Saturday, July 29, 2006

I'm sure everyone has been eagerly awaiting my account of Comic-Con 2006. With this damn heat, I've been too lazy to type it up, preferring instead to spend my time staring vacantly into space. But today the heat wave seems to have broken a bit (though the humidity remains), and I was even able to venture to the gym (it actually occurred to me to go down there and go ice skating for the first time in my life, but neither Saturday session was well-timed for me, so I just ended up on a treadmill), so perhaps today is as good a time as any to type about my brief exploration of this years Comic-Con extravaganza.

I suppose I should start with Saturday, since I never got in the building, and it shouldn't take too long to explain why. Generally, I buy the four-day pass well in advance, at a substantial savings. Even if you miss a day, you still come out way ahead on the deal. But I kept putting off the purchase, and as I only planned on attending Friday and Saturday, I decided to just purchase day passes for those two days. So Thursday night, I registered for Friday online. I decided not to purchase a pass for Saturday at that time, so that if I saw everything on Friday, and decided I didn't want to go back on Saturday, I could back off. It seemed a sensible decision, as I hadn't been as excited about Comic-Con as I had in the past (though by Thursday, I was beginning to get Comic-Con Fever). So when I got home on Saturday, around 10:30 or so, I went to register for Saturday, only to find that online registration had been closed due to this year's increase in attendance. Registration on-site Saturday would be available, but not guaranteed.

That didn't sound good, but I decided I had to go try to get in, so I got up Saturday morning and took the trolley down to the convention center. I was expecting a long line, but not what awaited me. The line for on-site registration reached down behind the Hyatt hotel, down to Seaport Village. I gamely tried to find the end of the line for about ten minutes or so, but soon came to the realization that there was no way I would get inside the convention center; the fire marshall would cut off admission long before I got my turn to register (even if I did get inside, the panels I was most interested in were early in the day, when I would still be in line). So I hiked back to the trolley stop and headed home, with a heavy heart. I got a call just before 2:00 from a friend who got in line right at 10:00, who had just gotten inside, and about fifteen minutes later, I looked online and saw the announcement that on-site registration had been shut down. So there was no way I was getting inside; my decision to return home proved to be a wise one.

I think it was a good thing that online registration was closed, as the line to pick up preordered badges was itself horrendous, and I don't think I would have enjoyed waiting in that line (though I would have eventually gotten in), seeing as I had a pounding headache when I got home, and generally felt like crap all day due to, I believe, a touch of heat exhaustion. It is a credit to Comic-Con that they are responsible enough to shut down registration when the enrollment gets to be too great, rather than just selling more and more tickets for more and more people who will spend the bulk of their Comic-Con experience waiting in line in the stifling heat. My sister often complains about the Star Wars convention she goes to sometimes, which has no problems selling tickets without regard to maximum occupancy, so that the fire Marshall shuts them down, and ticket holders can't enter the convention hall. Comic-Con generally does a great job of managing all the logistics of hosting such a massive event, and deserve praise for their hard efforts.

So that's why I didn't get to go on Saturday. Now let me skip back a day, and tell you what I saw when I did get to go inside, on Friday. There wasn't really anything scheduled early in the day I wanted to see, so I took my time getting there, arriving a bit after 11:00. I hoped that the preregistration line might have died down a tad by then, and it had. I waited about ten minutes at the most to pick up my badge, and soon I was on the floor of the convention center. No sooner had I entered the hall and turned the corner then I was face to face with Lou Ferrigno, who was selling autographed polaroids for $20. It was tempting, but I passed. The Lollipop Kid, one of the munchkins from The Wizard of Oz, was selling a very nice looking autographed picture for a bit more, $35, if memory serves. I considered purchasing one as a gift for my sister, but decided to buy it the next day, instead, as I planned on leaving earlier that day, and wouldn't have to carry it around as long. But that wasn't to be, of course. Billy West was also selling autographed pictures, head shots of himself along with some of the animated characters he voices, but as he signed the CD I purchased last year, I passed on that and just snapped a somewhat unflattering shot of him myself, while he told a story about meeting Jerry Lewis (recently, I believe, though I came late to the story).

Of course, autographs aren't the only thing to be had on the Comic-Con floor, and I spent about half the day covering approximately half of the booths. If you've attended in past years, there were no big surprises to be had. Mostly the same merchants selling the same stuff. A piece of Simpsons artwork caught my eye at the Van Eaton Galleries booth, with all the ancillary characters hanging out in Moe's Tavern, but though the price seemed quite reasonable, I decided to pass, as I have no place for it. The Peanuts booth had some nice T-shirts for sale, including two Snoopy Comic-Con exclusives. But they only had the one I wanted, with a more subdued image of my second-favorite beagle, in large, and they ran small, so I had to get the other one, with a glittery Snoopy that probably won't wear well (and even the extra-large was still quite snug and unflattering on me, so I'll have to slim down a bit before I wear that one in public), along with a T-shirt of Snoopy and Woodstock in a sixties motif. I bought one or two comic books, and contemplated some other purchased, which I planned to make on Saturday. I marveled at the detail in the Little Nemo in Slumberland anthology, which I actually held in my hand for the first time at the Bud Plant booth, but decided that was a luxury purchase I could not presently afford. And I ventured past the merchant booths into the center region, where the Hollywood studios and other big-wigs have their booths. I had to pick up some stormtrooper figures for my sister from the Star Wars booth, which only took fifteen minutes or so. Like the booths on the north end of the convention center, there weren't many huge surprises here, with the same companies promoting the sequels of things they promoted here last year. I did think that video games were more heavily represented. I watched some people try out an Eye Toy video game (I must remember to post here about my experience with the Eye Toy, which I purchased a month or so ago), and various other booths also had demo games available. Most elaborate was the Nintendo booth, which was heavily promoting the DS and its games (I didn't notice any reference to the forthcoming Wii). I unfortunately did not bring my DS, so I was unable to download any of the demos they were offering. In fact, that is my primary regret about not getting in on Saturday, as I brought my DS with me and was eager to download the demos of upcoming games.

The southern end of the convention floor included the booths of various independent publishers and some more comics-related booths. There were several booths in particular I was looking for, and I also was anxious to browse amongst the offerings, but by this point, the floor was getting quite crowded. It felt like a Saturday crowd, and it was getting a bit difficult to move. Not gridlock, just slow-going in getting from one point to another. So I decided to move upstairs to the panels, after grabbing lunch, and to save the south end for Saturday. So I can't tell you what was to be seen down there. I waited in line for twenty minutes to spend $11.25 on a (unappetizing) personal pizza and a Snapple, then took my seat for the panels.

One nice thing about how Friday's schedule worked out, almost everything I wanted to see that afternoon was in the same room. So while I was able to get a pretty good seat for the first panel, I was able to get a prime spot for the following panels (though I left to get some dinner and only had an okay seat for that evening's panel with Robert Smigel and Triumph the Insult Comic Dog).

The first panel was a conversation with low-budget filmmaking pioneer Roger Corman. It was fun to hear Corman talk about his experiences and the various filmmakers, and the discussion of Death Race 2000 was especially entertaining, but some of the discussion of his more recent work for the Sci-Fi channel bored me. He was also hurt a bit by the act following him: It's hard to take his B-movie work too seriously when you're waiting to hear from the cast of the first real A-grade sci-fi motion picture, Forbidden Planet. Richard Anderson, Warren Stevens, and Earl Holliman were in attendance, as was Robbie the Robot, or at least a replica of recent vintage. They were at the Con to promote the upcoming DVD release for the film's 50th anniversary. The discussion was not terribly informative, but they all shared their fondness for the film, and also spoke about their career in general (I was happy to hear Holliman menion his role in the very first episode of The Twilight Zone as a moment of his career he was most fond of. They had Robbie the Robot do his sassy robot schtick, which was cute at times, and fortunately they gave it a rest before it got too old. It was more exciting just to see this eight-foot robot up close (there was no one in this suit, they just wheeled it out on a platform). And they positioned it right in front of me, so I got some good shots of it, and of the cast posing with it. I will definately get the DVD when it comes out. I saw Forbidden Planet as a double-feature with 2001: A Space Oddysey some years back, and I thought that Planet was quite easily the better film.

I had dinner at Trophy's, and then came back for the Smigel panel. During Smigel's introduction, the emcee got interupted by Triumph the Insult Comic Dog, who got lots of laughs ripping on the various events at Comic-Con, explaining that these nerds don't need to sit through boring introductions, because these are "nerds with options". When he learned that this panel was next door to a presentation on "Klingon Lifestyles," he insisted on crashing that panel, and ran off, out of camera and microphone range. I can imagine Triumph the Insult Comic Dog at a Klingon Lifestyles Presentation would be something to see, but sadly, as the Smigel panel had started a bit late, the Klingons were already gone. So we got a little more of Triumph, then Smigel moved on to his T.V. Funhouse work for SNL, which is why he was at Comic-Con. I was concerned the panel would be little more then him showing clips from the DVD, but he actually showed a lot from his archives, including stuff I doubt the lawyers will let him put on the DVD. I especially enjoyed a Christmas T.V. Funhouse he did, using real audio from various preachers perverting the Christmas message, as Jesus looks on in the background, getting pissed off. Finally, Jesus is channel-surfing, disgusted by everything he sees, until he ends up watching Linus on A Charlie Brown Christmas, getting teary-eyed before dancing like Snoopy (I would assume this is available via the tubes of the internet, but I can't seem to find a link that works). He discussed how touching he finds the Peanuts special, adding that he wondered if the image of Jesus moved to tears by a cartoon would get a laugh, but explained that it never does, as most others feel the same about the special as he does. Then he noted that Jeannie Schultz, Charles' widow, was in the audience, and she got a nice round of applause. I was surprised she was attending this panel, and wondered what she thought of some of the more risque cartoons.

In addition to T.V. Funhouse, Smigel went into his archives, showing stuff from pilots he's worked on, and from The Dana Carvey Show, amongst other things. I tend to find Smigel's stuff somewhat hit-or-miss, but I got quite a few laughs from what he showed here, and was very excited to see Triumph the Insult Comic Dog in person.

I intended to attend a screening of some of the worst cartoons ever made, but Smigel ran a bit long, and the line to get in to that screening was quite long by the time I arrived, which meant that this screening would probably start late, and I'd get home quite late as well. I was rather wore out, so I decided not to try to get in to see the cartoons, and went home instead.

Overall, I had a pretty good time at Comic-Con this year, on Friday. Had I known it was the only day I would attend, I would have used my time a bit more wisely. But I saw most of what I wanted to see. As to the panels on Saturday, I regret missing out on the opportunity to see Art Clokey, creator of Gumby. I also was looking forward to confronting the current illustrator of The Family Circus, asking him how he sleeps at night. But there was nothing on Saturday I couldn't live without seeing. I just wish I had brought my Nintendo DS on Friday, so I could have gotten the demos from their download station.

I'll try to get my Comic-Con pictures up tomorrow.

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