Contributing authors: Aaron Cynic, Antal Bokor, Julian Ramirez, Pearl Shin.
Sunday used to be a little bit lackluster when it came to star power and panel panache, but even going back to last year, C2E2’s changed all that by ending the weekend of nerdy fun with a bang, and some of the panels we saw on Sunday really were the cherry on top of an already amazing con, and it started early.
Starting our day off right, we got a chance to catch the humble, boyish and deeply emotional Mark Ruffalo as he discussed his roles and his activism. I would have expected the conversation to center on Bruce Banner and his green alter ego, but plenty of his other roles were covered as well. Ruffalo prefers to portray real people, and that possibly stems from his love of documentaries–“real people, real stories” as he put it. And when he portrays these real people, he prefers to meet them (if possible), or do plenty of research in the portrayal of them.
Ruffalo takes such roles seriously, saying, “when you’re playing real people, you have a responsibility to get their lives right” and he does that by becoming like a sponge: “soak them up and spit them out.” When he was asked about what kind of Hulk movie he wanted to make, Ruffalo indicated that he’s love to see the origins of Professor Hulk–how it would be the ultimate showdown between Banner and Hulk–and maybe Wolverine. And with all of these Wolverine entering the MCU rumors, wouldn’t that be a nice reveal?And there’s a good chance, since Mark Ruffalo is so known for dropping the occasional spoiler, that he was given fake scripts during the filming of Infinity War and Endgame.
Of course, portraying the Hulk hasn’t always been the easiest task. Ruffalo likens it to playing three characters (Banner, Hulk, and Professor Hulk) and while he enjoys that challenge, he doesn’t have the best relationships with mocap suits. Because of the height of the Hulk, Ruffalo, clad in his tight motion capture suit, often had to stand on boxes to create an accurate eyeline between the computer generated Hulk and the human actors. That would put his nether regions in perfect eye level to his coworkers, which he jokingly described as humiliating. Ruffalo fixed the problem by having them create for him a loin cloth, which he dubbed the “Mark Ruffalo Enigma Screen.”
We also caught William Shatner’s spotlight on the last day of C2E2, and it was immediately apparent that it was not Shatner’s first rodeo. A veteran of the convention circuit, as he says, “55 years later, and here I am.” This leads to an interesting, sometimes combative exchange between himself and fans. He doesn’t suffer nerds or fools, and he’ll quickly show you that. William Shatner is an asshole, but he’s an affable asshole. And he’s so damn charming, it’s hard not to like him.
The last time Shatner was in Chicago, as he tells it, he was filming a motorcycle trip he did in 2015. Filmed for a documentary that has yet to be released, the initial filming did not go well either. He and the crew were plagued by the threat of storms and flooding before the motorcycle was complete, and when it was finally ready, it just didn’t work. The ride still happened–on a rented Harley–but the gorgeous custom built motorcycle was towed in a trailer for most of the trip.
Ever impish, always feisty, and often argumentative, he somehow manages to turn scathing rebukes into tolerable ribs.When he was asked about the inspiration for his Boston Legal character Denny Crane, he jokingly said, the writer “David E. Kelley’s imagination.” Thanks Bill, great insight. But he realizes his ego and persona can be a little large, and when a fan said he got through his deployment by watching classic Star Trek on a 2×2 iPod screen, Shatner said, “how did such a small screen fit my ego.” Indeed.
But Shatner seems to be an advocate for cannabis as pain relief, and had some genuinely good advice for those who suffer with tinnitus–which makes sense, since he’s a spokesperson for the American Tinnitus Association. His message to the future is that we all need to learn to live in harmony,
“either that or we’re all going to perish horribly.”
Sunday was also when Funimation hosted their annual C2E2 industry panel to showcase the best of what the streaming service has to offer. Presented by Tara McKinney, the Senior Manager of Conventions, the Funimation Favorites panel gave the audience a sneak peek at all of the cool shows that they can stream on the platform. A few popular titles that are available to view include How Heavy Are the Dumbbells You Lift, Black Clover, Fruits Basket (2019), Gamers, That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime, Fire Force, and Africa Salaryman. With three tiers of membership, premium, premium plus, and premium “plus ultra” (pun intended), subscribers can enjoy benefits including subbed and dubbed episodes, simultaneous streams, offline viewing, and more.
In a panel room not far away, podcasters, partners and nerds extraordinaire Judith Fisch and Natalie Reichel of the Gay Breakfast Podcast put on one of the best panels of the con, with their Gay Animation Renaissance discussion. The panel was a discussion of representation of LGBTQIA+ characters in animation, but turned out to be so much more comprehensive than that, akin to a really good lecture in a college class you love, if the professors were your friends and created a truly comfortable environment for discussing things. One of the best things they did was to set up a feeling that you were welcome and wouldn’t be judged, starting off the talk by discussing problematic favorites, and sharing some of their own. “Everyone has problematic favorites” they said, and by opening the talk discussing those and accepting that it’s okay to have problematic favorites, it made everyone feel more comfortable.
The pair packed the hour with LGBTQIA history as seen through the lens of tv, film and animation, pre and post Hays Code, also touching on the civil rights movement, Stonewall Riots, civil rights movement, and AIDS epidemic, coupling it with examples of what was happening with gay representation along those timelines. They discussed coding, Dumbledoreing (aka retroactively stating a character is gay after the fact when there’s no risk to you as a creator) and then talked about creators who did take the risk and did fight for representation, and how recently these struggles took place, from the decision by Nickelodeon to make the final episodes of the Legend of Korra online-only simply because two of the characters were queer and had a scene where they were awash in golden light holding hands, to the shipping of Bubblegum and Madeline in Adventure Time, and Rebecca Sugar and her brave fight against network advice, and her creation of Steven Universe, one of the first shows to actually feature queer and trans characters. “We are family appropriate” they stressed, and in their hourlong talk, they stressed just how current the problem is, too. Eyes were opened, if they hadn’t been already, and it’s my hope that even more people listen to what this fabulous couple of awesome animation nerds bring to the table.
You have to make time to take one last stroll around the floor no matter what your feet feel like on Day Three, and that’s why we were extra grateful for the respite of The Yard.
The Yard was probably the most refreshing change to the C2E2 landscape with its inviting green grass rug and plenty of benches to take a rest from the constant hustle and bustle of the con. Throughout the first half of the day The Yard was treated to some musical interludes. First up were Trio Menagerie who played beautiful renditions of nerdy themes form Spiderman to Batman: the Animated series and some gorgeous takes on film scores like Jurassic Park. A little later on Deep Fried Pickle Project delighted the younger crowd with boisterous jug band tunes that one couldn’t help but dance to .
We also checked out the Women of Marvel panel, which as always was a fantastic look at the current state of female driven Marvel Comics, both form a character and creator aspect. From its small start when there were only a hand full of female led comics to now when they can’t add them all on one slide, Women of Marvel strives to highlight some of the best that Marvel has to offer. The panel, hosted by Judy Stephens, focused on upcoming books from Rainbow Rowell, Eve L. Ewing, Gail Simone, and Leah Williams, before they delved into these four women’s comics careers including how they started in the biz.
The panel was particular fun and hilarious as they riffed on each their favorite comic runs (both their own and that they’ve enjoyed as fans), what they would like to write some day (Rowell and Williams already got to or are writing their dream characters while Gail Simone wants take on the Shazam family and Ewing wants to handle Storm. (STRONG EMPHASIS ON STORM), and poked fun at social media. Twitter specifically was run through a gamut with each one of the panelists having a completely different view of the app. Some like Simone use it frequently, while Ewing stays off of it for the most part.
From here, we checked out Super Salaam!, a panel designed to discuss Muslims and fandom. This was another great chance to broaden your horizons, or, if you yourself are a Muslim and a nerd, to get to hang out with your peers or meet people who have some of the same experiences and struggles as you do–anything from how to incorporate hijabs into your cosplay to representation and discussions of faith and media.
Panelists, including moderator Dr. Shamika Mitchell, who we’d seen before at the Multicultural Gaming Panel Friday night, gave us a lot of great food for thought, talking about how fandom is universal, and religion is itself a sort of fandom–maybe the biggest one.
It was also a great panel to go to to find out more about the community and the creators within it, some of whom sat on the panel, like Annam Choudry a fantastic cosplayer and comedian, the centered and fun Kareem’s Dreams, another accomplished cosplayer who centers his cosplay around his beliefs and spirituality.
The end of the panel even featured an actual list of amazing Muslim creators, including The Last Ansaars (@TheLastAnsaars) creator of the gorgeous Zindan comic, political cartoonist Muhammad Rasheed, and webcomic artist and Muslim mommy blogger Asbah Alaena of A Muslim Mama, and hilarious comic illustrator Huda Fahmy of Yes I’m Hot in This whose book “That Can Be Arranged: A Muslim Love Story” will be releasing on March 10th, giving new and old fans alike the story of how she met and married her husband.
Rounding out our time in C2E2’s panel rooms was a stop by a Chicago favorite in the Cards Against Humanity Theater to see Mortified! Angst Written, an edition of the very popular musical/live lit/comedy/catharsis show we’ve come to love.
This time was no different, and the show opened with a bit of a singalong by the talented cast, before featuring readers and their most embarrassing moments in letter writing–from a scathing rebuttal to a less than favorable Phantom Menace review in the Trib by a “humble 15 year old” that starts off rather reasonably and then goes off the rails, to a live reading of the fifth through seventh grade adventures of a boy coming to grips with being gay. As per usual, this comes with fantastic visual aids, big laughs, and surprisingly touching moments, and ends up being cleansing for the guest as well as the audience.