We caught up with Comicpalooza founder John Simons just as he was "somewhere between insane and crazy.” The four-day long popular culture convention is just days away and Simons is still confirming guests (he puts us on hold to talk to Jackie Earle Haley during our phone call). Simons and his team have about seven days left to get everything in place for the for the con which has some 22,000 hours of programming, 200 guest artists on the schedule and is expected to draw more than 50,000 fans. Yep, it's crazy time.
Action film star Jeremy Renner is the con's big name guest this year and it's the first con appearance ever. Renner's resume includes The Avengers, Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol, The Bourne Legacy (our personal favorite), with Mission Impossible and Bourne sequels in the works.
"Jeremy Renner has never done a con before and this might be the only one he’ll ever do. It's the first chance fans will have to see him in a con setting. We also have five actors from Gotham coming and none of them have ever done a con either."
The Gotham actors include Cameron Monaghan (who plays Jerome Valeska, and a frontrunner to become The Joker), Sean Pertwee (Alfred Pennyworth), Camren Bicondova (Selina Kyle/Catwoman), Donal Logue (Detective Harvey Bullock) and Cory Michael Smith (Edward Nygma/ The Riddler).
Back to Jackie Earle Haley for a minute “He’s not coming to do a signing,” Simons tells us. “He’s coming to do promote his new movie, Criminal Activities with John Travolta. He’s going to do a full screening on Friday night.” Haley, who directs, his son and possibly other cast members are going to be doing a question and answer session after the screening.
“The movie won’t be out for months and he’ll be screening it here. You don’t even have to pay extra for that - it’s included in the admission.”
Simons tells us he's working hard to keep prices low for fans. Unlike most other pop culture conventions, the price of a ticket ($70 for a four day pass) includes admission to all of the weekend's panels, films, concerts, performances, arcades and shows.
"Right now we don’t have any programming that requires an additional fee," Simons says. "Autographs and photos, those are extra because the stars charge for them. There’s just no getting around that. And they aren’t cheap, I know. Movie stars and TV stars, they have a different pay scale than you and me. But we do try to keep those prices reasonable."
Several Texas artists are also appearing such as paranormal author Rachel Caine, novelist Kerrelyn Sparks, members of Houston Roller Derby and actors from a local theater company.
"The Classic Theatre Company, they participate every year and it’s always awesome. I’m not sure what scenes they’re doing this year, but the first year they came out, they did scenes from Pulp Fiction in Shakespearean English. It was hilarious. Then last year, they did scenes from Star Wars in Shakespearean English. Again, hilarious. "
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The wide range of genres and mediums is something Simons is especially proud of. "We want Comicpalooza to be a unique experience, not like all of the other cons. There’s a traveling show mentality to a lot of cons with a group of people who go from one show to another so the Milwaukee show is the same as the one in Tampa Bay. It's not like that here.
"We don’t describe ourselves as a geek event. That’s real popular, I know but we have stars and events that are mainstream. Everyone goes to see Spider-Man and The Avengers. Jeremy Renner isn’t a geek actor. We concentrate heavily on comics and science fiction, yes, but we understand the average person is interested in a lot of different things."
Other guests on the program include astronaut Stan Love, musicians GWAR and Marky Ramone, actress Linda Blair, comic book legend Stan Lee, actor Jason Isaacs, George Takei and Henry Winkler.
Comicpalooza is set for 10 a.m. to 2 a.m. daily from May 22 to May 25. George R. Brown Convention Center, 1001 Avenida de las Americas. For information, visit compicpalooza.com. $12 to $450.