent a bunch of time going between the XP stations. I first experienced these at NYCC; you register your badge and then head to prize towers to tap your badge. You can win prizes within the towers as well as autographs, tickets to secret panels, digital webcomics, and more! C2E2 limits your badge to only tapping in once per day per tower, but they also had a scavenger hunt between several additional towers. We each won a small prize and, though not what we had really wanted, it was still fun! At the end of the night, we headed back to the car, munched on leftover takeout, and then went home and to bed.

20170423_165608Sunday, my friend was not feeling well and stayed home. My sister wore her purple Sansa dress and I wore my screen accurate pink Kaylee shirt. We took public transport and, since it was the last day, we decided to do one more thorough walk of the convention floor. At 1:30, we settled in at the Cosplay Center (which amounted to several round tables with chairs, and a long rectangular table with only ONE mic to present from, off to the side of the show floor) for our panel “Cosplay & Consent.” I moderated the panel, which featured Tess, Raggedy Amy, and Rebel Among the Stars as panelists. We talked about our experiences cosplaying, particularly as they applied to situations of questionable consent. We gave advice for photographers & con-goers on how they could ask for consent & get their pictures okayed by cosplayers, as well as what cosplayers could do to make sure their consent was respected. Though a different style panel than I am used to, I enjoyed sharing our information with the C2E2 crowd.

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My sister and I finished walking through the convention, made final purchases, took a few last minute pictures before we headed out. Despite a few small things, C2E2 was a really well run convention and we all had a great time. I hope to be invited back again in the future!pink shirt c2e2

My next event is Browncoat: The Musical in NYC and my next potential convention is Wizard World Philly, June 1-4 (or check my up to date convention list here!)

Meet Me in St Louis! Wizard World St Louis 2017

About two and a half weeks ago, I received an email acceptance of three  panels for Wizard World St. Louis Comic Con! Despite the short notice, I was able to rearrange my schedule for an earlier flight into Chicago so I could rent a car and drive down to St. Louis. I got into Chicago very early Thursday morning (after recording my new Cargo Crate Unboxing video very late on Wednesday night), took a nap, then re-packed my suitcase for the trip on Friday. My co-panelist stayed at my house that night so we could put the final touches on our panels for the weekend. Friday was another early day of catching public transit to the Midway airport then taking a shuttle to the car rental place.  omw to ww stl 17

When we got to the rental place, we found out that unless we had a return ticket for the day we returned the car, we needed to have a credit card with $100 on it. Neither of us had this and neither of us knew we’d need this. Our original plan of getting to St. Louis in a leisurely fashion with ample time to drop off our things, shower, eat, and change into cosplays turned into driving as fast as we could just so we could try to make it to our panel on time.

Somehow, we made it both to St. Louis and into the convention center at 3:52pm (our panel started at 4) to grab our wristbands and then could. Not. Find. Our. Panel. Room. We knew it was room 151 but were directed first through a hallway that was locked, then outside to re-enter through doors that were locked. We finally cut through the exhibitors’ hall and found the room…with a much smaller audience than we anticipated. It turns out that attendees weren’t able to find out room either (unsurprising, due to volunteers giving us differing information). After brief technical issues, we connected the computer and had an awesome time presenting “What Not to Ask at a Celebrity Q&A.” After the panel, we meandered the show floor, then headed to a comedy panel presented by Aaron Rabe as Cpt. Jack Sparrow. Rabe’s comedic rapport with his audience was great but the audience volunteers were a bit lackluster. We left the con before it closed for the day so we could order pizza and work on tomorrow’s panels.

Saturday, we slept in before heading to the convention for the Caleb McLaughlin of Stranger Things panel. He was totally adorable but, despite the moderator saying something to the effect of “Don’t ask him questions about season 2, don’t ask him personal questions, etc.” she didn’t do a great job of buffering these questions when they were asked. We then walked the floor a bit more before getting sandwiches at a nearby shop. Compared to other conventions I attend, Wizard World St. Louis Comic Con is on the small side. I estimate that it’s the size of Totalcon, Templecon, or Wizard World Madison, which are the smallest cons I’ve been to. The limited number of vendors at WW St. Louis meant we didn’t feel like spending the whole day inside the convention center. Instead, we opted to leave after our second panel, “Comic Con on a Budget.ww stl 17 comic con on a budgetWe stopped for groceries on our way back, dining on snack foods and wine as we finished up the next day’s  panel.

Sunday, we went to the con first thing in the morning so we we were able to get a parking spot in the less expensive garage right next to the convention center. I woke up early to contour my face in hopes of evoking more Keira Knightley and less Jewel Staite. I think I did a pretty good job for my first try. Rather than wearing my beloved Kaylee cosplay, I elected to wear the Elizabeth Swann outfit that I made last fall. It worked perfectly with our pirate panel that day. The panelists before us ran late, which was frustrating as we needed all the time we could get for “Historical Accuracy & Trivia in Pirate Media (Black Sails & PotC).”brethren goals At previous Wizard World events, a Wizard World representative comes into the room at 20 till the end, to give a 5 minute warning before ending panels at 15 till. This was not the case at this event where I sat at the back of our panel room, waiting for the folks in front of us to wrap up. Unfortunately, many of the clips we wanted to show did not work, but we still had an awesome and informative panel. It’s one of my favorite panels to present, especially because I learn something new every year! After that, we finished at the con, packed up, and got going on our long trip back to Chicago.

Overall, Wizard World St. Louis was a pretty different convention than what I am used to. Its smaller scale meant it was a more intimate show and, had we been interested, we could have met some of the cool celebrities more easily there than at other events. Most conventions stage celebrities in their own section with curtains and lines for meeting them. At Wizard World St. Louis, the celebs were easily approachable in the center of the exhibitors’ floor. St. Louis also had multiple stages, mostly notable a large main stage behind registration where the costume contest and the Rocky Horror Picture Show occurred. Inside the exhibitors’ hall, there were three smaller stages: the Entertainment Stage at the front,  where we saw the kids costume contest and an acapella group perform; the Creative Stage in the back, where artists and cosplayers spoke & presented; and the Kids Stage which had magic & puppetry. Down the hall, the panel rooms were hidden away and quite hard to find. We agreed that the convention hall seemed much too big for the convention itself. We thought a nearby hotel would be better off housing this convention, given its current size.

All things said and done, it was an enjoyable convention experience. It was definitely more relaxed than other conventions I’ve done, but there are benefits to going to smaller cons. My next convention is the Chicago Comics and Entertainment Expo (C2E2), and it will be interesting to compare the differences between the two!

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