From the record-breaking lines to the ubiquitous eye candy, Mark Simon offers his take on the Con of Cons.
The trek to Comic-Con has become as much of a show as the actual event. Traveling by air is miserable these days. Everyone I spoke with had delays and many of them, yours truly included, missed events they wanted to see because of the delays.
Finding a place to stay at Comic-Con is also an exercise in frustration. What was hot? Hotel rooms. The math is simple. Fifty-five thousand hotel rooms in San Diego. Only 9,800 of those rooms are within 1.5 miles of the convention center. One hundred twenty-five thousand attendees. Finding a place was not easy.
Comic-Con tried to help with blocks of rooms set aside, but once those rooms were released, they sold out in just five seconds (that's right, five seconds).
Attendees and exhibitors staying in hotels were stacking up four to six in a room. People commuted in from Los Angeles. I saw a lot of people sleeping on the street, although they may not have come in for the show.
The Clone Wars movie and series were hot. Friday was Star Wars day, with six special programs for all us Star Wars fanatics. If you thought Star Wars' popularity was waning, you should have seen these rooms. Every single seat was taken and the audiences were enthusiastic. Between the screenings and the panels, it was an extravaganza set a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away.
Getting into some of the screenings and events was not always easy. Lines are now commonplace at Comic-Con. Impossibly long lines grow outside popular events. The good news is many of the rooms are huge and can accommodate thousands of people. Hall H, for instance, holds 6,500 people. The line outside snaked back and forth five times across the park next to the convention center, yet I was able to make it in for Rick Baker's presentation of his new Wolfman movie. It was hot outside, but we were standing outside in beautiful San Diego weather. Life could be worse.
Not everyone got into every event though. Jaime Hyneman and Adam Savage, stars of MythBusters, were truly hot. (You are not the only one who loves that show) The line for their panel went all the way down the hall to the end, went outside on the deck, all the way back down the entire building, around the corner, through an alley/breezeway (see photo), to the front of the building, turned and snaked back to the rear of the building and down the deck again. I was near the back of that line and didn't get anywhere close to getting in.
I proceeded to stand in another line that ran just outside the MythBusters room. I heard the audience roaring inside. It was like listening to your best friend make out with the girl of your dreams in the next room. (That only happened once, but it was memorable and horrible!)
Hot butts. I don't understand how someone can design a padded chair that is less comfortable than a concrete floor or step. There is no way to sit comfortably for more than 30 minutes in those awful seats. The designer should be flayed with a light saber.
The seats were painful, but we had to deal with it because Joss Whedon was hot. Every event of his was packed. People lined up for hours to learn something about his upcoming series Dollhouse. Friday's late-night event, starting at 10:45, had a presentation of Whedon's hilarious Dr. Horrible's Singalong Blog. (If you haven't seen it yet, go to its website right now. Well, read the rest of my article first and then go.) The musical episode from Buffy The Vampire Slayer was the last event and closed the show for 2008. The audience sang along, waved their arms, talked back to the screens, and waved tickets in the air.
I hope the Fox executives were in the audience for the Futurama panel. It was hot. The room was packed. It's hard to believe this show had been cancelled. (Although the producers and writers get their licks in at the beginning of the Futurama DVD movie Bender's Big Score.) Luckily, we have a series of Futurama DVD movies to sate our appetite. The voice of Bender, John DiMaggio, stole the show. In or out of character, he's hilarious. The directors and creator Matt Groening all had their zingers too. We were treated to samples from the upcoming feature and tidbits of what we can expect in the next few movies.
I stopped in to hear the story of how Dan Povenmire and Jeff "Swampy" Marsh sold their bizarre, but funny, show Phineas and Ferb to Disney. I was joined by a few hundred kids and their parents. This panel held two distinctions. One, when the floor was opened for questions, almost every kid in the place leapt over us to get in line. The line stretched the length of the room, down the back wall and back up the side wall. The most people I had seen in line to ask questions in other panels was six.
Disney also handed out the most giveaways to those who asked questions. T-shirts, stuffed platypuses and DVDs were handed out to question-askers and virtually everyone who could make their way to the table at the end of the session. The voice stars of the show were swarmed. I wouldn't have gotten anything if I hadn't cried a bit to Gary Marsh, the president of entertainment for Disney Channels worldwide. He felt sorry for me and gave me some tattoos. Thanks, Gary.
Not all the hot things were the presentations. The costumes were hot too. The quality gets better every year. Of course not all the costumes are good. Some will turn your stomach. If you were at the con, you may have been unlucky enough to see the hairy man with the huge hairy stomach, with a bone in his hand, and wearing a striped Speedo... and nothing else. Ewwwwww.
The yearly masquerade ball on Saturday night is always hot. It's also popular. Not only did the ball fill the huge Hall 20, but it was also shown on video on giant screens in two other halls.
The hot outfits were not just seen at the Masquerade Ball. They could be seen on women working the booths and on fans on the floor. I remember the days when the only fan women at comic conventions resembled homely trolls. I much prefer the view these days, although the incidents of whiplash have been increasing.
I shouldn't just talk about the women at these conventions. I also remember when the only boys (because we all know that the men who go to these conventions never stopped being boys) who attended conventions resembled walking pimples with glasses and high-water pants. Now you are more likely to run into muscular pseudo-superheroes (with the exception of tubby in the tiger-striped undies).
The opposite sex wasn't the only eye candy to look at. The action figures and maquettes are hotter than ever. It is extremely difficult not to spend every cent you own on these figures. The huge Sideshow Collectibles booth had some of the most spectacular figures from all the hottest movies. Their 12-inch tall figures of Iron Man, Darth Vader and Iron Spider-Man were the most popular at the show.
So how did everyone carry all the stash they bought? Oversized shoulder bags were a hot item. Warner Bros. Studios, the Watchmen movie and others gave out these gigantic bags that served as walking billboards during the entire show. Every attendee and every parent of teen attendees are now trying to figure out what to do with these useless hip-billboards.
The hottest photo ops were in the Star Wars booth. The life-size figures from the new Clone Wars movie were incredible.
However, the best booth design goes to the Sci Fi Channel. In a repeat of a booth they have had for years, it was sleek, futuristic and hot.
As the events closed down each night, throngs of sweaty and tired fans filtered through the downtown streets of San Diego to grab a bite to eat and down far too many drinks. If you were too tired to walk a few blocks, or just liked looking at the tush of a bike-riding college student, you hired a pedicab to pedal you to where you wanted to go.
From the beginning to the backside, this year's Comic-Con was hot.
Mark Simon is an award-winning animation producer/director and speaker. Mark has recently released two new editions of his popular Facial Expressions photo reference books for artists, Babies to Teens and the E-Book Companion, Volume 3. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.