Thursday, April 28, 2011

Reverend's Preview: Hero Worship

Caped crusaders of various eras and genders will once again invade the Anaheim Convention Center, as the second Anaheim Comic Con runs there April 29-May 1. Presented by Wizard World, a multimedia company devoted to pop culture, the first Orange County event in 2010 drew a legion of fans, artists and collectors.

"Anaheim Comic Con was the most anticipated and attended new event of the Spring, and we are thrilled to come back to the Anaheim Convention Center with one of the hottest new shows going,” said Gareb Shamus, Wizard World CEO. “We will have an incredible array of celebrity guests, and many award-winning comic creators lined up.”

Superheroes have hit an all time high in terms of popularity. Whether on the printed page via comic books or graphic novels, on television (a new Wonder Woman series, starring Friday Night Lights' Adrianne Palicki, is due next season) or on the silver screen (see a list of upcoming superhero movies below), there is currently no shortage of fictional crime fighters vying for our attention. Their increased visibility in recent years seems to be a response to very real cultural needs such as the pursuit of justice and a heightened desire for national security as well as world peace. This may hold especially true for GLBT citizens. When we still don't have full equality in terms of marriage and other social benefits, or when homosexuality remains a criminal offense in some countries, who among us doesn't long for a hard-bodied man or woman with super powers in a form-fitting outfit to save us?

While nowhere near as gargantuan as the annual San Diego Comic Con that takes place each July, Anaheim's Comic Con will nonetheless feature many of the same talents and vendors that populate it. There are also more than 400 celebrity guests scheduled to appear during the Anaheim con's three days. Among these are the original TV Batman and Robin, Adam West and Burt Ward; John Schneider of The Dukes of Hazzard, Desperate Housewives and Smallville fame; True Blood's Michael McMillian; Nicholas Brendon from Buffy the Vampire Slayer; and, for the ladies, the lovely Claudia Christian (Look) and Erika Eleniak (Baywatch).

One great benefit of the Anaheim Comic Con over San Diego's I discovered last year is that the celebrities are much more accessible for conversations and autographs. Whereas one can wait in line for hours in San Diego, I was able to walk right up to Star Trek's Nichelle Nichol and "Catwoman" Lee Meriwether last year and had very pleasant, unrushed chats with both. I also got to take pictures of a very sexy attendee wearing a Captain Marvel costume that left nothing to the imagination!

Fans can also meet their favorite comic creators and artists, including Judd Winick (Power Girl, Justice League), William Stout (The Dinosaurs), Mike Grell (Green Arrow, Green Lantern), Bill Sienkiewicz (Elektra: Assassin), Ethan Van Sciver (Green Lantern, Superman/Batman), Mark Texeira (Wolverine, Moon Night), Michael Golden (Batman, Hulk), Greg Horn (Spider-Man) and, last but by no means least, openly gay Phil Jimenez (Amazing Spider-Man, Astonishing X-Men).

Children and adult attendees are encouraged to come dressed as their favorite superhero, villain or pop culture personality for the chance to win special prizes in costume contests. Event-goers may also try their hand at interactive product exhibits and shop for collectible comics, movie and television memorabilia, toys and games at more than 100 dealer booths.

Anaheim Comic Con is the fourth stop on Wizard World's 2011 North American tour. Tickets are available in advance online at the con's official site at a savings over tickets purchased at the door.


Over the next few months, the largest number of comics-based spectacles yet released in one movie season will arrive in theatres. Holding out for a hero? Prepare to be rescued!

Thor (opening May 6): The mythic Norse god makes his movie debut under the direction of Shakespearean pro Kenneth Branagh (Henry V, Much Ado About Nothing) and with a cast that boasts Oscar winners Natalie Portman and Anthony Hopkins. Hot newcomer Chris Hemsworth plays Thor.

Priest (opening May 13): Paul Bettany (Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World) stars as a vampire hunter in this horror flick based on a Korean comic.  Star Trek's Karl Urban and Burlesque hottie Cam Gigandet co-star.

X-Men First Class (June 3): A reboot of the popular comics and movie series about warring mutants. Set in the early 1960's, the new film features younger versions of Professor X (James McAvoy of Wanted) and Magneto (Michael Fassbender from Inglorious Basterds) up against the Soviet Union and a villainous Kevin Bacon.

Green Lantern (June 17): Everyone's favorite hunky movie star, Ryan Reynolds, plays a military test pilot turned intergalactic policeman after a fateful encounter with a dying visitor from outer space. Peter Sarsgaard (Kinsey, An Education) co-stars as the new hero's alien-infected nemesis.

Captain America: The First Avenger (July 22): Chris Evans has already personified one classic hero, Johnny Storm, in the two Fantastic Four movies. Here, he faces his greatest challenge as a physically-enhanced soldier during World War II who must save America from an attack by Hitler's henchman, the Red Skull (Hugo Weaving of The Matrix).

Cowboys & Aliens (July 29): The title says it all in this big-screen adaptation of a graphic novel series. Harrison Ford and Daniel Craig don't play superheroes, but they are the best hope for a wild west town besieged by nasty space invaders.

Conan the Barbarian (August 19): Hunky Jason Momoa is tasked with filling Arnold Schwarzenegger's loincloth in this new version of the classic sword and sorcery character.

And just wait until 2012, when new Spider-Man, Batman, Wolverine and Superman movies are all scheduled to premiere!

Preview by Rev. Chris Carpenter, resident film critic of Movie Dearest and the Blade California.

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