After years of watching from the sidelines I finally attended my first San Diego Comic-Con. I’d been to the New York version the past couple years but it just doesn’t compare to the original. I was lucky enough to attend as part of a work trip to help promote our site The Long Khan, whose promo video would be featured in a panel Friday morning moderated by Kevin Smith and featuring William Shatner who would be recreating Captain Kirk’s famous scream along with an audience of 2000 people. It was awesome. Saturday was the only real day I got to go see panels and check out the convention floor so I tried to make the most of it. I spent the first part of the day in the legendary Hall H, the 7500 capacity room that showcases all of the big film presentations usually with cast/filmmakers in attendance.
As much as I’d heard about Hall H over the years, I was a little worried about the prospect of being stuck in there all day sitting through panels I wasn’t as interested in to get to the ones I really wanted to see. But 5 hours just flew by in there. I saw panels for Francis Ford Coppola’s experimental goth "Twixt" with Coppola, star Val Kilmer and composer Dan Deacon in attendance, the “300”-esque "The Immortals" with director Tarsem Singh and cast members Henry Cavill, Freida Pinto, Stephen Dorff, Luke Evans and Kellan Lutz, LARP-ing love letter "Knights Of Badassdom" with an all star geek cast of Peter Dinklage, Ryan Kwanten, Summer Glau, Margarita Levieva, Danny Pudi, Michael Gladis, Jimmi Simpson and director Joe Lynch and dark reimagining "Snow White & The Huntsman" with Kristen Stewart, Charlize Theron, Chris Hemsworth and Sam Claflin led by first time filmmaker Rupert Sanders.
The panels are a strange phenomenon. As I wrote on my full recap of the ‘Snow White’ panel over at The Playlist… As transparent as the marketing and pandering can get during the panels where all cast and crew have been coached on exactly which topics to hit and which to avoid in order to stay on the good side of fanboys and girls, the whole thing still kind of works. I went into Saturday’s panel for Universal‘s “Snow White & The Huntsman” with next to no interest in it and damn if it didn’t end up winning me over along with the rest of the packed crowd inside Hall H. You know it’s a show and they’re aiming straight for the geek audience and yet there’s such an enthusiasm in the room it does end up creating some excitement.
"The Immortals," I thought looked like a "300" rip-off before the panel but after the footage (and being charmed by the candidness of director Tarsem), now I think that it’s insane fight choreography and beautiful cinematography could just turn it into something cool. "The Knights of Badassdom" I would have dismissed as being a direct-to-video level nerdfest but the clips really made it look like it could be a cute little movie. And this is in spite of the incessant pandering to the LARPing community by director Joe Lynch. That particular subset of nerd is much smaller than he was probably anticipating judging by a muted crowd reaction to those particular shoutouts. ‘Snow White’ as I mentioned on the writeup above, hasn’t started filming yet, but the reel of demo footage along with the director’s commercial work did make me interested to see how it turns out. After 5 hours of panels it was time to finally check out the convention floor.
What I didn’t realize was exactly how big the floor actually is. At NYCC, it’s one gigantic room that takes a day or so to browse through it. SDCC has 4 of these rooms and would probably take you all 4 days to get through the place. I didn’t have the energy for that so I took a brief look around and stopped off at the MondoTees booth to get a look at the art they had onsale which included an incredible print of "The Mummy" by Martin Ansin. Unfortunately it was printed on wood and was not going to be coming on the plane with me, thus I had to pass it up.
I also saw on Twitter that "Scud: The Disposable Assassin" creator Rob Schrab had a booth and knew I had to stop by. ‘Scud’ was a huge deal to me in high school, it was my favorite comic book, probably of all time, and the last book I read consistently. It was co-created by Dan Harmon, who most people will probably recognize now as the creator of “Community.” Both guys love movies and used the book as practicing ground for all the things they would have done on film had anyone given them a chance. A decade or so later, both guys are doing pretty well in film/TV, Harmon with his sitcom and Schrab as producer/director for “The Sarah Silverman Show” and “Children’s Hospital.” So I was able to nerd out and tell him how much I loved his comic and that I was happy for his success in Hollywood. He was super nice.
And that was pretty much it. I spent the evening seeing “Captain America” (not officially part of Comic-Con but certainly in the spirit of) with my uncle, aunt & cousins who live in San Diego. There was so much going on that I wish I could have spent more time there: I missed panels for “The Amazing Spider-Man,” “Prometheus,” Peter Jackson & Steven Spielberg’s panel for “Tin-Tin,” a sneak preview of “Drive,” the world premiere of “Cowboys & Aliens,” a Conan O’Brien art exhibit and countless afterparties. The best part of Comic-Con is that it’s not just a convention. Unlike the NYCC which is on the West Side Highway surrounded by blocks and blocks of nothing, the San Diego convention center is right in the heart of downtown with tons of bars, restaurants and shops just across the street. The whole neighborhood gets into the spirit throwing themed events during the day and parties at night. It’s SXSW for comic-book nerds and I’m going to try to make it back next year so I can take it all in.