I was a little excited when I sent in my angry letter about Comic-Con to Entertainment Weekly on the 2nd because I received an email back from an editor saying that they were considering printing my letter in the “Feedback” section of their 1116/1117 issue and needed to verify the spelling of my name and address. I was less excited when I received their current issue in the mail yesterday to discover that they didn’t print ANY “Feedback” in this double-sized issue. Because when you have the room for twice your usual content, the first thing you jettison are the thoughts and opinions of your readers and subscribers.
Regarding your coverage of this year’s Comic-Con, until the organizers finally get around to changing the name to the much-more-appropriate “PopCon” or “MarketingCon”, could you at least expand your San Diego Comic-Con coverage to add some information on, you know, actual comics? Yes, you covered Green Lantern, Thor, and Smallville, but where was any coverage on the actual comics on which those were based? Despite being perplexed why shows like Community and Sons of Anarchy are even showcased at a genre-based convention, Comic-Con is still popular for those of us who eschew Hall H and Ballroom 20 because some of the most fascinating things go on in panels on the other side of the building (e.g., Berkeley Breathed discussing sources of inspiration or Grant Morrison talking about the kinkier parts of Batman’s 75 year history). Your title is Entertainment Weekly but you seem to forget that some of us are still quite entertained, weekly, by the wonderful characters and worlds that come out of a century-old medium composed of sequential art panels telling good stories (or as professor Henry Jenkins put it in one woefully under-attended panel “comics are the R&D branch of the entertainment industry.”)
(additional links are all mine, because if you’re not going to hyper-annotate your blog, why bother?)
Comic-Con Day One, otherwise known as Tron Day!!! Yes, after two years of teasing with concept art and LARPs, Tron his Comic-Con in full force this year. Preparing for this, we decided that Thursday would be the day we committed to standing in line for the Hall H, where the H stands for “Hell”. We had tried to get to bed early on Wednesday night, although we had to stay up to wait for the arrival of Lisa, the final fourth in our fantastic group. Lisa had worked in the art department of Tron, so she also shares my love of light cycles and glowing discs. Landall, fueled by his new-found Comic-Con enthusiasm, agreed to wake up early, take the first shuttle down to the convention center and hold our place in the Hall H line while we three got up, got dressed, had a nutritious breakfast (it’s the most important meal of the day, especially at Comic-Con when you may not get to eat anything but nachos for 12 or more hours) before jumping on our own shuttle to head down.
We arrived at the Hall H line, which was considerably more civilized than previous years since the organizers installed enormous canopies to cover the line-up area. It was like attending a ridiculously large wedding where you never got to see the bride and groom and if you left the line to pee, you’d never be let back in to the party. The line-waiting was as excruciating as it may seem because it’s only Day One and we were more excited than exhausted. Got to meet some friends of Kevin’s in line and generally get a lay of the land (fewer Cos Play enthusiasts than expected). As we were standing, a young gentleman came through the line, asked if we were waiting for the Tron panel (natch!) and handed us little cards with a “666” on it and said that they were to be used in exchange for a gift at the end of the panel. oooooo-kay. Tossed it into the bag and back to chatting to kill time. We weren’t sure if we could actually get IN to the 6000+ seat room, but after only two hours (!) of waiting, in we went.
Unlike last year, where we had to sit through the several long panels (including the <ugh> Twilight panel) to get to the Avatar panel, this year Summit Entertainment spared us a Twilight attraction and there was only one panel to sit through before Tron, MegaMind. MegaMind will be coming out this fall and stars Will Ferrell, Tina Fey, Jonah Hill and Brad Pitt. Everyone but Brad hauled their asses down to San Diego to try to drum up some buzz for this movie, which honestly looks cute and plays off the concept of “what if the buffoonish villain (Ferrell) actually one” (which explains why Brad didn’t bother to come down; evidently he dies in the first reel. Ooops, spoilers.) It’s a Dreamworks animation picture, which means that the heart has been ignored to be replaced with pop culture references, not a bad move for the Comic-Con crowd (note that Pixar doesn’t bring their stuff here). It’s clearly a “we’ll wait for the reviews to come out” sort of flick.
11:00 a.m. and finally the main event — Tron:Legacy! Yes, for this I missed one of the LGBT panels, I’m that excited! Disney pulls out all the stops, bringing in all the stars (Jeff Bridges, Olivia Wilde, Michael Sheen and Garrett Hedlund (who plays Flynn’s son)) as well as director Joseph Kosinski and Tron director, Steven Lisberger. Moderator Patton Oswalt is the best anyone could ask for, which is why Disney brings him back year after year. He’s clear proof that having a comedian moderate your panel is a sure way to get the audience pumped and keep things moving along. We’re shown 8 minutes of footage, mostly how Flynn’s son, Sam, gets sucked into the Game Grid and how he is assimilated into the world of Tron. By necessity, most of these eight minutes had to focus on Mr. Hedlund, who has had a short resume up until now. While I’d like to chalk it up to “wow-green-screen-acting-is-tough” syndrome, it is safe to say that Hedlund’s acting is . . . well, he wins the Jake Lloyd award for sucking the life off of the screen and out of the movie. It was clear that the marketers were expecting an eruption of fanboy hoots and hollers at the end of the clip and what they got, unfortunately, was closer to polite applause. Hardly the kind of enthusiasm to generate great amounts of buzz. Seemingly like a remedy to this almost-anticipated reaction to the footage, Joe Kosinski then took the mic to explain that they wanted to set a Guinness World Record for most number of people ever directed by one director.
Representatives from Skywalker Sound were in the room to record crowd noises that were going to be conducted by Kosinski (along with the help of a “follow the bouncing ball” animation on-screen) and these sounds were going to be (allegedly) mixed in the final print of the film for the massive coliseum fight scenes. We spent the next ten minutes being directed in chants like “DISK WARS! DISK WARS!” and “DE-REZ! DE-REZ!” and stomping, cheering, etc. It is a testament to both Comic-Con attendees and the savvy of Disney marketers that the 6000+ people in Hall H took this whole thing with DEADLY SERIOUSNESS. Man, I love that about Comic-Con.
As this was still the Disney panel, the Tron folks moved on and Patton Oswalt continued to talk about other Disney properties. He asked the audience “if there was one Disney property that you would like to see remade or rebooted, what would it be? Well, clearly he should have stipulated that he meant recent Disney property since we all shouted “THE BLACK HOLE!”. Alas, no, (although there IS a Black Hole remake in the works to be directed by Joe Kosinski). No, this is Comic-Con and the place for major studio announcements. Patton turns the panel on its head to announce that Disney will remake/reboot the Haunted Mansion movie, but it will no longer be an Eddie Murphy starring comedy, but an actual horror movie produced by Guillermo Del Toro.
And those cards we were handed in line? Evidently there were only 999 of them (to mirror the “999 Haunts” that are in residence in Disney’s Haunted Mansion) and we can trade them in for signed and numbered exclusive lithographs of this awesome poster by Ragnar. Now THIS is what I love about Comic-Con: exclusives that you get just by being in attendance, not because you stood in line to buy something.
While Lisa wanted to stay in Hall H for the Entertainment Weekly “Visionaries” panel, Kevin and I risked our spots in the big hall to run out to the main convention center to grab our limited edition posters. more line waiting. Clearly, the impression that Kevin-the-first-timer is getting is that Comic-Con is all about lines and he’s not too wrong.
With our posters in hand, we immediately high tailed it back to Hall H to try to get in for the Visionaries panel (which this year featured J.J. Abrams and Joss Whedon). Nearly two more hours in line and we just barely made it in for the panel, which was kind of worth it. Joss made “official” the worst kept secret in Hollywood, that he was directing The Avengers and they pretty much geeked out on each other’s work. By the time they were done with the panel, we were done with Hall H.
After a full day of movie panels, we were in desperate need of sustenance and headed into the Gaslamp Quarter in search of food. This is proof of why Los Angeles and Anaheim will be hard pressed to host Comic-Con after 2012; there is just no comparable food/hotel center for either of those cities’ Convention Centers. On our way to get food, we ran into my friend and fellow student Daniel Ponce, who had just gotten his entrance ticket into Flynn’s Arcade by participating in the Tron LARP that has been going on for months. By following a specific Twitter feed, players were directed to a specific coordinate in the Gaslamp district at approximately half-hour intervals. Once there, players were required to snap a cell phone picture of themselves with a Tron-related item in the background (typically a poster that had just been posted minutes before) and then run to a second set of coordinates to check in with Disney employees. Dan mentioned that since he had just completed one set, another one was bound to happen in about thirty minutes, so he recommended we hang around the Gaslamp and wait. Sure enough, in half an hour, we read the feed and Lisa, Kevin and I were off to the coordinates. Since we weren’t coming up all the way from the Con, we were among the first to get there and received our Flynn’s Arcade entrance passes along with a glow-in-the-dark Identity Disc. Geek Swag!!!
The experience of Flynn’s Arcade (which Lisa and I had done last year) deserves its own post, so I’ll be filling that in shortly.
Okay, so this will be posted in the correct chronological order, but let’s face it — Comic-Con is FAR too busy and excited to be able to blog in any reasonable way from there. So I will now, almost two weeks later, with the help of images and my ever-faltering memory reconstruct and post my thoughts on Comic-Con 2010 based on my personal experiences.
The best thing for me about Comic-Con 2010 was that I got to experience it with fresh eyes. Two very important people in my life, my friend, Landall Goolsby and my partner, Kevin Fabian, were attending Comic-Con for the first time ever. Both huge comic geeks, it was a little shocking that this was their first year to make the trek down to San Diego for the annual event, but sometimes you just have to wait for the fates to get you in the right place with the right people at the right time.
The first thing I noticed about Comic-Con this year was that San Diego is CLEARLY trying to hold on to this convention with as much will as it can muster. From setting up shuttles to and from the very-distant hotels in Mission Valley (which made being stuck staying that far from the convention a little more bearable) to converting all of the Trolley signs into Klingon, the city came out for the Geeks with a hearty “PLEASE KEEP SPENDING YOUR MONEY HERE.” A recent survey reported that Comic-Con generates over $163 million for the San Diego economy, so of course the city is going to go out of its way to keep the convention for as long as it can.
Preview night with newbies is a blast. No matter how long and hard I tried to initiate them into and warn them about the madness that is Comic-Con, they still disregard me and shrug me off . . . until they actually get here. And they were lucky: with the limitation on tickets for preview night this year, the exhibition floor was not nearly as packed or insane as it has been in other years.
We stayed mostly on the “comics” side of the floor, eschewing the southern end of the hall where the TV, movie and game booths tend to be set up. It always amazes me how much quieter it is at the north end, where the focus is primarily print media and collectibles. Kevin and I did head for the Mattel booth because we wanted to snag the convention exclusive (and brilliantly funny) Wonder Woman Hot Wheels Invisible Jet. Arriving at the booth, I WAS able to recite the Green Lantern oath at a power battery, but I was using my Legion Flight Ring, so I didn’t get much of a charge. Also, the Mattel shop line was characteristically and excruciatingly long, so we were told to come back tomorrow morning (and given special passes to do so at 11:00 a.m.) Our plans to stand in line for Hall H to see Tron might be in jeopardy . . .
Giving up on Mattel, Landall wanted to (and I could not disagree with him) to hang out at the DC Comics booth, which we tend to regard as some sort of holy land. Landall and I are staunch DCs, whereas Kevin is much more bi, preferring the company of Marvel as well as DC. I forgive him for those transgressions. We moved on from the DC booth to explore the lay of the land, as is appropriate for preview night. Many sales were going on in a lot of booths; I’m not sure if the vendors thought that they wouldn’t make may sales this year or not because of the economy, but with fanboys saving up all year for this event, the money didn’t seem to be too much of an issue. Landall picked up some items, I bought a few action figures (mostly to get a rare Wonder Woman for Kev, but I also picked up a female Dr. Light and a Psycho Pirate. Awesome.) and Kevin bought himself a very sweet Green Lantern jacket to replace the brown and tan one seen in these pictures.
9:00 p.m. cam quickly and it was back to the car to drive out to Hotel Circle to get to bed. Thursday is Tron day and therefore is a day requiring lots of rest.