Report from Comic-Con 2011, Part 1

By Heather S. Vina

This is my second Comic-Con. Last year, I attended both Saturday and Sunday when a friend of mine bought us tickets as a surprise for me. I had so much fun that I decided to attend this year, purchasing a four-day pass (without preview night)! And despite the lines and some of the frustration of not being able to make it into every panel I wanted to, I had a blast!

Some of my favourite things about CC are the booths and the exhibit floor. It’s usually crazy and packed down there, but I love looking at the wares for sale and the costumes that people are wearing. It didn’t seem like there were as many costumes this year as there were last, but there were still quite a few. I saw a lot of Spidermans, a lot of Jokers and Harley Quinns, a few Wonder Womans and a few Robins of both sexes. A lot of Star Wars characters and a few Star Trek ones. And, probably since Doctor Who was having a panel this year, a lot of Doctors, most especially Eleven. I saw a couple of really amazing Daleks, and some Weeping Angels, as well as women who had made themselves TARDIS dresses, which were really amazing. I saw a few Kahlens from Legend of the Seeker, one of my favourite canceled shows. There were some horror characters like the villains from the Hellraiser series, and whatever crazy psycho killer who carries a chainsaw. Quite a few anime characters as well, including my sister, who had dressed up as Slade from the Tekknoman series. All in all, a lot of fun watching people walk by in elaborate costumes!

As for the booths, there were so many things to look at that I felt like I had to go back several times each day I was there, just to see everything! It didn’t seem like there was nearly as much swag being handed out this year as there was last year, though. The WB booth was nearly impossible to get to. The first couple of days, I went in the early afternoon, and they had already handed out their quota for the day. Since I really wanted to get my hands on the TV Guide Comic-Con issue, I went back on Saturday morning, as soon as they opened. I don’t think I ever saw a line handled quite as badly as the WB one was this year. I don’t know why they couldn’t seem to manage it well, since the Marvel, DC, and Hasbro lines were just as long and as popular, and they handled theirs fine. But regardless, what they would do is allow a certain number of people in line and then cut it off, running the line down until it was at a lower amount and then starting it back up again. Which would have been fine, if they had been careful about allowing the people who had been cut off previously and were waiting for the next start up, to be the first in the next one. Instead, they continually told people to come back later, tried to shoo them away, and then didn’t give them any consideration when the next line opened up. It was just badly done and frustrating for a lot of people. Regardless, after three tries, I finally managed to make it into the line and got my hands on the TV Guide issues! I also managed to score a Supernatural saltshaker (YAY! I had no idea that was even being handed out ’til I got it!), a couple of The Vampire Diaries trading cards, a water bottle in the form of a blood bag from The Vampire Diaries, a Fringe luggage tag, a Chuck t-Shirt, The Big Bang Theory magnet relaxing stones, and a few other miscellaneous items. I can see why they were so popular with people; I just think they could have managed their lines better.

Except for grabbing a couple of free comics they had, there was nothing that exciting at the Marvel booth for me. They did have this huge Avengers set that you could take pictures on, but it was nothing I was interested in, so I mainly skipped their booth. The DC one had a few comics they were giving away, as well as some buttons, but the most exciting thing was the Justice League team pictures they were doing. They had it set up where they would take your picture in front of a green screen and then digitally insert you into the new Justice League team lineup, so it looked like you were part of the team. Very cool. Alas, despite taking two pictures on two separate days, I hated the way I looked in both.

One of the first places I made sure to hit was the Comic-Con t-Shirt booth, and the BBC America booth. Last year, I missed out on the official CC Doctor Who t-shirt and had to settle for a large size of the official CC t-shirt. This year, I was determined to get what I wanted! BBC America had three different Doctor Who shirts for sale this year. I went for the one with the picture of Eleven on the front, and on the back, the words “Trust your Doctor” and “San Diego 2011”. Love it! This year’s official CC shirt is blue, with the latest Justice League incarnation pictured on the front. I think that was probably the single most popular item at the exhibit. The booth was in the middle of the floor and they would literally have the line curve around the booth, stop, and then start again on the other side of the room, where people were lined up against the wall. I lucked out and managed to hit the line at a good spot, where it only took about fifteen minutes wait time to get to the booth, but when I passed it several times during the next few days, the line was at about an hour’s wait.

I ended up with so many t-shirts this year! I think those were my major buys. Besides the Chuck one I got for free, I also ended up with a free Bones one. They had to cancel the Bones panel at the last minute, so they ended up giving away the swag, that they were going to give away at the panel, at the freebie table. I came at the exact right time to score a t-shirt and a Kathy Reichs free book.

I also bought another Doctor Who shirt, with the TARDIS on the front and the words “You never forget your first Doctor,” and a DC shirt with the Robin emblem on the front. I also ended up with a Falling Skies hoodie, which has the weird, illuminated spine on the back and show’s title on the front. They were handing those out as the swag for their panel.

One of my favourite booths was the “Underground Toys” booth. They had a lot of Star Wars and Doctor Who toys. Despite the adorable Yodas, I ended up with a TARDIS pen and a miniature TARDIS. I really had to stop myself from purchasing more there!

Alas, as a Dean Winchester fan, I didn’t find as much as I had hoped with him on it. Everything either had Sam with him, or the Dean standalones were already sold out. I had really wanted to get my hands on a Dean button for my CC lanyard, but when I found the booth that had them, they had already sold out and only had Sam ones left. And it was only Thursday! That tells you how popular he is.

I scored a few free posters. One of Haven and one of Alcatraz, the new TV show. Lionsgate was giving away posters of their movies. I ended up getting one of those, as well. There ended up being nothing I was really interested in, though.

The one thing that everyone agrees on about CC is that it’s become way more popular, and therefore, way busier. People were telling me that a few years ago, you didn’t have to wait in lines to get into a panel room and could just walk in. Now, you have to wait for hours, and you still might miss the panel you want to see, which is what happened to us on our first day, Thursday, with the Psych panel. Held in Ballroom 20, it was the third panel of the day for that room, so I figured getting there an hour and a half early to wait in line would be enough. But nope. By the time the panel started at 12:30, we had just finally passed the “There are 2500 people ahead of you” sign! We walked out of line and went to the exhibit floor, instead, but needless to say, that was a disappointing start to our CC experience. We learned from that that if you really want to see a panel, get there early, and even better, get there as soon as the room opens and sit through the panels before it. Since they don’t clear the rooms in between panels, that’s what a lot of people end up doing. Once we learned that, we ended up making it in to every panel we really wanted to see, but missing the Psych one still stings a little.

The other panels I kind of regret not making it to now, were some of the DC ones. I had planned to go to at least one of them, but hearing more and more about their reboot turned me off. I decided to skip them and save myself the frustration. However, it turns out that there was a woman dressed up as Batgirl, who was at every panel, asking questions and calling out the writers and creators on their reboot (which is diminishing a lot of the DC female characters and getting rid of several, altogether), and how DC has hardly any women writers and artists. If I had been there, I would have stood up and cheered her questions! If what DC just said in a press release is true, she might have actually made a difference with her tireless effort to point out that DC was completely ignoring the female sex of their fanbase. I’d give that woman a big hug if I could, but since I can’t, I will say, “Bravo, Batgirl, bravo!” Thank you for standing up for all of us and saying what needed to be said!
And with that being said, here are some details and impressions on the panels that I did attend.

THURSDAY

“1:30-2:30 AICN Comics: Horror on the Paneled Page – Mark L. Miller (Ain’t It Cool News) hosts a panel focusing on horror with some of comic books’ darkest writers and artists. The discussion will broach such topics as how to create successful horror comics, what causes chills, and what doesn’t. Steve Niles (30 Days of Night), Joshua Hale Fialkov (DC’s upcoming I, Vampire), David Quinn (Faust), Tim Seeley (Hack/Slash), Brandon Seifert (Witch Doctor), Matt Pizzolo (Godkiller), Brea and Zane Grant (We Will Bury You), and a few surprise guests will show you what makes them the best of the best in comic book horror. Room 24ABC.”

I hadn’t planned on attending this one, but ended up going to it to get seats for the one following it. I’m not into horror comics, but it was interesting listening to the writers on the panel. Their surprise guest was Terrance Zdunich, who wrote the movie Repo! The Genetic Opera. They had some interesting things to say that a lot of writers should listen to, not just horror ones. Brandon Seifert specifically spoke about how, if a plotline relies on characters being stupid, then the writer is just wasting his time, and I couldn’t agree with him more about that! Tim Seeley spoke about how writing horror is about being in control of fear. The fear of horror isn’t real, not like the normal, everyday stuff of having to get a job or moving. How often is one really chased by an axe-wielding maniac? So, it’s an unrealistic fear that the reader has control over, whereas the fear of everyday life is something that the reader isn’t always in control of.

They also spoke about how the horror movie audience doesn’t seem to realize the potential for good horror in horror comics. Matt Pizzolo mentioned how he sees the audience at a Fangoria convention and an audience at a comic-book convention and they are two completely different groups. They spoke about trying to get more people into the comic-bookstores, but no one really had a good idea on how exactly to do that.

“2:30-3:30 Hasbro Transformers Panel – Would you like to see what’s new with Transformers? The marketing and design teams responsible for the current Transformers: Dark of the Moon line present all the latest toys at this panel. Also, see a sneak peek into the 2012 line. Includes Q&A time. Room 24ABC.”

This was primarily about the Hasbro Toy line for the Transformers. It amazed me how many adults were really into this! It was pretty much all adult collectors asking questions of the Hasbro panel on their latest lines. It was fun seeing the models and the preliminary sketches for some of their new models. A representative for the Universal theme parks presented a video of their new Transformers 3D ride, which opens in 2012. I have to say, that looks pretty amazing! It actually made us want to go to Universal next year, to check it out!

FRIDAY

“10:00-11:00 Torchwood: Miracle Day – John Barrowman (Doctor Who) and Eve Myles (Doctor Who) join cast members Mekhi Phifer (ER), Bill Pullman (Independence Day), Alexa Havins (All My Children), and Lauren Ambrose (Six Feet Under), along with writer Jane Espenson (Battlestar Galactica), to discuss the fourth installment of the hit BBC Worldwide show, a Starz Originals co-production, currently airing Friday nights at 10 ET/PT on Starz. Ballroom 20.”

After having learned our lesson from the previous day with missing the Psych panel, we made sure to get there early for our next Ballroom 20 panel, which was Torchwood. I got in line to get into the building at 6:20 am that morning, and then still had to run to get into the line to get into Ballroom 20! It was crazy, but we managed to get into the room around 9am, and got good seats. Ballroom 20 seats about 4200 people and we were in the middle of the room.

As you know from my reviews, I’m a fan of this show, but I haven’t completely warmed up to the new American characters that they have added. But after watching the actors, I have to say that it makes me like their characters more. Both Alexa Havins and Mekhi Phifer were funny and charming and happy to be there. Alexa had some funny stories about how her husband is a big fan of the genre and loved Torchwood before she even got the script. She joked that he told her he would serve her divorce papers if she didn’t take the role! He hates spoilers, so she would come home from the set, looking all disheveled with fake blood on her, and he would be like, “Don’t tell me what happened! I don’t want to know! Wait…wait! Just tell me – is Captain Jack okay?” It was pretty hilarious!

Eva charmed me, as well. When someone would yell out that they loved her, she would blush and tell them they were sweet, and then seriously/jokingly tell them to call her. It’s clear that she and John Barrowman are genuinely tight.

Speaking of John, the presenter brought up how John is into CC, as well, and John talked about shopping on the exhibit floor earlier. The people in charge had told him that he could go, as long as he wore a cap, and John joked about going out on the floor, wearing nothing but a cap! He bought a lot of things. The one purchase he was most excited about was a set of McDonald’s DC character tumblers that they used to sell several years ago. He shipped them back home and joked about his husband’s reaction on opening the package.

Both he and Eva talked about how much they love their respective characters, and love playing them. John said he would love to return to Doctor Who and would absolutely say yes if he was invited back for the 50th Anniversary special. He’d be very interested in seeing how Jack would interact with Matt Smith’s Doctor.

John also addressed the killing off of Ianto. He hinted that both he and Eva had gotten hate mail over that, which is a real shame since they weren’t the ones who wrote it. And really, hate mail over the death of a character is pushing it. Criticism, I am in support of, but hate mail is a bit much.

The strangest actor on the panel was Bill Pullman, who seemed decidedly out of it and uninvolved. He did react to the questions that he received from the audience, but whereas the other actors were engaged, he simply was not. I’m not sure if he was just overwhelmed by the attention, or just disinterested.

All in all, the panel was a hoot. From John to Eva, to Mekhi and Alexa, they were all very funny and personable. And all were in agreement about their love for the show and their appreciation of the audience. John, in particular, gave a lovely little speech thanking everyone for the support of Torchwood, and himself and Eva, and it was nothing but sincere and heartfelt. I was touched.

They hinted at some amazing things coming up, but were very closed-lipped about any details on these amazing things! The preview looks excellent and exciting. And it’s already up on YouTube, here.

“11:15-12:15 AMC’s The Walking Dead – Stars Andrew Lincoln (Love, Actually), Jon Bernthal (The Pacific), Sarah Wayne Callies (Prison Break), Laurie Holden (The Mist), Norman Reedus (The Boondock Saints), Steven Yeun (The Big Bang Theory), Jeffrey DeMunn (The Green Mile); series creator/writer/director/executive producer Frank Darabont (The Shawshank Redemption); executive producer Gale Anne Hurd (The Terminator); executive producer Robert Kirkman (creator/writer of The Walking Dead comic book series); and makeup artist and consulting producer Greg Nicotero discuss the success of season one of AMC’s series The Walking Dead and reveal what to look forward to in season two, which will air on AMC this fall. Join the panelists for a one-on-one Q&A session and an official sneak preview of season two. Ballroom 20.”

I don’t watch The Walking Dead, as I’m not a fan of the zombie genre. And I missed part of the panel, as I bowed out for a restroom break. But I have to admit that their preview for next season was well-done and looked pretty exciting. Everyone on the panel, from the actors to the writers and producers, were all very nice and engaged. Like the Torchwood gang, they all sincerely thanked the fans for their support, which was lovely. Honestly, any group that can genuinely appreciate their fans like that and acknowledge the viewers as the driving force that keeps them working, gets liking from me!

“12:30-1:30 The Big Bang Theory Screening and Q&A – Dr., Dr., Dr., Dr., Dr., Mr., Miss…See everyone’s favorite scientists (and engineer and waitress) from The Big Bang Theory as the show’s producers and stars return to San Diego with a special screening and Q&A. Executive producers Chuck Lorre (Two and a Half Men), Bill Prady (Dharma & Greg), and Steve Molaro (iCarly) join stars Johnny Galecki (Roseanne), Jim Parsons (Garden State), Kaley Cuoco (Charmed), Simon Helberg (Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog), Kunal Nayyar (NCIS), Mayim Bialik (Blossom), and Melissa Rauch (True Blood) for a fun and lively discussion. From Chuck Lorre Productions, Inc. in association with Warner Bros. Television, The Big Bang Theory airs Thursdays at 8/7c on CBS, and The Big Bang Theory: The Complete Fourth Season will be released on Blu-ray and DVD on September 13. Ballroom 20.”

This was one of the panels that we had been really excited to see, and I have to say, it was a bit of a letdown. A lot of the actors seemed either too nervous, or uninterested. Johnny Galecki, in particular, looked disinterested in being there. Jim Parsons, who plays my favourite character, Sheldon, tried to answer questions, but he seemed painfully shy, especially in the beginning, and rarely looked out over the crowd. He did seem to relax more later on and managed to be a bit more articulate in what he wanted to say, and I appreciated the fact that he was really trying to overcome his nerves.

The two most engaged and comfortable of the group of actors were Mayim Bialik and Melissa Rauch. Melissa had a hilarious “Howard’s mother” face-off with Simon Helberg, and she blew him out of the water with her impression! Mayim was very articulate and spoke about her character, and her own background in neuroscience.

They did have a funny beginning to the show, when they had the actress who does the voice for Howard’s mother introduce the panel in-character. And they showed some outtakes. But otherwise, the panel was a bit of a letdown. I still love the show. I just don’t think that the majority of this group of actors are that great in front of an audience, unless they are in character.

“5:00-6:00 BBC America’s Bedlam: Exclusive U.S. Premiere Screening and Q&A – Star Theo James (Downton Abbey) and creator David Allison (Boy Meets Girl) host a premiere screening event followed by discussion and Q&A. Bedlam Heights, the stylish new apartment building, has sexy tenants and gorgeous amenities. But little do its new residents suspect that behind the luxury fittings lie unimaginable horrors. This is a place tainted by abuse, suffering, and death – and the ghosts of its dark and violent past are out for revenge. As the direct descendant of those who ran the asylum, Kate (Charlotte Salt, The Tudors) – who both lives and works there – is a prime target. She is surprised by the unexpected arrival of Jed (James), her adopted cousin. With a history of mental illness, Jed is a troubled man who sees ghosts and visions of the past. Recent messages to “Save Kate” propel him back into Kate’s life. Can he really “Save Kate”? And from whom, or what, does she need saving? Everybody has a dark side in this new series also starring Ashley Madekwe (Secret Diary of a Call Girl), Hugo Speer (Skins), and Will Young (Pop Idol winner, Skins). Bedlam premieres October 8 on BBC America’s Supernatural Saturdays. Room 7AB.”

This show has already aired and finished in England, and I actually have already seen all of the episodes. But it won’t start officially airing here until October 8 on BBC America. It’s not the best-written show or the best-acted show, but I like it, and I enjoy the mystery and spookiness of it. They showed the first episode, and brought out star Theo James (Jed) and creator David Allison for a few questions and answers. Unfortunately, there wasn’t a whole lot of time allotted for that. David did speak about how the asylum was inspired by a real one back in England, and how the stories are inspired by real stories. They just take them and twist them, to give them a horror edge and fit their show. Theo joked about the shirtless scene he had in the first episode. He told them that he didn’t think his character would really walk around shirtless in someone else’s apartment like that, and they listened, and said, “Yeah, you’re doing it shirtless!”

The one question I wanted to know the answer to, but it wasn’t asked, was in regards to a second season. After the panel, I tweeted Damian from TV Guide, who moderated it, and he said all signs look good for a second season!

“8:00-9:00 Reign of the Dinosaurs – In 2010, a group of the world’s best dinosaur illustrators and animators gave Comic-Con fans a rare behind-the-scenes look at the artistic development of the Discovery Channel series Reign of the Dinosaurs (working title). The creative team returns to show off just how far their jaw-dropping animation and storytelling have come since last year’s storyboarding and early animation phase. Set to premiere this fall, the series will reset the standard for immersive, inside-out dinosaur storytelling, giving an insiders’ view into the private lives and strange behaviors of dinosaurs, with a narrative technique as revolutionary as the science it documents. Panelists include executive producer/co-director Erik Nelson (Cave of Forgotten Dreams), director David Krentz (Disney’s Dinosaur), artist Ricardo Delgado (Dark Horse Comics’ Age of Reptiles), and others. Room 6DE.”

I went to this one, mainly because I was waiting for the screening of Locke and Key that was to come after, and wow. I fully support the Discovery Channel and their original content, and people living out their dreams, but this was pretty horrible. They’ve changed the name to “Revolution of the Dinosaurs” but really, I don’t think there’s much reality involved in this. They did have paleontologists Thomas Holtz and Scott Hartman advising them on the accuracy of dinosaurs, but the movie scenes they showed us don’t seem to involve much reality.

The first clip was about a Tyrannosaurs Rex terrorizing another male, and eating his and his mate’s children. They get into a battle over it, and the “good” one finally overcomes the “bad” one. Then he and his mate go off and procreate to replace their lost offspring.

The next one involves a mother bird encouraging her youngsters to fly out of the nest. And by encouraging, I mean “pushing and throwing them out, despite the fact that they keep getting killed as soon as they leave.”

The CGI was bad, the storytelling was bad, everything was just bad. I hate to be negative, because the people involved were all so excited and proud of their work, but wow, it was just bad.

“9:15-10:15 Locke & Key FOX Pilot Screening Encore – Second screening added due to demand! The most talked-about pilot not on the fall schedule was the FOX production of Locke & Key. This screening of the entire pilot will show you just what a void there will be on your TV this fall. Watch the special filmed adaptation of “Welcome to Lovecraft” and see the Eisner-nominated comic brought to life. Room 6DE.”

This was one I really debated over going to, because I was dang tired and it was so late! But since it was the last showing they had (They had shown it earlier in the day, but it was up against the Torchwood panel and Torchwood won out) at CC, and there was a chance I’d never get to see it since the show didn’t get picked up by Fox, I forced myself to go. I’m glad I did. It was an enjoyable little show, but I’m really surprised that Fox ever expressed any interest in it, as it doesn’t seem like their type of show at all. It was a bit slow and I did have a few complaints, but it was something I definitely would have continued to watch if they had picked it up. I’m writing up a separate review of it, but all in all, it was a decent start for a show that was, sadly, never picked up. I’m not sure if the producers have any real hope of getting their show picked up by showing it at CC, but I’m glad they did because it at least gave some of us a chance to see it.

And despite what the CC description says, in the nighttime airing of the pilot, there was no “Welcome to Lovecraft.”

You can also still find our reports from Comic-Con 2010,  here, here and here.

About Heather S. Vina

Heather's been a fan of science fiction since she was five years old and developed a crush on Captain Kirk, while watching reruns of Star Trek: The Original Series. A huge Anglophile, she loves reading and watching (and mocking!) TV, but hasn't figured out a way to make a living doing either, yet. But she lives in hope!

Heather S. VinaReport from Comic-Con 2011, Part 1