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Pop Culture Ground Zero: Comic-Con International

Comic-Con International begins today and runs through Sunday in downtown San Diego.
Angela Carone
Comic-Con International begins today and runs through Sunday in downtown San Diego.
Pop Culture Ground Zero: Comic-Con International
The world's largest pop culture convention begins today in San Diego. Over 125,000 fans will descend on downtown for Comic-Con, International. Movies, TV, comics, science fiction and video games will all be celebrated at this year's convention.

The world's largest pop culture convention begins today in San Diego. Over 125,000 fans will descend on downtown for Comic-Con, International. Movies, TV, comics, science fiction and video games will all be celebrated at this year's convention.


Beth Accomando is the KPBS film critic. She's been going to Comic-Con for almost 20 years.


Nina Garin is a features and entertainment reporter for the San Diego Union-Tribune.

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This is a rush transcript created by a contractor for KPBS to improve accessibility for the deaf and hard-of-hearing. Please refer to the media file as the formal record of this interview. Opinions expressed by guests during interviews reflect the guest’s individual views and do not necessarily represent those of KPBS staff, members or its sponsors.

CAVANAUGH: Are this is KPBS Midday Edition. I'm Maureen Cavanaugh. We've just been talking about the economic impact of Comicon but on this first day of ComiCon 2011, it's more about excitement in downtown San Diego. Tens of thousands of people are at the Convention Center for events that span from comic book masters to TV stars, to Depak Chopra speaking about the seven spiritual laws of superheroes. Hi, Beth.

ACCOMANDO: Hey, how you doing, Maureen?

CAVANAUGH: And Nina garret is with us. She is features and entertainment reporter for the San Diego Union Tribune. Nina, Hello

GARIN: How are you?


CAVANAUGH: You're both down there , among the crowds, among the costumes. Beth, what is it like?

ACCOMANDO: It's great. It is crowded. It doesn't seem quite as bad as last year. Right now, there was no line outside of haul H now that the twilight panel is done. But it's pretty exciting. There's a lot going on.

CAVANAUGH: And Nina, I know that you did attend the media panel for the twilight movie. What was that like?

GARIN: That was great. It was quieter than the people outside. I did get to sit in the press conference with the stars, and they gave us a couple of little secrets.

CAVANAUGH: Oh Can you share them?

GARIN: Well, like -- not really secrets, but anecdotes. I guess in Brazil when they were shooting the twilight honeymoon scene, they accidentel cast an extra that looks just like tailor Lautner. And they had to keep him back because they didn't want to think that tailor Lautner in was flying in on Ana and Bella.

CAVANAUGH: The kind of things that ComiCon fans just eat for breakfast.

GARIN: Yeah, definitely.

CAVANAUGH: Death, as always, the twilight movie, Hollywood, is a real presence at Comicon the studios spend a lot of money to make that happen, they have screenings, they have big stars here. Why? Why do they bring down their stars and show exclusive footage of movies?

ACCOMANDO: It depends on the kind of films they have, and depends on if it taps into the crowd, it can really do well, it can get a buds from here. Part of what they're trying to do is create an early buzz for films or a buzz like right as the film is coming out, and the thing about a lot of the ComiCon attendees is they are people who use social media, they are on the Internet all the time, they are the people who go opening weekend. So if they have a favorable response to a panel, they can really start getting the word out, or on the flip side, which is a danger for Hollywood, if they present a panel where they don't show some good footage or they don't bring a celebrity, they can tick off fans and get some bad buzz going for them as well. But I think they look at it as a very valid marketing cost for themselves.

CAVANAUGH: That bad advanced word has affected some pictures hasn't it?

ACCOMANDO: Yeah, actually it was funny. I was talking to someone who said that they think one of the turning points is when they brought a batman is Robin panel out here and were presenting Arnold Schwarzenegger as Mr. Freeze, and one fan got up and said, the fans were really hoping we'd get Patrick Stewart, and the representative said, well, that's what you fans want. But we got a better idea. And at that point everybody went back home to their computers and said, hey, we don't think this is going to be very good. So they can -- these are people devoted to comics, and if you have a panel for a comic based film and you don't know your stuff or you don't kind of respect their opinion, you can really start a tide against you and on the flip side, if you are a real fan, a genuine geek or something, somebody like Edgar write, fans really embrace you and do all they can to help promote your work.

CAVANAUGH: Nina, many of our listeners probably have never been to ComiCon. I haven't been there for years. At its simplest, ComiCon offers two over all experiences, are the panels and the exhibition haul. So Nina, what happens in the exhibit hall?

ACCOMANDO: The exhibit hall is just crazy. It is packed packed with people. And they're in there to see exclusive toys that, you know -- this year there's like this state mash mellow man from ghost busters want. They're also there to meet comic book artists. They're set up, and you can meet them and have them sign comic books. Celebrities are there signing autographs. Also the parade of costumes, people just like to walk around dressed up. I've seen lots of super heroes, lots of star wars characters, lots of things I don't actually recognize. And this is the place to make sure friends. I'm here on the floor, and people just chat with you and tell you -- it's a great social place, and it's a bunch of fun.

CAVANAUGH: So Beth, then, there are the panels that take place throughout the weekend. What happens during the panels?

ACCOMANDO: Well, there's all different kinds. There was a lot of focus on the Hollywood ones, but there are seminars there where you can learn how to do different styles of artwork, check it on the panel, you can give panels on how to do gaming design, there's how to draw. So there's a lot of those. There's also smaller panels that deal with comic books, there's the girl panels, gay and lesbian themed comics. There's a lot of different kinds of things you can find. For the smaller panels, what's really nice is you can get a real interaction with the people on the panels and get a chance to talk with them, ask questions, so I would suggest go check out some of these smaller panels, plus the film festival is fantastic.

CAVANAUGH: Go ahead, Nina. You wanted to say something?


CAVANAUGH: Let me ask you a question, then. One of the things that confeudses me about ComiCon is I understand comic books, super heroes, that kind of thing. But then you read things like there's a panel that's going to take place for the television show glee. Where does that fit in with Comicon.

GARIN: I think ComiCon is a place that people are free to embrace their inner geek and be a complete fan. And I think glee, the fans are known as glebes, and they just love -- love it. So I think it's a perfect fit. And at last year's Glee panel, most of the stars were there, and the fans gave the creator ideas, and he actually used them last season. You know, using -- I don't actually remember. But he used some of their song suggestions, and was very respectful. There's actually a lot of Hollywood. There's a sponge bob panel where the artists walk you through how they make the cartoon. Walking dead and true blood are here. After I get off the phone with you, there's going to be a children's hospital series that comes, that's gonna be happening. So it's just like people who really are passionate about a TV show are also welcome here.

CAVANAUGH: You're going to be interviewing, I believe, Justin timber lake later today.

GARIN: Yes, I am!

CAVANAUGH: I think you're excited about that. What is he at Comicon?

GARIN: He is actually here for a movie called in time. And it's like a Sci-fi futuristic movie about a time in the future when there's no aging jeans. I don't know much of the conference that's coming up, but that's what he's here for.

CAVANAUGH: And Beth, there are some big directors also in town this weekend. What is here for Comicon.

ACCOMANDO: There's gonna be Steve Spielberg is supposed to be here tomorrow morning and receiving the ink blot award, which is one of the Aarts ComiCon gives to some of its distinguished guests. Francis Ford cope lais returning. Also gamma del Torro is popular here because he's a total genre film maker who embraces his fans. He takes DVDs from people, film makers, and one time I saw him and he turned around to his assistant and says, where are my treasurers? You know, the DVDs that fans have been giving me. And he swears he'll watch them all. So he's gonna be here. Edgar writes one of the producers on the film attack the block. And then there's Steven solder berg, who is an unexpected time of person to come to ComiCon. But that's a good diversity of directors coming out here this year, not just comic based movies.

CAVANAUGH: And ComiCon is also in recent years expanded its programming outside the Convention Center. Beth, tell us where they've expanded to.

ACCOMANDO: Yeah, since they've put a cap on it, because they've run out of space in terms of attendance, they're using the Hilton again this year, the indigo bawl room, and a couple of others, and they're using Petco Park a bit. There's a three-day -- 3D shark experience going on there. They're trying to expand the footprint of the campus and use as much of the space as they can, and some of the other hotels. The Marriott is where they're going the film festival. Some of the hall H panels are being rebroad cast in room 25 ABC. If you missome of the hall H panels you have a second chance at seeing those. They're trying to do the best they can to accommodate the large crowd.

CAVANAUGH: Nina, I know it's early days yet in ComiCon years but what's the strangest thing you've seen so far?

GARIN: The strangest thing I've seen is -- there was a guy dressed up all in green like he was part of the green screen. But he was the green screen. And he says he works on this show, it's always funny in Philadelphia. But I can't figure out if he was lying or if that's true. That was about the weirdist thing. I've been with mostly media people and the press so --

CAVANAUGH: And Beth have you spied anything that really caught your eye?

ACCOMANDO: I don't know. I've seen some fun things like the bags that they're giving out can be turned into back Pam packs, but the one father took the strap and turned it into a leash for his son. And he was using that to hold onto him in the crowd. I thought that was pretty clever.

CAVANAUGH: Yes. And I'm wondering too, a lot of people listening don't have tickets, the tickets get sold out about two seconds after they're put out for sale. Anything you can do interesting about ComiCon downtown if you don't have a ticket or a pass, Nina? Is.

GARIN: Yes, there's gonna be something at Petco Park tonight. It's Cirque du Soleil, they're gonna do a battle scene from their show in Las Vegas. And that's free. So anyone can go. The director, Kevin Smith, is doing a recording of his popular pod cast Friday at 11:00 PM at the house of blues. The haunted hotel that's usually open for Halloween, that's open this weekend. There's a steam punk party happening at queen bee's on Saturday night. You can even meet Whitney master son who's a great columnist. He's having a meet up at 5:30 PM on Saturday. Then there's a zombie walk, which I think is what Beth talked about.

CAVANAUGH: I believe so, Beth?

ACCOMANDO: There is a zombie walk. They have one each year. And you can either come as a zombie, you can come and get a makeup kid to be made up as a zombie, you can come as a zombie hunter and shoot zombies, and they will play along and drop dead for you, and you can also be a victim. It's a kind of all embracing zombie walk. You can come in any state of dead, undead, victim.

CAVANAUGH: And where does this take place?

ACCOMANDO: I believe they walk down -- I forget what street it is, I think they walk on, like, fourth or 5th, and back up 15. And they go by all the restaurants and walk by. But you can partake at any way along there, too. If you see them walking by, and you want to pull out your finger gun and shoot them, you can give that a try.

CAVANAUGH: And just see people know, when does this take place?

ACCOMANDO: I believe this year it's taking place tomorrow. I haven't checked yet. In fact, I haven't even gone through the whole schedule yet.

CAVANAUGH: It's just really -- it's very daunting, I completely agree with you. I understand. I just will say, people be on guard, if you see a bunch of zombies, it probably does not mean we're under attack. It's just part of Comicon and Beth, you're going to be filling up our website all through the weekend, aren't you? With photographs and stories?

ACCOMANDO: I am going to be trying. Internet's a little bit tricky out here sometimes. So as long as that holds up, I'll be posting up some pictures.

CAVANAUGH: I want everyone to know that ComiCon international starts today through Sunday at the San Diego Convention Center. There's lots to do downtown, even if you don't have a pass. But it's also very crowded. From ComiCon ground 0, that is, I've been speaking with KPBS film critic Beth Accomando, and the UT's Nina garret. Thank you both.

GARIN: Thank you.

ACCOMANDO: Thank you.