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Tag Archive: Levar Burton


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Get thee to the comic book store tomorrow!

It’s that time of year again.  It’s time for the annual pilgrimage to your local comic book store for Free Comic Book Day, this Saturday, May 7, 2016.  Dozens of new books are available this year, for kids of all ages.  Like these:

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Alan Tudyk has a new comic book out called Spectrum.  He talks about it here:

And despite what you hear below from that familiar guy from Reading Rainbow, most comic book stores will let you select more than a few issues, not just one:

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Star Trek Costumes Block and Erdmann final cover 2015

Review by C.J. Bunce

The best non-fiction look at Star Trek in years is now available at book stores and online retailers.  Star Trek Costumes: Five Decades of Fashion from the Final Frontier, by Paula M. Block and Terry J. Erdmann will serve as a companion book to The Art of Star Trek, The Continuing Mission, and Star Trek: The Art of the Film, all previously reviewed here and here at borg.com.  Together these four books represent the best visual looks at the history of Star Trek.  This new volume includes beautiful, clear, full-color photographs in a colorful hardcover, coffee table edition.

General fans of Hollywood costumes will learn plenty about the variety of major costumes used in the Star Trek universe throughout the past 50 years, and Star Trek diehards will find many interesting tidbits, too.  Highlights include recollections of costume designer Robert Fletcher about his creations for the movies and photos of several of his original costume designs, including his sketches for William Shatner’s Captain Kirk Class B uniform, Scotty’s engineering radiological suit used in Star Trek: The Motion Picture, and the maroon, naval-style officer and crewman uniforms first appearing in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.

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William Ware Theiss’s era-defining costumes from the original series receive plenty of coverage, including images of some of Theiss’s often quickly rendered costume designs.  The original hand-drawn artwork from past and present is worth its weight in gold press latinum, including original costume designs for Star Trek: The Next Generation by Durinda Rice Wood (like Counselor Troi’s beautiful, form-fitting, burgundy jumpsuit), costume designs for Star Trek: First Contact by Deborah Everton (like Lily’s 2063 civilian garb worn by Alfre Woodard), Robert Blackman’s original concept art for Star Trek Generations (like the British Naval uniforms), and Sanja Milkovich Hays’ original concept sketches for Star Trek: Insurrection (like the female Tarlac nurse bodysuits) many including photos of corresponding fabric swatches.  While Star Trek Costumes provides only a brief look at the costumes of Deep Space Nine, Star Trek Voyager, and Enterprise, it provides a nice overview of the revisited designs and variants of Star Trek 2009 and Star Trek Into Darkness, including a focus on the Klingon costumes.

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Guardians FCBD 2014

It’s that time of year again.  It’s time for the annual pilgrimage to your local comic book store for Free Comic Book Day, this Saturday, May 3, 2014.  Dozens of new books are available this year, for kids of all ages.  Like these:

Sherwood FCBD 2014   VIZ_201402FCBD2014SolicitationCover.indd

Rocket Raccoon FCBD 2014   FCBD14_COV.indd

And despite what you hear below from that familiar guy from Reading Rainbow, most comic book stores will let you select more than a few issues, not just one:

Then there’s that other guy, who you may not be surprised to see promoting FCBD 2014:

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Trektacular 2014

Planet Comicon 2014 wrapped today, bringing to close the region’s biggest and best comic book and pop culture convention ever.  The best was saved for last with the TREKtacular reunion of the Star Trek: The Next Generation cast members hosted by William Shatner, including a surprise visit by John deLancie.  Marina Sirtis, Michael Dorn, Gates McFadden, Wil Wheaton, Jonathan Frakes, LeVar Burton, Brent Spiner did not disappoint a sold out crowd in the giant ballroom of the Kansas City Convention Center.  For those attending this once-in-a-lifetime event that did not purchase one of the 100 limited edition exclusive artist signed TREKtacular prints, a few may still be available.  Contact Reinke Arts on Facebook for more information.

Michael Dorn and Marina Sirtis

We talked with Michael Dorn about his real-life jet fighter flying experience and Marina Sirtis said she loved today’s borg.com editor’s cosplay choice (so did Return of the Jedi’s Femi Taylor!).

Lee Majors panel

Lee Majors was a superb storyteller, catching up panel attendees on his recent TV series work, and delving into his stunt work on The Fall Guy (where he performed 80% of his stunts) and The Big Valley. He also discussed the success and appeal of The Six Million Dollar Man to fans.

Bionic Man action figure

We resurrected last year’s Convention costume of The Six Million Dollar Man action figure, which we wore meeting The Bionic Woman, Lindsay Wagner, at Planet Comicon 2013, complete with jumpsuit, patch, plastic hair, data chip arm tattoo, bionic eye, and trademark Adidas Dragons.

Meeting Lee Majors

A kid’s fantasy come true–meeting your childhood hero, Lee Majors, who called me his “double” and said he thought the outfit and plastic hair was cool.  He also autographed the photo that was sent out to kids in the original fan club set in 1974, signed then by “Col. Steve Austin.”

With Zoie Palmer at Planet Comicon 2014

With Zoie Palmer from the Toronto-based TV series Lost Girl, the great Syfy Channel series we have reviewed previously here at borg.com.

With Margot Kidder at Planet Comicon 2014

With Margot Kidder, Lois Lane from the 1970s Superman movies starring Christopher Reeve.

Aquaman and Mera

Aquaman and Mera, Queen of Atlantis.

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NextGen cast

An awesome way to wrap up three days of convention activities, TREKtacular is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for fanboys and fangirls to see some of the biggest Star Trek names all in one place in a Midwest venue.  To be held as Planet Comicon 2014 comes to a close, TREKtacular will feature a lively show with the entire original bridge crew of Star Trek: The Next Generation minus Picard, along with Star Trek original series star and now pop-culture icon William Shatner.  The event will be held in the Kansas City Convention Center at 4:30 p.m. to 6 p.m., Sunday, March 16, 2014.

Featured celebrities for TREKtacular include Jonathan Frakes (Commander Will Riker), Brent Spiner (Lt. Cmdr. Data), LeVar Burton (Lt. Cdr. Geordi LaForge), Gates McFadden (Dr. Beverly Crusher), Michael Dorn (Lt. Cmdr Worf), Marina Sirtis (Counselor Troi), and Wil Wheaton (Ensign Crusher), plus host William Shatner.  Planet Comicon attendees may purchase autographs and photographs with the celebrities on “Celebrity Row” during the convention in advance of TREKtacular.

Kirk Star Trek VI

Tickets for this event will go on sale tomorrow at 10:00 a.m. Central time, through Ticketmaster, and range from $49.50 to premier seating at $149.50 (a steal considering the number of guests being brought together and comparable event prices at the Sprint Center across town, and cheaper than good seats at a Chiefs or Royals game!).  There’s been a lot of buzz generated and demand is high so make sure you buy early tomorrow before the event sells out.  And for those who can’t make it to the convention, you don’t have to buy a ticket to Planet Comicon to attend this event.

More information is available at the Planet Comicon 2014 website.  Come and join borg.com for this incredible NextGen reunion, and a chance at seeing William Shatner in action!

C.J. Bunce
Editor
borg.com

Next Gen cast photo from Insurrection

Planet Comicon, the Midwest’s premiere pop culture and comic book convention, will host a 20-year reunion of members of the bridge crew of the Enterprise-D at The Star Trek: The Next Generation Reunion March 14-16, 2014 at the Kansas City Convention Center.  Commemorating 20 years since the seven-year series wrapped in May 1994, it will be a unique opportunity for the public to meet seven of the most beloved actors in sci-fi history, and they will all appear on stage together for an exclusive interactive cast panel Sunday, March 16.  It is the first time so many cast members will have appeared at one venue in the Kansas City area.  Three days of meeting fans, photo ops and signing autographs also presents the opportunity for the most access ever at one Con to all of these Star Trek icons.

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By C.J. Bunce

You can spend your weekend at Comic-Con wandering the exhibit floor looking for mass market collectibles, talking with dealers of original art, talking with writers and artists of current and classic comic books, attend panels and see comic and other creators, TV and movie stars and get the low-down on coming projects, go offsite for parties and studio and publisher events–the biggest problem is doing all you want when there is nowhere close to enough time to do it in.  If you’re in for only a few days, you really have to pick up your pace and narrow down what you want to see.  Since I spent a whole day in panels and did not stay for the entire weekend, any encounters I had with creators and studio celebrities were pretty much based on happenstance this year.  Many creators are now friends, others I gawk at like everyone else from afar.  So who did I see?

First of all, in panels I saw the cast of Community, Firefly, and the new series Arrow, including guys I’d love to talk in person someday–Alan Tudyk and Adam Baldwin, David Boreanaz and Emily Deschanel from Bones, and the guy you may know as Bud from Married with Children, David Faustino, who is doing voice work now for Nickelodeon, and he voiced the character Mako as part of the Legends of Korra panel.  As I mentioned earlier in the week, waiting in line allowed me to meet and get a photo with Joss Whedon.

The Soup host Joel McHale, Firefly star Nathan Fillion, former Angel star David Boreanaz and Korra’s David Faustino really stood out as funny guys in these panels–surprisingly quick-witted people who got the crowd cheering with everything they said.

I saw the main cast of the Syfy Channel series Haven during their signing session.  They really looked like they were having a good time–like they really get along with each other.  Also signing in the Sails Pavilion were Richard Anderson, who was the classic character Oscar Goldman from one of borg.com’s favorite borg shows: The Six Million Dollar Man, and Cindy Morgan from the original Tron and Caddyshack.  I hoped to run into Bruce Boxleitner, JK Woodward and Scott and David Tipton but my panel schedule caused me to miss meeting them.

On the exhibit floor I watched Lou Ferrigno (The Incredible Hulk) and Kevin Sorbo (Hercules) talk with fans and sign autographs.

Arnold Schwartzenegger was coming into the hall and I staked out a photo op location but his handlers moved him out of the hall so I missed seeing him.

As a Star Trek fan, I was very happy to finally meet and have a nice conversation with Brent Spiner.  He was a great guy who was as nice in person as you’d hope him to be from years of watching his lovable character Data.  I also had a brief chat at day’s end with Levar Burton, also a friendly guy, signing photos of Geordi LaForge for fans.  I’d met Marina Sirtis before so I didn’t chat with her this round, but she was also signing Counselor Deanna Troi photos in the hall.

Earlier this year I reviewed Table Top, a new, fun Web series hosted by Wil Wheaton with the Geek and Sundry creators.  I met him near a Starbucks and shared my feedback with him on his show.  We talked about some of the games and he graciously introduced me to his wife and friends.

Wheaton is truly “one of us” and a really personable guy.  Of everyone at the Con, he is probably my first pick of someone you’d like to wander the Con halls and chat with.  Another show host, Blair Butler was attending the Con from the popular genre cable channel G4.

Of the comic book realm, I met Cat Skaggs, a well-known comic book artist who was signing cover prints to Smallville Season 11 #1 and she sketched a great Green Arrow bust for me.

I also met Neal Adams–a comic book legend who created the look of the Silver Age Green Arrow and I finally was able to add one of his sketches to my folio.  Neal was sketching non-stop for fans just like the newer, younger artists in Artist Alley–a real “working artist” even after all these years.

I ran into my friend Freddie Williams II also, and he also was busy sketching for fans throughout the Con and selling original art from his various DC Comics series.

David Petersen, known best for his Mouse Guard work, was working on commissions for attendees and selling shirts and art at his booth in Artist Alley.  I also lucked into getting a sketch from him and enjoyed talking with his wife, who manned the booth when he was doing signings elsewhere.

I ran into Frank Cho again this year and he said he is still expecting to get Guns & Dinos out soon.  He was selling a great pin-up calendar featuring Brandy and the Liberty Meadows gang.  More on that in future posts.  A nominee for the Eisner in two categories this year, Rachel Rising creator Terry Moore was busy talking with fans.

As with last year, Jim Lee could be found at several panels and signing throughout Comic-Con.

As with Freddie Williams, I met up with several folks from back in the Midwest.  I ran into artist Ande Parks and met his wife, while hanging with Sean and William from Elite Comics and Chris Jackson who runs Planet Comicon.  Parks was chatting with his frequent cover artist Francesco Francavilla, this year’s Eisner cover artist of the year winner, and someone we have talked about here at borg.com all year long for his great cover art.  I ran into Star Trek author Kevin Dilmore twice on the exhibit floor–my third year seeing Kevin at the Con.  It’s crazy how you can be in your hometown and never run into anyone, and then fly to San Diego and see so many people from back home.

The TV series Cops is in its 24th season.  Survivor began its 24th season this month (although its been around half as long as Cops).  Cops began because of scrambling network executives who needed to put something on TV in light of a writer’s strike.  And its all gone downhill from there.  Like Huey Lewis used to say, “sometimes bad is bad.”

Yet someone is watching this stuff.  American Idol and Dancing with the Stars show little signs of fading away.  What part of the collective psyche of the modern TV viewer makes so many of us show up each week for this kind of programming?   And it’s not just an American pastime.  As an example, Survivor variants can be found all over the planet.   Networks love these shows because they don’t need to hire the best, aka most expensive, writers.  They can basically put anything out there and we will watch it.

Back before “immunity” and “voting people off the island” there was an earlier counterpart to shows like Dancing with the StarsBattle of the Network Stars was a series of 19 specials back when we had three networks to watch.  Like Dancing with the Stars, sometimes the celebrities were just barely celebrities, but more likely than not the general population would be able to identify who was competing on the semi-annual show.  Battle of the Network Stars pitted stars from each network against each other in several physical games, such as football, running, biking, golf, volleyball, swimming, and even kayaking.  At the end of each 2-hour tourney the two highest scoring networks would compete in a tug-of-war battle to the death (OK, not really, actually just a good old-fashioned tug-of-war).

Then again, Robert Conrad and Telly Savalas look like they have some serious money wagered on the outcome of this episode.  I hope someone told Ron Howard to get out of Penny Marshall’s way

Overall the shows were successful.  They were fun, generally light-hearted, and only rarely did competitors seem to be fiercely competing or all-out angry when they lost.  The shows weren’t about ostracizing anyone, or making fun of competitors.  They generally reflected what you would see in neighborhood softball games at home.  More like Dancing with the Stars than other current reality shows, you found yourself cheering for someone to succeed more than hoping anyone would fail.

A single race had many celebrities–some still on TV, including David Letterman and Billy Crystal.   MmmA Hulk team-up with Geordi LaForge?  Awesome!

The shows began in 1976 and ended in 1985.  To add to the spirit of competition, Howard Cosell was the host of the shows, announcing the play-by-play as if he were announcing the Super Bowl, often over-exaggerating and parodying his own animated announcing style.

One of the best parts of the Battles were the networks’ coaches who served to anchor the teams and cheer on the sometimes athletically-challenged participants.  The first captains were Gabe Kaplan, Robert Conrad and Telly Savalas.  William Shatner and Tom Selleck would later serve as popular captains, among others.

For fans of these actors and actresses in the years before most of the country would have access to Fan Cons, this was a rare chance to see that these celebrities were normal people like the rest of us.  Of course, in hindsight it is hard to get past some obvious style changes, especially “short shorts.”  Ultimately the shows were about being good sports, although there was plenty of humorous trash talk between the networks.  You could imagine that these actors, many still on TV and even in movies, would probably not want to go back and watch these shows, celebrities like Bruce Boxleitner, Michael J. Fox, Heather Locklear, Rosalind Chao, Morgan Fairchild, Stephen Collins, Jameson Parker, Cheryl Ladd, Valerie Bertinelli, Howard Hesseman, Lynda Carter, Richard Hatch, Adrienne Barbeau, Levar Burton, Kurt Russell, David Letterman, Lou Ferrigno, Robin Williams and Billy Crystal.

Kids got to see an even better show, the Saturday morning parody cartoon version

The biggest difference between Battle of the Network Stars in the 1970s and 1980s and reality competition shows of 2012?  Back then Battle of the Network Stars was the exception.  It aired twice per year.  We weren’t saturated with battle shows and celebrities not doing what celebrities were meant to do on TV, like act in dramas, mysteries and comedies.

When you see good TV you know it.  If you’ve watched shows like the popular Downton Abbey and The Hour from BBC TV and public television, shows like Mad Men on AMC, Homeland on Showtime, long-running network shows like House, MD on Fox or the several Law and Order series on NBC, you know a lot of time and effort and creativity went into the formulation of these productions.  We can’t help feel a little guilty when watching a show about a couple guys running a pawn shop.  And maybe we should.

Captain Shatner

Did audiences in the 1970s and 1980s know something we don’t know?  Did the networks?  It may sometimes feel like we will never come out of this glut of reality TV.  But there’s always hope.  Creative and interesting series like NBC’s new supernatural mystery Awake, dramas like The Closer and In Plain Sight, comedies like Psych and New Girl, genre shows like Warehouse 13 and Lost Girl, all make you think there may be a light at the end of the tunnel.  And just for the fun of it, how about dumping all the reality shows and bring back some goofy fun like Battle of the Network Stars?

C.J. Bunce
Editor
borg.com