Monday, October 15, 2012

Lines and Loathing at New York Comic Con Pt 1

Well, as was promised last time, last week's entry was cut off for a reason.  This past weekend saw New York Comic Con come and go.  In a show of good faith, and to make up for the fact I split this week's entry (Thursday and Friday will come attached to next week's entry, for the record) I have promised a writeup of my experience with the con.

So here it is.  I will say this year was a mixed experience.  Many of the events were good (those will be discussed first) but there were some problems which will be discussed in passing and elaborated on in the next two parts.

That said, let's start from Part 1:

Everything Is Better With Giant Monsters know, sometimes these just kind of explain themselves.  I can't be cheeky all the time.

Well, to start with, rather glad heeded the advice was given last time.  Rather than showing up right at the start, we waited a bit for the initial rush to die down. 

The line was still daunting, but not nearly as bad as it had been last year, so there was some relief there.

For the first part, there weren't any events were immediately gunning for, so simply explored the show floor. 

Where Bandai had this camped out front to greet people.  Gotta say, pretty damn nice sight to enter to.

The spread this year had some pretty interesting features - Marvel actually arranged an interesting promotion for their Marvel Online game.  On signing up for the beta, each guest was given two cards.  From there,
they could take part in several other Marvel-related promotions throughout the con and receive more of the cards as a result.  On completion of all twelve, they were offered a bonus chance to be rendered in a Marvel style.  Admittedly, didn't run the full spread, but thought it was a pretty cool idea for encouraging fans to sample a little of everything Marvel had to offer on the show floor. 

Yeah, they're not Marvel, but for lack of a better bridge to the Marvel Online stuff, I'll take this bridge.

Another major standout going to the Lego booth, who are embracing their Lord of the Rings tie-in with a vengeance.  Alongside videos promoting the upcoming Lego LotR videogame (including a pretty amusing segment of Frodo screwing around with the ring to Samwise's annoyance) and large-size Lego statues of Bilbo and Gandalf on display.  Of course, they also still gave due coverage to their tie-ins with Star Wars and DC Superheroes as well.  Their entire section was fun even just to look at.

The more I think about this one, the more I feel bad for whoever built these, since eventually they will likely have to be taken apart again.

After some exploring we made our first stop of the day, getting an autograph from Stan Lee's table (itself a gift my girlfriend got for someone else.)  While the pricing was a bit steep, this was actually one of the better handled events saw over the weekend.  Getting the tickets in advance and then letting each person know a time to come back really helped keep things running smoothly.  That said, the signing itself was somewhat rushed...though admittedly I can somewhat understand why - I mean, Lee had a pacemaker put in recently, so I can see why he wouldn't be full-steam.  Though his handlers were a bit brusque all things considered.  Still, was one of the better handled events of the weekend, but that will be gone into later.

Alongside the publicity shots like this, they actually had the suits themselves in glass.  Looks very promising.

In one last highlight of the show floor, we swung by Legendary Studios booth - which had a nice display of some of their previous films as well as some looks at items from their upcoming Pacific Rim.  The highlight of these being two of the pilot suits on display - themselves a nice mix of a sleeker modern design and an older, more classic look.  That said, I'll be coming back to Pacific Rim later, as it ties into one of the highlights of Friday.

From here, went down to Artist's Alley to catch up with a few artists (in my particular case, Mike Mignola, the creator of Hellboy.)  There was some initial issues with George Perez owing to tickets and a lot of people bailing from lines, but largely, this experience went pretty smoothly.  The artists were all pretty friendly (and to our surprise, Mignola showed up early.)  So some initial frustration aside, this part was pretty nicely handled.

After missing Mignola last year, this was one of the highlights for me this time.
Additionally, was interesting to have him indirectly confirm why I'd been unable to find a one-off he'd written since it has been out of print.
(...seriously, if you get the chance, look up The Doom That Came to Gotham - Mignola runs Batman through a Lovecraft filter and it is glorious.)

From there, checked out the promotional spot for the upcoming multi-platform game Aliens: Colonial Marines.  Said game taking itself from where James Cameron's sequel left off.  While I admit I'm kind of behind on more recent gaming, I'd be lying if I said I wasn't intrigued by where this one could be going.  The 'get your picture taken in a power loader fighting a xenomorph' promotion certainly didn't hurt things either.

As my girlfriend decides to put Giger's anatomical design to the test and nail the bastard in the nether-regions.

The next encounter...admittedly I didn't get the full blast of this compared to my girlfriend - the autograph pit.  Yeah, that's not the best name for it, but Hell with it, with the organization there, that was about as good as it's gonna get.  In this case, she went for the Carrie Fisher line.  Now, I was interested initially as well, even with the $60 charge (contracts, they are a bitch) but seeing that line just...I'll be honest, even as a congoer, I have my limits on crowds.  She had already paid for a spot in line, so she decided to stick it out (and more power to her for that) meanwhile, I went ahead to secure a seat at the panel we were really gunning for on Friday (will get to that in due time.)

Anyway, at the suggestion of the staff themselves, I wound up scoping out a spot for said panel by checking out the panel they had running before it.  Turns out, it was actually pretty interesting.  It was a presentation for a group called 4th Wall Studios.  They're a production company based on internet-based television.  It's pretty surprising to realize how much the production quality on internet television has gone up in recent years.  In particular, living up to their names, this site is taking steps to up the interactivity that web-television allows, in particular through use of other devices to add to the experience, such as calls or texts onto your cellphone at certain points in the programming to give insights that wouldn't be as broadcasted otherwise.  Further surprising is the range of shows they're looking at trying to apply these and other developments to - things ranging from comedies (Dirty Work, a currently running series about a team of crime scene cleaners) to horror (Dark Wall, an anthology series inviting different writers and directors to bring their style to each new storyline) to sci-fi (Flare, a series exploring a world where the sky has gone dark and power has gone out...for the record, they were apparently working on this before the series Revolution was announced and that was something of a setback, but they're keeping with it) to even animation (Airship Dracula, a steampunk readaptation of the original Stoker story featuring Alan Tudyk.)  Having never heard of this company before, I'm intrigued enough to look into more of their works in the next few days.

...and now we come to the big one I'd been waiting for - Legendary Comics. 

...and yeah, this partially gives away the main highlight of the panel now, but still read the first two parts of this one - they still sound pretty damn cool.

 Why was this one a highlight?  Because this company is an off-shoot of the movie production company Legendary Studios - and in large part, the panel was tied in to promoting their major film for next year. 

But first, we got to learn about what they were working on as straight-up comics went - including debuting a new series over the weekend entitled The Tower Chronicles.  The series, involving a supernatural bounty hunter, seems to have enough ambition going into it that, despite the premise feeling a little cliched, I'm curious enough to give it a look. 

From there, they introduced their second most prominent announcement of the panel - the newest comic by acclaimed writer Grant Morrison.  I have to say, from what they described, it sounds interesting.  In a nutshell, the new title 'Annihilator' (named for the 'Great Annihilator' black hole at the center of the galaxy) follows a down-on-his luck writer who's been contracted to work on a script for what will be a major tentpole blockbuster.  Said blockbuster, called 'Annihilator' itself is an update of an old pulp antihero character (within universe.)  As the pressure mounts (Morrison mentioned deadlines of various sorts as a theme in this work,) the desperate writer makes a deal with the Devil - the terms of the deal, however, result in said antihero being brought from the page into reality...and into the writer's life.  It sounds like Morrison's penchant for the meta is taking a very interesting turn on this one, and I'm rather curious to see how it turns out.

...and from there came the moment many were waiting for - in promotion for next year's Pacific Rim, Legendary's panel brought out acclaimed director Guillermo Del Toro.  Prior to actually discussing anything, Del Toro offered the audiences good news and bad news:

The bad news - it was recommended to him not to replay the PR teaser trailer that had been shown at San Diego Comic Con over the summer.
The good news - in his own words: "I don't give a fuck!"

...suffice it to say, he played it for us anyway...and damn, I try not to get too psyched for trailers too often, but this one...OK, I am pretty damn excited.  Most of the cast all turned up in varying capacities, and more importantly we got to see the film's monstrous Kaiju and giant robot Jaegers in action.  The designs and the directing in their action were impressive, and I can only imagine what they'll be like on the big screen.  From there, Del Toro discussed the project, which lead to many interesting insights - for one, the man's enthusiasm and passion for this project is infectious.  I mean, even outside of the trailer itself, I found myself getting more excited just hearing him discuss the project and the amount of effort put into it - one of the highlights was showing us a few pages from his notebooks...while the image isn't as clear as it could be, the amount of detail this man has put in his jaw-dropping (he jokingly compared them to John Doe's notebooks in 'Se7en'.) 

Additional trivia - while it doesn't show clearly here, it's all in Spanish to boot.  To be expected, but still...just one of those cool bits of info.

In particular, this feels like a labor of love, both from the way he talks of it (he described part of the project as wanting to bring back a more romantic feel to and an adventure movie, not wanting the film to look sleek or overly futuristic.  In fact, one of the major influences they wound up turning to in designing the film's feel was World War II (properly reflected in a promotional poster they handed out at the con in the style of a WWII propaganda poster.) 

I do feel kind of bad for missing when they were handing these out though.  The main teaser poster is nice, but I REALLY like this one.

From there, they discussed in part why this ties into the comics branch of Legendary - they were also announcing a set of comics that would tie in with the film's release.  Del Toro, a fan of transmedia approaches sees this as a way to add to the already immersive world feel they're trying for within the movie itself.  In terms of specific details, they've announced at least three stories from three writers, including exploring just what prompted this universe to turn to humanoid robots as means to fight the Kaiju.  Further to this end, the artists working on the comics are being given direct access to the film as it goes so everything will keep a consistent visual style.  At this point, the floor was opened up to q&a (not surprisingly, the questions were all for Del Toro.)  Among these, the highlights were with regards to if there are plans for future movies (as it stands, they are designing the world so more stories could occur within it, so while nothing is planned, they won't say no to it), the decision to convert to 3D (despite his initial reservations, Del Toro did come around on this, in his own words doing "a full Romney" on seeing the results of it.)  Additionally, there was discussion on the Kaiju design, which Del Toro encouraged creativity on, but also set two restrictions - nothing overly referential (as he put it, they wanted it to be a movie by fans, but not a fan movie) and they had to look somewhat believable as real animals.

At that point, the panel ended - though despite everyone else leaving, Del Toro was an awesome sport and stuck around to sign things and look at art from congoers until he was told again they had to go.  Even then, he still insisted on at least finishing signing the things that had been handed to him.

Suffice it to say, of the con in general, Del Toro was probably the highlight - not just because of the work he's done, but because he was a genuinely great guest: outgoing, enthusiastic, and more than happy to be talking with fans about shared loves.  VERY worth seeing in person if you ever get the chance.

Seriously, I would love to shoot the proverbial shit with this guy some time...

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