The El Paso Comic Controversy

The El Paso Comic ControversyEl Paso Comic Con has been the subject of a number of complaints by attendees and professionals. And some equally robust responses from the show organisers.

ABC 7 KVIA reports, regarding Michael Biehn of Terminator, The Abyss and Aliens, and his wife, Jennifer Blanc-Biehn.

The couple said the promoter of the show, Julian Lawler, did not fulfill the terms of their contract. A copy of the contract, which was shown to ABC-7. stated Biehn was guaranteed to be paid $12,000 by the promoter at the official end of EP-CON.

"They stiffed us for $6,500," Biehn said in a phone conversation late Sunday night. "We were irate and unhappy. I sat for three hours after the time I was supposed to leave, waiting to get paid. I've done a lot of these shows and never been ripped off. I have a contract with Julian."

Things got heated with Jennifer having words with Lawler.

"He (Lawler) kept sending this heavy-set guy to move me around. I got into it with him. No punches were thrown but the police got called in," Biehn said of his confrontation with a man he said was about 6-foot-2 and 230 pounds. "I sat with police officers for about three hours, waiting to get paid."

Lawler had his own version;

Lawler said he tried to pay Biehn but that Biehn didn't want to be paid how Lawler was going to pay him.

"We were trying to pay him early but he didn't want to take a check," Lawler said in a phone conversation late Sunday night. "We were using our revenue to pay some of the actors. Our attendance wasn't as great as I thought it would be and he didn't want to take a check. He wanted cash. So I paid the other actors and by the time, I guess he changed his mind, I was out of funds. So I'll have to pay him later."

Lawler said Biehn would be paid in the next few days when the event is streamed.

"So we should be fine. We'll get caught up," Lawler said.

But there is further controvery over just how things got physical.

"Talking to the Biehns, they're not exactly the nicest people on the block," Lawler said by phone. "They had a confrontation with the event manager at the convention center."

Biehn said Carol McNeal was the one cutting checks for the event and that she was "rude." McNeal is director of Facility Sales and Marketing for the El Paso Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB) which operates the convention center.

"She's very nasty," Biehn said. "Rarely have I ever been treated that way. We were just trying to be paid and sitting there."

CVB officials issued a statement Monday afternoon disputing Biehn's assertion that McNeal was rude to him.

"This is not factual. Ms. McNeal at no time spoke with Mr. Biehn or had any direct or indirect interactions with him. Ms. McNeal is only responsible for approving payments made from box office funds and is not involved in Mr. Lawler's obligations or his failure to pay the talent. As reported by KVIA, Mr. Biehn was physically aggressive with venue event staff, at one point forcing his way in to the secured venue box office. Police were brought in to help secure the box office and prevent further aggressive actions towards venue staff.," according to the CVB statement.

But it's not just Biehn who has issues;


Late last week it was announced that Dave Prowse, the actor who physically portrayed Darth Vader in the Star Wars films would not be making it to EP-CON even though he had been featured on event fliers and on the event's website and Facebook page for months.

Early Wednesday, EP-CON organizers announced via their Facebook page that Marina Sirtis, Prowse, and McKenzie Westmore were no longer coming, as well.

"McKenzie Westmore is still filming Face/Off and cannot get away….even though she made every attempt to attend. It's unfortunate but we still have plenty of awesome guests!" the Facebook post stated.

Prowse, however, told a different story.

"Please note Dave is not appearing at EPCON in El Paso," a statement read on Prowse's website on Wednesday. "Dave had not heard anything from the organizer and we removed the event from this appearance page ages ago. The show organizer has been aware that Dave is not a guest at the show for a while. We sent several requests to the organizer to inform ticket buyers that Dave is not attending the show so that fans do not show up to see Dave and be disappointed. They did not do that. We requested again today that they post something to ticket buyers and they posted that Dave is a last minute cancellation, which is not true. We posted an explanation to fans on the EPCON facebook page, but our post was deleted and we are now blocked from posting the explanation again. If you are a ticket holder for this show, please accept Dave's apologies for any inconvenience caused, but this is the fault of the organizer and not Mr. Prowse."

A later post on EP-CON's Facebook page elaborated on Prowse not appearing at the convention.

"For the record, Dave Prowse did not cancel on EPCON 2012….we've hand some problems with his overall arrangements and we knew for some time that his trip was not going to be possible….but we held out hoping it could be arranged last minute. But alas….it didn't work out. All of our obligations to the Sith Lord will be met and hopefully we can schedule him another visit to the Sun City. Stay tuned!" EP-CON said in a Facebook status.

While Julian Lawler seemed to disappear on ABC 7, he later issued a statement reported by El Paso Inc;

The People vs El Paso Comic Con

There has been a lot of commotion and drama surrounding El Paso Comic Con beginning with Dave Prowse and ending with reports of Michael Biehn not getting paid. As an entity we have remained silent and tried to stay out of it but it seems we cannot continue without releasing some kind of statement….

Michael Biehn was offered a chance to get paid FIRST…..they threw a fit because it was going to be a check and not CASH (although it was never stated in the contract it had to be cash). When they realized they were at the tail end of the process they decided to take the money and run but it was too late. Due to low attendance we didn't have enough funds to pay him his fees anymore. Its at this point that not only was he threatening to me, he proceeded to try and break into the ticketmaster office and assaulted the event manager from the El Paso Convention Center. He almost got arrested (three times) except I, Julian Lawler, asked the convention center staff not to have him arrested. I explained I didn't want it coming out Michael Biehn was arrested in El Paso. It was an hour or so later the convention center staff had me escorted out of the building.

On another note, I would like to address all the negativity on our FB page. Some of the special guests at the convention were very aware of what was transpiring on the El Paso Comic Con FB page. All the bad comments and negativity didn't make them feel welcomed at all. One in particular remarked, "don't they know this is a national event?"

Apparently not….

We have worked tirelessly for three years on this event and have made very little money (we've continued working diligently even when others have benefitted the most because we know what this event could potentially mean to the city). Everyone on the staff still has a full time job….And I think it's a disservice to them and everyone else who has worked extremely hard to bring this phenomenon to the Sun City and have them accused of being greedy. $35 dollars for three days averages out to $11.67 a day. The $40 dollar price for Saturday was to give everyone an incentive to attend ALL three days because every day has its own events. We have dedicated our services to all the local artists, bands, vendors and dancers who make this event happen. If you're only concern are the actors then the point was missed.

With that being said, on behalf of our family of partners and sponsors, El Paso Comic Con would like to thank the 3400 attendees who came out and supported. You're the die-hards, the people that get it and we salute you. EPCON works for you and your passion.

In the case of the people vs El Paso Comic Con….they know who they chose.

Til further notice…..

Signing out,

Julian Lawler

One attendee told Bleeding Cool, "Myself and others paid good money to attend this event and feel ripped off.  I feel fans and talent were cheated by Mr. Lawler."

Running a comic onvention can be a massive undertaking, all sorts of things can and do go wrong, and there can be pkenty of criticism from those who don't understand the circumstances of the complexity. However Lawler's statements to seem to blinkered, and lacking in understanding from other people's perspectives… more on this to come, I feel.

About Rich Johnston

Founder of Bleeding Cool. The longest-serving digital news reporter in the world, since 1992. Author of The Flying Friar, Holed Up, The Avengefuls, Doctor Who: Room With A Deja Vu, The Many Murders Of Miss Cranbourne, Chase Variant. Lives in South-West London, works from Blacks on Dean Street, shops at Piranha Comics. Father of two. Political cartoonist.

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