Written by Shawn Bourdo
After two relatively calm days, Saturday is always the day that things just get out of hand. The lines and crowds are insane. So it’s usually a day that you have to pick and choose your panels and rooms carefully. My strategy is to either pick small and easy-to-attend panels or get into a room and stay there for the day. I’ve done both over the years and the way the weekend had been playing out I decided to stick with some more unique and interesting panels than to do the major shows and films.
SPOTLIGHT ON WILLIAM GIBSON
I’ve been a fan of science fiction novelist William Gibson since reading Neuromancer. I was excited to see him appearing here because I didn’t remember seeing him on a panel before. He’s attending because of his association as creator and co-writer of an IDW comic called Archangel. This fills my other policy of seeing older artists before they pass away. The man is only 68 but he appears more frail than his age would suggest. And I like that I can say I’ve heard him speak.
This did turn out to be Gibson’s first appearance at the San Diego Comic-Con. He was presented with the iconic Inkpot Award for his accomplishments in science fiction. I’m excited to see him get his recognition but it feels slightly decades overdue. His top work was groundbreaking in the 1990s. The average attendee probably sees him as some author their parents read. The best part of his acceptance and the panel was William talking about his connection to comics. When he was a young child he couldn’t read that well. His mother gave him collections of Pogo comics that he read over and over. The exposure to such a detailed universe that also had a big political content was an obvious influence on the worlds that he would create later in his books. I love knowing how authors were raised and how it shows up in their later writings.
Archangel is a time-travel book with a World War II theme. I followed Gibson’s theory of time travel, which he purposely made simple because he doesn’t like keeping track of different timelines. I love the idea that when you travel in time you make a new timeline but that the timeline you leave remains constant and you will return to that exact timeline no matter what you do in the alternate timeline. There’s a substory here about the government using time travel to create alternate timelines and then mining the natural resources of the other worlds for their own use. There’s a number of similarities that apply to today’s government. The rest of the story lost me a little. Interested enough to read an issue or two but I can’t sell you on it based on what I heard. The enthusiasm is there from Gibson but I didn’t get the same from the crowd. That’s usually a telling point.
NASA AND ANGRY BIRDS ON A JOURNEY TO MARS
I’m combining information that I received here and also at a Thursday night event for the new National Geographic channel’s Mars show. The panel had a representative from Angry Birds company Rovio, Ville Heijari. But the real stars of the panel were Kjell Lindren (NASA astronaut who is only recently returned from the Space Station), Bobak Ferdowsi, Rebekah Siegfriedt, and Jay Falker all from NASA who are working on current Mars projects.
First thing I asked is the first thing you probably asked. Why Angry Birds? Are we planning on launching our astronauts into space with a big rubber band? Well the easy explanation is that the physics and science of the game are the most realistic out there. NASA keeps working with the game creators because the game works as a subtle training tool. Video games are an important indicator for a child’s interest in science. Even the Mars Rovers have a “Angry Birds option” to be launched into the air if they need to examine something in the space above the rover.
Kjell is very well spoken and has a manner that is very endearing. My interaction with him on the Con floor was brief but I was taken with his enthusiasm for Space and the experience of space travel. He is working on some programs for youngsters that help explain some more complex scientific concepts. The videos from a series called Rocket Science Show on the Mars trip and on the planets were modern and entertaining without feeling preachy. There’s a very concerted effort to keep kids excited about science.
The Nat Geo party and this panel had one message in common. We are going to Mars. Not we might. Not if. It’s happening. The first trip is set for roughly 2030. The science of living on Mars is already here. We are sending multiple rovers to Mars that will be responsible for creating the buildings that the astronauts will use when they get to Mars. The supplies will be there when they arrive. The buildings will be up and running. We will arrive to a planet all prepared for inhabitants. I was unprepared for how nonchalant that everyone involved was that we are going to be on Mars in 15 years. Why are Science and video games so important to them? The likelihood is that some of the passengers for this trip in 2030 are still in school at this point.
Maybe it seems out of the ordinary for panels with NASA employees and astronauts to be included but I can see the crossover. You have to have science to have science fiction. And there’s always been a crossover of art fans and writer fans in the panels. But bringing back the science to the Convention just expands the base and I was so excited to see the enthusiasm for this topic.
I saw half of this and I have nothing to add other than the cast is beautiful and seems to enjoy each other. Any information on the upcoming season? Nothing that would be worth the words I would use to describe it.
WEIRD LOVE: VINTAGE ROMANCE COMICS COME ALIVE
Another new panel for me for the day. This is what the Con really needs an infusion of – FUN!!! Craig Yoe, the editor of the IDW Weird Love comics hosted the event. There were lecturers Ben Dickow, Adriana Yugovich, and Kristen Simon. We had a brief history of romance comics and a very interesting off-shoot of more feminist comics. The feminist zines and comics history was interesting but felt a little off topic in general. The subversive line of comics were a reaction to the male-dominated stories of the traditional comics but still felt like it should have had its own panel.
With titles like He Called Me ‘Jail Bait’ and ridiculous advice columns, these old comics have tons of nostalgic fun. I could have attended a whole panel on just seeing these covers. In fact, there has been a panel going on for over 10 years that is just weird covers to comics, Oddball Comics Live!
What made this unique was the addition of the L.A. performance group Captured Aural Phantasy Theater. This group of women and men read stories from the comics in the style of a ’40s and ’50s radio show. It’s a perfect treatment for these stories and with the panels projected behind them made for almost an art installation. The main feature was called “I Joined A Teenage Sex Club”. It had the people around me in stitches and I can’t think of a better ode to these important comics of the past. It’s approaching the end of the Convention for me and this was exactly what I wanted to see. People taking an interesting subject and putting a new, fun twist on it.
STARZ: ASH VS EVIL DEAD
I had enjoyed that last panel and I decided to end my Saturday on a fun note. This panel is all viewable on YouTube videos if you want to see it. Sam and Ted Raimi along with Rob Tapert were here with the full cast including Bruce Campbell, Lucy Lawless, Dana DeLorenzo, Ray Santiago, and at his first Con ever Lee Majors. Yes. I was sitting just feet away from the Six-Million Dollar Man! Bruce is the lead here. Make no mistake that he drives this machine, setting the tone for the panel with his outrageous humor and great move of bringing $20 bills to hand out to the cast and even people asking questions.
This show is completely irreverent. The combination of gore and horror and humor is pretty unique for scripted television and Starz doesn’t put limits on the creators. And that was exactly the feeling you get from the panel. Lucy Lawless has a wicked but sly sense of humor and is a perfect foil for Bruce. The laughs were plenty including Bruce knowing how to create ongoing jokes regarding the $20 bills and dealing with questions from multiple children from one family seated near the front. This would end up being my last actual panel of the Con and seeing how much people just enjoy genuine excitement of actors about their projects made me feel great. This is a show that probably should be added to your DVR list.
As I do most Sundays of the Comic-Con, I chose to make it a day of observation. I took the morning to walk the streets and see some of the surrounding displays that I hadn’t passed over the weekend. I walked the floor again trying to get a feel for how the show was going for the vendors. There’s always a calm to the last day that isn’t there the rest of the time. There are more children on the floor and less costumes. There are many last-second purchases happening. I looked at faces and just tried to take in the spirit of the place knowing I’m 12 months removed from this feeling again.
What did I learn in 2016? How can I sum it up?
The world of 2016 is scarier than it has ever been. There are challenges happening in our country regarding our next election. And we are just coming off more violence both by police and on police. The front pages of newspapers and websites are filled with how much we don’t like each other.
Absolutely none of that was on display this weekend. Not even one bit that I saw. San Diego Comic-Con is probably the most inclusive gathering in the country right now. We are here because of our love for art and comics and films and shows. We share a love of stories. This is a body-positive event. Are you a 290 lb. man in a Princess Leia slave bikini? No one is shaming you for it. We are probably smiling and asking for a picture because you made our day. I didn’t see fighting or disagreements. I saw groups gathering to hunt Pokemon together. There was free water handed out to people waiting outside in line.
The main theme here was positivity. Let’s come together as a tribe. We can support each other. There are mentors and learners. We are here to learn about trips to Mars and hidden bible stories and romantic comic books. We get to see our heroes from the past and we get to participate with actors on shows we are currently engrossed with. I am proud of this group in a way that I haven’t felt in the past 15-20 years.
There’s love in the air. See you next year, San Diego.