Saturday, September 20, 2014

Dragon*Con: Fandom + Chaos = Fun!

Have you ever experienced controlled chaos? That is how I would describe my experience at this year’s Dragon*Con in Atlanta, Georgia, the mother of all comic cons in the southern United States.
This year was my first time attending and it certainly won’t be my last. I was attending as press and was traveling with fellow BayouCon-ers Justin Toney and Alec Savoie. Beginning the road trip at midnight on Thursday to avoid another hotel night was probably not the best idea, but I think we managed pretty well despite being dead tired that Friday night.

As an autograph collector, my focus at cons tends to be get in, get the autographs then see what else there is to do. But at Dragon*Con, the autographs took a back seat to the spectacle. A convention spread across five hotels and an event center is a monster. Getting from one place to another was quite a walk, so initial panel plans were thrown out of the window once I saw how far I would have to walk back and forth.
Dragon*Con always delivers a great lineup for autograph seekers, and this year was no exception. Fans of The Hobbit, Warehouse 13, Defiance, Star Trek, Stargate, Being Human, Once Upon a Time and several other shows were treated to several cast members from each of those shows.

My autographs from Joanne Kelly & Saul Rubinek.
My plan was to avoid the Walk of Fame (autograph room) on Saturday and it worked beautifully. On Friday and Sunday, I was pretty much able to walk up to whoever I wanted with some exceptions. My only wait was for Warehouse 13’s Joanne Kelly, and it was well worth it as she was fantastically nice. My wife and I loved Warehouse 13 and watched it from the very first episode through this year’s series finale. Joanne and Saul Rubinek, who I visited for his autograph after, really seemed excited to talk about the show. You could tell that it was very something special to them. And if you've never seen Warehouse 13, Syfy has 11 full episodes that you can watch online HERE!

My Joe Flanigan autograph.
Stargate Atlantis’ Joe Flanigan was the only other autograph I got from the Walk of Fame during the weekend. A combination of there being too much else to do and a couple of the autographs I wanted being more than I was willing to pay, led to that. I noticed that several actors were charging more than what I had seen them charge at other shows. And one actress from a popular sci-fi show (she will remain nameless) was charging Shatner prices at $75 a pop. I know she’s a rare signer, but that price is ridiculous.

I did spend some time in the Walk of Fame talking to voice actors John Stocker and Kyle Hebert (a Lake Charles, Louisiana native) and Atlanta local Walking Dead zombie (and former Bayou Con guest) Michael Koske.

The other autographs I nabbed over the weekend were of behind the scenes guys at either their tables in the Artist Alley or after their panel. And that’s the benefit of a big con. The sheer number of guests pretty much guarantees that you will have several people that you want to meet.

I will say the press registration process was very simple. Once we found the press room, we had our badges and were on our way within five minutes. And I will say that the MOST important thing you can do before going to Dragon*Con next year is download the app. The paper guide that they give you is great but there is no easier way of figuring out where you are, where a guest you want to meet is going to be, or where the heck is Peachtree Ballroom Annex

Gates McFadden & Garret Wang during Gates' panel
After registering, our first stop was one of my favorite panels of the show featuring my favorite cast member from Star Trek: The Next Generation, Gates McFadden who played Dr. Beverly Crusher. Fellow Star Trek alum Garrett Wang (Ensign Harry Kim on Voyager) moderated what ended up being a great look at Gates’ time on Star Trek and her career. While not as entertaining as the last panel I saw her on at Wizard World New Orleans (which was basically an hour of the comedy team of Jonathan Frakes and Michael Dorn), it was much more informative.

Monty Python cosplayers at Dragon*Con.
There were a couple of other panels worthy of mention. Those who know me well know that I am a huge Monty Python fan, so going to Terry Gilliam’s panel was one of the “musts” of the weekend for me. And despite me being a mile away from the stage, it was the highlight of the entire con for me. He was there promoting his new film, Zero Theorem, which from the clips shown at the panel looks to be as bizarre, grandiose and incredibly good as his other films like Brazil, Twelve Monkeys, The Fisher King, Time Bandits and my favorite The Adventures of Baron Munchausen.

One of the most creative costume groups I saw was this
group of DC / Star Wars mashups.
The surprise of the con was the Need Coffee Dot Com Fun Fest. We decided to go because friend Rob Levy (Doctor Who blogger and podcaster) was a part of it and we were not disappointed. It was hours of absurdity, craziness, prizes and of course fun! Next year, stop by this event for an absolute great time.

And last but not least, I have to mention the costumes. The costumes at this year's Dragon*Con were some of the best, most creative and most elaborate I've seen at any convention. The con is truly a celebration of fandom and all of its elements. 

The crowd in the Hyatt lobby on Friday.
Now that I’ve mentioned the pros, it’s time to mention the cons. The worst things about the con stem from it’s success. If you have an aversion to crowds, avoid Saturday like the plague. It was nearly impossible to get from one hotel to the next through the skybridges. And to get into the bigger panels, you ended up having to wait in an hour-long line that would wrap around the hotel outside in the heat. Needless to say, I didn’t wait in any of those lines. Also, the dealers area needs to be larger. There was no room to stop and look at some tables because of the amount of traffic going through each of the aisles.

But despite the crowds, this was a great con and all three of us had a blast. And I would be remiss if I did not mention the con suite which provided free sodas, juices and snacks all weekend. I took advantage of their services several times during the weekend when I didn’t feel like paying $5 for a canned drink.

One of the weirdest escalators
you will ever ride on:
So, the DO’s at Dragon*Con would be to wear comfortable shoes and be prepared to wait in lines. Also, DO download the app before you go and DO take advantage of the con suite. DON’T think you’re going to see everything because there is just too much. And if you’re not staying in one of the host hotels, DON’T pay $30 or more for parking. Instead ride the MARTA to Peachtree Center and walk out right in the middle of everything. And if you do ride the MARTA, DO check out the strangest escalator I have ever been on at the Peachtree Center station.

So overall, my opinion of Dragon*Con is that is a monster of a convention where you really need to come in with a plan if you want to see everything you want to. It's also a great melting pot of all kinds of fandom where anyone can find something they are interested in and can dress as any character they want to. I will definitely be back in the future, but maybe I'll find something else to do during the middle of the day on Saturday.

Eric LeBlanc is the owner of and also a graphic designer / photographer by day. Comments, actor listings, complaints, verbal threats, offers of monetary bribes or anything else sci-fi realted can be sent to

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Godzilla - Finally, the movie I was hoping for!

This is the Godzilla I grew up watching.
When I was a kid, I was always watching one of three things on TV: cartoons, baseball or sci-fi (and if you ask my wife, she'll say that not much has But for me, Godzilla was a staple of my TV diet growing up. Whether it was Godzilla, Mothra vs. Godzilla, Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla or Godzilla vs. Elmo, I was watching it. So any remake of this classic was going to have to be good for me to like it.

The 1998 version was just wrong.
Enter the 1998 version starring Matthew Broderick and Jean Reno. I saw this one in the theater with high hopes. I came out of that theater with those hopes dashed. The plot was non-existent, the size of Godzilla was all wrong and just about everything else was wrong, too. Director Roland Emmerich reportedly hated the original films and only agreed to direct because the studio had given him permission to do whatever he wanted with the franchise. It kind of reminds me of a recent similar situation with a classic sci-fi series being revived and handed over to a certain director who didn't like it growing up. But that is an entirely different column.

This was an incredible scene in the film.
A few months ago, after viewing the trailer for this new Godzilla film, hope returned to me as I saw the titanic terrible lizard for a fleeting second. I remember turning to my wife and saying, "This one could actually be good!" A couple of weeks ago, when I was in Houston for Comicpalooza, I finally had the pleasure of watching this new version at the Palladium Theater. And I have one word to describe it...magnificent.

Now don't get me wrong, it's not an Oscar worthy film by a long shot. But what the film did that mattered most, was bring back the feeling I had when I watched those old Godzilla movies as a kid. There I was in awe as the creature, that you could always tell was a guy in a suit trampling Styrofoam buildings, looked incredibly real on the giant screen in front of me. This wasn't some overgrown dinosaur or a new stylized version of the gigantic lizard. This was Godzilla! This is what Godzilla would look like if he were real! They got it right!

Gareth Edwards
The first thing they got right was hiring a director who was a fan of the franchise. Gareth Edwards may not have had the credentials of other directors, but he knew that this film had to be more faithful to the originals to work. And after reading further about him, this quote impressed me even more.

Edwards said in an interview, "The way I tried to view it was: imagine Godzilla was a real creature and someone from Toho (the studio that produced the originals) saw him in the 1950s and ran back to the studio to make a movie about the creature and was trying their best to remember and draw it... and in our film you get to see him for real. It was important that this felt like a Toho Godzilla."

This film featured plenty of nods to the originals, including a possible hint of Godzilla's next opponent...a certain giant-sized flying furry insect.

Ken Watanabe
The performances of the actors was secondary to the special effects but I'll give props to Bryan Cranston and Ken Watanabe for standing out in a film dominated by literally larger-than-life characters.

And I won't give anything away, but it was way that Gareth Edwards handled the story, the personality of Godzilla and the ending that truly makes this a great Godzilla film and a great monster movie in general.

Godzilla done right
So if you're going to see Godzilla for it's artistic merits, you're going to be disappointed. Who am I kidding, you're only going to see it to watch giant creatures battle each other, knocking down buildings and blowing stuff up. And for those of you who are trying to recapture the magic of the classic films you loved as a kid, I say...enjoy!

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Comicpalooza 2014 - Is there a Doctor in the house? How about 4!

A Dalek High-Five
This year, Comicpalooza in Houston, Texas was a classic series Doctor Who fan's dream hosting not one...not two...not three...but four Doctors! Add in new Who's John Barrowman, the stars of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Stan Lee, Nichelle Nichols, Cary Elwes, James Marsters, Billy Dee Williams and many others and Comicpalooza sported one of the best lineups in the Southeastern U.S. this year so far.

All of the conventions I attend are essentially as an autograph collector, but with my website and now this blog I'm also part of the media. And at this show, I was also helping out the Doctor Whooligans fan group at their table. So I was figuratively wearing three hats at the show. I was literally wearing one hat, though (a Lost hat which I got a lot of compliments on, by the way). Accompanying me on this trip was BayouCon director and Doctor Whooligans member Justin Toney.

As an autograph collector, this show was absolutely fantastic. The variety of guests was great, and the wait time for the guests I was interested in was very short. I know that there was some frustration for the attendees who waited in line on Saturday morning for the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. guests. While those people were in line, I decided to visit voice actors Chuck Huber and Todd Haberkorn to get Soul Eater autographs for one of my sons. Both actors were very cool and Todd and I discussed our kids for a while. It's always interesting the things you end up talking to people about.

Fifth Doctor Peter Davison
Then I made it over to Peter Davison who had a very short line at the time. If you know me, I am all about catching the shortest lines at a show. And since Peter was my main target autograph for the show, I couldn't pass up the chance. I grew up watching Doctor Who with my dad in reruns on PBS. Tom Baker, Jon Pertwee and Peter Davison have always been "my" Doctors. So meeting Peter Davison was an absolute thrill. We talked about his recent production "The Five(ish) Doctors" which was a Doctor Who 50th anniversary special, mainly featuring Davision, Colin Baker and Sylvester McCoy. The special was hilarious and as much of a 50th Anniversary episode of Doctor Who to me as the actual one. Wait...what? You haven't seen "The Five(ish) Doctors?" Okay, CLICK HERE and watch it now. I'll wait.....................Now that you have, I know right?!?!?!

Me and Stargate Universe's Ming-Na Wen!
I waited until the afternoon to get in line for Ming-Na Wen, and it paid off very well as I was in line for far less time than the morning crowd. And plus she was incredibly nice!

On Sunday, I was able to snag Sixth Doctor Colin Baker's autograph with only two people in line. I also talked about "The Five(ish) Doctors" with him and he said he loved doing the project as well. I also grabbed autographs from Stargate Universe creative consultant John Scalzi and Roy Thomas who had written an episode of the classic G.I. Joe series.

Then on Monday, Justin and I both got an autograph from author Peter S. Beagle who wrote "The Last Unicorn." Peter (who is a great guy with lots of incredible stories) had been in the booth next to ours all weekend, but it wasn't until Sunday that we realized that he had written an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation. So obviously we had to get an autograph when we found that out.

If you're wondering why I didn't go on to meet the other two Doctors in attendance, I already had Paul McGann's autograph and I am meeting Sylvester McCoy in June at Con Kasterborous in Huntsville, Alabama.

The Four Doctors Panel
But I have to say the highlight of the weekend was not any of the autographs. It was the panel of The Four Doctors. The banter and jabs between the four actors who played the fifth through eighth Doctors, were hilarious and you can tell that these guys really enjoy being around each other. Answers to questions never stayed on topic and insults flew around like birds in a Hitchcock film. But nobody cared as this was the first time ever in America (I least the first time in a very long time) that four former Doctors have been on one stage. And to be there was absolutely one of the best hours I have ever had at a convention.

As a fan table, we had a great weekend as well. Lots of people passed by the table as we were placed in a very good spot. However, as a panelist, things were not as rosy. The Star Trek panel I was on was double booked in the same room with comic book artist Greg Capullo (best known for Batman). Another room was found for us, but we likely lost half our audience and there were no microphones or projectors in the other room as there were in the first room. But we had a good panel discussion despite the snags.

The Time Lords are back!
Overall the weekend was fantastic! My autograph experience was great. The dealers' area was very good with a wide variety of vendors and the artist and author area featured some great talent as well. I even picked up a Darkseid print from artist Preston Asevedo. Also, I must say the quality of the attendees doing cosplay was magnificent as well! I would have liked to have seen a panel with the voice actors, though. But I would say that despite some organization issues throughout the weekend that other attendees expressed frustration over, that Comicpalooza was a resounding success!

Other do and don'ts I found while in Houston. DO visit The Palladium theater in west Houston. We watched Godzilla there and it was incredible! And DO eat at The Cheesecake Factory in the Galleria. DO NOT overpay for parking at the con. Use the $10 lots on the south and north sides of the George R. Brown Convention Center.

Comicpalooza will be on my schedule for next year and even though many people complained about lines and confusion, my experience was a great one.

Next up, reviews of Godzilla and Maleficent. Keep watching for those!

Eric LeBlanc is the owner of and also a graphic designer / photographer by day. Comments, actor listings, complaints, verbal threats, offers of monetary bribes or anything else sci-fi realted can be sent to

Saturday, May 31, 2014


As this is the first post on this blog, let me introduce myself. I am Eric LeBlanc, owner of and this blog is a companion piece to that site. For six years, I have been publishing my lists of actor appearances and the response has been absolutely overwhelming! This blog is going to be a bit different than the rest of the site. Here will be a space where I and others on the SFAA team will give you guys a recap of the conventions that we go to as well as some reviews from me (and others) of the latest sci-fi on TV and in film. So keep visiting to see what we have going on!