Saturday, November 1, 2008

Review: Armageddon Multimedia Expo Melbourne 2008

Back from Armageddon 2008 and it was a little disappointing compared to last year's event. Sure, I was heaps more excited than last year, even though 'Geddon 07 was my very first comics/pop culture Expo that I've ever gone to, and that's simply because I was going to get an opportunity to meet one of my favourite artists and perhaps even get a sketch and photo of him: Jim Lee!

But it didn't work out that way. Here's what happened during the day.

Reached the Expo at around 10am and there were already a LOT of people inside. Marcelo and I first went and checked out the area where they'd have the comic book celebrity signings and there was quite a long queue there already. Checked the guide timetable and the signings were only supposed to start at 10.30am. Decided to explore the rest of the Expo first before deciding or not later whether to queue up for Jim Lee's signatures and sketches.

We found out from the guide brochure that David Anders (from Heroes) and Michael Shanks (from Stargate SG1) were not able to make it to 'Geddon 08 due to work commitments and Marcelo noted that it was a blessing that Kim didn't go after all, because she would have been extremely disappointed since those were the two celebrities she wanted to see and take photos with!

There didn't seem to be as many things at 'Geddon 08 as compared to last year. A lot of the shops seemed a bit smaller too, though that could have been because there were a lot more people there and therefore, less space and standing room.

The usual comic shops were represented there, including Classic Comics, Alternate Worlds and even Evil Empire Comics, the shop that I purchased X-Men #1-30 from last week! But I didn't spend a lot of time at the comics booths since I didn't have much to buy. Spent some time browsing through the anime and manga wares at Madman Entertainment and Alternate Worlds, but once again, nothing to purchase either. Looked at the anime/manga products at the Tamarket booth and there was a Kon (from Bleach) and Pen-Pen (from Neon Genesis Evangelion) plush that I thought about purchasing but eventually decided against it.

Since I wasn't waiting in line for Jim Lee's signature and there didn't seem to be any TV celebrities for us to catch a glimpse of or take a photo of, we decided to go up to the Madman Entertainment panel room to watch the Madman anime screenings. They were showing episode one of the Code Geass anime, by the all-women illustration team of CLAMP, and then they showed episode two, even though it was 11am and it was supposed to be the Vexille anime movie.

Once Code Geass finished, they tried to show Vexille, but for some reason, they were getting a "region code error" message, which was really strange as I overheard that they had the Region 4 version of Vexille! Marcelo and I were wondering why they didn't actually test the animes in the morning at the very least, so that they wouldn't have these problems!

We decided to stay for a while in the hope that the problem would be resolved, but then another guy came in to "fix" the problem, only for the region code error to still be displayed. He told the other guys there that it'd take him another 15 minutes to find a laptop so that the movie could be shown, but then realised that he also needed the correct jacks and other input AV equipment, at which point Marcelo and I decided to leave since it could possibly take up to 30 minutes, maybe even longer for them to set up everything before showing Vexille! Such a waste...Marcelo was looking forward to watching it because it was a sci-fi anime by the visual effects director of the Appleseed anime, which he had the DVD of.

The one thing that 'Geddon 08 had that last year's Expo didn't was there were a LOT of cosplayers around. And this isn't even including all those dressed up in Stormtroopers and other various Star Wars uniforms! There were a lot of people dressed up from the Naruto and Bleach animes, and then there were various Batman rogues gallery cosplayers.

Didn't take any pictures, but we saw people dressed up as:

Sasuke (from Naruto)
Indiana Jones
The Joker (two of them and both the Heath Ledger version from The Dark Knight)
Harley Quinn
Poison Ivy
Izuru Kira (the 3rd Division lieutenant from Bleach)
Madame Mirage (comic book character/series by Paul Dini)
Various Akatsuki ninjas (from Naruto: Shippuden)

There were a number of games booths too, showcasing games such as Tenchu 4, WWE: Smackdown vs Raw 2009, TNA Impact, the new Naruto game on Xbox360 and Gears of War 2. Marcelo had a go on the Naruto game as well as Gears of War 2 while I had a go on SvR2009 and had my butt handed to me...haven't played a SvR game on the PS2 (or in this case, PS3) since the original SvR, which was years ago! We also went to the Red Ant booth and tried out the TNA Impact game and it was funny playing that because we both had no idea what we were doing!

It was at the Red Ant booth that we saw TNA (Total Non-stop Action) women wrestlers Christy Hemme and Traci Brooks as well as ex-WWE/ECW star The Sandman.

Christy Hemme and Traci Brooks from Total Non-stop Action Wrestling
Marcelo made a funny comment about how it was possible for them to wrestle because of what was in front of them (work that one out by yourselves)! Told him that Christy Hemme had posed for Playboy which further cemented his curiousity about how they could actually wrestle.
I was actually considering purchasing the Nintendo Wii TNA Impact game since it was pretty cheap at $50 (compared to the regular sale price of $79.95) and getting both Christy Hemme and Traci Brooks to sign the cover for me....until I realised that autographs were $25 each!!!!!
Needless to say, I changed my mind immediately. I suppose that $25 would have entitled me to take a photograph with them as well...but hey, that wasn't a real necessity anyway!

The Sandman

Watched the Sandman wrestle some other Australian wrestler...of course you knew he was always going to win! He got out his Singapore cane and even butted heads with the referee...all probably scripted of course.

We then walked to Crown Casino and had lunch at KFC before coming back to the Expo.

Went back to the booths where Jim Lee and the other Wildstorm artists were signing comics and doing sketches only to find that the queue was still pretty long...and one of the ladies that had been waiting in queue since we got there was almost to the front of the line...but hadn't reached there yet! It had been nearly three hours since she had been waiting in line...and she still wasn't at the front of the line yet!
Was pretty disappointed and decided that it was probably a better idea not to wait in line anymore. Jim was doing a Q&A panel later which meant an even longer wait...if I had been in queue, who knows how long it would take before I would actually get to the front of the queue! So I decided it probably would be better to leave the Expo, but first, took a few photos of Jim sketching:

As Marcelo and I were leaving, I suggested that we go up to the Madman Entertainment panel room one more time to see what they were showing, just so we could make the most of our time (and money) at 'Geddon 08. They had an interview/Q&A panel with someone and weren't showing any anime, so we turned around and proceeded to leave.

Just as we were reaching the staircase though, all of a sudden, I saw Jim Lee come up the stairs and walk into the room where the Main Stage was, presumably for his own Q&A panel. Dragged Marcelo in with me...and what a relief that we did attend that panel!

That was the absolutely best part of 'Geddon 08 for both Marcelo and me. And to think that we nearly missed attending this panel too! Jim was running late since the panel started at nearly 1.30pm and he started off by apologising to everyone who had been waiting there, explaining that he was signing and doing sketches downstairs which led to the delay. What a nice man!

Jim fielded questions from the floor, some of which were very ordinary while some were really good questions. The very first question Jim was asked was: what his favourite character to draw was. Jim's answer had everyone laughing: he said that it was hard to think of a character off the top of his head after just spending the last few hours doing about 40 sketches, including about 10 Batman sketches in a row.

One could tell that Jim Lee was cool, calm and collected, but also was very genuine and warm. You could tell that he cared about the fans and he was just a down-to-earth person who loved the comic book business, despite initially wanting to be a doctor. Jim talked about his very first comic book work, Alpha Flight #51 and his time at Marvel Comics, including launching X-Men #1 in 1991 which was a dream because Uncanny X-Men was his favourite comic book.

He also discussed things like working with Frank Miller and what an experience that was for him. It was pretty funny, because Jim said that in interviews that was conducted before he started on his All-Star Batman and Robin duties, he actually said how great it would be to pencil a Batman title that was accessible to people of all ages, which brought out laughter from all those there who were comic fans who had actually READ the title...not many laughs mind you!

Jim was sheepish that All Star Batman was...controversial to say the least. He had no problems joking about Batman swearing and setting villains on fire, shooting villains and then having sex with Black Canary on the wharf. Throughout the interview, Jim was polite, friendly, and definitely not above poking fun at himself.

He also talked about his hyper-realistic pencilling style and said how he felt personally that he needed to cram in as much detail into a panel as possible, whereas a simpler more in-your-face style would have more of an impact. He was certainly willing to criticise his own technique and skills and went so far as to say that he's thinking of drawing in a less detailed, simpler and sleeker style...but that would just not be him.

Jim recalled his Image days and recalled how back in the days, the six Image founders thought nothing could stop them and sheepishly admitted how young and immature they were back then. He also recounted how "unprofessional" they were at one of the Comic Cons, when they were meeting with one of their publishers, Rob Liefeld was jumping up and down on a bed and Todd McFarlane was walking around shirtless while Jim had his two-month old baby there.

He also recalled how he feared for his life at a comic book store signings when fans mobbed him in person and he thought he was going to get squished to death...and in Jim's own words: "squished to death with love". At another comic book store signing in New York, when fans realised he was in a car, they literally went up to the car and started rocking it back and forth! Jim also joked about how he met Demi Moore back in the days before she was dating Ashton Kutcher and said that maybe he had a chance with her back then. He then jokes that it probably wouldn't have worked out anyway because Demi was still married to Bruce Willis then!

Jim said that he'd love to work with Neil Gaiman, Geoff Johns and also Jeph Loeb again, even though Jeph was now with Marvel. He said among his influences were Frank Miller, George Perez and Art Adams. Someone even asked if Jim would love to go back to Marvel to draw the Avengers, to which Jim said that he would love to if he had the opportunity, even though going back to Marvel was not something he had plans to do.

He then said that it was strange that Earth's Mightiest Heroes were now outselling the X-men comics and joked that perhaps he should go back to X-Men to change that scenario!

I even got to ask him a question and I was stoked that I had the opportunity to do so. I asked:

"Is there a character or series you have never drawn before that you'd like to draw on a regular basis?"

Jim then laughed and said that he had a number of books he'd love to work on, but that in order to do so, all the books would be ship late, which drew more laughter from the audience. Jim did seriously note that he would love to work on (in order of his response) Legion of Superheroes, Wonder Woman, Justice League of America and Suicide Squad. Hmmm...all DC titles.

The Q&A panel with Jim Lee lasted about 40 minutes and Jim noted that it was unlikely that he would be doing any more sketches for the rest of the day and if anyone was waiting for sketches, to come back on Sunday morning. Thank goodness we attend that panel then, because if Marcelo and I had been waiting in line, I would only have had my comics signed and wouldn't have been able to get a Jim Lee sketch!

I was considering perhaps returning on Sunday morning to get Jim Lee to sign my comics and do a few sketches for me, but eventually decided against it. It was likely, because Jim wasn't going to do any more sketches for the rest of the day, those people who had missed out would be queuing up very early on Sunday morning...which meant I had to do the same and the signings only started at 10.30am! So it would have been an extremely long wait and who knows...could have ended up like that lady who had been waiting in line for a long long time.

Although I did not get a Jim Lee sketch or any comics or anime/manga related merchandise, I did get myself a pretty cute Captain America plush toy from the Popcultcha booth:

It did start out a bit disappointing, especially the crazy queues where Jim Lee and the other comic creators were, but it ended up being a pretty good experience with the Jim Lee panel being the highlight of 'Geddon 08 for me. Just wish I had an opportunity to get some signatures and sketches! Maybe next time...


Anonymous said...

Forgot the winner of the cosplay contest?
Master chief.

Blankie said...

I wasn't actually there on the Sunday to see who the winner of the cosplay contest was. But if it's the same Master Chief who was there on the Saturday, it's a well deserving winner as that costume was AWESOME!