When Tree City Comic Con debuted in 2014 at Expo Idaho, it planned to go boldly where no man had gone before. At least in the Boise universe.
The sci-fi/fantasy convention mimicked large, popular events in cities such as San Diego and Salt Lake City. For a fee, 28 celebrities ranging from Verne “Mini-Me” Troyer to Lindsay “Bionic Woman” Wagner signed autographs and posed for photos. Fans dressed up as Imperial Stormtroopers and nerded out over guest speakers. The hashtag: #releaseyourgeek.
But a year has passed. Tree City Comic Con has not returned. It’s faded away like a red-uniformed “Star Trek” crew member in a malfunctioning transporter.
“I don’t think Boise was quite ready ...,” director Kevin Hansen explains. “We took a hit. People just didn’t spend money.”
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If I could do it again, I would have hand-picked eight (celebrities) and not brought in all the Power Rangers.
Kevin Hansen, Tree City Comic Con director
You can put a Jabba the Hutt costume on a cosplaying Boisean, but you can’t put lipstick on a pig. The pig is us, Boise. We can’t even make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear here, because we apparently leave our purses home.
Hansen estimates that 3,000 to 4,000 people attended over two days. They had fun, but too few dropped coin on the celebrities.
“People were just kind of looking at them like animals at the zoo,” Hansen says with a chuckle.
“You’d see Lindsay Wagner sitting at a table, and there’s nobody in line, and so we had people walk up and talk to her for 10 minutes,” he says.
Hansen admits to his share of planning blunders. But the celebrity price tag hurt most. “Flights added up,” he says.
“We should have had eight celebrities, not 28,” he adds.
Yeah, we probably don’t need all the Power Rangers.
Still, The Force is strong. Hansen says enthusiasts have discussed organizing another Tree City Comic Con in 2016. If that were to materialize, he’s not sure how he’d be affiliated with it.
Judging from recent comments on the Tree City Comic Con page remaining on Facebook, Boiseans still care about it. But a future organizer will need to have the stones of a Wookiee to take the financial risk.
“I think that Boise wants to be a big city,” Hansen says. “But they really don’t act like a big city on some things.”
Star Wars actors
A celebrity from Tree City Comic Con will return to the Treasure Valley next week.
Mark Dodson, the voice of Jabba the Hutt’s sidekick Salacious Crumb, is one of four actors from the “Star Wars” movies giving a free presentation called “Star Wars Invades the Treasure Valley.” It’s at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 10 at the theater inside Four Rivers Cultural Center, 676 SW 5th Ave., Ontario, Ore.
The panel also will include Nalini Krishan (Jedi Padawan Barris Offee) and Amy Allen (Jedi Master Aayla Secura), and be moderated by Bonnie Piesse (Aunt Beru). A Q&A and a meet-and-greet are on the agenda. More information: Facebook.
Powerhouse blues act
Recently, we overhauled the bar and restaurant music listings in Scene (page 18). As part of that upgrade, we’re posting listings weekly at IdahoStatesman.com. Plus, I’m recommending a few shows.
After 13 years with sibling band Trampled Under Foot, Nicole went solo in 2015. Her Concord Records full-length debut, “Wolf Den,” is a modern-blues blend of rock, soul, R&B and funk. Anders Osborne produced the album and played guitar. Stanton Moore hammered drums. Luther Dickinson offered a guest guitar spot, too.
That’s a heavy-duty recording lineup.
“I was just, like, grateful to be there,” Nicole, 33, admits, phoning from her Kansas City home. “It was beyond my wildest dreams, it was so much fun.”
Nicole can definitely hold her own. She’s the only woman ever nominated for the Blues Foundation’s Blues Music Award for bass playing, which she won in 2014.
But it’s her vocals that kill: gritty, sassy, versatile. Nicole is honored by comparisons to Janis Joplin, Bonnie Raitt and Susan Tedeschi, “but my favorite thing is when people are like, ‘You sound like yourself.’ ”
Still, she admits to a No. 1 influence: “Etta James, all the way,” Nicole says. “Her fire ... the emotionality, just everything about her. Her style and the way she sings as well, and just her embrace of just putting herself completely out there.”
Nicole toured this year opening for George Thorogood and Buddy Guy, but she’s ready to pay her dues headlining bars. Here’s hoping that Boise blues fans show up. Either way, the number of fans won’t affect Nicole’s house-shaking show.
“Five or 5,000, I still have a great night,” she says.