Once More, With Feeling!
My Exploits from Comic-Con: Friday / Brian Prisco
Miscellaneous | July 26, 2008 | Comments ()
“Please remember that some of your audience may be under the age of 18.” — written on the backs of the panel cards.
Today was fanboy day. Well, every damn day is fanboy day really, but I felt like most of the day was devoted to panels for the uberfans of shows and projects to do the whole meet and greet with their fanbase. After a rather unappetizing and overpriced breakfast burrito, I made my way to the entrance of the Con. It was 9:20, and the doors were set to open at 9:30. A swarm of rampaging nerd hordes was amassing at the single set of doors they were allowed to open. Keyed up on caffeine and the passion of the crease, things started to get ugly, as the doormen simultaneously wanted the crowd to back away from the doors and to clear the sidewalks so people would not walk in the streets. One of the patrons fired back a profanity-laden rant offering up his own scientific theory as to the impossible task at hand, to which the nerds swelled in a Orc-slaying song of ice and fire. Seriously, people in the crowd starting shouting out slogans like, “One ring to rule them all!” and “Bring us Barrabas!” and “It’s not illegal if you don’t get caught.” Nestled in the protective embrace of dorkishness, all of their 4chan-osity kicked in. Fortunately, the doors opened, and the wave of humanity swept into the center.
It was like rats on cheese on the con floor. Even more than the day before, people were ravenous in their attempts to find anything free that was being handed out. Of course, the fucking gaming pavilions I wanted were all the hell the way across the god forsaken floor, so I crested through, almost getting mauled by some sort of Anime Barbie in a motorized wheelchair. But as well we know, motorized wheelchairs are useless when tipped on their side. Fuck you, cripple, I want to get my Big Frakkin Bag. (Which I did. Along with a Starbuck pin.)
I waited in a massive line filled with teenagers to play Street Fighter IV. Normally, I would have felt shame and humiliation — well, OK, it’s me, so I could give a flaming fart into a futon — but as you gaze the increasingly bizarre costumes you can’t help but chuckle. I was holding a text message conversation with my brother about Civil War and video games when I finally saw my first inappropriately bikinied Princess Leia costume. It would be the first of seven that day. At last, I entered the arena.
Street Fighter IV features all of our favorites from the legendary Street Fighter II, and is done in the pseudo-anime design they have been favoring on their games, so the newer characters feel vaguely cartoony: a morbidly obese luchador with a topknot and some sort of French pretty boy boxer and perhaps an Annie Lennox imitator in blouse and suit vest with pink hair and a bondage mask. The machines are set up so that you play one on one with the person in front of you. I took on a 15 year old lad who was pretty sure he was going to school my ass. But little did he know of the power of the Fat Old Guy Mosh Pit and Sagat. Yes, my eyepatched muay thai compadre delivered a merciless flurry of fireballs and sweeping leg kicks to our man in Iran, Guile. Leeroy Jenkins sends his regards from Pwntown, little bitch. Tiger Uppercut! He slunk off in defeat, and I made my way to my first panel.
This was on another videogame that sounded like a grand idea: Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe. Yes, that’s right. Scorpion can throw a spear into the chest of Superman. Subzero freeze balls the Batman. Catwoman scratches the fuck out of Sheng Tsung. The environments are breathtaking, with a devastated Metropolis or the inner confines of the Batcave mingling with Scorpion’s lair in hell and mountaintop temples. The fighting system is superb, involving a few impressive spectacles like interactive environments and free fall combat. Basically you can now smash your opponent out of the fighting arena and pummel them as you topple through the air, until someone finally gets hurled into the ground. Or the part where Superman running tackles someone and drives them through the side of a building, punching them in the face as he goes. There’s going to be somewhere in the neighborhood of thirty fighters, with superbosses and the like. They’ve only revealed a few of the fighters from the game, but it’s going to be an impressive roster. The MK crew is pretty much the same, but on the DC side we’ve got Batman, Superman, Catwoman, The Flash (who’s fucking awesome), Green Lantern, Shazam, and The Joker. I was really excited when they pulled the rug out from under me: the game was teen rated. There would be no gruesome fatalities as I was hoping. Batman would not pull the spine out of Sonya Blade. The fatalities are all watered down because they can’t have superheroes killing or being killed. And I immediately lost interest.
I ducked out to make the “Spaced” screening, a line wrapped around the building like a starved python. It would be the shortest line I stood in all day. I have never seen “Spaced,” so I wanted to see the fuss. I definitely think I’ll be checking it out. Yes, I’m fully aware the Pajibans have been touting it voraciously, but it was the DVD commentaries that have sold me. Simon, Jess, and Edgar were all on hand to be charming and British and pump everyone up for the big three episode screening later in the evening. I wanted to catch it now, so I could skip that. The problem with the con is that there is just SO MUCH you want to see and you can’t. Between lines and having to trek all over God’s Country. You miss stuff. Which is why I wasn’t able to get to the Watchmen panel or The Spirit panel.
Instead, I waited in a massive sprawling line to go into the ballroom for the “American Dad/Family Guy” screenings. For “American Dad,” they were doing a table read with the cast. I didn’t realize MacFarlane did the voice of Roger the Alien as well as Stan. The episode was not funny, like I expected, but it was pretty amazing seeing those voices come out those people. iMDB Scott Grimes, who does the voice of Steve, and recognize him and think, no fucking way. “The Family Guy” panel was much better, with most of the writers doing the performing. They were mostly pimping out the “Cleveland Show,” which looks like it’s going to be pretty fucking terrible. It looks like a knock off of “Bebe’s Kids.” It takes place in Stool Bend, Virginia, (get it — shit jokes) and there are rednecks and a family of bears who talk in a weird Latka Gravas flavored patois. Because apparently, Seth MacFarlane doesn’t do enough motherfucking voices.
“The Family Guy” episode was hilarious. I guess it’s just watching it with a crowd that big, you can’t help but laugh. I shit you not, the fucking crowd sang along to the theme song. It centered mostly around Peter becoming obsessed with the song “Surfin Bird” (don’t you know about the bird, well everybody’s heard that the bird is the word). They did an Office Space copier smash sequence homage that had the fucking crowd going apeshit. The first act was all they showed, and it managed to come full circle nicely. It felt like a throwback to the older episodes back when they weren’t just linking meta-references with manatees. So it’ll be sad when FOX cancels the whole animation block. The Browncoats will have their vengence!
Jim Butcher’s panel was CRAZY FULL, which made me excited. He’s a very bubbly, accommodating dude, and you can tell he’s just thrilled to be there. I was late getting in, but I found out this nugget of delight. The concept of the Furies in his Codex Alera fantasy series was inspired by … Big Trouble in Little China. Holy shit, was that TK’s head exploding with glee? Butcher has to wait a few years to get the rights to the series back. Three years, eight months, and six days. Not that anyone’s counting. He’s developing a comic series to fill in the aside events mentioned by Murphy and Harry in the series. For example, the “mess at the zoo” is going to be covered in a four issue series. The questions weren’t nearly as retaralicious as on the Fam/Am panel, but they were hardcore nerd details. And Butcher was eating it up. The next Dresden novel sounds brilliant: Turn Coat. Morgan shows up at Harry’s door bloodied and bruised and says, “The Wardens are after me. Hide me.” It made me so happy, I almost forgot the Codex Alera series is only going six books deep.
I had to duck out early and run — well, shuffle rapidly — to Hall H to catch the Entertainment Weekly panel of Visionary Filmmakers: Frank Miller, Kevin Smith, Zack Snyder, and Judd Apatow. They stuck two visually arresting directors with two dialogue geniuses, and I only hope collaborations ensue. Smith is already appropriating the Apatow crew for his next film, and Snyder adapted Miller’s 300. But MORE! Mix it up, bitches!
Frank Miller looks like Freddy Kreuger or Ben Kingsley in The Wackness. He’s a crotchety old bastard who seemed irritated and dreary. But he was also amusing as all hell. Zack Snyder is a mildly retarded pretty boy. He couldn’t finish a coherent thought to save his life. Smith totally called him on it, saying “It’s a good thing you’ve got strong visuals.” Mostly the panel was an excuse for everyone to be self-deprecating while simultaneously fellating the other panelists. You know, like your average Pajiba comments section. Kevin Smith worships the Watchmen trailer, so it has his blessing for whatever that means. Zack Snyder asked Frank Miller what he thought of The Dark Knight. Miller did his little snarl smirk and said, “Any time you want to do my story, you’re welcome to.” Judd Apatow cited Clerks as an inspiration for his filmmaking, and Smith hugged him. “Say that in print, motherfucker!” They were excited about the advance of comic book movies, because they felt like the technology has finally caught up with what goes on in the pages of the story. And they do read the blogs and listen to the fans.
I got some Watchmen dirt, which everyone’s probably already read. The studio wanted to cut all the Nixon material, but they fought to keep it. The pirate story of the Black Frieghter that appears as an interlude throughout is going to be done up as an animated feature, with Gerard Butler as the Sea Captain.
I knew I had no prayer of making the MST3K reunion, so I made a decision to skip it to hang around for the Kevin Smith Makes A Porno panel. Kevin Smith is my favorite filmmaker, and the one I am most spiritually aligned with. We both write dick and smart jokes (That’s not my line, but I’m stealing it from my friend Steve). I found out later that the “MST3K” wasn’t a live Rifftrax event, but more like the “Spaced” thing. A few clips from the show, a hey we’re doing a DVD set, and some witty banter. So I didn’t miss much. And I am so fucking glad I stayed for this panel, which is always infamous.
Smith showed an exclusive clip, which was prefaced with a three minute header asking the audience not to tape it, done up in profanity and mocking Bitchtits from the year before. (Bitchtits was a guy who asked Smith if he was ever planning on making a different movie. It’s on the YouTubes.) The scene was at the ten year high school year reunion for Zach and Miri. Justin Long is fucking AWESOME as a gay porn star who is now seeing Bobby Long, Miri’s high school crush. Elizabeth Banks is Miri, and she carries off the randy dialogue naturally. She flirts with Bobby, but not in the typical hair-flip romantic comedy manner. It’s going to be fucking VULGAR, and I don’t mean clown rape. Oh, lest I forget, Bobby Long is played by Brandon Routh. That’s right. Superman. Superman kisses the Mac Guy. Smith also managed to get some actual porn stars: Katie Morgan and Traci Lords, who actually were charming and entertaining during the panel. Seth Rogen has this strange habit of doing this bizarre low-grunting chuckle every time he says something.
They talked about how much fun it was to make a Kevin Smith movie, and most of the questions were decent ones. He avoided talking about Red State, his horror movie, and instead mentioned that he has another one in development that takes place “in space”. He talked about the whole online content fiasco, and the MPAA, without getting preachy or douchey. Right now, Zack and Miri Make a Porno has an NC-17 rating, and they have the movie in appeals to see if they can get a hard R. He’s contractually obligated to make it R. Again, this looks like a return to form for Smith, who like Guy Ritchie, kind of lost his way and was banking on the success of his first few films.
The audience was funnier than the panel at times. A teenager got up to ask a question and said, “My mom’s here so I’m going to pretend I don’t know who Katie Morgan is.” They were talking about dead dogs (in relation to how easy drama and crying are to comedy) and they cut to an Asian kid at the mike who said, “Great. Fucking Seth Rogen says Dead Dog and they cut to the Asian guy.” I am a Kevin Smith superfan, so maybe my word is poor trade, but Zach and Miri is going to be pretty good. Plus, we can add one more movie to the pantheon of Pittsburgh films.
I wanted to see Dr. Horrible’s Sing Along Blog so I decided I’ll go and camp out in the room for the screening beforehand. They were doing the Friday Night Sci-Fi lineup which featured Scare Tactics (a candid camera style show with Tracy Morgan), as well as premieres of episodes of Eureka and Stargate: Atlantis. Scare Tactics was mildly amusing in the same manner that Boiling Points on MTV2 is. I just don’t like stupid fucking trick shows. How many times can we see someone go, “Oh my god! No way! Oh my god!” Then again, I guess Ashton Kutcher made a career off it, so go figure.
Eureka is kind of a weird ass blend of “X-Files” military plots with “Picket Fences.” It’s a little too safe for this F/X fan, plus, it was a season 3 episode, so I was missing a whole lot of backstory. I can’t believe they made one terrible fucking series from “Stargate,” let alone one set in Atlantis. A weird fish monster jammed his hand in a big dreadlocked dude’s chest and hyp-mo-tized him. And some stuff happened on what looked like Enterprise, Voyager, and the Caprica. Basically, it was a lot like my lunch trying to get a pretzel dog. I kept drifting asleep.
The Dr. Horrible Blog was causing riots. People were getting into fistfights outside, and screaming matches. They had to open up two extra rooms to do screenings. (I got this all on the DL from my connection at the Con.) So I shifted over to the edge of the my seat where I was sitting in the back to watch. I was musing over the whole idea that this would be the second project of Joss Wheedon’s I had ever seen, and it was again, a fucking musical. (That’s right. I’ve only ever seen two episodes of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” never a single episode of “Firefly” or Serenity. It’s not out of any sort of militia hipster move, I just never bothered.)
Because we were the marquee room, the cast comes running in with Boss Joss and then immediately says, “Enjoy!” and “You better be on tune!” and then runs out of the room. So I settle in, and there’s some technical difficulties (there had been during the SciFi stuff too.) in that there was no sound. Which would make a musical less entertaining. I hear a voice behind me go, “I’m so much funnier when you can hear me.” I turn. It was NPH. The cast and crew are sitting immediately behind me. NPH and Whedon both put a hand on my shoulder as they made their ways back to the seats. Fillion was there in all his glory. That’s right, people. I was touched by an Angel. Series Creator.
The sound worked out, and we got to watch all three episodes. I fucking loved it. The songs were jaunty, it had the right amount of smartass asides. I thought the cast was particularly fantastic. It was a really sweet story, that spoke to me as a guy who has done a lot of laundromat pining in my day. And assembly of death rays and the like. I was totally impressed that it was web content, especially as someone who is trying to do that myself. Yeah, I don’t have famous friends or lots of production value, but this is what I’m aiming to do.
The crowd was eating it up with a spoon. They were singing along, and in the town hall meeting they were waving their arms with the crowd. It was so cool. The cast didn’t say much afterwards, just were riding the wave of elation and ran up on stage to take bows then took off for the afterparty. Joss Wheedon could eat a fucking baby in front of the audience and girls would hurry up and get pregnant so they could quick get a chance to have their baby eaten too. It’s kind of frightening and awe-inspiring.
Tomorrow is TV day, so I’ll have more good news to report. The day ended with my friend and I drunkenly riding a bicycle rickshaw through the streets of San Diego in the wee hours of the morning serenading passersby with Frank Sinatra crooning. Which is why this has so many typos and misspellings and the fact that I’ve kept switching Zach and Zack all willy-nilly. I can’t help it. I blame Whedon.