Armageddon 2011

Armageddon 2011

Armageddon 2011 was the first time I received a media pass to report on any event.  I made good use of this privilege, taking HEAPS of photos.  Digital cameras are AWESOME.   These photos were originally uploaded on Facebook but I suspect they were – shall we say – ‘optimised’ to save space.  These photos are the full size with full clarity and print-ability.

Photos follow the article.  To have the photos correctly tagged or removed, please comment, DM or email me.

Here is the article on Armageddon 2011 originally published in Dark Matter issue 6.

The Melbourne Exhibition Centre was very busy today, 22 October, with a few expos running. One of them, the only one of interest to me, was Armageddon. Armageddon is a geek fest, featuring science fiction, fantasy, comic books, anime and even some wrestling.

I was supposed to pick up my press pass between 9 and 9:30 am, so it was an early start. I was surprised to see the queue winding its way through the foyer and up the street at about 9:15 am. On my way in, I saw familiar faces such as PJ, Starwalking Director, whose friendly banter entertained. He pointed me in the right direction to eventually locate the office and some of the people working behind the scenes to make this expo a success. Armed with my pass, I set out to enjoy the day.

My first foray was in the doors and straight ahead. This turned out to be an epic adventure. You know how, in Snakes and Ladders or the Lost Woods, you keep getting sent back? Well, after several attempts I still hadn’t made it to the end of this avenue of stalls by the end of the day. There was just so much to see and so many people to talk to. Some of the people I chatted with included Sue Ann Barber from Brickvention (the Lego convention), Colin Wilson (comic book artist), Ian Irvine (author of fantasy doorstops), Bruce Mutard (comic book author and artist), Avi Bernshaw of tentacle fame, Phil from Swordcraft, people from Critical Hit (all in costume), All Star Comics, Black House and its publications, Classic Comics, Silver K Gallery, Black Bullet Collectables, Brickvention, Welcome to the Cosmos and many, many more.

I took some photos of this guy dressed as Cobra Commander who came over to talk to me. He said I knew him… and when he took his helmet off, I really did know him! He was Ben Grimshaw. He was with Harley Quinn (Marta Tesoro, the artist who drew Dangerous Penguins from issue 5) and Rogue (Adele K. Thomas). They were also with Daniel, dressed up as the Doctor, who is apparently also in animation. So that was a group of 4 artists/animators who all knew each other, roaming Armageddon as a group.

The Lone Gunmen

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away – oops, wrong channel. While Mulder and Scully were finding conspiracies and aliens, they met a crowd of usual suspects. These characters were Byers (Bruce Harwood), Langly (Dean Haglund) and Frohike (Tom Braidwood), who appeared in about 35 episodes of The X Files and got their own spin-off series called The Lone Gunmen. The title of the series is a reference to the conspiracy theories around the assassination of JFK. Today the lone gunmen appeared together on stage for the first time in 10 years, assuring us that they looked just the same as ever. Except Bruce wasn’t wearing a tie because he hates ties, they give him a rash around his neck. Bruce’s beard also disappeared, as did much of Dean’s hair. The guys have a good rapport, as is shown in the photos where they chat and later on Dean’s ‘one man show’ becomes significantly more than one man as the rest of the lone gunmen joined him on stage.

The lone gunmen began by asking themselves what advice they’d give to their characters. If you’ve seen The Lone Gunmen, you will remember that Langly had long hair. Dean said he’d tell Langly to use conditioner to handle the split ends, even maybe a leave in conditioner, which is also advice he gives to himself these days, even with his much shorter hair.

This led in to Dean explaining that there are Langly hair cards for sale, with some of his hair in them. Bruce and Tom jumped on that, asking why and how. Dean said his hair was sitting in the closet. Well, that was an opening for the others; you’d think that they were the comedians and Dean was the straight man. Bruce and Tom challenged Dean to explain why his hair was in the closet. Dean embarked on the epic story of how he was in a movie, Spectre, with Marina Sirtis (Troy from Star Trek). He was asked if he’d cut his hair to get the role, so he agreed. When a fellow comedian heard Dean was about to cut his hair, Dean was challenged to have his initial hair cut at a comedy performance. This friend would listen to Dean’s monologue, and every time he said something that was a clique or not funny, this guy would come in and cut off a hank of hair. So Dean would say something about men being like dogs and women being like cats and this guy would cut off a huge hank of hair. At the end of the night all Dean’s locks were shorn, collected and presented to him. He thought he’d donate them to a wig-making charity but then he was told that the hair had to be all brushed the same way and cut the same length. So, he said, he put his hair in a closet.

Bruce and Tom challenged Dean that this was creepy. Dean explained that, rather than leave it on the dining table, he put it in the closet. Bruce pointed out that he shaved and threw the hair out. About then Dean gave up and admitted that yes, it was creepy. But it meant that when someone heard about the haircut and approached Dean with a proposal for the Langly hair cards, the hair was there in his closet waiting to be put to use.

Bruce (or was it Dean having his revenge?) talked about how Tom was the assistant director and yet was cast in the role of Frohike, and how that was weird. Dean said he went to audition after audition for his part, where he was called back to pretend to talk into a phone with other Byers while directors talked through the auditions. When Dean was finally given the part, he showed up and said, ‘Who are you?’ to Bruce, to find out that he was Byers. Bruce auditioned once and got the part. Then they found out that the assistant director was given the role of Frohike.

Well, this sounds dodgy. Did I ever mention the time I applied for a job and wowed the selection panel only to find out later that someone on the selection panel got the job? I digress. Apparently Chris Carter and others attended audition after audition for the role of Frohike to no avail. Oh, yes, and originally the name was Frohike, as in forward walk through the bush. Ugh. Tom apparently didn’t know this and he pronounced the name ‘Fro-hicky’, which sounds so appropriate. It stuck. Anyway, Chris et al were attending auditions without success. Someone said they needed a person who was really sleazy. Chris knew Tom’s background was in theatre and Tom was already working for the team. Chris suggested Tom, then the group reviewing the auditions walked past the bathrooms just as Tom walked out. Uh huh. Yup. Tom got the part.

Tango de los Pistoleros was a story about the tango, so naturally the lone gunmen needed dance lessons. Dean was the only one with a dance background but apparently even he didn’t know how to dance the tango. From their banter, it sounded like Dean wanted to learn – but when the woman teaching them the tango realised that Dean didn’t get any screen time dancing the tango, she dropped him like a hot rock, refusing to teach him any more. Bruce and Tom went on with their lessons as they did get screen time dancing the tango, although they said what they learnt is that the women dance around the men, while the men stand still, looking as if they’re smouldering with sexuality and passion. Exactly how well did those dancing lessons go for the guys?

Apparently a lot of the aliens in The X Files were little girls from a ballet school. Initially they were boys, but they learnt that boys tended to play violently, punching and fighting each other as aliens, tearing the latex masks. So The X Files team switched to girls, finding that they were much easier on the masks. The Lone Gunmen urged everyone attending to take home that piece of information as a learning point, even if they forgot everything else. Because, of course, that is the most vital, relevant piece of information they imparted during the panel.

Originally the lone gunmen appeared as a one-off in The X Files, but their appearance sparked a huge jump in talk in conspiracy theorists’ forums, where they believed The X Files’ writers were watching them. Which they were. A symbiotic relationship developed. For the first several episodes, Langly’s glasses are different. There was a big bag of glasses to choose from, so Dean would grab a pair. At the end of the episode he’d chuck them back in. Next time, the prop guy would ask what pair he wore last time, but Dean couldn’t remember.  Eventually, even though there was no actual plan to bring them back again, the prop guy put Dean’s glasses aside for his return.

In ‘Planet of the Frohikes’, the team investigate intelligent chimps being kept as slave labour. In the TV series, it really looked like those chimps were well trained and were working away at the keyboards. Apparently the chimps were actually pulling the keys off the keyboards and eating them. The actors weren’t allowed to interact with the chimps much because if they bonded with the chimps then the chimps wouldn’t listen to the trainer, they’d only listen to the actor. Usually the actors weren’t allowed to even look the chimps in the eye, so on one occasion when filming, Frohike was supposed to look the chimp in the eye but didn’t. The chimp grabbed his face and turned Frohike to look at him. That chimp knew the cues even if Tom forgot!

Apparently Gillian Anderson (Scully) is about the same height as Tom. The reason Gillian seems taller on TV is that the taller actors would have to bend over to do shots with her; Dean complained of a bad back. There were also times when they put Gillian on a block. Tom claimed that he’d do stand-ins for Gillian at times.

[Spoiler alert] In the final episode of The Lone Gunmen, the guys caught a disease and were quarantined by the Centre for Disease control. The actors wanted to go out with a bang, in fire or an explosion. They were disappointed that their final scene was them clustered around a window looking out with a fade to white. They at least wanted explosions of bodily fluid, blood splatters on the window, but no. Later the funeral is shown, with three coffins. When someone dies of an infectious disease, not only are they buried in hermetically sealed coffins but the coffin is tailored to that person’s body size. The three coffins shown were of the same size. As the trio pointed out, there was one of their number who is significantly shorter than the other two, so maybe the lone gunmen escaped and were living out there somewhere. Then someone remembered how, for The Usual Suspects, there was an image of a line up showing David Duchovny and the three lone gunmen side by side, with a 6 foot line marker indicating all three of them were six feet tall. So maybe that’s the answer – maybe Frohike was really 6 feet tall after all!  [Spoiler ends]

Later that afternoon, Dean Haglund’s ‘one man show’ turned into a larger show with the addition of one person doing sound effects to Dean’s impromptu theatre adventure that evolved into an episode of The Lone Gunmen when Tom and Bruce walked on stage. The three of them proceeded to the centre for baldness control where they discovered a government conspiracy. Two volunteers from the audience then gave random words to help with the dialogue as the story progressed. Early on, members of the audience wrote random sentences on pieces of paper. Late in the show these pieces of paper were put on the stage floor, picked up and read out loud by the three who worked them into their dialogue with hilarious consequences. Dean also donned a paper suit so a member of the audience could be his arms while he continued in this role. Dean looked to his arms for guidance with his dialogue. At the end of the show the audience was told the show would be burnt to DVD and would be available for purchase the next day.

Doctor Who

Rob Lloyd did a one man show called Who, me, which was partly fictional trial of the doctor and partly autobiographical. As Rob took some pains to point out, he looks somewhat like David Tennant, however he augments this natural similarity with facial expressions like The Eyebrow so that, at times, he is indistinguishable from the real thing.

The premise of the show was that Doctor Who had been put on trial for ruining Rob’s life. If found guilty the Doctor would be erased from history. Rob embarked on a humorous retelling of his life and journey into fandom, mixed with courtroom scenes where Rob played every role. His malleable face, physical humour and verbal skills differentiated every role so there was no confusion – until he imitated a pirate in order to distinguish between ‘lawyer Rob’ and ‘witness Rob’. The prosecutor (Rob – this was a one man show!) instructed Rob to cease and desist with the pirate voice… I’m wondering what he’s like on Talk Like a Pirate Day. His face even changed into a creepy pirate-like character worthy of casting in Treasure Island.

Rob is a fan boy and has been a fan of Doctor Who since 1996. Previously a Star Wars fan, then a Sherlock Holmes fan, Rob grew up a drama geek in the bush (rural New South Wales). After moving to the ‘big smoke’, Wagga Wagga (still rural NSW but a larger town), Rob studied drama at university. Rob first engaged with Doctor Who because he had a close personal friend who was a long time fan. A few weeks after being introduced to Doctor Who, his friend was saddened, and told Rob that Jon Pertwee had died. Rob said, ‘Who?’ After being shown some of the third doctor, starring Jon Pertwee who was a comedian playing it straight (Worzel Gummidge anyone?), Rob found his doctor.

This performance is not one that can be effectively described in a few short pages. Rob shared his experiences of fandom, including the fan-based hierarchy. His description of a social event, with the Star Wars and Star Trek fans in the inner circle, hating each other but ending up making out in the hallway, was hilarious. I have encouraged Rob to make the DVD of his performance available for purchase. Hopefully he’ll pass on the purchase details soon, so that DMF can make them available to readers.

For the rest of the day I cruised around, chatting to people, taking photos and trying to line up interviews. I wasn’t sure if media passes covered getting into VIP events; hopefully next year I’ll be able to report on the difference that those silver and gold passes buys.

Cyberangel

One of the most memorable people I met that afternoon was Shin Kou Sabre, the Cyber Angel cosplayer who featured on the cover of the MX newspaper the previous day. In a later issue of DMF, I hope to feature an interview with Shin Kou and her supportive partner who are developing an anime based on the character Cyber Angel. Shin Kou needed assistance to walk up the stairs and make sure she didn’t fall, and then she got to the door of the hall for the costume parade. There was no way she could get through the door fully assembled, so they removed the wings (pass the screwdriver, thanks!) and reassembled on the other side. Sadly Shin Kou could not participate in the cosplay competition because the rules specify that costumes must be based on existing characters, and the anime is not yet running. Hopefully in the next year or two Cyber Angel will be a fully-formed anime instead of in development, and then Shin Kou can compete.

Best Laid Plans

Sunday proved that the best laid plans of mice and men go awry. On Saturday night I went through the program, laying out my plans for the next day. However, instead of attending the Nicholas Brandon (Xander from Buffy) panel, I interviewed Sandeep Parikh and Jeff Lewis from The Guild, Legend of Neil and Effinfunny. They were really surprised at how much research I’d done – possibly a reflection that they didn’t think a media-type of my age and sex would be a fan. It went so well that, during The Guild panel – oops, I get ahead of myself here.

While we were at the celebrity booth section of the hall, we saw The Lone Gunmen and took the opportunity to purchase the DVD of their performance the previous day, which they autographed. We also purchased Dean’s DVD The Truth is Out There. They’re a great bunch of guys, so we chatted for a few minutes, taking advantage of a lull in the queue. I gave Dean my business card.

Dean made my day when he looked at the card and genuinely said he had heard of Dark Matter. He even asked Bruce where he’d heard of it from, and Bruce had heard of it too. Sadly Tom didn’t seem to have heard of it, but from then on, my brag is that two out of three Lone Gunmen have heard of Dark Matter!

Murphy’s Law dictates that panels don’t start and end at the convenience of attendees, and I felt self-conscious about walking into a panel late. I think next year I’ll be a bit more forward, just taking care to be stealthy. But anyway, between the aforementioned conversations, talking to people like the Welcome to the Cosmos guys and Terencio, Quiz Master Extraordinaire (from the Melbourne Science Fiction Club), having lunch and not being sure about the rules around attending the Stargate panels, the next panel we attended was The Guild.

The Guild

Jeff Lewis and Sandeep Parikh are comedians whose beginning was in stand-up comedy. They began the panel after playing around the dalek with Jeff sitting with Sandeep’s head in his lap. They discussed how warm Jeff’s groin was, and how Sandeep found that somewhat off-putting.

Sandeep talked about Stan Lee, and what a prima donna he was during his time in The Guild. He really hammed it up, but then made absolutely sure that everyone knew he was joking and that no prima donnas were involved in The Guild.

One thing led to another, and before I knew it, Sandeep was sitting on Edward’s (my husband’s) lap, with his legs across my lap. I was so surprised! Later Edward said he had to stop himself from bouncing Sandeep up and down, to which I replied that he should have – Sandeep would have loved that. Much later I realised I could have got an amazing close up, but the spontaneity threw me – I’m still getting the hang of this whole media thing. I kept patting Sandeep’s leg as if he was my son – well, Sandeep is cute and little. I swear, the reason he has that facial hair is because he’d get carded everywhere he went if he was clean shaven. Sandeep said that Edward’s groin was ice-cold, much more appealing than Jeff’s.

The banter between Sandeep and Jeff was terrific. They kept slipping into and out of their Zaboo and Vork characters. The best clue that Jeff was now out of character was the twinkle in his eye and the smile – a real contrast with Vork’s usual flat affect or angry demeanour. Sandeep and Jeff discussed everything from how it’s a bit worrying that Zaboo learns about how to be a man from Vork, but hey, you get it where you can, to how Sandeep started in comedy. Apparently Sandeep was the only ‘brown boy’ in his area growing up, so he was a target. Sandeep was told that he was the colour of shit, so his dad said to say that the boys calling him that were the undies that were shat in. Sandeep did, and learnt to run away really quickly. It appears he became the class clown, which led to a life in comedy.

Fans wanted to know if The Guild was doing another musical number this year. Previously Sandeep had told Dark Matter that they were hoping to do something this year, but during the panel he asked Edward if they were doing something. Edward, half-hopeful and possibly half-forgetting exactly what had been said, replied ‘Yes!’ Sandeep looked a tiny bit disconcerted – I’m wondering if their ‘special’ this year will be more along the lines of the previous Christmas special instead of another musical number.

Someone asked why Jeff wasn’t in Legend of Neil, to which Sandeep pointed out that Jeff is in Legend, but Sandeep isn’t in the Jeff Lewis 5 minute comedy hour, and Sandeep is just gutted. He’s devastated. And he’s not letting Jeff forget it. Then they pointed out that Jeff cameos as a guy pulling in for gas at the station in Legend. A brief mention was made of the fact that Jeff has written a cameo for Sandeep in the first episode of the next season of the 5 minute comedy hour. (If you haven’t seen the 5 minute comedy hour, then at the very least you need to see the episode ‘Tag’. Go on, it will only take 5 minutes of your life. Actually, only 4 minutes 32 seconds. )

Much of what was discussed in my interview of Sandeep and Jeff was discussed in the panel, but from different perspectives or with different information. It would have been great to get a DVD of the panel, both for the information and the comedy.

Sylvester McCoy

Next up we queued for what we thought was the Stargate panel, but the minion looked at the timetable cross-eyed or something because it was a Dr Who session with Leonard McCoy – oops, Sylvester McCoy. I was torn because I had planned to see one of the Stargate/Sanctuary panels, but once Sylvester started, I was hooked. He was so entertaining!

Sylvester started by telling stories about his time as the doctor, especially focusing on the pyrotechnic guys at the BBC. The most memorable story was how, on a particular anniversary that triggered concerns about the IRA potentially bombing England, the pyrotechnic guys got slightly carried away. The bangs were rather exuberant, to say the least. Explosions for the Dr Who set were reported on the news as an IRA attack. Ambulances came screaming to the scene. An ambo (paramedic driving an ambulance) screeched to a halt on the street, with smoke billowing everywhere, obscuring his vision. Then the ambo’s mouth dropped open, as three daleks emerged from the smoke and confusion. Sylvester said they may have been Irish daleks, he’s not sure.

Another time the pyrotechnic guys were overly enthusiastic, Sylvester was walking through the set being filmed, and his back felt really hot. He thought he was on fire. It took so much time and effort on a limited budget that they only did one take. Sylvester knew it would be really difficult to set up the scene for a second shoot, so he kept walking, he kept in character, he kept going, with a back that felt like it might be on fire. Apparently all was good and he wasn’t on fire, so Sylvester’s trust in his colleagues and his professionalism paid off. He is worried that the pyrotechnic guys are out to get him though, and he checks everywhere he goes, even under the carpet.

Sylvester’s talk covered his career leading into acting, his love of comedy (that was obvious from his talk), and his acquisition of the stage name Sylvester McCoy. Other topics included the panopticon, including the one Sylvester had as a dressing room for The Movie, and how Paul McCann had the carpet changed. Apparently Sylvester even acted as a bouncer on stage for the Rolling Stones just before they went to the US for that fateful performance.

Someone asked for a photo of Sylvester with Ace, a cosplayer in the audience with all the right badges and gear. This is the best photo I managed to get of Sylvester with the dalek – I tried really hard to get one of the Doctor with the dalek looking over his shoulder in a sinister fashion, but without a pose and flash, this was not going to happen.

I have a confession to make – Sylvester was not one of my favourite doctors, but he certainly won me over with this panel. I would watch his episodes again now, if only I had the DVDs.

Wrap up

The Madman costume competition was awesome with lots of fabulous hand made costumes. Winners were selected in a few categories and the overall Australian best costume group is pictured here.

Armageddon was a great experience. This is the third consecutive year I’ve attended. I enjoy it more each year, and every year I leave thinking I’ll do it differently next year to get more out of it. Every year it gets better, which is partly me being more organised and partly Armageddon doing it better too. For example, there was more floor space, with two separate halls for panels instead of having them compete with the noise from the wrestling. I heard a rumour that next year the wrestling will also be out of the hall, so the exhibition hall won’t have that level of noise. These are great improvements, making the experience more enjoyable for all.

Next year apparently I’ll be able to interview people on the Friday, which will be totally awesome (thanks, Locky!) Then during the actual expo I’ll take photos of cosplayers, stalls and special events like this year but hopefully more of them. I’ll get to more panels, both for photos and for reporting. I might try to take notes during panels, but a camera and a notebook are hard to juggle. This year I discovered that Armageddon really does start early, so next year I will try to get there even earlier, read through the program, find out where the rooms are well before scheduled events, and plan my weekend accordingly. Oh, and I will double check when the minion tells me that we’re supposed to be downstairs… mind you, it was a very long queue for an excellent panel.

See you at Armageddon 2012.