Monday, October 11, 2010

Dispatches From New York Comic Con 2010- Day Three: "Hail to the king, baby."

My experience on the third day of New York Comic Con was much shorter than the previous two for a number of reasons. First of all, there were fewer things scheduled, there was just less to do. Also, after forty-eight hours packed to the brim with comic conning (not to mention writing these reports and doing my other work for this site, oh and I sleep sometimes as well) I was about as exhausted as man who regularly sleeps until noon could get. Therefore I welcomed the reduced schedule on "Kids' Day" at the con.

However, what the events of the day lacked in number they more then made up for in intensity.

I'll proceed out of order for the sake of my art. Sunday marked the highlight of the many panels put on this weekend: AMC's Walking Dead. I made my way towards the IGN Theater with a healthy forty-five minute lead on the scheduled start time, more than enough; I even considered grabbing a coffee first because I didn't want to arrive too early.

Boy oh boy, did that forty-five minutes come in handy. When I came downstairs to the theater's entrance, a massive line had already assembled itself across the lobby and pretty much into the neighboring food court. I found myself a spot at the back that seemed cozy enough and when the line started moving I noticed that we were not going through the theater doors at all, we were advancing down a back hallway and into, of all places, a large loading dock.

This massive, hangar sized room served as a back door of sorts for the theater, used to move people through so they wouldn't disrupt panels currently going on (like The Vampire Diaries which directly proceeded Walking Dead). I had been through before when I went to other panels but I had never seen it full of people. Humans were placed in four separate lines of at least a  hundred-plus people and divided with a shoddy system of portable railings, most of which were promptly knocked over by absent-minded backpacks or the like, causing all sorts of chaos. Eventually, we were led, line-by-line, from one end of the room to the other, weaving our way through the maze of lightweight barriers.

As we made our final wait near the side entrance to the theater, a family of three from New Jersey in full zombie costumes (eleven-year-old boy: zombie Verizon worker, mom: "Miss Zombie 2010". dad: zombie Ash) bickered loudly directly next to me about waiting for too long and how unfair it was.

When we were finally let in (piecemeal), due to my "single" status (I have no friends) I was able to score a fairly primo seat near the front and center of the theater. Soon, the panel began and comic author Robert Kirkman, series producer Gale Anne Hurd, and director Frank Darabont appeared to discuss the project with the moderator. From what I can gather, it sounds great and I remain all the more convinced that Darabont is the perfect man for this job. From the ten minutes-or-so of footage the crowd was treated to, it seems that the tone of the comics has been nailed perfectly and that this may be a real game changer if it gets the support it deserves (we were reminded of this several times). Much praise was heaped on AMC for taking a chance on a horror series like this one, but that probably had something to do with the AMC bigwigs in the crowd.

Then the cast came out. Something I didn't realize: this show stars the guy from Love, Actually that was in love with Keira Knightley and held those cards at her doorstep. Picture him getting ready to kill a zombie: "To me you are dead!" *blam!* Also, half of the Boondock Saints is in this, playing an original character not in the comics. Get this, he plays a man who goes around killing zombies with his brother. Seriously.

As good as Walking Dead was, the highlight of the day was a meeting with one of my screen idols: Mr. Bruce Campbell. I had struggled with the possibility of ignoring this opportunity: tickets to get in his autograph line ran a pretty steep price, roughly equal to the price of a ticket to the con itself (this is common practice for the more popular con appearances). Ultimately, I decided since I was getting into the con itself for free due to my awesome press pass, it was a sacrifice I could make.

Bruce was signing autographs every day of the con, so his line was relatively small as it was spread out over three days. I was astounded at the procedures for high profile celebrity signings: Bruce's personal assistant walked up the line, approving the items to be signed (Dynamite Comics titles were verboten, bad blood there I guess) and handing out post-it notes for the recipient's name so there were no spelling errors. I brought along my copy of the immortal classic Army of Darkness. I had contemplated bringing my copy of the immortal classic Congo, how often must he see that? (Answer: probably pretty often.) But in the end, Army of Darkness is nearer and dearer to my heart. My "Senior Memories" page in my high school yearbook featured mostly names of friends and plays I had been in and "Army of Darkness".

I was finally at the front of the line and there he was, with his white tuxedo and old timey men's magazine good looks. I came towards him and shook hands. "Hi!" he said. "Hello, Bruce!" I said, starstruck. Shit! Should I have said "Mr. Campbell?" We immediately turned around and a con employee took our picture with my camera phone. The end result was a little blurry, but it's immortalized on the internet now so my grandchildren can enjoy it.

We made some small talk about our common Midwestern origins and my reason for moving to New York. I told him about my improv "career" and he wished me luck. He probably didn't see much of his younger self, the hungry young actor in me (mostly because I have the kind of physique that suggests my hunger has been recently sated) but I like to think that he did. He signed my DVD, I said thank you, and  then we went our separate ways.

This (Blurry) Photograph Is Proof
Bruce Campbell is something of an inspiration, or at least a personal favorite. He launched a successful career as a cult icon by making goofy movies with his friends from high school and he never found fame and fortune by "selling out" or doing something respectable and mainstream. He lives the geek dream in some sort of way, and that's what a comic con is all about: the dream that we can indulge in silly genre fare for the rest of our lives.