They came from all over the galaxy. Some beamed down in their Star Trek unis. The Empire and Rebellion joined together to bring the Force to Kansas City. Even “Spaceballs” joined the fun, as thousands of “geeks, nerds and wannabes” filled the exhibition halls as Planet Comicon returned after a 21/2-year hiatus caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Originally scheduled in March 2020, the oldest and largest science fiction, entertainment and pop culture convention in the Midwest canceled as a safety precaution. Rescheduling for spring 2021 was a dream that ended up being rescheduled again, but this time – with protective face masks required – Planet Comicon Kansas City was a reality.
While attendance appeared to be down from previous cons, a steady stream of costume-clad attendees filled the convention floor. From your standard Star Wars characters to anime, it was fun seeing them all. New to our viewing were a few Michael Myers from the “Halloween” horror movies and Barf and Dot Matrix of “Spaceballs.”
However, there were more people like us, in civilian attire, taking in the sights and buying lots and lots of collectibles, clothing, comics, books and toys.
It’s not a comicon without the vendors, and there were plenty in attendance. From prop makers to folks selling posters, vendors enjoyed robust business. A woman at one T-shirt stand told a customer trying to refold a shirt after looking at it not to worry, she’d take care of it.
“I spend my days folding shirts,” she joked.
Prop makers are an impressive bunch. Using foam and other materials, they create lifelike pieces, such as shields, helmets, chain saws, as well as the heads of Predators.
Groups seeking like-minded people were on-scene in hopes of attracting new members. Joining the gang this year was a Ghostbusters outfit from the Kansas City metro area. While they didn’t have an ambulance (they upgraded nicely to an SUV), they did have a larger-than-life Slimer and a smaller-than-life Staypuft Marshmallow Man. Add in a bunch of vintage Ghostbusters toys and you know who to call.
Joining the thousands of convention-goers, celebrities from all genres spent time at Planet Comicon. From Lou Ferrigno signing autographs in Celebrity Row to Martin Kove and William Zabka espousing on fans’ love for The Karate Kid and “Cobra Kai,” there was plenty of Hollywood to admire.
The “Cobra Kai” stars led a panel discussion on the martial arts phenomenon that began in the mid-80s’ “Karate Kid,” when a New York kid moved to Los Angeles and started being hassled by a group of kids led by Zabka’s character. It nearly ended with the infamous “sweep the leg” before Ralph Maccio’s character found his inner strength and “finished” Zabka’s Johnny to win the martial arts tournament.
Fast forward a few decades and “Cobra Kai” stars Zabka in Johnny’s redemption story. Macchio also stars as Daniel, who took the confidence he gained from that childhood victory and turned into being a successful car dealer in the Valley.
“Cobra Kai” tells their story as adults and those of young love and relationships between their children and others. Kove’s return as the Sensei from Hell adds a whole lot of drama reminiscent of his “Finish him” days in The Karate Kid franchise.
The actors have obviously done a lot of other work, with Kove having more than 230 acting credits on IMDB, and Zabka working as an actor, writer and producer. But, it seems to be the “Karate Kid” movies that define them with fans. And the actors seem OK with it.
However, Zabka said he appreciated reaching a new audience when he appeared on the comedy “How I Met Your Mother” as himself. Sort of. Beginning with his bit as a clown, he transformed into a Barney Stinson associate. His turn in comedy was a blast, he said.
Kove has also licked his comedic chops, appearing on an episode of “The Goldbergs” and a couple of commercials for Geico insurance.
Known best as Disney’s “Pocahontas” by the general public, Irene Bedard has appeared in almost 70 movies and television series since starring as Mary Crow Dog in the film “Lakota Woman: Seige at Wounded Knee.” The Indigenous actor, who is of Inupiat and French Canadian/Cree ancestry, has starred as Native American characters in several productions, including “Into the West” and “West World.”
But, her role in “Smoke Signals” as Suzy Song showed Native Americans in everyday life, an important issue to her. The movie, about a young man’s failed relationship with his father, who abandoned the family when the son was a child, resonated with a lot of people, especially men, who saw themselves in the roles of Victor and Thomas, as they worked together to bring home the remains of Victor’s father. The moderator referred to the movie as a “cult classic,” but I’m not sure I agree. I see it as the first movie about Native Americans made by Native Americans.
Bedard appreciates new series such as “Reservation Dogs” and “Rutherford Falls” for their portrayal of Indigenous people as everyday people living their lives.
Rather than being associated as mythical characters in tune with nature and the spirits, the shows, as well as her performances in the series “FBI: Most Wanted” and “The Stand,” show Indigenous people living their daily lives. In the original version of “The Stand,” her character was portrayed by a man. Hollywood has come a long way, and we’re starting to see more diversity in roles.
While the crowd became a bit too much for me by the end of day (large groups have always been a challenge for me), it was fun to be at a con again, and Planet Comicon is one of the best, and a favorite of ours.