Written by Musgo Del Jefe
THURSDAY, JULY 24
The bane of all So. Cal. experiences – traffic. El Bicho calls from the road just before we leave. Something about an exploding meat truck and fatalities and highways closed down. We head through the mountains and down the valley – despite an hour delay for a fatal accident on our way, we still beat El Bicho to the Convention by an hour or so. I'm sure his story will be much more graphic regarding this event.
Once we've breezed in the door, Tío Esqueleto and I make for Hall H to catch Push, Knowing, and Twilight. The lines too long and we're too antsy, so we bail. Not until we saw our first and best costume of the Con – a Mr. Incredible that really "filled out" the costume. Way to use what you got, buddy! Lucky we missed it too – I wanted to see the Twilight panel but I heard some not great feedback from fans of the books.
RED SONJA: ONE ON ONE – ROBERT RODRIGUEZ. There was only one real reason that Robert wanted to hold this panel. It was his big middle finger to the Directors Guild of America (unless when he was talking about the DGA he meant Disc Golf). While the "director" of Red Sonja will read Doug Aarniokoski (directed the From Dusk Til Dawn making-of, Full Tilt Boogie) – it's really going to be Robert. Not much to see here – just Rose McGowan sounding slightly off-balance in person and some sexy movie posters of her licking bloody swords all shot in Sin City-style.
Robert told everyone to look up Savage Sword Of Conan #60 – it was his first Conan comic and a big influence on him. They are just locking down locations so there wasn't any footage to share. In addition, Robert wants to "produce" a Conan movie next. But he's also working on Barbarella, he says that Frank Miller's almost done with the Sin City 2 script, and he says he's going to make Machette, Machette Kills, and then Machette Kills Again as a trilogy. The man is fun and I'm expecting just as much from Red Sonja.
Time to look around the floor until the next panel. All the pirates of previous years have been replaced by Jokers this season, no surprise. In fact, in general, the superhero finally rules again in the costumed world. There's still the gaggle of Stormtroopers and the rare Klingon. But it's the Batman, Wonder Woman and Spider-men that now rule the floor.
HBO'S TRUE BLOOD. I'm there mainly because it's created by Alan Ball (Six Feet Under). Until this Thursday I hadn't heard of the series. Since then, I'm knee deep in Book 1. The series is based on novels by Charlaine Harris and will star Anna Paquin (looking rather pretty as a blonde, in-person), Stephen Moyer, and a bunch of other actors from shows I don't watch. Amongst fans, I was surprised how many people were there because they were fans of the book – not, like me, a fan of Alan Ball. Book 9 is due out soon. In the previews we saw, Anna Paquin looks like a young Holly Hunter, Southern accent and all.
The series debuts on HBO on September 7th and I left this pretty excited about it. Alan is determined not to fall into the usual vampire theatrics – "no opera music, no blue lights, and no fake contacts," he said. There will be little in the way of CGI effects because of the tight shooting schedule. HBO spent some big money on marketing at the Con. We received a great gift bag with t-shirts, book, etc. And there will be a ton of viral marketing including lovebitten.net, a Blood Copy blog and some In Focus backstories on HBO. Getting excited about some new shows is just why I come here.
There wasn't much in the way of nighttime programming the first night. After last year, we weren't as sold on making "10th Annual Superhero Kung-Fu Extravaganza" or Lost Boys: The Tribe and we were too hungry to wait through "Comedy Central TV Funhouse w/Robert Smigel."
FRIDAY, JULY 25
Every year, this ends up being my favorite day. It's a full day, usually the best panels and usually not as jam packed as Saturday.
BATMAN: BRAVE & BOLD. In a conscience decision to avoid the biggest crowds, I end up in this panel for the latest Batman animated series that will debut on Cartoon Network in the Fall. With all the Dark Knight stories out there recently, this is a fresh step back to the lighter, throwback Batman. Heavily influenced by artist Dick Sprang from the Fifties and Sixties and even the original Batman TV series, this looks really fun. There's no Alfred, no Gordon, and no Batcave. You won't see Batman clicking away at his computer every seven minutes. The theme is a jazzier version of the original TV show and the design is very bold and striking when compared to recent series (no manga influences here). Who will Batman team with? The creators said they had two rules – Anybody but Robin and Anywhere but Gotham. From the preview – expect Gentleman Ghost, Gorilla Grod, Zebra Man, Kite Man and Blue Beetle at the least.
Missed – WATCHMEN, SPACED and Joss Whedon.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY'S THE VISIONARIES: SHOWRUNNERS. This panel included Lost creators Carlton Cuse and Damon Lindelof, Chuck and Gossip Girl creator Josh Schwartz, Pushing Daisies creator Bryan Fuller and Josh Friedman creator of Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles. This served as my substitute for not attending many of the individual panels that these guys were doing later in the weekend. Lots of talk about the Writer's Strike and how you catch viewers up next season.
Terminator had a good, but unintended cliffhanger and they start a mere two seconds after last season ended. Others, like Pushing Daisies will start up again six months further into the future. Most of the talk centered around the more dynamic creators of Lost and Terminator. I love Josh Friedman's dismissal of questions about other Terminator stories – "I don't think that Terminator would really work as a feature film – it's really TV or a musical only." Carlton and Damon suggested that all that was really lost during the strike was more of the "freighter folk" stories – many of which were delayed until this coming season. Carlton waxed about the influence of Watchmen on Lost. He said it helped him realize that a story didn't need to be told in chronological order. That you may only have a few main characters, but then you need to tell the stories of the characters around them in order to understand the main characters. And that telling the stories partially in flashback could be a powerful tool.
Missed – THE WOLFMAN (the 2nd biggest bummer of the Con), THE SPIRIT
SPOTLIGHT ON JAMES WARREN. Jim Warren is old. The man created Famous Monsters Of Filmland, Creepy, Eerie, and Vampirella among hundreds of magazines. He started off by asking our small room if we wanted him to "tell you what you want to hear or tell you the truth." It didn't really matter what we wanted, the old man couldn't hear the questions and just went on telling stories for an hour. There's always some gems in there – that's why I love seeing the old-timers at these events. Their stories are actual history now. And someday will be lost to the world if we're not there to hear them and repeat them to friends like this. Highlights included – Jim started with a magazine called After Hours with Forrey Ackerman to compete with Playboy in 1955.
He featured Betty Page in the nude and got arrested in Philadelphia. Archie Goodwin was a young writer for Blazing Combat. With Creepy and Eerie, he wanted to replicate the EC Comics that had been banned. By publishing in a magazine format, he wasn't regulated like the comic market and he attracted artists "not burdened by sanity." The influence for the creation of Vampirella? A girl he fell in love with at the beach who was 12 and he was 14. Would love to have heard a whole hour on the magazine Help that featured R. Crumb, H. Kurtzman, Diane Arbus and had gloria Steinem as an Assistant Editor.
Missed – FAMILY GUY.
GOING APE: CELEBRATING 75 YEARS OF THE BEAST AND THE BEAUTY OF KING KONG. El Bicho and I sat through about half of this. It was really just people like us talking about the Kong films. No one involved with the films was there, so there seemed to not be the same energy in the room. The big conclusion – kids love monkeys.
IT'S A GREAT COMIC-CON, CHARLIE BROWN. Essentially, all the voices from the original shows except Linus and Lee Mendelson (exec. producer of every Peanuts special) and Jeannie Schulz (last wife of Sparky). Lots of great memories from the cast who were all kids at the time. Most of them didn't even admit to friends that they were the voices on the shows until later in life. Charles Schulz did over 17,800 Peanuts strips in his life. If he wanted to meet a famous person – he'd do a strip about them and eventually they'd contact him to get a copy. Lee Mendelson had originally only done a documentary on Willie Mays when he hooked up with Sparky and promised that they'd put together a Christmas Special. That first Christmas Special was sponsored by Coca-Cola.
It's explained in a DVD extra shown here that in the original airing – at the beginning when Snoopy is swinging them around by Linus' blanket – Charlie Brown is thrown into the snow bank and the delete scene has Linus thrown into a Coca Cola sign. There are over 40 specials, all together, a few are already out on DVD. The Halloween comes out in September, the You're Not Elected and Thanksgiving and Christmas all arrive in October. The whole library of Peanuts special will be available by the time they're through.
Missed – Bernie Wrightson, EW's: Filmmakers with Kevin Smith, Frank Miller, Zack Snyder and Judd Apatow, PRISON BREAK
Tío and I head off to get a sandwich in order to make it back for MST3K 20th ANNIVERARY REUNION, only to find the line cut off (1st biggest bummer of the Con). Tío heads off with the end theme of The Incredible Hulk playing and I sit through another show to make sure we can get in the last show of the night.
NICKELODEON AVATAR: SOZIN'S COMET. The young folks love, love, love this show. I've never seen it, but now I've seen the final two episodes. Lots of cheering, lots of fighting, and a little kissing. I tried to sleep, couldn't find a quiet location. Nicest t-shirt of the con given away here – traded it for Watchmen.
The highlight of every Con seems to be WORST CARTOONS EVER and it didn't let us down one bit this year. The return of Super President and another chapter of Spunky & Tadpole. That damn story still hasn't ended – will they survive? Gotta tune in next year. And definitely the best/worst Mighty Mr. Titan of all (involving some tushy exercises).
SATURDAY, JULY 26
I usually dread the Saturday crowds but I was prepared this year to spend most of my day walking the floor. Getting freebies and just enjoying the sights, sounds, and smells (um, not so much) of Comic Con. My plan was to avoid wasting time in lines and just make the most of the day.
Missed – THE FAIRLY ODDPARENTS, FUTURAMA, Ralph Bakshi, THE SIMPSONS, HEROES (all because of over-crowding)
BEN 10: ALIEN FORCE and THE SECRET SATURDAYS. I ended up in here because I figured there were two panels in the room that I wanted to see afterwards. While I've only occasionally watched Ben 10 – I found the voice cast and creators to be very fun. Plus, two of them were voices from Teen Titans – Terra and Beast Boy. My favorite questions of the Con came from the little kids in here asking questions of the voice actors like they're really the characters – "So, in that last episode you turned into a mutant robot but they never explained how you turned back. So how did you turn back? No, really, not joking around, how did you do it?" (asked by a seven-year-old). The Secret Saturdays looks pretty derivative – it's easily The Incredibles meets Johnny Quest.
TERMINATOR: THE SARAH CONNOR CHRONICLES. Trailer for Season Two and every major actor from the show in attendance. The trailer looks like there's going to be plenty of explosions this season. It will be much more of John Connor's story in Season Two. When not busting on Lost (calling Damon and Carlton – "Darlton" amongst other fun digs), Josh Friedman was pretty forthcoming about the season. One of the main characters will die and there will be more interaction with the outside world – less "family" building. Best line of the panel came from the police officer, Ellison, acted by Richard T. Jones, who said, "I dared to play my character as a black man. No one else on this cast seems to have made that choice." (looking at the remaining all white panel). Shirley Manson from Garbage was there and will play a key part in the show this season. I went mainly to see Summer Glau but was blown away by the sheer beauty of Lena Headey.
Missed – Tori Amos (another damn!), LOST, DOLLHOUSE
EXCLUSIVE Q&A WITH THE WRITERS OF THE OFFICE. Rainn Wilson (Dwight) hosted the panel with all the writers including cast member/writers – Ryan (BJ Novak), Kelly (Mindy Kaling) and the funniest one on the panel, Mose (Michael Schur). This panel could've easily filled two hours to answer questions. Funny quotes everywhere. I loved Rainn referring to the "far superior English version" when addressing the writers. And Mose constantly referring to a certain MTV show – "I always ask myself, how do we make this show more like The Hills" when addressing the Pam/Jim romance.
Missed – TERMINATOR: SALVATION, Pixar, MAD in the ‘60s, Ray Bradbury (damn again), FRINGE.
All the while, I spent a great afternoon shopping, watching demos on the floor and absorbing as much as I could. While walking into the last panel of the day, I passed a police officer talking on his walkie talkie – ". . . we have a suspect dressed as The Joker who bolted out the back door of the hall and is on the run . . ." I couldn't have hoped and dreamed of a better "Con moment" than that little one.
SONY PICTURES: UNDERWORLD: RICE OF THE LYCANS, QUARANTINE, PINEAPPLE EXPRESS. In short, "Quarantine" is loud and uninspiring. "Underworld" I have none to none at all interest in seeing this but it's nice to see Bill Nighy again. What was Judd Apatow, Seth Rogen, and James Franco among others going to tell me about "Pineapple Express" that I needed to know? Well, showing me about 10 minutes of the movie was great but I wanted to see it in the first place. Judd is approaching Kevin Smith status at the Con and I expect I'll make an appointment to see him here next year.
Missed – MYTHBUSTERS.