Every Memorial Day weekend, thousands of Houstonians from all walks of life don their best corsets, pleather catsuits, feathered tutus, stormtrooper codpieces, medieval codpieces, S.H.I.E.L.D jumpsuits, Star Trek jumpsuits, Iron Man body armor and formal tentacles, then head on down to the George R. Brown Convention Center to get their Geek On.
That’s right, it’s Comicpalooza time.
With four days and over 2,000 hours of programming, whether you’re into anime, My Little Pony, Marvel movies or even '70s punk rock, everyone is bound to find something shiny (Firefly reference) that appeals to his or her own particular fan obsession.
But let’s face it, even if you’ve added some compound fly eyes to that face — not outside the realm of possibility for this weekend—you’re never going to get to see everything. So to help you pick and choose, I’ve talked to Comicpalooza chairman John Simons and literature organizer Vijay Kale in order to find those don’t-miss events as well as a few personal picks to help you find a new fandom to try.
Celebrity Petting (but no touching) Zone
Probably one of the biggest draws to the Con are the television and movie stars who arrive each year. Even if you aren’t interested in getting a photo and autograph with the likes of Jeremy Rainer, Cobie Smulders or Jason Isaacs, the celebrity corral is fascinating to observe for the amateur anthropologist or economist.
Even if you aren’t interested in getting a photo and autograph with the likes of Jeremy Rainer, Cobie Smulders or Jason Isaacs, the celebrity corral is fascinating to observe.
The experience reminds me a little of visiting the SPCA or Wall Street as fans wander around deciding which celebrities’ stocks are rising enough to buy a share in their fame (a.k.a photo op) or which floppy newcomer or wise showbiz veteran is just so adorable this year that you just have to Instagram their cuteness to all your followers.
My pick: Bring your own stuffed shark and see if you can convince Henry Winkler to hold hands and jump over it with you. Tweet me if he’s game.
Music and Concerts
Most humanoids and human-shaped beings attending the Con probably don’t realize they’re also attending something of a music fest, but Simons is hoping goers will take a listen at their “diverse lineup,” with regional and national known musicians and DJs like Big Data, Descendants of Erdrick, Deep Ella and many other musicians and bands that don’t start with D.
My pick: For those into rock history, Ramones’ drummer, Marky Ramone; Dave Ellefson, bassist and founding member of Megadeth; GWAR; and heavy metal bassist, Rudy Sarzo will all be on hand for autographs and Q&A sessions if not to actually play.
Catch a Flick
With two world premieres and independent horror, sci-fi and fantasy films being showcased through the weekend, you could conceivable just plant yourself in theatre-360 and be entertained from morning until midnight. Simons is particularly excited about the world premiere of Criminal Activities starring John Travolta, Dan “Dead Cousin Matthew” Stevens and Jackie Earle Haley who also directed. Haley and actor Edi Gathegi will be on hand for a Q&A after the screening.
Simons is particularly excited about the world premiere of Criminal Activities starring John Travolta.
My pick: There’s apparently a horror movie, filmed in Houston no less, about a man who finds out his soul mate is too close to her conjoined serial killer twin. Just the fact that Conjoined exists should make us proud to be Houstonians.
Buy Some Art/Refine Your Own Art
A huge part of participating, not just attending, a Con is to celebrate artists by taking a stroll down Artist Alley or expressing your own creative side whether that be through entering the cosplay contest Saturday, taking part in a workshop or panel on subjects as diverse as diversity in drawing human anatomy, using art to deal with PTSD, or cinematic tips for Houston filmmakers.
My pick: Watch artists create and then bid on that favorite piece Saturday night at the Live Art and Charity Auction. All proceeds benefit the Ronald McDonald House Charities.
Hear or Tell a Great Story
Every year brings new and returning bestselling sci-fi and fantasy authors to town and this year is no different with Peter David, Raymond E. Feist and Mercedes Lackey as well as regional favorites and up-and-coming writers. Many of these authors will be participating in solo Q&A sessions and/or panels that will discuss your favorite genres and even give advice to budding authors.
My pick: In “No-Holds-Barred Critique Workshop” you can submit an excerpt from your own work for constructive criticism to authors Shannon Winton, Jason Kristopher, Carrie Patel, Kevin Ranson, Diana Dru Botsford. For info, email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Meet Astronaut Dr. Stan Love, explore the space medicine we’ll need to get a humanity to Mars and discuss the multiple universe theory.
Real Science from Real Scientists
Though Comicpalooza has included presentations on numerous hard science topics over the years, in 2014 they set up the “Science Faction” programming track that Space City deserves. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if Clear Lake is deserted this weekend because it feels like half of NASA is going to be in downtown Houston. Meet Astronaut Dr. Stan Love, explore the space medicine we’ll need to get a humanity to Mars and discuss the multiple universe theory.
My pick: I’m rather intrigued with NASA engineer Hannah Bradley’s presentation “We Want a Window” on the demands and dangers of designing windows for spacecraft.
For one final don’t-miss, I recommending Houston’s own Classical Theatre Company dramatic reading of William Shakespeare's Star Wars: Verily, A New Hope by Ian Doescher. I saw the Classical gang do an excerpt from this at Brazos Bookstore a year ago and not only was it hilarious, it proved something I’ve long suspected, that the most psychologically layered and dynamic character in the entire Star Wars mythos is, of course, R2D2.
To find that one panel, workshop, or guest appearance that speaks to your particular fandom check out the online Comicpalooza schedule.