Every once in a while, you meet someone whom you just love. Now don’t get any weird ideas. I don’t mean an attraction/lustful love, or falling in love love, or even a stalkery, I-wanna-find-out-everything-about-the-person love. I mean, the person is just genuinely cool and nice, and you simply can’t help but feel a kind of admiration and affection for him or her. Does that ever happen to you? Although rare, it has happened to me, most recently with one of this year’s Wizard World’s Austin Comic Con attendees. Before I get into this year’s event, I should provide you with a little backstory.
Two years ago, I attended my first Comic Con in Austin Texas. At the time, I only went because I wanted to get a glimpse of some never-before-seen footage from a film on which I had worked that was showing at the convention. I had no idea that I would enjoy the Con as much as I did. I guess it proves that sometimes you have to open the door to let the geek waiting on your doorstep inside. This particular year, Ray Park was one of the guests. I know you’re thinking, “Who?” Ray Park played Edgar in “Heroes”, Toad in “X-Men”, Snake Eyes in “GI Joe”, and the most popular of his characters, Darth Maul in “Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace”, and in my humble opinion he was the best part of that entire film by a longshot. After attending his panel where he talked about Halloween costumes, being cut in half in the film, and various other topics, I realized I had to meet this great guy. Apparently, everyone else attending the panel felt the same way because his autograph line was consistently longer than almost everyone else’s for the remainder of the Con. After waiting for what seemed like an eternity, I had my opportunity. We talked briefly about old Hong Kong movies, of which we are both fans, and when I left, I felt like I’d just met someone really special.
Fast-forward to last weekend. I decided to attend my second Comic Con because I wanted to see “The Walking Dead” and “The Boondock Saints” panels. I was unaware that Ray Park would be in attendance, but when I saw his name on the schedule, I felt a little happier. I decided I wouldn’t be able to leave the Con without going through his autograph line again. To my amazement, he actually remembered meeting me before! I’d like to think that I had left such an amazing impression on him, but the truth is I think he’s just the kind of guy who remembers people.
This time around, I asked him about the rather frightful scar on his neck that I noticed while awaiting my turn to speak with him. Originally from Scotland, he was once jumped by 10 guys, one of whom slit his neck with a box cutter that was so sharp, he didn’t feel the cut at the time. Crediting martial arts with saving his life, Ray Park seems to enjoy educating people about it during his panels.
Case in point, two years ago during the Q&A, a young boy learning martial arts asked for some pointers. To the audience’s delight, Ray Park called him down to the front, asked the child to show him what he could do, and gave him some tips. Aww, how sweet. At the end of the long-running, and highly entertaining Q&A session, one man remained to ask the “final” question. When the man explained he was a martial artist but was never able to properly perform a roundhouse kick and hoped Mr. Park would assist him, the audience groaned. Sure it was cute when a little boy asked, but when a grown man did it, people just thought that’d be the end of the session and Ray Park would leave and tell stories about the ridiculous questions Austinites asked. To everyone’s surprise, though, Mr. Park encouraged the man to come down to the front, and spent a good 5 minutes demonstrating and explaining the correct techniques. At the end of it, the man was able to successfully execute a roundhouse kick, and both men received thunderous applause for the outcome.
This year, the Q&A was sadly too short but still entertaining with Ray Park’s stories, impersonations, and answers to a variety of questions. He even responded favorably when asked to demonstrate some Darth Maul moves. I recorded this demonstration on a very basic, non-professional camera, so the footage and sound are not great, but if you pay attention you should be able to hear well enough. Enjoy!
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