Sunday, July 25, 2010

Comic-Con 2010

Yes , it has gotten ridiculously crowded and many of the programs no longer focus on science fiction or fantasy, let alone comicbooks. Still I continue to be drawn to Comic-Con like a junkie to her fix. I adore being in a room full of people who love the same TV shows and movies I do. Plus I thrive on the spontaneity of not knowing exactly what's going to happen next at the Con. It would break my heart not to go to Comic-Con only to find out later I had missed a once-in-lifetime sighting of my favorite TV star or film director.

So here are the highlights of this year's Comic-Con, which we attended Thursday and Friday:

Flashmob: The Hoff

Not able to get into the much coveted Hall H, where most of the big-name movie stars (e.g., Angelina Jolie; Will Ferrell) were hawking their upcoming films, we decided to walk into the Gaslamp district for lunch. I was grumping about having missed the Tron panel, when Tim yelled, “Look!,” pointing to a double-decker bus, blasting loud music. “It's David Hasselhoff!”

Sure enough, there was David Hasselhoff (star of Knight Rider and Baywatch) dancing atop an open-air bus, surrounded by scantily-clad women, and lip-syncing to one of his songs. Now we’re not Hasselhoff fans at all (who even knew he could sing?); but seeing him stop traffic with his crazy performance was so unexpected that we joined about a hundred others as they followed him down the street, whooping and hollering. Before we knew it, the Hoff, as he’s affectionately called by his fans, was dancing on the sidewalk while the crowd went wild.

“Only at Comic-Con!” I yelled to Tim, as he madly snapped photos. It was my very first flashmob! (Click here to watch one of several YouTube videos of the scene.) My mood perked-up considerably!

Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog

Among the most formidable fans on the planet are those who follow Joss Whedon, the mastermind behind the popular Buffy the Vampire-Slayer, Angel, Firefly, and Dollhouse TV shows. Whedon also writes best-selling comicbooks, featuring characters from his shows, and wrote and produced Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog, a 45-minute musical that premiered on the Internet two years ago. I own the DVD and the Dr. Horrible soundtrack, which I love.

With nothing else to do Thursday night, we made our way back to the convention center, where we joined about 400 other Dr. Horrible fans to watch the DVD and sing along with the film. Lyrics and an abbreviated script were distributed, directing everyone when to yell things (e.g., callbacks, such as, “Damn Big Hero!” or “How evil is it?”) at the screen. (It makes a lot more sense if you know Dr. Horrible!) Whole families were there, singing and having fun—it was an absolute riot. Even Tim got into the act, yelling and singing along. His favorite song: “A Man’s Gotta Do [What a Man’s Gotta Do].” (Again, it makes a lot more sense if you know Dr. Horrible!)

Ballroom 20

Determined to see the panels of at least some of my favorite shows, I arrived at the convention center at 7:30AM on Friday. Lines were already forming for Hall H and the smaller Ballroom 20. I queued up for Ballroom 20, since that’s where the cast of The Big Bang Theory, one of our favorite sitcoms, was scheduled to appear at 12:30PM. Tim joined me around 8:30AM.

An interesting assortment of fans (approximately 3000) got up early to wait on line with us. Standing next to me was a woman from Canada, who was there to see the stars of True Blood, the HBO vampire series that was being featured at 5PM. Others were waiting to see celebrity panels from Stargate Universe, Caprica, Bones, and, of course, Big Bang Theory. You can usually tell fans’ allegiance by their costume or choice of t-shirt, though we ourselves tend to wear nondescript Disney and sports-related [Tim] clothing.

We entered the ballroom at 9:30AM and sat next to a woman in full-blown military gear from Stargate Universe. Most of the people around us were there for the duration and so had packed enough food for the entire day. We brought pastries and apples.

First up was Stargate, which I’ve never seen, and then Caprica, which is one my fave SyFy Channel shows. Tim read the newspaper while I cheered and made note of upcoming plot developments. But, really, the both of us were just marking time till the cast of The Big Bang Theory arrived.

At 12:15PM someone brought musical instruments on stage to do a sound check. Hmmm, very suspicious—were the actors going to treat us to a musical number? Then sheets with lyrics to the Big Bang theme song appeared. Obviously we were going to participate in another sing-along! But instead of the actors, out walked Barenaked Ladies, who proceeded to perform the show’s theme song! Now I don’t know Barenaked Ladies (BNL) from a hole in the ground, but I do know they’re a world-famous alt-rock band, so I started screaming along with everyone else. It was one of the most exciting surprises we’d ever experienced at a Con, as you can see for yourself here.

Buoyed by the appearance of BNL and a terrific Big Bang panel, I asked Tim if we could stay for the 3PM Q&A session with Joss Whedon, creator of Dr. Horrible, etc. (see above). He said yes, though we were both pretty hungry by then (pastries and apples don’t go very far!). We read magazines through the Bones panel and then, finally, Joss came out to roaring applause. (I think it was Entertainment Weekly that called him one of the current “gods” of pop geekdom.) He announced several projects he’s working on and then took questions from the audience. After almost an hour, a strange-looking man in a hat and obviously fake mustache approached the mic and asked Joss which actor he enjoyed working with the most.

“What a weird question,” I thought to myself, when Tim whispered excitedly, “That’s Captain Hammer!!,” referring to Dr. Horrible’s arch-nemesis.

“Huh?” I said, scratching my head.

Joss then coyly responded that his favorite actor was Nathan Fillion. Before we knew it, the man at the mic began removing his hat and fake mustache, revealing that he was indeed Nathan Fillion, the actor who plays Captain Hammer. (Good eye, Tim!) If screams could be harnessed, San Diego would have had enough energy to light Pet Co stadium for a week! Quite the thrill.

Star Trek

I noticed that episodes of the classic Star Trek series were being screened at the Marriott, so we ended our day adventuring through the “final frontier.” The hotel ballroom reminded me of the old Star Trek conventions Karen and I used to attend in the late 1970s when a big part of the festivities involved watching 35mm episodes of the show. This was in the dark ages before VHS, so getting to watch Trek back then was a very big deal. Not so much today, of course, when Star Trek reruns play every day on TV—not to mention the countless repackaged DVD collections, many of which I own—still it was fun reliving my youth with like-minded fans.

The audience at the Marriott was small but hardcore. We watched “Arena,” first—the episode where Kirk fights the cheesy-looking lizard creature called the Gorn. We affectionately laughed at the sillier moments and yelled out warnings to characters about to be killed. Even Tim, who had never watched Star Trek till he met me, got into the spirit and yelled at the screen. It was cathartic and fun, even though a normal person would have thought we were insane! We left after two episodes.

Tim’s reward for being such a good sport: free Ben & Jerry’s ice cream samples outside the convention center. Here he is with Cherry Garcia.


We hopped the train back to L.A. at noon on Saturday. As crazy as it was on Thursday and Friday, the Con is always much worse on the weekend, so we fled. Nevertheless, I was sad to go, because I really, really love Comic-Con.
Where else can I feel so completely removed from the real world?

There’s talk of moving Comic-Con to Los Angeles (hooray!) after the San Diego contract ends in 2012. We’ll see. Until then, I’ll be schlepping down to San Diego come July.

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