Comic-Con 2005 or: How I learned to stop sleeping and hate the Browncoats

The adventure began on Wednesday. We packed up our things and headed south around 8pm. We got to the El Cajon transit center, after a brief detour to sleep in a Wal-Mart parking lot on Euclid Ave in Anaheim, at around 8am Thursday… which was exactly when we had planned to be there. We noticed a giant Tori Amos billboard advertising her show at the Viejas Concerts in the Garden along the way. We stopped at the transit center and used their rest room facilities and bought 4 day tripper passes for the trolley. We waited a few minutes and took an Orange Line train into San Diego. Nineteen stops later, we were at the San Diego Convention Center and being escorted past the huge line of people to the escalators that would take us upstairs to get our badges. Pre-registering was one of the many intelligent things we did on this trip. The registration line stretched around the length of the side of the convention center, and we were able to bypass all of it and have first crack at the rather boring freebie table. Then we got to explore rooms 6A-F and 4,5,7,8 and 9. We listened to some Orbital in 6A for a few minutes and then headed downstairs to where the real fun began… the Exhibit Hall. The exhibit hall was an amazing sight. 1 giant pikachu, 1 circular Aeon Flux bannered booth, one giant wardrobe to promote the Chronicles of Narnia. Hell, even Beavis and Butthead made a banner appearance. There was an entire section of the floor carved out for Star Wars (which they were promoting as being “forever”). DC had its own little mini-banners all around its pavillion. There was a massive amount of video games and freebies and merchandise to buy. We then got to be involved in our first riot, in an attempt to obtain a free Aeon Flux iron-on transferred t-shirt, which they gave out one hundred tickets an hour, and several hundred people showed up, per hour. We were unsuccessful in our first attempt. Then we wandered off in search of food and came up with really crappy hot dog. Then we ran off in search of ATM. We found that the “really long line” rumors were not true for the ATM. My wife then got in line to get herself some food and I headed back to the Aeon Flux riots and procured her a t-shirt ticket. I then tried to FIND where she was on the massive hall floor. She said she was under 5500, and it turned out there were two 5500s and I was at the wrong one. She was actually all the way on the other side of the building. I located her, waited for her while she went to redeem her ticket and buy a poster tube (we’d been there less than an hour and already had enough posters to fill the tube, and all free of course!). Then we headed upstairs to 6A and watched the end of Wilmer Valderama’s El Muerto presentation in preparation for the Ren and Stimpy Adult Party Cartoon screening/John K Q&A. Ren and Stimpy was entertaining, the Q&A was a lot of “would you buy this? well tell this guy…” and by the time it was over, we were pretty damned tired. So we used our super stealth techniques to sneak out of the convention center with our hands full of free swag and hopped the next trolley back to El Cajon. We checked in to our hotel (thank you Super 8 for your great prices and comfortable bed). Then we went to Viejas and ate some buffet. Susan, our waitress, was a bit strange. When we were leaving she thanked us for shopping at Wal-Mart. We wandered a bit, saw their smoking and non-smoking bingo rooms. I lost 9 cents on the slot machines and we noticed that their “Concerts in the Garden” series is more like a “concerts in the middle of our small sprawl of mini-mall. Then, admitting defeat in our trying to overcome the beast that is sleepiness, we went back to our hotel and retired for the night.

Friday began with an early rise, a lengthy trolley ride and our first lineup in front of Hall H. We didn’t care about the presentations in Hall H at all on Friday, we were doing this to see approximately how big the room was, how many people were in line in front of us, and how early we should expect to arrive on Saturday, when the two reasons we were at the convention in the first place, were to take place. We got there and got in line around 9:20am. We were a good two thirds of the way back, but comfortable while all of the fanboys and fangirls told Natalie Portman she was hot and what an amazing actress she is and other stupid pointless drivel. We got some free shit from the WB, which included a pin for The Fountain, the new Darren Aronofsky film, which apparently features Rachel Weisz. We got a V for Vendetta mask, starring Hugo Weaving as V and Natalie Portman as some bald chick, second unit directed by the Wachowski Brothers, produced by Joel Silver and no one asked him any Wonder Woman questions… all of the questions were for “Miss Portman.” We got bored, so we left. We then ate scary pizza again. We wandered the exhibit hall a bit, then headed upstairs for the Top Cow/Seth Green presentation. The only disappointment was that I wasn’t allowed to videotape the panel. I got a few good pictures, and got to ask an important (to me at least) question about The Freshmen, Seth and Hugo’s new comic series that just launched last week. As a reward, Seth Green handed me a comic “Top Cow Triple Play” issue. After the panel, we headed downstairs to the Top Cow booth, quickly bought a copy of the extremely (only 200 made) limited Freshmen Comic-Con exclusive which also included an autograph ticket that allowed my wife (who is a huge fan) the opportunity to meet Seth and get his autograph and a picture with him. While in line, someone slipped Seth a contraband Buffy item to have autographed. He was told he could not sign it, but he did anyway and slipped it under the table, telling the guy receiving it in front of the table that the eagle has landed. Seth, Hugo and the other guys from Top Cow were great and I really look forward to reading this comic series as it sounds like an awesome concept. We then headed back upstairs to Ballroom 20 for the Bones pilot screening and Q&A that included Emily and David Boreanez. I got a few good pictures and took video of the presentation, but the series looks WAY TOO MUCH like CSI to appeal to me. My wife said she might flip to it every now and then due to the fact that there is some hot Asian chick in it. We got Bones pens and bookmarks on the way out. Then, we went out for a bit, ate at the Cine Deli over in the Gaslamp Quarter and wandered back to the Convention Center to stand in line for the Eisner Awards. Joss Whedon was nominated a few times for his work on Astonishing X-Men, as was John Cassaday, who is a tremendously talented artist that we had first met at Wondercon in San Francisco. Joss was also a presenter, so we HAD TO be there to see him on stage. Turns out that while my wife was taking a picture of a window, Joss just walks on by. I tried to get her attention and she took a really bad picture that you can almost make out the back of Joss’s head in, but that was not so great. We were excited that he was there, and things got a little strange after that. You see, our place in line was directly in front of the men’s bathroom. Joss wandered back out and into said men’s room. When he came out we asked if he would mind taking pictures with us and had mentioned that we had seen Serenity three times already and hopefully would see it a lot more in the months to come. He mentioned that he’d seen it around 4200 times, and he was finally finished with it. With that, and two great pictures with us, Joss was off and we continued our wait in line. We got in a bit later and took a seat in the corralled off area. Eventually we got front row seats, right behind the tables reserved for guests and presenters. Joss got to present John an award which was cool, but that was the ONLY award that was related to Astonishing X-Men that they won. John definitely deserved the award, and the winners in the other categories did as well, but it would have been nice to see Joss win something for the great comic book he is writing. The main awards ended at like 11:30pm, and we’d projected that we’d need to be back in line for Hall H by 6am to get a good spot for the presentations on Saturday. We rushed to the trolley station and caught the next Orange Line to El Cajon. We ALMOST made it back without incident, but a possibly gang related fight and lots of commotion on the train with some young people caused us to not really arrive back at our hotel til around 1am, finally falling asleep around 2, and waking up again at GRR ARGH 4am.

Saturday morning at 6:24am we arrived in line for Hall H. We were already a good hundred back in line, but close enough to the door. We got food (deluxe lunchables and a bunch of snack cakes) from the AM PM across from our hotel at around 1am before we retired early Saturday morning. We brought our travel chairs that we sometimes use for concerts. We were prepared for a long haul marathon wait. Then they let us in around 9. It was an hour and a half earlier than the day before, but I’m assuming it was justified due to the huge crowd… which were not there for Serenity. No, this is Comic-Con, and the first film they were going to preview was Superman Returns, a Bryan Singer film that is being filmed in Australia right now. Mr. Singer, famous for such films as X-Men and X-Men 2, and I guess soon to be famous for a remake of Logan’s Run and a sequel to the first Superman film from 1978, even though there were already three sequels to that film, flew in from Australia just for the panel. Due to the long flight, he was a bit incoherent, calling Superman Jor-El, instead of Kal-El. Upsetting comics geeks and almost causing them to turn on him with their bloodthirsty tendencies. Fortunately he had some extra ammunition, a strung together, not final preview teaser for the film, which was apparently made on a new digital camera called Genesis. Which according to some geek behind me records everything to a computer chip, but I’m thinking it is more likely that it is hard drive or tape based. The footage looks like any other footage taped for a Superman movie. It actually was kind of boring, but to these huge comic book fans, it was the holy grail. They asked for it to played again… and probably would have asked for it again as well had time permitted. The person who opened the door in the middle of the presentation was almost lynched, they wanted more… but they weren’t getting any more. Not until next year, when the preview says you should look up in the sky. Up next, some dude named Pablo who did special effects for War of the Worlds to kill time. He showed a clip from the film, which most of the audience had already seen. He discussed a bit about the special effects and how great Steven Speilberg was to work with and then he was ushered off the stage for the Aeon Flux panel. Peter Chung, some dude from MTV films, the producer, the director, some elf from Lord of the Rings that is playing Trevor Goodchild and the papparazi’s own darling, Charlize Theron came out on stage to a large amount of flashbulbs directed in Charlize’s direction and some of the most god-awful questions I’ve ever heard asked. Someone was so lame as to start out her question in a very politically motivated, feed the hungry, unite the world, we need peace sort of way, which is something Charlize knows a lot about, as she is an ambassador for South Africa, and then end the question, so in this world, we’re all wondering, where did you get that beautiful dress? To which Charlize answered, uh, it is not a dress, it is pants. Then the girl’s cell phone rang and it was her mom, who she then asked Charlize to say “Hi mom” and Charlize did it… sadly. The preview footage and making of features they showed were pretty good and I’m anticipating a good action film in the fall. Sadly Peter Chung, who created Aeon Flux, didn’t get to say much because everyone was there to photograph and ask shitty questions of Charlize. Up next was Kevin Smith. First question was some guy who wanted Kevin to watch his DVD (at the end he actually gave Kevin a second DVD to watch as well). Then someone saying how great Kevin’s films are. Some chick who said Clerks cured her stroke or some other crap like that. Then came the Jesus question. See, Kevin’s latest project is the sequel to Clerks. Clerks 2: The Passion of the Clerks shows Dante and Randall ten years later. It has nothing to do with some other movie with a similar title, but that similar title is giving Kevin a lot of press. Press which Kevin says, is always a good thing. He went on to say that the movie has nothing to do with that other movie and if Mel Gibson sues, won’t end up having a title similar in the end anyway. He started to talk about how he didn’t understand why people would want to pay money to watch people beat up and then eventually kill Jesus. Then, the person in the wheelchair two seats away from me started yelling, obnoxiously “He died for your sins Kevin!” over and over. Kevin said “I know he died for my sins. I love Jesus. In fact, I love him even more than you do motherfucker.” Then Kevin described how he would do a parody of The Passion of the Christ. “I’d start out with the crucifiction. Then, two ninjas would swing in, dressed in black with uzis and they would pry the nails out of Jesus’s hands. Jesus would be like ‘but I’m supposed to die’ and one of the ninjas would say ‘Not on my watch’. and people would be like ‘is this really how it happened?’ and ‘that wasn’t in the bible… or was it?’ and then the ninjas would pull of their hoods to reveal…. Jay and Silent Bob.” Kevin showed a clip from his guest appearance on Degrassi. Later on he brought out that Donnie Darko dude and they showed a very very brief teaser for Southland Tales that involved two trucks fucking. That pretty much ended the panel. The Browncoat invasion and resultant pissing me off began. You see, we got their at 6:24am. Some of them got their at 1:30pm. They pushed to the front, swarming like vultures to get any open seat they could find. As close to their god Joss as possible. Then their resident videographer took a seat right in front of me, put up his tripod and completely blocked out my almost perfect view of the panel. He was warned a couple of times by security that he could not distribute what he taped, probably due to the fact that he was selling panel discussions “for charity” at the Browncoats fan table. The panel began with a forty minute discussion of the new horror film starring Nathan Fillion called Slither that is also due out this fall. Then, Joss Whedon came out and introduced the cast of Serenity. Except, he forgot poor Jewel Staite. And Alan Tudyk was busy doing Spamalot on Broadway. But eight of the nine primary cast members were there. They got to the questions, which were also all pretty lame. One involved how they would want their characters to die. The one person on the panel whose character does die in the film answered very professionally and didn’t give away anything. Someone asked Joss if he could give some magic words to the fans of the Angel role playing games, to which Joss had no clue how to respond and deferred the question to Sean Maher. Nathan Fillion revealed that he had something important to tell us all. He had good news, he’d just saved a bunch of money by switching to Geico. Gina Torres let us know that because she had become famous, she doesn’t have to pay late fees anymore at Blockbuster. Adam Baldwin continually thanked the fans for putting their family back together one more time. They showed a clip from the finished film, which is a part where River kicks a lot of ass in a barfight that she starts. And they quickly ran out of time. It wasn’t a very good panel, and they didn’t tell us anything. We learned more about the status of the film with our thirty second conversation with Joss on Friday night. It was a bit of a disappointment, but we’ve now seen all of the cast members of Serenity in person, live, and were in the same room with them. That’s a pretty cool feeling. We left quickly after the Serenity panel, for we had a concert engagement in Hollywood at Golden Bridge Yoga to get to. Donna Delory and her latest incarnation of her band (which sadly no longer includes Cameron Stone on cello, but now includes Jeremy Toback, who I’ve listened to for many many years as a part of Brad, 23 and his own solo work, Mark Gorman and some drummer I’ve never heard of) took the stage at around 8:20 and played a great set. Donna seemed very happy with the response she got from the crowd. We passed along a few photos we made from the video we took at her solo Palo Alto show and took off for the lengthy drive back to El Cajon. Somehow my wife got us back to the hotel in one piece and we passed out at around 1am. A 21 hour day with 2 hours of sleep, but again, all worth it.

Sunday morning, we woke up at a somewhat normal time of 8am. We got ready and headed back to the Convention Center for the final day of Comic-Con. We started out our day at the Margaret Weis Games Serenity RPG discussion. They were planning to give us some sample pages from the Serenity RPG core rulebook which is due out in late August. Unfortunately, they lost the portfolio that included that information on a trolley the day before. They also couldn’t do a digital multimedia presentation (which equals out to showing stuff on a screen at the front of the room) because they didn’t coordinate it with the Comic-Con. The graphics designer for the book and game, 11th hour, who sells Firefly related fanmade memorabilia on the internet, was a bit late in arriving. But Jamie Chambers and Margaret Weis went over the basic concepts of the game and the graphics designer showed up with some mockup pages and we got to see those and overall had a much better Serenity-related discussion than we had at the actual Serenity panel. Later in the day, we saw Margaret at her fan table and found out that her and Jamie first got into Firefly by watching a pirated version of the Pilot for the series that Jamie bought somewhere. She said she was very thankful for that because of the way Fox showed the show out of order. She felt that her and Jamie had a much better understanding of the show because they had seen the pilot first, instead of last the way Fox presented it. She was surprised that they got the license for the game but seems very happy to be a part of all of it. Wonderful person and I really look forward to buying the game from serenityrpg.com in early August. Next, we went to the floor and discovered that the Browncoats table had a new movie poster, and some Serenity cds that hadn’t been there a couple of days prior. Turns out the movie poster was pretty rare and shows a gun in River’s hand that won’t be on the final version of the poster. We grabbed the cd, but there were no posters to be had. We were a bit peeved. How could Universal give out promo crap for the movie we were there for, but not give us any? We ran off in search of the poster. We turned up nothing. We gave up for a bit after the freebie table showed nothing new, and went to the Threshold panel to see Brent Spiner. It was taking a VERY LONG time and we were antsy about the poster. So we went to Fed Ex/Kinko’s after a brief stop at the Universal Mastercard booth, in hopes that someone would be selling the poster “Buy it Now” on eBay. Oops, no internet at Fed Ex/Kinko’s. AHHHHHH. We were frustrated. We went back to the Exhibit Hall and got more Aeon Flux stuff from their booth. We had also gotten some cool Threshold hats and shirts from that booth on Friday that I forgot to mention. The logo for the show has a lot of promise, but I don’t know what the show is like because we left that panel. Then, we were walking along and who should be right in front of us… Joss Whedon. So I asked him directly “Where did the poster come from?” and he explained that it was a proof and that he had a few and gave them to the browncoats table. He was a bit upset that we stopped him, and after my wife took a quick photo with him with his backpack on, we were on our seperate ways again. At least we could stop looking for a poster there was no way we would find. We went upstairs after we met the guy who interviewed Mark Danielewski for Rue Morgue and took his picture with the issue he interviewed Mark in, and after stopping by and having the quick conversation with Margaret Weis I mentioned earlier. We went to the Browncoats meeting/raffle and proceeded to not win anything. There were some great prizes and they made around $12000 unofficially for Equality Now, which is a charity that is a favorite of the Whedonverse. Keith R.A. Decandido, the author of the novelisation confirmed that the proof artwork would be the artwork for the cover of the novel, which made us feel even better, as we weren’t missing out on the artwork by not winning the poster in the raffle. They weren’t done with the raffle and had to leave the room, so they went off to their booth to finish their raffle, and we went in search of the demo of the Serenity roleplaying game that was going on elsewhere. We never found it and went back for one last stroll through the exhibit hall, where we discovered Julie Benz and Jonathan Woodward were signing. Jonathan was there because Mark Lutz, George Hertzberg and Mercedes McNab all had sudden work that came up, and he had none for the weekend. He’s a great person to talk with. We took his picture with the giant Mercedes McNab poster and got some cash at the ATM. We went back and bought autographs from Julie and Jonathan and then talked with him a bit about Serenity. He said that we had opened our Christmas presents early by seeing the film early and he didn’t want to ruin the experience for himself, but he’d be seeing it on opening night. He showed us some pretty dirty artwork that Shel Silverstein had done and signed a Firefly still for us. He asked if we would be going to the Booster Events Flanvention in December and we remarked that it was a bit too expensive, but it was really cool that he asked us if we were going. It was another great moment and with that we decided to end our convention experience, rather than the end being some crappy line somewhere. We headed out to the Gaslamp and ate an amazing Mexican food meal, that included little egg roll like items filled with beans, chipotle salsa, chicken, corn and other tasty stuff, some taquitos, some nachos with beans and some chicken wings. I drank A LOT of iced tea. My wife drank a lot of lemonade and it was a great meal. If ever in the Gaslamp, check out Fred’s Mexican. You’ll be glad you did. And their slogan is literally “You can’t beat our meat!” and they have the trademark reserved, so uh, Rockstar Games could SO get sued by them and lose. We headed back on the trolley and took a brief potty break at Cold Stone Creamery in Lemon Grove. We had some Apple Pie a la Coldstone and my wife had to go to Food 4 Less to use their restroom. Then we headed back to the hotel.

We woke up Monday morning at 7am, which is our normal start time to the day. We left at around 8 and while I’m writing this it is around 2:30 and we’re on I-5 melting in the intense heat. It is 112 degrees here. We stopped at a rest area pre-Los Angeles and it was only 96 there. We stopped at Wendy’s in Valencia and it was 100. Now, we’re a good 230 miles from home still, and it is really fucking hot. Thank Chevy for air conditioning!

In all, we waited through 17 lines at Comic-Con. The Hall H experience was one I’d never like to relive. Some of the people were the rudest and most selfish people in the world. Some of the people were great fans and some of the people that were celebreties were great fans of the other celebreties. It was a great time and something I’m very glad to have been a part of. But, in the same light, I don’t think it’ll be something we’ll do again anytime soon. Comic-Con 2005 is over. Now, bring on September and Serenity.

– I forgot about two He-Man and the Masters of the Universe panels, mainly because they both sucked. The first, Thursday after the Ren and Stimpy panel, included the Scheimer family. The second, Friday between Seth Green and Bones, was supposed to also include J. Michael Strasynski, but he no-showed. All in all, both were rather boring and dry.

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