Comic-Con

Comic-Con is huge, reminding me of some ancient festival dedicated to the complex and overlapping mythologies of geekdom. The lengths at which people were willing to worship their favorite idol are really something to marvel. If you dress in a perfectly rendered, home-made Boba Fett costume in 85 degree heat, you’re clearly proving your devotion to the gods of Lucas. Thus far, I’ve counted 17 Jokers (16 like Heath Ledger, including one in a nurse’s outfit and one guy who dressed like the Jack Nicholson joker), 3 Jack Sparrows, and countless stormtroopers. Other noteworthy costumes include a couple that dressed like Shrek, two guys that turned themselves into TIE fighters by taping cardboard panels to their arms, a whole family dressed like the Incredibles, and one chick dressed in a very realistic Princess Leia Tattooine bikini.

I have to confess that I’ve never been into American comic books. Even as a kid, superheroes struck me as a bit silly. I’ve never been an especially devoted viewer of Star Trek. And after George Lucas pissed on my childhood when he released The Phantom Menace, my love for Star Wars has gone sour. You could say that I’m a geek agnostic who found himself in the Vatican during Easter mass. I suspected that I’d find little to make me fall to my knees. But I was wrong. There was booth after booth filled with indie comics. Chris Ware, Gary Panther, Lynda Barry, R. Crumb. Book upon book of beautifully bound copies of some of the coolest graphic novels around. I bought a couple tomes by Adrian Tomine who was kind enough to sign it. The geek was out.

Next I went to a panel for something else I can very geeky about, the British series Spaced. And for a series that’s just coming out on DVD this week, the line was unreal. It went down the hall, around two corners, doubled backed a few times before spilling outside and down the stairs. My press pass apparently meant nothing; I had to line up like everyone else. So I followed the line until I ran into a couple Cal Arts friends who were outside but not down the stairs. I cut in line. The guy behind me was dressed in a leather trench coat, white face paint and plastic fangs. While I was talking to my friend, I ran into Greg Mottola, who directed Superbad. He worked on a failed FOX TV show that I toiled on as a Post PA. You can always tell the quality of a person’s character in Hollywood by whether or not they talk to the PAs. Greg always did. He mentioned that he probably was going to direct Simon Pegg and Nick Frost’s new movie Paul.

In spite of my fears, I did actually get a seat in the far corner. Pegg was on hand along with co-star/co-writer Jessica Hynes and director Edgar Wright. If Comic-Con is list a great religious festival, then these panels are like communion. Fan questions were detailed, affectionate and occasionally churlish; one guy with a hat that looked like a frog all but demanded that the make a movie about a reoccurring character on Spaced – Tyres. Other questions included the possibility of doing a third season. Pegg said that they all wanted to do it but were afraid of making their own Phantom Menace. Wright asked about is upcoming adaptation of half-forgotten Marvel superhero Antman. His super power? He can turn into an ant. That’s it. But if one person can make that concept interesting (and I assume funny) it’s Wright. He was cagey about the project aside from saying that he finished a draft. Pegg was asked about becoming the next Doctor Who, which he just laughed off. And of course, they were asked about Wright, Pegg and Nick Frost working together again to follow up on Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz. Pegg said that they all wanted to complete their “Blood and Ice Cream” trilogy.

Later after scarfing down some Baja Fresh, I walked into the end of a presentation for George Lucas’ latest assault on my childhood, an animated series about the Clone Wars. The animation was a stiff and wooden as the dialogue. I’m not surprised that Lucas turned to computer animation. Machines always captured his imagination more than, y’know, boring old human beings. And the evolution of his movies is a slow erasing of humanity from the screen. With Clone Wars, he dispenses with humans altogether.

The next panel was Entertainment Weekly’s “Visionary Filmmaker” panel, which had the unlikely grouping of Kevin Smith, Judd Apatow, Zack Snyder, and Frank Miller. Smith looked huge, wearing what looked like a sweatshirt muumuu. Judd Apatow wore a Ghostbusters T-shirt that I think was being handed out for free on the convention floor. Zack Snyder looked exactly the kind of person who liked to give swirlies to nerds in high school and Frank Miller who was clearly loaded was dressed like a card sharp.

When asked why he first got into movies, Smith was short and sweet, “I just wanted my cock sucked.” He continued through out the panel to hurl one-lined and banter with Apatow, cracking everyone up. He’s clearly a better panel member than filmmaker. Zack Snyder proved my suspicions as being someone with great visual flare but with a rather shallow intellect. His answers were consistently stumbling and halting that more often than not trailed off with, “…I don’t know.” After one painfully flubbed response, Kevin Smith chimed in, “Hey, at least you got that visual thing down.” Everyone though, especially Smith, was floored over his upcoming Watchmen footage, screened at a panel I missed to go to Spaced. Frank Miller looked generally bored and didn’t bother answering many of the questions beside a couple snarky asides about Dark Knight.

After that, I went to a party thrown by a leading internet company. The party-goers were mostly a different species than the comic-con going geek. These guys were in sales and marketing and dressed in Hollywood-slick. In the past five years, Comic con has gotten big and increasingly slick thanks to the recent attention of Hollywood. Geeks and geek buzz have made movies like 300 and Hellboy II big hits. The shift here isn’t that comics have gotten more Hollywood. It’s that Hollywood is now catering to the geek and as a result movies have become more like comic books.

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