Indy Pop Con


Indy PopCon 2018 is Just Around the Corner!

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Indy PopCon is not a typical geeky convention. Instead of focusing on one area of geekdom, the event celebrates a wide range of interests: gaming, streaming, comics, cosplay, and celebrities. PopCon celebrates its 5th anniversary this year and takes place June 8th – 10th at the Indianapolis Convention Center.

In a statement from the press release, Carl Doninger, president of Indy PopCon said, “At its core, Indy PopCon is a celebration of Indianapolis and everything our great city has to offer. Unlike other conventions that visit Indianapolis, PopCon originated right here in our city, and we couldn’t be more thrilled to host the event for the fifth year in a row. Indy PopCon prides itself on being open and accepting of everyone, which is why we focus on a variety of different fandoms. There truly is something for everyone at PopCon.”

The list of guests backs up Doninger’s claim. Guests scheduled to appear are personalities from YouTube and Twitch such as Frost Prime and Girbeagly, WWE stars Kevin Nash and Lisa Marie Varon, professional cosplayers Mogchelle and Vraskaa Cosplay, Overwatch voice actors Lucie Pohl (Mercy) and Carolina Ravassa (Sombra), and a variety of artists including Chrissie Zullo, Christopher Uminga, Sara Richard, and the legendary Jim Steranko.

Want bigger names? Well, PopCon has several this year: Kristian Nairn and Isaac Hempstead Wright from HBO’s hit series Game of Thrones, LeVar Burton from Star Trek: The Next Generation and Reading Rainbow, Wil Wheaton from Star Trek: The Next Generation and The Big Bang Theory, Pom Klementieff from Avengers: Infinity War and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Elizabeth Henstridge from Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., and Tara Reid from American Pie and Sharknado.

For more information and to purchase tickets, visit https://indypopcon.com/

For a taste of Indy PopCon, you can read my coverage from 2017:

HIGHLIGHT FROM INDY POP CON 2017: STAR WARS CELEBRATION PANEL

HIGHLIGHT FROM INDY POP CON 2017: MATT RYAN PANEL

HIGHLIGHT FROM INDY POP CON 2017: COSPLAY CHAMPIONSHIPS


Highlight from Indy Pop Con 2017: Star Wars Celebration Panel

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The Indy Pop Con, July 7 – 9, hosted many different entertainment guests, and one of the biggest panels was the Star Wars Celebration Panel. Garrett Wang (Ensign Henry Kim, Star Trek: Voyager) moderated the panel, and he told the audience when he first saw Star Wars at the age of eight he “fell in love immediately with sci-fi because of Star Wars, which started [his] life-long career as a big nerd.” The panel included Roy Thomas, comic writer who helped bring the Star Wars franchise to Marvel; Timothy Zahn, author and creator of Thrawn; and Greg Grunberg, who played Snap Wexley in Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

The panel was fan-focused, so questions came from the audience. For obvious reasons, Greg couldn’t comment on future Star Wars projects.

As someone who has been a character in the influential franchise, Greg was asked many questions. The first film had a huge impact on his childhood. He saw the film with his good friend J.J., as in J.J. Abrams, director of small films such as Super 8, Star Trek, and Star Wars: The Force Awakens. About Star Wars he said, “It was the first movie that I saw as a kid where it changed everything for me; up until this point I hadn’t really left a movie and talked about the characters and talked about the world, and just felt so immersed in something so different and it got me and it locked me in as it did a lot of people.”

Of course, Greg was beyond ecstatic when he was cast in The Force Awakens. Security was tight, but, feeling emboldened by being besties with the director, he secretly snapped photos of the Millennium Falcon with his cell phone. “I geek out about that stuff just as much as anybody else.”

Greg Grunberg

Greg was enamored and excited to work with the legendary Carrie Fisher, and he feels honored and lucky to have worked with a professional who was full of energy and life. He told a wonderful story about working with her. “One of the first things that I shot was I was off camera, Carrie’s there, and she’s kinda berating Snap Wexley, so she’s like, ‘C’mon, Snap, pay attention,’ blah, blah, this whole thing, and then you cut to me, and I kinda roll my eyes and follow her. And I think they cut it out, I know they cut it out, it’s on the DVD I think. Anyway, so the camera’s here [puts a hand by his face], so I’m right next to the matte box, and she’s doing her side. And she does it, and I’m just trying to get my stuff right, and I’m so excited to be working with her. I’d met her, but it was just very briefly. She says her lines, and then she was just supposed to cross right to me; she says her lines and then she crosses right at me, wraps her arms around me, and grabs my butt.” Afterwards, J.J. walked up to Greg and whispered, “Welcome to Star Wars.”

Roy had the best story about seeing Star Wars for the first time. He saw a rough cut in George Lucas’s editing room. It was two or three months before release, and the film had no special effects. World War II footage was in place of TIE fighters. When people fired ray guns, there were arrows, and James Earl Jones had not recorded his lines. “It was just David Prowse with a heavy Scottish accent and speaking through a helmet. I could not understand a single word he said.”

Timothy was asked many questions about Thrawn, and he revealed that the name is Scottish for “twisted”. He went in knowing that every word belonged to Lucasfilm once it was written, but he was never forced to include certain characters, places, or events. During the process, he submitted outlines and received notes, slowly melding his world with the existing Star Wars universe. He said it is “extremely cool” to see his creations, such as Thrawn and Coruscant, used in other works, but he has no input with how they are used and isn’t told when they are used; when they do appear, there’s no extra money, just bragging rights.

Timothy Zahn

When asked about Thrawn being canon again, he replied, “It is beyond awesome, it is wonderful, it is exciting. The only downside was that we found out Thrawn was going to be in Rebels eight months before it was announced, and we had to tap dance madly around questions for eight months.” He was required to keep things under wraps because Lucasfilm’s non-disclosure agreements are strong; he even joked that the company might take a kidney if he broke the NDA.

A fan asked the panel what their favorite thing about Star Wars was.

“My favorite thing is the family dynamic,” Greg said. “For me, it doesn’t matter what you’re watching as long as the characters are engaging and identifiable, and you want to spend time with them. This more than anything else has just gripped me like nothing else and so for me, that’s what I gravitate towards, and I think most people do. Who’s related to who? And of all that. Look at the world that they created and yet we’re asking such a simple question. The characters, how beautiful they’re portrayed and written and crafted.”

“I think what George really hit with me was the lived-in look of the universe. Everything is a little scruffy, worn down, comes apart, maybe goes back together, maybe it doesn’t go back together correctly. It was just a far cry from my earlier science fiction standard Star Trek where everything was right out of the box and nothing is right out of the box in Star Wars,” Timothy said.

Roy answered, “Star Wars made a different kind of movie possible that really hadn’t been possible before, which led very quickly to Superman, and the superhero movies starting in the last decade or two, to the Marvel movies, so I’m really happy to have that universe and that bunch of movies to go to and, since Marvel does pay residuals, making my old age a lot happier.”

Roy Thomas

On the topic of Roy’s time at Marvel, he discussed being a part of one of the first spin-off properties. In the beginning, he was frustrated because his ideas for doing a story with Luke and Leia, or Darth Vader, or the Clone Wars were off the table. His favorite characters are Han Solo and Chewbacca because they remind him of the old space opera characters and pulp stories he used to like, and, eventually, a Seven Samurai style story with them was approved. However, not all aspects of the story succeeded. “I became the first person to offend George,” Roy said. According to Roy, George Lucas did not like Jaxxon, the tall, Bugs Bunny looking guy in a space suit. “The word came down George did not like the rabbit, and he was to never appear again in the comics. They tried to use him once again in the comics later, but the word came down, ‘no.’”

Many were disappointed when Disney decided to wipe the majority of the extended universe aside. When Star Wars started to expand into other media, Roy asked George how the inevitable inconsistencies and plot holes were going to be dealt with. Even back then, George had a plan and told Roy, “My feeling is this – the movies are gospel, everything else is gossip.”

After the panel, I looked up Jaxxon, and he seems like a fun character and a lot more interesting than Jar Jar Binks. In honor of the piece of gossip created by Roy Thomas and Howard Chaykin, I’ll leave you with this so-called offensive image:


Highlight from Indy Pop Con 2017: Matt Ryan Panel

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The Indy Pop Con, July 7 – 9, hosted many different entertainment guests, including the star of Constantine, Matt Ryan. During his panel, he discussed early roles, working on a video game, and returning to Constantine.

When an actor starts their career, the parts available may not be stellar. The moderator started the panel with questions about Blood Monkey. From his reaction, we can tell he doesn’t consider the 2007 film to be quality cinema. Matt remembers he thought it would be an amazing experience because he would be working with Academy Award winner F. Murray Abraham (Amadeus), but the cast ended up running around a jungle in Thailand chasing a monkey that wasn’t there. “It’s probably not worth your time watching or downloading,” Matt said. “It’s about an hour and a half of your life you’ll never get back.”

You can watch a trailer of the film, featuring Matt with glorious long hair, hereCurrently, Blood Monkey is available on Amazon.

Matt Ryan at the 2017 Indy Pop Con

After more TV and film projects, Matt got the role of Edward Kenway in Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag. When he first auditioned, he was told the project was a TV show about pirates. Matt made it to the second round, and he was told the truth – this was a video game, and he would be expected to do the voice and full motion capture. In film and television, actors usually get full scripts, but that is rare in video games because the script can be hundreds of pages long, which was the case for Black Flag. Armed with portions of the script, Matt put his trust in the director and creative team. About the experience, Matt said, “Now it’s become this amazing medium which so many actors want to work in, but at the time the whole mo-cap industry wasn’t that big. But it’s great. It’s like doing theater and television at the same time because there’s cameras all around you, but, unlike television, you can’t stop doing a take; you have to do the take all the way through because of the way the cameras work. Now maybe this has changed because this was a few years ago, and I know they’ve gotten much better at it. But it’s a kind of weird hybrid in terms of technique of acting of between stage and screen. And to do something that I’ve never done before was a real challenge that I was really looking forward to.”

In 2014, Matt starred in NBC’s Constantine, a DC comics character. John Constantine, created by Alan Moore, first appeared in Swamp Thing #37 as a spiritual advisor. Over time, the magician has morphed into a hard-smoking con-man with an immense ego who is always on his own side. In 1998, Constantine starred in his own series, Hellblazer, which was rebooted as part of DC’s Rebirth event in 2016.

Matt had to jump through multiple hoops to land the part. During the audition process, he starred in a play in London, and with long hair and a beard, he didn’t look the part. Fortunately, after seeing over a hundred actors, the role was available. Matt hopped on a plane, a friend in LA got him a trim and a shave, and after more auditions, the role was his. To research the role, a friend told him to bypass the Keanu Reeves film and dive into Dangerous Habits, a story arc (issues 34-46 of Hellblazer) written by Garth Ennis with art by Will Simpson.

Matt Ryan as Constantine

The comics were a valuable resource during filming. Matt described carrying the comic with him; when he needed a reference, Constantine was there on the page, all the physical mannerisms and speech patterns. He read as much as he could, and he trusted the writers because they knew the characters very well. Matt said Constantine was a “dream role, such an iconic role.”

Unfortunately, NBC didn’t like Constantine as much as the fans did. Matt was disappointed the show got cancelled, but relieved the fans enjoyed his performance. For Matt, the love of the fans “has been the most amazing thing about this whole experience,” and the fans’ appreciation is why he returned to portraying Constantine on Arrow, Justice League Dark, and the upcoming CW Seed animated series.

Going back to Arrow was unexpected. Matt was starting a play at the time, so the producers rearranged the production schedule. They flew him in, dyed his hair, and flew him back to New York; in between takes, he learned the play. Matt admitted it took him time to find Constantine again and thought he walked like a duck during the scene where he held Oliver at gunpoint. Constantine appeared in the fifth episode of season four, “Haunted.”

Justice League Dark was released this year. The animated film has John working with Deadman, Zatanna, Swamp Thing, Jason Blood/Etrigan, and Batman to fight against a supernatural threat. Matt jumped at being the voice of Constantine, “It was great doing that movie because in the live-action television show, we didn’t get to interact with characters like Batman and Zatanna and Deadman and Swamp Thing and all these great characters. There are all these different relationships that John has with these characters so to explore that was brilliant.”

Justice League Dark

We got a clue about the upcoming CW Seed series when a fan asked him about speaking various languages on the show. Matt said about learning languages for the show, “That was probably one of the most difficult parts of it and one of the most time consuming as well in terms of learning your lines or the preparation you have to do to get the episode to the place where it’s ready to shoot.” He doesn’t remember any of the spells he learned for the show, but all the work prepared him for the new animated series, “I do a big voodoo spell in that. That was cool.”

Another fan asked Matt if he would be willing to voice Constantine if the character ever appeared in Injustice 2, a fighting game developed by NetherRealm Studios and published by Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment. The game, which is a sequel to Injustice: Gods Among Us (2013), is set in a dystopian timeline; multiple DC characters are in the game, but not John Constantine. Matt would be willing, saying Constantine can take on others by using spells. During his answer, Matt asked the audience, “Has Constantine ever interacted with the Joker?” The crowd couldn’t think of any such event. Matt went on, “That would be interesting, right? I mean, what would happen?  Constantine could just like bind him with a spell or something, but I don’t think he would; I think they’d probably get on a little bit in some weird way or they’d certainly have a laugh before John went, ‘No, sorry, out.’”

By the end of the panel, it is clear Matt Ryan has enjoyed playing Constantine multiple times and experiencing the different takes each creative team has brought to the character. “For me, I think, it’s just been such a pleasure and honor to play a character like John Constantine, and for all you guys to like me playing him, that’s the great thing, so if I have a chance to play him again, I would probably jump at it.”

And your fans hope you get that chance again.


Highlight from Indy Pop Con 2017: Cosplay Championships

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For three days, pop culture was celebrated during the Indy Pop Con (July 7-9) in Indianapolis, Indiana. On Saturday, several competed in the Cosplay Championships.

Here are some of my favorites.

Not one, not two, but three Hellboys!

 

Rita Repulsa and her Putties

 

Warrior Queen Tiana

 

Why so serious? The Joker from The Dark Knight

 

Big Sister from Bioshock 2

 

Chaos Space Marine from Warhammer 40,000 – The gun rotated!

 

Who runs Bartertown? Master Blaster!

 

Wonder Woman

 

Dark Magician Girl from Yu-Gi-Oh

 

Commander Shepard from Mass Effect – Yes, this was her favorite event on the Citadel.

 

This Warcraft cosplay is favorite solo cosplay.

 

Reinhardt and Mercy from Overwatch. Yes, every joke about Reinhardt was made. Mercy won the main prize.

 

Most entertaining group – The Ravagers from Guardians of the Galaxy. They won an award, which they fought over.

 

This team really looked like they stepped out of the movie.

 


Indy Pop Con Highlight: Michael Hogan

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Indy Pop Con celebrates different aspects of popular culture from movies and TV to comics and YouTube stars. During the con, I had the pleasure of meeting Michael Hogan and attending his panels. Michael Hogan is an accomplished actor, best known for his roles on Battlestar Galactica (Colonel Saul Tigh), Teen Wolf (Gerard Argent), and as the voice of Bailey from the Mass Effect video game series.

The first panel began with the moderator asking Michael about his early life and career. His father was a prospector, and he grew up in the bush in northern Ontario, Canada. He went to high school in North Bay, but he quit in twelfth grade and hitchhiked across the country for a couple of years. In 1967, he ended up in Toronto; at the end of the summer, he decided to go back to high school so he could get his degree and go to college. He went to a different high school than before. One day, while walking to class, an English teacher approached him and informed him that the drama club wanted him to be in a play. At first, he didn’t want to be in the play, but he enjoyed the experience enough to want to try acting with professionals at least once. He applied to the National Theater School in Canada and quickly forgot about it. He was working in a mine, planning to work and save for college, when he got the acceptance letter.

During his first year, he noticed “the prettiest girl in Canada,” who was in her third year. After she graduated, he ran away with her. Michael and Susan Hogan did a lot of regional theater together before his first movie. His first film role came about because they needed someone to fight Peter Fonda in High-Ballin’.

The conversation then moved to Battlestar Galactica. He almost didn’t audition because the role was for another military guy. He reconsidered, telling the audience, “Edward James Olmos is playing Adama; he doesn’t just do things; he does things for a reason. And Michael Rymer is directing it. My wife and I saw an independent film called Angel Baby a few years prior to Battlestar Galactica came on the scene, and we’re Canadian, so we do these kinds of character driven, low budget dramas.” The film, written and directed by Rymer, impressed the couple. These factors made him think that “there is something to this Battlestar Galactica.”

Michael Hogan at Indy Pop Con. Photo by Michelle Ealey.

Michael Hogan at Indy Pop Con. Photo by Michelle Ealey.

“I went and auditioned. Michael Rymer is the kind of director who loves the business, he loves actors, and he loves working with actors. So when you go into an audition room with someone like that, it is totally worth the experience.” They worked together for twenty minutes in the room. A couple of days later, he was called back, and Rymer wanted him to do something about his accent. “Is there no Canadians in space?” The audience laughed. Even though others got to keep their accents, he dropped his and got the part.

When asked if he knew about being one of the five, he said, “I had no idea. We knew that the final five were going to be revealed in a certain episode coming up and as it got closer to it, of course we were guessing and teasing each other on set. Someone told me they had been on the net looking at the likelihood of anybody on Battlestar Galactica from like day players to Adama, their likelihood of being a Cylon, and I was the second to the last.” As the reveal drew closer, Rymer asked if someone had spoken to him. Ron Moore eventually flew up to Canada and informed Michael that he was one of the five Cylons. “I vehemently disagreed. I thought it was cheap, and they did it for the sake of surprise, and I thought they were better than that. It’s foolish and cheap.”

Although he was against the revelation, the writing is what turned it around for him. “In the long run, look at what they wrote for Battlestar in [season two], look at what they wrote for Tigh in that season. I’m so proud of what we did down there on the planet with the resistance. So when the Cylon thing came up, you know, I’ll fight it, but I got to go with it. Not that I had any choice, really, but [Ron Moore] was dead right in both instances (the other being about Tigh’s wife). To choose Tigh, he was the most human of everybody alive. He is the most loyal. He is the most dangerous because he had been fighting the Cylons forever, a lot longer. And if he isn’t the oldest human being alive, literally, or close to it, so to choose him to be a Cylon. Wow. I agree, in the long run. And I’m honored.”

The moderator asked how he got into working on video games. “Getting into that is easy because they asked me to do it.” He drew on his past experience performing radio plays and book and poetry readings. “I have done a lot of voice work in that, so voice work for video games is the same thing, but it is different. It is more strenuous.” He is not a gamer; he held up his flip style cellphone and joked, “If you email me, phone me and tell me.”

Michael Hogan at Indy Pop Con. Photo by Michelle Ealey.

Michael Hogan at Indy Pop Con. Photo by Michelle Ealey.

The discussion moved to Teen Wolf. Michael came aboard the show during season two. The self-described journeyman actor was contacted by Jeff Davis, the creator of the show and fan of Battlestar Galatica, and offered the part of Gerard. “What a gift that was,” he said. He thinks the show “rocks,” and said being on the show was fun.

The panel ended with Michael Hogan recounting the first day of shooting on Battlestar Galactica. The first day of filming was the scene in the room with all of the coffins. Adama walks around and gives his speech. At the end of the scene, Adama returns to where he started the speech. It was Edward James Olmos who urged everyone to increase the emphasis of “So say we all” on each repetition. Afterwards, Michael realized that they “were in for a ride.”

And then he gave us a Battlestar sendoff:

Michael: So say we all.

Crowd: So say we all.

Michael (more emphasis): So say we all!

Crowd: So say we all!

Michael was not pleased. “ATTENTION! On your feet, maggots.”

We obeyed our Colonel and stood.

Michael: Gods damn it! So say we all!

After a better performance of the “So say we all” refrain, our Colonel yelled, “Dismissed!”

 

On the last day of the convention was his second panel, which was the panel for the Not Another Teen Wolf Podcast. The hosts interviewed Michael Hogan for episode #128. After the panel, I cautiously approached him, calling him “Mr. Hogan” of course, and told him that I’ve been to many conventions and attended several celebrity panels. I can tell which celebrities are just there to pay their rent, and I’ve been around some standoffish and rude celebrities. I told him that I appreciated how much he loves his fans and how much joy he has in sharing his stories with us.

He looked me in the eyes and told me how much he appreciated hearing that.

And then he hugged me.

Thank you, Mr. Hogan, for the best con experience I’ve ever had.