Saturday, August 02, 2014

San Diego Comic-Con International - 2014 - There & Back Again!

Let me begin by saying that I had a great time at the convention and didn't see half the stuff that I would have liked.  Part of that was the fact that the lines for any event have become obstacle courses that wind around the place for what seems like miles. I'd stand in line for about half an hour and then decide that it just wasn't worth it, no matter how much I wanted an exclusive or to see a panel/celeb.

Now the second part of my angry old fart rant, which you can skip if you'd like.

 (Begin Rant:
Is it just me or is SDCC hiring a greater number of a**holes to work their security?  Sad that I should come away with that as my main impression of the con.  The worst part is that there seems to be overlapping security, including folks running various booths who seem to think that selling stuffed dolls also give them law enforcement cred!  Add to that the fact that one group contradicts the other when it comes to where and when you can stand still for more than thirty seconds.  I witnessed "security" telling parents they could not wait outside restrooms for their children, or stop with a stroller to feed or comfort an infant.  If you are going to allow folks into the con with babies and children you have to take into account that the required "adult supervision" might mean more than pulling the kid by the arm so he doesn't interfere with some cos-player's photo-op.
End Rant)

All that aside I had a lot of fun at the con, just as I do every year.  The fact that the thing exists and gives the fans of so many things what they want shows the dedication and planning that goes into the whole event.  Having been part of one such convention team, my fedora is off to the SDCC board and their many volunteers.  The con really has outgrown the Convention Center and takes over much of the water front and part of the Gaslamp area immediately across the trolley tracks.  Some panels and movie previews and presentations are taking place in nearby hotels and even at Petco Park. Hell, for Hollywood and television the place has become a 'red carpet' event with some of the most important stars and creators appearing to promote their latest product.

There were a number of highlights and I wish I had taken three times as many pictures as I did.  The number of cos-players (some actually paid by various companies to promote a product/film/show) seems to multiple with each convention. There were probably about a dozen running around the first SD con I attended in '75, and most of those were on Saturday night for the costume judging.  Each year the costumes become more elaborate and I can't begin to imagine the amount of time and money (let alone skills) that are necessary to make them so amazing.  It is impossible, for me at least, to tell if someone designed and made the costume themselves or it was purchased/rented from a store offering professionally made items.  You can find examples on YouTube and the 'reality show' HEROES OF COS-PLAY (on the SyFy Channel) will show you how fanatic folks can be.

For me the panel highlights were (in no particular order):

Marvel Animation's preview of up-coming shows on Disney XD. This is fun every year and often the only time I actually see the cartoons, since I already have so much stuff on my DVR that I never get around to watching.  Highlights for me were the ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN, with Spidey following an enhanced Green Goblin to various alternate Earths where they encounter different versions of Peter/Spider-Man.  Shown were 2099, Spider-Girl and a brief part of one featuring The Amazing Spider-Ham, which was a great tribute/homage to the Warner Bros. cartoons. Also, a few minutes of HULK AND THE AGENTS OF S.M.A.S.H. where the team is taken prisoner by Ronan the Accuser (who seems to have recovered from his appearance in Guardians (semi-Spoiler there)).  Best was about a minute of test footage from the up-coming GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY cartoon.  What looks to be a meeting between Rocket and Star-Lord. This I might actually have to record.  Towards the end of the panel voice-actor, Fred Tatasciore, voice of The Hulk in several Marvel cartoons, as well as the voice of dozens if not hundreds of characters throughout his career, was introduced to answer questions both as the Hulk and himself. He got quite an audience response as you can imagine.

MASTERS OF THE WEB: Comic Book Movies - Had a number of folks that review movies on YouTube and other sites.  Best part was seeing Kristian Harloff & Mark Ellis of Schmoes Know, guys I have been following since they began filming in Kristian's apartment and now have their own web channel and various podcasts.  Also, on the panel were Jeremy Jahns (YouTube), Tiffany Smith (DC All Access and sometimes co-host on the Schmoes' podcast) and others.  A cool extra was the appearance of Manu Bennett (Deathstroke on the CW's ARROW, as well being Azog, the chief Orc in the Hobbit trilogy). Bennett talked about his various roles and the expanding use of 'performance capture' in films like the Hobbit and Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, as well as adding his opinion on various other films being discussed by the panel.

Two of the Saturday panels hosted by Mark Evanier are must sees and always warrant going to whatever panel precedes them so you can get a seat in Room 6 BC. Quick Draw, featuring Sergio Aragones and Scott Shaw! each year, with this year's guest Disney Legend Floyd Norman, all trying to out draw the other in response to whatever odd thing Mark comes up with to stump them.  This is always followed by the equally popular Cartoon Voices #1, also moderated by Mark.  Here he brings on over a half dozen of some the best known folks that voice the cartoons and commercials we see & hear all the time.  He asks them each about their careers, characters they portray and incidents that have occurred during recording sessions.  This is followed by the group doing a cold reading of a script they have never seen before.  This year was an adaptation of Snow White, previously I have seen them do a SUPERMAN radio show and other such programs.  Each actor generally portrays several characters, often switching roles or just being made to repeat certain scenes using a different voice. If you ever get a chance to attend SDCC on a Saturday, you should take time away from the exhibit hall for a few hours. Have a seat, grab a drink & snack and enjoy a couple of hours of genuine entertainment and laughs.

I'm sure I've forgotten some of the other things, but overall SDCC is worth the money and exhaustion (not to mention sunburn this year).  Fingers crossed that I get to do it all over again next July.
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