Our Comprehensive Recap of Silicon Valley Comic Con 2018
Silicon Valley Comic Con 2018
San Jose Convention Center
San Jose, CA
April 6-8, 2018
Photos and Words by Tawni Kuhn and Jared Stossel
We’re three years deep into the presence of Silicon Valley Comic Con here in the Bay Area. If the message wasn’t originally received when the convention began at the San Jose Convention Center in the heart of Downtown San Jose in the spring of 2016, let our recap reiterate this statement once and for all: nerds are dominating pop culture, and rightfully so. Once were the days when nerd culture was ridiculed by the mainstream masses; now it’s responsible for studio income (Star Wars: The Last Jedi raked in over 1.3 billion dollars alone these past several months, while properties in the Marvel and DC universes are bringing in profits to film and television studios by the millions).
Silicon Valley Comic Con returned once again to its home venue, the San Jose Convention Center. What follows below is a comprehensive review that encompasses all aspects of the convention, from registration, to the navigation of the convention halls, all the way down to the artists and the talent that were present.
This year, registration took place off site. Well, sort of. Fans (in addition to vendors and press) were asked to pick up their credentials around the corner at the South Hall Convention Center, an extension of the general Convention Center that has been used in the past for various trade shows and events (if you’ve ever driven through Downtown San Jose, it’s the locale that looks like a giant blue-and-white striped circus tent.) While the location was a bit inconvenient for those who were already expecting to check in and register their wristbands at the usual Convention Center location, the line proved to move rather quickly, and you’d be registered within about fifteen minutes (or less) after getting in line.
This year, it was noticeably much more crowded in the general convention hall, where all of the exhibitors and celebrity autograph sessions were located. While this is definitely due to the high number of passes that were purchased for this year’s con, it was generally a lot easier to navigate from booth to booth in the previous year, and this is more than likely due to the fact that the convention opted not to use City National Civic, the 2,850-cap venue across the street from the Convention Center, as it did last year for the larger scale panels and events. Last year also featured the usage of Cesar Chavez Plaza where the Rally for Science and numerous other attractions were hosted. In comparison the last year, the convention was quite a bit smaller in scale, but it still provided a number of attractions and booths for spectators to take in and explore throughout the weekend.
This brings us to another noteworthy aspect of this year’s convention: the panels. More specifically, Saturday was practically scarce of big-name panels, with the exception of FX’s Archer panel (where fans were treated to the season premiere of Archer: Danger Island ahead of its television debut), a spotlight on actress Katee Sackhoff, and the annual ‘Hour with Adam Savage’ panel. Friday’s preview night featured a Star Wars panel with appearances by Ray Park (Darth Maul), Ian McDiarmid (Emperor Palpatine), Mads Mikkelsen (Galen Erso), Daniel Logan (Boba Fett from Episode II: Attack of the Clones), and Temuera Morrison (Jango Fett). The panel itself was moderated by Rogue One: A Star War Story’s co-writer, Gary Whitta, and was a must-see for any Star Wars fan.
Sunday provided the largest yield for panels, including Sean Astin (Lord of the Rings, Stranger Things), David Tenant & Krysten Ritter doing a spotlight on Jessica Jones, the Netflix series in which they co-star together, Matthew Lewis (Harry Potter series), Mads Mikkelsen (Hannibal [TV series], Rogue One: A Star Wars Story), and Chris Kattan (Saturday Night Live, A Night At The Roxbury). While Sunday provided a great day for those hoping to get a chance to see their favorite celebrities in conversation, there may have been one too many packed into Sunday. It’d be interesting to see what would happen if the panels were spread out over both Saturday and Sunday, as it often made fans feel isolated that they could only do panels, or explore the floor, but never both. There’s a lot to take in, and while the panels may have all been scheduled on Sunday due to scheduling reasons for each panelist, it’s worth noting that everything felt very clumped together. Regardless, each panel was exciting and enjoyable, providing new insight into the careers of film and television favorites.
A notable booth during this year’s convention, and quite possibly our favorite of the entire con, was hosted by The Science Fiction Outreach Project, a non-profit organization which aims to put science fiction and literature into the hands of everyone they possibly can. The booth was staffed with volunteers that only had one goal in mind: give away as many free books as possible. (editor’s note: I was able to walk away with a number of paperback Star Trek and Doctor Who novelizations, and one of my writers managed to find a science fiction magazine with an essay written ages ago by none other than George R.R. Martin, the creator of Game of Thrones. Some great finds, indeed). For more information on the organization, you can visit their website at www.science-fiction-outreach.org.
A massive highlight of this years’ convention was the impressive number of artists that made their presence known in Artist Alley. Below, we’ve highlighted just a small selection of artists that we got to meet:
Tomas Overbai - a sketch artist specializing in monotone and black & white pencil sketches of notable pop culture icons. (www.tomasoverbai.com)
Michael “Mic” Magtanong - a visually impressive artist that brings some of the most notable nerd culture and anime icons to life in stunning technicolor. (www.micquestion.com)
aMIYAKOm - a California-based artist who caught our attention with her eclectic and soft-tone style of artwork, most notably her “Barista Shiba” prints. (www.redbubble.com/people/amiyakom).
Izzy Fischer (Untidy Venus) - A Bay Area artist who made us fall in love with her “Horror Monsters Love Kittens” serious (if you don’t think they’re adorable too, you can stop reading and get the hell out). (www.untidyvenus.etsy.com).
Complex Wish - An anime/manga artist based in California that featured a unique number of pieces, ranging from charms, t-shirts, shot glasses mugs, and prints (as well as the adorable ‘So Sleepy…So Relaxed… Corgi t-shirts for sale). (complexwish.etsy.com)
Raining Color Designs - a Denver, CO based artist specializing in intricately detailed pop-culture and anime prints. Her Gravity Falls-inspired designs captured our attention, but her starry night sky designs left us awe-inspired. (RainingColorDesigns.etsy.com).
Meg Kirkpatrick - a Portland, OR based artist specializing in pen and pencil sketch portraits, both in color and black and white. Her Guardians of the Galaxy portraits were absolutely stunning. (www.megkirkpatrick.com).
2.5d Sprites - a company that crafts out of this world dioramas and three-dimensional crafts based around popular figures in video games and nerd culture. (www.facebook.com/2.5dsprites).
Ann Marcellino - a stunning illustration and concept artist who caught our attention with her imaginative and gorgeous character pieces. (annmarcellino.tumblr.com)
Kevin Pringle - an artist and writer, the founder of Homefield Studios was present at Artist Alley with an immersive collection of sketch portraits showcasing pop-culture, film, and television favorites (www.homefieldstudios.com)
Angelo Esquivel - an artist, photographer and graphic designer from Sacramento that brought forth a unique Latin flair to some of our favorite comic book characters and pop culture figures. (www.instagram.com/angelophotodesign).
Citrus Atelier - a maker of wands, crafts, and gifts galore. Citrus Atelier, based out of Sacramento, caught our attention immediately not only because of the custom wands available for purchase, but the one-of-a-kind Pokemon soaps available for purchase (complete with a Pokemon figure and Poke Ball carry case!) (www.CitrusAtelier.etsy.com).
Denise Soden - a brilliant watercolor artist whose subjects focused closely on wildlife, while still pulling a good deal of influence from sci-fi that we all know and love (we’ll be ordering quite a few of those Tardis against the starry sky prints, thank you very much). (www.denisesoden.com)
Lorraine Yee - Vibrant, colorful, and full of life, Lorraine Yee’s work caught our attention with her stunning portraits of superheroes and Pokemon characters! (theartoflorraineyee.etsy.com).
William O’Neill: Gentleman Nerd - Perhaps one of the most unique artists we encountered throughout the weekend, “Gentleman Nerd” William O’Neill has a porfolio that spans a wide range of pieces, but his most awe-inspiring come in the form of Novel Art, where he draws iconic imagery over accompanying pages from their novel namesake. (www.william-oneill.com)
As one of the highlighted panels on Saturday, actress Katee Sackhoff was in the SVCC spotlight in a moderated panel and Q&A session discussing her impressive and lengthy career, which has spanned film, television, and video games. Her most notable role to those in attendance, of course, was her role as the badass Kara “Starbuck” Thrace on the reboot of Battlestar Galactica, one of her most acclaimed roles to fans and critics alike.
While the panel did focus on her time on Battlestar and her preparation to take on the role of Starbuck, a large part of the panel revolved around her work in the A&E/Netflix show Longmire where she played Victoria “Vic” Moretti for six seasons (unfortunately, the show was cancelled). Sackhoff spoke about her time on the show, and how she’s learned to work within an unpredictable industry.
Sackhoff also spoke at length about working on The Flash television series on the CW network. She appeared in the fourth season of the series playing Amunet, a new supervillain in the aptly named ‘Arrowverse’, and has become a fan favorite since her appearance in the season’s fifth episode. She recounted to fans her process in regards to how she wanted to play the character and her preparation for the role.
Con-veteran, notable local, and ex-MythBusters co-host, Adam Savage is a delight for all Silicon Valley con-goers. While his myth-busting science has inspired many of all ages, it seems he is inspiring a new slew of fans: cosplayers. Although, this time, it doesn’t come with a “don’t try this at home” warning.
On the show floor, it’s no doubt a ritual to look for an exceptional cosplay in hopes that it will be the star. The previous year, Savage created the most immaculate Chewbacca, complete with an animatronic, dialogue-riddled C-3PO. We played our own version of “Where’s Waldo?” on the show floor to no avail (the influx of Savage-inspired Totoro cosplays, and other impeccable full-body cosplays, really threw us off), and did not have an inkling as to whom he dressed as until his panel.
When Adam took to the stage, the hall was abuzz, curious and hopeful they had seen his cosplay during the show earlier that weekend. This year’s reveal was no less than spectacular. Savage and 3D prop-maker, Youtuber Broken Nerd (Darrell Maloney), had created two members of the Knights of Ren from Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
The biggest challenge, it seemed for these creators, was the lack of reference material itself. Besides the movie itself (which seemed to be of little help as they were shown briefly in the film, shrouded almost entirely by heavy rain), there was a bit of concept art floating about. Taking those concepts, and what is known of Kylo Ren’s current outfit, the duo were able to piece together their cosplays with a bit of creative wiggle-room.
Shrouded in mystery not only in the trilogy, but the show floor, there would be obvious way to guess this would be Adam. One thing is for certain: we can’t wait to see what he brings next year!
You know him, you love him: he’s everyone’s favorite Hobbit (well, one of them, at least). Sunday’s large number of panels included a spotlight on the career of none other than Sean Astin, who spoke in front of a packed hall of fans to speak about his career thus far in the entertainment industry.
While it is absolutely impossible to list everything this man has appeared in, some of his most notable roles (which he discussed at length) were Samwise Gamgee (Lord of the Rings trilogy), Mikey Walsh (The Goonies), Bob Newby (Stranger Things), and Daniel “Rudy” Ruettiger (Rudy), among countless other roles in film, television, video games, and voiceover.
The moderator did his research, and managed to go far back into his career, even bringing up his roles in films like Memphis Belle, where he acted opposite Eric Stoltz in 1990. The discussion was highly in-depth, offering fans an insight into the mind of an actor that not only clearly loves what he gets to do, but an actor that is a true film-and-television aficionado.
David Tennant and Krysten Ritter
In what was by far the most packed panel of the entire weekend (so packed, in fact, that there was a special “crowd overflow” room designated in the event that not everyone would be able to get in), stars Krysten Ritter and David Tennant took the stage in the main convention hall for an hour-long panel discussion surrounding their work together on the hit Netflix series Jessica Jones. Both Tennant and Ritter have had illustrious careers in film and television, with the former already solidifying himself among the ranks of nerd culture when he played the coveted Tenth Doctor in the BBC series, Doctor Who. Ritter has been garnering a great deal of acclaim as Jones, but her notoriety began early on in her career with roles as Jane in Breaking Bad and Chloe in ABC’s short-lived Don’t Trust The B—— in Apartment 23. The two of them made for a great panel, and an insightful and fun conversation surrounding the success of the Jessica Jones Netflix series.
Better known to most fans as Neville Longbottom, the cowardly-turned-courageous young character from J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series, actor Matthew Lewis took the stage for a spotlight discussion surrounding his career during and after the Harry Potter films.
It can be so easy for a moderator to get lost in asking the panelists about their biggest and most commercial roles, but we have to give credit to the moderators at SVCC. While we were nearly expecting them to only talk about his time on Harry Potter, the moderator for Lewis’ panel dove into his time in theater, his role as Jamie Bradley in the BBC series The Syndicate (his first role post-Potter), his time working on BBC Three’s Bluestone 42, and how he was able to portray a darker role in the series Happy Valley.
Lewis was candid and a great storyteller, answering each and every fan question brought forward with enthusiasm. He recalled how he has grown as an actor and the awakening he got in regards to how challenging theater acting really was after he was cast in Agatha Christie’s Verdict in 2011, and how he’s applied that experience to future roles. Lewis also shared stories surrounding the time he got to have tea with the late Alan Rickman (Professor Snape in the Harry Potter films) while on the set, and how he got into shape in preparation for his role in the romantic drama film Me Before You.
Veteran SNL cast member and comedian Chris Kattan made an appearance at this year’s SVCC for a spotlight panel that went rather in-depth with his career. Kattan spoke at length about how he discovered his talent and ability to do impressions as a child, his overall love of comedy, and how he would write and come up with some of the characters that are still known and loved to this day.
Kattan was on Saturday Night Live for seven seasons (1996-2003), and there were plenty of stories about working and writing on the show during that period of time. Most notably, Kattan spoke about the formation of The Roxbury Guys, from the sketch (and eventual movie) A Night At The Roxbury. Kattan played one half of the brothers (the other played by Will Ferrell), and he broke down how the characters came to be (even doing an impression of the person they noticed in the bar where the idea was conceived). Many laughs followed throughout as he remarked numerous characters he wrote while on the show, like Mr. Peepers and Gay Hitler, and it made for an incredibly fun and memorable panel.
Fresh off filming the Netflix feature, Polar, Mads Mikkelsen made his appearance at Silicon Valley Comic Con to meet with fans, unite with fellow Star Wars actors, and talk about his upcoming projects. He closed out Sunday with a panel, donning a signature “Fannibal” flower crown and a shirt that read “[LOUDLY IMPLIED CANNIBALISM]” in homage to his now-defunct series, Hannibal.
During the Q&A, Mikkelsen was quick to address the fact that, he too, wants to give Hannibal Lecter another season on television, although he couldn’t give the audience any confirmation it was to return. He, too, knows Hannibal left fans reeling over a rather juicy cliffhanger.
While Hannibal seemed to be the forefront of the panel, there were many questions about his upcoming project, Death Stranding, in which Mikkelsen appears to be a rather striking antagonist. Although, knowing the creator, Hideo Kojima (of Metal Gear Solid fame), there may be more to it than meets the eye for the characters. All of the secrecy aside, it’s promised the game will be nothing like we’ve seen before.
Kojima, in fact, seems to really enjoy having Mads (and co-star Norman Reedus) around. Mikkelsen notes that Hideo tends to bring them to an egregious amount of karaoke. Although we have yet to see the evidence of that on social media, Kojima has been posting Norman and Mads on his Instagram both on-set and around Japan.
Gracefully exiting the stage, he made sure to give a special thanks to his Hannibal fans, the Fannibals, for giving him hope that their enthusiasm for the show will eventually revive it for another season.