Comic-Con 2012 :: A Geek’s Wet Dream

by Kevin Taft

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Monday July 23, 2012

Well the four-day cluster of Comic-Con has ended and the Geeks of the world can now go back to their lives fresh with the knowledge of a hundred-thousand nerdy things they will attempt to share with deaf ears everywhere.

I jest, because I too am one of these geeks. But unless you understand and connect with this community, the joys of Comic-Con can be lost on you. For those of us that love all things sci-fi, adventure, fantasy, superheroes, gaming, and yes, even comic-books, Comic-Con is like Christmas and the Second Coming all wrapped up into one bright shining, if not crowded, package.

I've been to Comic-Con in the past, once about twelve years ago where there were a few panels and an exhibition room you could a) easily walk through, and b) took about two hours to traverse. Two years ago I returned, this time in its new home at the San Diego Convention Center where throngs of people from all walks of life converge en masse to celebrate all things nerdy.

The Holy Grail for movie fans

It has become a four-day festival that is the Holy Grail of learning about new films and TV shows before their trailers or production specifics are released to the common folk. It has also become a marketing juggernaut for production companies and studios looking to get their target audiences excited for their upcoming release slate.

This year alone stars from both behind and in front of the camera brought their A-games. Director Peter Jackson brought ten minutes of footage from "The Hobbit" to wow audiences chomping at the bit for the prequel to the "Lord of the Rings" franchise. Director Gareth Edwards stunned audiences with a first look at his new, more serious, take on "Godzilla," and Guillermo Del Toro revealed the trailer for his sci-fi big robot vs. giant creatures epic "Pacific Rim."

Casts of many films and TV shows graced San Diego with their presence. The casts of "OZ: The Great and Powerful" and "Iron Man 3" held court, along with the ensembles of TV shows like "The Big Bang Theory" and "Fringe."

But if you don't have the patience to wait in line for one of these panels (sometimes you have to queue up hours, even days beforehand, especially for panels like "Twilight" and "The Hobbit"), you are guaranteed to run into some of your favorite TV and film stars just by wandering the floor of the massive Exhibition Hall.

Speaking of the Exhibition Hall, this is the place to go for anything you might want to see or buy that reflects whatever you are passionate about. It's also a place for artists and creative professionals to tout their wares and creations whether they are their own art or self-published books.

Times have changed

For example, graphic artist Russell Walks had his own corner set up where he displayed his original creations featuring characters from all sorts of film and television, such as a "fight poster" pitting Battlestar Galactica's Kara Thrace against Cylon Number 6. There was also a fake album cover for "Scott Pilgrim Saves the World" complete with fake song titles that fit the humor of the film.

But the most lovely of his creations were retro-style posters of the first two "Star Wars" films: "A New Hope" and "The Empire Strikes Back." You can check them out at his website.

Fave t-shirt

T-shirts are also plentiful with mass produced items and more personalized and humorous versions like those at Nerd Kung Fu, which featured clever word plays on different movies and shows such as "Firefly" and "Star Wars."

My favorite was a t-shirt with hottie Tahmoh Penikett who played Helo on "Battlestar Galactica" that said "You had me at Helo."

Studios representing film, television, and gaming were set up in bulk at one end of the Hall promoting everything from upcoming films (Summit's "The Perks of Being a Wallflower" and the Ethan Hawke-starrer "Sinister"), to shows like "The Walking Dead," the upcoming sit-com "The Neighbors," and "Spartacus," where cast members were on hand for photos and autographs.

Times have changed

Speaking of autographs, in 1984 I met Mark Hamill (twice) outside of a theater he was appearing at in Connecticut. I not only got his autograph then, but he also sent me one personally after I handed him something I was working on. (Embarrassing, I know.) The point being, he was on hand for autographs and picture taking at Comic-Con at a price of $120! My how times have changed.

Throughout the weekend there were artist talks, movies playing around the clock in various rooms, costume contests, mixers, and general revelry all to celebrate a type of "interest" that used to be shunned. Today, being kinda' geeky is popular and more "in" than say some Ed Hardy wearing scenester hanging out at the latest club.

The cool factor

Today it's all about the cool factor, and let's be frank: Nerds are kind of cool. In fact, there were so many hot nerds at Comic-Con if a gay were to turn on Grindr his phone would have probably burst into flames from overuse.

The eye-candy alone is worth the leg-numbing walking, standing, and pushing through crowds. The best had to be the guy dressed as the Engineer from "Prometheus."

With a body just as stunning as the "real" body in the film, and with a few make-up enhancements to make his musculature more pronounced, this man was a head-turner.

But that doesn't take away from the Princess Leia's (both male and female), the various superheroes, gaming and cartoon characters, and Disney villains wandering the halls and streets around the convention center.

Letting your freak fly

To some it looks like all sorts of silliness. To those of us that understand, it's a place for us to fit in, to know that the person next to you has a passion just like yours. Whether you like "Star Trek" or "Star Wars," "Halo" or "Super Mario Bros," you will find someone just like you in the crowd.

This is a place where you can let your freak flag fly and not worry about any repercussions. And as many of us are in a community where we are ostracized on a daily basis, it's refreshing to be surrounded by people from all walks of life, all sexual orientations, all ages and interest groups - who come together to just "be."

But that's how a "fan" sees Comic- Con. What about those that attend as part of the panels? The actors and creators that experience the event from the other side - a side where they experience the fandom from the perspective of someone who "has" fans?

Speaking with Katrina Law

I spoke with Katrina Law who appeared as Mira for two seasons on Starz hit series "Spartacus." She was on hand for photos and autographs and got to spend time not only with the fans, but also as an attendee herself.

EDGE: What is it like being a celebrity at Comic-Con? The vibe must be a bit different for you than those that have to schlep through the crowds?

Katrina Law: Whether you are a ticket buyer, vendor, or celebrity at Comic-Con I think it is just an overwhelming experience. This year it was sold out at 125,000 people. So if you were in San Diego, you were most likely in the middle of a crowd one way or another. It's fun being part of the show at Comic-Con. You get to meet the fans that love and support your show. You get to say 'thank you' to the fans in person. When I met Anna Torv from "Fringe," I gotta' tell ya', I was a little star struck.

EDGE: How was the fan interaction?

Katrina Law: The fans at Comic-Con are amazing. This is my second year attending the San Diego Comic-Con and I've ended up having a blast both years. I have a lot of respect for the fans that are willing to fight through crowds, stand in line for hours, and risk complete exhaustion just to be able to see a panel, get an autograph, or buy merchandise. Everyone seems really happy to be there and it is just an infectious vibe.

EDGE: For you, what's the best part of Comic-Con?

Katrina Law: The best part of Comic-Con is getting to see all of the fans dressed up as their favorite comic book heroes. Some people really go all out and the costumes are sometimes just jaw droppingly impressive! I think it's wonderful. If you are going to Comic-Con you might as well go in style!

EDGE: Is this an event you would want to go to even if you weren't a part of it?

Katrina Law: I would! There is so much to do and see that literally an entire weekend is not enough time. My favorite display this year was the Batmobile display. As you can tell, I took full advantage!

EDGE: To you, what makes Comic-Con so special to people?

Katrina Law: I think Comic-Con is so special because it's breaks down the wall between the production and the fans. Fans get to meet their favorite artists, writers, actors and chat one on one with them. And they also get to be surrounded by thousands of enthusiasts that are just as rabid as they are.

A place to be inspired

Which makes me think... as crowded as Comic-Con has become... how pricey... how commercialized... it still means something for those that attend whether one is an exhibitor, creative professional, or simply a fan. And I guess fighting the crowds is ultimately worth it if you can finally just let yourself go and not be ashamed of the things you are passionate about. In a way, it's a place to be cleansed. It's a place to feel joy. It's a place to be inspired.

I can't think of a better place I'd want to be.

Kevin Taft is a screenwriter/critic living in Los Angeles with an unnatural attachment to 'Star Wars' and the desire to be adopted by Steven Spielberg.