Sunday, October 10, 2010

Dispatches From New York Comic Con 2010- Day Two: Long Lines, Heartbreak, and Synergy

I rose bright and early Saturday morning, ready to face the trials and tribulations of another day at New York Comic Con. After a long ride to Midtown Manhattan on the 2 Train, I emerged on 34th Street and made my way to a confounding sight: there were a lot more people this time.

Owing to the fact that most people work/attend school on Fridays and not Saturdays, the Javits Center was packed to the brim with humanity. A line stretched down the block as far as the eye could see. Worthy volunteers corralled and bally-hooed the crowd into some semblance of order and instructed attendees with weekend passes to avoid the colossal line and make their way to the main entrance. Being a credentialed member of the fourth estate, I advanced passed the great unwashed and entered to yet another huge crowd inside.

I was in a bind. I had arrived just in time to catch James Franco and Danny McBride speaking on a panel to promote their upcoming medieval(!) stoner comedy Your Highness in the IGN Theater at 10:30, but I also desperately wanted to visit the Venture Bros. signing event. I figured, with the event beginning at 11:00, the con having been underway for less than an hour, and with so many people still waiting outside to pick up their tickets, I had a pretty good chance to get a good spot in line.

I was very wrong.

By the time I got to the line to the Publick/Hammer signing, it was stretching down the long, long hallway. Tickets were being handed out to ensure that the Venture Bros. creators finished within the hour so the next signing at the table could proceed as scheduled. This limited number of tickets ensured that the back half of the line, of which I was just barely a part of, would not get a chance to meet Jackson Publick and Doc Hammer. I, and many of my new comrades in defeat, decided to tough it out and hope that a sufficient number of ticket-holders would walk away for some reason and cause us to move up in line. It was all for naught though, and I ended up walking away a broken man.

It turned out okay though: I got Michael Sinterniklaas, the voice of Dean Venture- my favorite character, to sign my copy of the first season DVD later in the day. Go, Team Venture!

My next object of business was to catch a panel with the cast and crew of the upcoming The Thing prequel. I was interested in this for a couple of reasons: first of all, I really like the original movie, and second I have a big ol' crush on it's star, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, and with absolutely no promises of her appearance at the panel, I dove in head first.

I was heartbroken to discover that Ms. Winstead could not attend because she was getting married that very day to a man that was neither me nor my second choice for her husband, Michael Cera.

"Do you see this, Boivin? You will never have this."
Choking back tears, I sat through the panel anyway. We were treated to a never-before-seen teaser trailer (twice) and some comments and questions and answers from the cast, director, and producers. Apparently, they're telling the story from the perspective of the Norwegian camp that the Thing destroys before Kurt Russell finds it at the beginning of  John Carpenter's original movie. Carpenter has also given the film his blessing and a practical effects-centric approach is being used for the titular creature. It all seems to bode well and now I'm really looking forward to it, whereas I had at first been somewhat apprehensive.

Most important of all, Mary Elizabeth Winstead plays a sexy, globetrotting PALEONTOLOGIST in this movie. I just bought five tickets to the midnight show.

I stuck around after the Thing panel for a session with "The Women of Battlestar Galactica": Tricia Hefler (Six), Katee Sackhoff (Starbuck), Nicki Clyne (Cally), and Michelle Forbes (Admiral Cain). They talked about their experiences on the show, the impact of the Galactica's strong female roles, and their upcoming projects. During the Q&A, I considered getting up and telling Katee Sackhoff that I thought she single-handedly ruined the final season of 24 but that at least her character had a sweet death. In the end though, cooler heads prevailed.

The end of my second day consisted of two back-to-back video game panels; two back-to-back Disney video game panels. The first was for the upcoming slate of Tron tie-in games. Disney is pulling out all the stops in anticipation of December's sweet-looking Tron: Legacy. There's a whole series of games across every conceivable platform that mean to fill in the nearly thirty years between the upcoming sequel and the original film. There's also going to be a "graphic novel" (that means comic book) telling even more of the story that will be probably be explained by Jeff Bridges in a short burst of exposition. During most of the presentation, a Powerpoint presentation merely showed Bridges' character Flynn's gaze locked on we the audience with the gigantic words "BRAND SYNERGY" inscribed above him. I had to laugh a little at that.

Immediately following Tron came Epic Mickey, Disney's other big push into the video game market. This one (like Tron) also looks pretty cool and it's being done by Warren Spector, who was on hand to present his work. We were treated to the opening seven minute(!) video, which is almost entirely without spoken words and is intentionally reminiscent of an old timey Mickey Mouse cartoon and Mickey's "older brother" who serves as a partial antagonist for the game. The game also features the return of Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, Walt Disney's original, pre-Mickey character. Epic Mickey seems to have the makings of a real quality platformer, but I wish they'd drop the name. It's just silly, though I hate the word "epic" when it isn't referring to a long, heroic poem.

Something that bugged me slightly about the Disney segment of the journey was both games'/properties' promotion of a tie-in "graphic novel" (that means comic book).
Tron: Evolution and Epic Mickey both have promised to have a sequential literature accompaniment to their games: Tron's called Tron: Betrayal is set between the first movie and the game, which is set before the second movie: a prequel to the sequel to the prequel which is therefore a sequel. Epic Mickey has a series of "digicomics" that can be downloaded to one's iPad/Pod (and will eventually be published in print at some unspecified date) that both flesh out the backstory to Oswald the Lucky Rabbit (spoiler alert: he's a cartoon) and also retell the game's story. The issue I had (yuck, yuck) was that Spector seemed overly joyful about a 64-page comic book summarizing the plot of a 24-hour game.

We talk alot on this blog about "games as art" but I sometimes worry about my beloved comics. I've spent a lifetime defending comics as a legitimate art form, even though I revel in some of their less-than-highbrow excesses (i.e. superheroes). But now we have people trying to make games into a legitimate storytelling device (which I believe they very much are), and comics are being made to serve games' ends. When someone asked Spector if playing the game was necessary alongside reading the comic of
Epic Mickey, he responded (I'm paraphrasing here) "Of course!" The same goes for Tron: the comic is a bald-faced advertisement for the movie and the video game, also an advertisement for the movie.

All I'm asking is for comics to be used for these "brands" (I hate using that word in this scenario) in a way that doesn't serve the sole purpose of getting their readers to spend more money. Why read a crapy comic book when I can play a good game? This
is a comic con, after all.

Come back tomorrow for the final day of New York Comic Con!
P.S. Fun story: Gawker used some of my photos from the con floor to document the whereabout of notorious ursine child molester Pedobear. Check it out!