Bidding Farewell To Another Comic-Con: Hall H, Cosplay And A Death Star Coffee Table
The 48th annual Comic-Con International came to a close on Sunday night. Here are a few highlights.
In terms of programming, no one panel seemed to hit it out of the park like Lucasfilm did two years ago when Stormtroopers led attendees from the Hall H panel to an outdoor concert. This year studios and networks trotted out a lot of stars and premiered trailers and footage in predictable fashion. Marvel announced that the new “Captain Marvel” movie with Brie Larson would be set in the 1990s and the villains will be the Skrulls. For DC Comics, Gal Gadot got a rousing and warm welcome in Hall H for the panel on Warner Brothers and DC’s “Justice League," proving that fanboys do not have a problem with female superheroes if the film is actually good.
But perhaps the thing that stirred the most buzz at Hall H was what was happening outside. Fans reported early on Saturday morning on Twitter that fake wrists were being distributed and that people with legitimate ones were being shut out of the Hall. Reddit had a thread about the incident and some attendees claimed that they could not find anyone from security or the Comic-Con staff to address the issue. A video on Twitter circulated later in the day in which Comic-Con’s director of programming Eddie Ibrahim is shown offering free four-day badges to Comic-Con 2018 to the people who appeared to have been shut out. Comic-Con spokesperson David Glanzer was hesitant to comment about what was being talked about on Twitter by attendees.
“We’ve heard the same thing and are still investigating that, we still don’t have all the information yet but hopefully by a week or so we should have a lot more information,” Glanzer said on Sunday afternoon. There is not a lot I can comment on because we are still investigating.”
That is not much consolation to the fans that felt they were unfairly shut out of Hall H. But managing the line at Hall H and also at Ballroom 20 has become increasingly challenging as more people try to line up earlier and earlier.
“Officially over 135,000 people attend the show, that’s a lot of people,” Glanzer added. “That’s a small city. And every once in awhile you have an incident where one person does something and it would be really sad if that one person mucked it up for the rest. And we want to make sure that whatever we do doesn’t have a negative impact on everybody else. So it’s something that we take very seriously. I don’t know much about this situation until the investigation is finished but in general we’ve had other issues where people have gamed the system, and sometimes it’s like plugging different holes in a boat. We want people to have a good time and we want it to be as fair and as equitable as possible.”
Comic-Con Independent Film Festival and Eisner Awards
Comic-Con Independent Film Festival is the convention’s best-kept secret. Screenings are rarely full because at a convention where so much is going on over so much territory it is hard to block out time to just sit and watch movies and shorts. That is time you could be in line for a panel or on the floor buying something. I have served as a judge in the past for the film festival and I can assure you that there are some outstanding films that come through.
The judging panel changes each year and this year it was actor Ted Raimi, stunt performer and actress Tamiko Brownlee and filmmaker Steve Desmond. Raimi, who co-stars in Showtime’s “Ash Vs. the Evil Dead,” was impressed by the diversity of the filmmakers who submitted their work.
“This was the Comic-Con International Independent Film Awards and there are filmmakers from all around the world that have come here,” Raimi said. “From everywhere. And from America too. But it’s fascinating that it draws so many foreign filmmakers here.”
Raimi encouraged the filmmakers present to grill the judges about their judging process because filmmakers rarely have the chance to question judges about their selections. Maybe it was also because Raimi and his fellow judges did not agree on everything.
“My two other judges seemed to be in complete agreement about most of the winners. I had many other selections and yet the films that were picked were very good, they just weren’t my top picks but they all deserved to win,” Raimi said. “But the one I really liked was ‘The Rat’s Dilemma.’ (It won the judge’s choice for Best in Show.) It was shocking and amazing and the fact that you could make a sci-fi picture over the backdrop of something so grisly (The film dealt with Hitler’s Germany and the Holocaust.) and terrifying that really happened, it’s an incredible thing. It’s a taboo thing but they managed to make it work.”
It is great to have people like Raimi who works in genre films to take the time to be a judge because it is a big commitment and this year the three judges had to watch about 100 films to pick the winners.
CCI-IFF 2017 Winners
Best Action/Adventure Film: “Karmen”
Best Animated Film: “The Wishing Jar”
Best Comics-Oriented Film: “Meanwhile, at the Citadel of Superheroes”
Best Documentary: “The Wrestler: A Q.T. Marshall Story”
Best Horror/Suspense Film: “The Witching Hour”
Best Humor Film: “Wildfire”
Best Science Fiction/Fantasy Film: “The Rat’s Dilemma”
The other more attention getting awards are the Eisners, generally regarded as the Oscars of the comics industry. A complete list of the winners is online.
Comic-Con has a strong brand as a mecca for geek culture and the festival highlights genre filmmaking like sci-fi, horror, action and comedy. Andrew Neill took top honors in the comics-related category with his film “Meanwhile at the Citadel of Superheroes” in which a woman unnaturally gains super powers when microwaving a burrito and then applies for a job at a superheroes’ company.
“Considering our film is a superhero film and being in the comics oriented category at Comic-Con and winning it is a really awesome honor to be able to represent the comics films for Comic-Con, so, I’m very excited,” said Neill.
Collin Lockett came from Chicago to pick up his award for Best Comedy for “Wildfire” about a person whose super power only works when she is asleep.
“I know how big of a deal Comic-Con is so it was nerve racking competing and really awesome to see all the talent that is out there,” said Collin Lockett. “I’m a nerd myself. I’m a self-proclaimed nerd, geek, whatever you want to call it, so I made this film for people that are like me and Comic-Con is the perfect place for it to succeed I think.”
“I don’t know if it’s validation because it’s an immaterial thing but it definitely helps to see that other people enjoy the things I’m making and the things that they enjoy about it let’s me know that I should just continue to build off of those.”
Changing personality of the show
Comic-Con lost one of its long-time vendors. Mile High Comics withdrew from the show after exhibiting for 44 years. To some, this was a sign of the changing tides and Comic-Con’s lack of commitment to comics. But I see a trend that has been developing for years that reflect a general move away from being the place to scavenge for old collectible comics and towards a place where people can find new comics and comic art. So while Mile High’s iconic and gigantic booth no longer lines the wall on the exhibit floor, publishers like IDW and Dark Horse are expanding their footprint on the floor and boast retail shops that were packed. IDW has also been specializing in gorgeous artist books that are oversized and packed with stunning images of comic art and what goes into making a comic book. The Comic-Con shopper today seems less prone to buying a single expensive vintage comic book issue but much more willing to drop a hundred bucks or more on one of these art books.
Glanzer said, “There’s a tremendous amount of comics on the exhibit floor but what kinds of comics changes from year to year. It really does.”
So the changes at Comic-Con may reflect changes in what comics fans want and by the fact that so much more shopping opportunities are now available online.
I was happy to see some inspired cosplay with a high degree of creativity and skill.
My personal favorites were Matthew Tillyer, a young man who with the help of the 501st turned his wheelchair into a TIE fighter and himself into a pilot, and a dad who turned his baby stroller into a Funko Pop Vinyl toy box and his child into the Wicket figure inside. I also met a woman who had made a kind of chain mail gown for which she hand cut each piece from Home Depot aluminum roofing and sewed each piece to a dress. Plus I loved seeing a couple of Shauns of the Dead and an Aku (from “Samurai Jack”).
An ever-expanding part of Comic-Con is the activations both in and outside the exhibit hall. An activation is just a way for marketing people and exhibitors to present something that is considered more interactive with the attendee. So 20th Century Fox had an “Alien Covenant” activation on the floor that they pitched as a Colonist Certification Test and you could have an android looking like Michael Fassbender’s Adam lead you through. The day I went there was a bonus of a cosplayer dressed like a very impressive Predator. The purpose of the booth was to sell a special edition Bluray of "Alien Covenant." Although I was not a fan of the movie, I am a huge fan of H.R. Giger's xenomorph design so the Comic-Con exclusive alien lithograph that went with the Bluray was very tempting.
Outdoors, the activation I heard the most positive feedback about was the one for the new “Bladerunner 2049.” It was a virtual reality experience but then you also got to walk around a Bladerunner-like city and could order drinks and get noodles from a noodle stand. The wait was averaging three hours. Since the weather was hot and muggy, I have to confess I stayed indoors and decided there was plenty to do without venturing into sunlight.
I only hit a handful of panels but thoroughly enjoyed Queer Fear, which was great after having recently co-presented FilmOut San Diego’s first Queer Horror block at its festival this past June. I also attended two very informative panels, one by the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund geared toward comic book shops to let owners know what to do if they are hassled for the kinds of comics and books they are selling, and a writer’s workshop hosted by Michael J. Stracynski, where he took questions from hopeful writers and provided some frank answers about what one needs to do to make it in the industry. Bottom line though, write at least two pages everyday. No excuses.
Shopping at Comic-Con is always a joy (for me, not my bank account). I was thrilled to buy a Shin Godzilla mask from Japan, a set of Godzilla key chains that I can turn into earrings and best of all a Death Star coffee table to go with my Millennium Falcon beanbag chair.
As always, Comic-Con goes by too fast and I never get to do enough of the things I want. Sundays always feel like the end of summer when you realize that vacation is over and you have to go back to the real world of school or work. Comic-Con is not perfect, few things are, but I love it and would never miss it.