Voltaire is a Renaissance man for the convention circuit. An animator, comic book creator and toy designer, he has a lot of reasons to hit up events like San Diego Comic-Con. But Voltaire's best known occupation, the one that brought the Con crowd out of the Gaslamp Quarter and into North Park venue Queen Bee's last Saturday night, is musician.
Voltaire writes witty songs that reference everything from goth culture to Star Trek. If you've ever been involved in the goth scene, or go to a lot of conventions, you probably already know his music. Even if those aren't your scenes, though, you might have heard him on episodes of The Grim Adventure of Billy & Mandy. While he does play the usual club gigs, cons have become an important part of his tour schedule.
“Playing at cons is fantastic,” says Voltaire. “I'm a dork. I'm a geek. I love science fiction and horror. That's what I tend to write songs about. People who come to conventions get what I'm about.”
Unlike other events, though, at Comic-Con, Voltaire plays offsite gigs, since the Con doesn't feature musical guests.
“San Diego broke down once and gave me a conference room,” he recalls. “I kept hammering them for years. I play at Dragon*Con, give me a stage and a mic, please, I beg you. They gave me a conference room and I showed up and it was a conference room that held 30 people and there was a little mic attached to the table, so I had to do my show bending over, singing into the mic, and there were like 200 people there, 30 were in the room.”
At offsite gigs, he says, the crowds tend to draw more locals who aren't necessarily at the main event.
“People don't want to leave the convention,” he explains. “Every time I've played in San Diego while here for Comic-Con, I think most of the people are locals who are not going to Comic-Con. This might be the first time that's not true because this venue is closer to the convention and, also, this event is specifically a steampunk event. So, I think that a lot of people who are flying in from Comic-Con who are steampunk aficionados made the special effort to leave the convention and come here.”
Voltaire has been attending the Con since the 1990s, at first to promote his comic book Chi-Chian (which was recently optioned for film). This year, he was there to promote his evil teddy bear character, Deady, which has been made into a Deady/Stitch (as in Lilo & Stitch) vinyl toy.
“It's one of my favorite Deady Toys that's ever been made,” he says.
He spent much of his weekend signing at the Toy Tokyo booth, chatting with friends and fans while playing some of his music in the booth.
Voltaire can get a lot done at Comic-Con, but it has its drawbacks.
“Comic-Con is obviously just a giant convention, which is no longer about comic books,” he says. “It's about the major studios showcasing their films and Brad Pitt coming down to say hello to people.”
He adds, “At 6 p.m., everyone gets kicked out and you're on your own. If you're invited to the Lucasfilm party, hey, good for you. But all the other schmucks, like myself, are like having a drink at the Mexican restaurant in the Gaslamp district.”
His favorite con, he says, is Dragon*Con, which takes place in Atlanta on Labor Day Weekend.
“Dragon*Con never shuts downs,” he says. “There's something to do for 24 hours for four days. That's why it will always be the number one con in my heart.”
He's been a performer there for eleven years straight, often playing two or three nights in a row for crowds of up to 4,000. He typically has a film in the convention festival and often MCs a few events and sits on a toy panel.
“They work me to death,” he jokes. “It's 96 hours long and I'm probably working for 90 of those hours, but I love it. I love it so much. It's easily, hands-down, my favorite convention in which to perform.”
This year, Voltaire stopped by L.A.'s own Anime Expo. He didn't perform, but he was able to scope the scene.
“It blew my mind,” he says. “The thing about AX that shocked me was that at Dragon*Con and Comic-Con, there were literally thousands of people wearing costumes, but at AX, I think everybody was wearing a costume. The ratio of people not wearing a costume was like one to a thousand and that is shocking and wonderful. I must admit, I wish I was performing.”