The first Saturday panel of The Great Philly Comic Con might not have commenced on time if I weren’t such a huge Nickelodeon fanboy. I’ve never been to a convention before, let alone this particular one (separate from Wizard World Philly Comic Con in May), so I had no context for the event going in. When the doors first opened at 10 a.m., I immediately found the booth of Cotty Kilbanks, a veteran animator behind many of your childhood favorite cartoons. When I told her I was excited for her Rocko’s Modern Life panel at 11 a.m., she didn’t know what I was talking about. I showed her my program, just to show her the panel was, in fact, planned, and Kilbanks laughed it off and said, “They don’t tell us anything!”
This fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants attitude defined Great Philly Comic Con 2015 (at least Saturday), and it was all the better for it. Three of the four panels I attended went on without a moderator (unfortunately, the Power Rangers panel was rescheduled without my knowledge and I missed it), but the crowd size was manageable and the venue intimate enough that most probably didn’t need one anyway. Kilbanks held the Rocko panel with Rich Laslo, the “Cell King” known for his artistry at Warner Bros., but little of the discussion focused on the series itself. While more than a few in the audience were curious if Nickelodeon might ever revive Rocko and Kilbanks noted “I hope they never CGI it,” the panel focused mostly on stories from their own careers and advice for those interested in the field. My favorite quote from Kilbanks, regarding old-school hand-drawn animation: “The computer can’t storyboard. It has to come out of your brain.”
The room lit up when Trina Nishimura, the voice of Mikasa Ackerman in the English dub of Attack on Titan, took the stage. Before she opened the floor to questions, she answered what she said were the two she receives the most — First, “How did you get into acting?” and, second, “How can *I* get into acting?” She stressed the importance of being an actor or actress foremost before labeling yourself as a voiceover artist, as she likens it to being a baker who exclusively bakes blueberry pies.
“Blueberries aren’t always in season,” she said, “and, sometimes, you gotta eat.”
As for her work as Mikasa, she explained how the original Japanese voiceover lends her to a stoic, reserved character, while her own work injects more ferocity into the character to compensate for the bits that get lost in translation (she received big applause when she demonstrated the difference by shouting “I am a warrior!” in her Mikasa voice).
And, as you might imagine, George Takei drew the biggest audience at both his personal booth and his panel. Clad in a red plaid shirt and golden yellow pants, Takei began by thanking three generations of Star Trek fans for nearly 50 years of continued success for the series in all its forms. He also paid tribute to Leonard Nimoy and recounted a heart-melting story of how Nimoy, not long before his death, attended a screening of Takei’s Broadway-bound musical “Allegiance” despite his failing health, bound to a wheelchair pushed by his wife and breathing with the aid of an oxygen tank. And although Takei’s talk lingered on somber notes, such as his memories of watching Snow White for the first time as a child in a Japanese internment camp during World War II, the host’s charm quickly turned around to garner some big laughs. He discussed his appearance on The Big Bang Theory (“So you say, yet, here I am!”), his gratitude to GrumpyCat for helping him build the colossal social media following he holds today, and his surprise at appearing on Howard Stern without learning the nature of the show until he was sitting in the studio (“Anyone who has a voice that deep must have a big dong”). And, yes, he threw in a few “Ohhhh My!” quips here and there, too.
The Star Trek theme continued into the Star Trek: The Next Generation panel, which was essentially the Jonathan Frakes Hour, and a great treat for all. It didn’t take long before he made a “Star Trek: Deep Throat Nine” joke, and he only gained momentum going forth. He punctuated many of his answers with “Good answer!” and briefly touched on how “Gargoyles was too smart for TV.” At one point, he received a text message from Brent Spiner, aka Lt. Commander Data, pulled his phone from his pocket, checked the message and said, “I don’t think I’ll share it with you,” which drew huge laughs from the fans. When asked about the “Riker Walk,” he explained that he copied it from John Cullum’s performance in Shenandoah, and also said he accepted the role of Dr. Arthur Malcolm on Criminal Minds without ever having read the script.
“I was offered an acting job, and I said ‘Yes’,” he said.
As for the show floor, there were plenty of toys, comic books and art to ogle. I overheard one father and daughter discussing just how Gambit infuses energy into his throwing cards and another discussing whether Han shot first. I took as many cosplay pictures as I could, as some of the costumes were absolutely brilliant. One of my personal favorite moments came when a nearly 85-year-old Clive Revill pantomimed Emperor Palpatine shooting Force lightning bolts from his fingers and contorting his face as if he were actually doing so and it required the utmost concentration and determination.
Featured image: philadelphiacomiccon.com