Two nights, two days, in the solid deep-sea swell / he drifted, many times awaiting death.
The Odyssey, Book V, 11.388-89
Friday was Star Wars Day at Comic Con, although for some attendees that’s every day considering Star Wars costumes appeared to be the most abundant throughout the event. Panels covered upcoming Star Wars books toys, and computer games. There was also a trivia contest, a panel about its 30 years as a pop-culture phenomenon and a look at Robot Chicken: Star Wars.
Warner Bros started off the studio presentations. First up was Get Smart. Steve Carrell and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson got big hands when they came out, but the ovation Masi Oka received made clear Heroes fans were in the house. I was very leery when I heard this project announced but after seeing the presentation, Get Smart should do very well. The clips presented plenty of humor with intense action.
Before clips from The Invasion, the latest remake of Jack Finney’s Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Nicole Kidman appeared in a pre-recorded message to say hello from Australia where she was working with Baz Luhrmann. She seemed under the impression that all in attendance were young children as she spoke about how far away she was.
If you ask about the greatest panel at Comic Con, four people will consider it to be One Missed Call, the American version of the Japanese horror film Chakushin Ari. That’s because panelists Ed Burns and Shannyn Sossamon, who seemed slightly terrified, gave them iPhones for coming up and asking questions. The trailer for Roland Emmerich’s 10,000 B.C. was a blur and made the film look terrible. The cuts were so fast images were barely decipherable. It appeared as if they were trying to cover the CGI special effects.
Another trailer that suffered from a bad edit was Whiteout, based on the graphic novel by Greg Rucka and artist Steve Lieber. Rucka was present as was producer Joel Silver and director Dominic Sena, who came off as a bit of an oaf when his response to a very young boy’s question about high jinks on the set included the word “dildo.” The star of the film is Kate Beckinsdale, a fanboy favorite particularly for her work in the Underworld movies and because she’s hot. She was late due to traffic, but her fans didn’t care. Many cameras flashed as she strode across the stage. She was flirtatious and risqué, almost over-the-top in her efforts to be sexual. It came off as a tad silly, but a good way to keep your fan base is to give the illusion they actually have a shot at sleeping with you. It worked for most in the audience who I am sure ran her responses through their minds during their “alone time” that evening.
One of the most anticipated projects is the adaptation of Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons Watchmen. I can’t fathom it as a theatrical release because the scope of the material is more suited to a miniseries, but director Zack Snyder has earned some capital after his brilliant work on Frank Miller’s 300. He has a great attitude and is respectful of the material. His hope for the project is for Moore to think they didn’t fuck it up too badly.
I enjoy the writing and ramblings of author Neil Gaiman, so after securing my lunch, a tasty Mexican salad and a side of onion rings, from the concessions in the showroom, I made sure to get a seat for that event by the only way to guarantee it at Comic Con: I sat in on the previous panel. It was Sony Pictures Television/Kids’ WB: The Spectacular Spider-Man, another animated take on the wall-crawler. Some of the creators behind this version worked on the animated series Gargoyles, and their fans showed up with questions. The audience seemed content with Spider-Man’s new look, but it’s terrible. The body looked unnatural at different angles, giant thigh muscles and weird edges around knees and elbows. I don’t understand the need to reinvent the wheel. Hopefully the stories will overcome the visuals.
Gaiman packed the room. Fans had to be constantly swept out of the aisles and from along the walls by the staff. Some were left outside shouting about the injustice of not being let in. Gaiman held court by himself, talking about the status of projects. Most of what he talked about regarding film work he covered at the Paramount Panel. He still hopes to begin directing Death: The High Cost of Living and Terry Gilliam needs $70 million to shoot Good Omens. He also discussed how Comic Con has changed over the years. He was very entertaining and opened the floor very early to allow as many people as possible to ask questions. A lot of aspiring writers were curious about where his ideas come from or how someone can be a professional writer. He did pass on excellent advice that he heard: when you sit down to write, you can either do nothing or write. No playing on the computer, no cleaning up the office, nothing, but those two options.
When the session ended, a new group of rapid fans lined the convention hall eager to see a script reading of American Dad. I wonder how the visual jokes will translate. I tried to catch the end of Marvel Comics in the 60s and 70s, but the entrepreneurs/artists in line for Business of Web Comics got cranky when I approached the door.
While the new and current are understandably in vogue, Comic Con does do a good job of honoring the old-timers. Aside from the old Marvel Guys, Friday saw 25th Anniversary looks at both the Hernandez Brothers Love and Rockets and Dave Stevens The Rocketeer. Spotlights were also placed on Allen Bellman, who started drawing backgrounds for Captain America in the 1940s, George Gladir, Archie Comics writer for almost 50 years, and Mel Keefer, who worked on newspaper syndicated comic strips.
With so much to see, there’s only so much one man can cover. Fellow Snob Tio Esquelto reported in from the Dimension Films: Halloween and The Mist panels. Director Rob Zombie came off as if he didn’t want to be there. Certainly not a great way to sell a film about to released in a few weeks and may speak to his thoughts about the end result of the project. During The Mist, a young man asked Thomas Jane if he wanted to discuss his departure from The Punisher franchise. He responded, “No.”
I attended The Jim Henson Company panel and they had a lot of projects of interest. Fans of Farscape, Fraggle Rock, and Dark Crystal all have something to look forward to. My favorite was a hysterical project called Tinseltown about a gay couple, a pig named Bobby and a goat named Samson, living and working in Hollywood. Everyone else in the show is a real person. A pilot is being created for Logo, a gay-themed channel, but I don’t see why they should restrict or limit their potential audience. It was so funny it could work on networks or cable channels with a larger audience.
Skrumps, a digital show based on a toyline, appears at Yahoo! Kids. While the characters aren’t visually interesting, the technology behind it is fascinating. They perform puppetry combined with motion capture to create real-time visuals on screen. This allows for live interaction and improvisation in the performance. The Henson gang’s improv skills are also on display in Puppet Up! Uncensored, a live sketch show that currently plays in Hollywood. You can watch the puppets on the monitor or the performers on stage.
The showroom remained just as busy as Thursday. The sea change in celebrity status was on display as Oka from Heroes had a couple of bodyguards while John de Lancie, who played Q in the Star Trek franchise, wandered alone and unnoticed. The channel G4 was broadcasting from the show floor, getting the crowd to cheer into and back from breaks. I had to meet friends for dinner so I was disappointed to miss special effects legend Ray Harryhausen provide a live commentary to 20 Million Miles to Earth in honor of its 50th Anniversary.
The evening programming had a lot to offer. There was a screening of the Doctor Strange DVD, the Sci-Fi Channel’s Eureka and Who Wants to Be a Superhero!, and a play set aboard a Klingon ship. The first two Pirates of the Caribbean films were screened as were the first three X-Men films. The night concluded with a 1am screening of Swamp Thing.
The highlight of the convention was Jerry Beck from Cartoon Brew.com with his Worst Cartoons Ever! Fans of this event were happy to see the return of Mighty Mr. Titan, who teaches exercise, and other heroes like Super President, Rocket Robin Hood, and Johnny Cypher in Dimension Zero. If you attended last year you can see the further, albeit brief, adventures of Spunky & Tadpole. New to fold were Moon Mullins, a comic strip given the Clutch Cargo treatment, and Sam Bassett, Hero for Hire, a dog detective that works with a Chihuahua that only communicates through his guitar playing. For all the cartoons, the animation is usually poor, the stories nonsensical, and there are always unintended moments of comedy from potential homoerotic behavior and racial insensitivity.
Two award ceremonies were held on Friday night. The Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards, honoring excellence in the field of comic books, was held at the convention center while the lesser-known yet more exclusive Forcey Awards banquet, covering many fields of pop culture, was held at the Holiday Inn. Results for both can be found online.
Cringe-inducing question of the day: During The Spectacular Spider-Man session, a gawky young man, either looking for his moment of fame or too stupid to understand who he was talking to, asked why Spider-Man 3 sucked so bad.