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Comic-Con International 2011 Report, Part 1

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Written by Musgo Del Jefe

Wednesday, July 20th

Arrival into San Diego. As most of the nation was suffering under unbearable heat, San Diego shows off why it’s one of the most desirable cities in the country with a mild 75 degrees as I landed at SAN in the middle of the afternoon. With Texas just finishing our 19th straight day of over 100 degrees, I walked out into the California sunshine with a smile on my face and a pep in my step. The town was already Comic Con-buzzing hours before the Preview Night was set to start.

Preview Night at Comic Con is the best chance to check out the show floor. There’s slightly less traffic, fewer costumed distractions, and the time I like to make most of my Comic Con purchases – or at least plan them out. With little room left in my luggage, I was mainly scoping out smaller items this year. The IDW booth that night had Walter Simonson signing his The Mighty Thor – Artists Edition, one of the best items at the Con. I was skeptical of the $100 price tag I saw it opened. It literally took my breath away. Beautiful art. I am curious to follow their releases in this series. They announced a Steve Ditko book for early next year at this Con.

The night ended with what is fast becoming a must-stop eating run on the first night to Lucha Libre Taco Shop. It was very late, so I went light with the Undefeated Seafood Taco and it might be the best thing on the menu. For fans of wrestling or quirky places in general, this little place off the beaten path is worth a stop.

Thursday, July 21st

The real Convention gets started early in the morning. As hordes of people fought to get tickets for next year (I’ll have a general comment on this catastrophe at the end) and others showed up to get their passes, the town comes alive with activity at every sight around the Convention Center. For blocks in each direction, there was more and more activities happening outside of the Convention. There was a Trickster event that featured creator-owned art, South Park had a village set up outside Petco Park and video game centers seemed to pop up at each corner. Inside the Convention I hit my first panels.

SPOTLIGHT ON JOYCE BRABNER. This panel could easily have just been about her recently passed husband, Harvey Pekar. But it was much more than that. She was saving lots of the stories for a future panel to pay tribute to Harvey. Here she accepted an Inkpot Award for her contributions to the pop culture community. She is a soft spoken but strong woman. You can instantly grasp her love for Harvey and how she misses him, but don’t mistake that for any weakness. She spoke of trying to get a statue of Harvey erected in Cleveland. She was funny with a very easy, comfortable style that conveyed a belief that working with Kickstart.com we can get this accomplished. See their website startign September 1st. Harvey’s last graphic novel, “Cleveland” will be coming out in Winter 2011.

Missed panels – The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn, The OneRing.net – The Hobbit, Burn Notice

SPOTLIGHT ON DICK DeBARTOLO. Dick’s also an Inkpot winner from Comic Con this year. Dick’s been a writer for Mad Magazine going back to 1966. As of this year, he’s been in over 409 consecutive issues. His Mad-type humor was evident throughout the panel. Dick’s most interesting stories were about his days on Match Game. The game show was about to be cancelled when, with nothing to lose, he wrote the first of the risque questions that the show would become known for. Thinking the show was done, they came back to him and told him he had to keep writing quesitons like that – for the next 18 years he worked on the show. The questions on the Match Game P.M. would push the boundaries even further. He talked of writing really filthy questions so that his risque ones would seem so bad. His favorite question – “Unlucky Louie was so unlucky. When he lost weight, he lost two inches from his (blank).” Dick finished the hour with a slideshow of some of the best Mad covers and stories behind them.

Missed panels – Rick Baker, Covert Affairs, Psych

SONY PICTURES ANIMATION SHOWCASE. Surprisingly, this panel started with a preview of Morgan Spurlock’s upcoming Comic Con documentary. It’s almost unfair to even begin to judge this documentary in this setting. Just the preview alone and with Morgan’s name attached – it’s a must-see. And at the Con it’s just preaching to the choir of people who love being where they are and want to feel like they belong to an even greater movement. No official date for release.

The rest of the panel covered the two relases upcoming from Aardman Animaiton. Previously with Dreamworks, the company has a strong history with Wallace & Gromit: Curse of the Were-Rabbit, Flushed Away and the great Chicken Run. First up will be the 3D Arthur Christmas. I saw a teaser for this last year at the Con that had me slightly excited. That all went away with the extended scene that proved to be a complete rehashing of the Disney Christmas special Prep & Landing mixed only slightly with some Monsters Inc. I hope that isn’t the case but I’m on full “beware” mode for this film.

The other featured cartoon is The Pirates! Band of Misfits. This 3D film due March 30, 2012 looks much more promising. The humor is much more up the wacky British style of Chicken Run and Wallace & Gromit. The voices of Hugh Grant, Salma Hayek and David Tennant (as Charles Darwin!!) seem well placed. Peter Lord is directing and he has brought us the best pieces from Aardman Animations. So I think they’ll rebound no matter how Arthur Christmas fares at the box office.

After this panel ended – there was a surpirse (to most of us) appearance of Pee-Wee Herman. It was pure Pee-Wee of Playhouse days up on stage. He stayed in character and had a great time sparring with the crowd. The man is adored and I don’t see how a decent film of his won’t do boffo numbers. Pee-Wee is working on a road picture, like Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure with Judd Apatow producing. That should give the film enough clout all by itself. I love the character and with him only the best.

Missed panels – Ringer, Penguins of Madagascar, Grant Morrison

FILMDISTRICT STUDIO. This panel was a mash-up panel of two upcoming films – Don’t Be Afraid Of The Dark and Drive. They called it a mashup so they could talk about both films at once. I’m a huge fan of the 1973 original Don’t Be Afraid Of The Dark and I’m quite apprehensive about the remake even with Guillermo del Toro producing it and Katie Holmes starring. The trailers didn’t assuage my fears. It has some bad mojo – with the release date changing from January to August now and I see a greater role in the film for the husband (Guy Pearce, in attendance) and the child. This is originally a pretty feminist piece and I fear it might lose some of that in favor of more gore. The other film Drive has more promise. It received great notices at Cannes this year. And the director Nicolas Winding Reth appears to be ready to break out. This is completely a Ryan Gosling flick with him looking very Steve McQueen in the role. Neither he nor Bryan Cranston appeared but the great Ron Perlman made an appearance to represent the film.

Missed panels – Game Of Thrones, Napoleon Dynamite animated

CLASSIC WB/HANNA-BARBERA CARTOONS. This panel talked about the upcoming classic cartoons to be released on Blu-ray. The Tom & Jerry Golden Collection is coming in October 2011. Many of the original copies of the films were thought to be lost in a fire in the 70s. But many of them were recovered from a home in Hollywood recently. We were able to see some of the new prints and the colors pop unlike any other Tom & Jerry cartoons I’ve ever seen. It’s like a totally new cartoon for many of these. In November, The Looney Tunes Platinum Collection of three Blu-ray discs will be released. Much like the Golden Collections on DVD – these will be the best of the best with some themed pieces together by character or storyline (like all of the Tasmanian Devil toons). The deluxe edition will come with a book by cartoon historian Jerry Beck, cels and magnets. Couldn’t be more excited for a release this Fall.

Missed panels – Amazing Spider-Man (movie), Roy Thomas

MAD MEN. After seeing Dick DeBartolo earlier in the day, this panel shot to the top of my list. Hosted by Mark Evanier, this panel just talked all things Mad Magazine. Joining Dick was Sergio Aragones, Peter Kupr, Keith Knight, and Tom Richmond. Mainly taking questions from the crowd – there’s wealth of humor with these folks. I don’t read the magazine like I did through my youth but seeing these guys you realize that humor magazines are very important to the industry. These types of panels are great to me. There isn’t any buzz about an upcoming product and nobody is being saluted. It’s just people interested in the product sitting around and hearing stories from the people that bring it to them.

Missed panels – Archer, Beavis & Butthead.

CREEPY & EERIE. As a big fan of the classic horror magazines from Warren publishing I was anxious to hear this panel. Unlike the Mad panel above, this one gave some lip service to the previous generation of the magazines. There was a nice mention of artists that have recently passed like Gene Colan and Jerry Grandenetti. And some classic covers were shown. But most of it was to promote upcoming releases. Some of them have to do with the classics – like Creepy Vol. 10 and a collection of all of the Frazetta art ever to appear in the magazines. But there was also a focus on the new issues of Creepy that are being made. Talk of a possible TV show being made from the stories of Creepy is interesting but I fear, once again, a dilution of the product and less attention paid to adapting the old classic stories.

Missed panels – Dexter, Shameless, Vertigo, Wilfred

PENN & TELLER: TELL A LIE. They were one of the best parts of last year’s show so I made a point to see them this year. Last year, they appeared without much to promote – their show on Showtime was on the way to being cancelled. This year they have two shows. One airs in the UK but fans seemed very familiar with the show – Penn & Teller: Fool Us. It’s a great show where magicians attempt to fool Penn & Teller with their magic and if they do, they get to open for them at their Vegas show. It’s a fun time that they would like to adapt for an American audience. Their new show in the US is to be called Penn & Teller: Tell A Lie It’s coming to the Discovery Channel (or DISCO as Penn called it) this Fall. In the show, they will tell multiple stories, one of which will be a lie and the audience will be able to vote to choose which one is false. It’s a great idea and lets them expose more science myths – this show, from the trailer we saw, falls somewhere between their Bullshit show on Showtime and Mythbusters. We were even treated to a story from Teller about a piranha that is about as long as I’ve ever heard him talk. They ended the show with a trick just to leave us all leaving the Con tired but excited at the end of our day.

And that would normally be the end of Day One. But Thursday was Forcey Awards night this year. The sixth annual awards presented by my group of compadres are pretty representative of what’s happening in pop culture these days. Winners included Scott Pilgrim for Best Movie, Daytripper for Best Comic, Beastie Boys took Best Album with Hot Sauce Committee Part Two and The Walking Dead unseated previous winners Breaking Bad and Fringe as Best TV Show. The Roger Corman rereleases on DVD won Best Reissue and our exclusive Hall Of Fame (nicknamed “The Kirby”) inducted Alfred Hitchcock, Days Of Our Lives, Planet Of The Apes, Randy “Macho Man” Savage and Walt Disney. That’s an eclectic bunch from an ecelectic bunch of fans of pop culture.

The first day faded into the sunset over the bay and we rested. The Friday and Saturdays of Comic Con are the most hectic and we’d have our work cut out to make the desirable panels. But maybe there’d be a gem lurking in one of the smaller rooms. More to follow . . .

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