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Pop culture celebrated at entertainment expos

Posted on April 22, 2014 by Sunny South News

What do “Star Wars,” “Flash Gordon,” “The Evil Dead,” “The Walking Dead,” and “Goosebumps” all have in common? — The Calgary Comic and Entertainment Expo 2014, being held in Calgary at Stampede Park Thursday through Sunday, with many Lethbridge and southern Alberta residents visiting the annual action-packed event.

“I think as far as it’s evolved over the years it has been absolutely incredible. To go from what they had, when they had like I think at their first show they had one or possibly two guests at most to where they are now where they have close to 50 guests, is really great and in nine years they’ve done it,” said Matthew Odland, organizer of the Lethbridge Entertainment Expo, which will have a booth set up at the Calgary event. The Lethbridge Entertainment Expo is being held at Exhibition Park in Lethbridge Nov. 23-24.

Media and creator guests appearing at this year’s star-studded and highly anticipated Calgary event include Sean Astin from “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy, Bruce Campbell from “Army of Darkness,” Tom Felton from the “Harry Potter” film franchise, Laurie Holden from “The Walking Dead,” and comic book creator James O’Barr (“The Crow”).

“I think it’s gaining in popularity or why it’s so popular is because pop culture is just one of those things that has got some great momentum in society right now and in North America in general. When you have all these comic book heroes and ideas and themes that are coming up and continuing forward with movies and great novels and things like that you can’t help but see the spin off on what’s happening for other things and these events are really great for people to go and celebrate their enjoyment and love of these sorts of things in one situation where they don’t have to worry about any repercussions of negative thoughts or feelings when they do it,” said Odland.

One of the guests featured at this year’s pop culture event is Sam J. Jones, who was cast in the iconic role of “Flash Gordon” in the 1980s cult classic. Remember the Queen soundtrack? Jones was a United States Marine before his turn as an actor and he made a cameo as a version of himself in the hit comedy “Ted” in 2012.

“Because of the popularity of ‘Ted’ and that success, I think I did six events last year,” said Jones, adding before the Seth MacFarlane directed comedy he averaged one or two convention appearances from time-to-time.

Jones believes Canada support has been wonderful over the years and he looks forward to his upcoming Calgary appearance. Jones enjoys entertainment expos and conventions and said making appearances for fans is what it’s all about.

“To me, I look at it as though it’s a movie — meaning the fan who pays the ticket at the movie theatre to come watch you is paying the admission ticket at the venue at the events and at the expo so it’s the same thing. We really need to facilitate their needs and that means shake a hand, take a picture, give them an autograph and answer a few questions. If the actor or the musician or the artist understands that, if the celebrity understands that, then they will do very well,” said Jones.

Starring in “Flash Gordon” and having a cameo in “Ted” has opened up many doors for Jones in his life.

“It’s been an absolute blessing. It’s growing and multiplying exponentially every couple of months now. ‘Ted’ has a lot to do with it. I just enjoy it, I really do and thank God the phone is still ringing,” he added.

Who sends shivers down your spine and gives you goose bumps with the mention of his name? Author R.L. Stine, of course. The Calgary Comic and Entertainment Expo will be Stine’s first visit to Calgary.

“I don’t know what to expect and I’m really looking forward to it,” said Stine, who loves appearing at entertainment expos and book festivals.

“I think Calgary is going to be my last stop until fall. I’m going to take the summer off and just write,” added Stine and he loves comic cons, partly because they’re attended mostly by his original readers from the 1990s.

“All these people — young people in their 20s and early 30s — it’s just great to see. Those are my kids from back then. That’s really fun for me and they get such enormous crowds you don’t get at book festivals.”

Stine noted he now gets to scare a whole new generation, which he said is a lot of fun. “It’s so funny, when I do a book signing now I will get 7 year olds, 10 year olds, 20 year olds and 25 year olds — they all come,” said Stine, adding it was a shock to see these grown up readers at first.

“It’s hard. I’m nostalgia to them. It’s hard to be nostalgia,” he joked. “But at the same time it’s very lucky.”

Stine is also bringing back one of his classic teen book series, “Fear Street” in October and is also still turning out “Goosebumps” books with his latest, “Creature Teacher: The Final Exam” and he is excited about the “Goosebumps” movie, which began filming recently and will star Jack Black, with a release date slated for March 2016. Stine is looking forward to his first time appearance in Alberta and has no idea what to expect but believes it’s going to be a lot of fun, especially because he will be joined by artist Tim Jacobus.

Jacobus was the artist who painted the first 87 “Goosebumps” book covers.

“He and I are doing a panel together, which we’ve never done. It’s the first time Tim and I have ever been together in front of an audience,” said Stine.

Who is the only actor to work in all six “Star Wars” movies and is attending this year’s Calgary Comic and Entertainment Expo?

Anthony Daniels, CP30 in the “Star Wars” universe, is no stranger to the pop culture icon stage but the seasoned actor hasn’t been to the Calgary event before. “I’ve heard a lot about the Calgary Comic and Entertainment Expo particularly from Ian McDiarmid who played the evil Emperor Palpatine. He had a great time when he was there and of course I’ve been in Calgary before when we were touring ‘Star Wars in Concert’ everywhere across Canada,” said Daniels. “It was just a most brilliant time, so I’m very glad to come back.”

Daniels said he has never appeared at more than two or three expos or conventions a year in order to keep it special for the actor and special for the fans. “I think if I came out every weekend, I do get invited, I think I would get a little bit bored with the whole thing and people would get bored with me. It’s something I do occasionally for fun,” noted Daniels, adding fans who like the movies are interested to meet people from the movies and it would be mean spirited not to make appearances at pop culture shows occasionally.

It’s something Daniels never expected to be — a pop culture icon. “I’m always surprised and because of ‘Star Wars in Concert’ I could really feel, night after night, in Canada, Mexico, Europe and America a real genuine affection for ‘Star Wars’ coming from live audiences,” said Daniels, regarding George Lucas’ films.

According to Daniels, without the fans there would not have been the other five blockbuster films and other “Star Wars” related projects. “It was a love of people who went to see the movies and liked them. So, they’re not crazy fans — they’re just people who like it,” added Daniels.

It is hoped, Daniels said, there will be a lot of costumes in Calgary at this year’s event.

“I don’t know if you’re coming as Chewbacca or Princess Leia or whatever your thing is, it’s a time to perhaps let it out at these kinds of conventions. I do love the homemade costumes more than the ones that somebody’s gone to the store and just bought a white plastic Stormtrooper. People who make their own lightsabers, all those kinds of things. People who make their own 3PO costume. For heaven’s sake why would you do that?” he joked.

Occasionally, Daniels said, people will come up to the actor on the street and say “thank you,” which he thinks is a lovely thing. “Because we do something, you love it, you want to say thank you so occasionally things like the Calgary show allow people to come and do that. Please come up and say thank you. I like it,” said Daniels. “Even people from the dark side are welcome,” Daniels joked.

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