Azkatraz, my trip deep into Harry Potter fandom. I’m still having delightful flashbacks…
Ah, Harry Potter. I thought i knew you….I’ve read all the books, more than once, I know all the art, the mythologies around the books and their creation, and i myself was a “professor of the magical arts” at one of the midnight book releases..Mind, I’m no “Pottaskalla”….but I’ve seen the kids waiting in line, met many collectors, I even went to last years Harry Potter convention, “Portus”…i was only there for about 36 hours, which was just enough time to meet a few fans, see a few costumes, and mock the seriousness and intensity of the few panels and seminars i heard were taking place while i was there…Grab your wands and pointy hats and let me take you to the “Hogwarts School of Harry Potter fandom”…. This June, I actually got to go to a preview even before the movie premiere in NYC, and took part in interviews of some of the actors, movie industry insiders, and fans who make the franchise what it is. So I got a taste of the enthusiasm of the fandom first hand. I stood in the same line the fans were in (while my partners in crime were on the red carpet, I stood behind the barriers and interviewed the fans, 3 of whom had gussied up in hopes of making it into the premiere! aaah, youthful optimism. They didn’t get in, but I was rooting for them!)
Little by little I was being ushered into the “Hogwarts banquet hall” if you will. I have said the Harry Potter fans have always been my favorite to deal with. and really, that’s saying something. I include my Star Wars collectors, Star Trek, Lord of the Rings, Vintage Disney, Warner Brothers….etc. All of which have something to recommend them, but the Harry Potter fans have always been literate, astute, glompy (that, my uninitiated friends, means those who hug you so hard in their enthusiasm they knock you down) and no matter how much or little money they have, they’ve always appreciated the art of Harry Potter. I’ve sold many reasonably expensive HP pieces to teachers, teenagers, and retired folks on a tiny budget–They’ve driven me–in their appreciation and by their desire to own a bit of HP art–to new concepts on layaway! So when I was asked to present “the official art of Harry Potter” at this year’s Harry Potter convention “Azkatraz”, I thought i had some idea what i was getting into…I thought I knew Harry, but i was in for a rude disapperation–or rather, a fantastic experience of open mindedness and unmitigated joy.
First off, my friends at Clampett gave me a worldwide exclusive premiere of two pieces by Mary GrandPre, and they happened to be the most beautiful pieces, my favorites they’d ever released. Secondly, my friend Jim Salvati, who had worked on several of the movies, had offered me some original paintings he made while the movies were in production. He called it “analog art”. You see, they don’t really use physical paintings in movie production anymore. It’s a dying art. So that was cool. And then they were releasing these freaky movie still images with special mats of 10 of the major characters from the movies right in time for Azkatraz. So I was bringing pretty good game. (kinda had to, since they had made me a guest of the convention, my first time guesting!!)
I arrived, after having corresponded with a variety of the volunteers who were involved in putting the con together. Stina was guest coordinator, Heidi was a major orchestrator of the con as a whole, Gwen had been making the physical event actually happen in real time, and Flourish was the coordinator of the panels and seminars. Those are just a tiny few of the folks who put the event on and made it fun and exciting for the 1000 or so fans who came. I cannot believe the hard work these people did out of love of Harry Potter! They were awesome! There’s this thing called shipping. or slash. which is when characters who don’t belong together in what they call “canon” (ie the actual collection of books) get together. It’s the job of the “fanfic” writers, of which there are many, some of which are FAMOUS in the HP world, to make the pairing make sense. The biggest group is called “Snarry”, followed closely by “Drarry”. That’d be Snape/Harry, and Draco/Harry. (hence the name “slash”) Before you get all oogie and click away, they actually make it work. They even make Draco/Hermione work. Now THAT’S a stretch! (ummm, unlike the other two?) There’s tons of art relating to the slash too, and there were many meet ups and seminars about it as well. A friend of mine who’s a fan of slash recommended the following to me, i haven’t read it yet, but you can check it out if you’re curious…supposed to be great…read at your own risk! http://www.swish-n-flick.net (site has since been erased) This may seem really weird to you, but let me relay a story that i hope puts all of it in perspective…
I live in DC. We have a fairly strong gay community here, but as with many other parts of the country, that community has to constantly take a stand to work towards equal rights. I spent almost a week with a bunch of folks that never brought up whether they were gay or straight. I became pretty good friends with one gal who I only found out was gay the last day I was there. It never came up, and never needed to. Deep in the fandom of HP, that’s the way it is. Maybe because in the books the sexuality of the characters has never mattered, it doesn’t matter in the fandom either. One guy I met explained it by saying in the HP world, everyone wizard and witch gets a wand. There’s automatic equity between the sexes. You feel this most definitely in the fandom. There are also way more strong opinionated and independently minded women in the Harry Potter fandom as well. People of all shapes, sizes, and opinions are welcome there. That’s not to say there isn’t dissent! Many of the panels and seminars get quite heated! Don’t mess with these fans’ opinions and perspectives on “canon” unless you can back up your own!
Then there’s the wizard wrock. This is music by bands who write songs in which there is always a reference to something in the Harry Potter world.You, not being HP, would NOT BELIEVE the seriousness and passion the fans of these bands have. They are HUGE stars in the HP world. There was an article on the front of the arts section of USA Today featuring the biggest bands in wizard wrock. Harry and the Potters, Draco and the Malfoys, Remus and the Lupins, the Ministry of Magic, and the House of Black are some of the biggest names. I went to a “slumber party” where several of the bands played acoustically and their fans knew every single word of every song. If these musicians want to have squeeing girls falling all over them, they’re in the right business!…
They all seem nice enough, and they are no doubt really true fans of the books–many of them are serious classically trained musicians who just want to bring together their love of music and their love of the Harry Potter story. When I got to talking to them, and they discovered i was a musician, they all said i HAD to start a wizard wrock band… what do you guys think? Should i start “Luna and the Lovegoods”? (is there really any other name?) more info on wizard wrock at:
So how did i do, you might ask? We wrocked! (sorry…) I’m happy to say we sold a bunch of stuff, (helping us in making July our best month ever in business!) and whether folks bought or not, they loved the display, and apparently learned some stuff in my talks. I love that we sold a lot of art there, because it means they really appreciated the images and connected to them-and also we are now giving a percentage of the profits to Kids Need To Read charity–It was funny in my display i kept having the Snape folks and the Defense against the Dark Arts folks coming by asking why i’d put the Snape image in the front and Dumbledore in the back, or vice versa…I just said the Snape fans scared me more!
I should mention some of the other presenters… Lev Grossman, who reviews books for Time Magazine and who’s become a friend, and is lovely! (shameless plug alert! check out his new book “The Magicians”–getting awesome reviews, yea, Lev!), Henry Jenkins, who teaches at MIT, and has been at the forefront of comparative media studies and international transmedia–meaning all the cross pollenating of media outlets like web, print, tv, etc., and how it has effected news and entertainment–sounds dry but he was amazing! (check out his blog…www.henryjenkins.org ) Chris Rankin, who plays Percy Weasley in the Harry Potter movies, and is delightful–he is going to be a great movie producer one day, i predict. He made me one of his twitterbuddies, and the next day i got tons of HP fans as followers…I’m thinking, really? Will i get that kind of reaction if the Dalai Lama and i tweetfriend?
That boy is FULL of great stories and has a huge sincere and kind heart, you could do worse than fancrushing him…There were many other really cool presenters, like Eddie Newquist, who talked about his role in developing the hugely successful new Harry Potter exhibit about to go to Boston from its first stop in Chicago. For more info on who was there and what they did, or if you want to find out about next year’s convention at the opening of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Florida, check out www.infinitus2010.org .
If you’d like to hear me playing Lucius Malfoy in a Harry Potter fanfic podcast, check it out on itunes under spellcast summer: Live from Azkatraz. (oh, the humanity!…) I’m heartened to see such an enthusiastic and open group of people of all ages getting together and celebrating the books that have brought them so much joy, and was honored to be part of it even for just a few days. I made some life long friends (you know who you are!!!) and felt respected and appreciated in the art we represent, which isn’t always true…
I absolutely loved being where one set of books brings together freaks, punks, brainiacs, and every other would be clique cliche into one big literary lovefest. The Azkatraz premiere of Half Blood Prince, –seeing the movie with the biggest fans is the way to do it!! Leslie and Chris Rankin, such a nice fellow! The “art of storyboarding” workshop i had the hubris to lead…but it was great and so much fun! Deb and Denise from Kids Need to Read and I at the ball. They were wonderful and are now new great friends of mine!
We made $1700 in the auction for them and a bunch from our sales throughout the convention! Erin Pyne and I at my little exhibit of “official Harry Potter art”…I know I’m wearing a snakeskin pattern but I’m not Slytherin, I’m Ravenclaw! Or as i found out at the con, i’m Griffinclaw. (that’s when someone fits right in between two houses.)