I just got back from the biggest comic book convention in North America, Comic-Con International. As always, I had an absolutely wonderful time there. For four days each year I allow myself to become completely immersed in this alternate realm of comic books, obscure movies, science fiction, and fantasy. I wanted to record all the cool events and stories I came away with this year for all you netizens as well as for me to look back on someday.
Mr. Koenig played Pavel Chekov on the original Star Trek television series and Star Trek movies and now is known for his sinister role as Alfred Bester from the television saga Babylon 5. He attended the convention to see the fans as well as for his own interests. On Saturday, he signed autographs at the autograph tables and later made himself available for questions and answers in a one hour discussion period. During the discussion he told several excellent stories.
I had heard that Walter Koenig wasn't one of the more pleasant celebrities to meet. Let me just say that I came away with a very positive impression of the man. First of all, unlike every other Babylon 5 guest, he didn't charge for an autograph. Second, his one hour Q&A session revealed him to be a very intelligent, honest, and engaging individual.
I suppose his experience with audiences partly explains why his presentation was so enjoyable. He would break up the slower conversation with the occasional story, each of which drew bellows of laughter from the audience. He made no bones about saying that the Star Trek questions were welcome but not some of his favorites because he wanted to focus on current and future work.
He received several questions about his recent role as Bester. He said that the character of Bester is a very complex one and was the result of excellent work from Joe Straczynski, but it probably wasn't a good one for him to play. I think what he meant was that Bester is one evil dude. He said he really liked the duality of the character because it reflected the way we all are. We all have good tendencies, like Bester's loyalty to the Psi Corps and his devotion to his 'frozen cutie', but at the same time we all have our darker proclivities, like Bester's ruthlessness in disposing of mundanes.
Of course, the Star Trek questions were numerous but not flippant. In fact, the entire discussion maintained a satisfyingly high level of sophistication and interest. One of the questions was whether he had considered participating in Alien Voices. He said that he didn't want to work in the shadow of Leonard Nimoy again because, after all, he has an ego too and he just didn't think he could work with Nimoy without assuming a supporting role. This sort of frankness definitely increased my respect for this guy.
He didn't hide his disappointment in the handling of the original crew of the Enterprise in the movies. For instance, he thought that the way they Star Trek writers dealt with the death of Captain Kirk in ST6 lacked respect for the character. If you don't know, the edict has gone out that the original characters will no longer appear in any new Star Trek movies or shows which means much of the original crew were never really given closure. He thought that his character of Chekov, not only wasn't given closure, but was never really opened and explored with any depth in the Star Trek universe. He wished that the writers would have delved into the 'Russian soul', as he called it, of Pavel. He told a funny story about that. Apparently when he was yet an aspiring actor, he had attended a posh party for some Russian woman who was a Gypsy and a fortune teller (is that redundant?). He said he walked into the place and saw this woman in flowing robes and jewelry wearing a turban and he greeted her with, "You must be the guest of honor". She replied in a very Russian accent, "How did you know? You must be psychic." She told his fortune and ironically told him that he would never be an actor but that he did have a "Russian soul".
Someone asked him about working with 'blue screen'. He pointed out that in the original series they had absolutely nothing to look at when they did all those scenes on the bridge of the Enterprise. Many times the crew were all supposed to be looking at something off screen, and the director would find each one of them fixed on a different point of the sound stage. To correct this problem the director devised a clever solution. He erected a pole with a white flag on it so everyone would know where to look. This worked fine until one day the camera crew decided to have some fun and put a Playboy centerfold in place of the white flag. Walter said there he was staring at this beautiful young woman with an alluring body and pursed lips beckoning him to join her and then having to say, "Captain, I don't know what that is".
I think my favorite anecdote was about a project that Mr. Koenig and George Takei (Captain Hikaru Sulu) did together. I think he said it was some short bits of acting for a computer game or something like that. Anyway, the script called for Walter to come around a corner and respond to George's character with, "it couldn't have been God because he was running the Enterprise at that time". The line was funny enough on its own merits but Walter had a better idea. He whispered to George that the guy in charge of the script wasn't paying too close attention and told him what he intended to do to which George said, as only he can, "Oh my". The very next take Walter comes around the corner doing his best visual impersonation of Captain Kirk and in the heaviest Chekov accent possible, "it couldn't have been...", the audience erupted in laughter and applause for this one. You kind of had to be there, but you true fans should still appreciate hearing about it.
There were several other very cool questions and answers and some other funny stories but I think I'll wrap it up here. If you ever get a chance to see Walter Koenig, in person, I recommend it highly.
On Thursday I found myself walking behind a quite bare female behind. <g> The woman was dressed in an S&M black leather equestrian outfit complete with whip. I think there was probably a bikini there somewhere but I could not be certain. Anyway, that was quite a sight and I think people are getting more and more bold with their outfits each year. Later in the day I was talking to a girl at the B5 Fan Club booth and the BBW walked by. The girl at the booth exclaimed, "Oh my God, I thought that was illegal". I replied, "It probably is". Then the next day I was on the vendor floor and noticed a security guard and a police officer pass me and the security guard was saying, "follow me, it's the same one that I saw yesterday". I thought for sure they were going to find the BBW and ask her to cover her posterior or ask her to leave, so I thought I would lurk behind and watch the show. I followed them about three quarters across the floor toward the more explicit vendors and creators. To my amusement the security guard had brought the policeman over to admire another scantly-clad comic book model. Hilarious! This model had considerably less clothing than did the BBW!
He told a story about Roger Daultry of the Who. Ever since this guy showed up on B5, my cousin has referred to him as Fabio, what with the long hair and all. I basically stuck up for the Byron character even though the whole telepath storyline was bordering on "corny". Anyway, so here we are sitting at the B5 presentation and Robin starts telling this story about meeting Roger Daultry. He idolized him and had always wanted to meet him so he finally is at a party with the one and only and Roger comes up to Robin and says something like, "Hey man, I'm sorry for the whole thing that happened last time with the cocaine thing and jail and all". Robin is just looking at him clue-less and finally has to interrupt and inform him that he was not who he thought he was to which Roger replies, "What do you mean? You're Fabio aren't you?" Well, I guess that vindicated my cousin's barbs in one fell swoop. I enjoyed it.
If you are getting the impression that I didn't like him very much then you're right. He seemed very arrogant and he didn't hide the fact that he would have rather been anywhere than the convention. It would probably be better to not show up than to convey that sort of contempt for the fans.
Let's put it this way, it was almost a complete failure. Joe was terribly ill and couldn't make the convention. Who was there to fill in? Byron, Corwin, the ISN lady, Lyta, and Kosh. None of these, had a clue about what science fiction fans want to hear when they go to a presentation about their favorite show. I don't blame them because they are actors and not sci-fi fans themselves, I understand that. That being said, however, many people walked out and I think most stayed just out of politeness. They did tell a few funny stories but for the most part it was pretty pathetic. I personally would like to forget about this presentation and not spend too much time on it so let's just leave it at that. Joe, if you can't make a con, please send someone who can present the show in a better light.
Addendum: I just read the usenet posts from Jms about the Comic-Con and he basically had cancelled the whole thing outright. So I shouldn't really put down the actors for getting up there and giving the fans something rather than nothing. See, I can be gracious when given half a chance.
The last two cards I needed to complete my Babylon 5 Season 4 trading card set. I got the G'kar #5 Autograph card for only $180 and I got the skymotion card #3. I bought as many Space 1999 comics as I could find. That was hard because they aren't that popular. I want to be fairly well stocked for 1999. You know I used to watch the show and wonder what it would be like and *if* I would live to see 1999. I still wonder. Perhaps I'll be able to write about it if I make it. (made it! 3/23/99) I completed my missing issues of Age of Reptiles. I bought the Uncle Sam two book series painted by Alex Ross and written by the incredibly na´ve Steve Darnell. I'm going to write a review of that scandalous rag! The only redeeming quality was that Alex's art was awesome as per usual.
We ate at a restaurant in the Gaslamp Quarter on Saturday night before the masquerade. About half way through dinner, a group of fellow conventioneers were seated at the table adjacent. When their waitress came she asked them how the Comic convention had been going. They all replied that it was going fine and they were having a good time to which she added, "Pretty funny?". ROTFL. They were all polite about correcting her and she went on to smooth it over by explaining how one would just normally think a "comic" convention would be for comedians. Seeing as how it is the biggest event there this time of year with signs everywhere, I think she was just being a bit dense. Considering how she got me laughing, perhaps she should consider a career switch as a "comic" ;-)