Denver Comic-Con 2017, Part 1: Celebrities
At the beginning of July, I attended the 6th annual Denver Comic-Con, along with my wife and daughter. We have attended every year since its inception, and it’s the one event in the area we do not miss every year. Tons of celebrities, cosplay, booths, artists, merchandise and more spread across three days of fun. For those that don’t know, Denver Comic-Con is one of the largest conventions in the United States, and the largest non-profit event of its kind. The entire event is put on every year by Pop Culture Classroom, an organisation that promotes encouraging reading and education, working with numerous schools, libraries and even correctional facilities (for more information, visit www.popcultureclassroom.org). This year, I decided to break my piece down into two parts, the two most people would care about: celebrities and cosplay. There was a ton of both to be enjoyed this year, and it definitely made for some memorable experiences.
As an aside, some changes were made to the venue and event from previous years. For starters, the entrance to event was changed to a different part of the building, as there was apparently another event going on at the same time. As a result, the usage of the bottom floor was cut down significantly for the convention, with a very limited number of booths available (mostly non-profit organisations, such as the 501st Legion). That was a bit disappointing, as in years past, the bottom floor has been used for gaming booths and retailers as well, giving them more space to ply their wares and give gamers a chance to test new products out, both of the tabletop and video game variety. In a more positive change, celebrities were only booking photo-ops in advance, as opposed to both those and autographs. This allowed more people to get autographs with their favourite celebrities and not have to immediately rush to lines to make sure they got into their slots.
Now that that’s out of the way, on with the celebrities.
There were a ton of celebrities on-hand this year, more than I can recall in any years past. They came from all categories, and if there was something specific you were interested, chances are there was someone there to suit your needs. We didn’t get photos or autographs with everyone we wanted, but we still got to meet many of them (plenty were just allowing fans to come up and say hi, which is always appreciated). We met both Gaten Matarazzo and Caleb McLaughlin from Stranger Things, and both were exceptionally nice kids. Gaten was on the quiet side, while Caleb seemed very excited to be there. He was hugging and chatting with everyone, as was his dad, who was there with him. Millie Bobby Brown was also there, but we didn’t get to meet her (she was charging way too much for photos and autographs, and was doing no meet-and-greets). We also caught up with Phil LaMarr (MadTV, Samurai Jack), who made a return to the convention after a few years. We got our photo with him last time, so it wasn’t a big deal to get one this time. He also did a story reading for the kids this year, which is always fun.
Greg Grunberg (Star Wars, Episode VII: The Force Awakens, Heroes) also did story time with the kids, but instead of reading a book (that he wrote; he is also an author), he instead talked to all the kids in attendance and asked them about being superheroes, hitting nearly every kid in attendance for his mini-panel before taking a group shot with all of them, which was really cool. We talked to him a bit at his table after, and he is a pure delight. Just a really nice, down-to-Earth guy and a big kid at-heart.
We also met Jon Heder (Napoleon Dynamite, Blades of Glory; I had to meet him for my mom’s sake, as she’s a big fan), who was really nice. Finally, Finn Jones (Game of Thrones, Iron Fist) walked by us as he headed back to his table. We tried to get a photo with him, but we couldn’t as the convention wasn’t allowing it outside of tables and professional photo-ops. Bummer, but he was at least pleasant about it. The convention was being really strict about photos in the celebrity area, BTW. It was a bit ridiculous. More on that in part 2.
Anyway, we decided to try and get as many photos with celebrities as we could afford, and also cut down our professional ones to three this year, as we didn’t want to wait in line so much like we did last year, allowing us to still enjoy the convention floor, check out the booths, hit panels, etc. We started with Clare Kramer (Buffy, the Vampire Slayer), as is just so awesome. Clare has been a celebrity guest at DCC nearly every year since its inception and has become one of the official panel hosts. This year, she was allowed more time at her table with fans as her panel duties were lightened up a bit. She remembered us from previous years, which was really cool from a fan’s perspective, and was as gracious as ever. We got our annual photo with her, as well as an autograph.
Felicia Day (Dollhouse, Mystery Science Theater 3000) was another return guest, and yet another of many alumni of the “Whedonverse” in attendance this year. She came the second year of the convention, and admittedly, I knew very little of her work at the time. Since then, I’ve seen her in many things and she is wonderful, so we made sure to meet her this year. She was originally only supposed to be at the convention Saturday and Sunday, but got in an on early flight, so she wound up attending Friday as well. Now, Felicia recently had a baby, so anyone in their right mind would have understood if she had canceled ‘Con appearances. Instead, she has made every booking since then, bringing her baby along for the ride. At one point, she had to take a break from her table (while we were in line) to feed the wee one, and was so kind, she was apologising to everyone before she left that she had to take a break. We eventually got up to her table, and she was a total sweetheart. She was clearly having a good time and enjoying the interactions with the fans, not to mention gushing over any babies who were in line.
As an aside, we met a girl in line who was from out of town, and wanted Felicia to sign some stuff to be auctioned off for charity at her local Can’t Stop the Serenity event (which I talked about last year). The volunteers located by Felicia’s entrance told her absolutely no charity autographs. Once this girl (Hi, Halo!) got up there, she said she was going to try anyway. Felicia signed absolutely everything and was happy to do so, having signed stuff for this same event in years past.
Speaking of “Whedonverse” alumni, Enver Gjokaj (Dollhouse, Agent Carter) was also in attendance, and we got our photo with him as well. While in line, I also snuck a photo of Nathan Fillion at his table (which was right next to Enver’s), which was a big no-no, but screw it.
Anyway, Enver was very nice, if not a bit on the quiet side, and seemed genuinely grateful so many fans came to see him.
As I said earlier, we did three professional photo-ops, and they were three “must-meet” guests for us. First up was someone I have been a fan of for nearly 30 years, and an absolute icon in entertainment, none other than “Weird Al” Yankovic.
Al immediately commented on my suit, telling me I looked very dapper. Compliments don’t get much better than that. If that wasn’t enough, Al had someone passing out coupons as fans were exiting the area, giving each person a discount on an autograph on their professional photos. We ended up cashing it in the next day at his table. By that point, Al was visibly very tired (he had one of the busiest lines every day of the convention and multiple panels to boot), but was still really cool, and it was an honour to shake his hand.
He also had a really awesome display covering his career outside his table for fans to look at while they waited in line.
The second was Nathan Fillion (Firefly, Castle), who I have literally been begging Denver Comic-Con to get since the very beginning. I absolutely freaked out when he was announced, and we were determined to get a photo with him, damn the cost (he’s one of the more expensive guests, but so worth it). Before we met him, we attended his first panel of the weekend, and he spent the entire time answering questions from the audience. Most were about Firefly/Serenity, but there were a few covering Castle and the possibility his version of Simon Williams will get to appear in Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 3 or elsewhere in the MCU. He also tackled the possibility of being in the Uncharted film as Nathan Drake, something he and voice actor Nolan North (a friend of Nathan’s) have lobbied hard for.
A very entertaining panel, and one I suggest you attend should Nathan do a convention close to you. The next day, we got our professional photo with him. He complimented us on our costumes. Also, he’s bigger in real life than I expected.
Finally, the guest I was personally most excited about, which says a lot, given that Weird Al and Nathan Fillion were in attendance, that being one of the funniest women on the entire planet, Catherine Tate (Doctor Who, The Office) For those that know me (which is likely none of you reading this), I have a huge, HUGE crush on Catherine, and my wife is a big fan as well. Recently, we had seen photos of her at a convention with John Barrowman and David Tennant and were discussing how it sucks that she has never come to DCC. Lo and behold, the very next day, she was announced as a guest. I flipped out and sent a “yelling” text to my wife, and she responded by flipping out as well. In the days leading up to the convention, I watched countless videos featuring Catherine from a variety of shows and refused to shut up about her on Facebook. I’m sure I annoyed several of my friends, but I could care less.
Much like Felicia Day, Catherine was only supposed to be there for Saturday and Sunday, but she managed to get an early flight and got to the convention late Friday afternoon. We made sure to hit her table so I could at least talk to her for a few moments, and it was well worth it. We were just planning on getting an autograph, since we already had a photo-op booked, but then we saw she doing selfies with everyone at the table and thought that would make for a more unique memory to take home than an autographed photo.
She took about four with us, but on the last one, someone walked by behind in the pic and she said, “No, we can’t have that” and took a regular one as well.
We talked to her for a few minutes after the pics, and she turned out to be incredibly sweet, exactly what I was hoping for. At one point, she looked down at Teagan and asked her, “Would your parents mind if I gave you an autograph?” before signing a photo of her and David Tennant from the Doctor Who episode “Runaway Bride” (Teagan is a huge Donna Noble fan) at no extra charge. We thanked her repeatedly, and she said, “I know how expensive it gets at conventions.” Total class. Before we left, I got a hug from her after telling her I had a crush on her, and Heather asked if she could do just a bit of Lauren Cooper, one of her most popular characters from The Catherine Tate Show. Without even thinking, she went right into the character and had all three of us just rolling with laughter. She then gave us an autographed picture of Lauren at no extra charge, as we were apparently the first people she had talked to who knew of the character. How can you not love a person like that?
We had our photo-op with her on Saturday, and she remembered us from the day before, thanks in part to my costume.
On the last day of the convention, she held one of her panels first thing in the morning, so of course we were in attendance for that. Catherine forewent having a panel host and handled the entire thing by herself, almost immediately going out into the crowd to talk to people in the audience about where they were from, including my stepson, Kai.
Before she started the main part of the panel, Catherine noticed a lot of people in the upper deck of the auditorium despite plenty of seating closer to the stage available, so she put it on hold and asked everyone to come up to get a better seat, which the upper-deckers seemed pleased about. After the first question of the panel, Catherine looked in my direction and said, “Now, there is a man in a yellow suit who told me he has a crush on me. Do you really have a crush on me? Come up here.”
And that’s how I ended up on-stage in front of a thousand people.
My question was if she preferred playing Lauren or Nan on The Catherine Tate Show, my two favourite characters. She said she enjoyed both, partially because she got to swear on TV. After doing a bit of Lauren for the audience, she interviewed me as Nan and, in typical Nan fashion, kicked me off the stage when I told her I wasn’t in show business, which got a big applause. I apparently started a trend, as she then called every single person who had a question to ask it on-stage with her. Again, total class. As you might guess, most questions were about Doctor Who, which you could tell she had no problem with answering, and it was obvious by her reactions that she loved her time on the show, especially with real-life friend David Tennant. When asked about returning to the show, her answer was simple: “Never say never.”
Later that day, as the convention was coming near the end, we decided to head back to her table one more time just to chat and thank her (she was wonderful about meet-and-greets with the fans). She remembered us from the previous days, as well as the panel and asked if we wanted even more autographs. During her panel, she talked about seeing John Barrowman’s bare butt while filming Doctor Who, so we made it a point to show her our pics with John from last year. She had a good laugh with us and said, “Oh, OF COURSE they were his idea!” after we told her.
As another aside, there were two girls in line behind us to meet her, and one was extremely nervous about it. We told her about meeting Catherine the previous couple days and how sweet she was, and that helped her calm down. We later saw the two girls exiting the convention center at the same time we were, and it turned out Catherine had given the one girl a free autograph as well, which damn-near made her cry. Again, how can you not love that woman?
Overall, the celebrity experiences were great this year, and I greatly appreciate the selection of people who came. Much like John Barrowman last year, we ended up seeing Catherine Tate at least once each day of the convention, and also like JB, she made for an experience I’ll never forget. There were a bunch more we didn’t get to see or meet, as we only had so much time and money, but that’s okay. The fact that there were so many options is a good thing, and if DCC keeps up like this, we will make sure we do whatever we can to get around to even more guests in the years to come.