Comic-Con 2013

There are a lot of places where you can read about the extremely cool reveals and sneak peeks about the coming year in pop culture and general nerdery that is the San Diego Comic Con.  But chances are you’re seeing the Con through the eyes of someone with an all-access media pass or perhaps someone who enjoys some kind of celebrity status because of their cultural musings.  But, if you want to see the Con through the eyes of a regular, every day kind of geek (like myself), now is the time.

Having greased the applicable wheels, Sheree and I got a four day pass including preview night.  Typically, preview night is a chance to hit the exhibition hall with the intimate crowd of around 100,000 rather than 120,000 people.  This is the time for hardcore ebay merchants to secure all the Comic Con exclusives so they can hawk them at about 200% of their original value.  It’s a tactic we’ve tried before, but I think you need to have the predatory stock market mentality to make this work.  Like, you’ve got to be okay with stomping a sixty-year-old woman in the neck in order to make this lucrative.  They were also screening some new shows that will be out this fall, but I personally like to use preview night to get a feel for how that particular year is going to go.  Will there be a face-stabbing? Will the line gods be merciful? These are the important questions to contemplate on preview night.

Thursday was actually a pretty good day.  We started the day with a panel made up of film composers who have worked on superhero films.  This panel was cool for a few different reasons.  First, we got to see some footage from upcoming films.  For example, we saw a pretty decent clip from The Wolverine and one from the upcoming Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. TV show.  Second, it was kind of funny to see these guys address the fact that making music for a superhero movie often leads to their work and the work of an entire orchestra get drowned out by the audio assault of sound effects that are also a superhero staple.  John Debney, who did the score for Iron Man 2 was particularly eloquent about this dynamic.

After that, we hopped in line for Hall H.  Ah, Hall H.  There are two large venues at the Con–Ballroom 20 and Hall H.  These lines are governed by fickle deities who share a twisted sense of humor.  We’ve never had a positive Ballroom 20 line experience, but Hall H has its ups and downs.  On Thursday, the gods were sleepy and unfocused on tormenting lesser beings.  We were able to get in and see some footage from Ender’s Game and Divergent which was pretty cool.  The crowd freaks out about Harrison Ford, but you can’t really blame them.  Characters that he’s played make up a pretty huge chunk of the geek universe–Han Solo, Indiana Jones, Rick Deckard and let’s not forget that crotchety news anchor from Morning Glory.  He always seems to be slightly pissed off to have to come to Comic Con, and I’m not sure if it’s hilarious or off-putting.  I did like his response to a fanboy who asked him what would happen if Indiana Jones and Han Solo met eachother: “I imagine they’d say something like, ‘Hi.  How are you?'”

Immediately following this panel was one of Entertainment Weekly‘s Visionary panels, where they get a few random actors/directors to sit and chat about life in the creative arts.  I actually really like these panels–we’ve seen James Cameron and Peter Jackson discuss the future of motion capture and J.J. Abrams and Joss Whedon discuss stage magic and films from the 1980’s.  This year, the lineup included Alfonso Cuaron, Edgar Wright and Marc Webb.  Occasionally these panels have an odd man out–someone who might not be on the same page as the other panelists, and this year I felt that Marc Webb was an odd choice.  Don’t get me wrong, he’s a totally cool dude and I love (500) Days of Summer, but Alfonso Cuaron and Edgar Wright have these passion projects coming down the pipe, and he’s working on The Amazing Spider-Man 2.  All the same, it’s fun for a fan of movies and filmmakers to see these three guys chat about life in their world.  They always have a positive message about creativity and success to share, and it makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside.

Then Friday happened, and it nearly ruined everything.  In line at a quarter to seven, didn’t get into Hall H until around five.  Missed the Veronica Mars movie panel, and The Walking Dead season four panel.  Got in to see footage from the new Spider-Man, but that wasn’t worth the ten-hour wait.  Also, there was no way Hall H was filled to capacity.  We later heard through the grapevine that they were late letting people in, so way to screw up, Comic Con.  Dejected and sad, we went back to our hotel where we learned that there was no Santa Claus and that it was our parents that were leaving us money for our lost teeth.

We resolved to get started even earlier on Saturday–hit the Hall H line around five in the AM.  This time around, the line staff had learned from their mistakes and got a pretty early start.  We started off down by the bay, but as we slowly inched forth, it looked like the line gods were smiling upon us.  We managed to see all of the Hall H programming, and here’s the short list:

Sandra Bullock and Alfonso Cuaron: Gravity–movie looks awesome, Alfonso Cuaron is extremely polite and self-deprecating, and I thought Sandra Bullock was genuinely cool.

Godzilla, 300 2: 600, The Lego Movie: Meh.  Also, that’s not the real title for the new 300 movie.

Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt: Edge of Tomorrow–Tom Cruise and Chris Hardwick (the moderator and one of my personal idols) sang some Foreigner together–apparently Chris Hardwick played Stacee Jaxx in a lesser known production of Rock of Ages .  Not sure about Edge of Tomorrow, though.  I think they should have kept the title of the graphic novel from which it was adapted–All You Need is Kill.  The way the actors described it made it sound decent, but the trailer made it look like just  another sci-fi whatever-the-hell movie.

Then Zack Snyder popped out and was all, “Hey guys, here’s a thing with a guy!” which was followed up with a brief teaser image for an upcoming Batman/Superman movie.  It made me a bit tingly.

Catching Fire and I, Frankenstein: Lots of folks on hand for Catching Fire, though it was hard to keep track of all of them with Jennifer Lawrence and Josh Hutcherson being so damn entertaining and attractive.  I liked The Hunger Games and am looking forward to the sequel.  Boy, but I, Frankenstein looks like a steaming heap.  Aaron Eckhart was there, but I kinda felt bad that it was for this movie.

I’m sure there was some other stuff, but let’s talk about the moments that reignited the Comic Con magic that Friday had tried really hard to snuff out.  X-Men: Days of Future Past had all kinds of awesomeness happening.  Bryan Singer is directing, and it’s going to team the original cast of the X-Men films (minus Cyclops and Jean Grey.  Thanks Brett Ratner, you tool) with the cast of X-Men: First Class.  You know what that means? They were all there! Michael Fassbender and James McAvoy sitting next to Ian McKellan and Patrick Stewart.  Badass.

At this point, I officially felt that particular type of Comic Con magic coursing through Hall H.  Regardless of how long I waited in line or how many people have gotten their sweat on me, seeing all of these amazing actors lend their talents to characters that have been like close friends throughout my childhood hanging out on one stage is pretty damn joyous.

And that was just the preshow.

The Marvel panel has traditionally been known to crank it up to eleven.  After all, we saw the Avengers assemble for the first time on that stage.

So.  Thor 2.  The panel starts off innocently enough.  Chris Hardwick brings out Kevin Feige, head of Marvel Studios and they chit chat a bit about their upcoming movies.  Then the lights go out.  No big deal, though.  They’re probably just showing the footage early because they’re behind schedule.  Whatevs.  Loki’s voice booms, “Humans.  Humans gathered in this pitiful kingdom of Midgard,” Right on.  Loki’s gonna be in this movie, so it makes sense that he’s the first voice you hear on the footage, “Known as…Hall H.” What? What? Whaaaaat? Boom! Tom Hiddleston in full Loki garb takes the stage and mocks us for our weakness.  Calls Chris Hardwick a “mewling quim.” Great stuff.  It looks like Thor 2 is going to involve lots of Dark Elf bashing.  Plus a possible love triangle among Lady Sif, Natalie Portman and Thor.  I’ll totally go see it.

Captain America 2: The whole cast was there–Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Samuel L. Jackson.  My favorite part of the footage: Cap finds himself in an elevator at what I assume to be S.H.I.E.L.D. headquarters.  Small groups of dudes get in on each floor, but Cap notices some strangeness–one dude is sweating profusely, another shifts his weight like he’s packing heat.  When the elevator stops, Cap’s all, “I just have one thing to say: Any of you want to get out?” Cap proceeds to take these chumps down in a wicked close-proximity melee.  Very cool scene to open with.

Guardians of the Galaxy: I admit, when Marvel announced the movie adaptation of this comic, I thought to myself, “Wait.  The one with the space raccoon? Really?” But since following some buzz–James Gunn signing on to direct and Chris Pratt as Starlord–my interest was piqued.  And then, they showed the damn trailer and it’s now become a bit of an obsession.  John C. Reilly as a Kree detention officer going over the dossiers of each of the Guardians, and Lee Pace as Ronan the Accuser claiming, “They sound like a bunch of a-holes.” was enough to make me giggle like an idiot.

Oh, and they wrapped with Joss Whedon popping out to announce the title of the new Avengers movie which will be…The Rise of Ullllltrooooon!!!! Well done, Marvel.

Sunday found us visiting panels chock full of authors, which is always a good way to spend the last day of the Con.  I really enjoyed the spotlight on Neil Gaiman, as he has a wonderfully soothing voice and when someone with a wonderfully soothing voice talks about books, writing and literature in general, I’m usually quite satisfied.

And that’s Comic Con year six, folks.  Though this is a pretty long post, and I feel like I’ve masterfully encapsulated our experience, it’s no match for attending and seeing it all for yourself.  It’s a bitch to get tickets, but my friends, it’s something that you must do at least once before someone kills you.


Why Parks and Rec Could Be As Successful As The Simpsons

The cast of the first season Parks and Recreat...

This is Leslie Knope, and she wants to recruit you.

Having adorned The Office with a schmaltzy series finale and sending it on its way to TV heaven (or hell, depending on how you felt about the last few seasons.  My vote is for hell), NBC is in dire need of a flagship sitcom that can carry the network through the often risky waters of new programming.  The obvious–and correct–choice is Parks and Recreation.  I’ve often thought that Parks and Recreation and The Office share the same relationship that Kal-el shares with Krypton.  Right when The Office was starting to suck, Greg Daniels jettisoned Parks and Recreation into the vast galaxy of network television.  Enhanced by Earth’s yellow sun, Parks and Recreation became a symbol of truth, justice and mockumentary shenanigans.  Since I’d like the show to stick around for as long as possible, I’m willing to open my brain to those Jack Donaghy-types at NBC and explain why Parks and Recreation has the potential to become as successful and prolific as The Simpsons.

The City of Pawnee

One of the brilliant ideas that has kept The Simpsons pumping for twenty some-odd years is the fact that the city of Springfield is a character.  It’s a weird city that can generate weird characters and events in a way that doesn’t seem forced.  When writers have a huge roster of supporting characters that they can weave in and out of the main characters’ lives, their options for stories expands.  Exponentially.

Parks and Recreation has this going for it.  Pawnee has been established not only as a setting, but as a place that can spawn a certain type of person depending on what the story needs.  They’ve taken advantage of Pawnee, and as a result, we’ve gotten some great recurring characters–most notably the sex-crazed Councilman Dexhart (Kevin Symons) and exhibitionist/journalist Joan Callamezzo (Mo Collins).

Guest Stars With a Purpose

Though The Simpsons has kind of been failing at this lately, I remember when they would create a character that paired perfectly with the guest star.  When John Waters guest starred as the flamboyant owner of “Cockamamie’s,” it was epic.  His presence in that episode could not have been emulated.  

Parks and Recreation has featured some of the best guest stars in recent history.  There’s Paul Rudd as so-likable-he’s-hateable Bobby Newport, Lucy Lawless as a love interest worthy of Ron Swanson, Will Forte’s Twilight-obsessed time capsule enthusiast, Louis C.K. as Leslie’s terminally awkward love interest/law enforcement officer, and let’s not forget Patton Oswalt ad-libbing a filibuster that was so grandiose that it spawned a faux-movie poster.

Excellent Supporting Cast

From the get go, I loved the decision to cast talented actors who–until now of course–have spent a considerable amount of time under the radar.  Aubrey Plaza, Chris Pratt, Aziz Ansari and Nick Offerman (though I do miss Paul Schneider)  make up perhaps one of the greatest supporting casts of any TV show ever.  The showrunners even handled the addition of Ben and Chris (Adam Scott and Rob Lowe) with a surprising amount of grace.  Their integration into the existing cast was seamless, and it opened the gates to some excellent storylines–my personal favorite being when Donna and Tom try to cheer Ben up by talking him into buying a Batman costume.

If you’re like me, then you don’t really care that The Office isn’t on anymore, because you’ve been watching Parks and Recreation anyway.  However, if you’re pining for Jim, Pam, and the rest of the Dunder Mifflin crew, it’s time to get over it.     The first four seasons of Parks and Recreation are streaming on Netflix.

Parenting During the Zombie Apocalypse

“Um…if I let you go, you might kill my family.”

I’m scared of being a parent.  It’s a harrowing thought, bringing a vulnerable life into the world and trying to protect him/her from all the terrible things that want to kill him/her or, at the very least, turn him/her into the star of a reality TV show.

Then I watched the season finale of The Walking Dead, and it made me feel slightly better.  Before I delve deeper into this, here’s the obligatory spoiler alert: WARNING! The following post contains spoilers from AMC’s series The Walking Dead. If you don’t want to know what happened in the season three finale, then don’t read on.  Also, ask yourself this question: Why do I hate awesomeness?

Here goes.  After The Governer (damn his one good eye) leads a failed assault on Rick’s prison, one of his troops wanders into the woods where he meets Carl.  Carl, seeing this dude has a gun, shoots him in the face, despite the fact that this guy was pretty young and, in all likelihood, was just following orders.  See, in Carl’s pre-adolescent brain, letting people with guns live results in them returning and killing others.  When Rick tries to discuss why it’s not right to shoot people who are trying to surrender, Carl throws it right back in his face by saying that if Rick had killed the Governer when he had the chance, a lot of violence would have been prevented.

Rick is now in a parenting position that (hopefully) I will never have to be in.  I expect I’ll have a tough enough time explaining why we shouldn’t throw our poop at the neighbors, let alone discussing the moral complexity of taking another person’s life.  Anyway, I think Rick handles the situation well from a parenting standpoint.  He addresses the problem and explains why it was wrong—but here’s the thing—it’s a motherf***king zombie apocalypse! It’s safe to argue that morality as we know it as dwellers in a non-zombie apocalypse has been completely rearranged.  Example! Non-Zombie Apocalypse Rule: It’s wrong to kill folks.  Zombie-Apocalypse Rule: Killing folks is okay as long as it ensures your survival.  It might be easier for Rick to teach his baby girl this stuff as she grows up, but Carl is dealing with a paradigm shift that he might not be ready for.

So.  Parenting.  I guess it’ll be hard, but at least I won’t have to explain to my future son and daughter why killing a zombie with a crowbar is better than killing one with a gun.

Wait.  That actually might be pretty important.