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Comic-Con 2010: A Survivor’s Diary

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Every year, the masses of fans of media (washed and unwashed, but mostly the former) descend on the fair shores of San Diego for four days of entertainment overload at Comic-Con International: San Diego, also colloquially known as the San Diego Comic-Con. Being a resident of San Diego, this provides me with a unique view of culture shock as I see my city get packed to the brim, awash in tight latex, stretchy rubber and more make-up than the Moonlight Bunny Ranch.

THURSDAY

An early start, arriving to the convention center before they even allowed anyone but exhibitors in. After attempting to finagle a temporary set-up permit, and succeeding, we made it into the hall all of three minutes before they announced that the Exhibition Hall was now open to the public. Despite having a press badge, and thus being better than everyone, I managed to feel like a failure. Reeling from that defeat, the day of paneling was to begin!

First:

11:30am-12:30pm: Dumbrella

Dumbrella is a loose collective of webcomics artists and creators, most famously including Richard Stevens III, the creator of Diesel Sweeties and Meredith Gran, the creator of Octopus Pie. Also on the panel were Jon Rosenberg (Goats), Chris Yates (Reprographics) and Andrew Bell (The Creatures In My Head). They all discussed their recent successes, including Bell designing the official Android toy to promote Google’s mascot and operating system. It was a smaller crowd than most panels, as webcomics are still not up to the recognition level of print, but the panelists were loose and fun, with Stevens being the chief joker. They fielded questions from the audience, with a surprising demographic skewing to bearded men, as Stevens pointed out. It was a fun experience and as my second year attending their conference, it was great to see a few more people there, as well as seeing that the panelists had increased their business profiles in the last year, thus shedding a positive vibe on the idea of new media as profitable.

12:30pm to 2:00pm- NERDING OUT AND SHOPPING FOR COMICS

Unfortunately the panel ran long, so I was unable to attend Breaking Into Comics the Marvel Way, so my travels brought me to the Exhibition Center, where I behaved like a good little nerd and scoured box upon box of comics to supplement my collection. (Mission= accomplished.) I will spare you the details of what I purchased until later, but suffice it to say it was dope.

2:45- 3:45- WAITING IN LINE OH GOD THE HEAT

After a brief sidewalk lunch, I decided to head to the massive line outside of Hall H, where all the major presentations take place, including that morning’s Tron: Legacy. I arrived at 2:45pm to notice a major improvement- this year they covered the line with tents, possibly to avoid heatstroke. Although the line was massive, somehow we made it into the building. It was still hot as hell, and the vendors were showing almost no mercy by charging $2 a bottle for water.

3:30pm to 4:30pm: EW Visionaries: J.J. Abrams and Joss Whedon

While missing RED, I was able to catch the EW Visionaries Panel, with Joss Whedon and J.J. Abrams geeking out over their childhood and their new projects, including Whedon’s confirmation as director of The Avengers. They also talked at length at the differences between film and television work, with Whedon having a humorous resentment at FOX’s treatment of “Dollhouse.” Then the time came- the end of movies.

4:45 to 5:45- Lionsgate: The Expendables

The one panel I was looking forward to since the day I was born. Sylvester Stallone, Terry Crews, Dolph Lundgren, Stone Cold Steve Austin and Randy Couture, moderated by Harry Knowles, answered questions from fans about thew only movie that matters, including about filming in Brazil because they don’t have stunt unions and using a 60 year old plane that hadn’t been tested for a dangerous action sequence. Stallone and Austin were also ribbing each other because Stallone almost had his neck broken during a fight scene. The panel all-in-all was hilarious, with Stallone publicly admitting he dropped the ball on Rocky V, as well as challenging Steve Austin to an arm-wrestling match, as well as a surprise appearance by Bruce Willis. The footage from the film was all you could want: gore, violence, and snark. This is going to be the greatest movie in the world, mark my words.

6:00pm to 7:00pm- Universal: Scott Pilgrim vs. the World

The main event of Thursday- the stars of the film, including Michael Cera, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Jason Schwartzman, Kieran Culkin and Brandon Routh were moderated by the film’s director, the incomparable Edgar Wright. They showed new footage of the film, including a completed fight scene, as well as teasing Michael Cera, who arrived in a shoddy Captain America costume as a jab to Chris Evans, who was unable to attend the panel. Then Edgar Wright revealed a surprise- earlier in the panel, Scott Pilgrim buttons had been passed around the crowd. Some were marked with “1-Up:” these fortunate few who received them were taken at that moment to a free screening of Scott Pilgrim with Edgar Wright in attendance! As he marched them out, the rest of the crowd cheered wildly, especially as Wright mentioned that there would be two more free showings, on subsequent days.

FRIDAY

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A late start to the day, mostly due to forgetting my press badge, but when I arrived, I had missed the Neal Adams and Stan Lee panel about Holocaust comics, so I headed to the AMC’s The Walking Dead Panel.

11:30am to 12:30pm AMC’s The Walking Dead

Not fucking happening. The line snaked around four hallways. I headed to my next set-up.

12:30pm to 1:30pm- DC Focus: Grant Morrison

This line was a bit more reasonable. The panel was preceded by a Marvel interactive one, which was half full until they talked about Marvel vs. Capcom 3: Fate of Two Worlds. After it cleared, the crowd filled Ballroom 6DE to capacity as the man took the stage: the lovely, impeccably dressed, bastion of comics- Grant Morrison. The man responsible for the greatest Superman story ever told, as well as countless revamps of obscure characters (Animal Man, the Doom Patrol, Flex Mentallo,) answered questions from fans while sweating and busting out a surprisingly adept Louis Armstrong impression. Grant was warm, appreciative, and seemed overwhelmed by the love in the room for him and his work. His announcements of a third Seaguy book and an Absolute edition of We3 were met with overwhelming cheer, as well as his cheerful razzing of notoriously reclusive artist Frank Quitely, with whom he collaborated on We3 as well as All-Star Superman. Grant was welcoming to his fans, even when one person violated the policy by asking him to promote a book he wrote. Otherwise, the panel was respectful and inviting, and Morrison proved that he’s not only a genuine class act, but the most intelligent man in comics.

1:31pm to 2:00pm- NERDING OUT AND SHOPPING FOR COMICS

Pretty self-explanatory.

2:00pm-Standing in line for Sony Pictures Panel

2:01pm- Inside of Hall H

What the hell? Apparently some panel had been canceled, so they were ushering people into Hall H immediately. I happened to walk into a rather interesting one, however, while waiting for the Sony Pictures panel.

2:15pm to 3:45pm- Miramax Films: Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark

Guillermo del Toro and first-time filmmaker Troy Nixey were invited to promote their new horror film, Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark, distributed by Miramax. Del Toro was his usual lively self, being very excited and conducive of his love of horror, and apparently, of cursing in front of children. The man is clearly passionate, and he spoke about the books he’s co-writing: The Strain as well as his desire to make a straight-faced luchador vs vampires movie, without any post-modern interpretation. He also discussed his attempts at the Hobbit films, including his attempts to put his personal stamp on the project without contradicting the continuity of the original trilogy.

4:00pm to 6:00pm- Sony Pictures Entertainment: The Other Guys, The Green Hornet, Priest

At this point Sony’s main event was up: they were promoting the manga-adapted Priest, the Adam McKay helmed buddy-cop comedy The Other Guys, and the long anticipated Seth Rogen/ Michel Gondry version of The Green Hornet. The Priest panel was up first, with director Scott Stewart and stars Paul Bettany, Stephen Moyer, Cam Gigandet, Maggie Q and Karl Urban discussing the film’s late-term conversion to 3D, as well as offering a sneak peek at the opening animation, directed by Genndy Tartakovsky. The cast was lively and energetic, and their was an in-audience giveaway of the first issue of the film’s prequel: Priest: Purgatory.

Up next was the panel for The Other Guys, with Mark Wahlberg, Eva Mendes, Will Ferrell and Adam McKay answering questions from fans and making Eva Mendes appear to be a pedophile because of some young fans’ fascination. The panel was less dry than the Priest one, with a lot of joking, and the cast was friendly to the audience. It was sloppy but enjoyable, even when it devolved into an Anchorman quote off, as every third conversation in San Diego does. Wahlberg was revealed to speak Hebrew and proved it by cursing out Adam McKay, and McKay and Ferrell brought a clip of a film they produced: The Virginity Hit, and offered a free screening of the film later that evening. McKay also confirmed that he had officially signed on to direct the adaptation of Garth Ennis’ and Darick Robertson’s anti-superhero comic The Boys.

Finally, Seth Rogen took the stage along with Michel Gondry, producer Neil Moritz, co-writer Evan Goldberg, and Christoph Waltz to discuss The Green Hornet, including its post-production conversion to 3D. They debuted a new trailer, as well as a snippet of “Kato-vision” that was supposedly rough, but still was impressive. I was skeptical about the 3D conversion and the delays, but the footage speaks for itself, and the film looks to be one of the more unique superhero movies on the block. Waltz was coerced into confessing he doesn’t read comics, and was unaware of the Green Hornet until the crew introduced him. Rogen also fielded questions about his weight loss, and playfully engaged with a few fans who appeared to be intoxicated. Overall not as humorous as The Other Guys panel, but more informative and professional. At least Seth Rogen wasn’t incessantly chewing gum, like Eugene Tackleberry impersonator Adam McKay.

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SATURDAY

10:00am to 11:00am- Marvel Writers Unite!

This panel featured Mark Waid, Matt Fraction, Chris Claremont and Brian Michael Bendis discussing their experiences working for the House of Ideas, as well as fielding questions from fans about how to break into comics, as well as what it’s like to write some of the most famous fictional characters in the world. Fraction was his usual cut-up self, cracking jokes interspliced with helpful advice, while Claremont fondly recollected his time on X-Men. Mark Waid, who now owns BOOM! Studios, waxed about making contacts, which led to a fan bringing him a diet soda he requested earlier in the panel. Bendis also talked about his creator owned work, like Scarlet, and about his fabled adaptation of Raiders of the Lost Ark that he produced when he was 8.

11:15am to 12:15pm- Spotlight on Gerard Way

Umbrella Academy creators Gerard Way and Gabriel Ba were on this panel, along with Scott Allie of Dark Horse, to talk about Way’s career. Way appeared to be a cross between Kurt Cobain and Jeff Spicoli, with frizzled blond hair and a Hawaiian shirt. The panel was mostly a Q & A, as the crew did not have many new projects to announce at the moment, but confirmed there is a third Umbrella Academy and they are considering the idea of putting together a one-shot to sate audiences. Way was also mildly reluctant to speak about his band’s new album, and thankfully most of the audience was too polite to ask. A bit long in the end, but the panel was informative, and as a huge fan of the comic, I was pleased to find out more is on the way. Being a former intern at DC Comics, Way has an admiration for the art, and especially for Morrison, and it shows in his work.

12:16pm to 1:30pm- NERDING OUT AND SHOPPING FOR COMICS

A little less nerdy this time, but… then I saw Joss Whedon walk past me in a Scott Pilgrim shirt, so it got worse.

1:31pm to 2:45pm- Standing in Line for Community Panel

2:46pm- Leaving Line for Community Panel to Meet a Friend Who Needed His Pass

3:15pm-Walking to Hall H

3:16pm- Contemplating Line for Hall H, Thor and Captain America Panel, and Noticing Paul Panel is also Supersaturated

I really wanted to attend these panels, especially to have a perfect hit ratio for Hall H, but the line was spectacularly long, and I was sick of waiting around with my feet hurting to sit in a dark room for three hours.

3:25pm to 7:00pm- NERDING OUT AND SHOPPING FOR COMICS

This also involved taking a lot of pictures, as well as walking and getting bumped into, which is everyone’s favorite part of the convention.

Later I found out that there was a stabbing in Hall H over a seat dispute, so I’m glad I missed that, but I was not glad I missed the Avengers being announced on stage, including official confirmation of Joss Whedon as director. That part would have been awesome- the stabbing, not so much.

SUNDAY

11:00am to 1:45pm- NERDING OUT AND SHOPPING FOR COMICS

The last day of the convention definitely calls for doing some more bargain shopping, as well as getting around to artists’ tables. I mean, it’s fucking Kids’ Day, so there’s not too much else going on.

2:00pm to 3:00pm- The Batman Dreams of Hieronymus Machines, or The Matt Fraction Spotlight Panel

Comics bad-boy and heartthrob Matt Fraction was interviewed in this spotlight panel by comedy bad-boy Bill Hader, in a repeat performance of their w00tstock act. Fraction spoke about the importance of comics, and then he and Hader made beautiful comedic music together. It was a delightful time had by all, but surely none as much as our hosts.

3:01pm to 5:00pm- NERDING OUT AND SHOPPING FOR COMICS

At this point I probably didn’t have any money left, as did most people in the convention center. Then they closed the doors on us.

All in all, the 2010 Comic-Con experience, caked in long lines, expensive food, heavy bags, but most importantly- one hell of a good time. Sure the smell and the heat was unbearable at times, and all that walking and standing would make a man go mad, but it only comes around once a year. Would I be crazy enough to do it again?

Without a doubt.

PS:

Walking Dead vols. 1,7, 9 (Robert Kirkman, Tony Moore, Charlie Adlard)

Blackheart Billy (Rick Remender, Kieron Dwyer)

Doll and Creature (Rick Remender, John Heebink)

Madman, Vol 1 (Michael Allred)

Iron Man: Extremis (Warren Ellis, Adi Granov)

Punisher MAX: Kingpin (Jason Aaron, Steve Dillon)

The Nightly News (Jonathan Hickman)

Identity Crisis (Brad Meltzer, Rags Morales)

Given to me:

Punisher Vol. 1 (Rick Remender, Jerome Opena)

A sketch of Heath Huston from Fear Agent commissioned by Danny Djeljosevic, SuperBro to the Stars.

by Rafael Gaitan
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