Entering the Asylum (Mania.com)

By:Matt Kamen
Date: Thursday, May 17, 2007

Con Coverage
There were two conventions of note this past weekend that, annoyingly enough, I was unable to attend due to real-life constraints. First was the Bristol International Comics Expo, which I’ve devoted a bit of lead in coverage to in the preceding weeks. Since I missed out on this one, here’s some feedback from comic artists Lew Stringer and Mick Trimble. I’ll actually make it to one of these one year…
It’s a Madhouse! A Madhouse!
Next up, Shaun Hemmings reports on this year’s Smallville convention, Asylum. Take it away, Shaun.
“The 11th to the 13th of May saw the second UK Smallville Convention, Asylum, organised by Rogue Events and held once again at the Menzies Leofric Hotel in Coventry. This year’s show also had a joint focus on The CW’s Supernatural, which airs on ITV1 here in the UK. After an enjoyable time at last year’s convention, Insurgence, I was eager to see what was in store for fans this year.
Whereas at Insurgence we were treated to a modest – yet appreciated – line-up of four guests, Asylum gave us seven, most of which were either stars of their respective show or popular recurring guest stars. Over 700 people attended the event, a massive improvement over the 50 attendees of last year. I suspect this increase was due to the popular Jensen Ackles – star of Supernatural and guest star of Smallville – since the majority of fans were excited females who screamed every time he made an appearance. As such, I was greeted upon my arrival by a swarm of people either registering or trying to arrange photo sessions, which gave me a lengthy wait to register my own one-day attendance. Thankfully the recently appointed stewards did a great job of directing people to the right queue and keeping everyone relatively settled.
The first event I took part in was the Justin Hartley (Arthur Curry/Aquaman in Mercy Reef and Oliver Queen/Green Arrow in Smallville) and Alan Ritchson (Smallville’s version of Aquaman) interview session. Both actors were fairly relaxed and appeared to be enjoying themselves on stage, with friendly banter going on between them. It’s unfortunate that I couldn’t hear all of what was happening on stage due to the incessant talking from the crowd. In like fashion, Justin and Alan had trouble hearing any questions from the crowd, but this was down to troublesome microphones, which was to be a frequent and embarrassing problem throughout the day.

As I headed towards the Allison Mack (Chloe Sullivan in Smallville) autograph session, I saw the darker side of fandom; a hysterical fan jumping on Jensen and kissing him on the lips, almost bringing them both crashing to the floor. However, security reacted quickly and threw her out, enabling a visibly shaken Jensen to retreat for a short while. Whereas before the guests were happy to walk and talk with the fans in between sessions, this incident meant that they would only appear at their respective sessions.
The autograph session was a quiet affair, presumably because at the same time 600 excited fans were at the Jensen interview session. Allison was a last minute addition to the convention, thus emphasizing the fact that the majority of fans at the convention were Supernatural fans. This was good news for me, as I was able to have a leisurely conversation with Allison about Smallville’s impact on DC comics.
Jensen appeared unfazed by the earlier incident, and expressed his appreciation of the fans’ interest in Supernatural. A lot more questions came from the crowd this time, and while the acoustics proved annoying on occasion, Jensen was happy to answer them all, including an interesting story of a stunt where he was covered in 10,000 bees. (How very Eddie Izzard-like… - Matt)
A panel of guests from the neighbouring Coventry Sci-Fi Fair were due for the next interview session, but after a half-hour wait we were told that they’d be there for the next interview session after lunch. And indeed, the guests appeared for the next session; Mark Lutz and Jenny Mollen (both seen in Angel) and Douglas Arthurs (Stargate SG-1). Mark was having a fun time on stage, joking with the other guests and the crowd. The guests even walked out into crowd to pass the microphone to those who asked questions.
Jensen Ackle’s autograph session was well organised; only those with ticket numbers in the specified range could have his autograph, and the range was increased every 20 minutes or so. Fortunately, the organiser saw me and remembered that I was only going to be there for the day as opposed to the whole weekend and allowed me to jump the queue since my number wouldn’t have been called that day. As expected, not much time was given to talk with Jensen as he gave his autograph to the throng of waiting fans.
The last event of the day was Allison Mack’s interview session. As expected, she was comfortable and friendly onstage and while she didn’t delve too deeply into Smallville’s future, she gave us a lot of insight into her developing career and personal life.
Overall, Asylum was a great experience. Though the day was tarnished by crazy fans and poor microphones, I look forward to the next Smallville event in November which will also be encompass another deservedly popular show – Heroes.”
Anime Takes Off on Propeller
It was announced this week that the Anime Network will be appearing in the UK, albeit slightly differently than in the US. Rather than its own devoted channel, Anime Network will take up a two-hour block of programming on Sunday nights from 3rd June on Propeller TV. The launch line up consists of Coyote Ragtime Show, Neon Genesis Evangelion, Guyver: The Bioboosted Armour and Elfen Lied. Hopefully this will be a successful venture and lead to a full roll out for a devoted Anime Network for the UK further down the line. In the meantime, Propeller can be found on Sky channel 195.
New DVD Picks for 21/05/2007
It’s a big week for anime releases in the UK coming up and as such all three picks are of that medium.
Zone of the Enders: Complete Collection
This and Dai Guard are perhaps two of the most overlooked mecha series to ever be released in the west. Like Dai Guard, Zone of the Enders abandons both emotionally stunted 14 year olds and overly enthusiastic smaller children as pilots and focuses instead on grown adults for a change. It also largely abandons fanservice, which possibly contributes to its dismissal by fandom as a whole. However, the show has a wonderful cast of realistically portrayed characters and slick mecha designs. The story appears at first glance to be another ‘giant robots fight different giant robots’ cliché but on closer inspection you’ll find it to be a very touching tale of a man trying desperately to rebuild his family. The show just happens to have a robot that thinks she’s a Japanese schoolgirl in it…
It’s worth noting that this is an online only release containing both the single disc OVA ‘Idolo’ and the six disc TV series, ‘Dolores, i’.
Gunslinger Girl Complete Series
A secretive government organisation is taking dying children and rebuilding them into emotionless cybernetic killing machines to deal with the ugly side of the political spectrum. Each child is assigned to a handler to complete their mission and the handler must not develop any sentimentality for the child. Yeah, we all saw how that worked out for Buffy and Giles… Pushing aside all the violence, the series is a very touching look at human nature and the various bonds between the handlers and their wards. The entire series is offered here in a beautiful artbox.
Naruto: Season 2 Volume 1
The unstoppable march of the ninjas continues in this third collection of 13 episodes, taking Naruto, Sakura and friends through to the Forest of Death story arc. By this point, you’ll either be hooked on the series or completely ignoring it so for those in the former category, this is a must.
That’s it for this week. Thoughts, comments, hatemail? Contact me at mattkamen@gmail.com