Written by Shawn Bourdo
I reached Saturday this year without the same weariness that I remember from previous years. Despite another sold out crowd at the Con, I’ve become adept at avoiding the mental stress of the crowds. I hadn’t been into the large rooms of Hall H or Room 20. I hadn’t missed a panel on my list because I hadn’t chosen one I knew I wouldn’t get into. Saturday is a different animal. It’s the smelliest and most crowded of all the days. It was a beautiful sunny day
SNOOPY, HIS SISTER BELLE AND OTHER SIBLING RELATIONSHIPS IN PEANUTS (Room5AB)
Two Peanuts social panels in three days. Be still my heart. I was aware of Belle before this panel but only barely. I was interested to see where they were going with Corry Kanzenberg of the Charles M. Schulz Museum and Lisa Shirai of international licensing for Peanuts; Monte Schulz, Charles’ son; and Kelly Osbourne.
It’s interesting to think of all the sibling relationships in the strips considering Charles was an only child. Charles was an avid reader and he soaked up knowledge and language. He always seemed to have a feel for current lingo and yet he had a connection to his childhood. His characters still dressed in Depression Era clothes. When we first met Snoopy’s brother, Spike, Snoopy tells the round-headed kid (Snoopy doesn’t know his owner’s name is Charlie in the strips) to “take him to Scarf City.” That term referred to the current term amongst teenagers to scarf down food.
It’s hard to have deep talks about the sibling relationships with regards to Snoopy. He did have seven other siblings in his litter but we didn’t see many interactions with them. And we never saw all of them together in print. I remember Spike the best. Spike was the skinny brother from the desert and seemed to appear regularly.
The rest of the siblings often only made small appearances and were sometimes remarkable just for one or two traits. Marbles wore shoes and didn’t buy into the Sopwith Camel fantasy. He pointed out that it was just a doghouse and that the ambulance was just a shopping cart. Olaf was the most unique looking of the siblings. Olaf is fat and ugly. We are introduced to him when he is entered in an Ugly Dog Contest that he wins. His owners have a license plate that reads “Our other dog is a golden retriever.” Once we meet the brother, Andy, they are hardly ever separated. Andy was named after a dog of the Schulz family and was a shaggy version of Snoopy. He would appear first in an animated special and then in the print version. The two other family members that appeared in the Snoopy Family Reunion but never in the strip was Rover and Molly.
That leaves Belle. Including Belle in the title of the panel and Kelly Osborne on the panel were not coincidences. Belle is very popular in Japan – we were told that the most popular characters in Japan by rank are 1) Snoopy 2) Woodstock 3) Belle 4) Olaf. Belle had a few appearances in the comic strip (and made her first appearance here at Comic-Con) but she is being rolled out with Kelly Osborne as “fashionistas.” It’s hard to miss Belle by her pink bow and I think we’re going to see much more of her in the next year.
The panel was much more a history of Snoopy’s siblings than it was an exploration of his relationships with them. But it’s trips like this down memory lane that will keep me coming back every year.
WARNER ARCHIVE COLLECTION: TRAILERS FROM HELL LIVE! (Room 25ABC)
I expected just to see a few trailers from upcoming Warner Archive releases. The company is celebrating their fifth birthday and they’ve recently added 2,000 titles to their streaming library. They’ve teamed with the trailersfromhell.com folks (a site started by Joe Dante) to talk about and show some trailers. As they say – watching trailers can be a fantastic waste of time. With emphasis on the fantastic. I was pleasantly surprised to see an unannounced appearance on the panel by Stuart Gordon, a man who knows a thing or two about Cult Films (see Reanimator).
The trailer for Night of the Iguana gets credit for starting the movement of the trailer as an art form. Before then, we really just heard a brief description of the plot and the stars. A good trailer almost exists as a small movie by itself. Like any good advertisement, it creates the need to buy a ticket to see the film. The panel showed a few trailers and to my dismay spent more time talking about the films than the trailers. I love hearing more about cult films available on Warner Archive but the focus of the panel should have been the construction of the trailer.
The Beast With Five Fingers was Stuart’s choice and it’s a truly great cult film. It stars the great Peter Lorre and a hand that’s cut off and terrorizes through the film. It’s directed by Robert Florey who I knew from the awesome Murders in the Rue Morgue film adaptation that was heavily influenced by the German Expressionist films. The trailer itself deserved attention for how it portrayed the suspense of the film without giving away too much of the plot.
Interesting trailers followed for Dark of the Sun (a weird non-buddy pic with Rod Taylor and Jim Brown) and the 1976 odd entry of Norman, Is That You?. This film starred Redd Foxx and was one of the first films ever shot on video and then converted to film. The Broadway play was so different that Billy Wilder initially wanted to do the adaptation. The stories of Redd Foxx being stoned through the whole filming are not surprising. This was a man at the top of his popularity in the mid Seventies.
The trailer for Born To Be Bad is one that needed to be discussed in more detail. Joan Fontaine plays a very evil character in the film and yet the trailer plays it up as a love story. The movie has many film noir aspects and that shines through even in the lighthearted trailer. I love her line to one of the men in the film – “I love you so much. I wish I liked you.” This just hit home for me what makes the difference between a good panel and the type of awesome panel that I yearn for.
THE NERDIST PANEL (Indigo Ballroom)
I came to this panel partially because I enjoy the work of Chris Hardwick on AMC’s Talking Dead and partially because I wanted to secure my seat for the next panel. I appreciate their work on Nerdist News and I love the new Weird Al video they did for “Tacky.” Chris admits that much of what Nerdist is trying to do is just recreate what was the best of the G4 network with X-Play and Attack of the Show except on the web. And to not lose money.
I like the chemistry between the staff of the website. There was an interesting discussion of a few zombie issues with the Science editor including scientific theories of how the Walking Dead dormant virus could work to make zombies. And is being a Walker maybe so pleasurable that no one wants to stop – like one long orgasm. Is cilantro the cure and no one has ever fed it to the Walkers?
The future is happening quickly for this crew. Hardwick has more seasons on Talking Dead and they are bringing the YouTube show All-Star Celebrity Bowling to AMC soon. The ultimate endgame for this group is to get to making their own low budget sci-fi and horror films. But it has to happen organically. I root for this crew and it was good to sit through a panel that I really probably wouldn’t have sought out.
ANYTHING GOES WITH JOHN BARROWMAN (Indigo Ballroom)
This was my favorite panel last year. The crowd loved it and I wondered to myself this year – why didn’t word of mouth make this more crowded? It was a full ballroom but you could have still walked right in as it started. John did this show all by himself. I know how I complained about other panels that didn’t have a moderator but he does not. John brings so much energy to the room that he understands how to entertain a crowd. He could easily do a one man show – The John Show.
He’s very upfront when asked about appearing back on Broadway that he would love to someday but he realizes his age means he’d have to accept different roles. And he’s busy as a regular on a TV show now that just doesn’t lend itself to rehearsing and starring in a musical. He still has that love for the musical theater and it comes through in the way her performs onstage to a crowd like this. When he said he was a huge fan of Cole Porter, it made lots of sense. He acts just seconds away from breaking into a Cole Porter song.
The questions always come up about Torchwood. It is a dead franchise right now according to the BBC. They have no plans for it moving forward and that means no more of the book series that he has been writing with his sister. So they have moved on to other literary projects.
It’s impossible to capture the spirit of this panel. It’s a frenetic ride of stories about him and his husband, Scott, driving the bayous in the South and farts and “hooded vs. unhooded” toys. He’s excited to talk about meeting Benedict Cumberbatch at the Con and Benedict taking him to meet Orlando Bloom. The top story for me had to do with a Dalek he has in his home that’s programmed with many non-Doctor Who phrases by the current Dalek voice and his collection of superhero outfits in the bedroom including Captain America, Robin, and Wonder Woman (for special occasions).
John is very excited about being on Arrow as Malcolm Merlin. I like the energy he brings to the role as a villain. He says that playing a villain is so much more exciting than as the hero on Torchwood. He’s excited about the debut of The Flash this season and hints at crossovers like when he was young an “Six Million Dollar Man” and “The Bionic Woman” would crossover.
This panel did not disappoint and was once again my favorite of the weekend. It felt like a good stopping point for the day. Usually that would be the end of my Con. But a later flight meant a few panels for the next day.
THE FOLLOWING (Hall H)
Sunday is usually a very laid back day at the Con. Typically, there are mostly children-oriented panels. But this year seemed to have a bleed over of other panels that just couldn’t be fit into the week. I made my first trip of the Con into the famous Hall H. I’ve never seen an episode of The Following so I was getting quick updates from a viewer as I watched clips and listened to the cast.
I’ve enjoyed the work of Kevin Bacon and admired much of the work of creator Kevin Williamson (Scream). I understand that the first couple seasons of this show have been pretty psychologically charged but I didn’t hear anything here that would make me want to watch Season Three of the show. It sounds like the first two seasons told a pretty complete story and I didn’t get the idea that there was lots of direction for this upcoming season. I was left feeling like I missed a couple seasons much like a Dexter and that they were going to become more traditional police procedural this season. I hope I’m wrong because many of the fans seemed invested in the show.
SONS OF ANARCHY (Hall H)
My Comic-Con ended with a show that I’m trying to start from the beginning and watch all seasons before the final season starts this Fall. I attended in part for my friends who are big fans of the show to get them some pictures and insights. That’s part of the appeal of being at the Con – representing your group of fans to panels of shows and comics that bring you together. So, this panel was for Kim.
The current cast all showed up except Charlie Hunnam who was out on a shoot for Vogue. But he made up for it with one of the more humorous video messages that I’ve seen. I was in awe to see one of my heroes Katey Sagal. The cast as a whole have awesome chemistry. It really seemed like a family up there. And they deferred to their leader, the creator Kurt Sutter. This has been quite the project for him. All that work on The Shield was just getting him warmed up for what he’s done with this series. And as it comes to an end this Fall, I was touched as were all in the room at his tears from hearing all the love from his cast.
This is why you go. This is why you wait in line. This is why you come here and find your tribe. This man and all the other women and men who sit up there at every panel work tirelessly at their craft. They work in small rooms alone or with small groups of people to produce the products we love. They make stories that make us laugh and cry and reach out to bond with other people who watch or read the same things. But they don’t get to hear the applause when I watch an episode on Netflix. It’s here. This is the place that they see the faces, they hear the cheers and they know that everything they do is worth it. And sometimes that can send a grown man to tears.
I walked out of the Hall to find a cab as the sun was peeking out of the morning fog. And any doubts I had of returning were obliterated. This is my home.