Wizard World Comic Con Cleveland Marvel Panel Highlights and More
♫ Sometimes you wanna go—where everyboooody understands the complexities underlying the dynamics of Team Cap vs. Team Iron Man. ♫
Wizard World Comic Con Cleveland was held February 26-28, 2016 at the Cleveland Convention Center, and provided opportunities for fans to hear the creators, actors, and industry professionals who make their fandom possible speak about their experiences. Getting to see the actors interact with their co-stars, directors, and writers as themselves instead of in character was a huge highlight of the convention for me, particularly when Chloe Bennett (Agent Skye/Daisy Johnson) and Elizabeth Henstridge (Agent Jemma Simmons) shared the stage and answered fan questions about their work on Agents of Shield, and when Frank Grillo (Crossbones) and Joseph and Anthony Russo (the directors of Captain America: Winter Soldier and the upcoming Captain America: Civil War and Infinity War films) paneled together.
This was my first Wizard World event. I found out about it through a friend who’s a huge fan of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and was excited to attend. She asked if I was interested in going, and so a group of us made our way from Bloomington, IN to Cleveland, OH, at an obscenely early hour. We arrived with plenty of time to pick up our badges and start figuring out which panels we wanted to see and where the rooms we would need to stake out were located. (Our “badges,” by the way, turned out to be bracelets, which we jokingly referred to as our “fun shackles” for the rest of the weekend.)
We had already kind of decided that we were pretty much going to Marvel-track ourselves for the weekend and place the most emphasis on attending the panels with actors from the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the Russo brothers. All of us are pretty big fans of the Marvel movies, and my particular affinity is for Iron Man. I was expecting a lot of hype for Civil War—honestly kind of hoping for it—and I was not disappointed.
The first panel we attended was run by two women, Morgan Young, and Laura Sutton. The title was “Civil War: Pick Your Side,” and the way it worked was that attendees could come up front and put their name in a purse shaped like either Iron Man or Captain America’s chest, and if your name was drawn, you then came up and debated your side of the conflict. The panelists made sure to emphasize that we were debating the comic-book version, and not speculatively debating the upcoming movie. It immediately became apparent that my Iron Man leanings are not the most popular position to hold, although several debaters and even the panelists admitted that the best solution would have been found in a form of compromise between Iron Man and Cap. No one booed the Iron Man minority, and the panelists acknowledged that both characters were stubborn and should have done a few things differently—a position that would later be echoed by the Russo brothers during one of their panels.
Right before this panel, we also met a cosplayer whose creative presentation had me chasing him down for a picture. Yep, he’s Dennis Nedry from Jurassic Park, looking a mess trying to escape with his can of Barbasol. Which contains tiny, plastic dinosaurs in a secret hatch. Clever boy, Mr. Invasion of the Podcast guy!
Also right before this panel, a Deadpool cosplayer (The Cleveland Deadpool) decided to take advantage of the fact that the presenters had not yet arrived and made himself quite at home. This act was well-received. We’re a bunch of nerds. ;-)
Next, we attended a panel called, “Let’s Shut Down Some Streets: Bringing The Avengers, Captain America, and the Russo Brothers to Cleveland,” with Ivan Schwarz, the President of the Greater Cleveland Film Commission, and Joe and Anthony Russo, themselves natives of Cleveland. The panel focused on how local film commissions can help bring jobs to their communities by being receptive to filming. Ivan is from L.A. but fell in love with Cleveland and moved there with the intention to bring a piece of the movie industry to the city. Filming on location in places like Washington, D.C. is difficult and expensive, and Cleveland has a lot to offer in that regard. The backgrounds can be changed in post-production to reflect the intended location.
So, attending this Wizard World Comic Con event, in Cleveland, was particularly meaningful for Marvel superfans, because some of the locations used in the movie are easily found in downtown Cleveland! My friends and I walked all over downtown on Sunday morning, snapping pics of the overpass where Bucky (bless him) “took the wheel” of Sam’s car, the place where Nick Fury’s car was flipped, and the mall where Black Widow and Cap kissed on the escalator, among other sites. The Russo brothers stated that they work with local film commissions often, because that is what allows “people like us to come and shut down the freeway.”
- When asked what they would want to work on next, they answered that they would consider TV again, and cited Jessica Jones as an example of excellent television, the likes of which they would like to be a part. At this point, an audience member shouted, “Arrested Development,” and they admitted that they still owe six seasons and a movie on Community.
- When asked why Cleveland, they answered that the city has a variety of looks, a lakefront, and that some parts look a little bit like NYC. They also said that compared to NYC and DC, it’s easy to shoot in Cleveland, partly because of the work Ivan and the Film Commission do.
- Tax incentives can help bring films to places like Cleveland.
- If enough sound stages get created in Cleveland, it will be possible to stay in Cleveland and work in the film industry. This keeps local creatives in town and keep them all from moving away to L.A., Georgia, and Louisiana.
- How can Clevelanders help get more movies to come to town? Cleveland is on the list of potential cities to film in for Infinity War. The Russos fight to keep Cleveland included. The best way is to build the sound stages that will bring more permanent work. To do more than location shots, they need to have sound stages. Also, talk to legislators and try to get the tax incentive to be higher.
- More money than would be spent in Cleveland by the Republication Convention would be spent by the film industry if the infrastructure for it was there.
- Apparently, Chris Evans liked Cleveland!
- How was it closing down the streets? People were cool about it. The cast and crew loved Cleveland!
- Advice to aspiring creatives? Go to the Internets! Donald Glover was discovered online doing comedy with friends! Make a Vine!
Next up, we went to the big panel room, where we remained for pretty much the rest of the day to see the “Michael Rooker Versus the Audience,” panel. Michael Rooker played Yondu Udonta in Guardians of the Galaxy, and I was curious to see what he was like in real life. For starters, he wasn’t blue. I felt so ripped off! (Kidding. There WAS a super blue, really well-done Yondu cosplayer in the audience, though!
Michael Rooker does not chill on the stage and wait for questions; he walks the aisles, asking the audience questions (and also answering them). When asked if they could bring back his character on The Walking Dead, he replied with a grin, “They can’t afford me!” Toward the end of the panel, he saw a Groot cosplayer standing along the side wall and invited him up. The Groot gave him a flower, and he asked him if he had any questions, to which Groot replied, “We are Groot!” Michael Rooker answered, “The bathrooms are over there!” And Groot ran off.
Next on our Marvel adventures, we attended, “Women of S.H.I.E.L.D.: Chloe Bennet and Elizabeth Henstridge,” where the actors answered questions. I expected them to be cool, but I didn’t expect to love them so much. They were funny, played off of each other well, and treated the audience (even some of the goofier questions) with respect and tact. I was impressed with not only the work they do on a show I like, but also how they interact with each other and their fans. It felt like watching two friends hang out (admittedly, while also answering questions from randoms).
Here are some of the highlights:
- What is next for Simmons and Daisy? They replied: “… as, like, a couple? I ship it like FedEx.” Chloe and Elizabeth joked for a bit about changing the title of their ship from Skimmons to something that reflects Daisy’s new name, but the alternatives all sounded like STIs to them.
- Chloe likes the friendship between Daisy and Mack.
- They talked about how much they enjoy that the show has relatable female friendships, and shows women in active roles in science, action, etc. When asked what they would like to see the show do in the future to keep this up, Elizabeth said that it’s so built into the show that it will only get stronger. Chloe agrees with this.
- More women than men on the show do stunts.
- Chloe talked about the inherent awkwardness of “posing with powers” and gave a little demonstration. She says it’s kind of embarrassing.
- Which is your favorite moment on set? They agree that the first one is the most powerful because it was so surreal and cool to be on set.
- What do you want to happen with Fitz and Simmons? Elizabeth says, “Oh, I want them to be together forever and ever!”
- Someone brought up when Simmons said something about wanting to get her human hands on Thor and said, “Well … he’s here!”
- Apparently, Chloe and Luke continually hide their phones from each other on set and give each other clues to get the phone back.
- If you weren’t actors, what kind of job would you want? Elizabeth: I wanted to be a therapist. Chloe: You kind of are.
- According to Chloe, Elizabeth is very good at matching things up and buying cheetah print everything.
- What was your funniest moment for kissing Fitz? Elizabeth: It’s weird. He’s like my brother. This gives way to a discussion about the “rules” for kissing in acting. Chloe apparently didn’t know that there were rules and came at it pretty hard, surprising a few people.
- If you had powers, what would you want and why? Elizabeth: Just really wants to be able to cook without everything being burned on the outside and raw inside. Chloe: Would like to be able to blink and be somewhere.
- Do you have special talents? Chloe can pick a lot of stuff up with her feet, and Elizabeth is good at buying things with leopard print. Chloe buys leopard print stuff for Elizabeth and forgets to give it to her.
- How did you take finding out that Ward was Hydra? Elizabeth: I took it hard. Chloe: We took it seriously. We all freaked out. It was a sad time. Elizabeth: He knew before and was definitely more awkward a week before. Chloe: Which is hard to believe.
- Which side are you on in Civil War? Chloe: Cap! Elizabeth: Simmons would pick Iron Man, but Elizabeth chooses Cap!
After this, the Russo brothers were back, and they brought a friend! Frank Grillo, who plays Crossbones, joined them on stage for, “Creating Civil War with Frank Grillo and the Russo Brothers.” It was quickly established that for Grillo, there is only one team that counts in Civil War, and that’s Team Crossbones. He says that the movie is better than Cap 2 and thinks we’ll all be blown away. Here are some of the highlights of this panel:
- Cap and Bucky’s relationship changes. It follows from Winter Soldier with Cap’s long journey to save his friend. They refer to Bucky as the world’s longest POW.
- What are some of the biggest challenges and obstacles this movie has presented? It’s a big, complicated movie. You make the movie several times before you make the movie. You have to be prepared!
- Do you feel constrained by Disney? No. Winter Soldier was pretty aggressive and Civil War will be more so. No one blinked an eye. Disney leaves Marvel and Star Wars alone creatively.
- Grillo: I’ve seen the Batman vs. Superman movie. If you only have 15 dollars to your name, save it.
- Which cast member from Civil War would you choose to survive The Purge with? Grillo: Renner.
- After Civil War, where do you see the Marvel Universe going? Straight to Thanos!
- Infinity War will have 68 distinct characters instead of the previously announced 67!
- If you could play another character, who would you play and why would you do it better? Frank: Iron Man. Because millions of dollars and I’m in better shape than RDJ!
- How do the Russos feel about Civil War? Putting them in real conflict with each other requires that they find ways for both characters to be right and wrong. Anything less would be a disservice to the characters they love.
The best quote, I think, was when Anthony Russo said:
“In our minds there is a very continuous story being told about the Winter Soldier in the two movies. You know, where he starts in Winter Soldier and where we take him into Civil War. And it’s a very complicated place because he has a very unique history and the idea is that he’s been brainwashed—sort of made to do—made to work for Hydra for decades, put in and out of stasis, just constantly disorientated, and sort of kept confused and limited. So that, yeah, Civil War is where we pick up the Bucky story, him trying to—I can’t get into much detail about it, talk about where it goes—but the movie is very sensitive to Bucky and to what he’s going through as a result of that whole experience. And how does he pick up the pieces and move forward? And it’s very difficult for him to do. But that’s really very much at the heart of Civil War.”
Really, that’s the kind of thing fans love to hear, that the people behind a much-loved fandom share that love and have a sincere desire to do the characters and their problems justice. As a Team Tony Stark minority, I appreciate that there is no intent to demonize any one side. Hear that, rabid Team Cap people? The Russos love Tony, too, OK?
Next up was the shining Prince of Asgard himself, Chris Hemsworth! And yeah, he just looks like that. Even when he’s not actively Thor-ing. The panel was called, “Journey Into Asgard: Chris Hemsworth,” and consisted of the Russo brothers and Chris Hemsworth on stage, taking questions from the audience. Here are some highlights of that panel: (I mean … other than his face and stuff …)
- What new things are coming up for Thor? In the first films, he was a naive fish-out-of-water. More humor and great adventure coming up, but also they plan to break down the character for the purpose of building him back up again.
- What made you decide to agree to an 11 movie deal? Hemsworth: Paying rent! His visa was running out and he needed a job. When he first took the role, he knew nothing about the character, but he did the research and has since become fascinated with the mythology.
- Are you Team Cap or Team Iron Man? Hemsworth: Team Thor! He’ll make his own team. Cap has been nicer to me. Probably Team Cap.
- How heavy is the prop hammer? Hemsworth: There are several versions, and the stunt version is lighter.
- When asked about Ghostbusters: Hemsworth: Excited to be in it and couldn’t stop laughing at the script. It is a riot. You’re going to enjoy it! My character is … borderline genius, borderline injured in the brain.
- What is it like watching yourself on film? Which film is more fun to rewatch? Hemsworth: Can only watch himself about once. it’s weird for him.
- Whenever the Russos and Hemsworth compliment each other, they pass a bit of cash back and forth for comedic effect.
- Thor or Hulk in a contest of pushups? Hemsworth: Maybe Thor, because he’s smaller, but Hulk … I’d kick the shit out of Ruffalo!
- How did Liam respond when he found out you were Thor? Hemsworth (laughing): We still don’t talk.
- How do you feel, not being in Civil War? How do you know he’s not?
- What is your favorite cheese? (This was a fan who asked this same question of all the guests.) Hemsworth: Monchego.
- Do you have a Lego figure of you at hour house? (This question was asked by a cute little kid named Liam and Hemsworth was really sweet to him.) He does not have a Lego of himself as Thor, and expressed some concern as to what his kids might do with one if they had access.
- Do you remember what hair product they used on you when you’re playing Thor? Hemsworth: (smiling, doesn’t even miss a beat) “Thoreal.”
- Do you consider Thor and Loki to be Disney Princes? Hemsworth: Princesses!
- What’s your favorite Infinity Stone? Hemsworth: Is there a blue one? It would match my eyes!
- Do you have any embarrassing stories from the set? Hemsworth: “About Tom? Yes.” He admitted that his pants had split a few times and once, the “whole ass of his pants” came out. (I’m betting no one minded. Except him, maybe.)
- He and Tom Hiddleston are good friends in real life.
This marks the end of our Extreme Marvel Experience. It was at this point that we had to do human things like eat food and get out of our costume-y bits. My hair, however, had passed the point of no return beneath my wig and remained concealed for the rest of the evening!
Sunday, we took our Captain America: Winter Soldier walkabout in Cleveland and then headed back to the convention to check out the vendor hall one last time and also attend one last panel. Eliza Dushku, who played Faith on Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Echo on Dollhouse was speaking, and I really wanted to hear what she had to say. She started out her panel by expressing her gratitude that so many people turned out to listen to her try to remember things from a 15 -20 year old show. I immediately felt old, but she said it with so much humor, it was kind of sweet. Here are the highlights of her panel:
- Was it more difficult to play Faith or multiple characters on Dollhouse? Dushku: Faith wasn’t always just one character … regardless, she was always excited to see what Joss had waiting for her. TV is really fast, and there were times that she wished there was more time to work on a character.
- What is Joss like? Dushku: A total goon in the nicest way. Dances like a total spaz. Doesn’t care who sees it. She likes that he’s a feminist and she likes his politics.
- What were some of your favorite lines? Dushku: Slaying makes me hungry and horny, and five by five.
- Dear Albania (http://www.dearalbania.com/) is a film she worked on with her brother Nate. It is about exploring their Albanian heritage. She was really happy that someone in the audience mentioned it.
- What would Faith’s playlist be like? Dushku: Good, hard, dirty rock! They often shot the scenes where Faith was dancing in a club or something to NIN but they couldn’t afford the licensing for them and dubbed other music in.
- She spoke about respecting EVERY role on set and joked that if you don’t, they will NOT edit out the giant zit on your forehead.
- What is voice acting like in comparison to acting on TV or film? Dushku: You can show up in your pajayjays. People are always hanging out in their socks. But, you have to emote more because your face isn’t going to be there to help you. In some ways it’s more theatrical. It’s really fun.
- What was your favorite imprint? Dushku: The ninja. And also when she got to be crazy with Alan Tudyk.
- How is college? Dushku: She’s taking the semester off for Albania, but intends to go back. She likes college a lot and her family takes education seriously.
- Do you have any funny behind the scenes stories from Buffy? Dushku: The makeout scene with Angel. His vampire teeth pierced her tongue, and when she explained and requested his teeth come out for the scene everybody got quiet and were looking at her. Joss joked about her using a lot of tongue. She just thought everybody did it that way.
- Which Dollhouse role left an impression on you? Dushku: I see what you did there.
- What is the difference in the workflow in prep for TV vs. film? Dushku: For a 1 hr drama, 8 shooting days, weekends off. You go through about 10-15 pages per day. In film, you do about 2-3 pages per day.
- For her, acting is instinctual, although she works with the same coach she has used since she was 9.
- What is it like moving from actor to producer? Dushku: So many more responsibilities! The entire government in Albania changed and they had to get all new paperwork. So much more on your plate as a producer. Every time it seems like the movie is sunk, the clouds part and the sun comes out.
- Who would you want for backup in a fight? Faith or Echo? Dushku: Faith, because she has superhuman powers.
- If you could have any talent, what would you choose? Dushku: Languages and the ability to play instruments.
- Do you have any advice for people pursuing acting while in school? Dushku: Priorities. She was enrolled in Boston, dorm room ready to go, when she found out she was cast in Buffy. Always have a Plan B. College is the thing she goes back to when she has the time. Don’t grip it too hard. A combination of luck and skill is what pushes things forward. When you push toward something too hard it gets farther away. Every time she enrolls in school something comes her way. You have to have something behind your eyes when you’re on the camera, and it’s your interests and other passions that give you that.
- What is your favorite cheese? (the Cheese Questioner strikes again!) Dushku: Pepper Jack and Havarti.
The convention was everything we wanted it to be and a little bit more. From interesting guests to cool cosplays, to artists, and a real, live mermaid (performer), we thoroughly enjoyed the Wizard World Comic Con in Cleveland, and found it extra cool that the Russos are from there, and that we were able to find the locations used in Winter Soldier. Please enjoy these fun cosplay pictures from Wizard World Comic Con Cleveland! And remember, be kind to the Team Iron Man fans in your life. We could use a little love!
Sara Goodwin has a B.A. in Classical Civilization and an M.A. in Library Science from Indiana University. Once she went on an archaeological dig and found awesome ancient stuff. Sara enjoys a smorgasbord of pan-nerd entertainment such as Renaissance faires, anime conventions, steampunk, and science fiction and fantasy conventions. In her free time, she writes things like fairy tale haiku, fantasy novels, and terrible poetry about being stalked by one-eyed opossums. In her other spare time, she sells nerdware as With a Grain of Salt Designs, Tweets, and Tumbls.
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