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"Now That's Just Tacky."

By Steven Lloyd Wilson | Trade News | July 24, 2009 |


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A description first, to put a more accurate visual into the minds of those who have never had the pleasure of attending a Comic-con. There are typically two elements presented in any coverage of Comic-con. YouTube is packed with fan taped videos from the cavernous meeting halls packed with thousands of people who have waited in lines around the block for the privilege of watching a new trailer of Twilight, "Fringe," or "Dollhouse." The other coverage is simply the gawking at an apparent orgy of nerds dressing up: replica Star Trek bridges, life size battle mechs, people dressed as anime characters.

Though those are important parts of Comic-con, they are in a way the least vital. This convention was here for 30 years before Hollywood discovered it and thought it'd be trendy to send the stars down the coast from LA to sit on little panels and roll a few minutes of video from their next film. The fans who dress up are presented as slightly nuts, like grown ups playing at Halloween. That misses the point of what Comic-con is, what its heart is. It's not about comics, science fiction, fantasy, horror, or getting to dress-up. It's fundamentally about creation. The fans who dress up didn't buy a kit at Walmart, they created something.

The beating heart of Comic-con is the floor, the mile long single room filled with thousands of booths and a hundred thousand people at a time. Art, collectibles, indie movies, indie publishers, webcomics. Big booths for the big companies, tiny shared ones for the guys who've got a pen, a dream, and a website. The screeching horde that stands in line for three hours to see the Twilight panel never goes onto the floor, or if they do it's just to walk down one aisle and marvel at how weird the geeks are.

Upstairs, away from the floor and the giant auditoriums, are the smaller panels. Groups of authors talking about the way their genre is evolving. Screening rooms of indie films. Discussion forums for the role of science fiction in society, the portrayal of LGBT issues in comics, marketing strategy for independent comic books. It all revolves around creativity bubbling from the bottom up.

I tried to stay away from the big meeting halls for the most part. Anything they say is going to be released onto the wire anyway before the session is out, and some enterprising fan will post a video of the entire presentation translated into Farsi and Basque before I can even find Dustin's email address to let him know I heard something interesting. I wandered the floor, hit some obscure panels, and then gave in at the end of the day in order to see Terry Gilliam in one of the big rooms. After Gilliam, I could have stuck around the same room for a panel and footage from Kick-Ass, a film based on another Mark Millar comic (like Wanted). But the film purportedly stars Nicholas Cage and "The Anthropology of Star Trek" panel was at the same time. And that's just how I roll.

A series of disconnected observations and miscellany from Thursday:

Comic-con kicked off its first time slot with a panel called "Masters of the Web," featuring "the most popular genre and movie websites" including Ain't It Cool, among others. We were not invited to be on the panel, and we will not forget the slight.

Tyrese Gibson has come out with his own comic called "Mayhem," released as a three issue mini-series. If the stars of Disney sitcoms get record deals, I see nothing wrong with an actor taking a spin at writing. However, very angry men descended upon you if you tried to take a photo of Gibson without first buying a copy of the comic for five dollars. Gibson is shockingly normal looking for an actor person, up until the moment he smiles for a picture. His teeth are so white and perfect, one expects an audible ding whenever he smiles.

A company called Genki Wear has come out with a chain of Star Trek colognes and perfumes. Four fragrances have been released thus far: Pon Farr, Tiberius, Red Shirt (with the tag line "Because tomorrow may never come") and Khaaann!! (released exclusively for Comic-Con). All colognes smell essentially the same to me, so I am not the one to review this product other than to declare its clear and absolute geek awesomeness.

There is another company dedicated entirely to providing Boba Fett replica costumes. Now that's specialization.

Free sword fighting lessons were offered on the roof of the complex by a variety of dressed up fans, including Roman soldiers, a few medieval knights, and several Spartans. The majority of those getting lessons were non-dressed up women, who deliriously whaled on their historical figure of choice with blunted spears and swords. I have not the slightest clue how Freud would analyze that.

I stumbled upon the booth for Tor Books, at the same time Brian Herbert and Kevin Anderson were hanging out. I behaved and did not ask why they felt an overwhelming need to continuously and thoroughly rape Frank Herbert's masterpiece, instead simply browsing the selection of novels laid out on the table. My patience was rewarded by hearing Brian Herbert's handler tell Kevin Anderson's handler that he didn't think Dune was a very good book, and that the new ones by Brian and Kevin were far better novels. Kevin Anderson chose this exact moment to announce that he really needed to have a bulldozer for these things to keep the gawkers moving. "Keep it moving fanboys!" were his exact words. I was the only one standing in front of the booth at the time. I moved on lest I resort to physical violence.

A women in her twenties with tats, dead eyes and incredible legs marred by rug burns on her knees was dressed as Coraline. It made me feel wrong.

My redemption was a jolly round woman old enough to be my mother and dressed as an anime character I did not recognize. She had a "Free Hugs" sign, which made me feel better.

Lou Ferrigno is a terrifying man to behold, all biceps and nose. I think he is the Hulk.

A movie called Zombieland had a clever little booth, in which they offered a free makeup job to make you look like a zombie, dispensing hundreds of zombies onto the floor in a matter of hours. I think a zombiefication booth should catch on at other events like baseball games, kid's soccer matches, and the opera. In other zombie news, there is a comic book called Hot Zombie Chicks.

"Heroes" released a new trailer that played on a loop at an enormous booth. It looked mildly intriguing, with a new villain named Samuel who appears to be a riff on the evil preacher from "Carnivale." It'll probably suck anyway, but at least they're trying.

Pandorum is a new film by one of our favorite producers, Paul W. S. Anderson. I was optimistic at first rumor, because it sounded like a tight little indie horror sci-fi flick. The problems mounted during the half-hour panel. Anderson is entirely too pretty to be a producer or director, roles best filled by those who have deteriorated into a troll-like existence enthralled to the creation of film. The second actor they brought out onto the panel is the current MMA champion. That's not exactly a Shakespearean pedigree. The trailer ... oh the trailer. Every year a film comes out and you can look at the trailer and say "that's just Alien except with [insert something]". The trailer for Pandorum was like that, except I can't even tell you what the [insert something] is.

"The Anthropology of Star Trek" was every bit as geeky as you thought it would be. It featured arguments about the basis of a replicator-based economy, the under-representation of LGBT issues in the Star Trek universe, and of course the eternal question of where all the bathrooms are on the starships.

Finally, but perhaps most importantly, this may be the only place in the world where one can witness a woman dressed in a golden bikini watch another woman walk by dressed as a Powerpuff girl and exclaim "now that's just tacky."


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