JOHN OSTRANDER: Star Wars C4LA
I just got back from Star Wars Celebration IV in Los Angeles and, boy, are my X-wing tired. (Bada-bump)
What follows are my impressions and meandering thoughts of the event and of Star Wars as well as the thirtieth anniversary of the first movie (now, perversely, Episode IV – A New Hope) is, well, celebrated. I came out as a guest of Dark Horse comics because my artist (and partner in crime) Jan Duursema and I have just completed the first 12 issues of our new SW comic, Legacy. Jan and I have worked other SW projects for DH for maybe seven years now and have managed to attract our own following.
The thing is – as I’ve written/said elsewhere and, if you’ve heard this before, feel free to skip this paragraph – I was a SW fan from before the first movie came out. I’d seen the novelization on the counter at my local comic book shop and decided to pick it up. It was a good, fast paced, fun read and I thought if they could get maybe half of what was on the page up on the screen, it would be a fun movie. For those of you under 30, this was back when the height of sci-fi special effects was 2001 or Dr. Who. Yeah, the stone age.
George Lucas, of course, got 200% of what was on the page up on the screen and melted my widdle mind. He changed not only sci-fi films and special effects, he changed summer releases, he changed the technology in the making of the films and invented modern movie merchandising. I mean, the studio gave those to him because they saw very little use to them. Today, the merchandising of the film rakes in more bucks than the film itself.
Every few years, a Star Wars Celebration takes place and they switch locales around the country doing it. This year the place was LA (appropriate perhaps considering the 30th anniversary) and the venue was the LA Convention Center. The place is huge but C4 bid fair to fill it. I was only out there two days so I can’t claim to have caught more than a sliver of it. I was doing several signings and a panel and the news I learned is closer to what I was involved in. End of caveats.
The Con was organized to a fare-thee-well. The staff knew what they were doing and, while friendly enough, stayed firmly in charge. Despite all that, there was a bomb scare during the opening ceremonies on Friday night. Oddly enough, the corridor in which people were standing to get into the ceremony space was evacuated but not the room itself. Of course, it turned out to be nothing but you almost can’t have an event like this without having something like that these days, can you?
The Con itself was the almost the size and density of the San Diego con and yet, at the same time, more intimate. I chalk that up to the fact that Celebration has a single theme/topic – Star Wars – and everyone is there because they love SW. They’d better; C4 admission wasn’t cheap and there was plenty of things inside on which to spend more money. Some of the media coverage was, predictably, condescending (along the lines of “Get a life!”) but within the Con was safe harbor. You could dress up and become an instant celebrity; if your costume was good, people would stop and want your photograph or to have their photograph taken with you. It was a large family.
There were some costumes that I saw or heard about that had a sly sense of humor. There was a Wookie about five foot tall, wearing a bright Hawaiian shirt and a cap, taking pictures everywhere as he went – Tourist Wookie. There was a stormtrooper who wore all the armor except the helmet. Instead, he had on a big plastic Burger King head like they use in those commercials of which I’m so fond. There was Stormtrooper Elvis – again, no helmet and the white spangled half cape Elvis wore along with the pompadour, shades, and sideburns from the 80s.
There was a lovely young lady in Slave Leia get-up who I saw in the lobby with a baby stroller. No, I don’t think the stroller was part of the look she was going for, but it was an interesting look nonetheless.
There were some people wandering around In Pirates of the Caribbean drag and at least one Batman. I heard a very young boy excitedly say, “Look, Momma, look – Batman!” Then he took a pause and asked the purely reasonable question, “What’s Batman doing at Star Wars?” Funny, I was asking myself that same question. Get with the program, Bats. Or at least pick up a lightsaber.
What was a real trip for me was seeing the number of people in costume of the characters that Jan and I have created for Star Wars. We got a taste of it when George Lucas took Aayla Secure, our twi’lek Jedi, and added her to the last two movies. It’s an even bigger kick when they walk up to you in person and ask for your autograph.
I’d asked DH and, especially my editor, Randy Stradley, if DH was going to have a panel at C4 and at first Randy was disinclined. He’s done a lot of panels over the years, especially at San Diego, and attendance was always minimal. In the end, he agreed we needed to offer one, just to show we really are a part of the whole thing. So we got to the room and it’s huge and we gather up on the podium and then they open the door to let the fans in. And they kept coming in. . . and coming in. . . and coming in until they filled just about the whole room. After some prefatory remarks from all of us on the dais, their questions then perfectly the rest of the hour we had – and the questions were knowledgeable and enthusiastic.
The year before, to celebrate its own 15th anniversary of publishing Star Wars in comic form, Randy had convinced everyone at DH to cancel the existing books and start afresh with new ones – including Legacy. The franchise does pretty well for DH so, to my mind, that was a gutsy gamble. From the looks of the panel, I’d say the gamble has paid off.
I had at least two geek moments. I knew that Hasbro was making action figures out of the characters that Jan and I had created for the comics – Jedi Quinlan Vos and rogue Vilmahr “Villie” Grahrk. First thing I did at the Con was make certain I had my own set. Yes, they’re going to get me a set later but I wanted one now, kark it! Then I met with a rep from Hasbro later who told me they also have plans next year to release a set from the Legacy comic! I get to play with toys from characters I created, That is just too cool!
The other geek moment was when I went up to David Prowse, Darth Vader, to get a signed photo for a friend of our ComicMix buddy, Glenn. And I babbled. I mean, it’s Darth Vader, okay? I mumbled and I babbled and Mr. Prowse – who is a lovely gentleman, I might add – listed patiently, took a beat to make certain I was done, and then said, “For Jim, did you say?” He signed it and I slipped away into the shadows.
I’m going to close with some photos taken by me or others at the Con, just to give you a flavor. Many, not all, are based on characters that I created. Let me introduce you to some of the folk that really made the Con worth doing.
This was the first Darth Talon – a Sith twi’lek from the Legacy series – that I saw. She’s posed at the DH booth with a banner of her namesake as she appears on one of the covers. The young lady doing this costume, Summer, actually used a dyed and tattooed body suit. You couldn’t really tell until you got close – and plenty of guys wanted to get close. She even had contacts in her eyes to give that Sith look. The only thing that didn’t quite work is that Summer is a very sweet, very nice girl. I felt paternal. Towards Darth Talon. A Sith assassin.
This is another Darth Talon who decided to use body paint. The geek with her is Darth Fatboy, aka me. Her I went up and introduced myself to as, “I’m your Daddy.” Don’t worry, Mary – she thought I was “cute.”
They guy in the red armor is one of the Imperial Knights, a Jedi-like fellowship who serve the new Empire in Legacy. That’s me looking tough. Or like I’m having gas.
These are two of the three interpretations I saw of Cade Skywalker, our central character in Legacy. Both are pretty good although they go different routes.
Aayla Secura was our twi’lek Jedi who crossed over from the comics into the last two films. This is, perhaps, the youngest version of her I’ve ever seen and she’s prefect. The expression, the attitude – she has it all down.
All the kids in this are great but I especially love l’il Boba Fett, the kid in the helmet. It’s the angle of his head. I just break out in a grin.
This, ladies and gentlemen, is why Star Wars is going to outlive us all. My thanks to Randy Stradley for the photos of the younglings.
I want to thank all the fans who stopped by for an autograph and a chat and for all the kind words they said about the work Jan and I have done in Star Wars. It does mean a lot. Hope to see you all when/wherever C5 takes place. And remember one thing –
Han shot first.
Writer / actor / playwright John Ostrander is man behind the typewriter at such vaunted comics as GrimJack, Suicide Squad, Star Wars: Legacy, Munden’s Bar and Batman. His own personal blog is at http://www.comicscommunity.com/boards/ostrander/. And John is cute, indeed.