Once again, more outcry has arisen around the acclaimed superhero movie Deadpool; this time right here in my very own town, Salt Lake City. The Utah Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control known as the DABC (yes, this is a real department) is tasked with controlling the laws and regulations revolving around drinking. Here in a state where the leaders are part of a religion that strictly forbids the drinking of alcohol, these regulations are numerous. Every bar and restaurant must conform in order to get a liquor license. Alcohol above a certain percentage must be sold in a state-run liquor store. The “sin tax” as it’s known, is astronomical, causing alcohol prices in Utah to be 25% (or more) higher than anywhere else. It’s cheaper to go to neighboring states to purchase alcohol. However, that’s considered smuggling, and very illegal.
What does all of this have to do with Deadpool? Well, In SLC there is a bar/movie theater called “Brewvies”. The DABC allows the showing of R rated movies while alcohol is served. Anything beyond that is right out. Meaning you can’t show full frontal nudity while serving alcohol. This is a rule for strip clubs here as well. Deadpool, although it has an R rating, has both male and female full frontal nudity. Brewvies decided to play Deadpool anyway.
In reaction to this, the DABC decided to shut down Brewvies if they kept showing the movie. Brewvies in turn, decided to sue the DABC for being unconstitutional. The legal battle raged on for a couple weeks. This got to be so big that Ryan Reynolds heard about it and decided to donate $5,000 to Brewvies to continue the fight. Most of what happened inside the courtroom was kept secret from the public. The Utah Government is particularly secretive about these sort of legal issues. Hearsay and rumors led Salt Lake residents to believe that Brewvies would lose the fight and shut down. However, the last thing we heard about was that the DABC dropped all charges against the theater. Brewvies is still pressing for a restraining order so that they don’t have to go through this kind of thing in the future, as movies become less and less restrictive about the content shown.
It’ll be interesting to see if this creates any sort of legal precedent. If Brewvies was able to get out of a citation from the DABC and keep their liquor license, other bars or restaurants wanting less restrictive liquor laws might push against the DABC in their time of vulnerability.
In the end, Brewvies held a special midnight event showing Deadpool. The proceeds helped pay off legal fees. Chalk up another victory for Deadpool!
I first applied for a press pass to comic con months earlier. About a week before the con they finally let me know I had gotten one. There were a list of requirements that had to be met before you could get a press pass. We didn’t meet them all, yet they gave us one anyway. Here’s what I did with it
Early that morning I had to bus down to the convention to attend a press conference. I was directed into the room that had a large line out in front of it. Already the perks of the press pass were showing themselves. I was led to the front few rows where I was able to set up my equipment. I decided that it would be in my best interest to record the entire thing. Looking back on it, I decided that the whole thing was a waste of time. It aggrandized Dan Farr, the man behind the convention as a hero and savior for bringing such an event to Utah. But if the rumors about him are to be believed he’s far from noble. Especially regarding LGBT celebrities and applicants. Regardless, the most interesting part of this conference to me was when the district attorney was talking and said the phrase “What ever gender, or genders you are,” Which was slightly surprising, given this being Utah. Still slightly wide-eyed about the experience I finished recording and got to see a few celebrities. They were paraded out and sat down at tables for press to quickly interview. I decided to see who was in line and get at least one interview in. Joel Hodgeman of Mystery Science Theatre 3000 was sitting at an empty booth, with no one really around. It was perfect. Someone I have admired as a comedian for a while, and with no line. I asked him a few general questions about his passions, and I was on my way. I had no real desire to speak to anyone else. I mostly did it, because the opportunity presented itself. For the most part the interview went fine, I hadn’t planning on doing any interviews, so It was awkward on my part. A lack of preparation, and a sense of winging it, was going to be my general plan for the following days.
I headed out of the conference hall and saw the mass of people waiting to get in. They were all lined up at big metal gates waiting to be herded into the main floor. I stood around wondering if I was supposed to do the same. I waited for a while, but never actually got into a line. I was beyond lines. Lines are boring. After a bit I decided that if I was confident enough I could just walk in through one of the doors staff members were using, even if it wasn’t allowed. So as I saw some folks carrying some boxes and equipment I got up to the door and followed them in. No one blinked an eye, or more likely just didn’t gave a shit. I made my move and it payed off. A press pass can get you places. I gazed upon the main floor and realized that this would be my home for the next few days, and whether or not it was going to be utter hell was up to some fickle God. I wandered around to see what kind of set up there was this year. The biggest and brightest was the Funko store: The crown jewel of comic con. The veritable heart that spread it’s arteries and capillaries to every booth and vendor. Spewing the true blood of the convention, hemorrhaging and gurgling for all to bow down and drink. And lo’ the people drank. The theme of this year’s convention wasn’t to showcase new and exciting things happening in “Nerd Culture.” No, it was consumption, greedy and lavish. I didn’t yet comprehend it’s extent. I couldn’t. We will come back to the eternally bleeding Funko, for I never truly could escape it. Soon after, the people entered. It all started on a Thursday so thankfully there weren’t too many people. The number of early entrants gave me much trepidation for the crowds I would witness on Saturday. I should point out that at this point there were only those who had purchased a gold or VIP pass to the convention. The upper classes of attendees. Those who could get in early, didn’t have to wait in long lines for panels or photos. Those who were donned in Metallic badges so everyone could clearly know who there status.
I did make my way over to the general entrance. It was two hours before the public was let in, and there was already a massive line that filled a large room. Just a giant pen to hold back the mass of people. I could see those in front champing at the bit to get inside. I feel like the price of the convention and the waiting in line is all a psychological trick. Force people to pay and wait. Make them go through hell before finally getting inside. Once they are inside they will convince themselves that it was all worth it. They wouldn’t have done any of that if it wasn’t worth the pain and suffering. A trick of the mind to quell the cognitive dissonance of the reality. Another perk of the free press pass is seeing through this. Eventually they too joined us on the inside and the first day was in full swing. For the rest of the day I just wandered around getting myself familiar with the convention. I didn’t drink much water and didn’t really eat. Wandering the convention was like being in a trance. The whirl of colors from costumes and people, the hordes cramming themselves into tight alley ways. Pushing through, getting caught up, speeding up, breaking into an open area, the rush of freedom and relief, you truly lose yourself in those moments. It all felt as though you were in a state out of mind.
Day one was a passive outside look at the con as a whole. On day two, I went deeper. I truly immersed myself. It was time to find the tiniest of crevasses in the con culture and explore what I find there. I want to delve into the niche shops that are scattered about. There is everything from artists to toy vendors all trying to capitalize on the lust of the consumers. The lust for pop culture, the lust to drown themselves in the material goods to forget the pain of the everyday, the lust for nostalgia. For here it is acceptable to acknowledge that lust and satiate it. I found one such nostalgia vendor. Selling toys and trinkets from my childhood in little baggies, as though they were drugs. People huddled around his register itching to make a purchase to relieve the craving.
I spent the day wandering from vendor to vendor. They were all shouting and hawking their wares. People were waving money and shouting back. Arguments over quality and price until an agreement could be reached. There was a true sense of bartering. The whole place was just one giant bazaar. Fueled by the rawest forms of mercantilism and trade and all for what? Nothing but keeping ones addictions alive. In these alleyways, there is still the glimmer of what comic conventions were intended for. Private sellers and traders of comics trying to make a living. Through all the circumstance and celebrity worship that envelops Comic Con, comic merchants still reside within its depths, carrying on with the traditions. These are the parts of the convention I love. In these stalls and vendors I felt the true sense of the convention. Herein lies the depravity that I love about comics, and toys, and making the finds you wouldn’t be able to elsewhere.
In my wanderings on the second day I came to understand how pervasive the Funko blood was. How deeply it flowed into every crack and crevasse. This day I understood that it was blood that connected the entire con. Every stall, save a select few was drenched in this blood, and selling it by the gallon to anyone who was willing to drink. At This point I finally decided to venture into the heart of the con, the Funko booth. There was a large line out front, that wound around a show case of exclusive figures, and large statues.
Then headed into the rows of the Pop figurines, before emerging at the registers and exiting near a final statue crowded with children having their picture taken. This truly was what was giving life to this convention. It’s what spurred the consumption, and gave justification to the blood lust of the participants.
Further emphasized the death of bizarre and unique and gave rise to the commercial.
I felt like the delirium had finally set in. I was adrift in the sea of people, waves upon waves of people washed over me. The noise of the con had become nothing but white noise and everything I saw was spun together in a mesh of sweat, and cosplay foam. There was nothing new. Nothing to keep my attention. Nothing to drive off the paranoia of the endlessness of the convention. I’ve stared into the soul of Comic Con. I’ve seen what this beast truly is and it has jaded me to my core. The third day of a convention always leaves me with an utter contempt for the whole experience and this was no different. Once a year 200,000 people come together to participate in this event. They throw themselves into the mud and mire for three days. The events that take place are never remembered the same and everyone recounts them as though something entirely different, something much safer had happened. I don’t think anyone can stand to look back and with a sound mind, let the world know what they did. On the third day I hid from that. I found a little corner booth that sold some comics and just read. I let my world burn around me as I just read. And hoped that there was a chance that we all just might make it out unscathed.
Information was taken from meeting and talking with Nicki Rapp at various instances at the convention, and not just from one main interview. I first met Nicki at her booth on the convention floor, we had a lovely conversation about the basics of her career. I wanted to ask her about her favorite characters, upcoming projects, and general information about working as a voice actress.
She was being promoted by the convention as the voice of Lily from The Walking Dead. Although, this being her most famous role, it wasn’t her favorite to play. Her favorite was the character of Lili from Psychonauts by Double Fine. Nicki told me that it’s one of the characters that she’s played that she best connects to. I lightheartedly replied by telling her Lili was my favorite character from Psychonauts, and probably out of all the characters I’ve seen her in so far. For the most part Nicki has worked in voicing characters in Adventure games. She’s worked with both Double Fine (Tim Schafer being a close friend of hers) and Tell Tale, whom she has probably worked the most for. Including titles like The Walking Dead, Tales of Monkey Island, and Sam and Max. She also voiced children in both Sims 2 and Sims 3. As she has demonstrated she is still able to easily create Simlish. She said that if she thinks too hard about it the language doesn’t come. She has to completely shut off her brain to do that kind of improv. She also mentioned to me a couple of upcoming projects she’s been involved in. Including Firewatch by developer Campo Santo, who is made up of members of both Double Fine and Tell Tale. She plays a character named Lilly, as kind of an inside joke for those who know her previous work. She also mentioned a Cartoon Network Mini-series coming out called Long Live the Royals. Where she plays a character named Alex. She went into more detail about that in a press interview that was held.
“I Booked the pilot four years ago. And my agent had told me that if it gets picked up it’s possible that they won’t keep me. Because I’m not a celebrity.” “I got the Email and the call saying this is what’s going on, but they were inviting me to re-audition.” “I literally have $500 in my bank account, I spent it all to get to LA from Oakland, and I did it. And I saved it, and I got it. It felt so good and victorious.”
She was very excited to be getting this project. I asked her if she wants to do more cartoons, and she told me that working for Cartoon Network was on of her career dreams from the very beginning. She said that cartoons were the biggest reason for getting into voice acting in the first place. She would rush home from school everyday to watch Animaniacs. She was ecstatic to get to go into the CN studio and have her name on the audition list. I’m definitely Excited for it myself, and to see where it goes after the mini-series is over.
“I was listening to Tress Macneille, being Dot, and I was like wait, I could do that. I could totally do that.”
She spoke the most about her biggest role, Lilly Caul in The Walking Dead in her panel. She said that Lilly was absolutely the most serious role she’s ever played. Which Nicki actually liked. She said that it was the first time she was really able to show off her acting chops. She said that the way she got her voice to be like Lilly’s was to go to a voice range she calls “LadyTown.” It’s definitely a range she loves to go to, even saying that it feels good to do. Like a massage on the throat. However, most studios hire her for her higher more bubbly voice. Tell Tale was the first to actually want her to use “LadyTown,” and now that she has such a well known character in that range under her belt, she hopes that more studios will let her explore the various ranges of her voice more often.
Nicki is an amazing voice actress and a wonderful person to have had these conventions with. I’m more than excited to closely follow her upcoming work, and interested to see where the future will lead her.
If you are interested following Nicki’s work, please check out Firewatch, , and Long Live the Royals, both scheduled to be released sometime this year.
Thanks again to Nicki Rapp for these wonderful conversations.