Toronto is always a special place for the Supernatural gang to come back to. It was the con where long ago Jensen came back onstage after everything had wrapped up and picked up an acoustic guitar and sang a few songs for those of us lucky enough to still be in the ballroom. It was the con where Rob Benedict had his stroke, and his fellow Supernatural cast members saved his life. It was the con where, the very next year, Rob’s friends all put on a concert in his honor as he continued to recover and the Saturday Night Special started to become the emotional thing that it is today.
I love the hotel where it’s at and the hot dog carts and Tim Horton’s right outside and getting to see some fellow fans who I only encounter at this particular con. This year was no exception – and we got more Ackles songs, not exactly laid back and tentative anymore though.
Friday kicked off with Rachel Miner, as always. It’s a good way to start the day.
Rachel: I chose acting because it seemed like the best way to get to magical realms is the most Rachel Miner thing to say ever.
She also had some interesting things to say about the show and about the way in which fans interact with the show, which I always appreciate.
Rachel: I think Cas will be happiest if he feels he’s done some good in the world, so that’s what I want from him.
But she was quick to point out that’s her interpretation, just like the fact that she enjoys the idea of Megstiel.
Rachel: When it comes to shipping, my imagination is not your imagination, and it’s all okay. I like Meg and Cas together though!
And if you ship something that’s never on the screen?
Rachel: If you don’t like the way writers take something, you have the creativity to imagine the story the way you like it. When I was younger, I’d get very emotional about characters I loved, and that helped me.
My phone was on the wrong setting so I got absolutely no decent photos of Rachel, which makes me sad
Next up was Jason Manns. He and Rob and Billy did some Station Breaks, but at first Jason was oddly reluctant to hand over his guitar to Rob – turns out it was to cover up the sweat spot!
That threw Rob into a fit of laughter, which was adorable.
Rob and Jason were so pleased that some of us sang along to the “three ibuprofen headache” line in “Gone”, which was also adorable.
Then we had some Jason “quoncert”.
Jason on picking the songs for Covers With Friends: I keep a running tally of songs I think would be fun and who might sing them.
Next up were the OG Friday fluffers, Chad Lindberg and Gabriel Tigerman.
New Jersey is my “home con”. That means I can load a bunch of boxes of books into my car and drive there – and then hope I can find someone to help me get them all up the long long ramp and into the convention center!
I didn’t really need to worry, because as always, fandom comes through. I was on my own in the vendor room officially, but dozens of people came by on a regular basis to check on me and see if I needed a bathroom break (to the ONE bathroom for the entire convention center….don’t get me started about how much I hate this venue…) or a hot dog or another bottle of water. Two of the nicest women ever helped me wrangle a luggage cart from my nearby hotel and load and unload the boxes of books to and from my car. Another lovely woman delivered my photo ops right to my vendor table so I wouldn’t have to go grab them at the end of the con. The entire weekend was full of the best of SPNFamily, honestly. I met so many people who have read Family Don’t End With Blood and been inspired by it. I got to have dinner with my friend Trish from Attitudes in Reverse (one of the charities that the book benefits) and with a fellow acafan who’s teaching a course on leadership and Supernatural and her inspiring student.
As we got ready for the final season of Supernatural to kick off, everyone seemed to want to just relish our time together while we have it.
Friday kicked off with Rachel Miner, who always starts the con off with smiles and sparkles and words that inevitably make me feel better about people and life in general. I love the chapter that Rachel wrote in Family Don’t End With Blood, and the way she looks at the world.
Rachel on what it’s meant to be part of the SPNFamily: Everyone in this group are abnormally good humans.
Rachel advises to keep reminders of whatever it is that inspires you. She keeps pictures on her computer, some of them from fans.
She also talked about the importance of finding community and being able to help each other, something that Random Acts has done for many fans.
Part 2 of what was an epic trip to Vancouver, a city that has had incredible meaning for Supernatural fans since the show has filmed there for 15 seasons. We all knew this was the last time there would be a convention there while the show was still filming, which meant it would be the last time that so many of the cast and crew and production office would come to the con to greet the fans. It was also our last opportunity to thank them all for making this show that has meant so much to so many of us. So was it an emotional weekend? Absolutely.
Sunday started early for the Jared and Jensen gold panel. I say this every single time, but damn, they looked good. Jared wore the Comic Con tee shirt they gave out at the Supernatural panel in 2018, which made me smile because I’d been there when he asked Holly from WB if he could have one – clearly she came through! I love when they wear shirts that show they’re just as much fans of Supernatural as we are.
Someone asked early on how they will “shed” Sam and Dean when the show ends, kicking off all those emotions right off the bat.
Jensen: I’d be happy to never shed Dean.
Jared: Cut my hair?
But seriously, we’d love you with or without hair, Jared.
They were both a little teary eyed at the beginning there, then resolutely pushed it aside. I think they – like all of us – are vacillating between letting themselves feel and start to mourn and pushing it aside to just enjoy this last season.
Jared: There have been a lot of emotional “last first” days on set.
Also Jared: I get emotional every time I hear “Carry On”.
Jensen: I’m not thinking about the end yet because I’m still in the game.
Jared: We reached out to some directors who did some of our iconic episodes to come back this year.
Jensen: Of course now Charles Beeson is wondering why he agreed to do this, because we’re all messing around so much!
I love when Vancon is in August, because that means I can head up there a few days early to just have FUN. My first flight was cancelled and it took five hours to get it straightened out and get off the ground, so Wednesday was pretty much a no go, but I did get there in time to have a nice dinner with my friend Betty (who was kind enough to pick me up at the airport). After we’d indulged in lots of good pizza, we drove by the filming location for that evening, a nearby school. Due to our prioritizing of food (okay, it was my prioritizing, tbh) we arrived just as they were wrapping filming for the night – but in time to wave cheerily at the vans and trucks as they pulled out. Oh well.
Betty dropped me off at the Air BnB I was sharing with my friends Alana and Illy, who had spent the day braving the Vancouver rain and searching for past filming locations (all captured on Alana’s @_KingBooks_ Wednesday blog if you’re curious). We had the tiniest little Air BnB ever with a portable air conditioner that required us to leave a window open so its flexible tubing could protrude when we ran it but the shower was lovely and there was a fridge and two beds so we were happy fangirls.
Thursday we got up (relatively) early, walked to the little shopping area a few blocks away to a) get Lynn a latte before she gets too cranky and b) drop off clothes at the laundromat. The laundromat made me picture human!Cas stripping down to do laundry and that made me smile. The latte helped too.
The three of us then piled into the car (Kansas plates, and yes that made us giggle) and hit the road, armed with Alana’s list of past filming locations thanks to a generous fan on LiveJournal who has painstakingly logged them all for going on fifteen years. Fandom, y’all.
We got incredibly lucky at our first attempt, finding the iconic fence by the river where Dean famously told Sam that their father had said that if he couldn’t save Sam, he might have to kill him. If you’ve read ‘Fangasm Supernatural Fangirls’, there’s a chapter in which Kathy and I and some friends also try to find this fence, but have a lot more trouble (without the benefit of any directions). We finally found it at midnight that time, only to be stopped and questioned by flashlight wielding police officers who were sure that a bunch of women scrambling down an overgrown bank in a wooded area at midnight could only be up to no good.
The place has changed a bit – the overgrown banks are now just grass, with a lovely park bench, and there’s now a paved pathway along the fence. The fence itself, which was just a couple of ramshackle boards on posts, is now four new-looking boards. It’s an incredibly beautiful, peaceful spot – which made such a striking contrast when Dean has to say something so horrible to Sam.
The posts were still there so we could use those as a reference as we did what we’d come to do – reenact that iconic moment, of course! Illy set up the camera and she and Alana took their positions while I got to play director.
“You need to be on the other side of the post, Alana. No, I don’t care if there are a bunch of stink bugs there, move over!”
“Lean in more, Illy. Now look at the bridge, be somber. You’re tormented by this. Alana, you look at Illy.”
I kinda liked playing director, can you tell? I think the results speak for themselves.
Alana left her video camera running the entire time we were there, so god knows what other footage she has of us being total idiots – and having the time of our lives. It’s what fandom is all about, after all.
A man and his wife were sitting on a nearby bench and came over to compliment our ‘work’, which was such a Vancouver thing to do. They are the nicest folks!
Our next search missions weren’t quite as successful. We found the field where the gigantic boat from the Wayward Sisters episode is run aground, but it’s on the most forbidding sort of private property you can imagine. I wanted to just get the hell out of there but Alana and Illy are more intrepid, so we got of the car and walked a ways down the gravel road (which WAS a road, so it was technically okay – the private property signs were on the cornfields all around us). But as we passed by a few sketchy looking guys and foreboding looking farmhouses – think The Benders – (were they glaring at us or was that my imagination?) and more signs, I got more and more anxious. Finally we reached a sign that in big letters said “PRIVATE PROPERYY. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED.” And then said something about trespassers being violated!
That was it, I was outta there. We later found a vantage point where we could at least see the ship and take a few photos from far away, and that was as close as I was getting!
Next we found the river bank where the Wayward girls skipped stones but – you guessed it – another private property sign. Oh well.
After that we had more success, finding the school where the 200th episode was filmed. The Russ Hamilton set tour earlier that day had been able to go inside to the auditorium and even sing “Carry On” on that same stage, and of course we couldn’t do that, but just seeing where the Impala had been parked and the entrance where the Supernatural sign had been was a thrill. We are nothing if not easily amused.
Our final stop of the day was a complete success, and SO much fun – the field where the climactic fight scene of LARP and the Real Girl took place (which, by the way is adjacent to a little swim club). We found the exact place, which is much smaller than it looked in the episode, and decided to reenact that wonderful moment when Dean, painted and bedecked, gives his Braveheart speech – and gets interrupted by a non-LARPer playing Frisbee. You see, the field is a real life Frisbee course. And what happened just as we were setting up the camera to film? A real life guy tossed a Frisbee right onto the field! I was freaking out about how perfect that was, and immediately directed Illy or Alana to go convince the two young guys that they needed to be in our film. (This whole director thing is hard to let go of, tbh…)
They did – and the two nicest guys ever were happy to help. They threw the Frisbee, Illy channeled her inner Dean, Alana her inner Sam, and me my inner Felicia Day – the results are frankly hilarious. If Alana hasn’t posted that video yet, be sure to check it out. Just so you can laugh your ass off at us. We don’t mind.
(Sincere apologies, Felicia Day, if you ever see the video…)
After that we headed to the con hotel for pre-reg, but every so often I’d remember what we just filmed and just burst into laughter.
I met up with my friend Alicia for a late dinner and lots of catching up and reminiscing, and then it was time to get some rest for Friday.
Friday I got to sleep in and have a nice breakfast, then the con kicked off with Rob Benedict holding down the fort (Richard Speight Jr. was busy with directing Supernatural). Poor Rob ended up introducing himself when there was no one else to do it, but all the props because he played all his multiple roles seamlessly.
Rob: (sheepish) Don’t hate me too much, I know I took a turn last season…
I was introduced to the new Amazon Prime show The Boys at San Diego Comic Con and was immediately intrigued. I was already excited about it simply because Eric Kripke, creator of Supernatural, is executive producer (and we all know how passionate I am about Supernatural...). So I went to the “activation experience,” which took you inside the first episode of the show and let you help some of “the boys” solve a superhero-related crime. That’s right, the superheroes in this show aren’t exactly the good guys. In fact, they’re a bunch of assholes. Most of them anyway. Propped up by big corporate money and power, the “Supes” are essentially the worst kind of fabricated and manufactured celebrities, their personas carefully constructed to appeal to the unsuspecting masses as the only hope for an increasingly frightened and powerless humanity. If that sounds a little too close to real life right now, that’s exactly the point.
That’s the premise of the comic on which The Boys is based, and the premise of the Amazon series as well. The show has something to say about who holds power in our current culture and how they wield it, including the role of social media and propaganda in shaping people’s views and keeping them in a perpetual state of fear – which makes a superhero who swoops in to save the day and claims to be able to keep everyone safe very appealing indeed. It’s a dark, gritty, cynical world that The Boys inhabit, but it reflects the fear-mongering and online manipulation that is all too real, that make people long for “saviors” and turn the other way when those saviors turn out to be the actual monsters.
All that hits a little too close to home, and if that’s all the show was about, the darkness would be too much to take on top of the overwhelming dose of darkness I get every day through every type of media. What makes The Boys instead as hopeful as the traditional superhero tropes it subverts were intended to be is the existence of a resistance. In the tradition of Supernatural’s Sam and Dean, the resistance comes in the form of a bunch of just plain humans, who nevertheless are willing to go against the odds and try to do what’s right. Instead of taking out demons and wendigos, the Boys are going after the Supes. Outgunned in terms of powers and definitely the underdogs, nevertheless the Boys are every bit as invested in the “always keep fighting” mantra that has made Supernatural such an inspiring show. I’ve only watched one episode so far, and I’m already rooting for them.
For a show whose first episode begins with an ultra violent occurrence and includes a decadent sex-fueled club scene and some full frontal (equal opportunity) nudity, The Boys tackles complex and relevant themes with a surprisingly deft hand. Main character Hughie, whose quest for revenge is instigated by one of the Supes callously running through his girlfriend at super speed and exploding her, has his trauma examined instead of just tossed out there as an explanation for what happens next. And while everyone on the show seems to live somewhere in the morally ambiguous grey area that I love seeing characters struggle through, that goes for the Supes too – or at least one of them.
The premiere episode also takes the time to examine new Supe Starlight’s recruitment into the elite “Seven”. Presented as young and naïve and fully buying into the cult of celebrity that she thinks she craves, Starlight soon finds that the Supes are not who she thought they were when she had that poster of The Deep on her wall. It’s a pointed commentary that was fascinating to me as a psychologist who’s studied celebrity and fandom for the past decade plus. There’s significant sexual assault-based trauma for Starlight that happens with that realization, and it too is not glossed over but explored realistically. That story line pulled on my heartstrings more than anything else in the first episode, and anchored the show in a feminist slant while critiquing the misogyny and power dynamics inherent in that world – and our own.
At the Comic Con press room, Erin Moriarty (who plays Starlight) said she loved the fact that you initially believe that Starlight is going to fit into the familiar stereotype, but it turns out she’s a lot more than that. So far, one episode in, she feels like the moral compass of the show, along with Hughie, who she just so happens to meet on a park bench as they struggle to come to terms with their respective traumas and how those traumas have changed how they view themselves.
The Boys is executive produced by Seth Rogen and Eric Kripke, based on the comic series by Garth Ennis. It stars Karl Urban (Billy Butcher) as leader of the Boys, along with recently traumatized Hughie (Jack Quaid), Karen Fukuhara (The Female), Laz Alonso (Mother’s Milk), and Tomer Kapon (Frenchie). The Supes include Anthony Starr (Homelander), Dominique McElligott (Queen Maeve), Jessie T. Usher (A Train), Chace Crawford (The Deep), Nathan Mitchell (Black Noir) and Erin Moriarty (Starlight). Elisabeth Shue plays Madelyn Stillwell, the corporate PR person who pulls the strings with a chilling smile.
As a passionate Supernatural fan, I was initially interested in The Boys because of Eric Kripke, who created the characters I love so much on Supernatural. I asked him a question at the press room for The Boys at Comic Con (see video link below), but couldn’t wait to talk with him some more about his new show and its similarities to his first ‘baby’, Supernatural. We’ve stayed a little bit in touch over the past decade by email, but having a chance to actually chat was a treat.
E: Hey Lynn, how are you?
L: It’s been like ten years since we’ve had an actual conversation!
E: It probably has been, but I follow you on twitter and we’ve had some twitter conversations and you seem like you’re doing great, so I know what you’ve been up to. And thank you so much for all the support over the years.
L: Pretty sure I should be thanking you – I’ve written six books about your show (Supernatural) that helped me get tenure and promotion to professor. Thank you for that!
E: Well, you’re welcome!
It really had been a while. I first chatted with Eric Kripke way back in 2008 when I began researching and writing books about fandom and celebrity, mostly focused on the show he created that I had fallen head over heels in love with, Supernatural. (Here’s Eric the first time we met at the Supernatural Creation convention in Burbank – he was a baby!)
We did a few phone interviews and met up at Comic Con that year to chat some more. We talked a lot about fandom and of course about fannish creativity and fanfiction. Eric’s first question: Am I ever in it?
Me: Umm, I guess? I may have run across a few…
Kripke: Oooh, is it porn? You have to send me that!
Fast forward to 2019 and Eric’s Reddit AMA when someone asked him if he’d read any Supernatural erotica and he said yes, and then described the definitely-not-G-rated fic…
L: I had to laugh when I saw you mention that fic with you and Jared from back in the day (laughing). I mean, what you said is true, you were assertive in it…
L: I had forgotten what it was actually about and was like OMG that’s right…
E: Yeah (laughing) I’ve never forgotten it, it made a major impact that’s for sure.
L: Well, either you’re welcome or… I’m sorry?
E: (still laughing) Yeah right, I think a little of both.
Side note: Eric has always been fine with fans “playing in his sandbox” and understands transformative works as a sign of affection for his characters and his worlds. There’s a whole chapter on our early conversations about Supernatural in Fangasm Supernatural Fangirls if you’re curious.
L: Anyway, The Boys! I’ve watched the first episode, I’m a bit old school in that I like to watch one at a time and space it out and sort of digest it. I LOVED the first episode and I think other Supernatural fans will really love the show too. There are some similarities to Supernatural for sure.
E: Mm hmm
L: For one thing, the protagonist is sent on a hunt for revenge because the love of his life is violently killed – Mary burning on the ceiling is an iconic image for Supernatural, and so is Robin being decimated and Hughie standing there still holding her bloody hands!
E: Hmm. That one, I mean yes, now that you’ve pointed it out, there are similarities to that. Robin dying in The Boys is taken almost frame for frame from the comic book so it’s funny, that hadn’t really occurred to me about that connection, because in The Boys the instigating incident is so infamous for anyone who’s a fan of the books. It was my job to capture it as faithfully as possible and that’s mostly where my head was, but yeah. Also, I think where they’re similar is there are a lot of tonal and thematic similarities. In a lot of ways, The Boys is a hard R Supernatural.
L: (silently) A hard R Supernatural….ohgod yes please…
E: And it’s funny because you don’t even realize these things until it’s hindsight. I don’t set out to say oh I’m gonna make something for Supernatural fans, I just make stuff – the only person I really try to please is me. But because I love Supernatural and those are the kind of things that I love, I guess it stands to reason that if left to my own devices to make another show that I put all my love into, it will have some similarities.
L: That makes sense.
E: What The Boys is really ultimately about is these kind of very down to earth middle class blue collar people taking on these arrogant ultra powerful forces that are overwhelming and all powerful. In Supernatural it’s angels and demons and (laughing) God…
E: And in The Boys, it’s the sort of pantheon of superheroes. The incredibly big guy with magical powers basically is something that I’m clearly interested in. I think I really like the idea of blue collar no bullshit guys taking on and puncturing these huge myths and kind of having to bring them down to earth just through their own wits, because they’re outmatched…
L: Yeah, and that’s all they have, their own smarts.
E: And that says something to me, I think, about the world. Like we’re always up against these seemingly insurmountable forces, but there are things we can do to get some equality. You just have to – it’s not easy and it’s not fair – but you just have to keep banging away at it.