Comic-Con has become a special place for me. Last year was my first and while I saw the grandeur and possibilities, I don’t think I did it right. I didn’t plan ahead. I didn’t really try to get into any parties. I just kinda went and wandered around for the week with no agenda. My wife Alyse Wax, an actual accomplished journalist, works the show for her employer FEARnet so I get to tag along which is why I started going. I love to have long nerdy debates with people but I hate crowds so it never really appealed to me. Also, having grown up going to the Los Angeles Comic Book And Science Fiction Convention held monthly at the Shrine Auditorium, I have grown tired of sitting in an audience to see a trailer a couple days early or clap for someone on stage not telling me anything I want to know about their project (but really kudos to them because if it was just a spoiler filled free-for-all it would ruin my enjoyment of said project). Also, mostly anything you want to see at Comic-Con gets put online these days. So though I had a good time last year and ran into a couple of friends while there, I enjoyed San Diego more than the convention itself. In fact, I spent a couple of days not even going to the convention and just lounging around the hotel and seeing some of the city. This year was different. This year I had purpose. THIS YEAR WAS EPIC! Ok well it was a lot of fun… epic may be a bit much but go with it, this is a comic book show write up after all.
Day 1: Wednesday – PREVIEW NIGHT!
So Wednesday morning we woke early to get on the road and head to San Diego. After stopping for a bite on the way we arrived in time to get our badges and walk the show floor for preview night. This is the worst night to walk the floor, hands down. There are no panels or events to spread the massive crowd around (I heard one hundred and sixty-thousand people were there this year). So get ready to dry hump about two thousand people if you decide to brave the floor. One of the fun things about Comic-Con is the exclusive item. Different companies make special toys, clothing, posters, etc. in limited quantities so that they feel exclusive to the show and those suckers who stand in a line at the right time long enough get to go home with a special item that few in the world have. I am this kind of sucker. So the first thing we got, mostly for my wife who is a big horror fan, was the8-bit Jason toy from NECA.It’s pretty cool. It comes in a box that looks like the original NES box of the game. It also glows in the dark which is always a plus to me. We also visited the Predator 3D booth where you could pre-order the Predator 3D blu-ray coming out and if you got the biggest collectors edition, they would take a picture of your head in 3D and then make you a toy of the Predator holding up your head, with spine dangling underneath. Let me be clear… this is YOUR HEAD that he’s holding up. It’s awesome and creepy all at once.Then, outside of the booth I ran into a nice fellow wearing Google Glass.He was kind enough to answer some questions, like why there was a cable running out of his shirt to them, which apparently was extra batteries to keep it running all day. He also told me that there were at least three other people he knew that were wearing them there. The last big thing we did that night was hit up The Godzilla Experience which was really cool. Legendary outdid themselves this year, they took over an entire building and made a mini theme park like walkthrough experience where you came face to face with the big man himself, Godzilla. You began the journey on Tokyo Street, which housed memorabilia from previous Godzilla films as well as a ramen bar. After getting a few minutes to take in all the fun, a guy in a hazmat suite comes out and rushes you into a room with a bunch of tracking equipment screaming things like “He’s here, he’s made it to San Diego.” You are then told that Godzilla has made it to land and is attacking the city. But fear not! There is a helicopter on the roof ready to take you to safety. So you get in an elevator that breaks down on a high floor of the building. Once you exit the elevator you find yourself standing near a window amidst desks and other office like props. Then, with his patented roar, Godzilla walks by and comes up for a good look at you. It was awesome.
Day 2: Thursday – BRING IT ON!
The first full day of the convention started with the wife and I going our separate ways. Since she is there for work and I am not, we really don’t see much of each other during the show, just at night for social events. The first thing I see while walking from the hotel to the convention center is a four hundred pound robot courtesy of Wired Magazine. This thing was so cool to see in person. It towered above me as I walked by it. Little in this world makes me feel small but it really did. There is more information about the robot on this Wired page but here is the video I took of it while from a not so optimal position with terrible sound:
My first stop was the panel Comic Book Law School 101. For anyone who wants to create content, this is a great talk and I would recommend you seek it out. You learn about the differences between patents, trademarks, and copyrights as well as other pitfalls artists and writers get themselves in. I then went to a panel called “The Masters of the Web” which focused on journalists who write for web publications that focus on horror genre content to talk about their jobs. It was a good panel but the questions from the audience seemed odd. Instead of asking things like “How do you make a living being a writer on the internet?” they got things like “Did you guys like the Evil Dead remake?”. Next up for me was to go to the convention floor and attempt to complete a quest. The quest was for the Epic Purple Lanyard from the Blizzard booth. The quest was, you had to go around to their partner’s booths and take pictures of the other items that people were selling. For example, NECA had a Diablo statue. USAopoly had a Starcraft Risk and Warcraft Monopoly. So I zig zagged around the show floor taking pictures of every item so that I could get multiple lanyards. My wife and a couple of our pals really wanted them too but didn’t have the free time I had so I took one for the team and figured if I did the hard labor on the first day then I could just show up the other days and get all four. I got back to the booth over an hour before the quest turn in time began, which for Comic-Con meant that I was already five or ten spots from the front of the line. They only made four hundred of them for all one hundred and sixty-thousand people there so the fan response was ample. While waiting in line I chatted up a very nice lady from Blizzard who was working the booth and I guess I made a good impression on her, in the sense that she must have found me to be a safe and trust worthy person because not ten minutes later did she walk over a girl named Sandahl and said to me “Tim, this is Sandahl, you two are friends now.” and placed her in front of me in line. I’m still not sure about how or why all of that happened but she was a very nice college student who liked to talk about Anime. She was pleasant and we had some fun conversation about how crazy it is that we’d wait in some huge line to get a free lanyard. She was great to pass the time with. So finally, they started handing out the lanyards. I watched as Sandahl got hers and then, out of the blue, after standing with me for an hour and hearing about how I was going to get four of them she turns to me and says “You know you can just buy these at the booth for eight dollars each. I just don’t want to spend the money because I’m on a budget.” She then turned and walked out of my life. Leaving me with my jaw on the floor, questioning my existence and how I had just wasted all this time, standing on my feet for ten cents of formed plastic attached to some fabric. I turned to the man handing them out, swiped my free one from his hands hastily, then walked over to the sales desk at the both and purchased the other three I needed. This was a valuable lesson to be learned at Comic-Con… everything there is for sale. That night was fun. We went to a party hosted by Hit-Fix where a ton of industry people and bloggers rubbed elbows and drank to excess.
Day 3: Friday – GAMES!
I spent Friday focused on two goals. I wanted to see The Venture Brothers panel and see as many Video Game based things as I could. First, I did make it to The Venture Brothers panel and it was my favorite now two years in a row. Jackson Public and Doc Hammer are hilarious. The highlight of the panel was when one girl asked “So my ex-boyfriend took one of my shirt club shirts and I want to know if I can get another?” The response was no, and that shirt club is a one time thing but then Doc Hammer interjected something along the lines of “But he’s been inside you, that matters. Just text him and be like, hey that shirt is a collectors item. If I ever meant anything to you give it back.” The whole audience laughed in the same way Phillip Seymour Hoffman did in The Big Lebowski when Tara Ried makes an indecent proposal to Jeff Bridges. It was classic. Next up I went to play the Xbox One and the Playstation 4. In all honesty I played them throughout the show but for storytelling purposes I’m condensing here. So first off… The Xbox One. I’m not really that impressed. Here’s a video of someone playing Killer Instinct:
You can really see the frame rate increase. Sixty frames per second gaming is the standard these days on the desktop so it makes sense that consoles go this way as well. The amount of particles flying around the screen also shows off the power of the new system but overall it doesn’t excite me enough to warrant the upgrade. I did see a demo that I’m not sure I can talk about but I will say that it was the first time in history both myself and my wife didn’t get nauseous watching a first person shooter. So there may be something to the resolution and frame rate that helps people like me who have vertigo issues. One thing I did find very odd about the Xbox One was how large the new Kinect is. It looks about twice the size of the current one and if you have a super thin tv mounted to the wall you may want to prepare to put this on a shelf under it or something. The Playstation 4 was about the same. Very pretty but nothing so revolutionary that it made me excited for the next generation of games. It is true that you have to wait two or three years to see games that are really optimized for a console so in time I’m sure something will come out that’ll wow me. I also had a chance to play Diablo III for the Playstation 3. The graphics were decent enough, not even really on par with how well my Macintosh can run it but certainly good enough to play (us Mac gamers are second class citizens). The thing that shocked me the most about D3 Console was the control scheme. I had always imagined it to be like that old arcade game Smash TV where you point with one stick where to move and the other where you are shooting. D3 console is more stop and go. When you start pressing a button to cast a spell your character stops and then the same stick that was movement becomes the direction you are shooting in. The right stick is a dodge mode that is hard to use because you can’t be hitting the X button while dodging. I didn’t find it to be very intuitive. Personally it’s a pass unless all my friends start playing it (I’m a sucker for social gaming) but I’ll look at the Playstation 4 version when that comes out with great interest.
Day 4: Saturday – PANELS, PANELS AND MORE PANELS!
Saturday was the kind of random panel day that I love to have at Comic-Con. I wanted to see The Tick 25th Anniversary and comiXology Submit: The Future of Self-Publishing. So I got to the convention center early to get a good seat for both. The way it works there is that if you get into any room, including the biggest room Hall H, you can just sit there all day and watch the presentations. So you kinda luck out if there are multiple that you really want to see in the same spot. It also means that you are going to sit through some random panels that you may or may not care about. So between a very fun Tick panel featuring Ben Edlund, the creator of The Tick, I was lucky enough to see a couple of panels that were really interesting. One of them was about zombies and apocalyptic scenarios. There were five panelists, each an author of some kind of zombie or apocalypse themed book or comic and they discussed their plans for the end of the world. There were two great moments in this panel. One was when I learned that the original Day of The Dead was really an attempt to make I Am Legend without being sued. So vampires became flesh eating ghouls and that is how the modern zombie was born. The other was when the moderator asked each author what their first exposure to zombies was and one joked “a movie called World War Z” and from the back of the audience someone screamed out “SUCKED.” The moderator then said “Oh wow that’s Max Brooks” who is the author of the book World War Z. Then when everyone turned around to see him he simply said “Goodnight” and walked out of the room through the talent exit. The other panel I saw that was worth mentioning was a retrospective about Will Eisner. I knew very little about this comic book giant. I really felt like I went into this panel an admirer of comics, even though I’ve spent my life reading them, and left it with a great sense of understanding and pride in the medium. The most notable panelists were Neil Gaiman (Sandman, Coraline, and most recently The Ocean At The End Of The Lane) and Jeff Smith (Bone). They spoke of their relationship with Mr. Eisner, how open he was in sharing his knowledge, how forward thinking he was, and how revolutionary his work was. If you’ve never read The Spirit or A Contract With God and you consider yourself a fan of comics you really should make the effort to do so.
Day 5: Sunday – FINALY NO MORE WALKING!
The last day of the con is bitter-sweet. I’m so exhausted that I can’t wait for it to be over but I don’t want the profound sense of community and the intellectual intrigue to end. My wife and I took it easy that day. We got into the Community panel in Hall H which was worth the wait. Dan Harmon, the show’s creator who was unceremoniously fired last season is returning to his rightful place as show runner, came out on stage dressed as Iron Man and spun around while cast members pretended to be the machine that takes Tony Stark out of the suit from the movies. It was hilarious. Not a ton of info was given in the panel (remember I told you it’s dumb to sit around and clap for people who tell you nothing… I’m half right) but they gave us cups that you could get dollar beers with at a local bar and they did some really funny shtick on stage. While Danny Pudi gave a really long answer to a question from the audience, Alison Brie gave him a wet willy with both her and Ken Jeong’s spit on her finger. This was pre-planned I’m sure but it was hilarious. After that we did our last pass of the show floor, buying some stuff that we didn’t want to get crinkled while sitting in the car or the hotel room and then said our farewells to San Diego for another year.
This was a great Comic-Con. There was a part of the whole experience that I left out because I’m not ready to talk about it publicly yet. But I will say that next year I hope to be showing something instead of just appreciating other peoples work. If you just started clapping for that little bit of info… cool.