Planet Comicon in Kansas City celebrated its 20th year. I’ve been to quite a few over the years, including their previous location in Overland Park, Kansas before they moved into the more central and much larger Bartle Hall in downtown Kansas City, Missouri. The new location coincided with a great increase in scale and attendance, and this year continued that trend. There was the typical collection of artists, writers, media guests, and cosplayers. They also brought in several Star Wars related guests, as they often do.
I attended a few panels, perhaps fewer than previous years. The tabletop game room was back, though I didn’t run anything this time around. They paired it up with a computer game room, so there was a bit better draw to the area.
This year’s Star Wars guests were mostly new to the show: Joonas Suotamo (Chewbacca - TFA, TLJ, Solo, TROS), Steve Blum (voice of Zeb - Rebels, Cowboy Bebop, and many more), Iain McCaig (prequels concept artist), and Tom Kane (Yoda - The Clone Wars) who is from the area and a regular guest. They all had panels of their own and/or with others grouped around a specific topic.
Joonas and Steve had separate panels on Friday. Joonas was very enthusiastic and entertaining. He relayed his experiences playing Chewbacca and took quite a few questions. For whatever reason, Planet Comicon’s lighting on this stage resembled a small sun shining at stage level from the back of the room, making the light direct, harsh, and impossible for those on stage to see through it. Sound issues from previous years seem to have been solved, however.
Steve’s panel was as wide ranging as his voice acting career. He talked about his time on Cowboy Bebop and a rather amazing number of animated series over the years. He was a popular guy all weekend.
On Saturday morning, my wife and I headed straight for Joonas’ autograph line. I found out on Friday that the person helping him during the show was a friend of mine, and a gamer. He knows what I write and discovered that Joonas likes games and RPGs. He made sure Joonas knew before we got to the front of the line. Before I could say much, I was surprised and thrilled when Joonas asked to take a picture with me for his friends. My wife was highly amused while taking the pictures with his phone, then mine. We talked a bit about the games as well.
Steve Blum’s line was nearby, but lengthy, as it was most of the weekend.
Saturday afternoon, I went to Iain McCaig’s panel where he talked about designing for Star Wars, Harry Potter, Jungle Book, and Marvel….but mostly about the Star Wars prequels. He designed basically all of the characters, best known for Darth Maul. He had some great “working with George” stories. He was supposed to be at the Spectrum Art Show in KC last year but had to cancel due to….his death. He had a heart attack and obviously he recovered, but his energy and attitude were amazing. I highly recommend his panels. Also, for those who are interested, the Spectrum show was incorporated into Planet Comicon this year, though perhaps it could have been better differentiated or advertised as such.
I went to a few other panels, which were fun: Chris Sarandon (Princess Bride), Wallace Shawn (Princess Bride, Young Sheldon), and the Weasleys from Harry Potter - Bonnie Wright and James and Oliver Phelps. I saw Tom Kane, Jason Douglas (Borderlands 2, more), and Bret Iwan (current official voice of Mickey Mouse) discuss voice acting.
On Sunday, we went straight to Steve Blum’s line and were one of the first ones there. Unfortunately, we had to wait for like 90 minutes past the scheduled start time for Steve to arrive, but it was well worth it. I already knew Steve played RPGs, specifically Star Wars with Sam Witwer and the cast of Rebels on twitch. It was fun to watch his eyes get bigger and bigger as I explained what I do, while showing him Dawn of Rebellion…and specifically Zeb’s stats, which I worked on for the product (along with the rest of the Rebels). He literally called me part of the family, and told his assistant to refund the autograph fee when he found out I already paid. It was a blast. I also spotted Steve as the last guest in the autograph area at the end of the con, so he stayed all day right to the end.
The last panel I attended was about creating villains, and I totally went because Iain McCaig was on it. I knew there were others on the panel but should have paid more attention as to who and what they did. It turns out it included co-creator of Deadpool Fabian Nicieza, Frank Tieri (who has worked on basically every major Marvel and DC title), and creator of THANOS Jim Starlin. It’s the sort of thing you just never see outside of conventions, and one of the reasons it is fun to attend relatively smaller regional comic cons. I mean, Starlin spent much of the panel wearing an infinity gauntlet someone brought along with them. Also, super slight Avengers Endgame spoiler - Starlin has a small speaking part in an early scene.
So, another fun time and great convention.