Wrap up on Comic Con: What to check out in tech and art

Comic Con is a great place to check out new tech, artists, authors and sundries. Here are just a few things cool things t0 check out this year.

Disney Infinity

An all-new Disney game release that unlocks the freedom to create stories and play experiences starring some of the most beloved characters from the Walt Disney Company and Pixar Animation Studios.

MOGA Pro Controller

Fox Digital Entertaiment previewed the MOGA Pro control for gaming on mobile devices. It’s a console style controller similar to something you’d use on any game system but it connects directly to your mobile. The controller was demoed along with FOX’s new released of 3rd person action shooter game AVP: Evolution.

MOGA Pro Controller

GameSpot 3D Rendering Tech

Gamesoft set up a 3D mapping booth where fans could stand while 89 camera mapped a 3D image of their body. They were given a rendering to be uploaded to their social media accounts and after a voting period, the winner will receive a miniature 3D rendering of themselves. Watch the rendering of CNET’s Jeff Bakalar here.

GameSoft 3D Rendering Booth

Artists Galore

Part of San Diego Comic Con’s massive exhibit hall is dedicated to small press artists and you will find some of the most amazing talent. Here’s a sampling.

Mike Yamada and Victoria Ying  - – Married couple, Disney artists and mentors in Motvarti’s art program – they produce art for learning, children and fun

Mike Yamada and Victoria Ying

Joey Chou – Gorgeous magical people and animals

Joey Chou

Papercutz – The Hardy Boys, Bionicals and so many more as comics.

Papercutz

Jeffrey Brown – Darth Vader and Son, Vader’s Little Princess

Jeffrey Brown

Firefly Online

Fox Digital Entertainment is throwing a bone to the crazed Firefly/Serenity fandom with the first officially licensed video game, Firefly Online.

Firefly Online (FFO) is a multi-user, social online role-playing game that will initially be available for smartphones and tablets, including those based on iOS and Android operating systems.

Conversations for a Cause

Nerd HQ hosts panels each day of Comic Con with writers and start who are also appearing at the convention center during the main Con. For $22 you can be one of 25o in an intimate setting, with a much better opportunity to ask questions in a relaxed environment sans publicists. Proceeds go to Operation Smile and all the Conversations can be viewed online. Be sure to check out Nathan Fillion’s 2nd panel where he and Alan Tudyk auction off all their crap to benefit Operation Smile.

Nathan Fillion auctions his stuff for charity at Nerd HQ

Comic Con 2013 Wrap: What to check out on TV and film

San Diego Comic Con is both a fan celebration of all that’s happened in the past year(s) and a launch pad for new projects.. Keep an eye out for these in the next year:

TELEVISION

MARVEL’S AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D. (ABC) – Producer/Director Joss Whedon has gone on record to say Clark Gregg’s Agent Coulson – killed in The Avengers – has returned from the dead thanks to fan love.  Ming-Na (Eureka), Elizabeth Henstridge (Hollyoaks), Ian De Caestecker (The Fades), Brett Dalton (Killing Lincoln) and Chloe Bennet (Nashville) round out the team who handle the world’s superheroes. Premieres Sept 24, 2013.

INTELLIGENCE (CBS) – Josh Holloway (LOST) plays a computer enhanced cyber-agent assigned a Secret Service handler (Once Upon a Time’s Megan Ory). Marg Hellenberger (CSI) stars as Holloway’s boss. Based on an unpublished novel, coming to TV February, 2014.

THE 100 (CW) – 100 years after fleeing an irradiated Earth in a space colony, human survivors sent 100 juvenile delinquents back down to the planet to see if it in habitable. Starring Henry Ian Cusack (LOST), Paige Turco (The Agency), Isaiah Washington (Grey’s Anatomy) and Eliza Taylor (Neighbours). Coming spring 2014.

SLEEPY HOLLOW (FOX) – Ichabod Crane finds himself pulled into a ravaged modern age. He partners with a small town sheriff to fight evil and defend the world. From Alex Kurtzman and Robert Orci (Transformers, Fringe, Star Trek) and starring Tom Mison and Nicole Beharie (Shame). Premieres Sept 16, 2013.

ALMOST HUMAN (FOX) – An unlikely pairing of part human/part android cops investigate crime and espionage in a future world. Starring Karl Urban (Star Trek) and Michael Ealy (Sleeper Cell). Produced by J.J. Abrams. Look for it in late fall 2013

ONCE UPON A TIME IN WONDERLAND (ABC) – Down the rabbit hole with writers Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz as they spin off Once Upon a Time, mixing Alice’s Wonderland with Storybrooke. Starring Sophia Lowe (Two Mothers), Emma Rigby (Hollyoaks), Naveen Andrews (LOST), and John Lithgow as the voice of the White Rabbit. Premiers October 10, 2013.

ORPHAN BLACK (BBC America) – It’s already aired one season on BBC America and is gaining momentum stateside. Following the lives and mysteries of multiple clones, the show is critically acclaimed for storytelling and asking important ethical questions. Starring Tatiana Maslany (The Nativity), Dylan Bruce (As the World Turns) and Jordan Gavaris (Unnatural History). Catch the first season on BBC America, season 2 returns in 2014.

MOVIES

THE ZERO THEOREM (Voltage Pictures) – A tiny film compared to some of these others, Zero follows an eccentric recluse of a computer genius  working to solve the Zero Theorem and discover the purpose of life.  Christoph Waltz (Django Unchained), Tilda Swinton (The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe), Ben Whishaw (Skyfall), David Thewlis (Harry Potter series) and Lucas Hedges (Moonrise Kingdom). Releasing Dec 20, 2o13.

THE WOLVERINE (20th Century Fox) –Pining over the loss of Jean Grey in X-Men: The Last Stand, Hugh Jackman’s Logan is embroiled in a world of Japanese intrigue. Smaller and more personal than most of the hero films coming out, The Wolverine hopes to reconnect with fans disappointed by 2009’s X-Men Origins: Wolverine. Currently in theaters

THE AMAZING SPIDER MAN 2 (Sony Pictures) – Spider-Man is credited with kicking off the superhero franchises with the 2002 Tobey Maguire version and these “Amazing” reboots starring Andrew Garfield have secured the series a reputation for solid storytelling. Neither the flashiest nor the darkest of the comic franchises, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 brings Jamie Foxx in as villain Electro. Releasing May 2, 2014.

DIVERGENT (Summit Entertainment) – Veronica Roth’s Divergent novel series  is still growing it’s fanbase, but after The Hunger Games: Catching Fire comes and goes in late 2013, fans hungry for dystopian young adult drama may lock on. It’s a strong story set in future Chicago, where humans have been divided into five personality-based factions. But not everybody fits – some are divergent… Releasing March 21, 2014.

X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST (20th Century Fox) – Uniting a gigantic cast of nearly all previous mutants (twenty principal cast members!) Future Past may have bitten off more than can be chewed in one story. If it works it will be a colossal success, if not it could be the death-knell of all X-films. Releasing May 23, 2014.

CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER (Marvel) – Chris Evans Captain and Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow defend America. That’s about all we know, except that the footage looks great and there’s a good amount of Marvel’s patented humorous banter. Also featuring Samuel L. Jackson and…Robert Redford! Releasing April 4, 2014.

THE HUNGER GAMES: CATCHING FIRE (Lionsgate) – Thought the book is a bit of a lull between the first and third titles, Jennifer Lawrence’s thoughtful portrayal of Katniss Everdeen already guarantees Catching Fire will be a huge success. The big question about this sequel is whether to see it opening night. Releasing Nov 22, 2013

THOR: THE DARK WORLD (Marvel) – Marvel needs to be a little careful, as audiences may burn out on separate stories and a united cast in The Avengers 2. Thor wasn’t the strongest origin story of the bunch, though it did give us Loki to make life difficult for The Avengers. Thor: The Dark World needs to do something impressively different to keep fans coming back.  Still, Chris Hemsworth and Tom Hiddleston! Releasing Nov 8, 2013

THE AVENGERS 2: AGE OF ULTRON (Marvel) – Discovering the villains is one of the fun things for comic movie watchers who are not comic book readers. Ultron is an AI creation who will take on The Avengers May 1, 2015. We’ll hear more about it at next year’s Comic Con.

ENDER’S GAME (Summit Entertainment) – All my feelings on this adaptation can be found here. See the movie, but don’t cheat yourself – read the book first. Releasing Nov 11, 2013.

Untitled Superman + Batman film (Warner Bros) – Arguably the most shocking moment in Hall H this year was this reveal of a combo film. No word yet on whether it will be a buddy, team or rival story and it’s not even scheduled until 2015, leaving plenty of time for speculation and fan arguments.

Comic Con ’13 Day 2: Helix, Ender’s Game, Falling Skies, The 100

Things you only see at Comic Con
1. A table of elves lunching at The Old Spaghetti Factory
2. R2D2 making catcalls
3. Marvin the Martian at the ATM
4. Trolley signs in Dothraki
5. Predator just hanging out in the corner of an exhibit booth

Marvin needs cash too

If you enjoy having big questions woven into your entertainment there are two things – one on TV one in the theater – for you to watch for this year. And I mean questions of existence, meaning, faith and ethics, not just “How’d they do that?” More on those in a minute.

A busy Friday included panels for SyFy’s Defiance, TNT’s Falling Skies, Riddick, strange science videos, new book releases from Penguin, and a preview of the CW’s new fall show The 100.

The 100
This new teen drama from The CW has the same feel as The Secret Circle. 100 years after humanity fled an irradiated Earth, a group of 100 delinquent teen prisoners is sent back to Earth to see if it’s habitable. Early on we learn of the politics that lead to the decision as well as the dangers facing the teens on their first trip to Earth.

If it can build smart, full characters this one should be popular with the younger set of Hunger Games fans.

FALLING SKIES

Noah Wyle as Tom Mason in TNT’s Falling Skies – Photo courtesy TNT

I love this show, which stands out in a TV landscape littered with post-apocalyptic shows these days.

Geek god Wil Wheaton hosted this panel with cast and crew, delighting fans with his patented Wheaton charm. At the end of the Q&A he said “Last question. All of you in line make your sad face and get out.” I’m starting to understand why Sheldon Cooper hates the guy.

Falling Skies cast and writers shared their appreciation for their solid fan base, paying heed to the difference between fans of a show and the kind of communities that some shows are blessed with. It took a while for this show to grow its fan base and you can sense their gratitude for those who have spread the word.

They showed a clip from this upcoming Sunday’s episode that makes this one a MUST SEE. If you follow the show, just know that the entire room erupted into extended cheers and applause. You’ll know the moment when you see it.

ENDER’S GAME

Asa Butterfield as Ender Wiggen – Photo courtesy Summit Entertainment

Someone asked recently what one book I’d give to everybody as required reading. My answer was Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card. Written in 1985 it’s been through years of false starts in Hollywood largely due to Card’s tight grip on the material. And he’s holding on to it for good reason. Card knows what he has in this important work and how easy it would be to screw it up in our current culture of filmmaking. As a battle story, any director with a set could turn this into a war movie, which would rob the material of its intent and the audience of the story they deserve.

Set on future Earth, Ender’s Game is the story of bright children taken from their homes to train to defend the world. The story is rich and satisfying, by turns moving between global, interpersonal and family politics.

Just a few of the themes include choice and consequences, the greater good, and how the ends justify the means. As a reader it left me content yet bothered, happy with the payoff of a good story while wanting more concrete answers from my own heart about mankind.

Orson Scott Card is well known as an outspoken conservative Mormon and his faith beliefs underpin the all his work. (The LGBT community is actively protesting the film.) Not through preachy moral lessons but in the way he asks big questions. He doesn’t always answer them, but presents smart options and opinions as thought through by the characters.

Summit Entertainment hit the jackpot when they landed this film in a completely different way than with Twilight. They scored an all star cast including Harrison Ford, Abigail Breslin, Viola Davis, Ben Kingsley,and Asa Butterfield (Hugo) as Ender.

From the footage I’ve seen I have high hopes for the quality of the film and am crossing my fingers that they’ve left the material intact. Look for Ender’s Game in theaters November 1st. And please, please read the book first.

HELIX

If you’re looking for TV that means something, Helix is a new SyFy show entering production this week, set to premier early in 2014. Produced by Ronald D. Moore, the story takes us to the Arctic Circle where a virus has locked down the staff of a remote biologic research facility.

The story was written by former development banker Cameron Porsandeh, who has scored a dream producing team of Steven Madea (LOST) and Ron Moore (Battlestar Galactica) for his first show.

Porsandeh grew up in an ultra conservative home with a Jehovah Witness mother and Iranian father. He didn’t come to pop culture until later in life when LOST and BSG became two of his favorite shows.

He knows he’s living any writer’s dream and says that while he loved the work he did with the World Bank, he believes there are many ways to contribute, storytelling being one he wants to try. He describes the show as a story that starts with infectious disease as the first layer of the onion. So much more is happening on the research station that goes deeper and deeper.

Ron Moore is arguably the best writer/producer working today with themes of life, meaning, faith and humanity. His work is meant for mature audiences, not only because it usually contains some provocative moments but because it asks the viewer to invest thought and wrestle with uncomfortable questions. These aren’t Sunday School stories. He never goes overt with his own beliefs but crafts stories with mass appeal across a variety of value systems.

And for all these reasons he – even more than Joss Whedon, Carlton Cuse or JJ Abrams – is the writer/producer whose projects I wait for impatiently. It’s worth the time and effort for a show that makes you think about your own big questions.

Helix has locked in Billy Campbell for the lead and will be announcing more casting news soon.

DEFIANCE

If you’re not watching SyFy’s Defiance, consider giving it a look. Another show set in post apocalyptic America it has a completely unique look and feel from Falling Skies or Revolution. In this next season the show will continue delving into the origin stories of the eight alien races and the dance of their communal existence.

Comic Con ’13 Day 1: Nerd HQ, Psych, NASA

By Karen Veazey  @kmyvz

San Diego Convention Center has closed for the night but the Gaslamp Quarter is party central. MTV, Wootstock and Geek & Sundry are hosting the larger events while industry parties and special screenings are tucked into secret hotels.

Right now I’m happy to be far away, cozy in comfy clothes enjoying quiet time by the bay after an exciting first day of Comic Con.

Much Madness Happening at Comic Con

Much Madness Happening at Comic Con

I keep thinking the Con won’t get any more popular, but the first round of tickets sold out in 93 minutes last fall. Over 140,000 people crowd the Convention Center for the four day event consisting of discussion and Q&A panels from networks, studios, writers, fans and scientists. Plus an awesome 525,000 square foot exhibit hall. (I think it’s awesome, my sister thinks its borderline masochistic to spend time in there.)

As a whole the Con isn’t for the faint of heart, the crowds are overwhelming, the lines are long and you’ll be walking all day. But for a fan, it’s a once in a lifetime event to see the people who create your entertainment – or science – up close and unplugged. Plus TBS set up a free King of the Nerds cereal bar this year. You give us free cereal we make you a king.

Come to the nerd side, we have cereal

NERD HQ at Petco Park

We spent most of today at our favorite offsite spot, Zachary Levi’s Nerd HQ (more info on what Nerd HQ is all about here.) Nerd HQ has become so popular in just its third year that nearly all its Conversations for a Cause panels sold out in less than three minutes. Limited to 250 tickets, with proceeds benefiting Operation Smile, it’s well worth $20 to see panels like Supernatural or speakers like Joss Whedon (The Avengers, Buffy) in this intimate setting. It can literally save you hours of standing in line at the convention center to see the same panel from the far corner of a ballroom with 2,000 other fans.

The HQ relocated to a much larger, more comfortable setup at Petco Park with a ton of opportunities for online and arcade gaming. I squealed when I saw Galaga and wasn’t a bit embarrassed about it.

You can play the new D&D online game Never Winter to win prizes, or check out the amazing technology of the Virtuix Omni interactive virtual reality system. Whether you game or not this is cool technology you really don’t want to miss so check out the demo on their fully funded Kickstarter.

On our schedule today – Nerd HQ panels with Psych, Zachary Levi and the NASA Mars Curiosity JPL Team.

PSYCH

Dulé Hill and James Roday – USA’s Psych

The cast and writers of USA’s Psych love their fans and don’t take themselves too seriously. Their show is edgy family fun that winks at the conventions of crime procedurals and you can see they’re all grateful for how good they have it.

No surprise reveals from this panel from stars Dulé Hill and James Roday, writer Steve Franks and producers Chris Henze and Kelly Kulchak, but keep an eye out for their upcoming musical episode in December and a remake of an episode from a previous season. That’s unprecedented in television and I’m really curious what it will look like. If anyone can pull off something like that it’s this Psych team,

Fans were also relieved to hear Maggie Lawson’s character Jules will be back this season despite her new lead role in ABC’s family comedy Back in the Game.

ZACHARY LEVI

Zac Levi talks with fans at NERD HQ panel

Zachary Levi could be Ryan Seacrest in another life. He spent all day hosting panels, taking photos with fans, then wrapped the day by doing his own Q&A panel.The big question was what’s up next for Zac, who’s currently starting on Broadway in First Date.

He spoke pretty extensively about his entrepreneurial ideas and desire to help create content that gives more control to the fans. Less about studios and money, more about content and fan support. It’s a bold statement from a fairly young actor, and one which could get him in trouble with future jobs. But he believes in his vision and as a fan of many good canceled shows -*cough* Arrested Development *cough*- I hope he succeeds.

Talking about why he supports Operation Smile through Nerd HQ Zac encouraged fans to think bigger. “Go find something, be bigger than yourself.” Which kind of perfectly sums up what the guy is all about.

 NASA JPL MARS CUROSITY TEAM

Seriously smart: NASA JPL Mars Curiosity Team

I’m going to try and contain myself here because the NASA JPL team rocks.

I went to this year’s Con with one big goal, to see the Thursday afternoon panel for the upcoming Ender’s Game movie (Nov 2013 from Summit Entertainment.) I even planned to camp out overnight if necessary. But when I heard Nerd HQ added a panel with the NASA JPL team at the same time as Ender’s Game it was no contest. These guys are the real deal. In fact Curiosity Flight Director Bobak Ferdowsi introduced his co worker by saying “Raise your hand if you sent commands to a real spaceship yesterday.”

Ferdowsi, Fred Serricchio, and Rob Zimmerman showed the video of the landing and talked about their own experiences working on the Mars rover project. It’s fascinating science. Did you know that spacecraft are built using “old” technology, since the tech approved for the space program is usually several years old by the time the build starts, and older yet by the launch date? Me either! By the way it’s not bad tech, I was just surprised anything going into space isn’t blinged out with the newest shiniest gadgets we could slap on that thing.

One comment on the video about the landing summed up how great science is in real life – to paraphrase: Things are tough in our country right now, but that’s a ton of American ingenuity that just touched down on Mars.

We are still doing great things. And this team of funny, unassuming, relatable guys who happen to fly spaceships came to share their part in that with us nerds.

Always do science when you can

The panel was announced just a few hours before it went on sale so it didn’t sell out, but watch for it again the future. Zachary Levi recommended that if you enjoy things like this, or want to see a particular panelist, tweet them and let them know.

You can watch all the Conversations for a Cause videos here, and if you like them consider a donation to Operation Smile on behalf of Nerd HQ.

Comic Con Wrap Up: Nerds go Home

by Karen Veazey

So Much to See, So Little Time

A tweet from film and television composer Bear McCreary sums up the last day of Comic Con for everyone, “Comic Con exhaustion setting in… Still… Must… See… More…” Sunday is children’s day so the panels were dedicated to programming from Cartoon Network, Disney and Nickelodeon, and panels on topics like “Science Fiction in Education” and “Heroes for the Middle Grade Reader.” The few television panels for adults included the shows Fringe, Supernatural, and Sons of Anarchy.

A fan tribute during the Fringe panel reminded me of another spiritual theme popping up in mainstream entertainment (see yesterday’s blog post for more on this.) Early in the series, John Noble’s character Walter said he would know of God’s forgiveness by the presence of a white tulip. As the cast took the stage for their last visit to Comic Con – the final season launches September 28th – fans greeted them with a sea of white tulip drawing. A touching farewell to this brilliantly written mindbender of a show, and interesting proof that spiritual themes can have lasting resonance even in mainstream entertainment.

Fringe passed out Observer hats at their panel

The Exhibit Hall

My one goal today was to get through the exhibit hall, which is no small feat since the thing is 460,000 square feet of sensory overload. Here you can buy every imaginable collectible – this year’s hot item was a limited edition Super Helicarrier from The Avengers – browse rows of independent authors and publishers, or test out the latest games and gaming technology. Artist’s Alley is an area set aside for independent graphic artists who sell their pieces or, for a donation, will draw in your sketchbook. The talent is considerable and I always find several new artists and authors of interest.

Artists sketching for fans | Karen Veazey

Autographs and giveaways are big business in the exhibit hall, generally hosted by the movie studios or television networks. For the most popular autograph sessions a line will form hours prior and will be capped at a few hundred people. Standing in line in the hall isn’t easy; the crowd will jostle and push and you’ll be slammed by backpacks and costume weaponry, so think hard about how important those autographs are to you!

When you pick up your badge for the Con, they give you a massive bag that will become your best friend in the exhibit hall. This thing could hold children (do not try that at home.) I’ve seen it made into a dress. In the bag will go every business card, flyer, pamphlet, and free comic that will be shoved into your hands as you walk through the hall. I only mention this because these things are fantastic and Comic Con is the only place you can get them!

This bag will not fit in the overhead compartment

Because I’m on a budget, and I don’t want to carry things home in my luggage, I only allow myself small purchases in the exhibit hall. Last year it was a set of twittering Tribbles, this year a limited edition R2D2 necklace charm that will remind of the fun of the Con every time I wear it. And a few books, I mean how could you pass up an animated book called Darth Vader and His Son?

Griping Back to the Con

For years we’ve said we should attend the feedback panel that closes out the Con and this year we finally did. It’s always kind of surprising to hear what people complain about. Some good suggestions were made to help handle the massive overflow of people who can’t get in to see the panels they want in Hall H and Ballroom 20, but the Con organizer (I think I’ll call him Oz) seemed skeptical about the logistics. Someone with some obvious computing background offered to help set up a way to broadcast the most popular panels over the convention center wifi, so people in line could watch. Suggestions ranged from the silly – lower the seat protectors in the bathroom so kids could reach them – to the very serious. The vast majority of complaints came from people with isolated complaints about contracted security staff, or those asking for improvements in arrangements for the disabled. Overall, not bad for a non-profit organization that has to please 120,000 attendees and myriad studios, exhibitors, celebrities and contractors. Yes, Comic-Con is a non-profit, founded in 1970 to create awareness and appreciation of the popular arts. I think they’ve succeeded.

If You’re a Gamer

While there are gaming opportunities in the exhibit hall the booths are busy and crowded; if you’re a gamer you’ll definitely want to go offsite. The Sega Arcade transformed the San Diego Wine and Culinary Center, BioWare featured Mass Effect 3 at the Hilton Gaslamp and a cool new addition called Shiftylook offered video game classics like PacMan and Galaga. Keep in mind, all of this is FREE, with perhaps an email address required to sign up for their mailing list. You don’t even need a Comic Con badge to participate in these offsite opportunities. The Hard Rock Hotel also had gaming suites set up with tons of game opportunities but I never made it over there to check it all out.

Gaming at Nerd HQ | Karen Veazey

The one offsite event I’m sorry I didn’t make it to was the blood drive, which is in its 36th year. The event has found the perfect sponsor in the HBO show True Blood, and everyone who donates is treated to t-shirts and goodie bags, plus the enjoyment of doing something nice.

Comic Con is bursting at the seams and there were so many more fun things that I just couldn’t get to. Marvel ran a scavenger hunt game called Item 47, related to a special feature included on the upcoming DVD. Tim Burton presented “The Art of Frankenweenie” exhibition as a special behind the scenes look at his next film. That’s the fun of Comic Con and part of what keeps me coming back – it’s never stale.

A few things in the film world you’ll be hearing more about over the coming year:

Warner Brothers – Pacific Rim, Godzilla, Man of Steel, The Hobbit

Marvel – Iron Man 3, Thor: The Dark World, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Ant Man, Guardians of the Galaxy

Sony – Total Recall, Looper, Elysium

 

What to look out for on TV:

Defiance – Syfy’s new game/show hybrid, which can be enjoyed on one or both mediums

Revolution – NBC, what happens when the lights go out? The world 15 years after technology has failed us.

Arrow – CW, based on DC Comics Green Arrow series

 

And the final rules of Comic Con:

8. Schedule well. For some autographs you must arrive early in the morning (well, like 9am, so early to me) and go through a lottery process for tickets to a signing held later in the day. Before the con starts, find out what opportunities are available for signings and schedule appropriately. Nothing worse than finding out your FAVORITE STAR is signing six feet away from you and you can’t get an autograph.

9. Don’t take it all home. When you go through the exhibit hall you will be able to pick up paraphernalia at every booth and table. Then you either lug fifteen extra pounds of posters, buttons and promo cards home or you pay oodles to FedEx it. Go back to your hotel each night and clean out your bag, deciding if you really want to keep each thing. Everything is exciting in the moment, but most of it, if you run across it in a drawer six months from now you’ll toss it without a second thought.

10. Leave the Con. You’re in one of the most beautiful cities in America. Take some time to get away from the convention center and downtown and sit in one of the lovely parks lining the Embarcadero. Visit the zoo or tour the Midway (aircraft carrier) museum. It helps, and gives perspective on the mayhem, to breathe fresh air, sit in a quiet place and listen to the waves.

And with that, I close out another wonderful Con and wander off to stick my toes in the sand!

The Gaslamp Quarter

Comic-Con Saturday: Christians in Comics? Who Knew? Plus, Nerd Prom

by Karen Veazey

You may wonder what possesses someone to attend something like Comic Con. To use valuable vacation time, travel across country, maybe camp out overnight, just to sit for a few minutes and listen to people talk about entertainment. The answer is stories. A good story is at the center of every beloved piece of literature, every film or show, every comic and even many games.

Why Writers Matter

After the excitement of yesterdays star studded panels, today it was nice to relax with the storytellers. Be listening for the name Orson Scott Card over the coming year, as the film adaptation of his acclaimed and beloved sci-fi novel Ender’s Game (watch the trailer here) finally comes to theaters. Card was just one of seven amazing panelists in a session on the future of comics and sci fi writing. Or that was the intended topic; these incredibly smart men and women touched on everything from particle physics to dark matter, including some sharply traded opinions on the Arab Spring and the evolution of human behavior. (A favorite quote – regarding dark matter, which makes up a huge percentage of the universe yet we don’t know what it is – “Dark matter is failed TV pilots.”) Moderator Greg Bear nicely rounded the discussion back around to the point that no scientific progress can replicate the human capacity to feel joy.

While actors get the press coverage, it is these passionate, informed minds who create the foundation of our best entertainment. Aside from reality TV, much of the current wave of pop culture comes from stories written decades to centuries ago. Green Lantern, The Avengers, Grimm, vampires and zombies, Clash of the Titans, The Hobbit – even Guillermo del Toro’s upcoming blockbuster Pacific Rim is rooted in the era of HG Wells giant robots and Japanese giant monsters. Brin noted that the winds do seem to be shifting, with fewer studios presenting at Comic Con and fans greeting screenwriters with the same fervor and admiration given to celebrities. Still, theres a long way to go before gifted novelists will get their due. Even with these heavyweights on the panel it was held in a room seating maybe three hundred people. I was encouraged that it was, at least, full.

Christian Comic Arts Society

The only thing that can draw a smaller crowd than writers at Comic Con is Christians. The crowd for The Christian Comic Arts Society’s panel on Christian themes in comics was sparse, yet the room held that kind of friendly camaraderie you feel when walking into church. Its no secret that the world of comics can be dark. While there are wonderful themes to discuss and learn from, violence is nearly a given in these stories of villains and heroes, and portrayals of women are notoriously sexy. After three days of sensory bombardment it felt like fresh air to walk into a room of people who love pop culture yet share a brighter, more uplifting perspective. So why do I go to Comic Con if it can be dark? Because I think Christians are supposed to be in the midst of the entertainment industry just as we are to be scientists and educators and construction workers and retail clerks. God puts His people everywhere, and there we are to do our best.

Because the panel was titled “Christian Themes in Comics” I expected to hear how their faith inspired the panelists work. Instead the conversation veered toward the search for spiritual significance in mainstream entertainment, including themes of heroism, sacrifice and internal conflicts of choice and morality. Believe it or not, zombies came up as an example of turning the superhero model upside down. Rather than the hero defending society form the monster the hero is now defending himself from society, who has become the monster. Panelist Leo Partible gave some fascinating comments on the inspiration and hope he finds when mainstream secular artists produce spiritual work – Robert Plant’s “Great Spirit” was one example – saying, “For God to inspire these hard living people to sing this song they normally wouldn’t want to inspires me. It tells me there is a God.” The session ended on the topic of the constant tension between Christians who want all entertainment made by Christians to be squeaky clean and evangelical, and those who want to portray the harsher reality of life. Lifeway Christian stores just pulled the DVD of The Blind Side from its shelves after protests against its realistic portrayal of urban life, including swearing. Yet if the Bible were adapted to film it would be rated R (at least) for its murder, incest, slavery, polygamy and of course, crucifixion. As panelist Sergio Cariello (The Action Bible) commented, “I don’t think God ever said ‘Should I put that in there?’”

As a side note, if you love faith and you love entertainment you owe it to yourself to check out the Act One Program, a top-tier organization that’s been training Christians to make great art for more than a decade.

Hall H and Ballroom 20 Playback

After that mentally and spiritually fulfilling afternoon we settled in for some lighter fare. Comic Con made a great decision last year to play back videos of the Hall H and Ballroom 20 panels at night. We went to the playback hoping to see The Hobbit but instead saw Guillermo del Toro and the cast of next summer’s monsters vs robots spectacle Pacific Rim, and a surprise appearance from Will Ferrell and Zach Galifianakis to stump their upcoming The Campaign. The audience, so many of them punchy from camping out all night were the best part of the session with goofy questions and odd behavior. Nerd titles well earned.

Thing that didn’t make it into the Hall playback but which were buzzing all around Comic Con included 10 minutes of footage from The Hobbit, and announcements about the upcoming movies for Thor, Captain America and Superman.

Party on, nerds!

Entertainment during Masquerade

I popped in to watch the Masquerade, Comic Con’s huge costume party. Costumes are judged and prizes awarded and with all the costumes at the Con I expected it would be an hours-long bizarre fashion parade. I was surprised to see only eighty entrants, with Best in Show going to the gang with Project Runway; Star Wars Edition. After judging the DJ cranked up and glow sticks came out as the largest nerd party in the world commenced. Just like high school, a small contingent hit the dance floor while most stood around kind of be-bopping in place.

Masquerade

More tomorrow on the gaming opportunities at Comic Con and hopefully, I’ll finally make it down to the Expo hall!

More Information:

Previous reports from Comic-Con:

Day One: A Nerd’s Eye View of Comic-Con

Day Two: Joss Whedon tears up over ‘Firefly’

Handy Twitter, um, Handles:

@Rebecca_Cusey

@kmyvz – Karen Veazey

@SergioCariello Sergio Cariello

@ChristianComics – Christian Comic Arts Society

@ActOneProgram - Act One Program

Comic-Con Day Two: Joss Whedon Tears Up and A Very Special ‘Firefly’ Day

by Karen Veazey

Every time you think Joss Whedon can’t get more likeable he does something to surprise you. More on that in a minute.

Whedon and Fillion struggle for composure during final moment of Firefly Panel | Karen Veazey

Learning the Lines

A couple of things coalesced several years ago that, from what I understand, dramatically changed the experience of Comic Con. One was the arrival of Twilight, bringing out a contingent of young and/or female Twihards gumming up what had been a smoothly oiled machine. Other factors were the boom of comic-to-movie adaptations and massive, effects-driven tent pole films; and the explosion of fantastic original programming on cable networks like SyFy, Showtime and A&E. In recent years, all these things have created the perfect storm to turn the convention center into a seething mass of humanity during Comic Con.

The convention center has two massive rooms where they schedule the most popular panels. Ballroom 20 holds about 4500 people and is normally used for television programming panels. Hall H, with seating up to 6000 is home to the studio movie events. In the years I’ve been here, people have always camped out to ensure they’d get into the Twilight panel, but this is the first year we’re seeing the same effect for some of the TV programming. Last year, we stood in line for about five hours to get into Ballroom 20’s panel for The Big Bang Theory, and thousands of us didn’t get in. This year, people are being proactive and camping in line the night before.

Firefly 10th Anniversary Reunion/Community/The Legend of Korra

Summer Glau, Sean Maher, Adam Baldwin Firefly panel | Karen Veazey

Today was a really special event – for nerds – the 10th Anniversary Reunion panel for Firefly. If you’re unfamiliar, Firefly was a space-western show created by Joss Whedon (Buffy, The Avengers) and starring Nathan Fillion (Castle), Adam Baldwin (Chuck), Summer Glau (Terminator: Sarah Connor), Alan Tudyk (Transformers: Dark of the Moon) which ran for only 14 episodes before being cancelled. Frankly, it was ahead of its time, featuring the kind of tight writing, mythology and relevant themes that went on to be celebrated in shows like HEROES, LOST and the new Battlestar Galactica.

The line started forming for Firefly around 9pm last night, right about the time I was sucking down my fifteenth Diet Coke for the day. Of course at 1:30am I lay awake, caffeinated, fidgety, annoyed with myself. We’d planned to head over to get in line at 6am, hoping (but not expecting) to get in to see Firefly. Then I realized I could lie there getting no sleep and maybe get in to see the panel, or I could haul myself over to the convention center to sleep in line, on the ground, and be sure to see it. No contest, I can sleep anywhere.

Apparently I can’t sleep in a line of excited Firefly fans. I arrived at 3am to a charged atmosphere having just missed Joss Whedon, who stopped by and walked the line of campers, signing autographs and talking to each and every person awake. JOSS WHEDON, the man who created and helmed the third most successful movie ever (The Avengers) just cruising around outside the convention center. Needless to say it was a party and I admit I gazed with envy at the quiet queue of Hall H campers for the morning’s Big Bang Theory panel, laid out like a peaceful infant nursery.

And it was completely worth it. Before Firefly we had/got to sit through panels for NBC’s Community and Nickelodeon’s The Legend of Korra. I love Community, the show that celebrates the homogeny of people and bonds of friendship at the hilariously bizarre Greendale Community College. (Disclaimer: definitely a show with adult themes, which again, is another post for another day.) Community is one of the most inventive, creative sitcoms on TV, sprinkling animated, musical and theme episodes like Law and Order: Greendale College throughout the season. Danny Pudi (Abed) is as sweet and endearing as his character while Gillian Jacobs (Britta), Allison Brie (Annie) and Yvette Nicole Brown (Shirley) are firecracker funny.

The Legend of Korra is an offshoot of the Avatar Airbender series, which I know nothing about but will certainly be looking into now. One of the best things about the Con is these unexpected discoveries; last year I popped into an authors panel on a whim and was treated to George RR Martin dissecting his literary juggernaut Game of Thrones.

Firefly Time!

Then it was Firefly time. It went like this: standing ovation, questions, jokes, laughter, tears. This is an amazing fanbase and a special group of actors and creators. Small enough to feel intimate, large enough to have carried the legacy of a show for ten years past its retirement. Firefly and its series-finale movie Serenity now live on in fan fiction, Browncoat fan groups and a comics/graphic novel series from Dark Horse Comics. The cool thing is, the cast and creators love the show as much as the rest of us. Joss Whedon has repeatedly commented that this world of space-western fusion is the show he wanted to create since he was a kid; and that this cast was chosen because the characters already existed in their personalities before the characters were ever written.

Whedon is immensely personable despite, as I mentioned, being ridiculously talented and more successful than nearly everyone in Hollywood. The final audience question about what might have been done differently if they knew that Firefly would only last one season brought Whedon and Fillion visibly to tears. The moderator asked Joss to give a final comment on what the fans mean to him and a standing ovation ensued as he struggled for composure. I can’t recreate the atmosphere in words; you’ll have to trust it was a touching moment that leveled the creators, cast and fans into one large glob of happy companionship. Joss pulled himself together to say that the fact that a show that aired for one season could fill the room ten years later made him feel like the world of Firefly really exists. That there really are spaceships and horses and the fans are the people who populated the world of Firefly. We took it with us. It reminded me of a quote from Alan Moore, writer of V for Vendetta, “Artists use lies to tell the truth. Yes, I created a lie. But because you believed it, you found something true about yourself.”

Never Too Much Fillion!

After a relatively low-key Bones panel with Emily Deschanel, David Boreanaz and Executive Producer Stephen Nathan we headed back over to Nerd HQ for an up close and personal panel with Nathan Fillion. Like last year, he brought along Adam Baldwin and the two riffed and joked with one another and the audience for a delightful hour. After a young boy in the audience asked a question, the stars – who both tend toward colorful vocabulary – delighted in censoring themselves and Fillion ending up donating cash toward Operation Smile for his slip-ups.

Nathan Fillion, Zach Levi, Adam Baldwin Nerd HQ panel | Karen Veazey

After the panel, Zachary Levi was told there was a surprise. Nerd HQ has a photo booth for fan photos with Zach, with proceeds benefitting Operation Smile. A few people had donated $100 for kisses on the cheek and now a gal had stepped forward with $1000 for an actual lip lock. After a hilarious moment of stretching, and a sweet, swept-her-off-her-feet Hollywood kiss, Nathan Fillion dashed back onto the stage throwing money at Zach and grabbed him into a hilarious facemash. Baldwin followed suit and Levi played along as a red-faced good sport. Sides aching with laughter, we headed back to the hotel with full hearts and ready for a nap!

 

Zach Levi stretches for his kiss/Karen Veazey

Zach Levi kisses a fan for $1000 donation to Operation Smile/Karen Veazey

Adding to yesterday’s rules, today we learned some simple truths:

4. Your camera batteries will die at the worst possible moment. Bring extras. Then bring backup extras. Maybe bring a backup camera.

5. Embrace the unexpected. Maybe, if you can’t sleep, you haul yourself over to the convention center in the dead of night and actually get in to the most popular event. And maybe, just when you’re tucking in for a snooze on the concrete, Joss Whedon will wander by. You just never know these things.

6. Lines, lines and more lines are the bane of everyone’s Comic Con experience but they seem to be here to stay. Prioritize your panels and go early to check out the line, then decide how committed you really are. If you’re going to be in line, enjoy it, you’ll make some cool new friends. But do be respectful of the people around you who don’t want to hear every word of your every thought.

7. Never underestimate Firefly fans. Even with Ballroom 20 packed out with no hope of anyone else getting in for the panel, thousands of people still stood in line, undeterred, just in case. If we ever need to mobilize a citizen army call Joss Whedon – these people will follow him anywhere. Bonus: they’re smart!

 

Up tomorrow: A Wrinkle in Time, Christians and Comics, and the Expo!

 

A Nerd’s Eye View of Comic-Con

by Karen Veazey

San Diego Comic Con is the beginning of my fiscal year, my Chinese New Year – the four days of the Con forming a cusp between all I’ve loved in pop culture over the last twelve months and all I look forward to ahead. Our theme this year is looking for Comic Con miracles, launched yesterday when we went to pick up our badges, a normally hours long process of standing in a line of giddy anticipation. Yesterday we got in line at noon, knowing the scheduled start time for badge pick up was 3pm. When they opened the line at 1pm we suddenly gained the whole afternoon to pore over the schedules and, most importantly, nap. Kudos to the Con! Our first CC miracle.

NERD HQ

Comic Con spills out of the Convention Center into the Gaslamp Quarter of downtown San Diego. First thing on today’s agenda was Nerd HQ – Zachary Levi’s (Chuck, Tangled) brainchild of an off-site hang-out on Seventh Ave. where you can eat, play the latest game releases and get up-close and personal with the casts and creators of your favorite shows.

Hourly panels held at Nerd HQ include casts from shows (Psych, Chuck, Robot Chicken) and films (The Expendables 2), and creators like Joss Whedon and Damon Lindelof. Most if not all these will be in panels at Comic Con itself, but with no guarantee of getting into those panels it’s worth the $20 ticket price to see your favorites, especially since all proceeds go to Operation Smile!

The “Chuck” Panel/ Karen Veazey

Each panel is moderated by Zach himself with the infectious enthusiasm not of a star, but of someone who really believes in doing good with what you’ve been given. Watch Zach for a few minutes and you won’t be surprised to learn he is a man of deep faith and strong family ties. His sister helps run Nerd HQ and his dad stood off to the side watching today. We enjoyed back to back panels of Psych (with Dule Hill, James Roday, writer Steve Franks and producers Chris Henze and Kelly Kulchak) and Chuck (nearly the entire cast.) Seating at the panels is limited to 200 people and the Q&A format provides an intimate experience just short of having a private lunch. If you can afford it (and survive the head-banging experience of the still evolving ticket sales)

Nerd HQ panels are the highlight of the Con. To give you an idea of their popularity, 20,000 ticket buyers hit the site simultaneously this year, crashing the servers and pushing sales back a day. In other words, business as usual regarding ticket sales for anything related to Comic Con! To stay up to date on Nerd Machine events (the parent org of Nerd HQ), panels and tickets sales for next years Nerd HQ, check out www.thenerdmachine.com. All the panels can be watched on streaming at http://www.break.com/nerdmachine-2012-livestream/live-from-nerd-hq-chuck-pt-1-2347642 Very cool on their part!

Defiance Café

The Defiance Cafe /Karen Veazey

Each year The Syfy Channel takes over the café of The Hard Rock Hotel. The past three years it’s been turned into Eureka’s Café Diem and now, with Eureka ending, its been morphed into the Defiance Café. Defiance doesn’t launch until April 2013, but Syfy is giving it a long promotional lead time as the show aims to chart new territory in TV programming. Set in a world of alien/human war, Defiance will run a television show and online MMO side by side, apparently the action of the game determining some of the course of the show.

With Eureka and Warehouse 13 Syfy created some pretty family friendly shows – well, by basic cable standards – but Defiance looks to be much more along the lines of Fox’s Falling Skies, and the online game is billed as a first-person shooter, so parental oversight may be called for. The game can be played at the booths of Defiance Café and when we head back over there again we’ll try and get our hands on the controls. At $17 for a salad though…it better be good.

Panels: Dystopia and Science

The afternoon held two of my favorite panels. “Hungry for Dystopia” included writers of young adult dystopian literature talking about what motivated them to create their similar yet vastly different storylines. Get it? HUNGRY for dystopia, as in The Hunger Games? I didn’t because I still don’t understand why they call it The Hunger Games anyway. But I digress…the best moment by far was during audience questions, when a young boy approached the mic, baffled by how to get up to it. When a kindly audience member leaned it over to him he eloquently asked whether the authors felt writing dystopian literature made them adopt a more cynical viewpoint. My sister, a pediatrician, commented that is typical of that age – they can fix your iPad for you but can’t figure out how to get up on the table to reach it.

We couldn’t get into the Science Channel’s Stuff You Should Know panel on “Time Travel: Science Fact or Science Fiction” so we grumped on down to the Expo hall. More on that tomorrow, the Expo hall deserves lots of attention on its own. Next came “The Science of Science Fiction” featuring writers and producers from Prometheus, Thor, Eureka, Battlestar Galactica, X-Men: First Class and more.

This is where I turn into an uber-nerd as I’d love to devote pages to these people with their incredible mix of brainiac intelligence, pop culture knowledge and writing ability, but I’m afraid it’s just a “me” thing. I’m always amazed that these sessions don’t have lines out the door and down the block like the panels for Twilight and Dexter. Maybe the writers need to sparkle?

The crux of this session was twofold. 1) Writers need to build a world, create scientific rules for it and stick to the rules. At the end of the day nobody cares HOW Thor’s hammer works, but if it suddenly does something outside the set of accepted rules, the audience checks out. 2) When the writers know more science they have more options. That doesn’t mean they have to understand all the science, but they need to take the time to work through it with their science consultants. This truly is a panel that celebrates the sometimes rocky marriage of entertainment and science professionals – opposite sides of the science-fiction coin.

Party Time!

There are parties at bars and freestanding displays all over the Gaslamp Quarter of San Diego tonight but we aren’t cool enough to go to some (read: over 30) and just weren’t interested in others. I understand the History Channel is here with a nationwide grilling tour but it was packed out tonight. Comic-Con normally does a fantastic job providing shuttles from hotels all over the city to the convention center but things seem a little off-kilter this year. By the time we saw the line for the shuttle back to our hotel we decided to forgo the downtown fun and get some sleep. Still, it’s midnight as I I wrap up day one in that glorious ether of excitement and exhaustion that typifies the Con.

I leave you with the unofficial Rules of the Con we are making up as we go along:

  1. There is no pity at the Con. If your feet hurt, you should have worn better shoes. If you’re tired of standing in line, well, so are we. If you didn’t get that collector Comic-Con only edition of the Tardis you were after, it’s a TOY. Chill. And have fun.
  2. If you are texting and walking you deserve to get run over by the horde behind you.
  3. Ladies – cover it up. Everybody loves good cosplay, but if any part of your costume can be worn to the beach then it doesn’t make you look sexy, it makes you look desperate for attention. Harsh, but true.

The sweetest, funniest, geekiest oogling I saw today was a group of fan boys when a group of Disney princesses walked by. The fully covered kind, not the Little Mermaid kind. If we want to change how women are portrayed in science fiction, how ‘bout we don’t perpetuate the stereotype? But alas, that’s a who different post for a whole different day.

More fun and rules tomorrow! Same bat time, same bat channel!


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