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Comic-Con: Day One

Comic-Con 2008 started off with an early morning, supposedly easy two-hour drive to San Diego from my nephew’s home in Fullerton. We departed at 6:30 a.m., took two cars, and quickly got to San Honofre with clear, easy driving all the way there. At San Honofre, we came to a full stop. At first we thought it was just traffic, but then saw the signs reading major accident at Las Pulgas. Still, we figured we'd be fine and get there in plenty time for the opening of the doors of the Convention Center to the eagerly awaiting throng of over 125,000 expected attendees. Two hours later, we were still sitting in the parking lot that was the 5 freeway.

The worst part of the traffic was that we were stuck in between a nuclear power plant and a military base. No place to turn off, no exits, no way to pull over and walk around. We were trapped, plain and simple. I spent a lot of time Twittering my frustration and giving updates on the weird things I saw people doing to pass the time. We saw a woman reading a book while driving, balancing the book on her steering wheel; a woman on the other side of the freeway was running down the shoulder holding up a sign; a guy was beating drumsticks on his steering wheel and another was driving with his feet.

From somewhere behind me, Felicia Day was Twittering as well. Wil Wheaton was Twittering away, sending out warnings to other Twitterers to stay off the 5. Twitter kept me sane, although at one point I pretended to hang myself with my seatbelt. My niece Krista kept changing the CD player, trying to find something to keep our spirits up. By now, three hours had passed, and we had moved two miles. The clock on the dashboard was eating up time, and we started to despair as I read Tweet after Tweet from the now open convention. We missed Stan Lee, and we missed Keanu Reeves. Frustration mounted. Finally, we started to move, and I thought we’d still get to Comic-Con in time to get to some of the panels I was slated to cover. It was not to be.

We were moving, but excruciatingly slowly. Inch by inch, we moved forward and could see the clogged vista ahead. It was disheartening. At exactly five hours from the time we came to our stop at San Honofre, we finally broke free and saw the horrible wreck that had caused our hours of discomfort. A semi-truck, one of Von’s, was completely burnt and broken and beyond that, the charred skeleton of what appeared to be a car sat on a tow truck. The road surrounding the truck was charred black, and firemen and highway patrol men surrounded the wreck. I was able to snap a few photos of the truck, but missed the charred car. Felicia Day took video, which, she Tweeted, she would post later.

We got to San Diego at 2:00 p.m., stiff, sore, starving, and grumpy, only to find another challenge awaited us, that of finding parking. It took us another 45 minutes to find parking a mile away from the convention center. We stopped to eat at Subway where we met a woman who said she was a model and then hiked to the con.

Wow.

I’ve been coming to San Diego for Comic-Con for years, and I have never seen an opening day like this one. It felt like Saturday Comic-Con, not Thursday. The halls were so packed it was hard to walk. We managed to maneuver our way over to Dark Horse Comics to have a quick meeting with Jeremy Atkins to figure out my interview schedule. We agreed to meet after the panels I was running late for, and I set off to the meeting rooms where I found everything running a little behind. Lucky me. I hadn’t missed anything.

I made it in time for the Disney Race to Witch Mountain press conference, but it was running late so I couldn’t stay. I grabbed the press sheet on Bolt (starring John Travolta) and Race to Witch Mountain, chatted with Bill Desowitz about industry stuff and headed around the corner for the Dark Castle Entertainment press roundtable for RocknRolla. It was running late, as was everything (due to the accident I presume), and I was lucky not to miss anything. I settled in to wait outside the room while my nephews and niece walked the floor. As I was waiting and speaking on the phone with my nephew Nathan, The Rock stepped out from behind a black curtain surrounded by an entourage of convention center staff on his way to the Race to Witch Mountain press conference. He took the time out to stop and pose for a photo with a fan.

Once the press conference started, it moved quickly. Present were Guy Richie (director and writer), Gerard Butler, Jeremy Piven, Ludacris, and Idris Elba. The conversation was fast and friendly. I was rapidly taking notes and couldn’t write fast enough (I had left my tape recorder in the car).

Guy Richie was very funny and charming as he spoke about his new film with passion. Asked by one journalist as to whether he knew underworld characters in real life, he said no, but that the he did base one of the characters in Snatch on an actual criminal whose job it was to remove the teeth from the bodies before feeding them to the pigs. He mentioned that he was just a normal seeming old farmer for whom this was just an ordinary job.

When asked what his perception of the film was, he stated that he had written it to be a social commentary about London and how it is changing and the cultural manifestations of doing business in contemporary London.

One of the things that I found interesting was his comment about how there is nothing exotic about the seeming exoticness of criminal figures. He mentioned “his American wife” who is teaching him to see his country in a whole new light, that of a tourist for whom everything is new.

Gerard Butler seemed very impassioned by the film. He also was incredibly charming (and handsome). He was asked about Game as well as a sequel to 300 but steered the questions back to RocknRolla.

From what I saw and from the press conference, I think RocknRolla is going to be a hell of a film. I’m looking forward to it.

Video highlights of press conference:

Day one ended for me right after the conference as I was pretty wiped from the hours sitting in traffic.

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