Author Archive



“Which Side Are You On?” — This Winter’s Pensacola and Lexington Cons

John "Dak" Morton | April 8, 2014

John Dak Morton with the 501st

One of the last conversations I have at the March 2014 Lexington Comic & Toy Convention is with a miner from Eastern Kentucky. He comes to my table with his teenage daughter, a pretty cosplayer all decked out in pink, heels a tad too high for her rail-thin legs. A rugged, handsome man, he says proudly he’s a fracker who has coal-mined all his life — except during the years when he had an unhappy experience out West working in oil and gas. “It was crazy out there,” he says. He’s glad to be back in Kentucky, in coal.

“Which Side Are You On?” is a protest song from the late 1930s famously covered by Pete Seeger. The legendary folksinger/activist left us this winter at the age of 94. As one who began his entertainment career in the early Sixties as a Greenwich Village-inspired folkie, I regard Seeger, along with Woody Guthrie and Ramblin’ Jack Elliott, as one of my pre-Bob Dylan Yodas. The song is about a 1931 miners’ strike in Harlan, Kentucky. It was in fact written by a coal miner’s daughter, Florence Reece, who was also the wife of one of the strike organizers. The Eastern Kentucky Coalfield also spawned another folkie, Jean Ritchie — and well-known country music artists like coal miner-daughter Loretta Lynn, Crystal Gayle, The Judds, Ricky Skaggs, Keith Whitley, Patty Loveless, Dwight Yoaka, and Billy Ray Cyrus, Miley’s dad.

So, which side are you on? Well, Dak’s a Rebel. Those of you familiar with his backstory know he was raised in captivity in the Kalist VI labor colony. As a teenager, he worked in a mine as a laser drill operator blasting away one of the ores that is a constituent of transparisteel.

Recently I have been asking fans at conventions that very question. In February, Peter Mayhew, Daniel Logan, and I were in Pensacola, Florida, at Pensacon. The first day, we three were on a Star Wars panel before a packed house of fans, and I put it to them. The show of hands indicated: 30 percent Imperials, 30 percent Rebels and 30 percent Underground, consistent with what I have found in my previous surveys.

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Shake Hands with the Money: Remembering David Tomblin, First Assistant Director

John "Dak" Morton | March 5, 2014

David Tomblin with Carrie Fisher on the set of Return of the Jedi

He was a bear of a man. Big men — gaffers and grips — worked for him and did so with the greatest of affection. Broad and full were his shoulders, carried high, pushed tight against the neck. With his barrel-chest, he squeezed his words through the back of his throat and nostrils, as is the manner of those suburban London lads that communicates controlled authority, experienced professionalism. In tributes after he died in 2005 at the age of 74, he was lauded as the finest and most respected first assistant director in the world. Around the time he AD’d Return of the Jedi, he reckoned he had done 478 films. In a previous post, I characterized him as a great who orchestrated symphonies out of chaos. This time, I’m going as far as to say that David Tomblin was the greatest first assistant ever.

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Somewhere in the Ventilation Shaft: Bounty Hunter Reunion At RICC

John "Dak" Morton | November 25, 2013

BountyHunters

By skybridges and streets, according to event organizer Steve Perry, well over 30,000 attendees descended on Providence’s Rhode Island Convention Center to gather at the 2013 Rhode Island Comic Con. Among a huge list of media guests and artists, Perry featured what he billed as a “very, very rare bounty hunters reunion.” Several jumped across The Pond via the Leisure Corridor. Dak made the transit north from Tierfon on the I-95 hyperlane, re-entering realspace somewhere to the west to stay at the baronial hall of a local lord and lady (a noted paleontologist pair) on the Waterman Reservoir. Headlining the con was the debonair onetime gambler and baron administrator of Cloud City, Lando Calrissian. RICC proved to be an epic Underworld gathering.

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An NYCC Snapshot of the Ever-Expanding Star Wars Universe

John "Dak" Morton | October 24, 2013

Dak approves The Making of Return of the Jedi

Rebels and Imperials converged on Gotham earlier this month for the New York Comic Con at the West Side’s Javits Center. The convergence from both Core World and Outer Rim gave evidence of the ever-expanding Star Wars universe as we continue moving into the new century and another generation.

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BayouCon 2013: Ch-Changes Up on Cripple Creek with Steampunk Han, Leia, and Chewie

John "Dak" Morton | September 20, 2013

Last time he was in Lake Charles, Louisiana, Dak had just escaped from Kalist VI and was on the run from the Empire. Eastbound on a Greyhound out of Houston on US Route 90, he was making for an unintended rendezvous with a hurricane in the Big Easy. If you don’t get part of the reference in the title, put on some cans, click on Levon Helm, turn up the gain, and as you read on, enjoy the ride.

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The “Joyous Familiarity” That Was Essen

John "Dak" Morton | September 4, 2013

Some weeks after returning to Tierfon from Essen and Celebration Europe in Germany, I found myself one Sunday morning surfing onto the YouTube post of the “Words with Warwick” interview with Anthony Daniels. After a couple of minutes of requisite entertainment banter, Warwick Davis draws some excellent and thoughtful insights from Anthony on Star Wars as popular culture which I plan to reference in a future post or two. C-3PO expresses to his talented and ever-engaging host excited surprise over the number of Russian fans he encountered at CE to reinforce his point on how Star Wars has become a part of worldwide popular culture where fans and entertainers share a “joyous familiarity.”

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Becoming Boba: Coming to Terms with an Alter Ego

John "Dak" Morton | August 1, 2013

John Horton as Boba Fett

At Dak’s first Star Wars convention appearance back in 1997, a young fan, maybe 11, comes to his table and asks him to sign his Boba Fett photo. You know the one. Boba’s with Vader, Lando and Lobot in the passageway outside the carbon freezing chamber. Unsure of the protocol, Dak doesn’t know how to respond to this request. Several tables to his right at an angle facing him, Jeremy Bulloch is signing. Dak tells this young fellow to go ask permission from Jeremy. “He is Boba Fett. If he says it’s okay, then I’m good to sign your photo.” Several minutes later the lad makes it to the front of Jeremy’s line; they have a brief exchange; Jeremy looks Dak’s way and gives him the thumbs-up.

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Report on Dallas Comic Con 2013: Worlds in Collusion

John "Dak" Morton | June 27, 2013

501 induction
In the title of her June 14 post, Lucasfilm’s Jennifer Heddle used the term “worlds collide” that prompted me to comment. Check it. I wrote that “worlds in collision” was to be in the title of this post, musings on Ben Stevens and Philip Wise’s Dallas Comic Con, a hugely successful event in May that drew 26,000 fans. Since I am blogging, as opposed to doing straight reportage, may I digress for a moment?

When Worlds Collide is a classic sci-fi film referenced in “Science Fiction/Double Feature,” the opening number of The Rocky Horror Show. (Yes, I worked on that musical in 1974-76 while it ran at The King’s Road Theatre in London’s Chelsea, but that is another story.) At the time, I knew EVERY line in the show — “But when worlds collide, said George Pal to his bride, I’m gonna give you some terrible thrills.” Worlds in Collision was a controversial book written two decades earlier by Immanuel Velikovsky. I read it in the early ’70s. So there’s my riff on Jen’s allusion.

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Dak Discovered

John "Dak" Morton | June 3, 2013

dak

Way back in the ’90s, a suburban dad was single-parenting his two daughters. He was the president of their elementary school’s parent-teacher organization, fortunate enough to have a boss who let him work his own hours, and as long as he got his work done, he was able to be there for his girls. Most willingly and joyfully, he gave himself over to the task.

At home, elementary school artwork adorned the walls of the entrance, the corridor to the bedrooms, the kitchen. Music filled the house, played from the large boombox on the kitchen table. Weekday mornings started at full volume: Chuck Berry’s “School Days.” A musician in his salad days, this dad maintained his chops on Sundays as a rhythm guitarist for a gospel group led by the lead guitarist who had spent the better part of his professional career in New Orleans. The lead singer was a Texan, a Navy man, a soul singer who played sax locally in Tierfon in the Navy Band. The material was, dare we say, Force-ful. Wedded to this routine, this dad presumed to lead an uncomplicated life and stay out of trouble. Then came 1997.

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Dak Survives Hoth, Heads to the Star Ladies’ 1998 Convention

John "Dak" Morton | May 20, 2013

Group pic

“I’m dead!” read the button pinned on me when I entered a hotel suite at the Hilton Arlington in Northern Virginia on a sunny Saturday morning in March 1998. According to the “Rebel Pilot Reunion” article in Star Wars Insider (Issue number 32, Winter 1996), I’d been missing since the Battle of Hoth, presumed to have been killed in action. Not so. Such rumors were greatly exaggerated. But they can lead to serendipitous resurrections.

Sometime after my resurrection, I’d been a guest at Ben Stevens’ DFW Toy Show in Plano, Texas. Managing the autograph line was Denise Clarkston, an exercise physiologist who is now with Ben’s Official Pix, the folks who book the “talent” for Celebrations. Denise invited me to be her guest at a Washington convention of the Star Ladies, one of three fan organizations that are now Club Jade. In 1998, their third annual con was in DC during the run of the Smithsonian National Air & Space Museum’s “The Magic of Myth” Exhibition.

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