The heart of Comic-Con is the exhibition floor — a Superdome-sized space jammed corner-to-corner with artists, retailers and showrooms for studios and toy/collectible manufacturers. Imagine if SXSW lined every musician in one room, and asked them to play simultaneously. That’s Comic-Con.
When the floor reaches critical mass, the crowd is pressed together shoulder-to-shoulder, shuffling through like penguins on a death march. It doesn’t take long to become visually overwhelmed, and I’d find myself looking at a display and wondering “Is this new or have I been in this aisle before?”.
With the events of the past two days organically mushing together in my mind, I’ll file the sights, sounds and smells (Con-funk) of Saturday and Sunday as a single report.
With the lion’s-share of attention given to the movie studios, it’s a nice surprise to find actual comic books at Comic-Con, with vendors selling both comics and original art from giants such as Kirby, Ditko, Adams and Byrne — a nerd Louvre, if you will.
I stared in disbelief into a display cabinet, a copy of the holy grail before me. There are around 50 known copies of Action Comics #1 (the first appearance of Superman) in existence, and here was one inches from my face.
A gentleman not unlike Willy Wonka (hat, wild hair, amped demeanor) raced up and demanded the issue, and the man at the booth pulled out a key, unlocked the case and handed it over to it’s owner. He turned, looked at me and said “You look like you’d like to hold it!”, and I replied “I would!”
Wonka pulled the issue out of it’s bullet-proof sleeve and put it in my hands — he insisted on taking my picture of me with it using my phone, then pressed into the throng, a million-dollar comic under his arm, leaving me wondering what had just happened.
My secret shame is a basement full of Star War action figures, so it was a thrill to meet long-time toy designer Mark Boudreaux at the Hasbro Toy pavilion (Mark engineered the original Millennium Falcon toy, the centerpiece of the Sears Christmas Wish Book). I asked him to tell me ‘the story of the fingertips’, and he enthusiastically recounted the tale of his boss returning from Star Wars filming back in the 70s.
Star Wars was a natural for a toy line, but there was a problem — action figures were as large as GI Joe or Barbie, and an X-Wing fighter to fit a Joe-sized Skywalker would fill a living room. When asked how big a Star Wars figure should then be, Mark’s boss held out an outstretched hand, forefinger and thumb stretched apart. A ruler was found and the gap was measured — three and three-quarters inches, and at that moment a new industry standard was created. GEEKGASM!
We sat in on the 75th Anniversary of Wonder Woman panel — I was looking forward to a retrospective, with time spent on the curious story of the character’s creator, William Marston. Some think Wonder Woman is based on an amalgamation of both Marston’s wife and his mistress, who all lived under the same roof and raised their combined four children as a single household unit. To add more oddity to the tale, Marston is the inventor of the lie detector machine.
The panel instead turned into a cheerleading session for the upcoming Wonder Woman film, with director and star present. Initially exciting, the conversation confirmed Wonder Woman is amazing, filming the movie was awesome, and everything is amazingly awesome. That serves as a summary for most Comic-con panels discussing upcoming projects.
Our kid grew up a fan of Squidward, Plankton and title character Spongebob Squarepants, so I queued up early for a ticket for a poster signing by the cast. Unlike the assembly-line Stan Lee experience, Tom Kenney (Spongebob) and Bill Faggerbakke (Patrick) wanted to hear all about our kid’s adventures in Panama with the Peace Corps, and filmed a video greeting for him in character. And Tom (also the voice of Ice King in ‘Adventure Time’) and I somehow got into a conversation about our favorite Howard the Duck artists. It’s great when talented people turn out to be cool dudes and are generous with their time.
Other memorable moments had no star power. A big mental hug to the woman to whom we spoke who had lined up to see a Conan O’Brien taping at 6:00, 5:00 and 4:00 am, to be shut out all three days.
And a discussion with the young man who donned a foot brace in the wee hours of each morning to get handicapped-accessible queuing, allowing him to be first in line to purchase each day’s coveted collectibles. Those are all surely on ebay as we speak.
Celebrities sighted: 25
Pokemon caught: 0
Mai-tai’s consumed at the Bali H’ai, America’s foremost tiki bar: 2 and one-half.
Now, back to Nebraska. Please turn down the thermostat before we get there.