By Jason Delgado
On December 3-5, 2021, LA Comic Con (LACC) came back after a hiatus in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic. The show featured over 750 artists and exhibitors, a new eSports, anime, and gaming hall, as well as a special Star Trek celebration. The aforementioned new additions, along with the usual assortment of panels, celebrities, and packed attendance, made it feel like LACC was bigger than ever in 2021. Bigger isn’t always necessarily better, but this year’s Con had a lot of added depth, due to a few panel guests who brought a certain gravitas.
“How you do anything, is how you do everything.” This was one of many wise quotes used by Giancarlo Esposito during his spotlight panel at LACC. He was talking about his infamous character of Gus Fring from Breaking Bad, and how Gus would painstakingly teach his employees at Los Pollos Hermanos how to do everything the “correct” way. It’s something that I ponder as the father of a toddler: there is a fast and easy way to do things, or you can take your time and do it right. Esposito took the latter route for his acting career, going through many auditions and rejections (while watching countless fellow actors have careers that fizzled out because they wanted fame without the struggle), before enjoying the success for which he has worked so hard.
Esposito was ecstatic to be back amongst the fans, whom he appreciates for their passion. He admires cosplayers for not being afraid of what others think while wearing elaborate costumes. We put on many metaphorical masks in life for different people, oftentimes out of fear, and Esposito is all about embracing who you truly are. Take chances and go for your dreams, no matter how long it takes, because this life is too short and precious not to do so. Giancarlo Esposito is an inspirational person and speaker, but he wasn’t the only one at LACC.
The final panel at LA Comic Con was a touching tribute to the legacy of Nichelle Nichols, who is a trailblazer for women and people of color as the legendary Lieutenant Uhura on Star Trek. During the run of the original series, Nichols was ready to quit in order to pursue a Broadway career. She fatefully ran into Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who convinced her that staying on the show was important, because it showed the world what his dream of unity and equality could be like in the future, if we all took great strides together for it.
During the panel, Nichols was bestowed with the NASA Exceptional Public Achievement Medal for her work as a spokesperson and recruiter. She has helped to recruit 8,000 people for NASA, including the first African American, Asian and Latino men and women to fly in space. I also attended another NASA panel where astronaut Jessica Meir, aerospace engineer Diana Trujillo, and Perseverance Controls Systems Engineer Dr. Swati Mohan all spoke about the influence that Nichelle Nichols had had on them. This appearance was said to be Nichelle’s final convention, so the kind words from various people in her life, NASA medal, tribute videos, and dance party in the panel room to Chaka Khan’s song “I’m Every Woman” (led by astronaut Mae Jemison, the first African American woman to travel in space), were a fitting send off for someone who has left such an indelible mark on humanity.
LACC also featured up and coming artists who are breaking new ground, such as Kayden Phoenix, who created the first Latina superhero team, A La Brava. She’s fighting on another important front for equality as well, for the queer community. I attended a panel titled “Queer Creators of Color Assemble” that featured Phoenix, Viktor Kerney (StrangeLore), William O. Tyler (Theater of Terror), and Fernando Velez (Kraven Comics). They shared stories about what their creative process is like, what it’s like hearing from hateful people on social media, and just trying to be accepted by society in general. I couldn’t help but think of Stan Lee’s X-men, since the team is an allegory for people of all kinds who face discrimination. Whether it be for social awkwardness, sexuality, gender, race, or class, we all need to band together to fight hate.
I’ve touched on some serious subjects, yet LA Comic Con was also a lot of fun and games. You can always count on seeing some of the best cosplay in the world at LACC, as well as a gigantic exhibit hall with so many interesting vendors. I also got a kick out of seeing things that you usually don’t see at Cons, like a two-hour set of various comedians from the Laugh Factory performing up on the Main Stage. Topics covered included why “Robocop 3 is the greatest movie of all-time”, which made for some interesting nerd-themed comedy.
Speaking of comedians, actors Bruce Campbell (The Evil Dead) and Zachary Levi (Shazam!) brought the funny, in their own unique ways, during each of their respective spotlight panels. They both held Q&A style panels, where Campbell’s sarcasm and Levi’s “aww shucks” demeanors could shine. Levi mentioned that he would love to do a Chuck movie to tie up a major loose end with the love story, and Campbell says that his hugely popular character of Ash is no more, because he’s not getting any younger and the role is too physically demanding, or as Charles Barkley would say, “Father time is undefeated.”
I had a chat with Bruce Boxleitner (Tron) at the Legion M booth, where we spoke about things like the possibility of another Tron movie (he believes that there is a chance, after the Tron ride opens in Orlando, and through my own research I found that IMDb shows that there is a Tron movie in development), and how the film industry has changed over the years. The character of Tron was right up there with Luke Skywalker for me as one of my major heroes growing up, so it was awesome to be able to talk with Boxleitner like he was an old pal.
In regards to the state of the film industry, there was an interesting panel hosted by movie critic Chris Gore titled: “Why 99% of Movies Today are Garbage.” The Film Threat team of critics and a studio insider discussed the globalization of the industry, and the profitability of proven IPs (intellectual properties) as the main reasons why we don’t see the variety in films that we used to. They recommended checking out more indie movies as a remedy to this problem. All of this reminded me of an article I wrote in 2019 about the great Marvel debate, sequels, and remakes.
Chris Gore also hosted panels about “Future Indies You Must See” and the “G4TV Attack of the Show Documentary Preview.” From B-movie schlock (I dig the enthusiasm that Gore displays for especially cheesy movies, like Ouija Shark), to trippy Heavy Metal-style animation, and moving, fascinating documentaries (including the one on Attack of the Show, because it was basically YouTube for nerds, before YouTube was popular), there are indeed a lot of independent movies to check out (go to FilmThreat.com to find these hidden gems).
LA Comic Con provided a much-needed escape from reality. It’s difficult to focus on the mundane when you’re watching Tommy Wiseau (a fascinating human being in general) from the infamous movie The Room, have a mini-meltdown because the Blu-Ray player wouldn’t work during his panel/screening. To Wiseau’s credit, he powered through it and answered every fan’s question.
As far as COVID safety measures go, I feel like LACC did an excellent job. All attendees were required to be either fully vaccinated, or to take a free PCR test on-site. Masks were required at all times, unless taking a photo with a celebrity, with a clear partition in-between. Celebrities also had the option to require all people who took photos with them to wear masks, if that was their preference.
You can find deeper meaning in anything, even at LA Comic Con. “Lovin’ is what I got, I said, remember that,” are some great lyrics from Sublime, and words to live by. Let’s embrace our differences and celebrate each other, rather than tear each other down. Live long and prosper my friends.