Comicpalooza returns June 17–19 to George R. Brown Convention Center.
By Bradley Donalson
After a record-breaking year in 2015, Comicpalooza will attempt to top itself again this year with what it does best: a smorgasbord of pop-culture and sci-fi/fantasy/horror actors, writers, and artists spanning comics, anime, film, TV, and even a few former boy-banders. The 2016 three-day event (coming a little later in the year, due to Houston’s busy convention schedule) arrives in the middle of Pride month—and what better way to show off your pride than with a weekend blowout for 40,000 of your closest friends, all dressed up as their favorite pop-culture characters?
Robert Raney, a volunteer who assists Comicpalooza’s hospitality director and has worked at the conventions for over 10 years, spoke with OutSmart about his experience with conventions. “For me,” Raney says, “going to cons is a way to get out and meet new and interesting people.” From the guests to the convention attendees, there is always something to keep him occupied and having fun. In his words, “Jeremey Renner [Marvel Cinematic Universe’s Hawkeye] was quite a hoot.” As far as being open and out at conventions, Raney assures us that conventions are something aspirational. “That topic doesn’t really come up in any kind of negative sense, and it’s really more relaxed.”
Headlining this year’s event are Kate Beckinsale (Underworld, Pearl Harbor), professional wrestler Ric Flair, and a prolific writer for both DC and Marvel Comics, John Ostrander. One of the biggest events at this year’s Comicpalooza will be Sigourney Weaver (Ghostbusters, Prayers for Bobby) joining up with the rest of the cast of Aliens, which will be celebrating its 30th anniversary this year. Weaver, who will only be able to appear on Saturday, June 18, will be joined by costars Bill Paxton, Jenette Goldstein, Paul Reiser, Mark Rolston, Lance Henriksen, Michael Biehn, and Carrie Henn for autographs and photo ops in the first American reunion of this type for Aliens. Packages for Kate Beckinsale and the Aliens cast photo ops and autographs are available in limited quantity at the Comicpalooza website.
This year’s attendees will also be able to meet some of their favorite stars, such as Eliza Dushku (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Bring It On), Houston native Sean Patrick Flanery (Boondock Saints, The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles), Norman Reedus (The Walking Dead), as well as Walter Koenig, the original Pavel Chekov of the Star Trek franchise. Writers in attendance will include Houstonians Cassandra Rose Clarke and John Shade, as well as Missy Jane, Mat Johnson, Mercedes Lackey, and many more. Also, for those of us who were swept up in the boy-band craze of the ’90s, some familiar faces will be in attendance—Erik-Michael Estrada of O-Town, Chris Kirkpatrick of *NSYNC, AJ McLean of the Backstreet Boys, and Jeff Timmons of 98 Degrees. These boys recently put aside their old musical rivalries to star in Dead 7, a new post-apocalyptic zombie Western written by Nick Carter (Backstreet Boys) and airing on SyFy.
Another event at Comicpalooza this year, according to Raney, will be a “crossplay” drag show. Many people are familiar with the idea of cosplaying, which involves dressing up as a favorite character from anime or movies, either subtly or with elaborate and sometimes costly costumes. “Crossplay” is exactly the same thing, only the person wearing the costume and the character being portrayed don’t have matching genders. “It will host drag queens and drag kings, and we’ll end up having two winners, one for each category,” Raney claims. The event will also begin taking part in the annual Pride parade, and Raney hopes that it will begin branching out into charity work and other efforts to support the LGBT community. Raney also hopes that the convention will one day be playing host to author Neil Gaiman (Sandman, Neverwhere) or even the ogle-worthy Dominic Purcell. Until then, we can content ourselves with this year’s plethora of guests and hundreds of hours of entertainment.
For those who have never been to a Comicpalooza before, and who might be intimidated by its claim to being Texas’ “largest pop-culture and comic event,” or for those who would rather have a more focused experience on a specific type of con, Raney suggests looking into other types of conventions in and around Houston and Texas at large. “There are a lot of different cons you can go to,” claims Raney, “and they each have their own shtick.” His previous work with Aggiecon was much more low-key and locally focused than bigger cons like Comicpalooza. Other cons in Houston that may be worth a peek include Space City Comic Con or Delta H Con. Themed cons in Texas include Rice University’s OwlCon, TheGameCon in Galveston, and PAX South in San Antonio, which focus on gaming of all different kinds, as opposed to the more general cons. And of course, there’s Austin’s HavenCon, Texas’ first LGBT-themed “geek and gaming” convention.
For more information, visit Comicpalooza’s website at comicpalooza.com.
Bradley Donalson is a frequent contributor to OutSmart magazine.