Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Alabama Phoenix Festival

Hello, Readers Mine! As I mentioned in an earlier post, Mockingbird and I headed down to Birmingham, Alabama this past weekend to take part in the Whedon Track and to generally geek out at the Alabama Phoenix Festival. It was a fun, exhausting, and inspiring weekend of old friends, new friends, and a plethora of geek flags flying high, and I thought I'd share a little bit about it with you.

The Whedon Track Super-Panel, from left to right: yours truly, K. Dale Koontz, A.J. Wiley, and Paul Smith (Nicole Brunk and Cam Crowder were also in on the fun, but they're not pictured here). This is pretty much what we did all weekend. Photo credit: Pam Smith.
I've written here about the academic conferences I go to fairly regularly, but this was a different kind of event. Alabama Phoenix Festival (APF) is a fan convention, where geekdoms collide and intermingle, and you don't have to cite your sources nearly as much. The Whedon "Track" was basically a series of discussion panels focusing on various aspects of the works of Joss Whedon including war and military representations, faith and religion, women and feminism, and general discussions about Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, Firefly, Serenity, and The Avengers. It was a tremendous time, and great fun to share a table with folks who have the same general passion for all things Whedony, but whose areas of expertise were so varied that between all of us, we were able to field most any question from our audiences. And those audiences were gratifyingly large, well-informed, and comprised of devoted, thoughtful fans who are some of the finest people on the planet, and from whom we all gathered some cool new friends.

APF wasn't all Whedon, all the time, though. There was an enormous amount of stuff going on at any given time. I'm not going to list all the folks and fandoms who were there, but I'll tell you about those with whom I was privileged to meet and greet. First up was Mr. Allen Bellman, who worked at Timely/Marvel Comics from 1942 ~ 1951. During World War II, he worked on Captain America Comics, The Sub-Mariner, The Human Torch, Young Allies, and All Winners, to name just a few of the classic Golden Age comics Mr. Bellman had a hand in. I'll put it to you this way: Al Bellman remembers when Stan Lee came to work at Timely - as an office boy. If you have ever enjoyed a comic book, you have folks like Al Bellman to thank for the medium as we know it today. The Golden Age artists and writers literally invented the medium, and there are damn few of them left today. Mr. Bellman is also one of the kindest, humblest, and funniest men it has ever been my pleasure to meet, making it not only an honor, but a true pleasure to have met him - and to get some originals signed!!!!

Bombs Away! by Allen Bellman, limited edition print numbered and signed by the artist.
Next up was another comics superstar, David Michelinie, who's written comics for DC, Marvel, and Valiant Comics since 1975. He is perhaps best known for writing the Iron Man: Demon in a Bottle arc, which dealt with Tony Stark's struggles with alcoholism with a compassionate realism that is unfortunately still rare today, not to mention in 1978 when he actually wrote the story. It is one of the great moments of courageous storytelling in comics, and it was incredibly moving to meet Mr. Michelinie, who also turns out to be a total sweetheart of a guy. Mockingbird got her hardback collection of Demon in a Bottle signed, and we were lucky enough to chat with Mr. Michelinie off and on throughout the weekend.

In an entirely different fandom, we got to meet Oliver and Terry Holler, who have bought an old DeLorean and modified it into an exact replica of the time-travelling vehicle made famous by the Back to the Future films. The car really is just incredible, and has to be seen to be believed, which you can do pretty easily as the Hollers (and their time-machine) tour the country raising money for the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research. The Hollers are wonderful down to earth, and very funny people, and were one of the highlights of our weekend.

We also ran into an old friend from the academic world, Jennifer C. Garlen, author of Beyond Casablanca: 100 Classic Movies Worth Watching, which, if you love great films, you really should have on your shelf. Jennifer was at APF indulging in her LEGO fandom, including a LEGO Dr. Who-ville complete with custom built Daleks. We also ran into Gil Gerard (Buck Rogers!) and Ernie Hudson (Winston from Ghostbusters!), and I got to sit next to Jeremy Roberts (Kakistos from BtVS!!!) on the Buffy panel!

Finally, there was the exhibition hall, where I spent way to much money on comic books (including some great Bronze Age Our Army at War and Sgt. Rock books), buttons, books, and MST3K episodes, and Mockingbird got herself a very cunning hat! It was a weekend of early mornings, huge breakfasts, late lunch/dinners with friends, and wonderful fun. This was my first con, and I loved it. The organizers brought their A-game, and took extraordinarily good care of us even when they were rapidly spinning 50 other plates at the same time. If you didn't make it this year, plan on going next.

We sure are!

No comments:

Post a Comment