Fun for all and all for fun at Kansas City Comic Con 2017

Kansas City Comic Con 2017 has been an event full of fun for both visitors and the creative guests the attendees came to meet.  One of the show highlights was a Green Arrow Quiver/Sounds of Violence reunion of writer Kevin Smith and artists Phil Hester and Ande Parks.  The trio delved into the impetus for bringing Oliver Queen/Green Arrow back from the dead back in early 2001 after the character had been killed off and replaced with Connor Hawke as the Green Arrow for a generation of readers.  “I was a big fan of the character going back to the day.  I loved Grell’s Longbow Hunters and I loved the book that followed Longbow Hunters.  It was like a Vertigo book, but wasn’t technically a Vertigo book, but it was very grown-up.”  When Smith was visiting the DC Comics offices discussing a Superman screenplay back around 1996, Smith said he popped his head into Green Arrow editor Darren Vincenzo’s office and said, “Hey, man, if you ever want to put Green Arrow in the Top 10, let me write the book.  I think I got a story.”  A year later when Smith was working on Daredevil, Vincenzo recalled the conversation and asked if Smith was serious about Green Arrow. 

Smith, Hester, and Parks had each worked with editor Bob Schreck, who had just moved to DC from Oni Press, where Schreck had been co-founder.  Schreck wanted Smith for the Green Arrow project idea and asked who he’d like for his artistic team, and Smith suggested Hester and Parks in part because of their work on Swamp Thing.  “I fell in love with it deeply,” Smith said.  The team was solidified and they moved forward with the project.  “Having these two dudes enabled me to go where I wanted to go,” Smith added.  Already established artists at the time with a catalog of works, Hester and Parks expressed gratitude to Smith for selecting them for the project and Smith said the collaboration with Hester and Parks on the project helped cement his position in the comic book industry as a creator who is now regularly tapped for insight into the comics industry in documentaries on comics, among other things.  “The only reason I get to be in that stuff is because I have credibility in the comic book community because of stuff like Quiver.  Quiver was the one particularly,” Smith said, further noting the book won national awards.

And speaking of Mike Grell, Grell was also a guest at KCCC this year. Always great for a conversation, Grell was busy working on sketch commissions for attendees this weekend.

Smith also discussed working with Dynamite Comics to bring together later projects with Phil Hester and artist Jonathan Lau on Green Hornet and The Bionic Man.  Hester said there was much back and forth communication in creating the story, and Smith emphasized the collaborative effort, “I used to be a guy that was like ‘oh, I just want to write it myself–I don’t want any input.  And then one day you work with people who add something, and then it’s ‘God, that’s incredible!'”  He used as examples contributions from Chris Rock in his film Dogma and Will Ferrell in Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back–both actors who made contributions to the script but didn’t ask for or want any writing creditsand creator David Mandel in the animated Clerks.  When fans reference great lines that Smith didn’t write he said he makes sure to credit the writer.  “It’s important for collaborators to cite those people who are your collaborators.”  The panel was hosted by the Worst Comics Podcast Ever’s Jerry McMullen (shown above after the panel with Hester, Parks, and Smith).

Lee Meriwether and Doug Jones at KCCC 2017.

In the celebrity autograph area at KCCC 2017, a reunion and momentous meet-up involved actress Lee Meriwether and actor Doug Jones.  Both Meriwether and Jones worked together on the film The Ultimate Legacy, which also starred Raquel Welch and Brian Dennehy.  Meriwether and Jones are unique in that they represent contemporaries in acting but also represent bookends of a sort for the 51-year Star Trek franchise.  In addition to her many famous roles in series like Barnaby Jones, All My Children, and Batman, Meriwether played the character Losira in the original Star Trek series episode, “That Which Survives.”  Jones, an actor who has performed both as creature characters where he is often unrecognizable–a Lon Chaney of today as one fan referred to him–as well as more standard roles, has performed in more than 150 films and TV series (from one of the creepy Gentlemen in the Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode “Hush” to the creature in next month’s new Guillermo del Toro release The Shape of Water).  Plus Jones has appeared in 100 commercials, including as the classic McDonald’s moon-shaped mascot “Mac Tonight.”  And Jones currently plays the alien leading character Lieutenant Saru on this year’s latest Star Trek incarnation, Star Trek Discovery.

Gary Fisher and his family meet attendees at KCCC 2017.

Fans of Carrie Fisher were able to participate in an unusual but upbeat personal contact of sorts with the late actress as her six-year-old dog Gary continues to tour the world.  Gary was well-known by Star Wars fans through his many appearances on stage with Carrie over the past few years.  Gary’s family today includes Carrie Fisher’s assistant, who has personally cared for Gary for many years, accompanying him to conventions like KCCC.  His owner said that Gary has already gone through two passports with travels including conventions in London.  This weekend he brought smiles to thousands with attendees lining up to meet him.  He also walked the convention floor, giving plenty of hugs and licks to fans along the way, before dawning his coat for the cold, fog and rain-covered evening waiting outside. editor C.J. Bunce and artist Colin Cantwell at KCCC 2017.

Colin Cantwell, whose contributions include work on Close Encounters of the Third Kind, WarGames, and 2001: A Space Odyssey, was a guest at this year’s show.  He is best known as the original concept art designer hired by George Lucas in 1974 to design the X-Wing Fighter, TIE Fighter, Star Destroyer, and Death Star for the original Star Wars.  In a recent AMA, Cantwell recalled creating the Death Star with Lucas, “George Lucas gave me the project of designing a ‘Death Star.’  I didn’t originally plan for the Death Star to have a trench, but when I was working with the mold, I noticed the two halves had shrunk at the point where they met across the middle.  It would have taken a week of work just to fill and sand and re-fill this depression.  So, to save me the labor, I went to George and suggested a trench.  He liked the idea so much that it became one of the most iconic moments in the film!”  The 85-year-old artist signed prints of his artwork and his novel for his fans this weekend.

Colin Cantwell’s original design for the X-Wing Fighter from 1974, including the collapsing wing concept used in the final version.

Staples of the local pop culture convention circuit, national bestselling authors Dayton Ward and Kevin Dilmore chatted up their Star Trek novels and comic books as well as their other science fiction and pop culture projects this weekend.  Dilmore stars in Hallmark’s PopMinded video series and Ward is soon releasing the second tie-in novel for Star Trek Discovery.  Both authors were co-writers on this year’s Star Trek: Waypoint anthology comic book series.

Not only did fans of classic television get to meet Batman’s Catwoman Lee Meriwether, they also had an opportunity to speak with Robin himself, Burt Ward.

And here is writer, artist, and editor, and comic book legend Bob Hall, talking comics with attendees and working on a long list of commissioned sketches for fans.  Hall’s earliest Marvel Comics work was on Champions and Super-Villain Team-Up.  He also is the original artist and co-creator of the West Coast Avengers.  Hall served as assistant editor to Jim Shooter at Marvel Comics.

Come back tomorrow for more from Kansas City Comic Con 2017.  KCCC 2017 continues today from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Kansas City Convention Center at Bartle Hall in Kansas City, Missouri.

C.J. Bunce

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