Saturday, September 20, 2014

STGCC 2014 Recap: The Adventures of Diva the Biceps Hunter - Day 1

There's simply no rest for the Dedicated Biceps Hunter.

After the glorious adulation of bicepstuous guests present at the STGCC Media Preview on Thursday (4 September), it was straight on to convention weekend for Red Dot Diva. (Check out the run-down of the Media Preview here.)

There were murmurings of some changes made to STGCC this year, but Red Dot Diva was still caught by surprise at how different the show felt compared to 2013's. To the organizer's credit, most of the tweaks made were favourable ones:

1. No Longer An Iron-Man Show
Last year's show was nicknamed "The Iron-Man" show. Undoubtedly, Iron-Man was very popular with the crowd but it was "too much" Iron-Man! Everywhere one turned, there he was. The similar kind of one-note branding was noticeably absent this year. Yes, there was a bit more "Guardians of the Galaxy" but there were almost equally as much "Avengers", "Spider-man" and "Star Wars"!

2. Marvel Was Not At Centrestage, But Toys Were
Unlike previously, Marvel did not have a booth this year. Naturally, fans missed having the Marvel folks and booth around, but the main stage was very ably held by Hot Toys (whose toys remain as hot as ever!) and also, Enterbay.

Phwoaaar. JCVD Biceps and Quadriceps at Enterbay's booth!
XM Studios' prototypes and displays were also very impressive. With the help of these three companies, the "Toy" aspect of the STGCC has never been showcased this strongly before. Even local toy retailer Simply Toys had a sizeable section on the right side of the hall. All these also meant more exclusives made available during STGCC 2014. It was shopping haven that tempted to make a dent in everyone's pockets.

3. Bigger Artist Alley, More Indie presence
The Artist Alley section has blossomed to fit in more than 160 particpants this year. There were also artists/ creators from more Asian countries like South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand and India, and about 33 were making their debut at STGCC 2014, including local store Books Actually. This meant that there was a special kind of eclectic vibe at Artist Alley, which was constantly crowded with people having a look at original art, properties, sculptures and designer toys that weekend. Artist Alley is the live blood of a pop-culture convention that strives to support creativity and innovation. And thankfully, Red Dot Diva heard mostly favourable feedback from first-timers about their experience at STGCC 2014. She hopes many of them will return next year with even more goodies. More Artist Alley in future conventions, please!

4. More Varied Guests
In line with the larger Artist Alley section were the invited guests who came from more varied backgrounds and talent base. There were more well-known Western pop-culture guests with interesting projects, and even before the convention began, Red Dot Diva already heard of anime fans raving over voice actor guest Tomokazu Sugita and the DJ's who will be spinning the ani-tunes.

Toy goodies and artists at FlabSlab!

Toy designers like Frank Koznik and Scott Tolleson also attracted their fair share of fans. Most of them were stationed at local gallery, FlabSlab's booth or were sometimes to be found at Mighty Jaxx or Pobber's. Generally, the toy folks were a bunch of very nice, laidback, arty people, and Red Dot Diva was pretty sure they also made a lot of new fans that weekend!

5. Cosplay Hall
A separate and massive hall was opened up specially for cosplayers. This made it easier for cosplayers with bulky weapons to still show off their costumes without the danger of hurting anyone in the exhibit hall's narrower passageways. It was also probably easier for photographers to take pics of the cosplayers here. However, Red Dot Diva felt that this accounted for much less colourful presence of cosplayers within the hall somehow. Perhaps, there could be a better way to improve the flow of the cosplayers between both halls in next year's show. 

6. Noisier Guest Booths
This year, the designated guest booths were lined up at the opposite end of the stage. While this made it neater and more convenient for the guests to head to their Walk of Fame and panel sessions, the very open area made interacting with fans or concentrating to draw very difficult when the stage had something boisterous going on, like DJ Night or the Cosplay Runway. (Strangely enough, there was also no power point to be found in the guest booths, so to recharge your gadgets, one had to head to the guest lounge or media lounge!) Red Dot Diva wonders if it would be better if the guest booths were shifted to where they were, which was nearer to the cafe next year? The noise would still be audible there but it may not be so much of an assault to the ears compared to where they were located this year.

OK. Enough of the general pros and cons of this year's STGCC. Let's go back to Red Dot Diva's Biceps-Hunting Adventures!

Day 1 consisted of a super-busy schedule with Diva busy fielding media interviews together with the Glam Bloggers Alliance (GBA), and assisting special guest David Mack at his booth. Despite of that, she began her Biceps Hunt bright and early, and was waiting at the VIP line (thanks to Ryan!) for doors to officially open early at 9 AM, specially for VIP pass holders and the media. The rest had to wait till 10 AM.

The doors opened a few minutes late, but then, there really weren't that many people in line and so it was an orderly stroll to the entrance of the convention hall. What awaited there was a beautiful sight for sore eyes though! Especially for a Star Wars fan like Red Dot Diva.

Here's the Singapore Garrison of the 501st Legion greeting VIP guests/ media on Day 1. Lots of inter-galactic biceps here! :D

There were lots of beautiful action figures on display in the centre section of the hall, thanks to Hot Toys. Hot Toys made sure that their displays were current, with hot new favourite characters from "Guardians of the Galaxy" showcased in the midst of those from Batman, Iron-Man and Back to the Future.

Together with Action City, Hot Toys has also put up a strong "Star Wars" theme, which was further accentuated by having the 501st Singapore Garrison and booth situated just next to them. Jawas, stormtroopers and the very chatty R2-D2 were found wandering the showfloor all day! And of course, many men went slackjawed gaping at this svelte slavegirl Princess Leia biceps (and more.. or less... whichever way one sees this):

(For more detailed report + pics on Hot Toys' booth, check out Come, See Toys' article.)

Getting Starburn-t w/ Kelly Bender's biceps
As Red Dot Diva made her way to the guests' designated booths, she had to drop by Artist Alley to say hello to her first pair of convention biceps - writer Kelly Bender, who is now based in Red Dot Island.

The GBA had connected with Kelly via the social networks a couple of weeks before the convention and were all eager to meet him in person. (Click here for the pre-STGCC Q&A with Kelly Bender here.)

Kelly had copies of his comic "Starburn" for sale and if one is a fan of spaceship adventures, the story is a fun easy read! (Also, check out Agent W's review of "Starburn".)

Next, Red Dot Diva made sure she stopped at Books Actually's booth, which was aptly named The Comic Strip. She was there to give some early show of support to the hirsute biceps of two of her geek pals - Wayne Rée and Gene Whitlock - who were each launching their first published books at STGCC!

The ever-ready gun show of Wayne Rée and Gene Whitlock!
Wayne had written an anthology of short stories called "Tales From A Tiny Room", while Gene had written and drawn a crazy caper consisting of anthropomorphic animals called "The Unsavoury Alphabet". Both of the final products looked fantastic, and Diva was delighted to be able to celebrate this very special occasion with them.

Then, there was also Rex Regrets' hideout. Red Dot Diva had to pick up her pre-ordered Ninja Rex t-shirt from Rex's minion. She also received a set of pins and the preview of Rex's book 1 from Minion, who may be promoted soon, so she heard. Minion looked harried serving the many fans who can't stop regretting loving Rex. Rex may have smaller biceps relative to his size, but Red Dot Diva also thinks that the big headed grumpy reptile is just too adorable.

Diva Regrets Liking Rex So Much

Local bookstore GnB was back at the convention with comics, collectibles and Spidey-related freebies, and a really nice Rocket Racoon and Groot display.

Visiting GnB's booth always felt "like home" because of the familiar faces who are there most of the time. For example, there were guest artists like local-based and fellow geek dude Noval Hernawan, and Malaysian-based Lefty from Gilamon Studios, whose work and personality Red Dot Diva admires a great deal. 

Plus, not forgetting the constant presence of these two loveable jokers photo-bombing this photo of Diva and Lefty.

David Mack and his biceps were back in town!

At about 10:30 AM, returning guest David Mack (*insert red heart heart heart*) arrived at his designated booth looking as Bicepstuous as ever. It was always good to see him in person. (Red Dot Diva had last met him at SDCC in July.)

Working with David at his booth was an even more interesting and organic experience this year. Red Dot Diva knows that there are many nosy ones out there wondering how it all went down this year. Be patient. There will be a sequel on the David Mack Booth Experience coming up soon!

The GBA fielded about four interviews on Day 1. First on the list was writer/ artist Cameron Stewart. This was the first time any of them had met the man, who has recently took the social networks by storm as part of the team who revamped Batgirl's costume (the other was artist Babs Tarr).

The slightly gingery-haired Cameron was still jetlagged, but he was chatty and articulate during the short interview session. (Diva will have a separate article on that soon too.) And surprisingly, he owned a pair of pretty decent nicely tattooed biceps too!

The tattoed and creative biceps of Cameron Stewart

Despite looking a little rough on the edges due to his long flight, Cameron was all set to meet his fans after the interview slot. His booth happened to be next to David Mack and when he arrived there, the two creators (who are working together on "Fight Club 2") shook hands and had a short chat.

Being a helper at David's booth means having a very good view of what's going on at Cameron's. All day long, fans were lining up to meet and have a chat with Cameron, and he ever so patiently talked to them all. Even when one or two seemed to overstay their welcome by talking for more than 20 minutes, causing the line to stall.

One of the best moments was seeing him meeting Charissa Yong's cosplay in the new Batgirl costume, and also posing with the mini Batgirl figurine that was customized by fellow geek media Jedd. Cute and awesome!

Batgirl, mini Batgirl and Cameron Stewart

Another highlight of the day was the "Fight Club 2" panel moderated by Alvin (1/3 of Here Be Geeks) together with David Mack and Cameron Stewart. The seats were packed with attendees and fans, and right from the start the First Rule was already broken.

There sure was a lot of Fight Club talk during that hour, with a few notable tidbits, like David Finch not mentioning anything about a "Fight Club 2" movie sequel, how much Cameron really wanted this gig and David Mack recounting his lunch/ dinner meet-ups with Chuck Palahniuk whenever he is in Portland.

Two pairs of creative biceps at the "Fight Club 2" panel

Cameron also talked more about the genesis of Batgirl's redesigned costume, and said he looked up fashion blogs for recurring themes that could be used to adapt to the more modern costume. Also, the costume has to be one that Batgirl could make herself. He said that there have been over 1,000 fanart on Batgirl and her new costume on the Tumblr website. And even though there is resistance amongst some segments of comic readers, the response to the new look has been so positive and very validating.

The topic of discussion segued into how they dealt with haters and Cameron confessed that he is making the new Batgirl comic for 18-25 year old females as a target audience. Due to this, he does get quite a bit of hate mail because some fans feel very invested in the older versions of Batgirl. Cameron stressed that many fans do not understand that he, as a writer, has ultimate control on what goes on with the characters.

David joined in to say that comic is such a fertile medium. Some readers had their time with certain styles, and so, other readers should be given their time too. Which is more than fair, Diva agrees. The creative arts should not be seen in restrictive terms.

Both Cameron and David were very passionate about this particular topic and were eager to share more about their own experiences with haters and how different people perceive their art. Unfortunately, time ran out, and the panel had to be wrapped up quickly.

Master artist Humberto Ramos was *THE* guest all the comic book fanboys desired to meet at this year's convention. If they wanted a commission from him, they had to make sure they were in line at his booth as soon as doors opened. Those limited commission slots were snapped up really quickly!

Naturally, Spider-Man in his different suits was a favourite subject for Humberto's commissions and sketches. Fanboy Red Dot Dude aka Million Dollar Smile Andre was really happy to score this fabulous piece of art from Humberto:

Humberto Ramos stayed at his booth till late (so did Andy Price!) signing and sketching for his fans. He really worked those biceps hard!

Red Dot Diva can't help but admire his work ethic, humility and general niceness. No wonder most of his art prints were sold out by mid-afternoon!

Early on Day 1 morning, Red Dot Diva took the chance to introduce herself to Marvel artist Olivier Coipel before he was caught up by eager fans.

She did not get a chance to talk to him again until their interview session at 5 PM. Olivier had a few captivating stories to tell, and also held interesting opinions on a couple of subject matters. (Interview post coming soon too.)

To Red Dot Diva though, his smooth muscular biceps were as mesmerizing as his anecdotes, which were recounted in beguiling French-accented English.

Case in point:

Biceps Whoa!

This is precisely the reason why Red Dot Diva audio records all her interview sessions. She gets very easily distracted that way :P

Another artist who was having a fantastic sales right from the get-go was Threadless artist/ illustrator cutie and sometimes BBoy, Alex Solis.

From time to time, Red Dot Diva would checked in on Alex at his spacious booth located adjacent to Artist Alley. Alex seemed a tad overwhelmed by the never-ending crowd of fans who swamped his booth like a whirlwind, snapping up the exclusive Chunky Knights figurines, his special artbook and those oh-so-adorable art prints of his.

Did you score any of these Alex Solis beauties?

"It's been crazy!" Alex exclaimed in a breathless excited tone of voice. "It gets quiet for a 5 minutes and then it gets busy again. But I love it! I rather it's like this than sitting down, waiting and doing nothing."

It seemed that by the end of Day 1, he had sold all his Chunky Knight figurines and had only 6 pieces of his artbooks left! So, Red Dot Diva quickly grabbed an artbook for herself before she left the exhibit hall too.

There were several interesting cosplayers who wandered in and out of the exhibit hall. Most stayed at the cosplay hall though, an area which Red Dot Diva did not have time to visit. There seemed to be more Western pop-culture cosplayers out and about, which was delightful to see. And Red Dot Diva noted that the cosplay have also improved another level this year round.

Here are a few of those spotted by the GBA:

Also, check out the more comprehensive coverage on cosplay at STGCC 2014 by Here Be Geeks!

STGCC Day 1 was about as perfect a convention day as it could be for Red Dot Diva. She had a lot of fun hanging out with the GBA and Ryan, and interacting with David Mack at his booth. And the Biceps Hunt was very fruitful. Too bad the Akiba-style DJ Night kicked in when evening came around.

Many anime lovers might be into this type of thumping music, but to Diva, her fellow geek pals and to many of the guests, the noise was too much to take. David and Cameron decided to retire early (a wise choice!) while Ryan and Diva stayed on to stand guard at David's booth till Day 1 formally wrapped up at 8 PM.

By then, with her legs tired from standing and walking around the exhibit hall, Red Dot Diva decided not to join the toy artists and Flab-slabbers for dinner at Lau Pa Sat. She was, however, glad to be able to hitch a taxi ride back home with Ryan. While resting her sore feet, Diva took time to admire her small haul of goodies from the day:

On to more geek fun and Biceps Hunting on STGCC Day 2!

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