Comicpalooza 2017

Geek's Guide to Comicpalooza: Stars and fans come to play at pop culture extravaganza

Geek's Guide to Comicpalooza: Can't-miss highlights, special events

Comicpalooza 2017 The Flash Danielle Panabaker
The Flash’s Danielle Panabaker will be one of the many television and film stars appearing at Comicpalooza 2017. Image courtesy of CW

May in Houston means it’s time once again to get our geek on with Comicpalooza, the largest pop culture gathering in Texas. With 3,000 hours of gaming, literary, science, art and media programming over three days (May 12-14) within the George R. Brown Convention Center, we all could get lost, intentionally or accidentally, to infinity and beyond.

To help plan a way through this alternate reality weekend, I’ve taken a preview peek at the action-packed schedule to discover all the new and returning special events and stars. Plan according to your own fandom obsession but here are just a few of the can’t-miss highlights.

Television and movie stars light up Comicpalooza every year, and 2017 is no different with a very eclectic roster of scifi, action and superhero actors as well fan favorites who might not fit into any specific genre.

Look for appearances by major players from Marvel’s movie and television universe, including its recent invasion unto Netflix, with Anthony Mackie (The Falcon), Mike Colter (Luke Cage) and Finn Jones (Iron Fist), who also (spoiler alert) recently got blown up by his fiancée Cersei Lannister, but that was in a competing HBO Game of Thrones universe. Meanwhile, DC comic-to-television fans can expect to see several members of the kick-ass women heroes club like The Flash’s Danielle Panabaker and Candice Patton and Caity Lotz from Legends of Tomorrow.

The celebrity lineup isn’t just about the comic book explosion into multimedia. Other stars shining will be two-timed Oscar nominated and space president Mary McDonnell. Comicpalooza is also touting a rare appearance by serial ass-kicker Chuck Norris. According to Comicpalooza founder John Simons, Norris hasn’t made an appearance in a pop culture convention like this one in 40 years.

While the convention affords fans plenty of photo and autography opportunities with their favorite actors, some of the best fun happens at the Q&A sessions for an individual celebrity or focused on a specific movie or television show. Where else could you spend a hour with the main voice actors from SpongeBob SquarePants? Or for sheer randomness check out the Judge Reinhold Q&A Panel with '80s quirky comedies regular Judge Reinhold and ask all those Gremlins and Beverly Hills Cop questions that have been festering in your mind for decades.

Film, Gaming and Sports
For the fifth year in a row, Comicpalooza offers a three-day film festival within the larger convention that features full length genre, animated and documentary films as as well as innovative shorts including a special selection of short films created by high school students.

On Saturday, actress, director, screenwriter and former Pink Power Ranger, Amy Jo Johnson, will offer a special screening of her new independent film The Space Between. This event does require an additional ticket.

For those who’d prefer to jump into the action instead of just watching, check out the gaming hall on the third floor for electronic and tabletop gaming. Learn a new game or sign up for competition and tournament play. If you’re ready for a full body fantasy workout, try out for some sword fighting or a round of quidditch.

Express Yourself
From cosplay to fan art to writing workshops, creativity reigns king of the cosmos this weekend and the convention offers lots of ways to convey and refine your own art. On the literary front not only can you meet and talk fiction with authors Lev Grossman (The Magicians trilogy), Jim Butcher (The Dresden Files), Doctor Strange screenwriter C. Robert Cargill, University of Houston’s own Mat Johnson (Loving Day) and a host of other best-selling authors, many of them will participate in panel discussions giving out writerly advice.

In the same vein, the celebrity guest list also includes award-winning illustrators, painters and comic artists. Look for workshops and discussions on how to hone your own artistic skills as well as a chance to begin or enhance your own art collection with a live art auction for a good cause as the proceeds go to Big Brothers Big Sisters Lone Star.

Cosplay artists and admirers should not miss the annual parade Saturday afternoon and the contest and award show that evening.

Creativity and technology meet at the Maker’s Space where con-goers can view the latest innovations in 3D printing, stop motion animation, laser engraving, and virtual reality gaming.

Step out of your own weird comfort zone to try another alien zone. Comicpalooza gives us plenty of opportunities to revel in our own fandoms but part of the fun is taking an hour or two out to learn something new.

I like to peruse the schedule to find the strangest or wildest title and get a glimpse of the unknown (to me at least). From an art survey of ice sculpting through history to a demonstration of how to use a longsword to a talk on human research studies on the International Space Station, you’ll learn something new everyday of Comicpalooza.