WonderCon 2018 was one of the best cons I have attended since we started The Legal Geeks. The show was very well run, from applying for panels, to registering speakers, and attending the show. The show had excellent panels, a large and well-stocked exhibit hall, and a great sense of fan community.
We had two panels on Friday night: A Star Wars Mock Trial and Lawyers vs Kaiju. Between our panelists and guests, a total of 31 people attended under our flag. I was glad we could provide many geeks the opportunity to go.
Star Wars Mock Trial: Can R2-D2 and C-3PO Sue the Cantina for Discrimination?
Our mock trial was based on the scene in the original Star Wars where the Droids were denied entry into the Mos Eisley Cantina. The Plaintiffs sought a mandatory injunction under California law that would require the Cantina to stay open and serve Droids during the pendency of the case. This is a challenging argument, because mandatory injunctions require a change to the status quo, thus are extremely difficult to obtain. The procedural setting for the case was a hearing on a motion for disputed facts for the injunction, which allowed both sides to call witnesses.
The core issue for the Droids was whether they are “persons” under the law and a protected class. Public accommodation laws do not allow for restaurants or bars to deny service to anyone based on their sex, race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, disability, medical condition, genetic information, marital status, sexual orientation, citizenship, primary language, or immigration status. However, artificial life is not listed in the Unruh Act. This was the crux of the case for the Plaintiffs, to prove Droids are “persons” under the law.
Keri Bean from NASA JPL was a court appointed neutral expert who testified as a fictionalized character who was a Mission Operations Engineer at the Mon Cala Propulsion Laboratory. Keri built her own R2-D2 with her husband and is a member of the R2 Builders Club. The Droid was on hand for the hearing.
Ian Gregory Cook is the Commander of the Rebel Legion Sunrider Base, one of the very active Star Wars costume clubs in Southern California. Ian played the role of the Bartender Wuher. Ian’s witness statement was developed from Chuck Wendig’s “We Don’t Serve Their Kind Here,” chapter in From a Certain Point of View. Ian nailed the role and succeeded in portraying Wuher as being sympathetic from the death of his parents by Droids during the Clone Wars.
The mock trial was a reminder how much people love Star Wars. We filled the room for the hearing. It was also validation that people care about the “law” and how lawyers will fight for the rights of others. Below you can listen to the audio from the mock trial.
Lawyers vs Kaiju
I grew up watching Kaiju movies. I fondly remember watching Gamera vs Gyaos as a kid. Still a little haunted by the final scenes in Son of Kong. It was a joy to have a panel where attorneys could take a deep dive into who pays for Acts of Godzilla.
Matt Weinhold from Monster Party moderated our panel. Matt is an old friend from when my family owned Rooster T. Feathers in Sunnyvale. The panelists included Monte Cooper, who is the grandnephew of Merian C. Cooper, the creator of King Kong; Megan Hitchcock, Esq., trial counsel for Esurance; and Jeraline Singh Edwards, Esq. We had a rocking good time weighing on whether Kong was an Endangered Species, if Gamera had a duty to save children, and if the President would need Congressional approval under the War Powers Act to aid Japan in fighting Godzilla. Below you can view the slides and listen to the audio from the Kaiju panel.Lawyers_v_Kaiju_Final
The Stand Out Panels
There were many talented and entertaining panels at WonderCon. One lesson from law school on jury memory retention is that jurors forget 2/3 of what they hear. What they do remember is usually wrong. However, memory retention goes up to 80% if the spoken word is coupled with a demonstrative exhibit. This holds true for panels at cons, because the best way to show a visual medium is to leverage the lessons of visual learning to make an impact on attendees.
The X-Men Animated Series 25th Anniversary panel did an astonishing job with visual graphics. The panel began with the opening of the original cartoon. The slides and images were used to highlight the message of each speaker. For example, the director had worked in over 200 cameos of other Marvel characters over the life of the show. A single slide was used with six images of those cameos as the director explained how he worked them in for approval. They also included images of each character with the headshot of the voice actor. The end result was…uncanny.
The other panel that used images very successfully was Jack Kirby’s Centennial Artwork Extravaganza. Pages of original artwork silently played while the panel discussed the legacy of Jack Kirby. The Iron Giant Anniversary panel also made great use of imagery, including a sizzle real of the artist’s graphic novel Silver.
Lost in Space Preview
Netflix’s first episode of Lost in Space was out of this world. Great effects, twists, and complex family dynamics. The first episode has multiple legal issues to explore, which we will cover when the show officially goes live on April 13, 2018. Highly recommend everyone watch the first episode, as they have made something very new while capturing the charm of the original series.
A World of Wonder
WonderCon is now one of my favorite shows. We greatly appreciated the opportunity to present and were humbled by the number of people who attended our panels. I was even stopped by a young man dressed as a Death Eater, who asked if he could take his photo with me. He had seen us before at San Diego Comic Fest. I am glad we are making the law accessible and fun for others.