Recap: Comic-Con 2010
My 2010 Comic-Con Scrapbook
Tuesday, July 27, 2010
Credit: Tony Weidinger
The dust has settled on yet another Comic-Con and it’s taken me a couple days to recuperate from Con 2010 and reflect back on the experience. Here are some favorite memories and photos.
Let me begin at the end. As I was leaving the Con on Sunday night, I stopped to chat with David Glanzer, Comic-Con’s director of marketing and publicity. After dealing with hundreds of press people, an “incident” in Hall H, demanding film studios, and who knows what other crap, the first thing Glanzer asked me was, “Did your son have a good time?” To me that sums up why the Con is so fun: it’s run by a group of great people who are at heart just geeky fans themselves and they just want everyone to have a good time. The answer to his question was yes. My son had a great time because he has finally discovered the joys of going to panels and not just spending money in the dealers’ room. And for myself this was probably one of the best Cons because I was able to take in such a diversity of panels.
As I mentioned in my earlier post, I spent preview night with a six-year-old who arrived in his Batman costume and asked if he could spend the night at the Con. Seeing the joy in his eyes reminded me of why the Con is so fun – it brings out the kid in all of us.
On Thursday, Danny Elman made his first Con appearance at a packed panel about composing for the movies. He confesses to one young woman asking for advice that he had none to give because his career is far from typical. He also said that there would never be an Oingo Boigo band reunion because playing with the band had damaged his hearing and he wasn’t willing to risk further damage. He was an amazingly gracious man and provided a fine panel.
Later I went to listen to Charlene Harris, author of “True Blood,” and realize that she is indeed Sookie Stackhouse. She displays the same sass, humor, and persistence. She seems to take it in stride that the popular HBO series has changed much from her books, and appreciates the new fans the series has brought her. She discussed writing and confessed to following total strangers around in order to listen to their conversations and recalled one time wanting to follow some women because she heard the line, “and that’s why she became a lesbian.” Harris was a Southern delight.
At the “Burn Notice” panel, Bruce Campbell, as one might expect, took over and proved highly entertaining. The exciting news for Campbell’s fans was the announcement that there will be a prequel movie giving us some background on his character Sam. Woo-hoo! A movie focusing on Campbell and giving him the spotlight. I hope this means that next year he’ll get a panel all to himself.
Then DC’s Geoff Johns held a panel and tried not to say too much about “Green Lantern.”
In Hall H, Sylvester Stallone drew thunderous applause for his high testosterone panel for “The Expendables.” Bruce Willis even stopped by but no Arnold.
But the highlight for the day was Edgar Wright and his panel for “Scott Pilgrim Vs. the World.” Wright, who with Simon Pegg created “Spaced” and “Shaun of the Dead,” knows how to entertain the Con crowd. He gets Comic-Con (Warner Brothers and their “Harry Potter” panel did not). He is a fan boy himself and kept his panel fast moving and fun. He even brought out Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, introducing them as two people appearing in “Scott Pilgrim.” They made a Rocky-like entrance with their arms raised, and then Wright corrected himself to say, “I should have said not appearing…” The two then left dejected with head hung low.
At the end of the panel, Wright led a lucky group of people over to the Balboa Theater to see the premiere of “Scott Pilgrim.” My son got one of the winning buttons designating that he could go but for the first time in his life he was struck by responsibility and since his phone was out of minutes and he could not call me to let me know where he was going, he gave the button to someone else. I told him he should have gone. I would have forgiven him for something important like that.
Off site, attendees could find one of the ever increasing “unofficial” Comic-Con events. On Thursday it was a party for the film “Machete.” People could get tacos made by Robert Rodriguez and actor Danny Trejo, and later in the night jalapeno tequila Margheritas.
The press conference 20th Century Fox held in by the party in the Fifth and J parking lot was pretty worthless for radio since the talent were outside where music was blaring and no one had a mic. Fun party but not practical as a press event. Too bad Fox didn’t just get “Machete” a panel at the Con so we could have heard more from Rodriguez and company. But Fox film hasn’t held a panel at Comic-Con in a couple years and it makes you wonder why.
Thursday night was especially fun since I got to moderate my first panel, and not surprisingly it had to do with zombies. Nine artists who had worked on “Night of the Living Dead: Reanimated” came out to talk about what can best be described as an animated, mixed media, mash-up homage to George A. Romero’s seminal zombie film.
It was a full house (but we lost a lot of people who had to go home on the trolley), and everyone walked away with swag. Plus the artists had not met before so this was like a meet and greet for them, and now they want to work together on the next animated project called “Unseen Horror” (old radio shows will provide the audio basis for this project). It was a great night and the die-hard folks who stayed till almost midnight expressed appreciation for the work done by the animators.
Friday had a nice international feel with Moto Hagio making her first appearance. She is often looked to as the creator of shojo, which is essentially girls comics or manga in Japan. She spoke through a translator, showed her work in a power point, and revealed a love for drawing cute male characters. And later during the Con that international flavor was enhanced with the appearance of French cartoonist Emile Bravo: award-winning English fantasy fiction writer China Mieville; and Italian comic book artist with a flair for the erotic Milo Manara. The Con has certainly gone global not only in popularity but also in terms of the artists highlighted.
The popular comic “The Walking Dead” by Robert Kirkman is being turned into an AMC series by Frank Darabont (“The Shawshank Redemption,” “The Mist). So a panel revealed some exclusive footage from the show and was “livened” up by some undead creatures lumbering very slowly through the panel. The footage didn’t quite win me over and I’m still concerned that Darabont isn’t the right man for the job. But the zombies looked pretty darn cool.
Berkely Breathed (creator of “Bloom County” and “Outland”) had one of the funniest panels as he went through his comic strips to explain how some of the panels were received (one with Nancy Reagan in it got him a call from President Reagan) and even censored. He also pointed out things that people apparently don’t find funny (like plastic surgery). He also spoke at length about where ideas come from. Sometimes they are from an image (like seeing a bike stuck in a tree that inspired “Red Ranger Came Calling”) or from something mean his son said (he wouldn’t reveal what was said only that it inspired “Mars Needs Moms”). His discussion on the creative process was his way of reassuring himself that he would never run out of ideas.
Shout Factory sponsored a panel for Roger Corman that included actress Mary Woronov, actor Sid Haig, and director Joe Dante. It was a lively tribute to Corman with everyone recounting tales of low budget filmmaking. Shout Factory will be re-releasing such Corman classics as “Pirahna” (written by John Sayles) and “Rock ‘N’ Roll High School.” Shout Factory also released a collection of “Max Headroom” DVDs, the full TV series. And that was one of my first buys at the Con because I have been waiting so long for this brilliant, clever, and satirical series to finally be released. When you bought the DVD at the Con you got a special cast photo too. Made this fan girl happy.
But the highlight of the day was a late night double feature from Sushi Typhoon: “Alien Vs. Ninja” and “Mutant Girls Squad.” You won’t find two better examples of Asian Extreme Cinema. One of the co-directors even ran in wearing only a kind of sumo diaper. The audience was hooting and hollering with delight at “Alien Vs. Ninja,” but by the time “Mutant Girl Squad” the audience was a little mellower. Plus the film felt more like a surreal acid trip that kept getting weirder and weirder. At one point one of the mutant girl’s dad gets his head chopped off at her birthday party and it lands on a cake and talks to her. Then the head on a cake floating in limbo appears in her dream. That’s just a tiny taste of its craziness. I couldn’t imagine a better end to a day at the Con and I will be looking for more films from Sushi Typhoon.
Saturday began with Reading with Brains: Zombie Literature. Among the authors represented were Max Brooks (“Zombie Survival Guide,” “World War Z”) and Ryan Mecum (“Zombie Haiku”). Mecum even impressively answered some questions in haiku. Panelists also had to present their thesis on slow versus fast zombies. Slow, Romero-style zombies were definitely favored by the authors and the audience but a couple of the authors tried valiantly to defend their fast-moving breeds.
Ballroom 20 was devoted for almost the whole day to Fox TV shows. One highlight was Seth McFarlane singing live and trying to stay in sync to a clip from “Family Guy.” Patrick Warburton recounted a tale about making a bet that the loser of a golf game would eat dog food. He lost and ate some Alpo. Later on the news he heard a story about mad cows found but that the public need not worry since the cows went to a dog food factory. He added that mad cow disease can take up to twenty years to reveal itself. Over at the Indigo Ballroom at the Hilton Bayfront, TV shows like “The Venture Brothers” held court.
After appearing but not talking much at the “Scott Pilgrim” movie panel, comic creator Bryan Lee O’Malley held his own panel about the release of the “Scott Pilgrim” comic volume 6. His fans expressed affection for the comic but one woman complained that she wanted Scott to be more of a “douche” or Ramona to be less of a “bitch” in order for her to buy into their romance. O’Malley said he had some scenes that he had cut that showed more of the two of them doing things together. To which the female fan demanded that the scenes be added back in… immediately. The audience made a general call out for a “director’s cut” of the comic.
Saturday night in Hall H was all about fun and star power. The fun came from Simon Pegg and Nick Frost presenting their film “Paul,” which is in part a valentine to the fan boys of Comic-Con. The characters played by Pegg and Frost are shown going to Comic-Con in the preview footage screened in Hall H. Although the footage looks like San Diego, the Comic-Con in the film actually had to be recreated in Albuquerque to make shooting more feasible.
The 6400 plus crowd in Hall H ate the film up. Moderator Chris Hardwick started the panel with a question about favorite Comic-Con memories. He recalled his own: seeing a man dressed as Wolverine taking a hit on an asthma inhaler. Simon Pegg said he remembered coming out for “Shaun of the Dead” and getting to meet Ken Foree (of “Dawn of the Dead”) and getting what he called a “cuddle” from him.
Then Jon Favreau presented “Cowboys Vs. Aliens” and brought to the Con for the first time Harrison Ford (Indiana Jones and Han Solo himself) and Daniel Craig (Bond, James Bond).
Ford was brought out in handcuffs by security guards. The joke was probably meant to be about his reluctance to come to big events like this but it played a little differently coming after two attendees got in a scuffle in Hall H and security and paramedics were called in to deal with the incident, which ultimately turned out to be a scratch under the eye with a pen (my friend at Sobering Conclusion is waiting for someone to describe the incident as proof that the pen is mightier than the sword).
But what really brought down the house was the Marvel panel with the entire Avengers team in full force: Samuel L. Jackson (Nick Fury), Robert Downey, Jr. (Iron Man), Chris Evans (Captain America), Scarlett Johansson (Black Widow), Mark Ruffalo (The Hulk), Jeremy Renner (Hawkeye), and Chris Hemsworth (Thor).
That was a pretty impressive show of superhero power in Hall H. Plus Marvel had “Thor” director Kenneth Branagh out on stage describing “Thor” in the terms of Shakespearean tragedy and actress Natalie Portman explaining how Branagh made the actors tear apart the text to get at the meaning. It was an interesting turning point for Comic-Con and comic adaptations to have such highly respected talent elevate comics and comic film adaptations to the level of Shakespearean tragedy. To some fans, that respect was a long time over due.
From Marvel to Troma. Yes indeed what a jump. I went from Marvel to the Troma panel where there were endless tech problems that seemed to make the panel even more fun. It was also amusing to see Hollywood directors James Gunn, Darren Lynn Bousman, and other all huddled around a DVD player trying to make it work while the shamelessly self-promoting Lloyd Kaufman entertained the crowd with plugs for his latest DVD box set and booth number. It was a grand time and from there I went to the XSanguin zombie party for more fun.
Sunday was a day to hit the dealers’ room floor. I took care of some Christmas shopping and nabbed a few cool items for myself like a Hellboy Skelanimal and a great b-horror movie poster with the tag line, “an appalling amalgam of carnage and carnality.”
They’d never use words like that these days for fear potential filmgoers wouldn’t know what “amalgam” meant. This is a case of a poster for a film I had never seen but the poster art was just too good to pass up.
Sunday was also the day that the Comic-Con International Film Festival gave out its awards. The documentary I was touting, “Marwencol,” walked away with Best Documentary and the Judge’s Choice Award. The films were screened this year in the Marriott and even though it was by the Fulfillment Room (where everyone goes to collect their panel freebies), most screenings only had a handful of attendees. I know the Con is jam packed with things to do but I wish there was a way to get more people to these films because so many, especially the docs I’ve seen over the past few years, are amazing. Fortunately, “Marwencol” has been picked up by a distributor and is scheduled to air on PBS in the spring.
Well another Comic-Con has come and gone… sob, sob, sob. I think this was one of the most enjoyable… and grueling… I can remember. I saw the most diverse array of panels but that required a lot of scrambling to get back and forth across the quarter mile or so convention floor. But I am already looking forward to next year and to hopefully forming a better plan of attack so I can fit even more in.
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