New York Comic Con Round-Up: Spoon Sword Fights, Dracula Ancestors, and the Wain Gang's All Here

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Friday night might have ended on a downer with a great legend not given his due, but on Saturday, I arrived rested and ready to hit the ground running. Saturday, which was my longest day by far, was jammed-pack full of geeky wonderful goodness like the Vampire Cowboys and a Childrens Hospital panel of Rob Corddry, Jonathan Stern, David Wain, Paul Scheer, and Curtis Gwinn, and I was ready to take it all in.

Saturday

I am a long-time fan girl of New York theater company, the Vampire Cowboys. They are best known for their elaborate stage fighting, staging shows with female and Asian leading characters, and paying homage to geek culture. Alice in Slasherland was a loving tribute to teen slasher films, and this year's She Kills Monsters was a hilarious and touching story of a young woman getting to know her deceased sister through Dungeons and Dragons. Any time I hear that playwright Qui Nguyen is working on something new for the Vampire Cowboys, I am already on board.

When the Vampire Cowboys announced that they would be doing a table reading at New York Comic Con, I knew it would be a high priority for me. When I heard that the reading was based on the Fables-esque comic satire Kill Shakespeare, it became one of my most anticipated events of the whole weekend. My expectations were high, and I was not disappointed. For those unfamiliar with Kill Shakespeare, it is a comic series based on characters from Shakespeare's plays, and it is tailor made for Shakespeare nerds. Hamlet is caught in a pirate battle on top of a tempest, and he is washed up on land and taken to King Richard. King Richard promises Hamlet that he will bring his father back to life if Hamlet tracks down their creator William Shakespeare...and kill him. On the way to Shakespeare, Hamlet is kidnapped by a band of revolutionaries who are trying to overthrow the corrupt King Richard. The revolutionaries are led by the fearless Juliet Capulet, the comical Falstaff, and the haunted soul Othello, and Iago, Lady Macbeth and Puck also make appearances. References to Shakespeare's text go deeper than the play's characters, though. The dialogue is peppered with tributes to Shakespearean style, and famous line and monologues are reinvented in unexpected ways.

Even though the Vampire Cowboys only had still images from the comic book and the occasional musical accompaniment, the actors made the story come to life for the audience. Each performer played multiple characters, creating ghostly hauntings, cross-dressing escapades, and epic battles with the most basic of props and sound effects. One of my favorite parts was during the first battle scene when the actors started sword fighting on stage using metal spoons. I don't know if the Vampire Cowboys have any further plans to develop Kill Shakespeare into a stage play, but if they do, I will be first in line for tickets.

After Kill Shakespeare, I wanted more classic characters in literature who have recently bled over into the geek world. I headed over for the Dracula panel led by Bram Stoker's great-grandnephew Dacre Stoker and including author John Browning (Dracula in Visual Media) and screenwriter J.V. Hart (Bram Stoker's Dracula). All three panelists are experts on three different facets of Bram Stoker's Dracula, and together, they gave a full, rich picture of Stoker's legacy and the effect that his book had on vampire lore. Dacre Stoker delved into the life of Stoker and the factors that might have pushed his interest towards vampires. For example, Bram Stoker was very sick as a child, and bloodletting was common place. He also lived in a time when people with strange illnesses were shunned and sometimes buried in the ground in mass graves before they were dead. Did these life experiences push him towards vampire lore? It is very likely. Fortunately, Stoker took extensive notes while writing Dracula, so readers today can get a glimpse into Stoker's mind when he was writing it. Dacre Stoker even shared some of the notes as part of his presentation.

Browning's presentation was focused more on how film, TV, and video games have portrayed Dracula throughout the years and how he changed from creepy creature of the night to an Abbot and Costello joke and back to a horrifying monster that can still captivate audiences today. Con goers who might not have known much about Dracula in film were given a surprisingly thorough history despite the time constraints, and Browning kept the presentation lively and engaging even as he had a lot of film history to cover. Nosferatu and Bella Lugosi were discussed of course, but I was surprised to learn that though I consider myself a Broadway nut, I didn't know that Frank Langella breathed new life into the role on stage.

J.V. Hart was last, and it seemed like he didn't get as much time as the other speakers. Still, he made the most of it and regaled the audience with stories about the making of 1992's Bram Stoker's Dracula. He shared the sudsy celebrity parts like Gary Oldman and Winona Ryder fighting on set, but he also shared the creative dilemma that almost brought the movie to a halt just before it was scheduled to start filming. The issue was the bat mythology tied to vampires. How could they have Dracula transform into a bat while still maintaining the tone of dark, serious horror? Eventually, after director Francis Ford Coppola had a minor meltdown, they created one of the most iconic images of the film, what they termed as a “really big bat.” Between Stoker, Browning, and Hart, vampire newbies got a solid introduction to the world of Dracula, and long-time fans got a good refresher with some new stories and revelations thrown in.

Before I headed over for the Childrens Hospital and NTSF: SD: SUV:: joint panel, I happened to run into Eric Godfrey who had just gotten out of his round table discussion of Epic Mickey 2, and as it so happened, gaming extraordinaire Warren Spector was also passing by. Eric flagged down Spector and introduced me, and being shocked and suddenly nervous, I babbled something that I think was “Hello” and “I love your work and Disney, and you working on Disney games is like getting peanut butter in my chocolate,” though much less eloquently. Spector was kind and very graciously asked if I would like to come in and try out the game. After picking my jaw off the ground, I said yes and tried to hold back the urge to skip into the Disney Interactive room. It turned out that I would only get to see Epic Mickey 2 in action as the controller was already occupied, but I did get to play Epic Mickey: The Power of Illusion on the Nintendo DS for a solid 20 minutes and listen to Spector talk more about the game.

While the game was great fun, what I loved most about the experience was seeing someone who has talent and passion for his work and yet stays so down to earth. The gaming culture can get so negative at times with stupid bickering about whether dance or music games are “real games,” but Spector still gets excited about his projects, especially his work with Disney.

My last stop of the day was the Childrens Hospital / NTSF: SD: SUV:: panel, a.k.a. David Wain and Friends Poke Fun at NYCC's Comedy Hipsters. Panelists Rob Corddry, Jonathan Stern, David Wain, Paul Scheer, and Curtis Gwinn didn't prepare too much, and that was okay. Most of the session was the panelists joking around and taking questions from the audience, though they did squeeze in a few clips from the new seasons. Spoiler: Nick Offerman will be back on Childrens Hospital, and Aubrey Plaza will be playing a “memory expert” on NTSF: SD: SUV::. They also showed a hilarious new promo for Childrens Hospital involving a blood drive gone wrong. The funniest (and most awkward) moments of the panel, though, were during the open Q&A. It seemed that before the panel, NYCC's comedy hipsters had all dug into the early IMDB history of each panelist and come up with the most obscure references they could find. The problem was that the questions and references were so obscure that sometimes the panelists didn't even get the joke. These people were trying to be clever instead of asking an actual question, which was not lost on the panelist, and the panel rescued what could have been a really awkward Q&A by poking fun at these ridiculous “questions.” M favorite audience member, who didn't try to be overly clever, was a sweet British woman who asked in a thick accent what the panel would like for Christmas. Totally adorable.

As my Saturday came to an end, I reflected back on what I had seen and experienced. The Vampire Cowboys, Warren Spector, and all these other people who had found their place in theater, gaming, comics and TV while also bringing something new. Why can't live theater have monsters and Bruce Lee fight scenes? Why can't a game push a player to choose creation vs. destruction instead of just another gun? Why can't we put short-form comedy on TV? Their talent, drive, and unique approaches to their respective mediums encouraged and inspired me, and they set the bar impossibly high for Sunday. Still, I had a lot to look forward to including women working in comics and the best and brightest women of pop culture from Leia to Buffy.

Stay tuned for the last part of my recap of New York Comic Con!

Oct
26
2012
Rachel Kolb • Staff Writer

I love movies, writing, and breaking into song in public. You can follow me on Twitter @rachelekolb or check out more of my work at http://rachelekolb.wordpress.com.

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