Comicon 2008 Impressions
Recent memory has San Diego’s International Comic-con as a kind of aging actor; everyone’s familiar with it, but close contact isn’t all that exciting unless you’re THAT kind of fan. And so it went. I’ve attended the last 5 or so years of the conference and there have been a few highlights to speak of, but the show’s buzz just wasn’t very high energy. It’s become little more than a comic-book swap-meet (ironic, since that’s how it all started in the first place). For better or worse, 2008 is the first time in many years that doesn’t follow suit.
This year, the shows popularity could be driven by such a strong resurgence in Hollywood to adapt comics to the big screen. A single year has brought Iron Man, a second Batman, a new HUlk and plenty more have been announced. Another factor could be the E3 game conference’s fall out, making the video game presence considerably larger at this year’s show and bringing in gamers in addition to the typical comic crowd. Film and television make up the rest, announcing new productions, holding discussion panels with the stars and the filmmakers and giving out schwag to help word of mouth advertising. This kind of stuff could be found in previous year’s cons, but this year’s panels heavily overlapped, as did the show floor. Here’s a few highlights:
Saturday is the Masquerade Ball. Fan boys and girls choose from the most well known super heroes to some of the most obscure denizens of the comic book community and participate in the ultimate do-it-yourself costume contest this side of All Hallows Eve. This year, Star Wars was by far the most popular theme, thanks in part to Vader’s Fist, the 501st Stormtrooper Legion of costumed fans that work worldwide, most recently featured in the Tournament of Roses Parade. Others include a detachment of Cobra soldiers, a plethora of Batman characters and even a Sims maid, complete with emoticon and a green selection icon floating above her head.
The show isn’t just about comics. Comic bookers tend to be video gamers and the companies are beginning to take notice. Activision showed up to give players the first shot at bustin a few slimers in Ghostbusters. Namco/Bandai brought forth the fourth Soul Calibur game, featuring Darth Vader, Yoda and a new character, the Jedi Apprentice. Speaking of which, LucasArts came in full force (get it?) with the afforementioned jedi in Force Unleashed, demoing the advanced physics engine, lightsaber fighting and trooper-flinging fun. Will Wright was on hand for his first Comic-Con appearance for Spore. Even Capcom gave con-goers their first crack at Street Fighter 4 with a full-on, center-stage tournament.
It’ll be a rarity to find any Brad Pitts or Jessica Albas at the show, but Sci-Fi, comic-book and… voice over gods are easily located. Star Trek alumni Jonathan Frakes, Avery Brooks and Robert Picardo setup to give autographs (for a modest fee). The Hulk himself, Lou Ferrigno (massive arms and all) was granting pictures and signatures free of charge. Famous voices Phil Lamarr, Rob Paulsen, Tara Strong and old timer Chuck McCann lended their unique talents to several panels. Ray Bradbury, Ralph Bakshi, Stan Lee… the list goes on and on.
Hollywood brings its wares south and dozens of studios give con-goers sneak peeks into new movies, tv shows and cartoons. Among them are Terminator 4, NBC’s Heroes, action-comedy Chuck, The Sarah Connor Chronicles and even a new animated Garfield cartoon. Paramount Pictures showed up with the next Star Trekking, as well as giving attendees a unique opportunity to become “Starfleet construction workers”, using web cams and gathering email leads from participants.
Well, not so much swapping. I mentioned earlier that the convention got its start as a low key, basement bound meet and trade between local fans. Now, the exhibition floor houses massive comic book collections and comic-based collectibles alongside movie props, replicas, toys and apparel. Forget trading though, this is top dollar business. A show regular, Sideshow Collectibles, brought out their new line of Iron Man and Hellboy replicas and displays, also bringing with them the ‘star power’ to pull in the lookee-loos. Highly accurate costumes: Darth Vader, Predators, Aliens and more. Some collectibles head into the thousands of dollars and cover comics, tv, movies and specialty items. Stuff down here is pricey! Many of the artists on the show floor were charging 10 or more dollars for off-the-cuff sketches. The Penny Arcade boys seemed the only exception. Of course they had books and posters to peddle, but sketches were free, as they have been every year prior, so kudos.. and thanks for the “Paint the Line” sketch.
My back is killing me. I’m finding it hard to put too much weight on my left leg. My shoulder is stiff from the various bags dangling from my shoulder. It’s pretty overcast and in the 80s, but San Diego is still a beautiful place to be, and for the first time in many years, I didn’t find myself bored and wandering around with nothing to do. Admittedly, I’m not much of a comic book fan, but there was plenty here for anyone interested in artwork, games, cartoons, comics and more.
You still won’t get me to dress up though.