Jason's Journal

Highlights from the 2007 Comic-Con International in San Diego


Date:Thursday, July 26, 2007 -- 11:16am--LOCAL TIME

So after the DC panel I went and checked out the TALES OF ZORRO panel. Growing up watching Disney Zorro TV show with my dad was part of what got me to take fencing in high school and got me onto a varsity fencing team. It was an important part of my life growing up, so I really had to check out the panel

The panel included writers who clearly had a love for the character. Richard Dean Starr (writer, HELLBOY, KOLCHAK: THE NIGHT STALKER) had been charged with writing a new bible for ZORRO PRODUCTIONS, the company that owns the character. And with this, the panel created a new timeline for the character. One that incorporates all of the versions of the Zorro committed to film, television, print, etc. And as excited as they were about that, they were clearly more excited about the new book that they have written for Moonstone Books entitled, TALES OF ZORRO. Billed as the first anthology of original Zorro short fiction ever published, the project appeared to be a dream come true for the panelists, each of whom had fond memories of the man in black.

All for one... And that one, is ZORRO 

Probably more thrilling to much of the audience than seeing writers and artists, however, was the opportunity to meet the son of the man most associated with Zorro. Guy Williams Jr, who has his father's smile, stood on the stage, brandishing his father's sword and, even without the costume, immediately transported the audience back to their TVs watching the exploits of Don Diego de la Vega, Bernardo and Sergeant Garcia.

He has his father's smile About to carve a Z
Is Sergeant Garcia around? 
When the panel ended, it was just after 6. I had had less than perfect luck getting into everything else, so I decided to roam the Exhibit hall again until 7, then I would make my way to BALLROOM 20, for a special presentation.

One of the things that caught me today was the proliferation of costumed individuals. There was more than one PRINCESS LEIA in slave costumes, some barbarians, superheroes, and so much more. There was a booth dedicated to the GRINDHOUSE films from Robert Rodriguez, complete with a Cherry Darling look-a-like, complete with a gun for a leg. Armed as she was, she was still constantly surrounded by men and women alike, looking for a photo.

One Leia Two... 
Some heroes Barbarians  Feeling ill? Ummmmm...... 

As 7 o'clock rolled around, I made my way to Ballroom 20 for the world premiere of SUPERMAN/DOOMSDAY, the direct-to-video new film from Warner Bros Animation starring Adam Baldwin (Serenity), Anne Heche (Men in Trees) and James Marsters (Buffy: The Vampire Slayer and Angel).

The ballroom, packed tight, erupted in thunderous applause as the credits unfolded (curiously getting quiet when Heche's name appeared...Mean? Yes. Warranted? Could very well be.)

Not being able to spoil the story for everyone, I'll tell you the basics. It's the story of the death and return of Superman, the landmark story from 1993 in which the Last Son of Krypton gave his life to save Metropolis from the mindless, yet deadly menace known as Doomsday. It was a touching story which had many Superman fans in tears as they watched their beloved character, bloodied and beaten, give his all to save his friends. The story of his return, was a long story which included four imposters claiming to be Superman returned from the dead, and a powerless Superman with long hair coming back to ultimately save the day.

First, I will say that this was not a mere children's cartoon. Rated PG-13, there was violence not suitable for younger viewers, as well as more than just a little inuendo, mostly caused by the private relationship of Superman and Lois Lane. Of course, their romance pushes the boundaries of believability as we are expected to swallow the fact that they are dating, sleeping together even, and yet she STILL doesn't know he's Clark Kent. Right.

Superman's fight with Doomsday was wonderfully executed and was filled with all the approrpriate brutality. The process of his return, however, was over-simplified and, for a more adult-oriented story, was certainly the weakest link, leading us to believe that Superman never really died, just hibernated while his body recovered from the incredible ordeal.

Wait...did I say weakest link? I didn't mean that there, since I wasn't referring to Anne Heche. I don't have anything personal against her, but her work here was distracting at best. Her performance was reminiscent of William Shatner's acting in his most stilted, pronounced manner. She conveyed emotions, sure, but we were being bashed over the head with everything she did, as though she was also shouting, "HEY, LISTEN TO ME! I'M ACTING!"

Adam Baldwin was surprisingly good as Superman/Clark Kent and James Marsters was suitably evil in the role of Lex Luthor. My only wish was that the film had been good enough to support them.

Posted by JMR


Date:Thursday, July 26, 2007 -- 4:04pm--LOCAL TIME

It's been a busy day so far with a mix of pleasure, disappointment and enlightenment. I have attended three panels so far.

There are those who believe that life here...began out there..."

The first was with Richard Hatch (Apollo on the original BATTLESTAR GALACTICA), Bear McCreary (composer, BATTLESTAR GALACTICA, EUREKA, THE SARAH CONNOR CHRONICLES) and Dr. Kevin Grazier (Science consultant for BATTLESTAR and EUREKA)

As the room went dark and Mr. Hatch made it to the stage, thunderous applause hit the room. A warm reception, less than fully expected for a man with such a storied past with the property he is here to promote. But the most surprising part is that he addressed this past in full force. He was unabashed and self-effacing with regards to his comments about the newer incarnation of BATTLESTAR. He referred back to his "artfully scathing, honest" campaign against the show that he would eventually find a home on.

Apollo in the Room  And he's having fun 

A little backstory here. As I said before, Hatch played APOLLO on the original BATTLESTAR GALACTCA TV show. And like many genre actors before him, he drifted into relative obscurity afterwards. The show was popular, though cut down before a full season had even been made. After many years, and having seen a few television properties revived in one format or another, Mr. Hatch went about trying to revive BATTLESTAR. He had little success. He even spent his own money on a trailer to shop around to the various studios. One of the things stopping this trailer from going anywhere was the fact that he didn't own the property. The other things had to do with the fact that no one was interested.

After a few false starts, things looked bleak for the property until the SciFi Channel decided to take a crack at it. With the blessings of Glen Larson (who created the program), the show was given new life. But what became clear was that this would be a new show, and not a continuation of the original. Whether it was the changes to the property or simply sour grapes is a debated topic for some, but whatever the reason, Mr. Hatch did not approve of the property.

In the panel, he cites his love of the work he did 30 years ago and the fact that the show never got its due. But as time went on, the rifts closed and the show he once panned took him on as a recurring character.

While we were treated to a BATTLESTAR GALACTICA music video set to BT4's cover of ALL ALONG THE WATCHTOWER, and heard funny anecdotes from the scientific advisor of the show, for me the most poignant moment was to hear Mr. Hatch invoke the term BROWNCOATS.

For those who don't know, the BROWNCOATS are the fans of the cancelled TV show, FIREFLY; a show that was turned into a feature film called SERENITY. The fan base for FIRELFY was fiercely loyal and tried as much as they could to keep the show alive. Apparently, Mr. Hatch had recently seen FIREFLY and now calls himself a BROWNCOAT as well. At the mere mention of the word, the crowd surged with applause and cheers. It's a word that, out in the "real" world, really doesn't mean much. But here it's power is strong and binding to many people.

Space...The Final Frontier

Next was the panel with the folks behind the upcoming STAR TREK: THE ORIGINAL SERIES HD-DVD set. With packaging that looks more like an art piece on display than a DVD set, the series is packed with more extras than anything fans have seen before. BUT, whether this is the definitive version of the set will be up to the audience to decide. Here it is! 

The panel consisted of Eugene "Rod" Roddenberry (son of STAR TREK creator Gene Roddenberry), Andrew Carson & Jason Hillhouse from New Wave Entertainment, Ryan Adams & David Grant from CBS DVD, Craig Thomas Shaw of TV Guide and Billy Blackburn, extra extraordinaire from the original STAR TREK.

Rod And the panel 

What some of you may not know is that CBS/Paramount has gone about remastering the original series in high definition, including brand-new special effects sequences and a re-recorded version of the main theme. This is the first, and among the most important, change made to the series for this HD-DVD release. Adams and Grant nearly gushed in their admiration of the original series and for their desire to maintain the feel of the original sequences. I hope JJ Abrams is paying attention to all this for his forthcoming STAR TREK film project. When talking about why the project was done, the simplest answer was the most entertaining. Adams pointed out that back in 1966, the crew of the Enterprise watched their adventures on a huge flat screen that was widescreen. "They were in 16:9 before we were," laughed Adams. We can now add that to the long list of STAR TREK technology that we have today.

We were treated to a trailer for the new set which included extras to make any diehard STAR TREK fan squeal in delight. Each episode can be watched in a multi-layered database with icons listed down the side of the screen which can take you to anything from commentary, background information, trivia or schematics. And it's all brought to you ion a faithfully recreated interface from the show.

But what makes it even more special is the contribution from Blackburn. Mr. Blackburn, who was featured in the program as everything from a alien to a townperson on a planet to the navigator of the Enterprise, had brought an 8mm camera onto the set in the first season (in the second season, he upgraded to Super 8). Recently, Mr. Blackburn rediscovered this footage and it is included in this set. Now, of course you get some nice behind the scenes footage, showing set-ups and actors milling around, but the true gem of this is the footage of William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy, in costume and make-up, hamming it up for Mr. Blackburn and his camera. You get a chance to see the very human side of this ensemble. We get to see this a lot on modern day shows. It's commonplace thanks to DVD. But at the time, with a show that was only taken seriously by it's fans, this kind of behind the scenes display is unheard of, and close to being the Holy Grail of insights for some fans.

But here is what they call "the rub". Anyone who has been to a convention over the years is aware of the existence of the blooper reels from the show. The Trekkies know of it's existence and have collected it in various conditions on various platforms. But no one on the panel knew where to get them, claimed ignorance on how to get them now, and therefore they will not be included in this set. So for all out there who were looking for them here, forget it. And that should make Trekkies everywhere wonder whether or not this truly will be the ultimate set for STAR TREK: THE ORIGINAL SERIES. They will, however, be able to judge for themselves on November 20th when the set is released.

COMICS vs MOVIES Having read comics for many years now, I've never really gotten an opportunity to sit in with some of the men and women crafting the media I've devoted so much of my spare time to. So when I saw a panel made up of DC folks (the comic company I read), I JUMPED at the chance. The topic was crossing over, or more specifically, people who crossover from comics to other media (film, television) and vice versa. Included in the panel was Mark Verheiden (who wrote for BATMAN/SUPERMAN and has worked on both the new BATTLESTAR GALACTICA and the upcoming live action TEEN TITANS film), Paul Dini (most famous for helping to create the BATMAN animated series also wrote for LOST and has worked on DETECTIVE COMICS and is currently writing the DC megaseries COUNTDOWN), Greg Rucka (52, GOTHAM CENTRAL and novels such as PATRIOT ACTS and PRIVATE WARS) and others.

Jon Cunningham, who acted as moderator, began by asking Mark Verheiden what changes he's seen in the industry over the past 5 years. "I think the biggest change that happened in the last 5 or 10 years is that the executives who now place movies and buy things were fans of the comics they bought 20 years ago. That's why we're seeing a much more greater acceptance." He also pointed out that while many still consider Comic-Con to be "Nerd Con" or "Crazy Con", that it is, in fact, "Mainstream Con". Films like "Spider-Man" and "300" and "30 Days of Night" have entered into the public consciousness. They're not titles that are relegated to comic shops and Internet chat rooms. SPIDER-MAN and 300 were blockbuster films that wowed audiences the world over. For me, I think the line between what was traditionally mainly for geeks and nerds to enjoy and what the rest of the country LOOKS FORWARD TO in the next film season is blurring, if not thinning.

But it was Greg Rucka who came out of left field and took the conversation to a whole new direction. He mentioned a recent USA TODAY article which talked about the power of Comic-Con and how the studios are trying to win the attendees over. But what he said next, could have sent chills through fanboys across the convention center. "We may be mainstream," said Rucka, "but I think we may be coming up on a point where we're going to implode." He remembered how Comic-Con started at attending to show your STAR WARS FAN stuff to studios actually showing their STAR WARS stuff (for example). "HEROES launched here last year," Rucka continued. "We run the risk of the studios getting to the point where they say, 'you know what? We're pandering."

If you really thought that Comic-Con was just about comics, ask yourself why a comic EXPERT would even really be concerned about that sort of thing. Comic conventions, like STAR TREK conventions were about like-minded people getting together to share their love of the subject material, and possibly make a buck or two or even spend a buck or two on their favorite hobby. Is Comic-Con getting too commercialized or too mainstream? Has it lost the faith? A fair enough question, but given the sheer number of people in attendence and the number of GUARANTEED EYEBALLS the studios will have there, I don't think anyone's bowing out anytime in the near future.

Posted by JMR