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Comic-Con: From the Floor
by Mike Thomas

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This pretty much says it all

This pretty much says it all

The San Diego bay area is one of the prettiest areas in the country. On it's shores families picnic, bask in the glorious San Diego sunshine, and take in the sights, like the private sailboats lazily gliding down the Bay or the giant aircraft carrier-museum USS Midway.

But on the last weekend in July, the beauty of the Bay Area could for all intents and purposes have been as non-existent as a J.J. Abrams' teaser trailer that made sense, as a hundred thousand-plus comic book artists, writers, and pop culture fans converged on the San Diego Convention Center to attend the 2010 Comic-Con, the largest comic book convention in the world.

One hundred and Twenty-Six Thousand people came for this four-day convention. To understand the sheer size of that number, the equivalent of the population of Waco, Texas was in attendance for this event. In reality, "Comic-Con" is a misnomer; this event has evolved into the pop-culture/premier movie convention for the public. High-profile movie studios haul out their high-profile stars to meet with fans, sign autographs, and hawk their newest project, video game, and just have a massive love-fest for the public.

I had the opportunity to attend the Saturday and Sunday dates for the Con. I would have gone for the whole event, but Comic-Con is a victim of it's own success. By the time I purchased my tickets - in November of 2009 - the full four-days passes had already been sold out. However, making lemonade from lemons, the Saturday schedule is the busiest day during the Con. I got the opportunity to see Ryan Reynolds sign autographs for his upcoming movie, GREEN LANTERN, and touch some of the props that will be used in his movie, like the "body" of Abin Sur, the alien who passed the Green Lantern power ring to Hal Jordan. Chris Evans was on hand to promote his new movie, CAPTAIN AMERICA, the FIRST AVENGER. I got to see sets, like the throne room of Odin of Asgard for Marvel Production's THOR, and the Black Beauty for the Seth Rogen adventure, The GREEN HORNET.
Star Trek, Star Wars, Star Gazing - you name it!

Star Trek, Star Wars, Star Gazing - you name it!
Many of the photos from these events can be seen HERE.

Aside from next year's blockbusters, the gaming industry was also out in full force, promoting their upcoming games. LucasArts brought their lavish production stage to showcase their latest game, "The Power of the Force II," as well as Season 3 of The CLONE WARS. Gamers were awe-struck at the detail in the game trailer. An entire section of the convention floor was dedicated to video gaming industry, as eager fans got the opportunity to try out the latest games. In addition to new games, the Marriott Hotel, the headquarters/hotel for Comic-Con was host to several rooms of RPG players. I'm embarrassed to say I didn't have a clue what games were conducted, but the action in the rooms was animated.

The Comic-Con floor was divided, by chance or by design, into two separate halves. On one half was the high-profile movie studios with their high powered movie stars hawking their latest movie projects, while the other half, the almost-deserted half by comparison, was where the hard-core comic book fans had their booths. Though busy, there was a marked difference in traffic on the comic book half of the floor. On Sunday, the high-profile movie studios took their high-profile stars back to Hollywood, giving the convention back to the actual comic book fans. Business was very brisk, as hundreds of dealers were selling and trading comic books, graphics novels and original works. Budding comic book writers and artists got an opportunity to show and discuss their work with established professionals in the field.

The other main attraction of the comic book half was the merchandising. If you wanted an action figure of Bobba Fett, you could get it here. If you wanted a replica prop from BUFFY the VAMPIRE SLAYER, you could get it here. If you wanted an authentic uniform from any of the STAR TREK series, a Wonder Woman hoodie, a DVD of a defunct TV series, a copy of the never-released Roger Corman FANTASTIC FOUR movie, a cologne or perfume inspired by the original STAR TREK series (you could smell like Captain Kirk with a fragrance called Tiberius), or any DVD
Some people were in line at 2 in the morning!

Some people were in line at 2 in the morning!
from the Troma movie studios, this and much, much more was available from the vendor tables. In fact, if it was a comic book, a movie, a TV show or a celebrity, and if you had the money, it could be part of your collection when you left the convention. Though many of the items were for hard-core collectors (a full-scale replica of Captain America's shield went for $400) not everything was a bank account-drainer; many, many items from vendors were very reasonable. A few years ago, I was able to purchase a Mace Windu lightsaber for under $70, and a Bat-a-Rang for about $10. And, of course, the comic books themselves ranged from fifty cents to five hundred dollars (the REALLY expensive comics were on display and not for sale.)

Then there are the costumes. The floor was littered with Supermen, Batmen, Wonder Women, Black Widows, Jedi, Storm Troopers, zombies, and practically every movie or comic book icon from the somewhat familiar (Jessica Rabbit) to the totally obscure (the flight attendants aboard the luxury cruise ship that takes Bruce Willis to Fhlotsin Palace from The FIFTH ELEMENT) were represented. Two observations about the costumers: Number One, most of the guys chose the more iconic costumes, garbing themselves from head to toe in what seemed to be walking saunas (dressed in street clothes, I was sweating like an altar boy at a seminary; I could only imagine what is was like inside a full-blown Darth Vader costume). The women, on the other hand, varied from costumes that were "painted" on, or costumes that didn't have enough fabric for a doily! This was not overlooked by the hundreds of photo takers, as Comic-Con fans would hand their camera to "The Green Hornet" to have him take a picture of them with "Laura Croft."

As mentioned earlier, Comic-Con has become victim of its own success. Lines of people, sometimes numbering into the thousands, would wait for hours just to get in on the more popular panel discussions. One particular panel discussion, for the cast of the Fox TV hit GLEE had a waiting line that stretched the entire length of the
You never know WHO you'll meet at Comic-Con!

You never know WHO you'll meet at Comic-Con!
convention center, roughly the length of a football field, then doubled back around in an equally long line outside the convention. Because of this, there was an unfortunate incident where someone was stabbed with a pen over a seat at panel discussion, the first incident like this in Comic-Con history, to my knowledge (as an epilogue, within an hour of the incident, there was someone dressed as the fan who was stabbed in the eye walking the floor!)

The mood, for the most part, was buoyant and friendly. Even with the immense crowding of the convention center (think of the party scene in Rodney Dangerfield's EASY MONEY, or the street scene in SOYLENT GREEN, and you'll get the picture), people were polite, if not a little pushy. Fans in costumes were ever-so-obliging to stop and have their picture taken, or have their picture taken with you. For most of the autographs sessions, the celebrities actually took the time to talk each fan, and not just get pushed off with a hastily-scribbled autograph. Vendors were more than eager to explain their most obscure pieces of memorabilia, and at Comic-Con, you're likely to see anything. In the "now I've seen everything" department, there was a PIRATES of the CARIBBEAN pirate band playing Cantina Music from STAR WARS, while zombies "danced" - kinda.

If there was one word to sum up the experience that is Comic-Con, it would be Nerd-Vana. Your every sci-fi/gamer/horror fantasy comes to life there, where you can test-play a video game coming out this Christmas, or preview a movie that will be released next summer, or to rub elbows with the legendary Stan Lee, Editor Emeritus of Marvel Comics. For any die-hard pop-culture fan, Comic-Con is Mecca; everyone should make an effort to go to this one-of-a-kind convention at least once in their life.

As a final treat, I did a short video, one of many who were videoing this event, on some of the on-goings at Comic-Con. It can be viewed HERE.

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Science Fiction, Double Feature
Every other Sunday

This column will explore my taste in film. I watch all kinds of movies - all kinds - but likes science fiction/fantasy - action, animated, funny, even stupid. He will speak of his experience and his encounters with science fiction and the way it colors his - and our - everyday life.


Other Columns
Other columns by Mike Thomas:

So Long, Farewell, Auf Wiedersehen, Adieu

Joker Smackdown

Kids in Peril

Twenty Questions with Michael Bonomo

Twenty Questions with Scott Wheeler

All Columns


Mike Thomas
Mike Thomas was introduced to science fiction when he first watched 2001 - A SPACE ODYSSEY, and was hooked ever since. But he doesn't just watch the gee-whiz, gollee-gee special effects. He watches the costumes quirks, evaluates the musical scores, even identifies favorite actors of directors. He collected comic book, but has moved on to weapons: he currently owns the Mj?llnir - the Hammer of Thor, Electra's Ninja Sai's, Mace Windu's Light Saber, and a couple of Batarangs.




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If you have a comment, question, or suggestion, you can send a message to Mike Thomas by clicking here.


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