After much debate on how to structure this year’s wrap-up of the mayhem that is Comic Con; eschewing the obvious chronological ordering of the weekend’s events and dismissing any notion of summarizing things alphabetically, I’ve decided to write three separate posts: Famous People! Weird Things! And Stuff I Bought!
So let’s dive right in with Famous People.
Comic Con is, of course, known for drawing all kinds of famous people to the yearly event: movie stars, TV personalities, artists and comic book legends. The mainstream press, with their all-powerful-go-anywhere-meet-everyone all access credentials have already filled the airwaves and overloaded the net with stories of “who was there,” and I have no intention of just repeating the long red carpet list of “famous people” who answered question at press events, or made appearances at parties. My list will be limited to only those FP who I actually saw or encountered with my own two eyes (even if my eyes were a football field away in cavernous Hall H).
Thursday (oops… chronologic order… but only for the sake of sub-organization)
Should I admit that I went to the Twilight panel? It wasn’t my intent to do so, but after endless email encouragement from my oldest sister to see Pee Wee Herman (appearing following Twilight) I felt obliged to at least walk to Hall H, witness the never-ending-never-get-in line, and honestly reply that “I tried.” Much to my surprise, an hour or so before Pee Wee was scheduled to appear, there was NO line at Hall H. Yes, I walked right in, there were plenty of empty seats in the back, and I sat myself down to witness the high-pitched adolescent shrieks of those who had camped out for a day and a half to see all those hunky, pretty boy vampires who would be ripped to flesh-shredding ribbons by uber-silent film vampire Max Schreck.
Now that’s a vampire!
In any case, the panel gave me ample opportunity to sit in the dark with my iPad and post snarky tweets about how the preview footage of Bella & Edward’s wedding night tryst (::: shriek! :::) looked like a vampire celebrity sex tape. I snapped a few photos of the actors off the big projection screen (though none of the beefcakey vampire guys. ::: shriek! ::: Sorry girls). Let’s take a look!
Kristen Stewart was wearing a black bra and a white see through top, and was just so… so… Oh! The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 1 is definitely the best movie ever. I mean, look at the title. It uses two forms of punctuation, and what’s more dramatic than that? And the birth scene. Yeah, that was my favorite. I mean, it was such a moment. And, you just don’t know, right?
::: shriek! :::
Okay, I made all that up just based on the actress-y tone of her “super reflective” answers. Here’s a picture I snapped of her on the giant projection screen where she’s scratching her head in Twilight Wonderment.
Also appearing on the panel (and much better dressed) was Julia Jones who plays a shapeshifting werewolf in the new film. Because of my severe sideways angle beneath the giant projection screen the photo below seems to capture her just at the moment that the moon has gone full and her face is about ready to contort itself into full on moon baying lycanthropic mayhem. Aaaaaaaaarrrrrrrrrooooooooooooo!!!! (Sorry, Julia, it was really just my camera; you’re an otherwise lovely girl)
The Twilight panel wrapped up with a montage of moonlit, shirtless previews of the upcoming film, and lots more shrieking from the starry-eyed girls lustfully stroking their necks from the front rows. More shrieking and LOTS of camera flashes as the panel stood and left the stage. A mass exodus from Hall H followed: creatures of the wanting night streaming into disappointing daylight, headed for the exhibition hall to seek out Team Jacob nightwear and Bite Me Edward ceiling posters.
Next up in Hall H was a surprise appearance from Morgan Spurlock who showed previews from the first officially sanctioned Comic Con documentary, Comic-Con Episode Four: A Fan’s Hope (great title! …even though it incorporates only one punctuation mark). The film is due later this year, and I think it’s a pretty safe bet that the opening weekend will draw an audience of at least 130,000 ticket buyers — perhaps times 41 for every year that Comic Con has been around. The clips he shared were really great, capturing the heart, magnitude, and weird charm that is Comic Con.
Following a brief panel for a couple of upcoming so-so looking films from Aardman Animation (Nick Park, where are you?), the lights went dim and the projection screens were filled with the opening sequence from The Pee Wee Herman Show on Broadway. Okay, it was pretty exciting (no, not in the same way that Twilight is exciting for the girls who had camped out overnight). Pee Wee’s appearance was structured as a one-on-one, hampered a bit by the moderator who was clearly star-struck by Pee Wee and really didn’t know how to engage him in conversation, so Pee Wee started taking questions from the audience, providing him opportunity to make second grade fun of people, which is what makes Pee Wee’s humor so endearing.
The very best thing about Pee Wee’s appearance was his announcement that he’s finishing up the process for nailing down a new feature length Pee Wee movie with producer Judd Apatow. It’s going to be a road picture along the same lines as Pee Wee’s Big Adventure. Yay!
After spending much of my first morning at Comic Con in Hall H, it was time to dive into the exhibit hall, where in past years I’ve encountered all kinds of Famous People: Jack Black, Henry Rollins, Rob Zombie, various Star Trek/Wars actors and actresses, and—of course— Elvira Mistress of the Dark. This year there were celebrity signings and sightings all over the place, as the exhibit hall has every media booth from Fox to CBS to HBO a steady stream of celebrities stepping into the fishbowl for crowd crushing photo opportunities.
All you really have to do to find a celebrity at Comic Con is look for people stopped in the middle of an aisle holding their cameras or phones high above their heads, angled down into a booth. It also helps to listen for people calling out the names of various Sci Fi or Fantasy characters at look-over-here-look-over-here! volumes (though this sometimes happens when “normal” people are simply wearing the costume of, say, Wolverine). So, for example, when I heard people around the Fox booth calling — Frodo! Frodo! Hey, it’s Frodo! — I knew a photo opportunity was before me.
So, yeah, Elijah Wood plays a major character in a film series I’ve never seen—but he was also in Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind and Paris, Je T’Aime, so I took his picture.
You know how Jude Law, for a time, was in every movie? Well, during the 1960’s and 70’s it seemed like actress Lee Meriwether was on every TV show: Mission Impossible, Dr. Kildare, Family Affair, The FBI, Barnaby Jones, etc… I didn’t watch any of those shows, but I did watch Batman and Time Tunnel! When I arrived at the convention center on Friday I spotted her in an autograph booth on the Sails Pavillion (right next to Erin Gray, who was on every TV show in the 80’s).
After having such unprecedented luck getting into Hall H on day one, I decided to press my luck and give it another try on day two. Like the day before, there was no line for Hall H, so I waltzed right in a took a seat in the back for previews to Steven Soderbergh’s new action thriller, Haywire. Simply on the backbone of Soderbergh directing, you pretty much know you’re going to get a well-paced film with lots of tense shooting, great editing, and generally wonderful movie that is to film what Elmore Leonard is to writing.
The cast includes a bunch of big names (Michael Douglas, Ewan McGregor, Antonio Banderas, etc), but only two cast members were present: Channing Tatum and Gina Carano, who I’d never heard of. Apparently, she’s a mixed martial arts fighter (likely, why her name was completely unfamiliar) now attempting to make the transition from beating the living bejeezus out of people in the ring, to modeling and acting. I have no clue whether or not she’ll be successful in this endeavor, but I suspect she has wisely chosen the perfect vehicle, as the fight scenes they previewed were pretty awesome and brutally realistic (in all the right ways).
Up next in Hall H was The Raven, a psychological thriller from director James McTeigue set to be released early next year. The film is a fictionalized account of the last 5 days in the life of Edgar Allan Poe, with the premise that a serial killer is on the loose in 19th century Baltimore, acting out the most grisly consequencs of Poe’s tales of horror. On hand for the panel was McTeigue, Alice Eve (cast as the requisite damsel in distress), and—playing Poe—John Cusak, who the moderator introduced with a crazy long list of really great films: Being John Malcovich, High Fidelity, The Grifters, Bullets Over Broadway, Grosse Point Blank, Say Anything, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. He concluded the list of credits by saying, “…and somewhere, there is a crazed paperboy still chasing him and demanding his two dollars.” Pretty funny.
Much as I like his acting, I’m not entirely sure I buy Cusak as Poe, but the clips they previewed looked quite good. We’ll see… there are actually two Poe films due next year, The Raven and Francis Ford Coppola’s Twixt (with Ben Chaplin playing Poe). I’ll see both.
Back in the exhibition hall I caught the cast of The Big Bang Theory signing photos at the CBS booth. I’m actually surprised my photo came out as good as it did, as the scene around the booth was a flowing madhouse of packed bodies and camera flashes, as the security people tried to keep the crowd moving.
Near the back of the hall were two huge two-story booths that had an almost constant stream of Famous People visiting for interviews and signings. Warner Bros had a really cool space with an upstairs balcony ringed by wisps of flame where their stars could chill or stand for interviews before coming downstairs to the autograph area.
As far as I could tell, all of the major characters on True Blood were there to sign photos, posters, autograph books, scraps of paper, and death certificates.
None of the photos I took of teen vampire Jessica (played by the constantly waving and smiling, happy-to-be-here Deborah Ann Woll) came out. In every one she’s just a red headed blur, which makes me believe that she just really might be a vampire (well, except for the fact that it was daylight, and on the show the vampires are constantly checking themselves out in any available mirror, and we ALL know that vampires don’t have reflections and can’t be photographed). In any case, I digress…
…and give you, instead, Academy Award winner Anna Paquin.
Adjacent to the Warner booth was another double-decker behemoth that was ground zero for G4 TV, broadcasting live from the floor of the show with NFL-style boom cameras flying over the crowd, and a jam packed lineup of pop culture notables.
Comic Con Tip!
Both the Warner and G4 booths were tucked into the back of the exhibition hall (around aisle 4200 & 4800), with close access to exits that were ALWAYS manned by security guards there to keep people from loitering near the exits. Why? Because these doors exit to hospitality tents, and this is where FPs are shuttled in and out of the exhibition hall. These exits are recessed into the rear concrete wall of the exhibit hall, and so I call this spot… the Celebrity Tunnels. Wanna see celebrities? Just hang around near these exits and watch for really big guys with earpieces surveying the crowd. Soon thereafter… Famous People!
One such Famous Person I saw being ushered from the hall through these exits, who “literally” walked right by me, was Rob Lowe. He so suddenly appeared that I had no time to take out my camera. And, so, I broke a cardinal rule of Comic Con: Have your camera in your hand or around your neck at all times.
Shortly thereafter and standing in the exact same spot, I soon spotted Aisha Tyler (the voice of Lana Kane on Archer) following her interview with the folks at G4. Aisha was part of the Archer panel at last year’s Con, and she was super funny!
Again, in the same vicinity… Jon Cryer. I’ve never watched Two and a Half Men (and, surely, I am better for that), but I did like Pretty In Pink. He was chatting with folks near the Celebrity Tunnel and seemed like a pretty good guy.
Another person I saw in the Celebrity Tunnel wasn’t such a good guy. Each morning before heading into the convention center I’d pick up a cup of coffee at It’s A Grind on Market Street. Naturally, at sometime later, I’d remove myself from the action of Comic Con to seek out a convenient restroom. And what’s more convenient (for me and Famous People) than having restrooms bordering the Celebrity Tunnels?
So I walk into the restroom, am washing my hands, and in walks an emaciated looking guy with his buddy and a couple of security guards. I had no idea who the guy was, but everything about him screamed Vampire Actor! Let’s go down the checklist… Pale complexion? Check. Lots of hair product? Check. Eye makeup? Check (I think)? Brooding expression? Check. Tight black leotard shirt with skinny sleeves? Check.
I quickly deduced that this was, in fact, a Vampire Actor, and only later discovered (with a Google search for “vampire TV actors”) that it was Paul Wesley who appears in The Vampire Diaries. Anyway, as I continued to wash my hands he was checking himself out in the mirror and adjusting the sleeves of his shirt (I suppose to enhance the hollow malnourished look he was so carefully cultivating), and complaining to his friend about the buffet.
Anyhow, I left the restroom, and outside there were several more security guards blocking the doors and telling the long line of guys anxiously needing to get in that “The restroom is closed for 10 minutes!”
Yeah, maybe it’s SOP for security to close the restroom for Famous People, but I’ve only actually seen that once… and that was for Val Kilmer. This was only a TV Vampire Boy, not Steven Spielberg! And I ‘ll bet Spielberg would have been happy to allow others in the restroom while he looked in the mirror and combed his beard. Dude, you’re just not that famous.
Back to photos of really cool Famous People…
Conan O’Brien, attending his first Comic Con ever (though I don’t actually believe this… I suspect he walked the Con as writer for The Simpsons, but just doesn’t want to admit it) was signing at the Warner Bros booth. I’ll have pictures of his pop-up art gallery on 5th Avenue in a future post. It was easily one of the best executed “shows” I’ve seen in all my years attending Comic Con. Nice going Team Coco!
Also seen in the hall on Friday, but without photographic proof…
Matt Groening signing at Bongo Comics.
The “dating goths” couple, Kent & Vyxsin from The Amazing Race, who bumped into me and left me covered in glitter. Okay, I’m exaggerating, but they were super nice people!
The cast of Children’s Hospital on Adult Swim, a show I’ve never seen, but I enjoy the trailers they show at Landmark Cinemas.
Anyone who has ever attended Comic Con will tell you that Saturday is one day you should be sure to have your camera at the ready at all times. Saturday is traditionally costume day and photo ops abound! So, what did I do? Me, Mr. Fine Art Photographer? Yep, I left my camera at home. Luckily, I had my iPad with me, and I discovered just how clumsy it is to use the iPad as a camera. So it’s really no wonder that Apple chose to include such poor camera equipment in the device. In any case, I was able to snap a few (really poor) shots of Famous People.
For the third day in a row I was able to easily enter Hall H without a line. I have a feeling that Hall 20 is the new Hall H, probably because the lines of Hall H have become so legendary that most simply skip what they believe to be LA Freeways South, and just head to Hall 20 instead. I was never able to get into Hall 20, and from the looks of the lines (which stretched well beyond the grounds of the convention center, all the way to the boat slips in the harbor) I have a feeling that a lot of people spent hours and hours in line watching time tick by.
Who was in Hall H on Saturday morning? Only one of the greatest directors of all time, Francis Ford Coppola!
If you’ve ever listened to the commentary track from one of his classic films, you know that FFC has a comfortable and easy way of talking about his work. He’s very engaging, funny, and kind of grandfatherly. He was given a lengthy time slot to preview Twixt, a mystery set to be released in the fall starring Val Kilmer as a second tier Stephen King who stumbles upon a murder mystery that somehow involves the ghost of Edgar Allan Poe. Of course, that’s a bit of a guess, because the previews were played in all kinds of order, sometimes in 3D, with different music, dubbing and sound effects as FFC and team edited the film live, on the spot, for the whims of the audience. What’s it about? I’m not sure, but the visuals were stunning! I’ll definitely have it on my list of must see films!
Entering Hall H everyone was given masks of Edgar Allan Poe, which had a program for the film on the back, and 3D lenses in the eyes. Best giveaway of the Con, and sure to become part of my home decor!
Val Kilmer was on hand for the panel, though he didn’t really say much. At one point, though, he and FFC were chanting “Nosferatu” in a loop over eerie footage from the film. Ooooooo… scary!
After so much time in the presentation halls on Thursday and Friday, Saturday became my time to thoroughly walk the exhibition hall with an eye on shopping, so celebrity sightings were slight. Oh, I did see Jonah Hill walk by with a small team of security on his way to G4 Live, but at first I thought my eyes were playing tricks, as this Jonah Hill was skinny and blonde. True, though, that it was, and before I could extract my iPad from the security of its cushy pouch inside my backpack (an effort that would require the negotiation of a shoulder strap, a zipper and a strip of velcro) the opportunity had passed. I suspect that other celebrity types were walking by all afternoon as my eyes were trained on vintage magazines, and spying wondrous toys from Japan, but if they were there they didn’t make their presence know. And besides, I didn’t have a camera.
Finally—and I have no idea why he was there—Dwight Howard of the Orlando Magic, inconspicuous in the exhibition hall standing two feet taller than anyone else in the room.
As far as I could tell, he was just walking the hall with a small entourage of friends, agents, managers, etc, checking out booth merchandise and goofing around with people by trying on a Joker mask and a Superman cape. Seemed like a really good guy who was just enjoying the event.
But even a man as big as Dwight Howard becomes swallowed by the massive crowds of Comic Con, and I soon lost sight of “Superman” (no, really, that’s his nickname, so he knew what he was doing with the cape). I suspect he was headed for the Celebrity Tunnels, and if he was, you can bet your bottom dollar that Dwight Howard would not need to have security clear the room.
Coming Next Post: Costumes and Weird Things At Comic Con!