Steampunk poised to become ‘the next big thing’

With hoards of sci-fi fans waiting to descend upon San Diego next week for Comic Con 2013, I thought it would be a good time to catch up with Fred Jeska, Steampunk craftsman extraordinaire and the proprietor of Kelly’s Heroes.

Fred Jeska aka Cmdr. "Whiskey Nick" Triton at the 2013 Nova Albion Steampunk Exhibition. Credit: Clara Blackheart

Fred Jeska, a.k.a. Cmdr. “Whiskey Nick” Triton, at the 2013 Nova Albion Steampunk Exhibition. Credit: Clara Blackheart

Jeska, otherwise known as Commander “Whiskey Nick” Triton of Her Majesty’s Royal Airship Service, spends his days deconstructing everyday items and magically transforming them into amazing one-of-a-kind custom steampunk creations which he sells exclusively at shows and conventions such as San Diego Comic Con and online at www.kellysheroes.webs.com.

I first encountered Jeska and his impressive array of handmade “gadgets, gizmos, goggles & gear” at SDCC two years ago when, amidst the cacophony of that ginormous pop-culture convention, I chanced across the Kelly’s Heroes booth, one of several at the convention offering steampunk-styled items.

Nautical goggles fit for Captain Nemo himself! Credit: Fred Jeska

Custom nautical goggles fit for Captain Nemo himself! Credit: Fred Jeska of Kelly’s Heroes

A member of the Sacramento Steampunk Society, Jeska takes particular pride in ensuring that each of his hand-painted and professionally crafted creations looks like it might have come straight out of the pages of a Jules Verne or H.G. Wells novel. Viewing his collection of authentic-looking “Turn of the Century” apparatus, elaborate timepieces and ingenious cosplay accoutrements, it was easy to see why his painstakingly intricate handmade creations were so popular with steampunk enthusiasts and cosplayers.

Next week the Kelly’s Heroes booth will again occupy its familiar spot (Booth D-07) on the San Diego Convention Center exhibit hall floor, and Jeska has been gearing up for SDCC with an even more fantastical selection of custom brass and leather contraptions and paraphernalia.

Batman Superhero Topper. Credit: Fred Jeska

Batman Superhero Topper. Credit: Fred Jeska of Kelly’s Heroes

In keeping with the current trend of cosplayers reimagining Marvel and DC superheroes in steampunk-style, Jeska will be offering a selection of neo-Victorian superhero-themed top hats, variously equipped with goggles and/or mechanical gadgetry perfectly suited to augment a retro superhero’s ensemble. Jeska is bringing a selection of his latest customized toppers to the San Diego convention in addition to all of the other inventive steampunk creations he fabricates.

The Captain America topper was the perfect addition to this cosplayer's outfit.

The Captain America topper was the perfect addition to this cosplayer’s outfit. Credit: Fred Jeska of Kelly’s Heroes

“With the Steampunk aesthetic expanding in every direction and superheroes being so prevalent at the pop-culture shows, marrying the two cultures was a logical transition for me,” says Jeska. “Steampunk superhero hats are the perfect topper for the many variations and interpretations of the characters who grace the cons. They also allow the con goer to proudly display their interest without the investment and encumbrance of the total costume ensemble.”

SDCC attendees who are fans of the neo-Victorian sci-fi aesthetic are encouraged to visit the convention exhibition floor as early as possible during the four-day event for the widest selection of these one-of-a-kind items.

Once considered just a science fiction sub-culture, steampunk seems poised to become the “next big thing” with mainstream consumers as well. During the National Retail Federation Convention held in New York this past January, IBM predicted that steampunk would be the next major trend to take hold of the retail industry. Big Blue’s prediction was based on its advanced supercomputer analytics, which measures trends across cultural domains, including billions of public posts on message boards, blogs, social media sites and news sources.

“From 2009 to 2012 the amount of social media chatter about Steampunk rose by an astonishing 11 times,” writes IBM consumer products expert Dr. Trevor Davison in the IBM-sponsored Smarter Planet Blog. “The aesthetics of steampunk are broad and diverse,” claims Davison, “Steampunk isn’t just about fiction any more, and it isn’t just for fans.”

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Comic-Con 2012: Hall H film panels announced

Milla Jovovich returns with guns a blazin’ as Alice in “Resident Evil: Retribution.” Credit: Screen Gems

Comic-Con 2012 is less than a week away, and if you’re one of the 130,000 or so lucky folks clutching one of the most coveted tickets in geekdom, then you must certainly be getting excited for what is certain to be an out-of-this-world adventure!

In San Diego Convention Center’s cavernous Hall H — where Comic-Con traditionally previews upcoming movies with trailers and panel sessions — a full roster of programming has been announced that is sure to tickle the fancy of any sci-fi fan. Several major studios are once again pulling out all the stops and bringing in a bevy of producers, directors and stars to talk about their films. To the delight of fans, some Comic-Con sessions even include previews of movies still in the making, which helps to contribute to that unique “insider” feeling which permeates the largest pop culture convention in the United States.

Some highlights of the scheduled Hall H programming follows:

“Frankenweenie” movie poster, Credit: Walt Disney Pictures

Walt Disney Pictures is bringing director Tim Burton to Hall H on Thursday, July 12 to host a Q&A for “Frankenweenie,” Now a full-length black-and-white stop motion 3D animated film, “Frankenweenie” is a remake of Burton’s own 1984 animated sci-fi short of the same name. This touching tale of an ambitious boy scientist and his reanimated pup stars the voice talents of Winona Ryder, Martin Short, Catherine O’Hara, Martin Landau and Christopher Lee, among others.

Screen Gems is presenting a 3D preview of “Resident Evil: Retribution” on Friday, July 13, as well as hosting a panel discussion in Hall H from 4:05 – 4:35 p.m. The movie’s stars Milla Jovovich, Michelle Rodriguez, Oded Fehr, Boris Kodjoe, Mika Nakashima and director Paul W.S. Anderson are scheduled to appear at the panel to talk about the making of this 5th installment in the highly successful “Resident Evil” film series.

“Pacific Rim’ movie poster. Credit: Warner Bros./Legendary Pictures

On Saturday, July 14, Director Guillermo del Toro, Charlie Hunnam, Charlie Day, Rinko Kikuchi and Ron Perlman will be appearing in Hall H at 2:30 p.m. for a panel on “Pacific Rim,” the Warner Bros./Legendary Pictures film scheduled to open July 12, 2013. This sci-fi action adventure film has been described as a homage to Japanese giant monster films, or in Del Toro’s own words, “It’s really a very, very beautiful poem to giant monsters. Giant monsters versus giant robots. Twenty-five-story-high robots beating the crap out of 25-story-high monsters.”

Marvel Studios is set to take the stage in Hall H on Saturday, July 14 at 6:00 p.m., when producer Kevin Feige and some as yet unannounced “special guests” are supposed to “provide an inside look at the ever-expanding Marvel Cinematic Universe.” If past Comic-Con panels are any indication, this may well include a sneak peek of raw footage from “Iron Man 3” which started filming in North Carolina in May of this year.

First official set photo from “Iron Man 3.” Credit: Marvel Studios/Disney

Arthur Darvill, Matt Smith and Karen Gillan are set to appear at the BBC America Doctor Who panel at Comic-Con. Photo credit: BBC

And on Sunday, July 15, BBC America’s Doctor Who himself, Matt Smith, along with Karen Gillan, Arthur Darvill and executive producers Steven Moffat and Caroline Skinner, will appear for a “Doctor Who” Comic-Con panel and Q&A session. Back in March, Moffat tweeted: “Amy & Rory will leave in a final encounter with the Weeping Angels in Episode 5. Not everyone gets out alive, and I mean it this time.” Fans will most probably be treated to some new footage from the season premiere and perhaps get a few insights concerning the Ponds’ sad but expected departure mid-season.

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