By wundagoreborn 3 Comments
Baltimore Comic-Con took place at the downtown convention center from September 7-9 this year, but I’m just now getting my thoughts down. This was the first year the show was three days, but my son and I could only attend the last day. There was a solid, but not overwhelming, crowd. So assuming the first two days were even better attended, the extended format was a success.
“A Celebration of Peter Mayhew”
There certainly was a long, snaking line to into our first event for the day, Peter Mayhew’s talk. In part this was because it started a bit late, but it was worth it. Host Robert Greenberger kicked it off noting that he covered the Star Wars franchise for years while writing for Starlog, but this was his first time interviewing the man behind Chewbacca.
Mayhew’s story is begins with one of those amazing happenstances. He was working as a hospital orderly when someone took a gag photo of him standing 6’ 10” (not quite full grown yet) beside a 5’ 2” nurse colleague. The shot made a local newspaper and then got picked up all over England. It caught the eye of a filmmaker, who contacted Mayhew to offer him a job.
The job was the role of the live-action Minoton (a bronze minotaur) in Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger. So one day, he’s pushing the bed sheet cart in England and the next he’s in on a boat off Malta working with Ray Harryhausen. Mayhew had admired Harryhausen’s movies and said it was a thrill to serve as the translation piece between the live scenes and the master’s animations. Wearing a 60 inch fiberglass minotaur head, not so much of a thrill.
Apparently, someone from that film recommended Mayhew to George Lucas. Lucas took one look at him standing up and said “We’ve got him.” To prepare for Chewbacca, Mayhew said he studied the behavior of bears in the zoo. He thought the physicality and presence of such large animals would translate well to the character. Otherwise, he said he acted simply by natural reaction to the others. The character just engages when the head of his costume goes on. He says he has 100% mobility and visibility inside, though it is just as hot as you would imagine.
Toward the end, Greenberger asked him about his convention experiences. Turns out Mayhew met his wife at a con, so they have had a very positive effect on his life. Of all fans, he said Japanese con-goers are the most devoted. He has had some approach his table on their knees; others have wept when they met him. In Baltimore, we just gave him a standing ovation.
“A Wolverine Celebration”
After wearing ourselves out on the show floor, we closed the day at the Wolverine panel. Hosted by Tom Brevoort, it was a big cast of Wolverine creators from the beginning to the current issue: Herb Trimpe, Joe Rubinstein, Charles Soule, Frank Tieri and Frank Cho.
Trimpe went back to the very start – drawing the first panel with Wolverine in it, in Hulk #180. He gave that page to a neighbor’s kid, because that was the kind of thing you did with original art back then. Recently, the grown kid re-discovered it, and engaged Trimpe’s agent to help sell it. The final auction price was $675,000, with decent chunks to Trimpe, the agent and the Hero Initiative, with a majority left to the seller. Amazing.
When asked about ther inspiration when creating the character, Tieri gave the best answer. He said the character emerges for him in the contrast with Sabretooth. Wolverine is defined by his struggle with his demons; Sabretooth is defined by his indulging those same demons. Tieri said this indulgence made Sabretooth his favorite character to write. (To which Cho quipped, “Write what you know.”)
Cho started his answer with another joke – he loves Wolverine “because he’s short like me.” Then he said that he had fallen in love with the character during Claremont’s X-men run, when Rubinstein was inking. Rubinstein said that he used Clint Eastwood faces as a model, at Frank Miller’s suggestion. Then he admitted that he was unaware at the time that his work was historic. Rubinstein didn’t know that his mini-series was the first solo Wolverine story. Someone told him years later (and now he gets invited to panels for it).
Charles Soule was the subject of constant ribbing about killing Wolverine. Finally, it got so constant that Brevoort had to admit that it was editorial’s decision, not Soule’s. Soule then told the story of how Tom and Alex Alonso asked him to lunch without saying what it was about. Then they threw the idea at him and asked for an approach. So they pitched him and then he immediately had to pitch them back. It worked out.
Brevoort noted the irony that he was involved considering that in his fan days he led a campaign against a rumored killing of Wolverine. He made posters of Wolverine saying to save the endangered species and calling Chris Claremont a ‘vicious killer.’ Now, he and other editors saw the death as a natural outgrowth of Cornell’s idea to take away Logan’s healing factor. He said you kill characters not as a gimmick, but because these stories are fundamental to the human experience.
Meeting Charles Soule
On a quick pass through the hall after, we stopped by Charles Soule’s table. He saw me looking at his Archaia book ‘Strange Attractors’ and asked if he could tell me about it. Sure. So he gives us a full sales pitch on the book, including some complimentary jokes about how smart my son and I must be. It’s not the kind of book I usually buy, but he was working so hard for that $20 that I had to give it to him. Given what has been published lately about creators not breaking even at their tables, I’m glad I did.
All in all, it was a very fun convention day. Just like last year, I meant to take more cosplay pictures but there was too much else going on. Of the few I got, only one turned out. Luckily, it was my favorite character of the day: Hail Mechagodzilla!