Viewpoints goes to Comic-Con

By Stephanie Holland

(Khai Le)

By Stephanie Holland

If you’re surrounded by stormtroopers and Klingons, and you’ve been waiting in line overnight just to get a glimpse at the “Watchmen” trailer, then you must be at Comic-Con International.

Held every year during the last weekend in July, Comic-Con is the world’s largest comic book convention. However, the Con is about more than just comic books now. Movie studios and television networks bring their most important projects to San Diego. The crowds at Comic-Con are considered their most important critics, because their reviews can either catapult a show to success or tank a movie before it even gets off the ground.

Comic-Con 2008 featured some of the most popular people from the pop culture world. The most anticipated panels included the cast of “Heroes,” a preview of the movie “Twilight” and a first look at footage from “The Spirit.”

For the event the San Diego convention center is split into two sections. Downstairs is the massive exhibit hall which has booths from every major TV network, movie studio and comic book publisher. Also on display are video games, toymakers and classic franchises like “Star Wars,” and “Stargate.”

Upstairs fans are treated to question and answer sessions with their favorite stars. These panels often include spoilers and exclusive footage. For the most popular panels attendees often arrive several hours early and wait in ridiculously long lines. To the outside world the amount of time spent waiting in lines may seem like a waste of time, but for comic book nerds the time means nothing compared to secrets that will be revealed.

The hot ticket this year was the “Heroes” panel which was attended by the entire cast. Fans slept overnight in front of the convention center just to get a glimpse of their favorite actors. Their devotion was rewarded with a special viewing of the season three premiere. Spoilers included the identity of Nathan’s shooter, the resurrection of Niki/Jessica and the fact that Mohinder now has powers.

Another fan favorite was the appearance of the cast of “Twilight.” The film is based on Stephenie Meyer’s popular book series about a vampire family and the love story that blossoms between the two leads. “Twilight” fans are known for their devotion to the characters and they showed up in droves to meet the actors who would finally bring the story to the big screen. Many of them showed up dressed in costume and carrying well-read copies of the books.

Making its first Comic-Con appearance was the British sci-fi franchise “Doctor Who” and “Torchwood.” Executive Producers Steven Moffat and Julie Gardner offered insights into classic episodes and scenes, while being careful not to reveal spoilers about the upcoming season. They were then joined on stage by “Torchwood” stars John Barrowman, Gareth David-Lloyd and Naoko Mori. They discussed the previous season’s heartbreaking finale and their appearance on the “Doctor Who” season finale. Fans began lining up at 4:30 am and they were rewarded with a surprise serenade by Barrowman and Mori.

Friday at Comic-Con is always “Star Wars” day, and that means the force is with you at every turn. Stormtroopers and Jedis battle on the hall floor, Darth Vader and Boba Fett hunt Han Solo and there are countless Princess Leia’s in the gold bikini. There was also a “Star Wars” panel that previewed the new video game “Star Wars: The Force Unleashed” and the new movie and TV series “Star Wars: The Clone Wars.” “Force Unleashed” allows fans to play as Darth Vader and reveals the story of Vader’s secret apprentice. There is no greater feeling than being in a room full of “Star Wars” nerds when that famous music starts.

A Comic-Con staple is the Friday night Q & A by director and comic book fan Kevin Smith. This year he was promoting his new movie “Zack and Miri Make a Porno.” His session included the film’s stars Seth Rogen, Elizabeth Banks and Jason Mewes. Smith screened a hilarious clip from the movie and then had one of his unique lectures where he discussed everything from crazy fans to longtime producer Scott Mosier’s camper van. Smith started off by asking if anyone would be willing to give him their free Wonder Woman tote bag. This piece of marketing merchandise had been one of the most sought after items of the weekend and Warner Bros. quickly ran out.

One of the most exciting parts about attending Comic-Con is all the free swag that companies hand out. Warner Bros. gave out oversized tote bags, Fox gave away poster tubes and free comic books and posters could be found at almost every booth.

The exhibit hall also has vendors selling out of print comics and collectible figures that are often classified as Comic-Con exclusives. Another advantage of walking the hall floor is the chance to run in to your favorite pop culture personality. Celebrities found signing autographs included cult hero Bruce Campbell, My Chemical Romance lead singer Gerard Way and original Hulk Lou Ferrigno.

The hall floor is also the best place to spot fans dressed as their favorite characters. With the success of “The Dark Knight” you couldn’t throw a stick without hitting someone dressed as the Joker. The classics never go out of style so there are always plenty of “Star Trek” and “Star Wars” costumes to be found. Newer favorites like the “Ghostbusters” and “Battlestar Galactica” were also represented.

While hardcore Comic-Con fans may bristle at the crossover success of the show, everyone attending can agree that it still represents a place for outcasts and artists to be themselves without fear of how the outside world will perceive them.

(Khai Le)