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Comic-Con International 2008: Day One

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Thursday morning’s drive down to San Diego on Interstate 5 provided an unknowing bit of foreshadowing to Comic-Con weekend as four lanes of freeway were slowed to a crawl. Before dawn, a very bad accident causing a tractor-trailer to roll over, its contents of meat to be strewn across the road, and a few fires to break out snarled up traffic for almost 10 hours. Trapped without an offramp, it took the Senora and I four hours to go 10 miles and we hit the backup at 8:30am.

I missed a few panels I would have liked to have seen: a bit of history as fans reminisced over 75 Years of Doc Savage, the deluded egos of movie-website nerds/publishers who are rather full of themselves considering they are free marketing tools of the studios, a listen to Stan Lee and Grant Morrison talk about comics past and future, and watching the people behind Freakazoid! promote the welcomed DVD release.

After finally arriving, we got into Hall H, the biggest room at the venue with a capacity of 6,500, where the studios promote upcoming releases. Summit Entertainment was holding court. We caught the tail end of the Q&A for Push but wasn’t clear what was going on. Knowing directed by Alex Proyas and starring Nicholas Cage had an interesting premise about a message from the past predicting disasters. The footage presented got a good response from the packed house, although dang it was brutally loud. After Proyas left, the title card for Twilight appeared on the monitors. A shrill cry of hundreds of young girls rang out in the darkness, sounding like their grandmothers when The Beatles first touched down in America, and no doubt bothering dogs within the city limits. They shrieked every chance, particularly when Robert Pattison, who plays the love interest Edward vampire, was the focus. He had to deal with questions like, “What’s it like portraying a super-hot vampire?” Most of these young girls likely had no idea what was stirring within them and where it could lead.

The DVD/Blu-ray Producers panel was moderated by the guys from The Digital Bits website. The producers talked about upcoming work like The Ghostbusters cartoons and The Mist. There was some discussion about the pros and cons about BD-Live, mostly con as many of the new features are interactive across the Internet, which would distract from watching the movie, which apparently is so twentieth century. The DB guys began to dominate the discussion, so we left.

In an effort to make sure we got into the HBO True Blood panel, we got into the room early for the Capcom Street Fighter IV panel. Who knew there was a story behind a game where your object is to beat the crap out of your opponents? Fellow snobs Musgo Del Jefe and Tío Esqueleto, who had ventured out from their respective midwestern states, joined us. When the panelists threw it to the floor to ask whom the fans would like to see in the game, I shouted out, “Boba Fett!” Licensing issues aside, it would be cool. The gamers kept going, so I yelled, “Vegeta,” which got the attention of a woman passing by who thought I was speaking to her. Turns out she was Hygenia from the show Who Wants To Be A Superhero?

As Alan Ball, the creator of True Blood, and author Charlaine Harris, whose books provide the source material, began to describe the series about humans and vampires, it sounded an awful lot like an adult version of Twilight. However, it turns out that Stefanie Meyer is the one late to the party as Dead Until Dark, the first in the Southern Vampire series predates Twilight by four years. When asked about the project, both were polite. Ball had a Buddhist view that there was room for all in the universe. Harris agreed, but did point out that her crew could take the Twilight vampires any night of the week. Ball offered his motto for the series, “No blue light, no contact lenses, no opera music.” Unfortunately, the moderator was horrible. She apparently had no idea that some people in the room weren’t devotees of the books, so she constantly gave away plot points to the disappointment of more than a few looking forward to the series. I wish I caught her name, but thankfully our paths never crossed again.

Next up in the same room was the Showtime Dexter panel that included the lead Michael C. Hall and executive producer Clyde Phillips as fans gathered to discuss their favorite fictional serial killer. The trailer for the new season showed Jimmy Smits was joining the cast. Phillips was asked about his thoughts on the show being run on CBS during the writers’ strike. He was more than fine with it and the cuts needed for network television because, as he stated, Showtime on its best night gets one million viewers; CBS on its worst night gets six million. This also likely helped bring the series to the attention of Emmy voters who bestowed it with nominations. Fans got excited when a special guest was announced, but it only turned out to be Mark Ecko promoting his company’s Dexter game for the iPhone, bringing to mind Ralphie Parker’s Ovaltine reaction, “A crummy commercial?”

As questions were asked of the Dexter panel, I had an epiphany about the types of people who step up to the mike from the audience as patterns became clear. While not all fall into these categories, there are common archetypes: the person who babbles on about himself to the interest of no one, likely because no one in his life listens; the nervous person who gets so lost in his thoughts and can’t believe he is speaking to his idols that he ends up repeating the question multiple times before allowing a response; and the presumptuous fan who offers creative suggestions on where to take the project. There is also the wannabe comedian who thinks they have a hysterical question that barely registers a groan; the fan that is so protective of what they love they don’t trust the creative team involved; and the obnoxious person who wants to deliver a dig, which admittedly at times may be warranted.

The best panel on Thursday was the Comedy Central TV Funhouse panel in honor of the series’ DVD release. Triumph the Insult Comic Dog started off the festivities, tearing apart the audience members who ate up every zinger. He even got most of the audience on their feet to better themselves with one jumping jack. Show creator Robert Smigel, who understandably failed to mention he had written the classic Saturday Night Live sketch where Shatner chastised Star Trek fans, and writer Dino Stamatopoulos, who was in a foul mood because his show Morel Oral has been cancelled on Adult Swim, had a freewheeling session with their friend Bob Odenkerk attempting to control the chaos as the moderator. Smigel showed clips from the DVD and talked about the show’s creation. Dino threw Oral DVDs into the crowd and bravely revealed a behind-the-scenes story about a goose crapping in his mouth. Smigel was trying to get show host Doug Dale to appear via the internet, but his laptop was giving him fits. Since there was no tech support, a young woman from the audience offered up her MacBook.

We concluded the night with a peek into the Star Wars Fan Film Awards. Simultaneously surprising yet not, Ballroom 20, the second biggest room, was nearly filled. The winners got awarded a cool-looking gold statuette of C-3PO and R2-D2 and then the films were screened. All the winners are available for viewing at Atom.com. We caught Best Comedy – “Paraphrase Theater” by Will Carlough, a mildly amusing short, although Best Parody – “Star Wars Grindhouse: Don’t Go In The Endor Woods” by Michael Ramova worked much better. It was funnier and holds up on repeat viewings. Best Creature / Character Makeup – "Contract of Evil" by Lou Klein obviously took a lot of time and work and was an impressive film.

Passing up the Lost Boys: The Tribe World Premiere and the Alien/Predator movie marathon at the Marriott, we headed back to our hotel to recharge for Day Two.

Triumph’s Opening Remarks:

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About Gordon S. Miller

Gordon S. Miller is the artist formerly known as El Bicho, the nom de plume he used when he first began reviewing movies online for The Masked Movie Snobs in 2003. Before the year was out, he became that site's publisher. Over the years, he has also contributed to a number of other sites as a writer and editor, such as FilmRadar, Film School Rejects, High Def Digest, and Blogcritics. He is the Publisher of Cinema Sentries. Some of his random thoughts can be found at twitter.com/ElBicho_CS