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Comic-Con Wrap Up

Godzilla, Vikings, And Pirates! Oh My!

Above: Expanding the footprint of Comic-Con with events nearby like this History Channel "Viking" experience that was open to the public and badge holders alike.

Aired 7/22/13 on KPBS News.

The 43rd Comic-Con came to a close last night, and as usual there was far too much to do in four days.

The 43rd Comic-Con came to a close last night, and as usual there was far too much to do in four days.

First of all there was 600 hours of programming. Then a quarter mile of exhibit hall space. Plus, "Vikings" on First Avenue, pirates on the Star of India behind the Convention Center, and Godzilla knocking down buildings on J Street. It was one epic Comic-Con and one that seemed to run quite smoothly.

Comic-Con spokesman David Glanzer called it “almost Zen-like.”

“I think people really fell into a groove this year that there are long lines for some of the panels but wow if some of our attendees haven’t made the most of it, making friends, playing with their electronic devices and what not. And that’s a great thing to see,” said Glanzer, “Nobody wants to wait in long lines but they made the best of a tough situation.”

I can vouch for that. I made line buddies while in a press line for “The World’s End” and fed a Troma fan while waiting for the panel to start. I always try to view waiting in line as an opportunity to make friends with similar interests as myself.

Credit: Phil Lorenzo

Having fun with Lloyd Kaufman of Troma after his panel on Saturday night. Animator Mike Salva joins in after showing his short animation "Pound Dogs" at Spike and Mike's Gauntlet (where your film can literally be booed off the screen, but "Pound Dogs" only got laughs).

Sadly, though, I only made it to one of the panels I had planned to attend but that one was a riot, it was the inimitable Lloyd Kaufman and Troma, his defiantly independent and endearingly low-budget cinema schlock factory. The late night panel on Saturday was something of a family reunion for Troma. Rumors had been going around about Arnold Schwarzenegger starring in a remake of Troma’s “The Toxic Avenger” and Kaufman confirmed that… in that uniquely Troma way, which always makes you wonder if it’s true or not. But Kaufman is entertaining and also smart. He’s spent decades working outside the Hollywood system and while you might not call “The Toxic Avenger” or “Class of Nuke ‘Em High” high art, they are definitely films with a devoted cult following. They called for a flash mob to do a mass death scene and brought the cast and crew form the original “Toxic Avenger” for an impromptu reunion that had everyone out in the hall (myself included) taking group photos. A fun evening all-around.

Credit: Beth Accomando

Comic-Con 2013.

For the past few years (ever since Comic-Con has had to cap attendance at about 130,00), the convention has, as they like to say, expanded their footprint to create a kind of campus feel with events spilling out into the neighboring hotels and businesses. So across the street from Comic-Con was a large “Ender’s Game” tent, a Dracula Castle over by the Hard Rock, and what was my absolute favorite off site event, the Godzilla Encounter.

A new American “Godzilla” is in the works. Most Godzilla fans refuse to even acknowledge that that Roland Emmerich debacle in 1997 ever existed. (No. I will not link out to anything about that film that will not be acknowledged!) Many felt extreme trepidation about yet another American attempt at the iconic Japanese creature. But Gareth Edwards showed affinity for depicting larger than life creatures in his indie film “Monsters,” so that gave us Big G fans hope . Now Legendary Pictures and Warner Brothers (the team that delivered Guillermo Del Toro’s “Pacific Rim” with its Japanese inspired kaiju and mecha) have proven that maybe they too are serious about this remake. Their Godzilla Encounter (aside from the extreme difficulty of getting passes) was cleverly designed and superbly executed. They took over a warehouse space near J Street and 7th Avenue, painting the exterior to look like Godzilla’s tail had ripped through the corner. Japanese signage and caution tape decorated the outside. As I waited in line, I could hear a loud sound rumble through the building. I turned to my son and smiled.

“Did you hear that?” I said, “That’s Godzilla.” I felt like a kid seeing Big G for the first time on the big screen.

Credit: Beth Accomando

The exterior of the Godzilla Encounter.

Once inside the building there was a little museum. There was the original Oxygen Destroyer prop on loan from Toho Studios as well as a beautifully detailed Godzilla statue and a control room where we could push button and interact with the panels and actually change screens. We were then moved into an “elevator” that rattled and shook and broke down at the 25th floor where we were ushered out into what looked like an office in a skyscraper looking out at another skyscraper across the street. No pictures where allowed here but that was a good thing because I was probably too awestruck to snap any. What you got to see was Godzilla pass right in front of your eyes and then he came back around to stare right into your eyes. It was breathtaking. The design for the creature is not Toho’s original version but close enough and good looking enough to give hope to fans that this new American “Godzilla” will be done right.

The next best off-campus site was Ubisoft’s transformed Star of India. The gaming company rented the Star of India, sailed it behind the Convention Center, and then transformed it into the Jack Daw, the ship in their new video game Assassin’s Creed 4: Black Flag (not to be confused with the STARZ cable show "Black Sails.") Check out the video of the ship being prepped.

Evening Edition

The Star of India has been transformed for Comic-Con. From the shore you can see a pirate ship with brand new sails. Climb aboard and and you'll find it's filled with computers for video gaming, and never-before-seen demos of the new Assassin's Creed IV Black Flag, which comes out in October. Arts reporter Beth Accomando gives us a look.

On board were gaming demos, exclusive gameplay footage, a weapons demonstration, cosplayers, and more. The off site event was further proof of video gaming’s growing presence at the Con. In addition, the exhibit floor was revamped and gaming booths were moved away from the Hollywood studios and placed in their own area in Hall A. It’s almost like a kid moving out of the shadow of its parent and proving to do better. Gaming is big business now and Hollywood is more than a little jealous of the revenues. So jealous that film folks like Steven Spielberg and George Lucas are discussing the future of gaming.

The redesign of the exhibit floor also created a new flow in traffic that seemed to help the smaller exhibitors located between Hollywood (in the Hall E/F area and gaming (Hall A/B). Glanzer said that’s why they made the changes but they won’t know if it worked until exhibitors start sending in their feedback today.

One of the most overlooked delights of Comic-Con is the Comic-Con International Film Festival. It’s a juried festival in its 14th year and this year the Judges Award as well as the Best SciFi or Fantasy Film went to SDSU graduate Brian Thompson for his short film “Incident on Highway 73.

Ever since the “Twilight” panels brought female con-goers to the attention of the media, the presence of women at the one-time mostly male dominated convention has been a topic of conversation. But those demos were changes well before “Twilight” and are maintaining strength even without a Twilight Moms and Twihards.

“We started seeing an increase in female attendance 10 to 15 years ago with manga and Japanese animation and it’s a shame that that doesn’t get credit when really it should,” said Glanzer.

Credit: Beth Accomando

A magnificent make up job and one of the most impressive costume designs I have ever seen at Comic-Con.

Once again Comic-Con delivered a fabulous sensory overload of pop culture madness and mayhem. I missed “The World’s End” panel (could be in the press line for interviews with Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg, and Nick Frost, AND be in line for Hall H) but I did manage to get into a screening of the film at Reading Gaslamp and got to hear a wonderful Q&A with them. These guys do not disappoint on screen or in person.

As the floor was closing on Sunday, a woman walking by me told her son that they had to leave soon, to which the young boy said, "But I don't want to leave yet." I felt the same way.

Comic-Con 2013 is over… sob…sob… but Comic-Con 2014 is just about 365 days away. Maybe if I start planning now I will be able to get more done during the Convention.

Comic-Con is committed to staying in San Diego through 2015 but if the Convention Center doesn’t expand, it may have to look for a new location to accommodate all the geeks, artists, cosplayers, gamers, comic book lovers and more.

I guess I can’t put it off any longer, I have to say good bye to my happiest place on earth and return to the real world. Maybe Godzilla will walk by the KPBS studios and shake up things there.

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Avatar for user 'Peking_Duck_SD'

Peking_Duck_SD | July 22, 2013 at 12:49 p.m. ― 3 years, 8 months ago

Hey - out of curiosity, do you have to have a comic-con badge to attend the off-site events?

The reason I ask, yesterday I walked by the Godzilla event that Beth Accomoando described and that's pictured above from the outside - I saw the signs and really wanted to go but figured it was for people with comic-con badges only?

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Avatar for user 'astrofan'

astrofan | July 23, 2013 at 8:59 a.m. ― 3 years, 8 months ago

Some off-sites you do and many you don't.

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Avatar for user 'Beth Accomando'

Beth Accomando, KPBS Staff | July 23, 2013 at 10:16 a.m. ― 3 years, 8 months ago

Yep it's a mix. The Godzilla Encounter was for Con-badge holders only PLUS you had to wait in line at the Legendary Booth to get an appointment time to go. The Vikings on First, the Star of India/Jack Daw, The Ender's Game -- they were all open to the public. Some like the Walking Dead obstacle course were open to the public but at a cost.

If you don't have a Comic-Con badge these days, you can often find Comic-Con related stuff for free in the neighboring areas. Even free swag has moved to the streets. Machete Kills was not ready to screen and did not get a booth or panel but were giving shirts out on the streets.

Thanks for the comments.

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Avatar for user 'Susan_M'

Susan_M | July 23, 2013 at 12:58 p.m. ― 3 years, 8 months ago

Others that didn't require a badge: the Tr!ckster pop-up at East Village Tavern & Bowl and the associated art exhibit at Space4Art. Most of the schedule was free but they charged for seminars.

Raw Art Design had a free exhibit as did Alexander Salazar Fine Art. There's usually a free display on Hilton Bayfront lawn. Last year it was Batmobiles, this year was Teen Titan inflatables. The parking lot by Petco had lots of free booths, interactive stuff, exhibits + food trucks. New Children's Museum and Nerd HQ events required tix but not a Con badge.

Beth, was Gam3rcon free?

Still going: SD History Center has a Con-related exhibit up thru July 28 -- also Women's Museum at Liberty Station thru Sept 1.

I think the SD Tourism folks should do a better job of promoting the offsite events. People get the idea that Con tix are sold out & there's nothing left to do. Not the case at all.

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Avatar for user 'Beth Accomando'

Beth Accomando, KPBS Staff | July 23, 2013 at 2:14 p.m. ― 3 years, 8 months ago

Thanks for the added info and view from outside the Con. Gam3rCon was not free. And the number of events increase every year. I think next year I may have to devote an entire column just to the off site Comic-Con related events.

I can't get to everything inside the convention, don't know what'll happen if I try to add more!

The Film Consortium San Diego also held an event at Space 4 Art that was open to all. I'm exhausted just think about all that was out there.

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