There was plenty to be seen at Seattle’s Emerald City Comicon 2013, which ran the weekend of March 1-3. From watching the attendees dressed in every type of costume to getting the scoop and what’s going on the world of comic books, the show had a little something for everyone. However, one of the places to be was the main hall of the convention center, which featured a ton of special celebrity guest panels. Celebrity guests ran the gamut from legends to some current stars of television and film. The hour-long panels offered an up close and personal experience with a favorite celebrity for attendees of the show. The renowned performers that took the stage shared entertaining stories about their lives, both on and off screen.
Legendary guests included Star Trek’s Walter Koenig and Patrick Stewart, actors Christopher Lloyd and Billy Dee Williams, as well as the Batman and Robin themselves—Adam West and Burt Ward. All of them regaled the audience with stories from their experiences in the entertainment industry. With Billy Dee Williams, the audience was of course clamoring for any news on the recently-announced Star Wars Episode 7. Unfortunately, Williams was only able to offer that the project is in progress and that he has not yet been approached about reprising his role as Lando Calrissian. Williams’ manager jumped in with the suggestion that fans let Disney know (via social media sites like Twitter) if they want to see Lando in the new movie.
Williams was asked about playing Harvey Dent in Tim Burton’s 1989 Batman, which led to discussion about the nature of Batman himself. Having recently caught Taxi Driver on TV, Williams equated Bruce Wayne with Travis Bickle, stating that they shared a similar “kind of psychosis.” The primary difference between the two characters, Williams observed, was that Bickle didn’t “have the opulence” of Wayne. After a beat he added, “Or a cave.”
Christopher Lloyd entertained the crowd with stories from his many projects. Of course there were a lot of Back to the Future fans in the audience, but his role in Who Framed Roger Rabbit brought almost as many questions. Even panel moderator Danny Bonaduce couldn’t resist chiming in with a confession of having had inappropriate feelings about Jessica Rabbit. Lloyd told some great stories about all of his costars over the years. Best of all were some funny recollections about Andy Kaufman on the set of Taxi, including the time Kaufman nearly convinced the entire cast he was capable of levitating. “We got along well,” Lloyd remembered, “He wasn’t crazy. I went with him one night when he was mud wrestling women. He was extraordinary.”
Walter Koenig offered a very personal look at his life and career. Along with some Trek stories, he discussed his father being scrutinized during the McCarthy era for his interest in the communist party. In fact, the FBI once interrogated Koenig’s entire family to see how “subversive” they were. He even launched into a concise analysis of Arthur Miller’s play The Crucibile and Elia Kazan’s film On the Waterfront, relating them to his lifelong hatred of the McCarthy witch hunts. He also gave a touching tribute to his late son, “the activist,” speaking about his son’s dedication to various political causes. “I was very proud of him,” Koenig said.
Adam West and Burt Ward put on a fun show during their appearance. It’s obvious they’ve been doing this a long time, but as old pros they still seem to get a kick out of retelling their Batman stories. Particularly interesting were their tales of the early days on the set. Burt Ward suffered many injuries during on-set mishaps as the producers insisted he do his own stunts for the show while his double had coffee with West. Ward explained that Batman featured the first screen fight scene with Bruce Lee. The legendary martial artist appeared on an episode of the show as Kato, promoting his own show The Green Hornet. West and Ward were clearly honored to still be loved by fans of their show. It was pointed out by several fans that the show has continued to find an audience with each new generation of kids.
Rounding out the list of legendary performers was the man best known for seven seasons and four theatrical films as Captain Picard, the one and only Patrick Stewart. Stewart closed the convention to a packed audience. He started off with a bit of humor, acting as if he believed he was in Canada rather than Seattle. “It took so long to get here,” he said. Stewart was jovial throughout his appearance, telling an amusing story (that some longtime fans had heard) about auditioning for Star Trek: The Next Generation in a hairpiece.
At one point a fan asked Stewart about his role in the 1984 film Dune. He said his participation in that film “was an accident. It should not have happened. David Lynch thought he had cast someone else.” He talked with enthusiasm about his upcoming Broadway projects opposite his X-Men co-star, Ian McKellen and two yet-to-be-announced American actors. He also conveyed the surprise he and McKellen shared when they found out they would again be playing Professor X and Magneto in the upcoming X-Men sequel, Day of Future Past. Neither actor thought he would play his respective role again after James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender took over in X-Men: First Class.
Needless to say there was a lot to behold at Emerald City Comicon 2013. One highlight of the convention was the opportunity to see so many great performers speak about their experiences. What’s best about the celebrity panels are the little unexpected moments. Sometimes a fan question will spur an unexpected story or a humorous moment, occasionally leading to a little-known tidbit of information. These conventions allow audiences to share in the personal experiences of their favorite actors and actresses. I can’t wait to see what Emerald City Comicon puts together next year, because 2013 will be a hard year to follow.
(Photos: Sherry Lipp)