Tag Archives: Comic-Con 2011

The Inevitable Post Comic-Con Post

As we feared, Comic-Con didn’t distinguish itself very well this year. We knew there were would be long lines for everything (it’s not called “LineCon” for nothing), but all of the con’s failings were magnified to a degree I’ve never seen before. People waited in lines for up to eight hours just to see one panel in Ballroom 20. People lined up at 3:00AM just to be able to buy tickets for next year (a process previously accomplished in 10 minutes). People who waited line all day outside for a TrueBlood panel were kicked out to make room for some actor’s entourage. Of course, the response by many people to this patently ridiculous situation is to succumb to a Stockholm-like Syndrome and view it as something not only to be expected, but actually valued.

The SDCC organizers have no impetus to change, because they know people will pay for whatever they’re given and wear it as a badge of pride. I suppose it’s a byproduct of the consumerism at the core of pop culture fandom. At any rate, our response was to buy tickets for only two days next year and accept that it will take more alcohol than usual to take the edge off the con.

Okay, enough of the bad stuff, of which there was plenty. Here’s a quick rundown of the cool stuff from this year’s con:

  1. My son went crazy with the Gundam models. He picked up three Gundam models (two exclusives): a Mobile Suit ZZ, an MG Zaku, and an RX-78
  2. We got to play a PVP session of the upcoming Star Wars: The Old Republic MMO (we played as the Empire and won), which is still in closed beta. The game looks great. It’s a bit of a WoW clone, but it plays really well. I’ll definitely buy it when it’s released.
  3. We attended “The Captain’s” panel, featuring Shatner, Avery Brooks, and Scott Bakula (more well known for Quantum Leap). We’d never seen any of these guys in person before, so that was really fun. Avery Brooks is a real cool cat.
  4. We also attended a panel focused on J. Michael Straczynski, who I’ve been a fan of for years. He’s really witty and engaging in person. He spoke and answered questions for almost an hour straight, yet it seemed only a few minutes had passed. The panel was over way too soon.
  5. This outfit called Robe Factory was selling Star Trek-themed robes, which were basically stylized original series tunics. They weren’t cheap crap, either. Very high quality and comfortable robes. We got a gold one and a red one.
  6. My son got a pretty cool messenger bag with Alex Ross artwork on it.
  7. We got some really good animation cels from the Star Trek animated series (which I’m apparently collecting now)
  8. We attended a DC comics “New 52” panel, where they were talking about the upcoming reboot of their entire comic line. I was always a Marvel kid, so I know that Marvel already did this and better (with their Ultimate series) without ruining their main line with a gimmick. Still, it’s a bold move for DC, which as a sub-division of a larger media conglomerate (WB), is tasked with increasing revenue with a product that caters to an ever-diminishing niche demographic. You can’t focus on aging Gen-X’ers forever, and I hope they’re able to do something that actually appeals to kids and adolescents, but I’m doubtful.
  9.  The hullabaloo outside the convention was extremely impressive. I think it’s almost reached a point where you don’t even need to buy tickets to get the Comic-Con Experience™. Several companies are now running promotions that don’t require a badge to participate, and tons of convention attendees are always walking around, so you can have an enjoyable experience just by going down to the Gaslamp Quarter and hanging out for a few hours.

There you go – the good and the bad from our Comic-Con 2011 experience. We spent Sunday at the beach, which was a relaxing day to decompress and go someplace where we could sit down for more than two minutes without waiting in line to do something cool; namely, swimming in the Pacific Ocean.

Countdown to SDCC 2011

The Eye of Comic-Con
Nobody’s ever taken a picture of this.

Well, it’s June, so anticipation for our annual vacation to San Diego for Comic-Con is steadily ramping-up. This will be our fourth trip and my son is wondering whether a Trek-like curse applies to the con, with odd numbered years being less enjoyable than even numbered years, since both 2008 and 2010 were a lot of fun for us. 2009? Not so much.  I guess we’ll find out this year, but there’s already one bad omen: Twilight will be at the con again this year.

The general consensus in 2009 was that Twilight ruined SDCC, but I doubt it. There were dozens of other factors at play, but I’ll dive into that subject in another post.
This being our fourth go-around, we’ve learned a few lessons and found out what really appeals to us at the con, so hopefully we can use those to make it more enjoyable to us this year in spite of the crowds and various setbacks we’re sure to encounter. For me, the most important lesson is that the big presentations in Ballroom 20 and Hall H are largely a waste of time, and not nearly as enjoyable or fun as the smaller panels going on in the various rooms on the other side of the Sails Pavilion. The reasons are twofold: creators are often more interesting than actors and “sneak peaks” of footage for upcoming movies aren’t worth the time expended to see them.

Take Hall H, for example. This is the 6,000 seat auditorium hosting the big event movies that the large studios are marketing for release within the next year. People will sleep outside for up to 12 hours the night before  just to get a seat inside the auditorium when it opens, and then stay inside the entire day until the panel they want to see comes up (the con doesn’t clear the room between panels, so “camping” a room is common practice). No joke, people will spend the entire day seated on metal folding chairs within the black-walled dungeon of an auditorium just to witness a couple of minutes of footage that’ll be on YouTube ten minutes after the panel ends.

Hall H? It's a Trap!
Hall H? It’s a Trap!

My experience with Hall H begins and ends with Watchmen in 2008. I didn’t wait in a line to see the panel. I just walked right in and grabbed a seat. The director and actors were introduced and they played an extended trailer for the movie. There was a brief Q&A afterwards and just like that, it was over. I was not impressed, to say the least. The director, Zak Snyder, wasn’t the best conversationalist and it’s clear the actors were coached by a publicist beforehand, because they sounded like they were talking to some vapid entertainment reporter on Access Hollywood or something. They all gave very brief, forgettable answers to questions. The only highlight of the panel was Dave Gibbons, the artist for the original Watchmen comic, who provided a lot of insight into his creative process in drawing the comic, as well as his collaboration with Alan Moore, the author of the series.

I left Hall H and met up with my wife and son, who were giddy with excitement, having just left a Stargate panel in Ballroom 20. Apparently, the entire cast from Stargate SG-1 were present–even Richard Dean Anderson, who rarely does these sort of things. It was by all accounts a fun and enjoyable experience, and a good time was evidently had by all, judging by the smiles on everyone’s faces as they left Ballroom 20. I immediately kicked myself for missing it, seeing as how I was a huge fan of the series and this was likely the last ever Stargate panel since the show had been cancelled a couple months prior to the convention.

The difference between their experience and mine was striking. The cast of Stargate had a lot of experience doing cons, plus the natural rapport that comes from working together for so long lent itself to a free-wheeling, anything goes atmosphere full of jokes and funny stories, along with clever jabs at fellow cast mates. It was in stark contrast the dour, joyless panel I’d just attended for Watchmen, which upon further reflection was just a typical Hollywood marketing gimmick aimed more at the entertainment press than the fans. People were smiling and laughing as they left the Stargate panel. The people leaving the Watchmen panel looked like they’d just seen Schindler’s List.

Let us Gather Under the Purple Thing. There is Safety Under the Purple Thing
Let us go across the river of humanity and rest under the shade of the purple thing.

Combined with other experiences waiting in line for panels in Ballroom 20 and other rooms over the past three cons, I’ve figured out that I’d rather have a good time than waste time. Sitting in line or in a room for hours just to get a sneak peak at footage destined for the special features section of a future Blu-Ray release is a waste of time, as is seeing the actors from the film. Unless you’re sitting in the first couple of rows and can see them up close and personal, you’re just looking at them on giant video screens anyway, so you might as well skip it and watch it on YouTube later. Plus, unless someone has written something for them to say, actors usually aren’t all that interesting. They’re far better at reciting other people’s words than speaking their own.

There are exceptions, of course. Bruce Campbell is always a guaranteed good time, as is Torchwood’s John Barrowman. Plus, actors who have done a lot of cons and who know what works and what doesn’t are usually pretty fun as well. The key difference between these folks and the actors you see for the big marketing pushes in Hall H is that the former know they are there to entertain and have a good time with their fans, while the latter just view the whole thing as a contractual obligation to publicize a movie or TV show.

Through a series of happy accidents (usually sitting through one panel to see a following panel), I’ve found that I’ve had the most fun in panels dominated by authors, artists, and other creative types. Back in 2008, we sat through a Dean Koontz panel that turned out to be one of the more interesting we attended that year. Last year, we happened into a DC Comics panel featuring Geoff Johns, J. Michael Straczynski, and Grant Morrison. I don’t even know what that panel was about, but listening to those guys BS for half an hour was worth it. They’re prolific writers, so it shouldn’t have been a surprise. But without a doubt, the prize for best speaker so far is Steven Moffatt, who we saw at a Doctor Who panel in 2008. In addition to possessing preternatural comedic talent, he also had some interesting insights into the character of The Doctor, many of which have found their way into the series now that he’s the showrunner for it.

So this year, I think we’ll skip Hall H and Ballroom 20 in favor of the unheralded panels featuring potentially interesting people. Even better, why not skip any panel with a line and go to the ones where we can just walk right into the room? I don’t know if that’ll even happen or not, given the organizers’ relentless pursuit of poor scheduling, but we can give it an honest go. If not, well, it’s not like there’s a shortage of things to do in San Diego.

The Iron Monger Abides
Or I could just take 8 million more pictures of Iron Monger