Comic-con International 2011

Comic-con International 2011

Just a few days ago the annual San Diego Comic-con International came to a close, and as quickly as the tickets sold out, the convention centre exhibits have been packed up and taken away. The convention experienced huge amounts of people attending for each of the four days enthusiastically exploring the convention floor and attending a variety of panels discussing topics related to comics, movies, TV shows, and more.

There was a massive amount of news to break over the convention including new footage screened for the upcoming Spiderman film as well as Kevin Smith’s latest ‘Red State’ giving audiences a glimpse into his new film which he has recently been touring the country with in his ‘Red State USA ‘ tour.

Rather than attempt to cover every piece of news which broke over the four days in one article, I’ve decided to limit this piece simply to the highlights of my personal experiences over the four days of the convention which included a number of different comic and TV related panels.

Preview Night and Day 1

To kick things off, there was a great example of comic-con randomness to be enjoyed as I walked down to the crowded convention centre the evening before the first day to register for my badge, ‘Chuck’ star Zachary Levi turned out to be meeting and greeting people in the streets of down town San Diego, offering photos, autographs and high five’s for his fans. With a long line quickly forming to meet the actor, Zachary moved along to greet as many people as possible before other obligations demanded his attention elsewhere and he had to move along.

For day 1 of the convention being the Bruce Campbell fan that I am, I couldn’t resist starting the day with the ‘Burn Notice’ panel, which was promoting the new season currently being filmed, as well as the direct to DVD film ‘Burn Notice: The Fall of Sam Axe’ telling the story of Campbell’s character prior to him living in Miami where the series takes place. Along with show creator Matt Nix, Campbell gave an entertaining and comedic panel, quickly answering all his regular questions before they are even asked (including ‘Will there be an Evil Dead remake’ and ‘Will there be an Ash and Freddy crossover film’) before moving along to discussing the show. For those interested it seems the cast and crew are keen to continue the show for a number of years as long as the ratings remain strong, and there may be further DVD films exploring other characters central to the show.

Following the panel I spent some time exploring the very crowded exhibition floor which was jam packed with people visiting the many booths across the floor from movie studios, comic/book publishers, to the hundreds of retailer’s who set up shop over the four days. Some of the highlights included Lucasfilm giving fans a sneak peak into the upcoming Star Wars blu-ray box sets, some footage from the films and the extras were made available to watch, as well as ‘Ghost Rider 2’, and ‘Underworld 4’ promotions being held across the floor.

Unfortunately artist alley seemed to continue the recent trend of being allocated a smaller amount of space at the convention, however there was still a number of talented artists offering meet and greets and sketches to the fans who spent some time admiring the artwork on display.

As the end of day 1 approached I took the opportunity to see long time idol ‘Mark Hamill’ who appeared on the ‘Batman: Arkham City’ panel along with fellow cast member ‘Kevin Conroy’, artist ‘Jim Lee’ and writer ‘Paul Dini’. The panel gave some insight into the new Batman video game ‘Arkham City’ and screened a new game trailer revealing that Solomon Grundy is just one of the villains that his been included in the sequel.

Day 2

The second day of the convention was a huge day for TV promotions with Ballroom 20 of the convention centre offering panels on ‘Torchwood’, ‘The Walking Dead’, ‘The Big Bang Theory’, ‘Bones’, ‘Eureka’, and ‘True Blood.’ For those not early enough to join the line it was a day of disappointment as reports spread of people waiting in line for hours to try and attend certain panels only to miss out due to the high demand from fellow attendees with the initiative to line up from as early as 5am.

The panel for ‘The Walking Dead’ amongst others included the main cast of the show, as well as series creator ‘Frank Darabont’ and comic book author ‘Robert Kirkman’. The panel comprised of a discussion amongst the panellists as well as a Q&A with the audience and a never before seen trailer for season 2 of the show. The trailer proved to be very compelling and offered an insight into the themes that are to be explored in season two. The trailer is now available online, and was met with huge applause from comic-con attendees.

Moving away from the TV panels, I attended comic book publisher Dark Horse’s panel celebrating 20 years of publishing ‘Star Wars’ related comics with a host of guests all working on the current line of ‘Star Wars’ books available from Dark Horse Comics. The panel included a surprise for the audience with Seth Green appearing at the start for a discussion about favourite ‘Star Wars’ moments over the years, as well as a few hints from Seth about an upcoming ‘Star Wars’ related production which is looking to capture the same comedic sensibilities as the ‘Star Wars: Robot Chicken’ episodes. Other announcements included Dark Horse Comics moving to offering a digital distribution service for their line of star wars comics later this year for those interested in the emerging format.

Day 3

Day 3 of the convention, appeared to be the busiest of the four days with attendees crammed into the exhibition floor taking advantage of many activities to participate in. A further highlight from the floor was the presence of two of the Delorean’s from the ‘Back to the Future’ trilogy being available to see, one of which attendees were allowed to sit inside for photo opportunities in return for a donation to the Michael J Fox foundation. The cos players were also out in full force with a huge variety of well made costumes on display.

It was announced that the TV series ‘Chuck’ will be returning for a fifth and final season later this year, and with an early panel (10am) on the Saturday fans were out in force again from 5am or earlier lining up for what would be the last pre-season Chuck panel at comic-con. Luckily I arrived in time to be let into the capacity filled Ballroom 20 for the panel, which included cast members Zachary Levi, Yvonne Strahovski, Joshua Gomez, Ryan McPartlin, Mark Christopher Lawrence, Vik Sahay, Scott Krinsky, and Adam Baldwin along with executive producer and co-creator Chris Fedak. The panel included interaction with the audience, as well as a comedic video relating to the upcoming seasons. It did however end on quite an emotional note as the entire panel but no one more so than Zachary Levi expressed their sincere thanks to the comic-con and their fans for showing so much loyalty and love for the show which has fought for and won the right to end on its own terms rather then via an abrupt cancellation, this received a standing ovation from the crowd as the panel left the room.

Later during the day Robert Kirkman held a solo panel where he discussed his various comic related projects. ‘The Walking Dead’ was on the forefront of people’s questions particularly in the context of the TV series currently under production however discussion also turned to a new series from the writer called ‘The Infinite’ which will be a science fiction comic series published by Image Comics and worked on by Kirkman and artist Rob Liefeld. Issue 1 of the new series was available in a comic-con exclusive hard cover edition, with the paperback version to be widely available in stores from August 2011.

The end of the day saw Kevin Smith’s annual panel taking place over the course of about two hours titled ‘An Early Evening with Kevin Smith’ where he updated the audience on all his current activities, took questions for the audience and screening a few minutes of footage from his new film ‘Red State’. The entertainer spoke at length about his intention to no longer direct films, stating that after ‘Red State’ he has one more film left in him, which will largely take place in the world of hockey and will be the culmination of everything he has learned about film making over the past few decades. Smith stated that his current and future focus outside this one last film project will be his family, and his pod casting ventures which are currently centred around his internet radio station Smodcast Internet Radio or SIR.

The footage screened to the audience from ‘Red State’ proved to be an intense few minutes giving something quite unlike anything Kevin Smith has delivered in his previous works. It was definitely received well by the audience and left everyone enthusiastic and eager to see the entire film when it is more widely available later this year.

Day 4

The main panel event on the day 4 of the convention for me was the ‘Supernatural’ panel held for the first time in the largest room on offer at the convention centre, the infamous Hall H. Approximately 6,500 fans were packed into the Hall to see series stars Jensen Ackles, Jared Padalecki, Misha Collins, Jim Beaver, and Mark Sheppard, along with executive producer Sera Gamble and writer Ben Edlund. The panel gave fans a look at some footage from the new season of ‘Supernatural’ currently in production as well as a glimpse at the ‘Supernatural’ animation series that has been undertaken by Japanese anime studio ‘Madhouse’.

This concludes the highlights of my 2011 comic-con experience, there is quite simply far too much happening over the course of the four days of comic-con for one person to witness all the events, it becomes a matter of priorities of what panels you’d like to see, and how much time you’d like to spend on the main exhibition floor. Comic-con really is a huge event, and a fantastic experience, but it is not without it’s downside, the crowds are massive, it’s easy to miss out on things you may wish to attend, sometimes you need to roll with the punches and be comfortable in the knowledge that it’s comic-con and anything could happen next.

As a final piece of news for those who made it to the end of my post, the world premiere of the DC animated film ‘Batman: Year One’ took place during the convention, following the screening it was announced that an upcoming DC animated film project would adapt the classic Frank Miller story ‘The Dark Knight Returns’ across two animated films. For fans of Frank Miller’s classic tale and the DC animated direct to DVD films, the news couldn’t be more exciting.

Leith spent most of his formative years growing up on the coastal fringes of Western Australia without a cinema in sight. There he grew up on the wonders of home rentals before relocating to Perth and gaining access to a proper cinematic experience just in time for the Star Wars Special Edition re-releases. From there Leith's love of movies expanded to volunteering on a Star Wars fan film, reviewing films, writing about film news, and attending film and pop-culture related conventions on the other side of the world. Leith's favourite films are too many to mention but all start with the Star Wars saga, Back to the Future, the Dark Knight trilogy, Indiana Jones, Lord of the Rings and all things Kevin Smith. With an insatiable appetite for all things pop-culture related Leith also has an unhealthy addiction to the world of comics and can often be found buried under a pile of unread back issues madly trying to catch up on a number of titles coming out from mostly DC and Darkhorse.