Comic-Con Wrap Up
Godzilla, Vikings, And Pirates! Oh My!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.