The word fan should always be thought of in terms of its root word: fanaticism – because that word best describes the fanatical devotion and post-adolescent obsession that many people have with comic books, TV series and movies.

A few Saturdays ago I experienced first-hand fan-demonium when I entered Place Bonaventure for the 2011 Montreal Comiccon.

When I entered the Montreal Comiccon convention it was hot and hazy, a huge crowd of over 10,000 people had made it to the convention center after a three hour wait to get in. There was excitement and perspiration in the air; the kind of perspiration that nerds get when thinking about buying merch and comics. I was very excited too.

Many in the crowd were not afraid to show their devotion and were dressed up as their favorite crime fighters and villains or video game heroines. The spectacle of having all these costumed convention-goers really makes this event special, especially when compared to attending a business luncheon or a franchisee information session convention.

Some of the costumes were amazing (like the Hulk costumes that inflated every time Bruce Banner got angry), others were just plain weird, like the Space Troll (pictured above).

But what really made this years Comiccon bigger and battier than ever was the arrival of Adam West and Burt Ward aka Batman and Robin from the campy 60s TV series. Protected by a fierce legion of mercenary security guards, their arrival was one of the reasons this was the largest Montreal Comiccon to date, including a record number of booths and stars from the world of sci-fi, fantasy and horror.

Also on hand: James Marsters and Mercedes Alicia McNab from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Sid Haig from House of 1000 Corpses and Michael Dorn and Marina Sirtis from Star Trek: The Next Generation (TNG).

Besides taking a stroll around the convention center, anyone could go into discussion hall to listen to the many legendary guests speaking about their experiences in “the business”.

On Saturday Michael Dorn and Marina Sirtis spoke about their experiences on the set of Star Trek: TNG. Marina spoke about what it’s like to wear such tight fitting clothing compared with rest of the cast, and Michael Dorn discussed the hours spent in make-up before shooting.

The conferences were an interesting part of the event and a good opportunity for the fans to get up-close and personal with their favorite stars.

Doug Bradley, the man who played Pinhead in the Hellraiser series also gave a talk on his career in horror films. One memorable quote from him, when asked about the re-make of Hellraiser, he said, “They shouldn’t make re-makes. They should never make re-makes.” He went on to say that people shouldn’t pay for re-imagined movies; Instead they should download them. Okay, thanks for the advice.

The comic book convention is not only for established artists – we also find independent artists trying to sell their comics and creations. What makes this convention so great is that anyone can get a booth and display their art work. Who knows who might be the next big thing? Just in case, I asked everyone to autograph their work.

Speaking about autographs: The autograph industry seemed to be doing quite well at Comiccon, some legends were asking for 100 dollars per encounter/autograph – even during a recession! It was too steep for many people, like myself.

Highlight at Comiccon was definitely having my picture taken in the DeLorean DMC-12, the car from Back to the Future, whose Irish maker pretty much tanked in the early 80’s.

On a “dark” side note: not everyone was happy with the arrival of Adam West: some of the local artists who had rented booths (for around $280 for the entire weekend), were unhappy that the Montreal Comiccon doubled their price over last years event. But others were happy to see so many local and independent comic writers and illustrators being able to display their work.

Another year, another hundred-comic pond at my feet. I had to literally pull myself from the event for fear of spending all my money on merch. See you next year, Comiccon!

Pictures by Iana Kazakova

 

Japanese movies are WEIRD. A cultural scholar could doubtless tell you why, but something about modern Japanese culture is really conducive to sheer outright WTF-ery. Not just movies, but TV, cartoons (oh GOD the cartoons), comics, games, it’s all full of nuggets of pure strangeness. Some of it is the result of simple culture shock. Something about Japanese sensibilities when it comes to sex, violence, etc – or even (as we will see) parts of their folklore – just seem strange to our North American point of view. Other times (as we will also see) the explanation is probably closer to “the director is some kind of deranged whackadoo”. Now, it COULD be that the nuggets of weird that we see are just the rare cases that are given special attention and for every one insanely strange film made in Japan, there are about two hundred utterly boring, totally normal ones. But I’m a dreamer, and tend to prefer the idea that Japan is some bastion of insanity and wonder, like wonderland but with more schoolgirls in miniskirts.

No matter what the reason is for this phenomenon, I love it. As long as it doesn’t involve the inappropriate application of tentacles to those schoolgirls I was talking about, count me the hell in. Watching any good foreign movie is fun for me because their sensibilities are so foreign from ours we see less of the dreary formulas and tired cliches you see in so many American movies these days, and Japan pretty much has the market cornered on this. So join me, dear readers, in taking a look at some particularly strange examples of Japanese cinema.

Pom Poko (1994)

The Tanuki or Japanese Raccoon-Dog is an animal native to Japan that plays a fairly important role in Japanese folklore. Similar in appearance to Raccoons, Tanuki are playful forest spirits that use magical powers to play tricks on us silly humans. Pom Poko, produced by the legendary Studio Ghibli, stars a community of Tanuki in modern-day Japan who have to rediscover their somewhat forgotten skills at shape shifting and other trickery to defend their forest against urban expansion.

Testicles ahoy!

What’s so weird? Their main weapon in this battle: testicles. Big giant testicles. Tanukis have disproportionately large testicles that, in the folklore, have magical properties. In this movie, you will see cuddly, family-friendly (and this is a family movie, no mistake) forest animals use their shape shifting family jewels as parachutes and even clubbing weapons. One poor construction worker is gets taken down by a big giant Tanuki scrote that drops from the sky and smothers him like the freakin’ Blob. The weirdest moment comes when an elder Tanuki turns his grapes into an elegant boat so he and some friends can ride off into the sunset. Like the elves at the end of Return of the King, but the boat is made of balls. I swear to God, I am not making this up.

Executive Koala (2005)

This one is a favorite of mine. The main character, Tamura, is your prototypical Japanese middle-management type. He works hard to climb the corporate ladder at his job at a pickle company, he has a cute girlfriend and the sky seems to be the limit for him. But things take a dark turn when his girlfriend is found murdered. Tamura immediately becomes the primary suspect as his wife went missing three years ago and was never found. Tamura bravely tries to soldier on, but the strain of the scandal and constant scrutiny begin to take their toll on his sanity and soon he begins a Hitchcockian descent into madness, uncovering things about himself and his past that were perhaps best left buried. Also, he’s a Koala.

Yep, you heard right. For no real reason, the protagonist is a walking, talking, business suit-wearing Koala bear. It doesn’t really factor into the story in any huge way and is never explained and barely remarked upon. He’s just a Koala. Also, his boss is a bunny and the guy at his local convenience store is a frog.

Big Man Japan (2007)

Japan has a proud tradition of giant monster or “Kaiju” movies. Big Man Japan is one with even more weirdness than usual. Masaru, the main character, is the latest in a lineage of men who transform into Big Man Japan, a tattooed giant with Troll Doll hair who beats down invading monsters with a stick. But his life is far from glamorous. He lives in a dingy apartment, is kind of quiet and introverted and struggles to make ends meet, even renting out ad space on his torso when transformed. The movie is incredibly silent and moody during the non-monster scenes, with Masaru going about his daily life in a quiet malaise.

As for the monster scenes themselves….they’re kinda creepy. The monsters are all so bizarre looking and rendered in such detail that they make you more uncomfortable than anything else. One is basically just a head glued to a single leg The film’s ending is particularly odd, being either a tribute to traditional cheesy looking Kaiju action or a sign that the money behind the movie suddenly dried up. We can only guess which.

The Great Yokai War (2005)

I would probably lose my movie nerd licence (we actually do get licenses. They have a little hologram of Bob Chipman on them) if I didn’t mention one movie by the insanely prolific Takashi Miike. Let me just sum up this movie in one scene, the opener to be specific. A Japanese farmer is delivering a calf but what comes out is a distorted foetus with a human face, which says in a raspy voice that a great turmoil is coming before dying in his arms. I could describe the plot, but I think describing that first scene is all that’s needed. Oh no, I’m wrong. There is one more thing. This is a family movie. GOD, I love this country.

Ever since the 1930s proto-nerds have been meeting in dusty old dingy churches to assemble and trade things; they were collectors – hoarders if you will. Those were the infant days of nerddom, when comic-book nerds and sci-fi geeks lived in the shadows of their parents basements, trading, cataloguing and collecting.

But now they can step into the artificial light of a convention center! As the annual Montreal Comiccon begins this weekend!

The Montreal Comiccon is coming to town in full gear as the alter-ego and science fiction fair hits Place Bonavanture on the 17h and 18th. And, holy Ford Galaxie, Batman!   The Batmobile will be there.

Besides comic book writers and illustrators, there will be stars of the big and small screen from science fiction, fantasy and horror genres including (among others)

The man that made Batman Dance: that’s right, Adam West will be there – pure West (please tap chest).

Also present will be Michael Dorn, known from his role as Tactical Officer Worf on Star Trek: The Next Generation. Does he have a new book out called “I am not Worf”? We shall find out.

Also from Star Trek: The Next Generation, Marina Sirtis will be appearing. Yes, that sexy counselor from the Enterprise will be making a her presence felt.

The man who played the most evil villain in the galaxy, Darth Vader, Dave Prowse will be there.

For those of you who are fans of Buffy the Vampire Slayer series, James Wesley Marsters, Mercedes McNab are coming.

From the horror genres category, Sid Haig, who played Captain Spaulding in House of a 1,000 corpses will be there to sign autographs and talk about his many roles during his long career in cinema.

And the guest of honor, Stan Lee, will be hosting an evening with cocktails. Amateur artists and fans alike are welcome to join him for a a drink and discuss the magic of Marvel comics.

There will also be an autograph session with Stan Lee: You can increase the value of your comic books as well as meet Stan ‘fuckin’ Lee!

ForgetTheBox ranter and raver Laurence Tenenbaum and music reviewer Jerry Gabriel will also be on the scene signing autographs and giving you an in-detail account of all the strange and wild anomalies at Place Bonaventure this weekend. Embedded in a horde of zombie comic  nerds, they might even find out the true meaning of Comiccon!

 

Photos courtesy of the Montreal Comiccon

My friends, love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair. So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic. And we’ll change the world.

All my very best,

Jack Layton
1950 – 2011

 

Today we lose a leader, a friend, a family man and great influencer. Jack Layton’s legacy and commitment to changing Canada as we know it will live on for years to come. His dedication to his role as the leader of the NDP shaped and changed the way Canada, North America and the world saw Canadians and themselves.

In his final years he motivated a generation that had otherwise been dormant to the political happenings in this country. He moved a province that had been neglected by other parties, and reminded Quebec they should stand and be proud of their French culture and  Canada.

He gave us all hope for a better future, one where we would all come together to fight for our families, jobs, selves and friends. He reminded us to share our experiences, embrace our diversity as a country and be inviting to our neighbours regardless of their cultural heritage, financial background or education.

Jack Layton was someone we could be proud to say represented us. We could be proud of his dreams and actions because he was more than a politician, he was everyones friend.

Come tonight to join fellow Montrealers as they gather around George-Étienne Cartier Statue on Mount Royal with candlelight to remember Jack Layton. The candlelight vigil starts at 8pm.

Other cities will be hosting similar events. Log on to your Facebook and find out where to go.

Here’s the event page for Candlelight Vigil for Jack Latyon. Invite everyone you know.

Photo by Chris Zacchia for more photos of Jack Layton in Montreal