At the Wizard World Austin Comic Con, there is a plethora of sights to behold, from intricately designed cosplay costumes to expert artists selling their pieces and chatting with friendly fans. It’s a sensory overload on that front, but comic cons also feature interesting, engaging and entertaining panels with celebrities big and small.
As Wizard World rolled up into town, it boasted probably the best lineup of visiting talent for its Austin convention so far. Some are legends of their crafts, while others are cult heroes, but all had something interesting to say during audience-driven Q&A’s. Here are the best of what happens when geeks get the chance to talk with their idols.
One of the first big names to step up and chat was man himself, Stan Lee — the guy who has contributed the likes of Spider-Man and the Fantastic Four to the pantheon of Marvel superheroes, among many more accomplishments. After it was pointed out that Lee would turn 91 on December 28, the entire ballroom sang “Happy Birthday,” although Lee didn’t see what the big deal was.
“You know, it requires no talent to be born. You’ve all done it. What’s the big deal? Let’s all talk about comics and important stuff!”
When asked what he would have done with his life if he didn’t write comics, he chose a profession that would fit with his natural charisma.
“I think I would have wanted to be a movie star. I mean, Brad Pitt needs some competition. And it’s easier than writing stories. Someone gives you what you have to say, and everyone fusses over you, makes sure his hair is okay, ‘Are you comfortable Mr. Pitt? Is that chair good for you? Are you ready to go on?’ I’m getting so jealous of Brad Pitt, he better not show up here.”
Lee has written mostly for comic books, but he’s read all the classics of literature going back to his childhood.
“I was a big reader when I was young. I read Victor Hugo. I read Mark Twain. I read Shakespeare — I didn’t understand it much, but I loved the words, that ‘What ho, Horatio!’ stuff. … I read whatever I could get my hands on. And then of course, when I started writing comics, I read my own comics, and wow!”
His eyesight and hearing might be bad, but the nonagenarian still has his wits about him; he lead fans in a final "Excelsior!" to close out the panel out.
Along with Stan Lee, one of the other headlining guests was William Shatner, the original captain of the USS Enterprise on Star Trek: The Original Series. Joining Shatner on the panel was Scott Bakula, star of Quantum Leap and the prequel series Star Trek: Enterprise, chronologically making him the original captain of the Enterprise.
Shatner might have been the bigger name, but Bakula gave incredibly insightful and touching answers to fan questions for both of his series. His answers were also a little less digressive than Shatner’s. Go figure.
One fan asked if there was something on their “bucket lists,” and while Bakula had a hard time thinking up something, another helpful fan shouted a suggestion, which Bakula quickly picked up on.
“A Quantum Leap movie, there you go. In fact, there was a TV show shot back in the mid-60s that we could leap back into. … And you know I’m going to end up in a red shirt.”
In one famous episode of Quantum Leap, Bakula leaped into the body of Lee Harvey Oswald, so Bakula recounted the story behind the classic episode and what it was like reliving that day as the infamous assassin.
“That episode was a result [series creator] Don Bellisario’s reaction to Oliver Stone’s JFK, which he absolutely hated and didn’t buy for a second. Don was in the Marine Corps with Lee Harvey Oswald, and so he felt a certain responsibility to put his version out there. It was eerie, it was bizarre [recreating it].”
Wizard World Austin also boasted the biggest name in wrestling right now, WWE Superstar John Cena, who mostly answered questions of fans who still weren’t tall enough to reach the microphone. To both of our readers out there who happen to care about wrestling news and insider stories, Cena told the audience his favorite, young wrestlers on WWE’s show for developmental talent, NXT, to keep an eye on for the future.
“There’re two guys I got my eye on down there. One is a kid named Adrian Neville. He’s a lightweight highflyer who reminds me of Dynamite Kid. I’ve never seen anyone in person who moves like he does. … The other one is, I think we’re calling him Sami Zayn now, [formerly] El Generico. He is just great, man. I’ve seen some of his stuff. I actually got to see him in person, and he’s quite good. He’s more than impressive. There’s a bunch of people down there that are good for all different reasons, and I’ve got my eye on those two.”
Now if CultureMap were to give away an award for the best and most life-affirming panel talks at Wizard World, it would hands down go to actor Giancarlo Esposito, the man who performed as the iconic Gustavo Fring from Breaking Bad and is currently spending most of his time shooting NBC’s Revolution just outside of Austin.
Esposito became a fan favorite thanks to Breaking Bad, but when asked who is favorite character is between Fring or Revolution’s Major Tom Neville, he gave a pretty nuanced opinion.
“Oh, it’s such a hard question. My favorite character would be the one I’m playing now. I believe you can live in the past and you can live in the future, but you can also, and I think it’s best, is to live in the present. … Well, I had to let Gus Fring go, and allow Tom Neville to be in my consciousness, so that’s all I think about right now.”
“We think that in our lives we are able to multitask. And it certainly looks like that. … But the reality is that we do not do one thing completely and fully. And you’re fooling yourself.”
“It takes attention, is my point, focus and attention. … What are the keys to success? It is commitment and sacrifice and love, because you’ve got to love what you do to commit to it. You gotta love what you do to give up something to get more of that feeling of completion from your work. And when you make that connection you will find something that you love to do, and you will never work a day in your life.”
If you don't want to miss out on more fantastic panels next year, mark you calendars for the return of Wizard World to Austin October 2 - 4, 2014