Denver Comic Con returned for the seventh year in a row to Colorado Convention Center bringing new celebrity guests, education and killer cosplay. Pop Culture Classroom, the creators of Denver Comic Con upped the ante this year with more workshops, kids focused panels and more. 303 Magazine was able to catch the lowdown of the event that presented a myriad of topics, panels and vendors for a taste of every genre you can think of.
Tara Hubner — the communication manager of Pop Culture Classroom — gave us insight into the mission that Pop Culture Classroom instills into the action-packed weekend. “Denver Comic Con is a program of the Denver-based nonprofit, Pop Culture Classroom, whose mission is to inspire a love of learning and to encourage literacy of reluctant readers using comics and other pop culture tools,” she said.
But Denver Comic Con really does cater to everyone, not just comic book fans. The Con pushed out hours of information through the use of panels. Hubner gave a bit of insight of what the convention entails, explaining “there are over 600 hours of panels and programming, so basically you can attend and learn about pretty much anything and everything you want to know related to geek culture, film, tv, sci-fi authors, comics — you name it.” The panels ranged from hearing from David Harbour, the actor who plays police chief Jim Hopper in Stranger Things and meeting Jim Davis the creator of Garfield to hearing a panel dubbed, “Race, Gender & Representation in Pop Culture.”
The co-creator of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles comic book series gave insight into the background story of the turtles. He told the crowd that his idea came when he was 22 years old and sprung from annoying his roommate at the time, Peter Laird while Laird watched his favorite television shows. Eastman drew up a sketch of a ninja — stemming from the inspiration of Bruce Lee — in the most ironic animal he could think of, a turtle. The irony, of course, was how a slow-moving animal could portray an amazingly quick reacting ninja. Eastman went on to tell of Laird taking the sketch, adding some modifications to it and adding “teenage mutant” to Eastman’s title of “ninja turtle.” Eastman and Laird thought it was “the dumbest thing [they] have ever seen.” They went on to have the idea rejected by multiple comic book organizations, including Marvel and DC, however, Laird and Eastman were passionate about the comics so they decided to continue on their own. “So [Peter] said, look, we love this idea, [let’s] keep [it] for ourselves, let’s write for ourselves and even if we sell 10 copies, we still fulfilled the dream and we love these characters and we want to see them out there in the world.”
Little did Eastman and Laird know that their comic book series would later become internationally famous, leading to television adaptations, movies, merchandise and still holding its fame 34 years later. Eastman also gave the reasoning behind the turtles’ names, which comes from a love of art and museums. Eastman loved art from a young age and found happiness in seeing famous artists’ work. He also gave an interesting tidbit of how Donatello was close to being named Bernini because of Eastman’s love of the artist. “I think a coin toss won,” he explained, making his name Donatello. The panel was also privy to the origin of the storyline, which is modeled after Marvel’s Daredevil, using similar ideas and even opposite names to the mentors, evil organizations and more.
Eastman closed his panel by letting out an idea that has yet to come to life, a series that looks at the turtles 50 years later, living in an apartment together as old turtles. The series would be an homage to Eastman’s three dachshunds, which he calls “the Golden Girls” — after the hit TV series — and would have the turtles look back on their pasts.
We couldn’t have a comic con without a celebrity guest from the hit Netflix series Stranger Things, could we? David Harbour, the actor of Police Chief Jim Hopper filled that role. Harbour gave the audience secret insight into his new role of Hellboy in the upcoming Hellboy 2019 film, saying ” I am sorry to disappoint everyone, everyone tells me to lie about this and I really should lie about it but that body is not my body.” Harbour went on to talk about articles that have praised him for getting buff for the role and how they are fake news. However, Harbour did disclose that none of his costuming and prosthetics are CGI, but all real pieces.
Audience members asked about his participation in Greenpeace and how he felt about the state of the planet. Harbour pressed that we need to do a better job for our Earth. “I do feel like we all have to galvanize to save the earth because we’re in a lot of trouble.” He gave advice on cutting down and eliminating our use of plastic straws. “Get rid of plastic straws, please. You don’t need it. Just drink out of a cup. So let’s get rid of plastic straws. Let’s just try to get rid of as much plastic as we get it because we found plastic in Antarctica and that was very impressive.” Overall David Harbour gave an intellectually sound panel full of information on his roles and of the importance of taking care of our environments.
KJ Apa, Skeet Ulrich and Molly Ringwald
The three cast members of the widely popular Netflix series Riverdale gave the panel a behind-the-scenes look at how the cast interacts with each other. KJ Apa spoke of how he admired his more experienced cast members like Molly Ringwald and Skeet Ulrich and found inspiration and knowledge from working with them. Ulrich told of how he had first encountered Molly Ringwald in his hometown as a teenager and how he took inspiration from her works to start his owning acting career.
The actors let the panel in on how they were introduced to Riverdale, as the series is adapted from the Archie comic book series. Apa told that he was first introduced by reading the script of Riverdale as he hails from New Zealand and had never heard of the comic book series, whereas Ulrich and Ringwald grew up with the comic book series in common knowledge. Ringwald recounted reading the comics and then applying them to her role as Archie’s mother in the Netflix series. “I always used to [read] the Archie comics when I was at the dentist, for some reason they were always at the dentist office and I used to dream [about who I was], am I more Betty or am I more Veronica? And then it turns out I’m actually just Archie’s mom.” Cue the laughs from everyone in the room.
Sheppard, the actor of Crowly in the Supernatural television series began his musical journey at only 15 years old, when he asked to join the band Robyn Hitchcock and subsequently went on tour with them. Sheppard then transitioned into acting with his role in the hit play Cock and Bull Story and then made his way to television in roles in series such as The X-Files, Firefly, Battlestar Galactica and Doctor Who. Sheppard talked about his experience in playing characters that are often selfish and often get beat up. He related this to his father’s acting roles, seemingly similar as his father often portrayed darker characters, who were also frequently beaten up on screen.
Sheppard shared funny stories of working with the cast and crew of Supernatural such as the crew needing to use poles to shake a bed for a sex scene that Sheppard, playing Crowly, was involved in or Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles gaining their nicknames Moose and Squirrel and playing jokes on Misha Collins. Sheppard at one point in the panel was interrupted by a phone call from his son. He answered and put his son and speaker, where his son told him “Happy Father’s Day, I love you.”
At the end of the panel, Sheppard gave a heartfelt message of hope for those attending comic con. “If you’re having a hard time right now, if you’re struggling right now, know that this is probably one of the safest places you can be and there’s an awful lot of people that are exactly the same because you just look at me. Somebody will be there to help. I promise it’s not impossible. We’ll just get through today and that’s what we have to do. I love you.”
The famous 10th doctor from the longest running hit British television series Doctor Who filled the Bellco theatre full of laughter and inspiration. David Tennant told of his love of Doctor Who as a child, hanging posters up on his walls of Tom Baker and later Peter Davison and how when he was given the role of the 10th doctor, how he had to fill a large pair of shoes for the character to make sure that he could do the Doctor right. “Not only do I have a responsibility to my own eight-year-old self I also have the responsibility to this new generation of eight-year-olds who have fallen in love with this show and now we are changing it all after season one and they have to kind of accept that and get on board again.” Tennant also joked about receiving action figures of himself, “it tickles a weird part of your ego. I don’t know how healthy it is but it’s great, embodied in plastic.”
Tennant was praised by audience members for being a source of light and hope in his role of the Doctor as well as successfully playing maniacal darker characters such as Killgrave in the Netflix series Jessica Jones. Tennant’s laughter and lightheartedness made for an excellent panel that hundreds, if not thousands, had waited all weekend to see.
Cosplay “Classic” Contest
The cosplay contest at the end of Saturday night showcased a myriad of cosplayers donning their best interpretation of characters from video games, movies, from comic book series and even some Dungeons and Dragon characters. The contest started with a children’s section that features the cutest cosplayers you will ever see and moved into the judged portion of the contest starting with the novice section that featured beginner cosplayers. After the novice section came the intermediate section with higher notch costumes that finally funneled into the advanced section (which was not judged) with one amazing cosplayer playing the Dungeons and Dragons character Raven.
The main hall held hundreds of vendors with different sections to peruse. You could purchase merchandise from a section called the Merchant Mesa, check out authors in the Booktopia section, see all of the art you could possibly imagine in an artist valley, see your favorite indie comics from a Comic Publishers section, learn about film and videos in a Reel Heroes section and check out all of the amazing workshops that Pop Culture Classroom set up in the Kids Lab. Each section was divided up into rows and color-coded to help you find your way through the maze of vendors.
Artists like Eleora from Eleora Draws traveled from Utah to be able to showcase their art for attendees and have a chance at earning commision from selling original and customizable pieces. You could also find charitable organizations throughout the hall such as Cap For Kids, a nonprofit organization that raises funds to help families with children who are going through cancer treatments.
And no worries if you are a huge comic book nerd because the vendors and comic book publishers presented hundreds of comics for attendees to choose from. You could find your favorite comics, new original works and rare pieces that would perfect a collection.
Pop Culture Classroom
Pop Culture Classroom held stations of workshops for children and teenagers to really engage them in different topics, push for education, the need to science and technology and literacy and all that Pop Culture Classroom promotes for Denver Comic Con. Hubner said of the workshops, “one of our showcase features at Denver Comic Con is the Pop Culture Classroom Kids Lab. It’s a place for kids to go to get introduced to geek culture, do activities, to take part in theme-based programs, to have panels that are geared just for them on the all age stage. There is also an area that is exclusively just for teens, where they can learn from artists about how you get involved in these different industries, how do you become a comic writer, how you become a stunt double, how does that work? It is a really great opportunity to get kids and teens [introduced] to geek culture and inspired to create and keep learning.”
Kids were able to create science experiments, try their hand at virtual reality gaming, take part in a reading time and learn from stunt doubles who have worked in Marvel’s Black Panther and Netflix Luke Cage, to name a few activities.
Hubner let us in on her favorite part, which turned out to be an extremely common answer of con attendees. “One of my favorite parts of Denver Comic Con is the community it creates for three days. It’s basically an opportunity for a bunch of people who have similar interests and similar love to get together in the same space to celebrate all of that together.”
If you love anything related to comics, superheroes, cosplay and pop culture you would love to attend Denver Comic Con. Many attendees make a tradition of attending each year and who knows, maybe you will too after trying it out.