Power-Con 2012

Before I can get on with my report on Power-Con 2012, something has to be said about our journey to and from Los Angeles. Leanne and I flew via Southwest Airlines from Washington Dulles to LAX, with a connection at Chicago Midway Airport. The dramatically changing landscape across the United States is simply outstanding. Having a window seat view during a day flight is a great compensation for an uncomfortable flight. From the lush east coast, to the patchwork of farms in the mid-west, to the severe but beautiful deserts and mountains, it is fun the whole way! Does the Grand Canyon look like Mars, or does Mars look like Earth? It’s been a long time since I flew across the country and this time America seemed to be winking at me and showing me her best side. In this respect, I was like an excited little kid. I took many photos, but don’t have the space to show more than a couple.

Incredibly, our trip back to the East Coast put a bit of a downer on an otherwise enjoyable weekend escape to LA. Our Monday journey, back to Washington, DC, ended with us being barred from the daily parking garage, along with everyone else at the airport, by a swat team who spent the next 6 or so hours allowing a bomb disposal squad to search each level. Apparently at least one plane ready for departure was deboarded and placed on a bus on the tarmac for an hour. We still don’t know what was really going on as the PR at the airport security line was vague and sugar-coated. I kept waiting for Hans Gruber to come marching in with a team of crack German mercenaries. It was a miserable end to a long day of travel and not the best way to end the weekend.

Due to my spine and nerve problems, air travel is particularly unpleasant. I was so badly hit by the pain that I was still feeling the affects on the first day of the show. However, the flight back was not nearly as awful, and I managed better UNTIL Jabba the Hutt’s mother-in-law sat beside me. Mercifully it was the shorter of the two flights, being only from Chicago to Washington DC, but I was counting the minutes the whole way. She wanted the armrest (my only protection from her) raised, presumably as it dug into her excessive mass. The result of this was that your 6′ 2″ writer / co-artist of Blue Milk Special was restricted to about two thirds of my already uncomfortably small chair. Her elbow pressed heavily into my side throughout the flight and I was forced to sit on an even more awkward angle for my spine, exacerbating my arm nerve problems.

I’m not a touchy feely person. It’s fine, of course, if its Leanne, but I don’t like physical contact that much, even with friends, especially not with complete strangers. The effect was that I looked like Stephen Hawking in my chair with my bad neck and the human blob beside me, overflowing onto my seat and the narrow airplane aisle. This woman did not have a carry-on bag, rather she had a black plastic trash bag that spilled all over the place throughout the flight. A bag that ultimately ended up at her feet where, because of her size, she could no longer reach it. This did not stop her trying. I looked on blankly… Leanne took a photo of me as I spent most of the time with my back turned away from the small moon beside me . Anyway, it’s over now. We got home around 2am absolutely shattered. We’re picking up the pieces today and finally able to start reflecting on the show itself!

What was Power-Con all about? You may have read previously that this was a Masters of the Universe and Thunder Cats convention, and that a long time ago, Leanne used to be the editor for the MVCreations reboot of Masters of the Universe. Leanne and I are of that generation who grew up with an explosion of action-adventure cartoons. The success of Star Wars was instrumental in giving animation and toy merchandising a wake up call. Masters of the Universe was one of the first to fully capitalize on this combination. Fortunately, the importance of good storytelling was not lost, despite what the period’s detractors might say. Shows like Transformers, GI Joe, My Little Pony and He-Man remain potent today not simply for the toys, but the imagination, adventure and escapism of the story that gave life to the plastic. Leanne and I loved many of these shows for the same reasons we loved Star Wars. Great characters, cool costumes and designs, big explosions, memorable music and, at the time, awesome toys and memorabilia. These shows, particularly Masters of the Universe, had a big part in shaping our imagination alongside Star Wars.

When Leanne became editor of the Masters of the Universe 2002 comic relaunch, a bestseller at the time, it was her first step towards a career in comics she had worked towards as an artist through school and university. Sadly, problems with publishers and then the disastrous collapse of Crossgen Comics cut short Leanne’s dream. One perk was that she was fortunate enough to illustrate her first comic, the origin story of Stratos, her favorite character from the series. She also got to know Rob Zombie through the Spookshow comic and later work with him on Whatever Happened to Baron Von Shock. Almost 10 years later, the four MVCreations staff members you see on the left were reunited together at Power-Con 2012 after events back in 2004 had sent them their separate ways. From left to right, they are Val Staples, Matt Tyree, Leanne (of course) Hannah, and Jonboy Meyers. They’ve all changed and grown over the years and are much wiser now, which helps to make this image so touching to see.

Val continues to run MVCreations today handling freelance work for Hasbro toys, however last year he financed and put on the first Masters of the Universe convention. Power-Con / Thunder-Con was held in 2011 and was the first time a show for the enormously popular Masters of the Universe and Thunder Cats had been celebrated in such a way. For years, people had talked about putting a show together and Val finally took the bull by the horns. Although small, and confined to a Marriott Hotel hall, the 2012 show looks to have doubled the attendance of the previous year. In 2011, Leanne attended alone, but this year, with a sudden change of plans, I was able to join her and bring Blue Milk Special to the West Coast… sort of. Unsurprisingly, we lacked a Star Wars audience and the experiences that marked the event came from other areas of interest; from Masters of the Universe and GI Joe to the Beatles!

Above, Penny Dreadful, Pixel Dan, Jon Kallis (The Shadow), Leanne Hannah and James Eatock as they record their late night podcast, Roast Gooble Dinner, in front of a live-audience. Val is off panel, and Eamon joined via Skype.

Everything cool that happened took place on Sunday, the last day of the show. It started with us bumping into Larry Kenny (original voice of Lion-O from Thunder Cats) while we stood in line together at Starbucks. We got talking about his work on the Meowmix cat food commercials and by the time he got up to the counter, to pay for his breakfast, he paid for us too and gave what must have been $10 -$15 bucks in change as a tip to the overworked Hotel staff. As they would have said in Red Dwarf, “what a guy!”.

We also met Meg Foster (the actress who portrayed Evil-Lynn in the 1987 live action Masters of the Universe film) and witnessed her unearthly blue eyes for ourselves. They are real. No contacts. I know this because she had trouble seeing the picture on the camera. She said she used her eyes to creep out her brother during arguments! Despite the striking pose she gave in the photo, she is actually incredibly warm and friendly. I couldn’t quite picture an ice queen like Evil-Lyn mingling with fans, unless of course it was part of some cunning deception! The fact she played Hera in Hercules: The Legendary Journeys and Xena: Warrior Princess, seemed to bond us immediately as we all had fond memories of New Zealand to share. She was so wonderfully nice that she gave Leanne not one, but TWO signed autographed photos of herself in the roles of Evil-Lyn and Hera, for FREE! And she asked Leanne to give me a kiss. It would have been better to have been kissed by Evil-Lyn / Hera herself! No offense, Leanne. That sort of thing doesn’t happen everyday. 😉 My memories of the live action movie go a ways back. I first saw it in a double feature at the local theatre, back-to-back with Superman IV. I remember it being one of the highlights of my evening when I got to rewatch the live action movie when I was a child and stuck for several weeks in hospital at the children’s burns ward in Auckland, New Zealand. I always thought Meg’s Evil-Lynn was sexy. Teela wasn’t bad either. I wonder what she looks like now?

You’d also be surprised how friendly Skeletor is in person… Brian Dobson, that is. He was the voice of Skeletor in the Mike Young Productions 2002/2003 Masters of the Universe animated series relaunch, known to fans simply as the 200X series. While I grew up with Alan Oppenheimer as the cackling and lovable Filmation Skeletor in the early 1980s, Brian’s version paid homage to the original while adding his own, more complex, dimension. Brian is a really great guy, who is a fan of Star Wars and quickly became a friend of ours at the show.

He is working on a project which will interest Star Wars fans, but I can’t say more at this time. However, he has agreed to an interview which we’ll hopefully post sometime in the coming months. Although we had to leave early, Brian had plenty to drink along with the rest of us on Sunday night and gave a great performance with a hood and skull mask as Skeletor himself. Wish we could have been there to catch Skeletor highly uncensored!

Also among our friends at the show was the 200X Masters of the Universe script editor, Dean Stefan. All conversations with Dean are memorable as he is a natural comedian, no doubt an offshoot of being a storyteller and showman. Leanne worked loosely with Dean back in the day to coordinate a degree of continuity between the animated show and the comics. When Leanne met Dean last year he threw a curve ball into the debate over Teela’s real father by stating Orko was another candidate…

To our surprise, Dean is also an accomplished guitar player, singer and songwriter. On Saturday night, we were lucky enough to see him perform some of his work along with songs by Leanne’s favorite band of all time, the Beatles. The whole room joined in as Dean took our minds off our top floor balcony view of the local Sports Authority store and parking lot. Dean, pictured here with Cheetara and Pummyra, turns on his charm as only he can.

I also met Gary Hartle, animation director for the 200X Masters of the Universe, Animaniacs, Avengers: Earths Mightiest Heroes, and much more! Gary, and his wife Gina, are possibly the warmest and friendliest people I think I’ve ever met. I can totally see why Gary is an animator and artist. He’s one of those people who never let go of their inner child, has a big imagination and loves storytelling. He had time for everyone he met and the fact he, like Meg Foster, actually stopped at our table, rather than the other way around just showed how interested he was in the whole experience of the show. I gave him a copy of Once Upon a Super Hero (though unfortunately it was an older version that still had the original “Sovena Red” title). I suggested he help me develop it into an animated series pitch. Stay tuned on that one… Hopefully not just wishful thinking. You can see more about Once Upon A Super Hero here.

Speaking of the inner child, these two little cosplayers deserved first prize! The best She-Ra and Lion-O I’ve ever seen!

On the comic book side of things, we got to see our old friend Matt Tyree, art-director for MVCreations Masters of the Universe, Spookshow, Dragon’s Lair, Space Ace and Tales of the Realm. Matt, like Gary is one of those super nice people who is inspirational both for his talent and his generosity. Matt has been like an older brother to Leanne and it was wonderful for both us to meet him again after so long. Matt and Jonboy joined Leanne for a Sunday panel for MVCreations, a sort of reunion of the old team behind the Masters of the Universe relaunch success. Matt also drew an awesome surprise sketch for Leanne! You can’t go wrong with Stratos! I was just as blown away by his sketch of Sovena Red from Once Upon a Super Hero, capturing her personality perfectly. One of my favorites! Thanks, Matt!