FBI CON CHRONICLES: MegaCon 2016
By Megan Wilde
I hit up MegaCon in Orlando this Memorial Day Weekend, and was asked to write up a report for the site, so here it is. Full disclosure: I was working at the Blue Juice Comics and Books booth during the con; my husband is a co-owner of Blue Juice, and I am the lead copy editor for the comics. So it was mostly a working weekend, but I was able to venture out to a few Q&A sessions, and there was plenty of opportunity to people-watch.
This was the first MegaCon that was four days long, and I heard mixed reviews about this change. I don’t know that it was entirely good for the businesses present, but it might have made Saturday a little less crazy and crowded than it would otherwise have been, and some of the fans said it was the best MegaCon ever. It certainly had some good guests: Stan Lee, in one of his final two East Coast con appearances (the other being New York Comic Con in October); Christopher Lloyd; Ralph Macchio and William Zabka, for a Karate Kid reunion; John Cusack; Frank Miller; Tom Payne and Lennie James (Jesus and Morgan) from The Walking Dead; Agent Carter herself, Hayley Atwell; Billie Piper; John Barrowman; a foursome from the Harry Potter movies: James and Oliver Phelps, aka the Weasley Twins, Tom Felton (Draco Malfoy), and Jason Isaacs (Lucius Malfoy); William Shatner, Nichelle Nichols, and George Takei; Anthony Daniels (C-3PO) and Jeremy Bullock (Boba Fett); and Jason Mewes and Kevin Smith. I was unable to see most of those, but I did see some and I am here to bring you the report.
First, I saw a Q&A with Jesus himself, Tom Payne. He was very funny and engaging. It was mostly audience questions, and of course someone asked if he could tell us the answer to the big question: Who died at the hands of Negan and Lucille? He said he will tell us, if we can give him $1 million that he can hand directly over to AMC, which got a big laugh. His personal view is that knowing would spoil the experience anyway; he thinks it will be much better to be in the same boat as everyone else, watching the premiere and having that surprise and collective experience. He did say that he thinks it’s time for a big character to go (so, more someone like Abraham or Daryl, and less someone like Rosita?), but he wasn’t there when they filmed that episode, and my speculation is that he might not even know which way the writers went or are going. He said Jesus was safe at the Hilltop, so we know it isn’t him, at least.
He seemed very happy to work on the show; he said the cast is pretty tightly knit — although they all know that characters can come and go on this show, so it’s slightly strange in that they become friends with actors who don’t always stick around very long. He talked about his first chase scene with Andrew Lincoln and Norman Reedus, which you can find video of on the FBI Facebook page. He was asked about wearing the long sleeves all the time, and he said it’s for bite protection, and anytime the character goes outside of the Hilltop, he will wear the full sleeves, even though it’s super-hot in the Georgia heat. Another good question was about how everyone has a signature weapon on the show except him — but he said he does: His “weapon” is that he’s an expert in hand-to-hand combat. So he doesn’t think we will see him getting a weapon anytime soon. (I like that he’s hand-to-hand, so I approve.) He was asked how Andrew Lincoln is to work with; Tom said he’s known Andrew for a long time, and he talked about all the times in their lives that they’ve worked together. There is video of that as well. His favorite character other than Jesus is Glenn; he wished he’d gotten to work with Scott Wilson (Hershel); and when/if he dies, he wants a MAJOR death, like Hershel’s: “No bullets for me.” He has a real beard now instead of a prosthetic, which he is very glad of; he talked about how when you have a large prosthetic like that, you can’t go home immediately after wrap, and how it takes so much extra time in makeup and all that. He didn’t have time to grow a natural beard between when he got the job and filming: He said he got the call on a Friday (I think) and started filming that Monday. He was asked if any tigers would be making an appearance on the show, and he said he doesn’t know, but the producers like to do big things, so perhaps.
Next, I went to the Harry Potter reunion, Friday evening. It was James and Oliver Phelps, Jason Isaacs, and Tom Felton. Nothing newsy here, really, but it was nice to see them all together. Tom and Jason seemed close; Tom said he calls Jason, “Dad,” but they hadn’t seen each other in a number of years, so Tom got a little emotional about seeing him again. Tom was very funny and sweet — so, very different from Draco. The twins got the biggest audience reaction, so they seemed to be the fan favorites (they’re my favorites, so obviously I get it). Jason did seem to be the “dad” of the group: You could tell he’s older and has more experience, and he talked a lot — he had lots of stories to tell. They didn’t talk too much about JK Rowling, basically only saying that they were a little intimidated by her when she came to set, though they did talk a bit about the world she has created and the effect it has on people of all ages all over the world. Tom particularly seemed touched by the effect the movies have on people. He said it’s a very big responsibility, but it’s also quite crazy and in a way he hates it because it’s so much pressure to get it right and not ruin something that means so incredibly much to people. He said he is thankful every day to be in a position like this, though, to be the recipient of so much gratitude from the fans. It’s a huge responsibility and a huge honor. I might not be doing his words justice here, but he came across as very sincere and thankful, and appreciative of the fans and their enormous love. Then I think it was Jason who said JK’s work is deceptively simple, in that on the surface it looks like just one thing, but it has many layers and can be seen as a commentary on so many things. It is a moral code, and it can be applied to so many hot-button topics of any age; it will stand the test of time.
They were asked if anything found its way into their bags from the set, but sadly, they said they were practically searched on their way out every day, so no. Jason said he once snuck a Quibbler, one from a large pile of many, into a bag, and was confronted about it as he was leaving. It made me think they were using some kind of magic on set, since he didn’t know how they knew. Tom said he and Daniel Radcliffe were good friends, and there was a lot of time that they were just sitting around the set, so they would find ways to amuse themselves; he said they’d be friends for most of the day and enemies for about an hour. They were asked if there was anyone they hated from the cast, and I think the “kids” all said no, but Jason said, “She’s not here.” Hmmmm. It was an interesting and fun panel, and I am glad I got the opportunity to see it.
The last Q&A I saw was with Hayley Atwell. She was lively, well-spoken, and interesting. She started off talking about what a strong character Peggy Carter is, and how the producers never approached it from a, “She’s a strong woman” point of view; instead, it was more like, “This is a strong character who happens to be a woman.” There’s a video of her talking about this some more. One thing that was interesting was that, in contrast to the “no souvenirs” policy on the Harry Potter set, the Agent Carter set apparently is a lot more giving. She said she was told by the props manager to let him know what props she would like to have, and at the end of the season he gave her a glass cabinet he’d made with all the things she’d requested. And the costume designer asked her if she wanted any of the clothes, so she has a bunch of the clothes at home as well. She was asked if she’d be open to something like Netflix picking up the show, and she very enthusiastically said, “Absolutely!” She has a new show coming out, (Conviction, on ABC, which looks like it will also star Emily Kinney, formerly of TWD!), but she said they’d work something out if the online petitions work and someone wants to resurrect Agent Carter. She talked a little about the differences between British and American shows, in that here you have such long seasons, and you never really know if a new show will catch on or bomb. She has hope for the new show, but she said she never counts on anything, here, since she knows it could bomb and then last only half a season. I think she said in Britain they shoot the episodes all at once, and they are short seasons, so they run them all. She was asked quite a few questions about Peggy’s backstory and life, and Hayley didn’t know much, but she would “love to see it explored further in her own movie”! One can hope! Marvel needs a movie for one of the female characters anyway! She told a funny story about a sort of prank she and James D’Arcy (Jarvis) pulled on Dominic Cooper; check out the video to hear that one. She was asked about a certain recent shocking development in the comics, and she said she hasn’t read them and so doesn’t know anything about it, but after an explanation, “Peggy says ‘no.’” She was asked if she would want Cap and Peggy to have a boy or a girl, were they to have a baby, and what it would be named; she thought it was an odd question, but was a good sport and said she thinks she’d like to see Cap raising a little girl, and she would want to name her Margaret, since that is Peggy’s real name, but they would call her Maggie. I left feeling impressed by her.
The cosplays I saw ranged all over the place, from gamer fandom to movies and TV and comics and anime. There were a great many I didn’t know, but some really good ones I did. One of the first ones I saw was an excellent family cosplay of the characters from Firefly. The girl who was playing River Tam even got down into one of her “warrior” poses. It was awesome, great way to start off the con. I also saw Awesome-O, from South Park; lots of Miyazaki (Sophies, Howls, a Chihiro, many Totoros, No-Faces, many Kikis); Brak from Space Ghost Coast to Coast; Disney princesses galore, both totally in character and steampunk or other versions; lots of Ghostbusters (both old-school and new), and a Louis Tulley; a few Hobbits and Gandalfs; a Death; a Kira from The Dark Crystal; an absolutely flawless alien lady from Mars Attacks!; quite a few Beetlejuices; and the piece de resistance, a Junk Lady from Labyrinth. It was simply amazing that people built that on their own. It was done by Jen and John of Cake Wrecks and EPBOT, and it was incredible in person. They won Best in Show, and it was well deserved.
I didn’t see a whole lot of the merchandise there, either, but I do know they had a tattoo booth or two, and there was a photographer who would take pictures of cosplayers (there was one in his display of a funny Negasonic Teenage Warhead, looking at her phone with the “wait a sec” finger held up). Lots of good jewelry and art (I talked to Karen Hallion at her booth, and spent too much money there), some really nice leather goods, lots of T-shirts and toys, and SO MANY POP FIGURES. That was one thing that stuck out this year: POP figures were EVERYWHERE. I saw one selling for $1,000 at one booth! It was a Batman of some sort, I think, and apparently it was rare. Prices ranged all over the place, from a standard $25 or $30 at one booth to $10 at another, so shopping around is a good idea. I did not see too many indie comics publishers, like Blue Juice. Things seemed a bit disorganized this year, possibly due to new ownership. Our booth was in a merchandise area, not where the other comics publishers were, and Artist Alley was, for all intents and purposes unmarked, so it was hard to find anyone you were looking for over there. At least the aisles were well marked in our area by large banners hanging from the ceiling, but Artist Alley banners had only “Artist Alley” on them, and they weren’t on every aisle. The artists I talked to voiced some irritation with that, saying people couldn’t find them, and they didn’t know how to direct anyone to their booth.
The Blue Juice booth had Mike Horan, the creator of Aether and Empire, and Tim Yates, creator/artist/colorist of Anne Bonnie (and colorist for the other Blue Juice comics) there all weekend. There was a podcast in the booth at one point, and lots of people — both old fans and new — stopped by to talk to the guys and get their comics signed. We had Alexa from The Accelerators at the booth on Thursday, a Victorian-era lady (Aether and Empire) on Friday, and Ariana (Anne Bonnie) on Saturday, which was a lot of fun. She’ll be at our booth at New York Comic Con in the fall as well. A lot of steampunk cosplayers were drawn to A&E, and Tim’s beautiful art for Anne Bonnie also drew in a lot of people.
Despite some hiccups, it was a fun weekend, with lots to see and do. It is a bit overwhelming, so if you are planning to come next year, it’s best to plan for definitely more than one day (the weekend pass is probably the best deal, though, and then you can get in as many days as you like).