NexCon3: The NEXt One always gets better
The What’s A Geek team went to NexCon3 at SMX Convention Center last April 2-3, 2016 and had so much fun. So much so that they can’t wait for the NEX one! Here are some of our thoughts!
Ever since its inception, I’ve always wanted NexCon to succeed. For the past three years, I have seen it grow into the convention that it is today: a convention of substance, fun, and, of course, prestige. It was ambitious, it was fun, and it’s everything I want a convention to be.
I was only able to attend Day One, but it was quite eventful starting off with the private press conference for NexCon’s international guests, Casper Van Dien, Jennifer Wenger, and Grace Van Dien. To those who don’t know, Casper and Jennifer are currently dating, and Grace is Casper’s daughter (from a previous relationship), so they were pretty much a family. Casper Van Dien was a total ham, always cracking jokes and sliding occasionally into the personalities of character’s of Johnny Rico and Johnny Cage (or going into an occasional Tarzan yell).
I got to ask a couple of questions wherein he showed how passionate he and his family are with entertainment. It’s surprising to see how he is actually a well-read person with many references to draw from when he’s studying the characters he plays. “If I’m not acting right now, I’d probably be directing, writing, or doing anything in entertainment,” he enthused. Even though he’s not an A-list celebrity, he’s still living the dream because he got to play the heroes of his childhood, most especially Tarzan.
Due to the rapid-fire nature of the press con (there was barely any dead air because Casper was talking most of the time) I didn’t have time to ask him the all important, “What’s a Geek?” question. It’s a good thing, though, that I was able to get a moment to speak to him, so I snuck the question in. He just simply answered, “It’s my life! And I do it for a living!” So, yes, ladies and gentlemen, Johnny Rico is one of us.
While that was pretty exciting event to attend, the heart and soul of NexCon has always been the panels. Most media attendees in cons would skip the panels (unless they really had to cover it), and go straight to the cosplayers littering the halls, but I pretty much stayed put at the stage area because I found all the panels interesting and insightful. First up was Leinil Yu and Harvey Tolibao, who’ve done exceptional artwork for both Marvel, DC, Dark Horse, and many other comics. Lyndon Gregorio and Jon Zamar of Komikon joined them on-stage for a discussion about translating Comics to Film. Both artists pretty much ecstatic that more and more comic book movies are made. Leinil especially appreciated the “feedback loop” created by comics and film wherein both media can now influence the other in terms of story and character renditions.
Next up were YouTubers Chris Cantada of Chris Cantada Force, and Diwa de Leon of String Player Gamer. Both are proud geeks and it shows on the content they produce on their respective channels. Chris related how he’s always wanted to be a Power Ranger since he was a (rather obese, as he said) kid. So when he got fitter as an adult and was more confident to don the rather “unforgiving” tights of his childhood heroes, he made a morphing video and the rest as they say is history. Diwa pretty much had a same start, he wasn’t really thinking about “going viral” or doing it for the hits. He just really loved videogame music and, as a full-time musician ( a very talented one at that), used YouTube as his outlet to create versions of his favorite videogame OSTs. The best bit of advice they could give to aspiring YouTubers is to put your heart into it. Forget about the likes and views, as long as you offer something creative and uniquely you, you’re gonna be a great Youtuber.
The other panels were interesting and educational, as well. Geeky Business featured Freddie Tan (Neutral Grounds), Jay Mata (Ludo: Boardgame Bar & Cafe), and Ivan Guerrero (Filbar’s) and how they turned their geeky passions into rather profitable ventures. Rise of the Machines with GMA Sci-Tech Editor TJ Dimacali, revolved around D.I.Y. Robotics and how it is possible to build your own robots (Even and R2 unit!) through ingenuity, and a little help from the sprawling Philippine robotics community.
I hope that NexCon continues on this trajectory of yearly growth. Much like a certain Dark Knight of Gotham, it’s the convention that we deserve.
Getting to attend NexCon as a media person rather than a cosplayer or ordinary con goer was a different experience but by no means an unwelcome one. First on the agenda was the press con with Casper Van Dien, Jennifer Wenger, and Grace Van Dien. It was intimate yet packed a punch and served as a mood setter for the rest of the convention.
One of the really great things about NexCon is that despite the small, rather intimate nature of the convention, there’s still something for everyone. There were panels to attend, merchandise to buy, games to play, competitions to attend or compete in and prizes to be won. It was two days of jam-packed activities that despite the relatively steep admission fee, people came out of it very much satisfied. I know I was, and I’ll definitely come back next year.
From humble beginnings at the Bayanihan Center and a growth spurt at SMX SM Aura, NexCon has finally made it to the Madison Square Garden of the Philippine Convention circuit – SMX Mall of Asia. Co-presented by Cosplay.ph and Stompworks, NexCon 3 held the geek event of the summer at Function Room 5 at the second floor of SMX. I had the pleasure of crashing the party on Day 2 of NexCon 3.
Komikon Inc. Presents Sulyap
In a little bit of cross-promotion with NexCon 3, Komikon held a special panel early in the afternoon featuring creators who contribute the first volume of Sulyap. Sulyap Vol 1 was a collection of short independent komiks. Joining the panel were Mel Casipit (Baboy 1 &2), Gio Paredes (Kalayaan), Tepai Pascual (Maktan 1521), and RH Quilantang (Goodby Rubit). Komikon organizer and fellow komiks creator Sherry Baet-Zamar was the moderator for the panel.
The panel was a light and informal affair, with several bouts of laughter to be had among friends. Topics included when they were first exposed to comics and where they get inspiration for their stories. They discussed their future plans and the possibility of turning comic book creation into a career. The panel closed out with a quick Q&A from the audience, including topics like their thoughts on webcomics. Mrs. Sherry provided giveaways for lucky guests. More details about this panel will be shared in a future article!
The Empire needs you! NexCon 3 partnered with the Philippine Garrison of the 501st Legion, an international group of Stormtrooper enthusiasts, for a special mission. Darth Vader and his Imperial Stormtroopers roamed the convention floor, hunting for those pesky Rebel droids. Any information would be eligible for a generous reward. That top secret information was as a portion of your NexCon 3 ticket stub. If the visitor gave it to any inquiring stormtrooper, he or she were included in a raffle for cool prizes. Can your loyalty to the Rebel cause withstand the siren song of cool swag? P.S. I totally sold out the Alliance.
IBM Sponsored Hackathon
Technology has gone a long way from Babbage’s analytical engine. IBM brought us one step closer into the future with IBM Watson. IBM Watson is an AI system tasked to understand unstructured “dark” data, 90% of which was made only in the past 3 years. It was developed to fight the forces of chaos in markets, in Big Data, and in business. IBM Watson learns on its own and has already beaten two world record champs of Jeopardy. It processes millions of pages of data. It can “see,” determining a person’s sex, approximate age, and more. It’s even beginning to understand speech, including natural language, dialects, idiosyncrasies, and sarcasm. I’m especially impressed with the last bit, since detecting sarcasm can probably avert a war between AI and humans.
IBM Watson has several practical uses, for doctors, mechanics, and even cooks. In a sense, Watson provides a whole host of different “superpowers” for people to utilize. IBM tied up with NexCon to host a Hack-a-Superpower. Student groups were given 72 hours to develop an app using IBM Watson for use when… a spaceship crashes in an urban environment, like Manila. Although scenario is based on NexCon’s brand of sci-fi, there are real world applications for these apps, specifically disaster management and emergency preparedness.
The challenge was open to several schools but only three teams made the final cut. The OverKnights from Polytechnic University of the Philippines built GeoData. Team Tomas of UST had the Helpinator in their corner. Flash Tap was the secret weapon of The Asia Pacific College Rams. Each app was innovative, with clear uses in saving lives, reducing disaster impact, and rebuilding the lives of affected persons. Timothy James Dimacali, Science & Technology Editor of GMA News Online, presented the top award to the Flash Tap app. It’s events like these that make think how well alternate universe me would have fared with a science degree.
“Imagine the art of the possible. Imagination is YOUR superpower.”
Cosplay competitions are always a highlight for conventions. NexCon 3 didn’t fail those expectations. The esteemed judges of the contest included famous cosplayers Miguel Mercado, Guy Singzon, and Jin Joson. Unlike previous day’s Cosplay Masquerade, the Cosplay Rumble featured Cosplayers who weren’t scared to strut their stuff in front of a big audience. Cosplayers of all types joined, from hulking Warhammer Space Marines and a lithe Catwoman to a hoverboard-riding Nightwing to an adorable Mantis-Baby Groot tandem. But, as the saying goes, better to show, not tell!
One of NexCon 3’s most anticipated events was the Encantadia panel. Host Adrian Arcega interviewed Director Mark Reyes and Lead Artist Noel Flores for juicy details of the “requel” of the much beloved local TV franchise. What’s a “requel?” According to Direk Mark, it is both a retelling and a sequel to the original series. Several elements will appear again in the 2016 version but the plot and storybeats will differ. This is meant to bridge the hardcore fans with the new generation of millennials and gamers.
I was personally intrigued as I never watched the original Encantadia, although I knew it had connections with Mulawin. The interview opened comparing Encantadia’s scale ambition with Diablo 3. Those were some mighty high claims. Nothing says epic quite like a big ol’ map, putting into scale the various kingdoms and territories. One of the Cosplayers who helped with mapping the world got an awesome physical map.
The presentation continued with several other production details. They showed the evolution of the crests of each major player. I laughed at one of them started out looking like a Bacardi logo. The impressive world building continued with a deep look at the world’s script, which pushes it into Tolkien levels of geekery for me. They showed the alibata-style alphabet. Apparently, there was even a language that had no direct English translation, until now. The creative process of several concept art were featured from stock photo to rough pencils to full digital colors. Marian Rivera was revealed to be Ynang Reyna. The princess-looking Sang’gre, however, were painfully teased by Direk Mark and Mr Flores. They’d only show portions of the body – a leg, an arm, or a torso, but never the face. They compensated though by featuring some fantastic cosplay of the four elemental women. Rough art of the several soldiers and denizens of Encantadia were featured as well, as well as samurai inspired Warriors that I thought looked more like gladiators.
The Question and Answer portion showed me the passion and excitement of Encantadia Fans. Direk Mark and Sir Noel answered as many questions as they could while reminding to catch 24 Oras on GMA 7 the next day for other juicy details. This was the first time a Filipino production team has gone around on a Marvel-style promotion. They are going to conventions trying to build hype for a show that is still being made. They looked forward to the day where they can make their own “EncaCon.” Encantadia will still follow standard continuous episode production and won’t be serialized into seasons due to budgetary restrictions. The creative team are still open to and accepting art inputs from talented fans for the time being. Maybe they’ll get to feature those who are able to contribute into an episode. A devoted fan even shared how they believe than Encantadia is an important milestone in Filipino pop culture and creativity, worthy of being studied in the future.
Direk Mark told us to expect Encantadia to be released in the 3rd quarter of 2016. Encantadia isn’t part of my normal wheelhouse of shows but this panel has piqued my interest enough to follow, at least for a while, this hotly anticipated revival. Check out their facebook page for updates on the series including everything that was revealed during the 24 Oras special segment.
Lip Sync Kombat
MORTAL KOMBAAAT! Although NexCon 3’s take on DubSmash is decidedly less deadly than the segment’s namesake, Lip Sync Kombat was no less entertaining. The rules were simple. Two Cosplayers perform a pair songs, alternating between the two. The one who earned the most audience impact was declared the winner. Harley Quinn’s steamy rendition of “Bad Romance” with an accompanying tied-up Joker edged out the cool stylings of Agent Peggy Carter. Emo Kylo Ren’s fantastic take on Greenday’s “Perfect” wasn’t enough to overcome Korra’s showmanship. Her selection of “I Kissed a Girl” and “Let It Go” clinched the Big W for the Avatar.
Fun Times with Special Guests
NexCon 3’s special international guests Casper Van Dien, Jennifer Wenger and Grace Van Dien graced the stage several times during the program. Ms. Jennifer donned a Wonder Woman cosplay while Grace, Casper’s daughter, dressed as Supergirl with an adorable Pikachu hat. One of Casper’s most memorable roles was Rico, star of Starship Troopers. He jokingly reminds us that he’s “Filipino” too since Rico was originally from the Philippines in the book. He’s graced the Philippines three times, twice for filming including the recently finished Showdown in Manila. That movie has already premiered on Moscow, Russia and he hopes that the movie will make its way here. Casper’s not only an actor, but a director as well, with three films under his belt.
Casper answered a few questions from the audience. He loved every role he played from the 20th Tarzan to the fan-favorite Rico. One of his other upcoming works include being the awesome Johnny Cage for the 3rd season of Mortal Kombat Legacy. When asked about advice for future actors, Casper said to never give up. Just keep going, believe in yourself and don’t take no for an answer. Your passion will be the thing that drives you and you shouldn’t mind the naysayers. There is no ideal age for entering acting. Even the legendary Alan Rickman entered the career late into life. Just remember that in the business, “Everyone fights and no one quits.”
Casper has a very humorous side as well. He did a little Riverdance on stage with the hosts. He gave voice-overs for several event videos, with the hosts jokingly offering him a voice acting job. Ms Jennifer Wegner and Grace Van Dien even joined him in impromptu Lip Sync Battles. They rocked to Soulja Boy, Grace’s personal choice. Casper laughed because that was the first time he heard the song. His own personal choice for battle was, surprisingly, Barbie Girl. He claims that he’s a living Ken doll and this writer certainly believes him. It was an honor and a pleasure to have him visit and we all hope we can come again!
NexCon had several contests throughout the weekend! These were the awards given during Day 2! The winners of the Cosplay Rumble were announced. The Cosplay Rumble Winners were judged on several criteria including character portrayal, fidelity, costume craftsmanship and audience impact. The Take Cover contest challenged cosplayers, photographers, and editors to create a photograph worthy of gracing a comic book cover. They would be forever immortalized! Cyberzone even raffled off a tablet!
The most important part of being in a convention is, of course, to have fun! I hope everyone had a great time and thank you NexCon for partnering with What’s A Geek! See ya next year!
Best of the Rest!
A single picture speaks a thousand words. So imagine what a whole album can say? The rest of the WAG crew would like to share the great time they had at NexCon 3!