As part of Geeking for Everyone’s coverage of Denver Comic Con 2017, blogger Jody Money provided his thoughts and experiences for each day of the event. To see our full spread of cosplay photos and artist interviews, please click here to check out our Facebook page.
While DCC 2017 slated many of its signature guest panels for Saturday and Sunday, it still managed to host an impressive Friday lineup. Stars of the animated world, including Kevin Conroy of DC/Warner Brothers as well as Cary Means and Dana Snyder of Aqua Teen Hunger Force, sat for interviews before hundreds of devoted fans. Perhaps the highest profile, though, belonged to “Weird Al” Yankovic. Returning to the Denver area for the first time since his 2016 Littleton concert, Yankovic delighted the crowd with recollections that went well beyond his four-decade career.
The weird journey of Alfred Yankovic began, almost fittingly, with a happenstance pitch from a door-to-door salesman. His mother bought him lessons on the accordion when he was just 7 years old. A future in the art of parody seemed almost pre-ordained, in hindsight.
“With the accordion, people don’t tend to take you seriously,” Yankovic joked. “Nobody in my friends’ rock bands wanted me in.”
Lynwood, California’s musical outcast would find refuge, though, in the Doctor Demento radio show. Recording his first songs on cassette and sending them through the mail, Yankovic began to cultivate a following among audiences of the syndicated broadcast. By 1979, at the age of 20, he held the number one spot on Demento’s Funny Five countdown with “My Bologna.” Just four years later, his debut album – “Weird Al” Yankovic – would score in Billboard’s Top 200. At the time, Yankovic still held a day-job working as a mailroom clerk.
“I decided it was time to put in my two-week notice,” he remembered.
Now, having completed his Scotti Brothers recording contract and won his second Grammy for Best Comedy Album (Mandatory Fun), Yankovic is looking to change direction. With the easy and immediate distribution offered through online media, he no longer wishes to compose new albums. A long-time frustration with the recording process has been that if he had particularly timely songs, those creations were effectively held hostage to the release of a full album. Now, Yankovic can disseminate his work directly and immediately as it comes to him. He also mentioned a desire to return to other forms of media.
“I’d very much like to do another film,” Yankovic noted.
2019 will not only be the forty-year anniversary for My Bologna, it will be the 30th birthday for his cult classic, UHF. While that goal may still be in the deliberation stage, fans can look forward to the November release of a 15-album compilation tying his incredible run in musical comedy together.
Along with the celebrities who held court at the BellCo Theater Hall, DCC also provided opportunities for attendees to organize their own programming. Somewhat surprisingly, the most entertaining fan panel from Friday wound up being a debate over the 2009 film, The Watchmen. Six members of the Regis University Debate Team split into two factions. Each side argued over a resolution pronouncing that Ozymandias, the mastermind who framed Doctor Manhattan for the murder of millions, was a hero for his actions. All of the panelists were given time for their own speeches, during which the others could interrupt only if the speaker recognized them. The audience was also encouraged to applaud any point they found compelling. Remarkably, the entire exchange remained respectful. As one team lauded the results of Ozymandias’ plot – a peace accord between the world’s nuclear superpowers – the other countered with the fact that it was based on a documented lie (by Rorschach) and that seizing the power to decide which lives can be sacrificed is inherently un-heroic. Considering our current politics, creating such a spirited yet civil debate may have been its own minor miracle.
Other prominent panels were well-timed for the June smash of the superhero world, Wonder Woman. One morning session featured a panel of female directors, producers and writers talking about gender issues in film-making. During the afternoon, another group of Metropolitan State University students put on a specific program recapping the history of Wonder Woman’s portrayals in all forms of media. That discussion naturally culminated in her recent depictions in both the DC live-action and animated universes. Just as Patty Jenkins’ $700 million-plus blockbuster has brought audiences out in droves, so too did the character’s fan panel fill up its convention hall.
With just a month-and-a-half until Marvel’s release of The Defenders on Netflix, the BellCo Theater buzz on Saturday swarmed around the dual-panel of Mike Colter and Finn Jones. Right from the start, the pair respectively playing Luke Cage and Iron Fist began setting expectations for those eagerly awaiting the series to drop on August 18. The change they emphasized immediately was the tone.
“We know that this one is a ‘summer’ show,” Colter said. “It’s a popcorn thing.”
While the previous season’s have been more emotionally heavy, exploring the heroes that comprise the Defenders team, the upcoming 8-episode run will concentrate more on action and the challenges they jointly face.
“It was a madhouse,” Jones added, describing the combination of all the fighting styles and choreography of each of the characters.
Jones’ workload for the team-up could be seen as equally frenetic. After finishing his work on the introductory season of Iron Fist, he immediately switched into his preparation for The Defenders without any break. But when Colter attempted to chime in with his own sacrifices – particularly involving his supposed abstention from desserts – the panel suddenly derailed to everyone’s delight.
“That’s not true!” Jones declared mischievously in response to Colter’s assertion that he hadn’t “seen a dessert in years.” From there, Jones took every opportunity to bust through the hyper-masculine image of the actor playing Marvel’s Power-Man. The younger Brit even revealed that they had come up with Drag Queen alter-egos of their characters: Luke Cahg (rhymes with Lodge) and Glitter Fist. Colter, though, gave as good as he got. When Jones recounted a fantastical story about being with a friend and seeing a pair of dolphins swimming off the California coast just before the call to be Danny Rand, Colter had none of it.
“He just doesn’t want to sound pitiful,” Colter joked, alleging that Jones had just seen fish, at some point that week, and there were no friends along with him.
After they were done teasing each other, Colter even began ribbing fans for their habit of binge-watching the Marvel-Netflix franchises.
“Can you just savor a bite?” Colter teased. “You’re gluttons! You eat and you eat and you eat. Shame on you!”
Before closing up their wildly entertaining interview, each provided some clues about what could be next for their characters beyond The Defenders. Jones, while stating that he hadn’t drawn much on comics for his portrayal thus far, praised the most recent run of Iron Fist by Kaare Andrews, who draws an older version of Danny. Jones saw that version as an inspiration for how his character could mature over time. Colter, meanwhile, chose to underscore some of the consistent parts of Luke Cage. They’re facets he shares with his Defenders teammates.
“We don’t want to be superheroes, we want to live our lives,” Colter said. “But if you push a Defender, they’ll come out fighting.”
Though Colter had to be careful about what else he could reveal for Season 2 of Luke Cage, he did preview one of series’ most magnetic qualities, the music.
“You’ll be jamming to this one, too” he said.
If Saturday was Marvel’s spotlight, then Sunday turned attention over to the distinguished competition of DC Comics. The main cast of the Justice League animated series reunited on the Night Lynx Stage of the Colorado Convention Center. Minus only Carl Lumbly (Martian Manhunter) – Kevin Conroy (Batman), Susan Eisenberg (Wonder Woman), George Newbern (Superman), Phil Lamarr (Green Lantern), Maria Canals-Barrera (Hawkgirl) and Michael Rosenbaum (Flash) assembled with series Director Andrea Romano to perform a table-read of the Season 2 finale, “Star-Crossed.”
Adding a little ham to the performance, Conroy ignited the crowd at one point by breaking briefly into Billie Holliday’s “Am I Blue?” Even his fellow cast members were wonderfully shocked.
“You said you wouldn’t!” Rosenbaum exclaimed.
Phil Lamarr had his own fun with the crowd, crossing the stage to share couch cushions with Canals-Barrera. As Hawkgirl, she was the on-screen love interest of Green Lantern John Stewart. And when their characters broke up over the reveal of Hawkgirl’s spying for an invading army, Lamarr stormed back to his original seat.
In the few minutes left after the episode’s end, one loyal follower from Ireland asked a hilarity-inducing question. If the cast-members could perform their parts in the accent of their choice, which would they prefer? The crew of voice actors could barely suppress their glee.
Conroy, in his Cockney best, kicked off the contest with the declaration, “Oy Am Batman!” Newbern proudly followed by asserting that he stood “for Truth, Justice and the American Way” in speech that was straight out of New Delhi. Returning to Britannia, Canals-Berrera offered a Scottish take on her Thanagarian hero. The “Hawkgirl of the Highlands” floored the Justice League director.
“Years, I have worked with her, and never knew she had that accent!” Romano said.
Rosenbaum got big laughs with a deeply Carolina-inspired Wally West. Eisenberg’s Wonder Woman became distinctly Brooklyn, and Phil Lamarr brought the crowd to a crescendo with a Caribbean-flavored Green Lantern oath.
Before parting ways, the entire cast led chants of “Bring Us Back!” The audience joined in enthusiastically. Eisenberg closed the affair with a playful but important point.
“If it worked for Young Justice? ” she said.
If more fans pick up the refrain, perhaps Warner Brothers will begin to take notice.
All together, Denver Comic Con 2017 closed out as another smash success. Managing entry lines became a bit more challenging this year, as DCC access points were realigned to accommodate other convention business. Areas for eating and rest became more dispersed, as food court space felt more limited. Those frustrations aside, though, both the celebrity and fan programming of Denver Comic Con excited everyone. Early attendance estimates appear to at least match last year’s record total of around 115,000. And there’s no discernable sign or cause for the anticipation of DCC 2018 to be any less.
Submitted by Jody Money