Comic Con NOLA

Niece Katie, Hayley Atwell, me
Niece Katie, Hayley Atwell, me

I had thought I might have to title this post “Comic Con: The Search for Agent Carter,” but I couldn’t have been more wrong. Hayley Atwell, who has played Peggy Carter in both Captain America movies, Avengers: Age of Ultron, Ant- Man, and the eponymous and thoroughly entertaining TV series, was scheduled to attend this year’s event, held this past weekend. But I was worried, because when I checked Saturday’s schedule, I didn’t see her listed in any panel, or in any presentation over the course of the day.

Add to that concern the rumor that Season 2 of Agent Carter was supposed to premiere last night, but got postponed to next week (January 19) because of the State of the Union address. Could Hayley Atwell have been overshadowed by big America Things, just like her character?

As it turns out, she was on the very first panel I attended, featuring the cast of Captain America: Civil War. Even though I don’t think she’s in the movie, I guess she is pretty closely associated with Cap. The panel was a great start to the day, it featured the directors Anthony and Joe Russo, and a murderer’s row of stars: Chris Evans, Jeremy Renner, Anthony Mackie, and Frank Grillo. Hayley Atwell was the sole woman up on the stage.

She did not disappoint. When asked to name something she really admires in her Peggy Carter character, she quoted a line from the TV series:

“I know my value. Anyone else’s opinion doesn’t really matter.” Which is so succinct and great. It’s Peggy Carter’s tremendous aptitude, and tenacious self-confidence in the face of a bunch of people trying to pull her down, that makes her so appealing to me.

When Hayley Atwell was asked about appearing across a range of Marvel movies, all at different ages, she quipped, “I’ll know what I’ll look like at ninety-six, if I live well.”

Chris Evans and Anthony Mackie were other faves on the panel. I was struck by how Chris Evans said he would like to have the same level of selflessness as Steve Rogers. And Anthony Mackie’s charisma and enthusiasm made me happy New Orleanians can claim him as one of our own.

I was pretty impressed, and a little proud, that New Orleans received such a star-studded line-up for this event. And so much of it promoting a movie that’s still five months away. Maybe because New Orleans hosts the first of these Wizard events in the new year, but maybe it’s more than that. The attendance at this event seems to be getting bigger and bigger every year.

The official name of this event is Wizard World Comic Con. I think Comic Con on its own is trademarked by San Diego. Or maybe New York. Or both. But everyone I know in New Orleans just calls it Comic Con.

Which is kinda funny, because this year, actual comic books seemed eclipsed by other stuff. There were metal mugs with free refills of root beer and sarsaparilla, and small marsupials called sugar bears that you could hold in your pocket, and a whole bunch of people giving (and getting) tattoos right on the convention floor. It felt more like a state fair, though I’ve been to very few of those in my life, so it may be a poor comparison.

Maybe it’s like a state fair for the information age. When generations have grown up on cult television shows and movies, and new generations have flocked to their 21st century versions (I’m thinking Dr. Who), then maybe you go to Comic Con to convene with like-minded geeks.

But if Comic Con’s raison d’être is to provide fuel for the big giant promo machine, I think it succeeded. I’m very excited for Captain America: Civil War, more excited than I was before last weekend. I might be out of the country on business when it premieres, so I’m already trying to think up how I can see it in English in Germany.

I was wearing an R2-D2 top
I was wearing an R2-D2 top

I played my fan part, and paid money for a photo op with Hayley Atwell. I discovered last year that photo ops can be fun, when I took one with niece Cece and Brett Dalton, who plays Grant Ward on Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Even though his character has turned truly awful and evil, I still have a soft spot for the actor because he called me R2.

And it should go without saying that I’m excited for Season 2 of Agent Carter. It’s set in Los Angeles, which has put me in mind of my time out there. Public radio station KPCC used to play music from the ‘40s on Saturday afternoons. I’d be in my old apartment (it was built in the ‘40s or ‘50s), listening to the Andrews Sisters, imagining I worked as a cog in the studio system back in those days, and planning what kind of kerfuffle I could cause out at the Brown Derby, or The Formosa Café that night.

Never mind that I only ever really visited those spots once or twice. That’s what imagination is for.

So maybe that’s why Comic Con has gotten so big here. Say what you want about New Orleanians, but don’t say we’ve got no imagination.

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