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A Comic-Con Noob Shares Her Experiences -- Preview Night
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'...
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...
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
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.
“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...
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.
“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...
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
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.
A few words about Jack Kirby...
Many of you have heard of Jack Kirby, but Arlen Schumer wants to make sure, given that Stan Lee is in the spotlight as the writer behind classic Marvel characters like Spiderman. Schumer and others involved with the Jack Kirby virtual museum, have been working on it this week at the San Diego Comic-Con.
Schumer, the author of The Silver Age of Comic Book Art, aims to put Kirby and other comic book artists (for example, Dick Spranger, who gave Batman shape through the Fifties) in the spotlight. Even in his book on comic art, he uses illustration heavily to emphasize the importance of the drawing.
"Written word is just the initial structure. Until an artist visualized a script, you don't have what is called a comic book," he said. "Unfortunately, in our society, the writer is elevated above the artist."
He compares his theory of auteurship to the auteurship theory voiced by French movie critics, and likens comic book artists to great film directors. "Kirby should be considered the auteur of Marvel Comics, not Stan Lee, the writer," he says. Schumer notes that Kirby lost that battle in court last year, but hopes readers--and moviegoers--will take an interest in Kirby and his work.
"People have no idea that Kirby created the visual iconography that makes that vision possible," he said.
However, Schumer doesn't want to take away from writers. "Everybody thinks that I want to strip the writer of all credit. The writer is still the writer, just not the auteur."
To read more about the Jack Kirby Museum, go to http://kirbymuseum.org/
Nature walk with hexenbeasts
Yes, I know it's a promotion for the [b}Grimm Season Two premiere (August 13, by the way), complete with video screens, but I had to take in the Grimm Experience. It's short--perhaps shorter than the wait in line--but it can be fun if you're a fan of the NBC series. It's just across from the San Diego Comic-Con in the Gaslamp District.
The first part is one of the actual Airstreams used in the show, which will be seen in future episodes (provided it doesn't get dinged up too badly by fans). Inside are actual props from the show, with descriptions, although I'm told the weapons aren't the real TV thing, for obvious safety reasons.
The second is that nature walk, with trivia about hexenbeasts and other Grimm creatures, not to mention that video screen. It's got a neat fog effect as you walk into the woods.
Yes, I've been in a fog today. Har-de-har-har.
Friday morning, I actually took a walk outside the San Diego Comic-Con into the Gaslamp District.
To get two blocks, I walked through a Science Channel something-or-other, passed some not-so-scary aliens handing out movie rental passes, passed a couple of Wilfreds (much-advertised FX dog) with a fire hydrant, saw part of an iPhone scavenger hunt (sorry, but I'm low-tech) that had something to do with the Marvel Avengers, and was handed free gum by some attractive women (God, was my breath that bad? Possibly, but they were too polite to say so) who pointed me in the direction of a CNet break area, where I tried a new Tomb Raider game (in which Lara Croft was very dismayed to learn that I'm a lousy gamer). I've also got cards about GeekNation and the AFL-CIO, to name just a few, coupons for Burger King, and a drink special for tonight. Somewhere in there, I noticed that Syfy has taken over a restaurant for Defiance, a game and future TV series.
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