It's hard to believe it's been 30 years since Sigourney Weaver's Ripley awoke from a cryogenic sleep in Aliens (1986), she and her cat the sole survivors of the deep-space towing vessel after the rest of the Nostromo crew was killed by a mysterious life form in 1979's Alien. Now, in a fitting tribute for this 30th anniversary, Comicpalooza 2016 has booked an all-star lineup of several actors from the franchise.
Lance Henriksen (Bishop) won't be able to make it because of a film commitment, but the Aliens autograph experience is shaping up quite nicely with Sigourney Weaver, Bill Paxton (Private Hudson), Paul Reiser (Burke) and William Hope (Lieutenant Gorman) available for autographs and photo opportunities. Also scheduled to be making appearances at the con are Michael Biehn (Corporal Hicks), Jenette Goldstein (Private Vasquez), Mark Rolston (Private Drake) and Ricco Ross (Private Frost).
As if that weren't enough, it's safe to say we're pretty psyched about the whole Comicpalooza nerdfest – the largest comic and pop culture event in Texas – with about 2,400 hours of programming jammed into one action-packed Father's Day weekend. With its parallel multi-genre tracks, similar to Atlanta's Dragon Con (the world's largest fantasy and sci-fi con), there literally is something for everybody.
The formula seems to work, with exponential growth over the past few years, and more than 40,000 in attendance in 2015. “Most people still don't realize how much entertainment value they get from Comicpalooza,” says founder John Simons. “They don't realize that the con goes from 10 a.m. until midnight. On Saturday night, we have the live art auction [which extends the hours that day]. Usually we have hundreds of artists for the event. That one event is a bigger art show than our whole con in 2010.”
Think of it as a dream curriculum, the kind of classes you'd find if Faber College, Springfield University and Starfleet Academy were actual institutions. Simons says that, for the most part, you don't have to commit in advance; it's okay to jump from track to track or stay dedicated to one pursuit.
Like My Little Pony? There's a brony track. If costumes are your thing, there's steampunk, J-Fashion (or “Lolita” fashion) and cosplay. “We have a design house going (Baby, The Stars Shine Bright). They're coming over from Japan, showing off their designs. A fashion show on Friday, culminating in a Japanese tea party on Sunday,” says Simons.
He says that planning for the con is a year-round process, with about 100 organizers on staff. “Whatever your passion, you can spend all weekend doing just that one thing. Wrestling, celebrity, board games, film. Just have various different experiences,” says Simon. “You can go and learn how to sword fight. Or play role-playing games. Be a vampire.”
One of the new offerings is the zombie apocalypse track. After all, if a mosquito-borne virus can produce microcephalic babies, it doesn't take much of a leap to consider that brain parasites, neurotoxins, neurogenesis, nanobots or viruses could eventually go horribly awry. Simons says that programming for the track is still being developed, but it includes an expert on urban foraging. “When the zombie apocalypse happens, you're going to have to find your food.”
Other tracks include anime, comics (of course), gaming, Doctor Who, literature, paranormal, sports and both science fiction and science faction. Education is a big component, too. Houston Community College is doing C@deFest, a six-hour seminar on writing code to build websites from scratch. The literary track covers the business and art of writing, plus there are speakers from FIRST Robotics and attorneys discussing intellectual property rights.
Kate Beckinsale (Underworld's Selene) also is one of the headliners this year, and more celebrities are being announced on a regular basis. Sugar Land native Sean Patrick Flanery is coming back to town, along with fellow cast members from The Boondock Saints: Norman Reedus, David Della Rocco, Clifton Collins Jr. and Brian Mahoney. Other celebrities who have committed to the event include Tara Reid, Lou Ferrigno, Walter Koenig, Lou Ferrigno and Ric Flair®; the con includes appearances by artists, comics, musicians, authors, athletes and game designers.
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The organizers received about 1,100 independent and cult submissions for their film festival this year, and are exploring screening some of the films in the week leading up to the con. "We will have local filmmakers for interviews also. There's tremendous growth we have in that area; it's amazing that it took off," says Simons.
He says that there are day rates and weekend rates for the event. “Comicpalooza, for its size and for what it offers, is amazingly cheap. If you were going to go to Dragon Con, they're bigger, the whole track idea, you would be paying double.” Organizers are also are offering a Comicpalooza VIP Pass (allowing entrance 30 minutes earlier each day), a Harajuku Speed Pass, and experience or autograph passes for headliners.
Comicpalooza is scheduled to run noon to 8 p.m. Friday, June 17; 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday, June 18; and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday, June 19 at the George R. Brown Convention Center, 1001 Avenida de las Americas, comicpalooza.com. $10 to $250, plus additional fees for autographs and photo opportunities.