DC in the 80s was fortunate enough to be able to attend the 2016 Ottawa Comiccon located at the EY Centre this year. This convention surpassed all expectations and treated many comic book/Steam Punk/Star Wars/Dr Who/Star Trek/Ghostbusters/anime fans to an exciting array of special guests, exhibitors, vendors, panel discussions and special events.
There was so much to see and do that this article can easily take up 20,000 words. Since I'm a child of the 80s, and I tend to gravitate towards 80s nostalgia, that's what we'll be spotlighting in this article.
Who were the special guests at this convention? Well, TV/movie celebrities that might interest you included Billy Dee William (best known as Lando from Empire Strikes Back), Carl Weathers (Apollo Creed from the Rocky films) and Lou Ferringo (the Hulk from 1978's The Incredible Hulk TV series). Before you ask: nah, we didn't meet/chat with any of them.
|Carl Weathers in Arrested Development: "Baby, you've got a stew going"|
Comic professionals at this event included Mike Grell (John Sable Freelance, Warlord, Green Arrow), Kevin Eastman (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles), Whilce Portacio (Punisher, X-Factor, Uncanny X-Men), James O'Barr (The Crow), Ron Sutton and Janet Hetherington. There were a few other comic professionals whose work I wasn't very familiar with (i.e. Dan Parent, Dave Ross, Eric Talbot, Marcus To, Jim Su, Mike Rooth, Robert Bailey, Tom Fowler, Fernando Ruiz, and Mark Shainblum) and I kicked myself and made a mental note to do more research on convention guests next time.
|Portacio, Grell and O'Barr held a panel about indie comics, but like everything else, it just ended up deviating into a conversation about Image Comics and the 'gimmick era'.|
The Portacio/Grell/O'Barr panel was the only panel I attended - I'm not much of a 'panel guy' and would much rather wander the convention floor chatting with cosplayers and DC comics fans, but I will make an exception for a panel that is relevant to DC in the 80s' interests. Early at the convention, I manged to get a long interview with Mike Grell and a few quick questions with Kevin Eastman. I did chat with James O'Barr briefly (his voice sounds like Jack Nicholson's, in case you ever wondered) and I asked him if he'd ever work for DC comics. He told me the DC character he'd most like to work on is Batman, but he would need FULL creative control. So that answers THAT.
Guest appearances by 80s vehicles included the Ecto-1 from Ghostbusters (1984) and the DeLorean from Back to the Future (1985) (not sure if they were the originals or simply replicas). It was one of those exhibits where you can have your photo professionally with the vehicle for a fee (all proceeds from photos taken with the DeLorean went to the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research - so, about $3000).
The convention's Ghostbusters/Dr Who/Star Wars/Star Trek/TMNT emphasis really brought in a diverse group of rad 80s cosplay and I tried to snap as many pics as I could:
I was pretty impressed with this excellent cosplay of a character from an 80s film so obscure that I couldn't even guess who it was. Mouse-over the image if you want to know who it is...
Major props go to Malcolm Beamish who cosplayed as one of my favorite non-DC/Marvel 80s characters: Matt Wagner's Grendel (Hunter Rose). Always a pleasure to see fans pay tribute to the 'good' books I grew up reading:
And finally, a big shout-out to this brave soul from the Capital City Garrison (they raised about $8,000 for the Make-A-Wish Foundation) who cosplayed as the FIRST Star Wars figure I've ever owned:
Weequay! Best known for 1) having a complexion similar to a California Raisin's, and 2) standing right next to Luke Skywalker A LOT while on Jabba's skiff (before he gets shot/thrown into the Sarlaac pit). This cosplayer casually mentioned that his Weequay mask was a special order/custom made, and there are only 8 in all of North America.
This action figure was obviously bought for me by a well-intentioned (but clueless) relative who grabbed him because he was the last Star Wars fig on the shelf at Sears. Whatever. I played with Weequay so hard throughout my youth that his back was permanently stained with melted crayon wax. And of course I lost his little weapon within the first day of owning him. (In hindsight, my parents probably threw it away for fear of me swallowing it.) I remember constantly rewinding and fast-forwarding to the 'battle on Jabba's skiff' scene in Return of the Jedi (1983) and I think I permanently ruined our VHS tape and/or VCR. As I was researching Weequay here, I found out that Star Wars fandom gave him a name: Queequeg/Pagetti Rook. They gave you a heart and they gave you a name, Weequay.
Unlike a few other "geek" fandom events we attended earlier this year, the DC cosplay was strong at this one. The most popular DC cosplay this year was Harley Quinn, Deathstroke, the Joker, Poison Ivy, Catowoman, Zatanna and... for some reason... the Riddler. Harley and Joker I can easily understand (with the new Suicide Squad film being released this August). Deathstroke recently received a resurge in popularity thanks to the CW Arrow series, so that makes sense. Poison Ivy, Catwoman and Zatanna have been consistently popular costumes among female cosplayers. But Riddler? That has me scratching my head. In the long-view, *any* DC comics representation is appreciated among the cosplay community, so I'm not complaining.
By far, my absolute favorite DC cosplay was the guy who dressed himself up as the Super Powers Collection Dr Fate. His costume even included a voice modulator to project his voice to different directions, to emulate that 'mystic' feel. This gentleman was part of The League of Superheroes volunteer cosplay group (who raised $1,500 for charity that week-end.)
A really interesting '80s nostalgia' Ottawa-based vendor that I absolutely NEED to mention is Skuzzles, a retailer who sells limited edition screen print movie posters of really rad 80s movies.
|A staff of two|
I don't usually spotlight vendors/retailers, but this stuff is too good not to mention. A sample of their wares:
This event had no shortage of art prints, comics (TPBs, back issues, new and rarer stuff), action figures (vintage and new), cosplay accessories, board games, and other cool stuff to purchase. I have a problem where I'm always $10 short no matter how much money I bring with me to these types of things. For example: even if I brought $500 with me, I'd still be $10 short. Thankfully, I was a bit more reasonable this time and brought significantly less than $500 with me. I managed to pick up a few complete non-sports trading card sets that I've been eyeing lately, on the cheap. However, once again, I was $10 short. The one that got away:
The Impel GI Joe card set was released in 1991 and was frequently advertised in comic books. Now, unless I've got my p's and q's mixed up, at this time GI Joe was licensed by Marvel Comics - and Marvel was publishing a GI Joe comic book ongoing series in the late 80s/early 90s that I was quite fond of. So, by now I'm sure you're all aware of my love affair with early Impel card sets, thus Impel + GI Joe = instant gratification. I was a little hesitant since this set seemed to be more focused on the toy line than the Marvel comics, and I took a walk to think it over ("would I get $10 enjoyment out of this complete card set?", I wondered to myself) and maybe I was running to the ATM. When I had returned back to the vendor's table to buy it, some lucky son of a gun had purchased it while I stepped away. Just goes to show that you've got to move fast at these vendor convention tables. If you have any interest whatsoever in 80s GI Joe action figures or comics, you should check out GI Joe: A Real American Headcast by Aaron Moss.
This was a fantastic event and I hope to do it all again next year.
Stay tuned for upcoming articles/interviews with some of the guests we've spoken to <cough> Mike Grell <cough>.
Special thanks to Denise and Leeja.