Friday, 26 August 2016

ConBravo: 2016 Main

I made it back to ConBravo, a convention in Hamilton for “everything geek” at the end of July this year (2016). I previously attended in 2015 and also in 2012. As usual, at all of the sessions I went to, I took notes; time to summarize those and put it out onto the web. Hopefully you’ll find this sequence of posts to be of some use.


The trip from Ottawa to Hamilton was uneventful. I managed to avoid the long weekend traffic, passing the airport around 1pm and finding myself with some time before check-in. So I looked in some comic shops there and found book 4 of “Bill & Ted Go To Hell”. Also ended up with some time after getting my badge, so had a slice of pizza at “Nations”. Ended up being my dinner. Also needed their Help Desk because my phone doesn't do 'apps' and there was NOWHERE to find out who was at what panel. No pdf, no png, no printout, only 'app'. Had to fly blind the entire weekend.

Opening Ceremonies, 5pm. Video by Wondershock. Mark Tjan remarked on how it’s year seven and some prior memories. Also about being hit by anxiety, mental and emotional burnout. But the way the con has changed him and brought new people into his life is something he wouldn’t change. They didn’t run through the massive guest list like last year, and got to ALB (or “Alb in Wonderland”, Angelina) delivering the Keynote.

“If you’re in here, you’ve likely had someone in your life say this phrase to you: Wow, you’re obsessed.” ALB heard it very early. She had every “Lion King” item she could get her hands on. Pogs, trading cards, sneakers, pencil cases, and she even dressed up for Halloween - not as Nala, but as Simba. Then it was every Harry Potter item, including newspaper items into a scrapbook and getting an old trunk. She entered a costume contest at age 12, and won. She wanted to be like Hermione so much, she became a better student!

“There were many more obsessions. And I thought that this was normal, because this was my normal.” When she became a teenager, upon realizing that not everybody breathes their fandom, she started to tone it down. Worried that if people saw how truly passionate and obsessed she was, it would scare them.

In 2012, she went to her first convention - San Diego ComicCon, her first time out of Ontario on her own. And she saw that she wasn’t the only person who liked stuff to the same degree. She’s now met the majority of her best friends at conventions. ALB concluded by saying, to everyone in the room and all attendees - “Wow, you’re obsessed. And I love it!” (If anyone’s keeping track for me, my Sailor Mercury obsession seems to have progressed to Nanoha.) Opening Ceremonies wrapped up just before 5:30.

At 6pm, I went to “Reviewer Q&A 1: The Silver Screen”, for reviewers of movies and similar content. That will be separated into another post and linked here; it featured Derek the Bard, Calluna, Leon Thomas, Diamanda Hagan, AniMat, and (after a flight delay) Rantasmo. I got a picture after that with Calluna and The Dom (who was in the audience); one for the scrapbook along with the Linkara photo from 2012.

From 7pm until about 8:30 I was at the Marketplace, caging the room for possible commissions for my T&T characters and other items of interest. I ended up buying a large Nanoha figurine, as it was under $100 and acts as a good counterpoint to the similarly sized Fate figurine on my desk at home. I then looked for dinner but the only place still open nearby (that was fast) was the Dollar Store. So I bought Jaffa Cookies. (Jaffa, Kree!)

At 9pm I went to the “Evil Inc. Screening and Panel”, featuring Doctor Holocaust, Toronto’s Greatest Super Villain. We got a screening of a couple of videos that will be coming out (maybe by the point of this recap they are out) and then there was Q&A. For context here, part of the filming had been done in a church with a lot of debris.

DocH remarked how every warehouse they wanted to rent said “sure, for about 3 Grand per day”, hence trying churches as a cheaper alternative for renting space. One had their sanctuary under construction. (YES! “How do I explain that I’m an internet person who wants to pay $125 to die on your rubble? ... I’m shooting a video about redemption.”)

They filmed in the middle of a heat wave. And then a bunch of their footage came back blurry. Which was a crushing devastation, because they didn’t have time to reshoot everything. The solution was the framing device of a detective discussing events after the fact, incorporating flashbacks. They’d had to rebook the space to refilm - and the detective was a REAL criminal investigator! (A forensics expert that DocH LARPs with.) His limp was ALSO real, because DocH hurt his knee speed-walking to rebook and was on a cane for a couple days, including while filming.

Someone asked DocH if he had any tips on writing. DocH said he’d once taken a course where Ty Templeton (Canadian comic book artist & writer) happened to be his instructor, where the tip was “Write what you know”. Because sure, stretch beyond your comfort zone, but if you write subjects you’re intimately familiar with, readers will know that it’s real when they read it. “I don’t know about being a super villain, but I do know about struggle.”

One of the biggest problems is money, he’s always had to make stuff out of pocket (only recently has a regular 9-5 job that pays well). In terms of a question about webcomics, DocH said you can only pick 2 of the following 3 things: Someone with talent (ie- with a similar vision to what you want). Someone willing to work for free/inexpensive ($600 per panel per page is a going rate). Someone who keeps to a schedule. You only get two of those.

Regarding the big dramatic reveal made at the panel, I’ll offer this quote: “Holocaust. It’s a great name for a super villain, it’s a terrible name for a content creator.”


When that wrapped up at 10pm, I went to have a look at Copyright Basics for Crafters & Artists, which was already in progress (9:30-10:30pm). Toni from Quiltoni was finishing a presentation and fielding questions. Key items: DO NOT print works that are not yours. DO NOT trace. DO NOT do photoshop effects on official artwork.

"We're gonna copyright the unit circle!"
(I write this webcomic, see...)
That said, if something like a silhouette is changed for purpose, it’s parody. That’s okay: “A work created to imitate, make fun of, or comment on an original work, its subject, author, style or some other target, by means of satiric or ironic imitation.”

Getting a copyright is super easy. Toni was often going through Canada/US customs and didn’t want to get charged duty on bringing her stuff back. First, get a business licence. (Google “Canada Border Business”.) In Canada, you do not have to collect sales tax unless you make more than $30,000. If you do make even $1/year, declare it, it shows you have extra income if you’re applying for a loan. In the States though, only register as a business if it’s going to be beneficial in some way, they have licenses and taxes for everything.

In terms of copyrighting your business stuff, the government wants to help you. Note you can only do it if it’s based on your content - her Totoro quilts cannot be copyrighted. The cost is $100 to $1000 depending on what you’re copyrighting and what you’re doing with it. Question raised about “performance copyright” (mailing yourself a copy of something, sealed to a date) - you’ll pay a lot in lawyer fees. Because going after anyone means suing them with a “cease and desist” letter (they’re unlikely to simply stop).

Notable difference: An image or idea has a copyright. A name has a trademark instead. And you can’t get a trademark on a derivative (taking part of one name and part of another). There’s a database where you can look such things up, and info on what you can and can’t do with lyrics is here:

If you think there’s an infringement, make sure it’s deliberate. Don’t buy illegally printed stuff. Educate yourself. Her resources slide will be on the Craft Hacker forums.

From there I went to “Webcomics Q&A” at 10:30pm, which will be part of this separate post. When it ended at 11:30pm, I checked into the “Unpopular Opinions Panel” in progress (11pm-12). They were transiting from ‘Not liking something that is popular’ into ‘Liking something that people generally don’t like’. I hung out for a bit but was tired and ultimately returned to the hotel. (Where I heard things were adorably interesting in the room next to time.)

FYI, I didn’t check out the “Pub Quiz”, but as Nash was running it and I watch his show, he’d remarked on a few bizarre guesses, namely: “A Disney afternoon series with original characters that was their first animated drama.” ... Gummi Bears. (No, Gargoyles, key word drama.) And the 8-bit Remix of Journey’s “Any Way You Want It” being identified as Aerosmith and Bon Jovi.


I had breakfast at the hotel and got to the Con a bit before 10:30. “Saturday Morning Cartoons” was still going on with Derek the Bard... it was an episode of the Ghostbusters cartoon series. Some guy stealing chickens. Okay. At 11am was “Social Conscience for New Media” with Rantasmo, ALB, Ryan Consell, Steve Saylor, and (a lolita blogger I can’t find the name of, sounds like Succato). Which deserves it’s own post, look for it here.

At noon I went to the Reviewer Autographs. I did the thing where I have sheets of paper for signing, plus chatted a bit. Told Calluna I was enjoying her “Life is Strange” Let’s Play, after coming on board with Rayearth. Diamanda mentioned a movie with a Christian Evangelical take on evolution. Derek the Bard is working on uploading his old videos.

I’m not huge into video games but asked them what video those reviewers might recommend I watch. Shane “Rerez” had one on the worst console, Adam Koralik has created “Back to the Future” vids, Dex the Swede does comedic video games, and Steve Saylor suggested “Two Blind Guys, One Bomb”. I then spun by the Marketplace to pick up my commission, and also chatted with Erika Szabo (another reviewer/gamer).

I dropped back to the hotel to leave things there, then returned in time for “Reviewer Q&A 2: The Video Game” at 2pm. Again, all Q&A will be in another post (it featured most of the video game reviewers of the prior paragraph).

Following that, around 3pm, I ran into Dominic “The Dom” in the halls. He hadn’t been at the autographs (he’s not an official guest) so got him to sign something for me; apparently his 2nd autograph ever. Then I dropped into the “Character Creation Workshop” already in progress (2:30-3:30pm) courtesy of

Consider that the background gives character. (What if Luke Skywalker had been raised by an Imperial family?) Age, occupation, who they follow and why, species/details, name... and disposition. Fill in the blanks. They are ___ and ___ but ___. They are great at ___ and ___ but not at ___.

Meaning break it down into X and Y BUT Z. For instance, random example, “She is bubbly and happy but psychotic” - start generic, with whatever you’re thinking about. Then you ask why. Is bubbly a situational thing? Boil the base generics down to something more specific, to end up with, perhaps, “She is excitable and enthusiastic but a sociopath”.

Consider what happened before the story started. What event resonates most with the character. How the story affects them. Why is the story affecting THEM differently from the others around them. Why do they care about what is happening. What elements of their Disposition cause conflict with the other characters. What conflicts arise from their weak attributes.

Every villain has a reason why they became who they are. If the characters start veering off course, focus on the antagonist - who could knock them back on course. Or mess with their course while they’ve veered off for “a pogo stick battle”. The villain can even be the main character. An analogy would be “Firefly” where people are doing their thing but it’s all in the shadow of the Alliance.

Items can definitely become characters (like a magical sword), with a supporting character giving said item to another. In “Lord of the Rings”, the ring is a character: It has an age, name, disposition - but is trapped. It corrupts people, but they’re not good at doing what it wants. Settings can also act like that, consider the Briar Patch in Sleeping Beauty (it has age, occupation).

You DO have to get into the personification of an item or setting or event though - who do they follow and why? “Sword keeps refusing an owner” gets tiring after a while. The sword becomes relatable and believable with the why. It hates/wants virginal characters? It’s more like the sorting hat in Harry Potter? “If you can understand how it thinks, you can react to it when it does something unusual.”

Main characters cannot be static. They must evolve and change, otherwise they’re not a main character, they’re in a supporting role, and the focus should not be on them. A riff from when you were 12 may still be good as you layer more things in. Are you still interested, inspired and compelled by it? Then it will be compelling to others.


Leaving that panel, and passing by some cosplayers dancing in the halls, I went to see some of the “404s Fiasco”. En route, I also ran into Shane Fitzgerald, who remarkably remembered me from 2012’s “Auditions for the worst movie ever” in part due to my made up Scottish accent. This was his first return, in a media capacity. I don’t think I’ve ever been recognized that way before. Neat.

This ticking box is not a bomb... or is it?
The 404s seemed to be creating this epic story, with prompts when the audience could vote using either a “red” (no) or “green” (yes) card to advance the story. A key protagonist was “Jim the White Mage” though at one point his powers were removed. (“Now you’re just Jim the White.”) I participated in a couple votes, but left early to catch the “2016 Anime Season Discussion” at 4:30pm.

Said anime discussion turned out to be a more random than I anticipated, including some comparison of present to past, and I don’t know how to write/spell most of what was spoken. I didn’t want to spend TONS of time deciphering, so will offer the following, and I don’t recall who said what:
-If you haven’t watched “Big Order”, don’t. Run, run away.
-“Erased” needed an explanation of the time power; when it would turn up, rules seemed to be changing.
-“KonoSuba” was good, but why only 10 episodes? There was a time skip from Ep8 to Ep9 that didn’t get animated, and now it’s picked up for a second season.
-“Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress” has been called ‘Attack on Titan with Zombies and Trains’ but can be enjoyed on it’s own merits.
-“RWBY” (Ruby) is an American anime series which is great but feels like it’s being dragged out.
-“Re:Zero” is recommended although the panelist got tired of the constant cliffhangers and notes the manga’s really long. He hopes this one will have an end, unlike “Log Horizon” or “Full Metal Panic”.

I left early to find some dinner, ended up at “The Works”, reading. The waitress mentioned how (apparently) many customers are from Ottawa (like me) or the United States. I briefly returned to the hotel, and came back for “Audition for the Worst Movie Ever”; I was a bit late at 7:10 but the line was still filing inside. Audience names were dropped in the red hat for male roles, the other hat for female roles.

The idea is to deliver the dialogue for each scene straight - if you laugh, or corpse (pause, not knowing it’s your line), you’re out. Helping organize, vote and deliver the dialogue were the voices of Link (Jonathan P), Zelda (Cynthia P), Calluna, Tom White and Derek the Bard. The story took place in the “magical kingdom of learning” with kids meeting (for instance) the racial sensitivity leprechaun, woody the talking chair and more. There were prizes (bad movies) at the end.

At 8:30pm I wandered by “Karaoke”. They seemed to be showing occasional videos in between actual singers, I heard a couple songs. I headed back out to line up for D20 live, meeting Errol and 'Manda en route; they had been MCing the Masquerade, which had around 30 entries. They’ve also recently put a web series out there about Sidekicks, go look for it.

I watched D20 live through to 10:30pm, that being a little past the intermission, when the titans showed up. That’s also going to go in this different post (this is getting long)! Then I went to check out “The Best and Worst of the Internet”. It was essentially a clip show of many videos, from the screaming duck toys, to people getting upset with cell phones, to cats, to a bizarre Spanish soap opera.

It was still going on past the 11:30pm end, but the majority of the videos were really not my style of humour, so I went back to catch the end of D20 live. To find that not only was it over, the room had been cleared! Apparently there were some really good dice rolls that wrapped things up early.

Thus I wandered down to “Fanfic Mad Libs (18+)”, which seemed to be a guy at the front calling out for things like ‘verb ending in -ing’ as everyone else in the room randomly talked. Given the chaos and the tone of the room being ‘masticating’ and ‘weenis’ I left to check out DanceBravo. People were throwing around rainbow rings and there was a guy dressed like Marty McFly Jr. That seemed as good as it would get and I’m not a huge dancer, so I left at close to midnight.

As I left, I saw a Juliet Starling running up the stairs and then a bunch of reviewers were chatting on the street a couple blocks away, so maybe it got better after all.


I picked up a breakfast sandwich en route to the Convention Centre. First I dropped by the “ConRunners Meetup” a little after 10am, wondering if it meant people who run around to many cons, or people who actually run the cons. Turned out to be the latter, though with some of my “AC-Cubed” experience I didn’t completely stand out in the crowd of six.

I left before 10:30pm, to catch “Atop the Fourth Wall Live”. Linkara was doing a Star Trek comic, featuring “Captain Kurt”... well, on page 3 he was briefly “Kirk”, but then not so much later in the dialogue. Yeah, as Linkara said “this comic isn’t very good”. There were no answers about the planet of android-types, but it was inoffensive.

That only took 20 minutes, so after a vote about what next, we watched the Blooper Reel from the AT4W movie. That left 18 minutes for some Q&A, so I think I’ll flip that into the D20 recap post (one question related back to it). The panel ended by singing the theme song a cappella.

Commission, by Storm Cup Creations
I dropped back into the Marketplace at that point, buying some items I’d seen back on Friday, including a volume of the “Toronto Comics Anthology”, a short manga “Star of Destiny” by Drew Byrne, and a “micro blocks” Sailor Mercury (I considered a new tapestry, but that background was sky, not water - she’s not Uranus, seriously). After a quick trip back to the hotel to drop that stuff off, I returned for “Digital Art 101” at 1pm.

The lineup for that panel was impressive, but everyone did get in. It ended up being a Q&A style, so it's in this post with Friday’s Webcomics Q&A panel (there were some crossover panelists). At 2pm, I went around to the “404s improv workshop”. People were already in groups as they ran improv (it had started at 1:30). A few tips I caught in the half hour or so:
-Avoid only describing circumstances. Move things forward with actions. (It was sunny. And hot. And I was sweaty. Boring. Do something.)
-If you can skip over a contribution, that’s a problem. Consider “Yes AND” to accept what was said, and then build off of it.
-A good problem solving exercise is “Has this ever happened to you?” in infomercial style. (“Oh no, I have all these pennies that no one wants! Has this ever happened to you?” “Have you tried toddlers? They’ll eat absolutely everything!” “You shouldn’t get a piggy bank, actual pigs will eat the pennies!” “It’s called a wishing well, stop feeding coins to children and pigs!”)

I left before 2:30pm to get to “Reviewer Q&A Chapter 3: The World” which had Derek the Bard and Rantasmo (like the first) as well as “The Dom” (substituting for someone who had to go) bringing the British opinion in. Again, Q&A gets separate posts, that one groups with the first on Friday.

I chatted briefly with Manda afterwards, and then with Dominic himself, as well as some others who had come from England. Talk shifted from their trip, to Brexit, to sports. After about 15 minutes they headed off, and I decided to buy some Dr. Holocaust stuff (signed). I looped back for “Let’s talk Anime & Youtube” at 4pm, with Tristan and Erika Szabo, missing the very start but, hey, the rest is (you guessed it) part of this another post.

That wrapped up at 5pm, which was when the “Closing Ceremonies & Feedback Panel” happened. Amazing staff were thanked, and sponsors too, and there was a group hug thing. Then were was this random game show asking riddles of people who had barely slept for three days? Okay. Questions from attendees started, they didn’t have a count of attendance yet, and it was after 5:30pm, and I hadn’t eaten since 9am. So I went to dinner (lunch?).

I returned to my hotel in time for “WebFictionChat” on Twitter at 7pm. Alas, the hotel didn’t get the Space channel, so no Sharknado movie. Yes, I was actually staying the extra night, rather than driving the 5-6 hours back to Ottawa that evening. It gave me the chance to go for a morning walk in Hamilton on Monday, and see some family before returning.

So THAT was ConBravo 2016. Mostly. Here’s a summary of the other posts I’ve been referring to, which will come online over the next week or so:
-Reviewer Q&A 1 & 3 (Fri/Sun)
-Webcomic Q&A + Digital Art (Fri/Sun)
-Media Social Conscience (Sat)
-D20 Live + Linkara Q&A (Sat/Sun)
-Reviewer Q&A 2 & Anime Talk (Sat/Sun)

If I’ve messed up on spelling a name, or you have something to add, or there’s something you enjoyed reading/learning about, feel free to leave a comment below. Thanks for getting this far! O.o

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