It’s official: This year’s Motor City Comic Con was a resounding success. To reiterate this: Many media guests – whether they’ve attended Motor City before like William Zabka (Cobra Kai) and Garrett Wang (Star Trek: Voyager), or are new to Motor City and conventions themselves like Jenna Elfman (Fear the Walking Dead), Tom Welling (Smallville, Lucifer), Wallace Shawn (The Princess Bride), and Cress Williams (Black Lightning) – enjoyed the warm welcome from fans during the 3-day event that ran May 18-20 in Novi, MI (a suburb located within the Metro Detroit area).
“It’s actually been quite moving,” said Elfman. “I’m having some amazing conversations with fans, hearing their stories and their reasons why they’ve come up to say hi, their personal experiences whether it’s (Fear) or Dharma & Greg – it’s so lovely and so touching that it’s making it a really special trip. It’s really fun. The energy and the sincerity of the fans is blowing me away – and it’s giving me a lot of energy. That’s really cool.”
Motor City marked the second convention appearance ever for Elfman, best known as free-spirited Dharma on the sitcom Dharma & Greg. She joined the cast of Fear – The Walking Dead spinoff series – this season as Naomi.
“I love being remembered for Dharma & Greg. It was a very important experience for me,” said Elfman. “It affected fans greatly. There was so much joy that character brought and it made people feel good. That’s an honor to be remembered for something that had such an effect on people – I love it.”
This was Welling’s first appearance at Motor City and his fourth convention appearance overall. He and Smallville co-star Michael Rosenbaum – who got him into conventions – brought the house down at their panel.
“Fans want to see you, they’re all happy to see you. Everybody’s really cool — they’re a blast!” said Welling. “I’m meeting people who are basically responsible for allowing me being able to do what I do. I tell them, ‘We wouldn’t even be up here if you didn’t watch us doing what we’re doing.’ That’s the truth. I can’t wait to meet them and shake their hands. It’s just a good time.”
Like Welling, this was Williams’ first time at Motor City and his fourth convention to date. The Black Lightning star called his time in Detroit a “family affair” as he was joined by his on-screen daughters China Anne McClain and Nafessa Williams (it was their first time at Motor City as well).
“It’s good to be here,” said Williams. “It’s been really cool. I feel like this is one of the biggest (cons) – if not the biggest – I’ve done so far. I feel that the treatment has been really good. The fans have been great. I really dig it.”
With the success of Black Panther on the big screen and Black Lightning on the small screen – both of whom are super-heroes of color – Williams saw many young kids dressed as these two characters, stating super-powers transcend race.
“It’s awesome!” he said. “What’s great is that I’ve seen a lot of little kids around here today – kids of color – and that’s gonna be their normal; they’re not gonna feel that they don’t see anyone who represents them on film and television. I want that diversity spread out – not just for African-Americans, but for every race out there.”
This was Jason Patric’s (The Lost Boys) first time at Motor City, too. “It’s been fun. I got here yesterday morning and came right here, so it’s been a whirlwind,” he said. “(The fans) have all been very nice.”
According to Miriam Kruger, the executive director of Motor City, more than 55,000 guests attended throughout the course of the weekend. “(The) 2016 attendance figures for Motor City broke a record at 55,000 and for 2017 and 2018 we have gone just over that number,” she said.
There were more than 40 media guests, 229 comic book guests – including John Cassady (Astonishing X-Men, Captain America), Bill Amend (Fox Trot), Tom Grummett (Superman, Thunderbolts), legendary artist Neal Adams (Batman, X-Men, Avengers), Detroit native/artist Arvell Jones (creator of Marvel character Misty Knight), current Black Panther artist Brian Stelfreeze, Milestone Media co-founder Denys Cowan, et al – 107 exhibitors, 36 crafters from all over the nation, as well as numerous cosplayers.
“Motor City Comic Con 2018 was an outstanding year for both media guests and comic guests, plus the imaginative outfits that our cosplay fans created. The atmosphere was so positive, and families and friends had a great day out,” said Kruger. “Next year will be our 30th anniversary and we are already planning another amazing event.”
These numbers came as quite a surprise to Wang (pronounced “Wong”), who’s attended Motor City twice before.
“I will tell you there’s more people at this Motor City than when I was last here (in 2009). This is crazy! When I was here before, you could do cartwheels on a Saturday without hitting anybody. Now, not so much,” said Wang, gesturing to the crowd of people slowly making their way to get to where they’re going.
Remembering Margot Kidder (1948-2018)
This year’s Motor City did begin on a sad note, however. Margot Kidder, who played Lois Lane in four Superman movies from 1978-87, died May 13. She was scheduled to appear alongside fellow actors from 1978’s Superman – including Jack O’Halloran (Non), Jeff East (teenage Clark Kent), and Aaron Smolinski (baby Clark Kent) – at a panel May 19 called “You’ll Believe a Man Can Fly! Celebrating the 40th Anniversary of Superman.” This movie, which starred the late Christopher Reeve in the titular role, is the grandfather of the super-hero movie genre so prevalent today in many ways.
“We are deeply saddened to hear of Margot Kidder’s death. Her spunky, spirited portrayal of Lois Lane in Superman will live on forever in the hearts of millions of people. Ms. Kidder was set to reunite at Motor City Comic Con this weekend with three of her Superman (co-stars) to toast the 40th anniversary of this iconic film. Attendees will be able to visit her booth to honor her memory and celebrate her career,” Kruger said a statement.
At Kidder’s booth, which was turned into a memorial decorated with pink amaryllis (her favorite flower), people paid their respects. They signed a guest book, donated to the Stafford Animal Shelter in Montana (her favorite charity), and also wrote on a poster of Kidder wearing a Superman sweater.
O’Halloran, who appeared in Superman and Superman II, recalled how much Kidder loved meeting fans. “She was chatty and always personable,” he said. “She was quite a lady.”
Hearing from the Fans
Laura Conner attended all three days. She got to meet everyone on her list, including Welling, Rosenbaum, Kirk Acevedo (Fringe, Arrow), Stephen Amell (Arrow), and Summer Glau (Firefly). Like so many other media guests, Acevedo, Amell, and Glau were all new to Motor City this year.
Conner attended their panels and braved lines that ran for longer than an hour to meet her favorite stars, enduring sore knees and aching feet. Still, that was a small price to pay and was worth the wait, especially in the case of Glau and Amell.
“Summer was someone I truly wanted to meet for a very long time. Waiting in line between her panel and when she came back to her booth was very well worth it,” she said. “Stephen was very sweet. He seemed very sorry that people had to wait so long for his autograph. His line actually moved quickly, but he made sure to look everyone in the eye and thanked them for coming. He was there for them, not the other way around. All in all, it was a very nice time.”
Veteran con attendee Janice Miller-Kellerman had a “blast” at this year’s Motor City, attending with her brother Tom Miller and cousin Chris Wrobel. She met many of her favorite stars, including Jerome Flynn of Game of Thrones and Ripper Street fame. When she met Flynn at his booth, Miller suggested a charity idea via crowdfunding called “Where’s My (Expletive) Castle?” Instead of a castle, it’ll be the umbrella organization of 4-5 charities and non-profit foundations that Flynn supports, including Survival International, the Global White Lion Protection Trust, and Campaign Against Canned Hunting. The next day, at his panel, Flynn acknowledged Miller-Kellerman’s idea, pointing to her in an auditorium filled to capacity.
“He had me stand up and everyone clapped for me! This was totally on his own!” said Miller-Kellerman. “I’m in awe! What a moment!”