Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Comic-Con 2009

When someone asks “Where are you going on your vacation?” and you say “ Comic-Con,” be prepared for laughter and “geek,” or “dork,” in response. Really though, Comic-Con isn’t just about comic books and geeks anymore. In recent years it has morphed into a pop-culture phenomena, and this year, it was bigger than ever.

Between July 22 and 26, about 125,000 people invaded the San Diego Convention Center for the Con. Every single day, and every single pass sold out. In fact, if you tried to buy a four-day pass in April, you were out of luck.

Luckily, my sister and I bought our four-day passes in February. I should admit now that our main reason for going was Twilight; and before this year, neither of us had never been to Comic-Con. I should also be thankful now that this is an unpopular blog so I don’t have to worry about veteran attendee ire over the vampire-fan convergence. But, like I said, the Con is also about pop culture, and it truly isn’t for your average geek anymore. Now it includes the general population, and the teenie boppers.

Comic-Con is amazing and crazy. There are an unbelievable amount of people moving through the convention center: pushing their way through to pick-up swag, straining to see the latest toys, getting pictures of costumed attendees, etc. It also smells. There is a lot of body odor and not enough deodorant. You can easily forget that part though, because Comic-Con is multiple sensory overload.

The big name studios (Warner Bros., Fox, Disney to name a few) and major comic book players (DC, Marvel and more) have huge booths filled with displays, merchandise to consider and autograph opportunities. Besides the giant corporate areas for movies and comics, there are sections for gaming, manga, comic distributors, and merchandise opportunities galore. Then you spot a Stormtrooper; oh wait it’s Princess Leia; now it’s Naruto; what is this steampunk thing; look a battle-worn Stormtropper; I think I see Slave Leia; oooh Spiderman; another Stormtrooper…you see? Sensory overload.

Beyond the exhibit hall, requiring hours of patience, are panel sessions. Fans get sneak previews and question/answer sessions with the stars, directors and producers of their favorite sci-fi and/or superhero movies and TV shows. The great thing about the panel sessions? They don’t clear the rooms. The horrible thing about the panel sessions? They don’t clear the rooms.

If you want to see a panel that’s not until 1:45 p.m., plan to camp out in your seat, or hopefully move up if people vacate. But, if you are there for something Twilight related, especially something that includes Rob Pattinson et al, then don’t hold your breath and hope for people to leave.

The New Moon Panel
On day one of Comic-Con, my sister and I arrived at the convention center at 6:00 a.m. Thanks to a parking mistake, we saw the line for the New Moon panel. The sun was barely up, and there were already hundreds of people in line. It turned out that you could sleepover—something we thought you couldn’t do (or maybe we just hoped you couldn’t because we really didn’t want to sleep on concrete). Eventually it was apparent that people were holding places in line and instead of hundreds of people ahead of us, there were thousands. By the time Hall H opened, it was 10:30 a.m., and we were seated in the middle of this 6,500 seat hall. But, we were in.

Thanks to the Con’s practice of not clearing rooms, we saw the Disney 3D panel (A Christmas Carol, Alice in Wonderland and Tron Legacy), another 3D showcase panel (not that great) and a surprise appearance by Johnny Depp (Alice in Wonderland). When Chris Weitz, Rob Pattinson, Taylor Lautner, Kristen Stewart and Ashley Greene walked onstage for New Moon, it made the hours of waiting and the extremely early morning totally worth it. Interestingly, the screaming was not that bad, and even more surprisingly, everyone kept to their seats. The movie clip they debuted was awesome (Jacob teaches Bella to ride her motorcycle, and she starts having her Edward hallucinations), and at the end of the panel they treated us to another clip (Bella and Alice race to Volterra in the yellow Porsche, and Bella races through the city to stop Edward…clip ends right as Edward takes a step toward the sunlight). It was cool seeing the cast, but honestly, some of them have a hard time with interviews and questions. All in all, it was a fantastic experience. And yes, I would do it again (even if while standing in line, I said never again will I do something like this for Twilight).

The Coraline Panel
The other panel on my list was Coraline. I just wanted to see Neil Gaiman. He is one of my favorite authors, and because of my Forks trip I missed a wonderful opportunity to attend one of his events in San Francisco. This panel was a lot easier to get into, and I had prime seating. For me, the only drawback was that the director, Henry Selick (The Nightmare Before Christmas and James and the Giant Peach), has a huge following so many of the questions were directed to him. That being said, I thoroughly enjoyed learning about the making of Coraline, and that night I went out and bought the DVD.

In addition to holding a panel discussion, there was an autograph opportunity for Coraline. However, it was a lottery drawing that took place right around the same time that you had to stand in line to get into the panel. Lucky me, my sister was willing to stand in line for the lottery, and even luckier, she got the ticket. The only problem was that they then put a wristband on her (one that could not be easily removed), so only she could stand in line for the autograph. It all turned out okay in the end. Even though I didn’t get a chance to meet Neil Gaiman, he was graciously willing to sign two items. I let my sister keep the autographed Coraline print (signed by Teri Hatcher, Neil Gaiman, Henry Selick and David) and my copy of Good Omens was also signed by Neil himself.

The Experience
Comic-Con is one of those things that should be experienced by everyone at least once. You just have to get over the crowds and the smell. It really seems like the studios do their best to treat fans to something special, before the viral video hits YouTube and while movies like Alice in Wonderland or New Moon are still in production. The whole thing really is enormous, and while it gets bigger every year, I have heard that the convention center is at capacity. I hope the Con figures out how to handle the Twilight craze, because there are two more movies yet to come, and it is a bit out of control. Plus, the veteran Comic-Con people are not happy with the rabid vampire fans—everywhere we went we heard varying forms of “dumb Twilight”. Regardless of your interest in the different genres of comics, Comic-Con is something you don’t want to miss. If you are in the right place at the right time you might hear people dressed in costume, from different movies, speaking in character to one another. I missed out on this, but hopefully I hear this sort of talk next year. My sister and I already bought our four-day passes for Comic-Con 2010.

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