I’m getting my geek on at Comic-Con but those lines keep me from getting into the biggest rooms. The true experience for 95% of Comic-Con attendees is standing in line, pushing through crowds and going to the smaller events. Luckily, there’s a ton of cool shit to see and the smaller events are often better than the biggest ones.
The first actual battle I saw was a group of people reaching for swag at the Fox booth. Comic fans may be shy in real life, but they are fearless in costume and ruthless when free shit is to be had. However, I do have to say that for every shoulder that bumped me as we all squeezed through the aisles, I heard an apology every time. Geeks are nice and they search for the swag lines.
Archer screening? Wanted to. Line too long.
Firefly 10th Anniversary Reunion? Really wanted too. Line ridiculously long. (but luckily the entire 52 minute panel is online thanks to Fandango and Things From Another World, http://www.fandango.com/movieblog/watch-entire-firefly-comiccon-panel-and-press-conference-718266.html)
Walking Dead and Games of Thrones panels in Hall H? Did you read the first part of this article? NFW.
But, being that I’m a total geek for cartoon strips, I went to see Dan Piraro talk about his Bizarro strip and Lynn Johnston talk about For Better or For Worse. I’ve known both of them for a while, but I had never seen them give a talk before. Dan is like a stand-up comedian. He controlled the room and had us rolling. Then I found out that his alter ego really is a stand-up comedian at nights. Lynn Johnston is soft spoken one-on-one, but give her a marker and put her in front of a large group of fans and she becomes the quickest wit in the West.
Back to the floor to squeeze through throngs of thongs (I just made that up!) and I exposed (keep your mind out of the gutter) more secret identities. The Marvel booth had an Xbox going and men and women alike were letting their inner superhero fly while playing Avengers: Battle For Earth.
Want to be a jedi? Complete outfits are available.
Want to be James Bond? Have your picture taken in the Bond 50 booth with one of his hot cars.
The guy roaming the halls riding the dinosaur spends his normal days with old things too. He works on the Midway ship in the museum.
Since the screening for the new CW series Arrow was impossible to get into in Ballroom 20, I went to the Robot Chicken panel at the Hilton. Merely a 25 minute push and shove through the crowds and across the street to the Hilton and I spent an hour laughing with these guys who make production look so fun. (It is fun, but they make it LOOK like fun.)
On the way to the Hilton, I discovered one of the best displays. On the lawn were all of the Batmobiles, starting with the 1960’s version. They were awesome and when they started up, the rumbling of those engines made your knees quiver. So cool.
I may not have seen many of the big star events, but the big stars were also out and about. Ian McKellan was wandering around outside the convention center late on Friday night talking to people who were sleeping on the sidewalk. Can you imagine waking up on a sidewalk and seeing Gandalf standing above you? You’ve been sleeping in a long line all night and then you hear a booming voice say, “You Shall Not Pass!”
The next morning I checked on the line for Hall H. By 6am it was already more than 8,000 people strong (and probably much longer than that) and the room only holds 6,500. Damn.
To add to the torture, the con was surrounded by religious zealots. One nut with a megaphone and a large cross kept yelling out “Heaven…or Hell! Heaven…or Hell!” The people had nowhere to escape his voice and no one wanted to jump out of line to kill him, for risk of losing their long-held spot.
Time to check out the smaller rooms again.
On Saturday I saw two of the funniest sessions back to back. It started with a session called Quick Draw. This is sketch comedy at its best. And I mean real sketch comedy. The world’s fastest cartoonists drew cartoons based on audience suggestions, much like improv. On the panel were Sergio Aragones (MAD Magazine), Scott Shaw! (Captain Carrot and His Amazing Zoo Crew and yes, the exclamation point is part of his name) and Keith Knight (The K Chronicles). This has been a Con favorite for years.
I’m glad I stayed in the room because a panel with the industries top voice over talent was next. Hosted by Mark Evanier (The Garfield Show), we were treated to the talents of Matthew Mercer (Thunder Cats), Debi Derryberry (Jimmy Neutron), April Winchel (Lilo & Stitch), Steve Blum (Transformers), Jack Angel (G.I. Joe), and the legendary Chuck McCann. These voices from animated TV series, movies and video games shared fun stories and did a cold table read of a really boring script of Snow White. However, their script reading was anything but boring. The audience was howling. If you’ve ever wondered if great voice talent really adds that much to an animated production, watch true pros like these enjoy their craft. It was awesome to experience.
The Warner Bros. lineup of movies? You know, those little flicks called Superman, The Hobbit, Godzilla and Pacific Rim? Not a chance to get in.
True Blood panel? Would love to, but no.
Mythbusters? More than three times as many people selected it on their online schedule than the room can even hold. Luckily I already met them, so I saved myself the loooooooong wait and eventual failure to get in.
So I was off to cruise the show floor, talk to more artists and look for cool costumes.
One popular costume this year was the bloody cheerleader. I stopped a pair from the pompom parade and asked them what they do when they’re not jumping around and taking evil pictures with Con goers, “I make bloody cheerleader outfits for other people. Really.” Okaaaay.
And then there’s all the other stuff to see and get. Free comic books at the booths. Free comic books in sessions. I got 3 classic Heavy Metal magazines at their 35th year in print. Stan Lee’s new comic book wasn’t free though. It was going for $10 (cover price is only $2.99) but if you wanted a pre-signed copy by Stan himself, it went for a mere (choke) $100.
Gentle Giant Studios and Sideshow Collectibles always have the most amazing miniatures and sculpts of our favorite characters. This year was no different. I could spend every cent I have at these two booths. I feel sorry for the workers who have to clean the drool off of the displays.
If you’re into the full size displays, two were spectacular. One was the Iron Man 3 display area with 7 different suit designs. Wow.
The other was a display of trolls from Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit. Three of them towered over the aisle and became the number one photo opp of the Con.
Again, the aisles provided great visual interest. I ran into a Hugh Hefner-esque super hero and his hot super-heroine date. He’s an eyelid plastic surgeon in real life and she owns a commercial insurance agency. Then there were the two guys dresses in their prom dresses. I don’t know what their alter egos are because, frankly, they scared me.
There was one interactive display that sucked me in and I didn’t want to leave. Wacom has announced their new multi-touch Cintiq 24HD touch monitor. Mmmmmmmm. I didn’t think I wanted one until I got my hands on this baby. It was lust at first sight. Sizing, rotating and moving with one hand while drawing with another was more intuitive than drawing on paper. It was then I realized my alter ego is a crying little girl because I want one so bad. But at $3,700, the price is a good incentive to ignore my yearnings.
As I was winding up my day, I saw this young, little guy in a great Edward Scissorhands outfit. All I could think about is that one day his secret identity will be the crazy guy locked in an asylum.
Still don’t take my word for it? Well, I put together a little video profiling what Comic-Con is like for those of us who don’t spend the entire time in the Hall H line and instead push through the crowds, go to smaller venues and wait in lots of other lines.
So with all the immense crowds, lines that break all known laws of physics and an inability to get into the biggest events of Comic-Con, is it still worthwhile going? Hell yes it is. For every big event, there’s 10 others to go to, tons to see on the floor and lots of great shit to spend all your money on. You’ll see me there again next year.
Mark Simon is a 25-year pro in the entertainment industry as a producer, director, story artist, writer and lecturer, with over 3,000 production credits. He’s written 10 industry books and owns www.Storyboards-east.com and www.SellYourTvConceptNow.com.