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A Comic-Con Noob Shares Her Experiences -- Saturday
Judge Dawn Hunt -- July 21st, 2012 3:49AM

Saturday morning dawned bright and early and we made our way back to the Indigo Ballroom in plenty of time to catch a solid four hours of panels starting with Attack of the Show. The running joke of the panel was the lack of a host for the show and thus three people from the audience were called upon to audition for the role which led to laughs aplenty, mostly courtesy of Matt Mira who hosts Gadget Pr0n.

Geek & Sundry was the next panel and featured sci-fi favorites Wil Wheaton and Felicia Day among others. They did a really good job of getting the audience hyped up about what was gonna be coming in the next six months to a year, plus they handed out free buttons which was cool. They were followed by the Nerdist Channel whose Chris Hardwick pleaded with those present to become subscribers, saying it would change his life. He showed previews of upcoming videos, all of which seemed completely awesome.

Then came the panel we were actually there to see, the TV Guide Magazine: Fan Favorites, featuring Nathan Fillion whom we'd missed seeing at the Firefly panel. He and fellow panelist Joel McHale stole the show, leaving the audience breathless with laughter. A highlight was Fillion recasting Firefly on the spot using his fellow panelists.

We had decided that we owed it to ourselves to go to at least one panel that dealt with actual comics, seeing as we were at Comic-Con and all so we left and made our way back to the convention center in order to catch the Marvel: Avengers vs. X-Men panel. Who knew there were so many people invested in whether or not Cyclops dies? Well aside from debating that hot topic we were also treated to concept art and covers of upcoming issues as well as an outlining of where the Marvel universe was planning to go. And as was expected during the Q&A portion someone asked about the possibility of an Avengers vs. X-Men movie and we were assured there was no such thing in the pipeline. But personally I will be getting the AvX babies limited-edition comic coming out in October. It looks hilarious.

After the Marvel panel was the screening and Q&A of the Kevin Bacon-helmed series The Following, a show about a former FBI agent who gets caught up in a serial killer’s game. It's exactly the kind of show my mom really likes so I'm looking forward to recommending it to her. That panel was followed by Person of Interest, and all of the principal cast were there to answer questions. As you would expect no spoilers were given but the cast seemed genuinely interested and grateful to be there, making it a good experience.

Their departure signaled the beginning of the Revolution panel, the Billy Burke project featuring a screening of the pilot as well as a Q&A afterwards. The premise of the show deals with the sudden and unexplained loss of power planet wide. 15 years later and no one seems to know why it happened or how it can ever be undone, if it's even possible. Creator Eric Kripke was one of the panelists and after seeing the pilot I couldn't help but draw comparisons to his former series “Supernatural.” Both series deal with missing family members, a road trip, and an unusual familial pairing. Many people were as excited as we were for the panel which followed, the MythBusters panel. All five of our favorite daredevils/scientists were there to share stories and answer audience questions. It was moderated by director John Landis, a longtime friend of MythBuster Adam Savage and was a great way to finish our Saturday at the Con.




A Comic-Con Noob Shares Her Experiences -- Friday
Judge Dawn Hunt -- July 21st, 2012 3:45AM

Friday morning found us repeating our timeline from Thursday but with one significant difference…We didn't make it into the Firefly panel, our one and only reason for being in line. We prepared ourselves before we even flew out for the possibility that we were going to end up missing something we really wanted to see and it turned out Firefly was that disappointment. It was especially heartbreaking because we were within 50 people.

At that point we been in line for over six hours so we decided to go ahead and see if we could get into the Bones panel which was scheduled to take place after Firefly. We were surprised to see that only stars Emily Deschanel and David Boreanaz were in attendance as far as the actors were concerned. Boreanaz was inundated with questions about another character he played…“Angel” on both the series of the same name as well as its predecessor Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and he barely reigned in his frustration at those questions.

There was also more time than you would've expected devoted to the justification of the show's direction for the shortened seventh season. The show's long time ‘shippers of the Booth and Bones romantic pairing were somewhat dismayed to see so much of what they had expected in the culmination of that relationship intentionally left out and that meant the panelists were forced to offer apologies and vague promises of future fulfillment.

Once that panel ended we decided to stay for the Arrow screening and Q&A with stars Stephen Amell and Katie Cassidy, along with some of the show’s creative force. The pilot felt a lot like “Batman Begins,” a fact the panelists readily copped to, adding that there were definitely things the Green Arrow does which Batman does not. When asked why Justin Hartley, who had been playing the role of the Green Arrow on the long-running series Smallville, wasn't tapped for this show the explanation was that his version of the Green Arrow had never been intended to be the subject of his own series but rather someone who served the Superman story laid out in Smallville.

Once we were done there it was time to head up to one of the smaller rooms in order to catch Buck Rogers: Past, Present and Future. I watched the 1980s series religiously with my father and so once I learned that Erin Gray, Col. Wilma Deering herself was going to be there? It was a no-brainer that making this panel was a priority. I got to sit in the front row and actually ask Ms. Gray a question. I wondered if the abrupt cancellation of the series had meant there was a story line she never got to film but would've liked to and I was very surprised to learn that she was a contract player for Universal and had zero input into anything. It was even more shocking to hear her confess that she was the lowest paid person on the entire show bar none. Thus after my encounter with one of my childhood icons it was time to go back to the hotel for food and sleep.




A Comic-Con Noob Shares Her Experiences -- Thursday
Judge Dawn Hunt -- July 21st, 2012 3:42AM

Thursday morning and the official start of Comic-Con. As it turned out it was fortuitous that we woke up before 6 AM, as that meant we were able to eat a quick breakfast, catch the shuttle and arrive in time to stand in line for the Psych panel which didn't start until 2:15. There were people who passed us around one o'clock who were shocked and dismayed to see how many of us were in line already. Lesson one of Comic-Con for newbies is to take the amount of time you assume you will be waiting and double it to assure yourself a seat. I'll take a moment to direct you to fellow judge Jim Stewart’s entry about the panel as he summarized it very well.

I stayed after Psych in order to watch the screening of the pilot of Beauty and the Beast, a re-imagining of the 1980 series that starred Linda Hamilton. After the pilot we were treated to a brief Q&A with series stars Kristin Kreuk and Jay Ryan. The idea of the beast as a former medical student turned military test subject is an interesting one and the pilot definitely left viewers with the feeling that there were many places the show could go.

It was then time to leave ballroom 20 and instead make the short track over to the Indigo Ballroom at the Hilton Bayfront next door to the convention center, where we were lucky enough to arrive in time to not only get in line but also make it into the room to see RiffTrax live with stars Michael J. Nelson, Kevin Murphy and Bill Corbett. I have been a MSTie since the early days and thus the chance to see three of the stars who've made me laugh for years was a dream come true. The short they riffed was Safety: Harm Hides at Home, a hilarious offering which called to mind a bad 80s after-school special. It was the perfect way to end Friday.




A Comic-Con Noob Shares Her Experiences -- Preview Night
Judge Dawn Hunt -- July 21st, 2012 3:39AM

Hello and welcome to the first of my blog entries. What better topic to tackle than San Diego's most famous convention, Comic-Con? We were lucky enough to get badges for all four nights plus preview night so Wednesday, July 11 found us awake at dark o'clock and on our way to the airport. By the time we'd flown across the country, checked in to our hotel and boarded the complimentary shuttle it was past the time the convention center had opened to allow preview night attendees to converge. We didn't realize at the time what this was going to mean but now I can tell you it meant having to switch modes of public transportation and arriving in time to join what felt like 75,000 other people. Of course that number doesn't take into account the thousands of people who were already in line for Thursday's "Twilight" panel.

If you have any kind of claustrophobia preview night will send you into a full-blown panic attack. We were jostled about relentlessly as we moved at a speed of negative warp infinity. We ended up missing the almost four-hour block of pilot screenings which was supposed to be the big draw of the night but by the time we managed to make our way down one side of the exhibit hall it seemed like a fruitless endeavor for us to backtrack and then find the end of the line. I'm not sure what we're going to try to do preview night next year…It seemed like its benefit was perhaps a slightly easier time of buying the official T-shirt but that's about it. Once the exhibit hall closed we decided to catch the bus, find some food, and catch some zzz’s.




'Strange things are happening'...
Appellate Judge James A. Stewart -- July 20th, 2012 12:14AM

Starting out San Diego Comic-Con week on Thursday, I stopped by the booth of A.J. Scudiere for a brief chat as she pitched her books, God's Eye and Phoenix, to the crowds. Both are available in print and in "audio movies," full-cast audio productions with sound effects.

God's Eye seeks out frightening territory. " It's about a woman choosing between an angel and a demon. All she knows is that strange things are happening, there are new people in her life. She has to make decisions about what is evil," she said.

The upcoming Phoenix concerns a firefighter who lost his family to a blaze in childhood who finds himself seeking a missing brother, Scudiere said."It's much more complicated and deeper than he thought." How so? There's a likelihood of arson.

What you might have noticed is that God's Eye has some mythological elements while Phoenix is a straightforward thriller. That's by design, Scudiere says.

"I didn't want to get pigeonholed," she said. "I had a few writers I used to like--until I found out they were telling the same stories over and over again."

All of Scudiere's novels have surprises and twists, she said. "It's the same writing style. The genre varies every time."

She's now at work on her fifth novel.




Perhaps reality needs a correction...
Appellate Judge James A. Stewart -- July 17th, 2012 12:15PM

It probably had something to do with a bit in the panel in which Arthur Darvill and Karen Gillan attempted to mimic each other, but for some reason, until I checked IMDb for details on Broadchurch, I had their gigs switched in my mind: Darvill leading a romantic comedy, while Gillan played in a detective drama as a grumpy, troubled DI (detective inspector) or perhaps a serial killer. In reality, it's the other way around, although for clarification, I'm not sure what sort of character Darvill's playing on Broadchurch.

I got it correct for the article, but it still sounds better the other way around.




Comics teach physics with laser precision
Appellate Judge James A. Stewart -- July 17th, 2012 1:32AM

With the fiftieth anniversary of lasers in 2010, Spectra, a new superhero appeared on the horizon to teach middle-school students the physics of lasers. Since becoming “a living ‘laser,’” Spectra, really a middle-school student named Lucinda Hene, has been visited by the spirit of physicist Irnee D’Haenens, tangled with a black hole, and battled a demon which overheated a swimming pool.

“Lasers are used in so much research--every aspect of physics. Once we change the villain, we can teach every aspect of physics,” said Rebecca Thompson, the physicist who created Spectra with Kerry G. Johnson.

The stories sneak the lessons in, but pair them with activities that help Spectra in her mission, including using drinking birds to learn magnetics, molding dough to learn evaporation, and Hershey Kisses to learn about metal conductivity.

“Teachers are, at first, a little skeptical … but once the kids start reading it and what they’re spouting back is actually right, we get more orders,” Thompson said. “Teachers like the idea of making it not similar to eat your broccoli, brush your teeth.”

It’s now distributed to 13,000 classrooms. The American Physical Society, which distributes the comics, “can’t keep up with the orders. We’re only capped by funding now.”

Thompson wasn’t into comics and science fiction herself, but has immersed herself in those worlds, as well as young adult literature, to find ways of reaching kids. Her investigation of comics and SF has given her a newfound love of the genres, she said.

“People tend to give kids what they think kids would like without doing research. We do do the research to know what middle-school students like,” she said. Thompson noted that with the next book, the character interactions will be more dramatic, a byproduct of feedback from readers in the target audience.

Thompson also sought advice with creating the character, to make sure middle-school girls would “buy into this world” and into physics. The folks at girlwonder.org helped Thompson keep the character away from pink and "fully clothed," with strong characters and realistic situations to draw female readers in. The result is to make Spectra a regular girl with laser powers, Thompson said.




Getting your TARDIS license isn't easy...
Appellate Judge James A. Stewart -- July 17th, 2012 12:56AM

Steven Moffat must have the worst time of all at the just-ended San Diego Comic-Con. After all, he spent his trip stateside in his hotel room writing. “I try not to have any need of a life. As a Doctor Who fan, that comes naturally,” the show’s story boss said.

He was in San Diego as part of a panel Sunday to preview the upcoming season of the British science-fiction show. Doctor Who will also say goodbye to Karen Gillan and Arthur Darvill, who play Amy and Rory, the couple on a road trip through time and space with the Doctor. Gillan said she cried when she heard the news. Gillan said she'd loved the role, starting with her initial appearance, as a policewoman kissogram deliverer--and seeing that first version of Amy Pond among the crowd. “I’m loving all the ginger hair,” she told the crowd.

Their last appearance will involve Weeping Angels, the stone creatures that mean trouble if you blink.

Don’t worry, though. Moffat didn’t rule out the possibility that Amy and Rory might return (“There’s always something else,” he said). The actors will be busy. Gillan will be appearing in the movie Not Another Happy Ending, while Darvill will appear in Broadchurch, a detective show with Tenth Doctor David Tennant.

“The show is the star,” Matt Smith said as he considered the latest transition. He noted that one day he’d like to move on to play a villain.

Of course, there is one worry; “I can look really scared of tennis ball now,” Gillan said.

There are other worries for Doctor Who stars, of course. These are worries like getting questions from the audience that stump you, questions from viewers who don’t look quite old enough to remember Christopher Eccleston. There did seem to be a little hesitation in Smith’s voice when he was asked by a young viewer about his favorite TARDIS gadget. Before answering, he revealed that there’s an actual TARDIS manual to help him sort out the various controls. Eventually, he said he liked the flying gear.

Moffat wasn’t talking too much about the new season, but said there will be a Western story shot in Spain and “dinosaurs on a spaceship” (echoes of Snakes on a Plane, of course), not to mention “more Daleks than you’ve ever seen in one place.”

What stories would the cast have liked to have done? After a fan asked, Smith said he’d like the Doctor to travel to Atlantis, Gillan dreamed up “a piano that shrinks people,” and Darvill thought “the Doctor should join a band.”

Gillan confessed she’ll be taking a bit of Doctor Who with her, in the form of the TARDIS binoculars. “We’ve got various bits of TARDIS,” Smith noted. Moderator Chris Hardwick of The Nerdist added a story about David Tennant making off with a sonic screwdriver.

Of course, Gillan might have been ready to leave the show after the last panel question. Discussing odd habits among the cast, Smith and Darvill demonstrated various forms of “uncomfortable touch,” a way they have of putting guest stars at ill ease, on her.




Beheading for a comic book store near you...
Appellate Judge James A. Stewart -- July 17th, 2012 12:34AM

Get Jiro!, Anthony Bourdain’s first graphic novel, wasn’t his first attempt. He actually pitched a comic idea to a literary magazine called Between C and D, which co-writer Joel Rose edited, in 1980, he told attendees at a San Diego Comic-Con panel on Friday.

“It was my dream to be a comic artist,” said Bourdain, who actually got sidetracked with books, including Kitchen Confidential, and TV series, including the soon-ending Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations on the Travel Channel and a writing gig on HBO’s Treme. “They’re both visual mediums,” he said, noting that Get Jiro! had a script much like that of a film.

Rose, who has shared Thanksgivings with the Bourdains, has heard ideas from Bourdain for a while, and eventually said, “Let’s do it!”

“He would send me the most vivid scenes--one after another after the other,” Rose said.

Jiro, the title character, is a Los Angeles sushi chef in a culinarily concerned near-future that involves foodie gangs and at least one sword beheading. The story may be fanciful--at least if your fancies are rather, um, violent--but the foodie detail is accurate.

“I would like to point out that a lot of my friends are sushi chefs,” Bourdain said, thanking artist Langdon Foss for his many questions. Panel attendees saw quite a bit of Foss’ graphic images, and sounded impressed with good reason.

“You need artwork and color that’s going to make the bulk of the argument for you,” Bourdain said. Bourdain especially credits Foss with the action scenes, which Foss took from vague instructions in the script.

Of course, Bourdain has opinions, and they’re what fans want to hear. They began with his objections to the ban on foie gras in California, which he described as an issue that brought the prospect of culinary violence. They continued, with fan questions, into new territories, including the unfamiliar--to Bourdain--land of … peanut butter. Bourdain, it turns out, doesn’t eat the stuff, but notes his wife prefers smooth peanut butter.

Con goers also learned that Bourdain, if doing No Reservations in San Diego, would detour to Baja to sample its lively foodie scene. Of course, there’s a hint of sadness with which Bourdain recommends favorite places. “I kill the thing I love,” he said, noting the crowds that head to his favorites.

Getting back on topic, Bourdain noted that he has more ideas for graphic novels, including one involving Mexican restaurants.

“Late in life to have the opportunity to be part of one--for me, this was awesome and just a little scary,” Bourdain said.

Vertigo editor Karen Berger said she isn’t seeking out the next great chef who’d like to whip up a comic book, since she wouldn’t want the DC label to get pigeonholed, but she isn’t saying never.

“There’s a real undercurrent of commentary” in Get Jiro!, she said, making it a perfect fit for the Vertigo label.




More Darkness & Light
Appellate Judge James A. Stewart -- July 14th, 2012 6:58PM

About 5,000 people will have seen the Darkness & Light exhibit, which combines DC comics with photos on hunger in Africa for the We Can Be Heroes campaign, during its stay in San Diego, which continues through July 15.

"It's been very well received," said Robin Snowden, owner of the gallery.

If you're there, she notes that you can purchase your favorites by smartphone instantly, with almost all of the profits--$30 of $34--going to charity.

If you're not, you can catch up to it in Atlanta, Chicago, and New York.

The San Diego gallery isn't new to Comic-Con related exhibits. Last year's was Conan O'Brien's Art of the Flaming Sea.

And, yes, Batman--along with the Joker--was immortalized in Legos on Friday.



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