Comic-Con International. San Diego, California. Four days of pop culture at its finest – and sometimes its edgiest, and strangest. For some participants, it barely touches on comics at all, unless the comic has some connection with a movie or TV show.
Tall Paul and I only experienced the first two days of Comic-Con 2010, Thursday and Friday, July 22 and 23. By the time we got our tickets – last December (!) – the full four-day passes were long gone, and one-day tickets for Saturday were completely sold out. If we go back next year – we definitely want to, and right now, it’s looking like a distinct possibility – we will act a lot sooner to secure our places among the over 100,000 attendees. The tricky thing about Comic-Con is that you have to get your tickets way before there’s any information about what the content will be, so you’re taking your chances about what you’ll get to see and do. Based on our experience, it’s well worth the risk.
Some of Comic-Con is pretty much what you’d expect from the name. About 1/4 of the Exhibit Hall floor was taken up by small comic-book dealers and independent artists and writers, while another sizable chunk was occupied by the big comics publishers (Marvel, DC, Image, Dark Horse, etc.). Video-game makers, toy companies, and sellers of themed souvenirs (at all price and quality levels) are heavily represented as well. But the prime exhibit space goes to TV networks and movie studios, who come out to promote their shows and stars to this particularly plugged-in, pop-culture-savvy audience.
For us, the big attraction at Comic-Con was TV-show panels. We had plans to go to five of them during the two days we were there. Here’s a quick recap. We were seated in the back half of the room for the USA Network panels, so most of the pictures Tall Paul took at those were actually photos of the projection screens; we really were there, though (except as noted).
Biggest Disappointment: The Big Bang Theory (CBS) – because we love this show, but couldn’t get in to see its panel! Comic-Con does not clear rooms between sessions, and the fire marshals will close a room if it’s at capacity. The room where BBT‘s panel was scheduled was officially closed during the panel held there an hour earlier – when it re-opened, not many new people were allowed in, and we were much too far back in line to make the cut. We understand the practical reasons why rooms don’t get cleared, and we were resigned to not getting in. The real disappointment and source of frustration was that no public announcements were made about the crowd issue and room closing, and we couldn’t get straight answers to our questions – but after waiting two hours in line and still standing outside the building 45 minutes after the panel was scheduled to start, we bailed. However, the panel was captured on video and is posted online.
Most Entertaining Panel, Group: Psych (USA). This was a huge group – all six members of the primary cast, plus four members of the creative staff – but it wasn’t their first time at Comic-Con, and it showed. It was nice to see how well they meshed together and played off one another, and the audience got to be in on the jokes. There were a couple of special guests at this panel. In a segue from the pre-panel clip, Curt Smith of Tears for Fears came out to perform “Shout” on acoustic guitar and was joined by James Roday (Shawn) and Dulé Hill (Gus), and the session ended with a live re-enactment of the tap dance routine Dulé and the guest star who played the dance teacher (whose name I can’t recall and can’t find on the website – sorry!) performed on the previous night’s episode, “Feet Don’t Kill Me Now.” Oh, and by the way, Roday and Maggie Lawson (Juliet) are now an offscreen couple. You can hear this revelation, and more, in the video of the panel.
Most Entertaining Panel, Individual Recognition: Burn Notice (USA) – because Bruce Campbell (Sam) can totally work an audience, and as the only principal cast member present (Jeffrey Donovan had to stay in Miami and work or something), that’s who the audience came to see. Granted, he has years of experience as a cult fan favorite (thanks to the Evil Dead movies), and he knows how to connect with those fans – handing out $20 bills in payoff for flattering remarks didn’t hurt, but he was very funny and dished a lot about what happens on the set. Bruce and show creator Matt Nix did most of the talking during the panel, but even they were briefly silenced when the head of the USA Network came out to make a special announcement – there will be a Burn Notice prequel movie focused on Sam Axe, produced by and starring…Bruce Campbell. The crowd went wild, and the head of the network was handed a few of those $20 bills by Mr. Campbell. (Sadly, the cash won’t come your way just for watching the video of the panel.)
Best Rookie Panel: White Collar (USA). Just starting its second season, this was the first Comic-Con for the show and the individual members of its cast and creative team, and they all seemed excited to be there. The discussion itself may have been the weakest I saw overall, to be honest – moderator Willie Garson (Mozzie) asked a few too many short-answer, yes/no questions. Still, there was a great vibe at this panel; either they’re all exceedingly good actors or they really do all like each other and enjoy working together, filming the show in New York City. Tim DeKay (Peter) was very funny, and once he warmed up a bit, so was my latest TV crush, Matt Bomer (Neal) – who wears glasses offscreen, by the way, and despite the fact that they do obscure those pretty blue eyes a bit, he is still a stunner. I hope they’ll be back again next year – but till then, there’s the video of the panel.
Best Panel Overall: Hawaii Five-0 (CBS). The show isn’t on yet – it’s premiering in the fall – but I’m really excited for it now (and I think Amy is too; we met up at this panel). The clips looked great, and they’re keeping the famous theme music! The moderator was Dalton Ross of Entertainment Weekly, who was pretty polished and asked good, interview-style questions that allowed for more developed responses, and most of the panel members were Comic-Con and cult-TV-show veterans. The creative people behind the show have more experience with genre shows (Fringe, Alias, 24, the Star Trek movie) than police procedurals, and it sounds like they’ll be taking this remake in an intriguing direction. The cast was represented by Daniel Dae Kim and Grace Park, who both also talked a bit about their previous roles on Lost and Battlestar Galactica (respectively) – and Grace Park looked fantastic for someone who claimed to have just come in on a redeye flight from Hawaii. (You’ll have to take my word for it, though; since Tall Paul didn’t come with me to this panel, I don’t have any pictures. Then again, you could watch the panel’s video. And the stormtrooper had nothing to do with the panel; I just wanted to post that picture again.)
Best perk of attending TV-show panels: Special surprise swag! We’ve got T-shirts from each show that were printed up exclusively for Comic-Con. Several people at the Hawaii Five-0 session also won surfboards autographed by the panel members, but Amy and I weren’t among them.
However, it wasn’t all TV, all the time. I’m married to a former comic-book collector, and Tall Paul was definitely interested in the more traditional aspects of Comic-Con as well. One of his highlights was getting a copy of the new comic book Lady Robotika signed by the artist, the writer, and its star and inspiration, Jane Wiedlin of the Go-Go’s. He follows her on Twitter, where she responds to his tweets sometimes, so she autographed the book to RamsesTMagnum – and you can see this photo of the two of them on the Lady Robotika blog! We saw Jane again as we were leaving the Convention Center. I hadn’t been there when Tall Paul got his book signed (I was still at the Hawaii Five-0 session), so he pointed her out to me as she went by (in her wheelchair, due to recent knee surgery) – “Hey, it’s Jane Wiedlin!” She recognized him – “Hey, Ramses!”
Yes, he was Indiana Jones that day (although someone did mistake him for Adam Savage from Mythbusters). One of the fun things at Comic-Con is that if you’re wearing a particularly good – or particularly weird – costume, people will ask to take your picture. Some will even ask to have their picture taken with you. His was a particularly good costume, and people were greeting him as “Indy” all day long. I heard a few even start to whistle the Indiana Jones theme music when he walked by, and I insisted on addressing him as “Dr. Jones” all day. (I didn’t wear a costume. I decided that next year I’ll do the same thing, but I’ll say I’m a Cylon – they look like us now, you know.)
Comic books aren’t the only books at Comic-Con, though. Publishers are there too, primarily emphasizing and promoting their fantasy, science fiction, and paranormal-romance titles. Even though those are all genres I don’t usually read, I came home with a few sampler collections and galleys anyway – it could be good to get a taste of what I may be missing fiction-wise, and I felt like I was getting a tiny taste of what I missed at BEA! (However, one of the Random House reps told me that Comic-Con is much more fun than BEA.) The Random House Group was pretty generous with the book handouts:
- Shift: A Novel (Gate of Orpheus Trilogy) by Tim Kring (Crown) (ARC)
- Overwinter: A Werewolf Tale by David Wellington (Three Rivers Press) (ARC)
- Frankenstein’s Monster: A Novel by Susan Heyboer O’Keefe (Three Rivers Press) (ARC)
- Darkfever (Fever Series, Book 1) by Karen Marie Moning (Delacorte) (promo copy)
I also got samplers from several divisions of Penguin: Ace and Roc, DAW Books, and Penguin’s paranormal division. As I said, I don’t really do much reading in these genres, so if you have some thoughts on what I picked up at the Con or other related suggestions, let me know in comments! And while was collecting reading material, I did a little networking with publishers’ reps – it’s fun to introduce myself as a book blogger. I also bought a book that’s been on my wish list since last year: Harry, A History: The True Story of a Boy Wizard, His Fans, and Life Inside the Harry Potter Phenomenon, by Melissa Anelli.
I left Comic-Con with a comic book, too. Whiile I did pick up some free T-shirts, I also bought one, and a messenger bag, at the Unshelved booth. I’ve been reading this web comic about librarians for a while, and chatted a little bit with one of its creators, Gene Ambaum; when I told him I was a book blogger, he tucked a copy of the new Unshelved collection, Large Print, into my order after signing it for me and asking me to consider blogging about it. Well, now I have, but this one doesn’t count.
Comic-Con was tiring, exciting, and a definite break from the everyday. I’m glad we finally went – we’ve talked about it for a few years. I’m glad we want to go back next year, and I’ll be really glad if we can score tickets for the whole thing!
Disclosure: My husband and I purchased our own tickets to Comic-Con, and I have no affiliation with any of its artists, producers, authors, publishers, exhibitors or vendors.