ComicCon 2009: An Adventure Of The Nerd Variety
As reported by Chauncey Telese, Wes Campbell, and Bryan Dubar for KHTS AM-1220.
Now I know what you're thinking, "Comic book conventions are full of nerds who only get natural sunlight when they go to ComicCon". While this may seem plausible and admittedly those people were there, the truth is that ComicCon is more than just a gathering of the geeks. ComicCon is the biggest trade show in all of entertainment; all of the major studios and networks shell out tons of money to rent out the huge halls at the San Diego Convention Center in order to show off their upcoming movies or upcoming seasons of shows.
In addition to that, they make sure that the stars of such ventures are there to appear and answer the questions of fanboys. Again, I know what you're thinking "Why would the studios care what a bunch of nerds think about upcoming projects that may not even be related to comics?" The answer is that these conglomerates are not stupid; they know that with the recent rise in internet blogging, nerds drive the entertainment industry. This is especially true considering the fact that we are in the golden age of comic book films and pop culture has created a nerd-sheik fad that is currently booming. Therefore, the studios find it imperative to reach out and please the people that make or break any potential blockbuster.
My friends and I went there as fans (We dressed up as Leonardo, Raphael, and Michelangelo from the Ninja Turtles on Friday). This is our weekend at ComicCon.
As I said, we dressed up as Ninja Turtles on Friday and from the minute we crossed the street from the Gaslamp District and Petco Park to the Convention Center we were asked to take pictures with people dressed up as everything from Picachu to Alice (from Alice and Wonderland).
Once the convention center opened we immediately got in a line with 6,500 people waiting to enter Hall H where Warner Bros., was presenting six of their upcoming films. The first was "Where the Wild Things Are" which was presented to us by Max Records who plays the main character. A retrospective about the book and movie was shown and it featured Maurice Sendak and director Spike Jonze discussing how the book was horribly reviewed then two years later reached the level of acclaim it eventually would. Also it discussed the unique process that went towards bringing the book to life. After the five minute piece, Max told us an anecdote about asking Maurice Sendak (who wrote the book) what he thought of the movie, and Sendak replied "I love what Spike Jonze has done with my work and if people don't like it they can go to hell".
We were then treated to four ten-minute sequences of the film which looked breathtaking both in terms of visuals and content. This movie will bring the house down in October when it opens and be a throw back to the live action kids' movies that treated kids like adults.
Next, the Hughes Brothers, who directed "Menace II Society" and "From Hell," came out to introduce their upcoming comic book film, "The Book of Eli", and they did not come out alone. They were joined by the stars of the film, Mila Kunis ("Forgetting Sarah Marshall", "Family Guy", "That 70's Show"), Gary Oldman, and Eli himself Denzel Washington. This got a standing ovation from the crowd and they showed off the teaser trailer which looks spectacular, and concluded a Q & A session. Denzel and Oldman gushed about how it was their first ComiCon, and when asked about their chemistry together they both agreed it was like "Great sex".
A guy told Mila Kunis in Ukrainan where his room number is, and she jokingly responded that she'd be there in an hour. Also when asked about his propensity for getting cast as a villain Oldman answered "I don't know why I get these parts, naked I look like uncooked chicken". Oldman also dropped a huge bomb by saying that he will begin shooting the sequel to "The Dark Knight" next year but he also made sure to note that we didn't hear it from him.
After they left, the lights went out and up came the debut of the teaser for the remake of "The Nightmare on Elm Street." The footage, by the way, looks fantastic and looks like a return to form for Freddy Krueger. We were then joined by the producers of the film as well as the director Samuel Bayer and the new Freddy Krueger Jackie Earl Haley ("Watchmen").
Jackie proved to be a very intelligent speaker though he did shake off nerves with it being his first Con. When asked about the remake ruining the original, Bayer compared it to Tim Burton's "Batman" films and the ones later made by Christopher Nolan because they both brought something unique to the table. Haley also commented on the makeup.
"It looks grittier than the originals and has such a sense of realism and that will make the film that much darker than the previous films have had."
Jackie was also asked who'd win in a fight Rorschach or Krueger and he left it up to the crowd who based on their cheers determined Krueger would win. The panel ended and immediately the room went dark yet again.
Next Cameron Diaz, James Marsden, and Richard Kelly (director of "Donnie Darko"), introduced "The Box", a horror film set to come out in October. The film looks very "Hitchcock-ian" and like a great film for Halloween. Despite playing Cyclops in "X-Men", Marsden was nervous because it was his first ComicCon. Cameron Diaz was asked a legitimate question about the emotionality of the film only to be set up because the questionnaire turned his head to reveal "gel" on his earlobe as homage to "There's Something About Mary". To her credit Cameron Diaz did not break and was able to answer the question.
Richard Kelly was asked about how he came up with his ideas.
"People, think I had some terrible childhood but actually it's because I had such a normal childhood that I come up with such messed up things," he said.
He went on to say that the film does not contain any swearing and he made it as a tribute to his parents who were fans of Hitchcock and the "Twilight Zone".
The next film on the slate was "Jonah Hex," a western film based on the graphic novel of the same name. It stars Josh Brolin as a bounty hunter with a hideous scar on his face who hunts demons. Oh, and it also stars Megan Fox as a prostitute and love interest of Hex. The movie comes out next year and based on the five minutes of footage this film will be awesome.
Anyway, Josh Brolin and Megan Fox were on the panel and they talked about how cool it was to be doing a western, when a guy asked Fox to make an illicit tape with him. That guy's ComicCon ended in the tender embrace of security guards. Fox was also asked if she could love someone with a face as scarred as Jonah Hex, to which she busted up laughing. Also, Josh Brolin proved to be one of the most naturally funny people on the planet, I say that without hyperbole; he was off-the-cuff hilarious. Some guy mumbled his question and Josh responded "You know what, I want to make a joke but I can't. You're too sweet, where you going to be in an hour?" Later a woman tried to come up to Josh and he jokingly said "please stay back I have a wife."
After their panel, it went quiet and out of nowhere came Robert Downey Jr. He came out to a standing ovation.
"Wow," he said. "This is fun, thank God I'm such an egomaniacal jerk so I can enjoy this."
He sat down and was joined by Rachel McAdams and Joel Silver (producer of "The Matrix" "Die Hard" and other films). They were all there to show off footage from the upcoming film "Sherlock Holmes" which opens this Christmas. The footage we saw was the same trailer that ran with "Terminator: Salvation" but it looks like a lot of fun.
During the Q & A session Downey was asked about the biggest acting challenge of his career, which Downey jokingly said "I don't think I can be challenged as an actor. Sorry if that sounds arrogant but it's true. I think I can hit the ground running on anything."
He also was asked why they made a Sherlock Holmes movie and Downey answered; "Well, I feel that no one has done the character justice and that he essentially was the first superhero".
He then kept pushing for people to ask Rachel McAdams because he felt it shouldn't be all about him. McAdams was finally asked a question about playing Irene Alder.
"Yeah I thoroughly read all ten pages that are devoted to her character in the books. Its cool playing her because she's a truly independent woman, which was unheard of, and she's the only one to really beat Holmes at his own game."
That would conclude the Warner Bros. portion of the day.
At lunch I met comedian and star of "Ratatouille" Patton Oswalt, who was there for the weekend moderating Disney's Panel. Then we promptly went to see the panel featuring every major player involved in the "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle" franchise.
This year marked the 25th anniversary of the franchise and on hand were the head of Playmates toys, co-creator Kevin Eastman, Steve Barron who directed the first film, and others. This panel was a lot of fun, and I learned about the creative process of the Ninja Turtles and how they went from a 6,000 copy black and white comic book to being made into action figures. Eastman also was very humble and made sure that when the turtles were adapted into a TV series that he wanted to make sure it was not just a commercial for toys but a solid piece of entertainment that respected the source material.
He also said that he did not choose to sell out and have another company run his material because of how Marvel treated Jack Kirby, who co-created every Marvel hero along with Stan Lee. Also they discussed the future of the franchise and the live action film being made. We got our masks autographed and got a picture with Eastman as well as Donnie who played the pizza delivery boy in the second film.
Saturday we decided not to dress up because it wasn't necessary and (mostly) because it got a little uncomfortable after awhile.
The first thing we saw was the "Family Guy" panel. Seth Green, Mila Kunis, Alex Borstein, and the creator Seth MacFarlane were on hand, along with other producers and cast members. They were all hilarious and it was obvious that they were friends. Also they showed off the first twenty minutes of their "Empire Strikes Back" episode. I was able to keep a detailed record of their following Q & A session:
Q: How did you come up with the name "Family Guy"?
Seth MacFarlane: Well it was a very half-a***d name, I guess I wanted something simple.
Q: How do you like working with each other?
Seth Green: There's a lot to like (He then jokingly went under the table with Alex Borstein) while Seth MacFarlane answered the question and was trying not to laugh.
Seth MacFarlane: Is anyone here not stoned? Seriously, can we get a real question? Well, we all love each other, and hang out socially and are a close knit family.
Q: Your show contains a lot of references to musicals, um what are your favorites?
Seth MacFarlane: Oh, well, Sound of Music, My Fair Lady, and Little Shop of Horrors.
Q: Are you trying to educate the masses on musicals?
Seth MacFarlane: A little, it's funny in the episode which featured Shappoopie from the "Music Man" everyone though we wrote it, which is flattering but no we didn't. It was funny that word was the most googled thing the next day.
Q: If "The Cleveland Show" does not work out will Cleveland come back to the show?
Seth MacFarlane: Yes I would love to have him back I think that isn't a problem.
Seth Green: Oh hell yeah, our last question is from Batman (a guy was dressed as Batman). Sir, the good you do in fighting crime is amazing, you are my hero (the crowd laughs).
Q: When is James Woods coming back?
Seth MacFarlane: He cameos in the Empire episode and will be in at least two more shows that we know of.
This ended the panel and immediately they started the panel for "The Cleveland Show". Seth MacFarlane was part of it because he plays Cleveland's neighbors Tim and Arianna who are bears. Also on hand was Jamie Kennedy, who plays the daighter's boyfriend Federline Jones and Mike Henry who voices Cleveland and created the show. They showed the second half of the pilot episode as well as other clips from future episodes.
This also resulted in a Q & A session which I have record of as well.
Q: Who is your favorite character?
Jamie Kennedy: Tim the Bear, I wanted to be him but then they told me Seth got the part and I was like F--- but I guess if you're going to lose out on a voice over part it should be to Seth MacFarlane.
Q: Will we see Stewie have an encounter with Rallo on "The Cleveland Show"?
Seth MacFarlane: Yes
Mike Henry: That would be awesome, but not for awhile because I want the show to have its own universe and its own characters.
Seth MacFarlane: Yeah, kinda like when Riker showed up during the 9th season of "Deep Space Nine" and it was not really Riker (there is silence), what the f--- I thought we were at ComicCon?
Q: Why Cleveland?
Seth MacFarlane: Well, Cleveland is a multi layered guy, I mean Quagmire is so defined and that doesn't work, plus who wants to see a show about a rapist anyway? With Cleveland we can do so much more with the character because of all of his different layers.
Q: How did the show come about?
Mike Henry: Um, we had joked about it for some time but then it got serious and then Seth just drew up an entire cast and it took off from there.
Q: Why did you make Cleveland Jr. so fat?
Seth MacFarlane: Well, it worked for Brian Bonsall. Remember, from Family Affair, he aged like twenty years after the first season of that show.
Mike Henry: Well, originally Cleveland Jr. was just hyperactive and not multi dimensional or anything so we decided to age him like four years and make him fat. We do acknowledge this at the beginning and then never speak of it again.
This ended the panel and then we ate lunch and tried to get in line for the "Iron Man 2" panel. Even though we lined up three hours ahead of time they were already at capacity. The "True Blood" panel was over capacity four hours ahead of time.
We made it back to the vendors' room and we followed a huge mob of people and then we found out why. The "True Blood" cast was signing autographs and I managed to get pictures. It wasn't easy as I took many elbows in the kidney and kept getting whacked in the elbow (it was kind of like guarding Karl Malone or Kobe).
Anyway, after that I got a picture of Danny DeVito for "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia", and then ran into Jimmy Fallon who was filming a bit for his show.
All in all was in awesome weekend, and we saw some bizarre people and got a ton of free stuff. We saw celebrities and exclusive footage and of course enjoyed the beautiful weather that exists in San Diego.
This was my first time going and I'll definitely try and go every year that I can. I also will plan better so I can see more things because I missed the panels for "District 9", "Avatar", "Zombieland", "Dexter", and "9". Oh well, it was still a blast and I highly recommend everyone go next year. It's relatively cheap and you get to go to San Diego.
Thank You as always for reading and stay tuned as I hang out with Seth Rogen and Adam Sandler because they are "Funny People".
Me and two Klingons
The Black Beauty from The Green Hornet