Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Comic Con 2008 - Saturday

Saturday began with me waiting from 8:05 in line for the 10:30 Heroes panel. That time got me, estimated, 3,000-3,500 people from the door. Several people slept at the Hall H door for it. Weird. I waited in line with several other perennial con goers, and discussed the way it used to be before all these johnny-come-latelys ruined it.

They aired the first episode of the third season of Heroes in its entirety at the panel. Tim Kiring brought the the disk with the episode in a metal suitcase handcuffed to his arm. Very hammy. The cast was late (elevator mishap was given as the cause), and so there was only about three minutes total for questions, which were squandered by several people doing the old attention seeking explain-a-thon, with no real question in mind. One dude went on forever trying to let the room know he got in line early both this year and last year. Yeah, glad I found that out.

Heroes seemed desperate… they brought the whole cast of regulars (which was kind of wasted… see above), and were practically begging people to watch (which the did before the first season started, so, yeah, a bunch of whores, those producers). However, the episode was the best season opener they’ve had, and I didn’t get any of the big danger signals (that they didn’t know what they were doing) that graced last year’s opener. Might wind up being as good or better than season one. Good use of an hour at the con, but I wish (because the airing used up so much time) that they could have staked out an extra half hour.

Lost followed Heroes. The Lost panels are always great, but this was not the best of them. The surprise reveal of Matthew Fox being there was telegraphed, and seemed a bit underwhelming given the prior Heroes panel that had everyone acting in the show. It is always nice to have comic con (which I feel connected to) get more tied in to the Lost mythos (as in 2006’s appearance of Rachel Blake as an audience member, asking probing questions, which was closely tied to the endgame of the Lost Experience multimedia game), and this year gave us Dharma’s recruitment drive (yeah, I talked to the recruiters, but didn’t get into the booth) in which Dharma “sponsored” the panel (with promotional cups, just like American Idol), had the head of recruiting address the crowd, and had one of the candidates that had reached the ”next level” of recruitment, smuggle in a video camera, and get chased out of the con. Now the DVD supplemental features will wind up actually having con footage as part of the Lost “universe,” which I think is great. But the actual address by the recruiter, and some of the stuff with the recruitees was a bit boring, and the Marvin Candle video they showed didn’t do much for me (was that Faraday asking questions?). The main thrust seemed to be to introduce that some of the characters on the show (mainly Faraday through his notebook and people in the same division of research as Candle) have some knowledge of how the future is going to turn out, at least in certain areas, and that some events may be changeable, while others are not.

The giving away of prizes to the attendees was funny and cool, but added to the feeling of the panel being a little light on them telling us anything. They need to bring back he bell (they used this a couple of prior years for the producers to “gong” each other when the answers started to reveal too much). A so-so Lost panel is a good panel, though. Matthew Fox said almost nothing.

After that, it was straight to the Battlestar Galactica… line. As you may have guessed, casual panel changing is now impossible, and we waited in line for Battlestar from before the preceeding Dollhouse panel started (which I would have loved to see, but face it Jake, that’s comic con). This was one of the better (quality, not length) lines, with several women dressed like Starbuck and Boomer behind us, a Seven in front of us, and an incessantly chattering girl (who went on and on about how much she loved British accents, and when she’s around the accent she just wants to start talking that way and is that a Red Bull? oh that looks disgusting which reminds me, they have such an awful idea of where you can smoke in America and on and on) on the side of us – it sounds weird, but it kept getting funnier.

Aside – every year, I have seen Joss Whedon. He has built up the con (and the con him in a NASCAR drafting kind of way), as much as any specific “staple” personality. When I haven’t seen a panel with him in it, I have always bumped into him on the floor. This year it was passing him in a line, where he was complaining about all the sweating. But, as much as I wanted to, making any of the 4 or 5 Whedon panels/events was impossible due to lines. The con needs ideas for a better way to run things. Some of our traveling companions made the big Dr. Horrible screening (it subsequently screened 4 more times after the "big" one), and said the room was electric. Seeing it on the web, it seemed a bit slight to me, which might be due to my recent my recent Whedon ennui (more accurately ambivalence: I’ve liked everything the guy has ever done, but the tone of Whedon admiration as of late has given me the willies - it’s like, I can’t stand certain strains of guy geeks, and Whedon has emboldened a generation of their gender-opposite number: equal opportunity, but now there are twice as many icky people). The reaction at the con, though, seems to suggest this is a major thing. I heard 4 different people on the floor singing “with my freeze ray I will stop... the world.” It could explode into a phenomenon. For my part, I wore a WWNPHD bracelet.

The Battlestar panel was the best one ever. Only Edward James Olmos' (he wasn't there) infuriating, but ultimately hilarious, tendency to babble awkwardly could have made it better. Kevin Smith moderated (marking the only time I have ever seen a panel moderated by someone more famous than the panelists), and a lot of the cast was there (Lee, Gaius, Six, Anders, Helo, Starbuck) along with Moore and Eick. The questions were raunchy, causing Anders (I think) to put his place holder card (the ones they put in front to identify the panelists) backwards on top of his head, revealing the “remember, some audience members may be less than 18” printed on the back. The footage was scant, and showed a lot of the cast on earth moping, which was not par-tic-u-lar-ly promising. The Caprica trailer was OK, but made it look like Falcon Crest in space. I don’t know if this all bodes well. It seems like they have finished shooting the series (given their comments), so I also think it’s odd that it won’t start airing for so long. The vibe of the room was awesome, with everyone relaxing and answering Smith’s expletive laden questions candidly (except for Jamie Bamber, who always seems a little uptight). Great panel.

Chuck followed – the interplay between Zachary Levi and Josh Gomez was as funny as last year, but they didn’t push it quite as far (the “69” McG made them do on the top of the panel table last year was only reenacted with their hands, which was... weird). Yvonne (emitting a really cute Australian accent) was sweet, and the sister and Captain Awesome were good. The clips were nice, and suggest a LOT of guest staring next year. Yvonne challenged Chuck (who had already done 5 or 6 impressions) to do an Australian accent prompting him to give a lesson into how to speak Australian (“No is not n-o, it’s N followed by all the vowels run together really fast… try it, slow at first – naeiou, then speed up”).

We stayed for the Fringe panel, mainly to see JJ Abrams finally show the hell up in person. Nothing wasn’t presented we hadn’t seen in the pilot, but they assured us that the pilot was tough to do, and is a little rough in some ways to watch, but the show (3 more episodes have filmed) has gotten better and better. So, I don’t know if apologizing for the pilot is good, as a rule, but I’m hopeful.

Saturday night, it was off to the Masquerade! The Masquerade is one of the most hotly anticipated activities of any year, and is hard to describe. The line is long, but we have one perennial companion who loves it so much, she waits in line all day for us! YESSSS! The event is the costume contest to end all costume contests. It is judged by a year-to-year-stable group of people who all work costuming in movies, and Magenta from Rocky Horror. The costumes are AWESOME, and the atmosphere is like nothing you’ve ever seen. There is unbridled hysteria, with 20 some-odd beach balls (which look like Pokeballs) being bashed around the room, people cheering and freaking out, chants from prior years spreading in the crowds (e.g. “beast boy, beast boy,” “all hail brain”), and people screaming out random statements (both before and during the competition). Numerous people in the audience are costumed. The MC (Phil Foglio, a portly gentleman dressed like an 1890's mayor or the dude on the Monopoly set) lays down the rules of showing restraint and dignity, followed by high decibel noise from the audience. He folds his arms and waits… he can be here all night, he’s got nothing better to do. The audience shouts the counting of the entrants, leading to "contestant number (unbelievable roar of whatever the next number is, like) TWENTY!!!!" fourty, fifty times. The costumed contestants work all year on incredible stage presentations (e.g. last year's Harry Potter, in Grease the musical, in 5 minutes). People shout “Hermoine’s hot” at the top of their lungs.

It’s like the Disney World psych ward busted out and went to see Gwar. And it’s AWESOME!

That said, this year's costumes and acts were not quite as good as last years, which was a high water mark. There were these people behind us telling everyone to shut up (they sounded like 1970’s oriented geeks – they liked any Monty Python and LotR’s references out of proportion). I don’t think they understood the environment they were in. Still, a blast. Best moment – the Super Smash Brothers Brawl Opera moment when the Kirby costumed one flapped her arms, and everyone on stage slid on the floor as if being sucked in. Chants of “Kir-by, Kir-by” ensued for the rest of the night. Again, unbridled hysteria.

We ate chips and smuggled in wine. No official meal.


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