Looking Into the Eyes of a Moonwalker

  
  

The clouds parted, the sun came out and the geek gods declared: “Let there be FanX!” And, so began my first day back at Salt Lake Comic Con. That said, there was a bit of a nip in the air Thursday, as we took the Frontrunner up to SLC–I was glad of my coat. 

Upon arriving, the line outside was scraggly, and for press registration, non-existant; my colleague and friend, Jeremiah Stewart and I, walked right up to the check-in desk. 

Once we received our RFID wristbands and programs, and tapped-in, we began to do some recon of the layout. I spotted the Founder/Producer of SLCC, Dan Farr, chatting with a group of folks in the hall; catching my eye, he gave me a smile and a wave, continuing his conversation; his message, however, was clear: “Welcome. Good to see you.” For a smallfry, freelance writer–who’s in way over his head, that small gesture was HUGE; I felt like I was home. It set the tone for the rest of the con. But, then…that’s how these guys make all of us feel, when we’re here–especially FanXperience! Because, they’re geeks, too!! You’ve seen their posts; they love this stuff!

The opening press conference was held in the Grand Ballroom of the Salt Palace Convention Center, kicking-off this more-intimate, fan-focused con (ticket sales are capped at 50,000 per day; giving it a more even-ratio of fans to guests). Returning SLCC fan fave Rob Prior began working on the clown (above) and we got going. Despite the very subdued air of this usually loud, adrenaline-amping, ‘ARE YOU READY FOR COMIC CON?!’ pep rally–I wasn’t the only one who expressed this view–this con was the best one, so far. 

That huge ballroom seemed cavernously-empty, though (as compared to previous events), with only the press and guest celebrities inattendence; and I didn’t see as many cosplayers, either, as we’ve seen in the past. In fact, Bryan Brandenburg was finding it difficult to get any excitement out of the press corps. “Is that really all you’ve got?” he asked, after a couple of lackluster cheers.

If there was a pall at the press conference, it might’ve had a bit to do with the passing of Roxanne Hasegawa from breast cancer, earlier this year. Indeed, Dan Farr and Bryan Brandenburg (the rockstars behind SLCC) dedicated [this] FanX to Rox: “She was one of us – a real geek and lover of pop-culture. Her endless love and enthusiasm for Salt Lake Comic Con cannot be replaced.” The former ‘Good Things Utah’ producer was represented by her family at the event and two of her personal charities of choice were accepting donations throughout the con, in her honor: Make-A-Wish Foundation of Utah and Firemen and Friends for Kids

   
 

The mood lifted considerably when the original ‘moonwalker,’ Dr. Buzz Aldrin took the stage; where he was presented with a beautiful portrait made out of LEGOS. This was a real treat, for me; and as I came ip in front of the stage to take his picture, he looked right down at me and gave me a big smile. I mouthed a ‘Thank you’ and waved; which he returned. Holy brain spasm! Talk about your ‘Bucket List’ add-on! Ultimate FanXperience Level: Unlocked! That was an honest-to-goodness fanboy moment, for this Florida country boy who’d been able to watch Space Shuttles launch from a tree in his frontyard. Soon-to-follow Buzz, were Peter Davison, Sylvester McCoy, Mitch Pileggi, William B Davis, Erica Carroll, Ms. US Ambassador, and more. We got our chance to meet-and-greet the guests, then Jer and I were off. 

   

Now, this is when I get excited! Not because of the celebrities–although, if I happen to come across one, I’ll say hello and shake hands–but, I’m here for Artist Alley and the dealer tables; I’m here to see authors and creators; I want to talk to people and guage their reactions to what they’re seeing, what they’re thinking, how they’re feeling about the con(s); being in retail/customer service most of my working-life, I’m naturally curious about whether the artists, writers, vendors are making a profit and if their traffic-numbers are good or poor, are the fans treating them fairly and respectfully; and vise-versa – are the fans being treated fairly, are they experiencing difficulties or having issues with staff. The most-recurring complaints I heard during this 3-day-run were 1) the wifi service was really lousy–I agree; as I experienced the difficulties, myself, 2) the positioning of KIDCON was causing congestion and feelings of claustrophobia around the photo op queue and sales areas and 3) confusion about lines in Celebrity Row and Celebrity Photo Ops. 

The past issues with lines and wait times have eased-up considerably with early registration, writsbands, more entrances into the venue, and the continuance of recruiting nearly a thousand volunteers, to keep things running smoothly. During my time there, I heard of no major occurrances or incidents taking place. The FanX apps are continuing to see upgrades after each event, as well; it’s so much easier to find things on it–unless, there’s no wifi or signal… Other than that, everything seems to streamlined and geared towards a more-efficient traversing of the venue.

  

FanX16 had some really cool things to offer, to just about everyone: The Walking Dead Experience, SLCC Bash, Dead 7, Doctor Who Ultimate FanXperience, Twisted Toonz, Cosplayers and Contests, Gaming; not-to-mention the SOLD OUT screening of Batman v Superman. I have it on good authority that Dean ‘Superman’ Cain was there, and he wowed the Fans! I know a certain ‘Catwoman’ who was particularly smitten by the Super-Stud, when he gave her a hug and kiss on the cheek! If you wanted authors, there were 28 of them doing official signings (there 56 different signings scheduled, as well as a few who were working their booths, such as NYTBS Kevin J. Anderson, Robecca Moesta, Larry Correia. 

As far as Artist Alley goes, some fans (myself included) found the layout a bit confusing; saying, it makes it especially difficult to find booth numbers, and in some cases colors of the booths, if booths are covered with cloths and merchandise that is brought in by the creators, themselves. Fans would like to see some kind of directions/markers at eye-level, or above; so as not to be constantly looking down at the floor; large name placards/signs would help, too. 

On a brighter note, numerous guests in the Alley expressed great satisfaction with the con overall. FanX16 program cover artist Adriana Melo (who was attending for the first time) was very pleased with her Xperience here. “It’s so beautiful,” she told me. “Everyone has been so friendly.” On Saturday, she seemed quite satisfied with the amount of traffic and sales she’d received during the course of the con; (I, was quite pleased to be the owner of one of her exceptional Star Wars personalized-prints). Like everyone else, though, lack of adequate bandwidth was her Achilles heel. 

(On a side note: there were issues with wifi throughout the con; from the beginning, to the conclusion. Adriana and I were faced with an issue of trust, before the floor even opened. I had no cash, her credit card app wasn’t loading and–in running our mouths–she’d already signed my print, to me. Taking the high ground–like a BOSS!–Adriana allowed me to take it home; me – vowing upon my name, and my reputation as a spokesperson of integrity for the con, that I would return the next day. I did; and, I think a friendship was born… Adriana is a class act.) 

SLCC and FanX favorite Bill Galvan  (whom-was gracious enough to give me an interview for Bombad Radio) expressed his love for these cons, as well; being a local artist, Bill knows a lot of the local fans and he likes meeting new ones. Indeed, finally getting to meet one-another,at this con; having prior dealings only on social-media channels. But, all of the guests and vendors were as accommodating with their time; plus – I experienced exceptional customer-service at the MTC Toys booth; returning a defective shirt and winding up with something better, in exchange! 

 

I know… You want to hear about the stars – amirite? Well, they were here, alright! In addition to the aforementioned celebrities at the pc, FanX brought in Levar Burton, Gillian Anderson, Kate Beckinsale, Matt Smith, Alex Kingston, Summer Glau, George Takei, Jeremy Renner (a real standup guy, by the way), Michael Traynor, and a slew more! I was fortunate enough to meet Gary Lockwood–a childhood staple on some of my favorite television shows in the 70’s & 80’s; his table was empty when I happened-up on him; so I stopped and shook ‘Lt. Gary Mitchell”s hand. I was glad to make his acquaintance.

Panels… Unfortunately, my time was limited and I only attended a couple; but they were entertaining, the panelists were funny and the audiences were engaged in the discussions–some terrific questions, too. The program boasted 350 panelists, contributing to 230 hours of scheduled programs throughout. I believe it. 

 

Young or old; short or tall; whether you be brown, purple, blue, teal, red, silver or multi tone; feathered, furred, scaled or covered with tinfoil; or just posing as a Salt Lake Comic Con ‘Superfan,’ there was something fun for everyone in the galaxy. Just watchimg cosplayers for 3 days would have been incredible, to me; there were some epics! 

 

As I said today on my Facebook page: the love and commitment that Dan Farr, Bryan Brandenburg and the entire Salt Lake Comic Con team have for bringing the ‘Greatest Comic Con in the World’–not once, but TWICE a year–to SLC is second to none. They’re not just talking-the-talk; they’re walking-the-walk. When they say, “WE WILL ROCK YOU!” – they damn-well mean it! 

They plan to kickoff Salt Lake Comic Con 2015, September 1-3. As always, the environment is superfriendly for kids–did I mention KIDCON?! When it all comes down to it, that’s who comic cons are for: the inner kid iside all of us. I agree with Bill Galvan, that interest in comic books has never been higher [because of movies like the Avengers and Batman v Superman; and superhero TV shows like GOTHAM, DareDevil, Supergirl and Flash] and if we can just boost the signal, we’ll keep our characters going for the next generation, and beyond. Now…where’s that set of transdimensional, subspace-fluxing rabbit ears I had..?

 
‘Til, next time, see ya ‘out there…’ 

Lt. Eric Cone 

  

Star Trek: New Frontier – The Returned (Part I)

 Star Trek: New Frontier – The Returned (Part I)

Written by: Peter David

Cover Art: Doug Drexler

Published by: Pocket Books (Simon and Schuster)  **eBook format only**

Release Date: July 6, 2015 

 

Lieutenant’s Log: Set three months after the events in Blind Man’s Bluff, Captain Mackenzie Calhoun is lost, seeking out any survivors of his species (the Xenexians), after they were annihilated by the D’myurj; while facing his own inner-demons and some tough choices as to how to move forward. 

Meanwhile, Admiral Shelby tries to bring her husband back from the brink, Soleta lies in a coma on Bravo Station, Burgoyne 172 commands the Excalibur and Robin Lefler continues to exile herself, and Cwansi, away from New Thallon. 

Embarking on a perilous, if-not questionable, mission to destroy the D’myurj, Calhoun and crew must tread carefully; encountering friends, foes, and an alien race that may be the greatest threat the Federation has ever faced.

My Take: Peter David is back! What a terrific opening, too, for this 3-part eBook series; (and, be advised – the future of the New Frontier saga is, quite-literally, in our hands). If you’re  a fan of the NF series, or – if you’re just now picking it up, I beg you to buy these eBooks – the fate of Captain Calhoun rests with you! If you are just discovering New Frontier, I invite you to checkout my blog about the creation of the series; I interviewed John Ordover and Paula M. Block, in regards to their involvement, as well as included my brief interview with Peter David, at 2014’s Salt Lake Comic Con’s FanX.

Taking my cue from the legendary David Gerrold, there are three questions a reviewer should answer…

1) What was the author trying to do? In this case, the title speaks for itself: Peter David has returned, breathing new life into the New Frontier series that has lain dormant since 2011’s Blind Man’s Bluff. In The Returned Part I, Peter David does an admirable job of bringing Captain Mackenzie Calhoun and the Excalibur crew back to his fans, and – in a big way, for the stakes have never been higher. For me, this novella is one of the best in the New Frontier series, thus far. My personal favorite, however, remains to be 2000’s Restoration, and aspects of that novel are revisited, here, as well. Without giving too much away, it seems Moke has had a Thor spot, regarding his feelings for Mac…

2) How well did the author do? In my opinion, PAD is absolutely brilliant! The pacing of the story had me plowing through it (I’m currently re- reading it), and I found myself both – surprised, and – laughing out loud; especially, during a few scenes with Soleta, (as well as, during some scenes with a returning favorite from NF’s earlier days…) There is no shortage of David’s brand of humor, or – of the plot twists and 180° turns that Peter David is famous for in his writing style. Just when you think you’ve got it nailed, turn the page… 

3) Was it worth doing in the first place? Damn-right, it was! Grozit! We were left hanging at the end of Blind Man’s Bluff (over four years ago), and the fans have been anxiously (albeit-patiently, considering the circumstances…) awaiting The Returned‘s resolution to those events; as well as, the return of Peter David, himself, into the Star Trek fold! I must say, I’m delighted to see both! My one complaint would be that Peter David gave readers no kind of reminder in regards to Morgan Primus, or her fate, all those years ago – I had to Google it, because it was driving me crazy trying to remember back that far! 

That said, I cannot wait for The Returned Part II on August 3rd, to see how Peter David carries this story forward – I refuse to say end, dammit! New Frontier has been my favorite series (behind Deep Space Nine, that is), since it debuted in 1998, and I’m looking forward to seeing New Frontier go on to its 20-year anniversary – including a hardcover!!  Which means, YOU need to order these eBooks – even if you can’t stand the digital format. It’s all about numbers, here, folks! It’s all about Peter David. It’s all about paying it forward…

Now, before I wrap this up, I have some information about this novella’s cover. Everyone (myself, included) has been curious as to why there’s an Ambassador class U.S.S. Excalibur represented, as opposed to the Galaxy class, Calhoun now commands. So, I asked Star Trek icon Doug Drexler about it. ‘That was at the request of Pocket Books. No synopses or beat sheet from them on that one. Just the request for that particular ship.’ Indeed, Mr. Drexler said he would have caught the mistake if he’d been provided with a complete synopsis. As it was: ‘They actually sent me a rough sketch for it, including the background. I had very little to do but place the model and light it.’ I’ve sent a similar query to Alan Dingman, but he has yet to respond. I will keep digging, though…

My Amazon Rating: 🖖🖖🖖🖖🖖 BUY THESE BOOKS! 

‘Til, next time, see ya ‘out there…’ 

Lt. Eric Cone 

Star Trek: The Tholian Web (1 of 2)

 Star Trek: The Tholian Web #46 (Part 1 of 2)

Publisher: IDW Publishing

Writer: Mike Johnson

Artist: Rachael Stott

Colorist: Davide Mastrolonardo

Letterer: Neil Uyetake

Editor: Sarah Gaydos Story Consultant: Roberto Orci

Cover: Joe Corroney and Brian Miller

Release Date: June 17, 2015 

Lieutenant’s Log: The U.S.S. Enterprise is heading home from the Delta Quadrant; having repaired the ship and replaced the dilithium crystals that they picked up from the Dark Market in ‘Eurydice’s’ conclusion, last month. 

Already behind schedule with their mission of exploration, Captain Kirk is anxious to pickup where they left off. However, as the ship nears the Alpha Quadrant, it inexplicably drops out of warp, and the crew begin to act strangely…

The Story: Mike Johnson returns us to ‘episodic’ territory, while giving this version of ‘The Tholian Web’ enough tweaks to make it into something new. Here, Kirk isn’t lost to interphasic space, there’s no mention of the U.S.S. Defiant (as in TOS) and the Tholians, themselves, aren’t seen until the end of the issue – their ships, that is. While the story did keep me reading, I wasn’t wowed, by it. 

There were some good aspects to Mike Johnson’s retelling, though. I liked that McCoy was back – and, as fiesty as ever – giving us the ‘feel’ of that iconic triad we love so. However, I wasn’t impressed by Bones’s ‘out of character’ (to me) response to the situation, that the crew find themselves in. He would be the last one to leave the crew without its CMO, and in such dire straits. And, trust me, this crew needs its doctor in this story.

Another thing that was a plus, for me, was that we get to see the Enterprise do that one thing, that we never got to see it do in an episode. That alone, makes this issue worthwhile and I’m glad to see Johnson include it here. It makes the cliffhanger all the more compelling. 

The Art: It was hit-and-miss. Rachael Stott and Davide Mastrolonardo have some great panels throughout, and-yet…I wasn’t awed by the likenesses of the crew. In her previous work on ‘The Primate Directive,’ I was left slack-jawed, at times. That isn’t the case, here. But, that’s not to say the work isn’t good, either; I just wasn’t as wowed, as I expected to be. If I had to give it a grade, I’d give it a B+.

As for this issue’s cover, Joe Corroney and Brian Miller have done a great job. Lots of good character likenesses for Kirk, Chekov and Scotty, and lots of detail and vibrant color, as we’ve come to expect. It’s a cover I’ll hang on my wall. That said: Why are we seeing Chekov in the red shirt and goggles from Into Darkness? It’s my hope, that one day we might go back to the covers having some relevance to the story being told within.

Does anyone else remember those days? For examples: DC’s ‘The Final Mission’ had all of the crew disembarking from the Enterprise, or Marvel/Paramount’s ‘The Early Voyages’ #1 represented everything that was terrific about Captain Pike’s 5-year mission. How is it, that we’ve come to having these covers being done months before the story is even written? It’s frustrating to the readers, as well as to the artists, themselves. Rant over.

My Take: I went ahead and gave ‘The Tholian Web’ four stars, because the story kept me reading and left me just curious enough to see its conclusion. And, while the crew acted a bit predictively, there were some good moments with Kirk, Bones, Scotty and Sulu. Plus, I’m anxious to see if the Tholians show their faces in the next issue. The art isn’t spectacular, but it gets a passing grade; especially for the exterior shots of Enterprise near the end. But, YOU be the judge, eh…

‘Til, next time, see ya ‘out there…’ 

Lt. Eric Cone