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Con Season!

By Matt Kamen     August 02, 2006


Alan Ritchson
© Alan Ritchson
At the risk of becoming repetitive, I'll be talking about Superman again this week. No, wait, come back. I'm not still rabbitting about Superman Returns. I mean the other Superman endeavour in the cultural miasma of TV and Film Smallville.

Margot Kidder

This past weekend (28-30 July) saw the inaugural Insurgence convention held in Coventry, UK. While I'd only become aware of the a few weeks ago, the organisers had been planning it for almost two years, since October 2005. The guest line up consisted of Mitchell Kosterman, who played Sheriff Ethan in the first two seasons of Smallville; Sarah Jane Redmond, Nell Potter (Lana Lang's aunt); Alan Ritchson, Arthur Curry/AC/Aquaman and, most impressively, Margot Kidder who cameoed as Dr. Crosby in season four. Oh, and she had a bit part in the '70s Superman movies too. Look it up. Sadly, other planned guests (Erica Durance, Eric Johnson, Sarah Carter and Paul Wesley) all had to pull out due to work commitments.

After waking up at the personally debilitating time of 6am, my travelling party and I headed from Birmingham (a.k.a., home base) to Coventry, only getting slightly lost in the process. As an aside, I've not been to Coventry in about seven years it's really quite nice now. The convention was held in the Menzies Leofric Hotel, spread across the first floor in several large conference rooms.

Sarah Jane Redmond

Anyhow, first impression the con lived up to its inspiration. It was small. It appears several shortsighted attendees pulled out when Erica Durance, Smallville's Lois Lane, was unable to attend, reducing the overall numbers. It was their loss not to attend though, as Insurgence had one of the friendliest atmospheres of any con I've been too. The star guests were only too happy to chat with fans they passed in the corridors, posing for photos and signing autographs. Refreshingly non-diva-like.

The structure of the convention was well thought out the stars' appearance schedules were cycled between on stage talks, autograph signings and the rather innovative (in my experience at least) coffee clubs, where small groups of attendees could buy a 30-45 minute 'up close and personal' session with one of the guests, the proceeds from which were donated to the Christopher Reeve Foundation.

As is almost mandatory for these types of events, there was a dealer room with a selection of cult goodies to tease money from the wallets of those present, though I resisted the siren's call.

Interesting things gleaned from the con:

Alan Ritchson is a giant of a man who dwarfs us mere mortals.

Sarah Jane Redmond is very nervous in person but extremely chatty.

Mitchell Kosterman

Mitchell Kosterman can kill you in a variety of ways.

Margot Kidder likes the theatre enough to run to London for a show.

Insurgence was the first convention the organizers had put on but everything ran smoothly or at least, smoothly enough that I didn't notice anything untoward besides the occasional room change. A great deal of effort obviously went into the planning and execution of this con and it showed in the end result. If Rogue Events' next major con, Asylum in May 2007, matches this level of professionalism and dedication, it should be an event worth attending.

Thanks to Wayne Munn and Rogue Events for accommodating my attendance.

If you go down to the woods...

Tokonatsu 1

...the cosplayers are already in disguise. This past weekend also saw the second annual Tokonatsu gathering in Woburn, Milton Keynes. Tokonatsu is an anime and manga festival of sorts with less emphasis on the anime and manga and more on the social side of fandom. I was obviously unable to attend both events but fortunately I have flunkies; umm, I mean, friends who did go and facilitated me with some photos. Look at the otaku frolic in the fields!

Tokonatsu 2

By all accounts, Toko 2 was a successful follow-up to last year's proceedings and the popular DDR and Otaku Royale (giant water fight, essentially) events made a return. If you know anyone who went, ask them about the Kraken.

Great Mouse Detective Work

Remember when Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (or Hero Turtles here in the UK) hit the mainstream media in full force in the early 90s? Remember the flurry of anthropomorphic imitators that followed in the Turtles' wake? Remember Biker Mice From Mars? Well, they're back three years after the new incarnation of the TMNT.

While the show was a blatant attempt to ride the Turtles' coat tails, it was an enjoyable action cartoon with an ecological but non-preachy message, good voice acting and above-average quality animation for the time. Nothing to set the world alight but certainly enough to garner something of a following.

What's interesting about the series' return now though is that this press release seems to indicate that the rights have been bought by UK TV company Granada and, if the episode titles on Play.com can be believed, the Biker Mice are relocating to the UK as a result. As far as I can recall, this is the first example of an established US show being co-opted wholesale by the UK. It should be interesting to see the results. The first episode of the new series is due to air on ITV this August Bank Holiday (28 August), but until then, here's the trailer.

New DVD Picks for 31/07/06

Asterix: Collected Adventures

The diminutive Gaul and his obese friend Obelix get the box set treatment with this collection of six feature length animated movies. While some are better than others (12 Tasks of Asterix being my personal favourite here), they're all entertaining and stand up well to the passage of time. The box set is sadly devoid of extras but the low price point should make up for that.

Alag

A bit of an unusual entry here a Bollywood remake of the 1995 Sean Patrick Flanery movie Powder, Alag (meaning 'different') is the tale of albino Tejas discovering the world following his father's death, and how his supernatural powers affect those around him. It's nice to see one of Bollywood's rare excursions into non-musical cinema, especially more so given the sci-fi subject matter. The DVD is in Hindi with English subs.

Robotech: New Generation 1

Earth is devastated in the wake of decades of war against various alien foes but Scott Bernard last survivor of a would-be liberation fleet is determined to save the planet. Sure, everybody remembers the Macross part of Robotech but this final part of the triptych was by far the most enjoyable entry in the series, following Scott as he assembles a team of freedom fighters and gets some nifty giant robots in the process. The restoration process this release has undergone is fantastic and the series should appeal to those who like animation to be a touch more 'grown up'.

That's it for this week. Thoughts? Comments? Hatemail? Contact me at mattkamen@gmail.com

COMMENTS AND RESPONSES

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1 
xephon 8/2/2006 4:27:48 AM
The Smallville con sounded fun. I met Margot Kidder at a show a while ago - lovely lady. Not too sure on that anime event... thing. A bunch of sweaty emo kids in a field wouldn't be my idea of fun! Really looking forward to the new Biker Mice show, which I'd not heard of until now. The CGI bikes will take some getting used to though! lol Good column!
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