Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Comic Con 2008 - Thurday

Thursday was a bit of a slow start. I went solo to the Grant Morrison/Stan Lee panel (the wife's hair wasn't ready to go yet) which, surprisingly, turned out to be a monumental event in the history of anti-chemistry. The thing was hosted by Virgin comics CEO (Depak Chopra’s son, incidently) who was not a strong enough moderator to get the discussion functioning well. The panel had Lee, a god of self-aggrandizement (with a sliver of self-deprecation), at his most self aggrandizing, and Morrison, a very interesting speaker, being reverential (I think in an attempt to get out in front of Lee’s shtick, and maybe have a real discussion) and not much else. So Grant’s good speaking qualities were nullified, and Stan played the irritating huckster end of his persona.

Morrison is working for Virgin on a motion capture/CGI animated (videogame-looking) version of a 10,000 year old Hindi myth about a family of deities going to war. This will be released as installments for cell phones. Interesting project, I guess, but I don’t really want to spend time watching anyone, even someone very interesting, play World of Warcraft.

Lee is working on a new universe for Virgin, and nothing of the past 35 years suggests this will be any good. The dancing around subjects was interesting, and the bit comedy (mostly concerning Lee’s inability to understand Morrison’s Scotts accent, and Morrison’s impression of a New York Cabbie – this included prop comedy, when Lee inserted an earpiece in his ear, saying it was like the ones they used at the UN) was well received.

It’s always nice to see either Lee or Morrison, but I think they worked against each other here.

I did get to the EW Visionaries: Comic Books panel (Note: I know some EW people so, on Friday, I tried to get into the EW showrunners panel, but couldn’t get in the room – so much for my connections - and there was no way I was getting into Saturday’s EW filmmakers panel, so I didn’t even try). I don’t know quite what to say about it. Some creators I love dearly were on the panel (Jim Lee, John Cassaday, Matt Fraction, Mike Mignola, Robert Kirkman, Colleen Doran, Mike Mignola, Grant Morrison); however, all but Mignola seemed a bit estranged from their usual charm (not that Hellboy creator Mignola's that charming, but he seemed to be at least as chatty and foul mouthed as he usually is). Morrison (again, after the Virgin panel) and Fraction were particularly an issue, as they are usually very engaging subjects, and were almost entirely shut down. Part of this was, maybe, panel size (too many people means less time to speak), but it was mostly the poor moderation. There were some boneheaded questions (I think the “why comics” question was frankly insulting… they don’t ask Christopher Nolan or even Kevin Smith “why film”), the creation of a vibe the creators didn’t feel comfortable with, and a general lack of encouragement in moments when the discourse could have taken off (panel dynamics are weird sometimes). I hate to complain, but that one didn’t go well. EW's Jeff Jensen (on Watchmen, discussed later) and E!'s Kristin Dos Santos (on two panels I saw) did a lot better than whoever handled this one (I forget the moderator’s name).

I missed the True Blood panel (my wife left EW early to get in line, but got in the wrong line… thanks Elite security!), but I talked to a producer in line for a while, which was kind of neat. He got the news of the Paramount Vantage firings on his Blackberry while we were waiting (you know, I just had to be a stupid doctor instead of getting a cool job). We stayed in the line to catch Dexter. I heard from some of our travel companions that True Blood was good.

The Dexter panel was a nice, middle of the road affair. Michael C. Hall was witty and engaging (not a surprise) as was Julie Benz (a surprise, but I guess that’s a testament to her acting abilities). The footage from the third season looked good (best “trailer” material so far at the con), and suggests the direction of the next season is this:

Dexter does something (possibly killing an innocent) that sets off a chain of events “like a pebble dropped at the top of a mountain, starting an unstoppable avalanche” (producer's words). This includes the introduction of Jimmy Smitts as a new superior involved in the investigation, who becomes Dexter’s first real friend. The overriding motif of the season is growing into new relationships and becoming you own man, as Dex learns to make father Harry’s "kill only the deserving" code his own, steps up with Rita's kids, and “figures out” sex.

Not an “I’ll always remember” panel, but nice to see, and pleasant. The female writer (showrunner?) was low-key-funny. The panel was hosted by Kristin Dos Santos (of Ask Kristin on E!) who did a nice job, but may be crosseyed.

Thursday on the floor was mixed. It was more crowded than I’ve ever seen Thursdays in the heavy trafficked part of the floor (by WB, DC, Star Wars), but lighter elsewhere. This rule held essentially all weekend, except Saturday when the lighter areas became a ghost town in the late afternoon (unusual), and Sunday, which was much heavier than usual everywhere. The actual comic book dealers (yes, there are still comics at the con) had fewer key books than usual, and I only saw 2 copies of Adventure Comics 247 (1st Legion of Super-Heroes), and I looked at every booth. They told me it was because they were all wiped out at the recent Wizard World Chicago convention, which is threatening to become the big actual comic book convention in the US. It was apparently verrry busy there.

I bought my first ever painted original art on Thursday, which is a nice shot of the Justice League blooming out towards the “camera” that I thought was a great piece by an up and comer. I almost bought an Alex Ross original later, but I’m just not ready to spend as much on a picture as on a car.

Wizards of the Coast, who does card games like Magic the Gathering and who owns TSR (D&D) didn’t show up, which bummed my 12 year old out, who loves to play in miniatures and card tournaments. He did a Super Smash Brothers Brawl tournament insrtead. I don’t know if this shows a permanent shift for the con brought on by simple economics or not. Paramount didn’t show for a panel this year, which I hear is related to bad treatment at the hands of con employees (one of the people I was travelling with witnessed Hiro’s friend from Heroes - Ando? - being turned away by panel personnel from getting into a room… these stories are legendary, and over time, some of the studios probably get a bit pissed).

My oldest son, who works for Paramount (oddly enough), left a friend's condo in Irvine, which is usually about an hour away from the con, but it took him 4.5 hours to get there due to a burning Von’s truck blocking the highway. Many panels were missing people who didn’t make it due to the accident, and several actors in later panels talked about being trapped in the traffic. The same thing happened 4 or 5 years ago due to forest fires.

Didn’t do anything at night but eat at Bucca Di Bepo’s. Nice meal, though.


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