Harry's San Diego Wrap Up... James Cameron, IRON MAN 2, Park Chan Wook, Peter Jackson, KISS, Radical, Steranko & more!
Published at: July 29, 2009, 5:22 a.m. CST by headgeek
Hey folks, Harry here, back safely in Austin, Tx. After THURSDAY - Comic Con just sort of became non-stop for me.
On Friday, I forgot my Fez in the Hotel Room - and though I had hours to kill - I found myself meeting throngs of folks wanting to take pictures with me, shake my hand and share a few stories. This was quite a bit of fun for the first couple of hours, but after 5 hours, I realized that I hadn't been able to move more than 50-100 ft into the big floor area - and I desperately wanted to shop. I hadn't been to Comic Con in years, part of the reason was the fact that I had an incredibly difficult time just shopping.
I grew up at Conventions. My first San Diego Comic Con was in 1972. My father, Jay Knowles, and my mother, Helen - were regulars on the nationwide convention circuit throughout the seventies and I lived a very gypsy life at conventions. Usually living in the film rooms, being adopted by comic artists or celebrities like Johnny Weismuller and Spanky MacFarland. Folks like Russ Cochron, Bud Plant and Chuck of Mile High Comics were very familiar faces... and remain so.
Running around the dealers room, finding stuff is literally my favorite thing in the world. I absolutely love it. 9 years ago at Comic Con, I wanted to buy a MONSTRO THE WHALE animation drawing, left my table - and it took me 8 hours to return with it to my table. Because, well, I'll never deny someone a photograph, an autograph or a conversation. I can't imagine overtly being rude. It is a privilege to be known or liked in this existence we call life, but there is a trade off. Luckily for me, Saturday allowed me to meet my buying goals. I found a very nice FANTASTIC FOUR #1 to purchase - and a gorgeous window card for the Atom Age classic THEM! Kill one, two take their place!
My first real interaction of the day was on my RADICAL PANEL. There were something like 14 writers/artists on that panel. The good folks at Radical wanted me, inexplicably, to moderate the panel. So in preparation for that, I had them send me everything they'd published in their brief 14 months of existence. It resulted in about a foot of reading to do in the 4 days prior to coming to the con. The big debut of the con for them was Nick Simmons' INCARNATE - which sold out its complete run at Comic Con. But the man I was dying to meet wasn't a new contributor to the world of comics. It was Jim Steranko. JIM STERANKO. The man that made Nick Fury the coolest fucker on the planet. Jim had no way of knowing this, but his cover of Nick in that spacesuit - my parents reproduced as the ceiling of my playhouse - in exacting detail. I used to lay on the floor and dream of a space bound Nick Fury in that lovely bubble helmet!
Meeting Steranko did not at all go as planned. First off, he came up behind me, grabbed my shoulder and turned me around. I was met with a man, shorter than I expected, but that looked like the sort of man that Nick Fury would tell his stories to. He had a flair of mystery and swinging sixties to him. He instantly made me smile! And he apparently knew me and was excited to be meeting me. Which completely blew my mind.
The panel was fun, a little more info-mercial than I would have liked it to have been, but when you have the talent they had up on the panel and a one hour running time - there's not a lot that can be done about the brevity of answers and the time needed to spread it around.
I was especially glad to meet Steve Pugh, whose HOTWIRE quickly became my favorite RADICAL title. Based upon Warren Ellis' story, Pugh adapted the material, painted the comic - and the results are stunning. I'd love to see Kristen Bell as the lead. This is so perfect for her.
ANYWAYS - after that - I again attempted the floor - with no success. But with no real success.
Yoko and I decided to try our luck getting into HALL H for the JAMES CAMERON / PETER JACKSON panel. We got there a little early and we were let into the big STAR WARS panel, which showed glimpses of the second season of CLONE WARS - where the series director told us he'd be attempting to make everything a bit more "intense" and adult. Wanting to chase the dragon of the original trilogy. The scariest part of the preview was a single sketch of a young Han Solo. I'm terrified of that character. It has the potential to further alienate original series lovers' love for STAR WARS as it is today. But I'm hoping for the best. The highlight of the panel to me was the table read of a script for the show - and watching Anthony Daniels perform C3P0 live. That really is the gayest robot ever. And I love him.
When the panel ended, I was kind of amazed just how many people left HALL H, apparently having no desire to see James Cameron and Peter Jackson discuss the future of cinema. It was moderated by a guy at ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY - that kept everything very dry. It was interesting to watch the dynamic between Jim and Peter. Both were fairly depressed about the state of the film industry. From the dropping DVD sales to the dire state of the quality of films hitting screens. The dangers of piracy. The promise of 3D. The love of digital. But when Cameron stated that we are very near to the point in which the epics, like what Peter and him make, could be dying. That B and even C-grade cinema may be all that we get - if the audience begins to turn away from cinema towards Video Games or free downloadable content.
Jim did say that if you put AVATAR on your iPod... and you hold it two inches from your face and you're completely stoned... "there's really no difference" - which got the hall laughing really loud. During the talk, I was suddenly informed that Mr Cameron would like to see me after the discussion. I didn't ask for an audience, instead giving the interview opportunities to Capone & Quint & Beaks - so I wasn't expecting this. I wondered. Should I wear the Fez or not.
Back stage at Hall H, I discovered that Quint & Kraken were back there. So was Elijah Wood and Dominic Monaghan. Both of whom wanted to tell me what a drag it was that I had to miss the end of DISTRICT 9, which they loved. Then, suddenly - there was James Cameron. I wasn't real sure what sort of impression I would have from meeting Cameron, on stage - he comes across like a general. But back stage he was wholly warm and engaging. He was struck by the personal slant I had on his AVATAR presentation - and he discussed how the film requires a bit more than the standard TRAILER. That there's a lot to take in. If you check out most of the coverage of AVATAR - you'll find it focusing on one aspect or another. Most chose to discuss the visual effects angle - as it is the most obvious. Me, I was focusing on the characters and what they were doing in the scenes. The "DANCES WITH WOLVES" reaction made me giggle, because there's more JOHN CARTER OF MARS & SHE - than DANCES WITH WOLVES going on here. At least in my opinion.
I also asked Cameron how he expected to overcome the monkey brain ability to just look at Pandora and know "THAT ISN'T REAL!" just because based on our existence and experience, that 10ft tall blue tiger striped Aliens aren't real. His answer was that there really was no way to combat that, he just hopes that once you're in the theater, you'll care about the characters, the story and what is going on enough, to no longer consider the reality of it.
We chatted about effects innovation and how for a period of time, they thought they were going to have to use claymation to have Robert Patrick walk through the bars in TERMINATOR 2. And a very complicated practical trick they thought they'd have to do for the Russian Water Tentacle. We discussed the punishment he puts his characters through traditionally - and how it is no different with AVATAR. And then we discussed a bunch of stuff that will be revealed later this year.
While I was chatting with Jim, Yoko was hanging out briefly with Peter Jackson. This was a HUGE deal for her. The LORD OF THE RINGS films laid the groundwork for her becoming my wife, as it really intensified her geekiness. AND those 3 films are what she watches every single time she has gotten sick in my time with her. That and Broccoli Cheese soup. It makes her feel better. She also wanted to thank Peter for our Wedding Invite Video that he directed and shot.
Peter and I spoke briefly, where I asked about LOVELY BONES. He's quite anxious for it to be seen by the world. But he had a plane he had to run catch so we didn't have much time.
Jim and I continued talking about a project I'm working on, that I can't share details on at the moment, but its with a filmmaker that Jim is interested in, so that was nice, but in the midst of this... suddenly a very loud sound occurred from the empty HALL H. We went over to the big backstage Plasma screen showing the material. It was 2012. Cameron was quite excited, told me he had to see this, it was Roland's new film.
Watching James Cameron geek out over a Roland Emmerich film that all of us have deemed, "TOTAL FUCKING DESTRUCTION," well... this is the side of James Cameron that folks don't really see. That he is human & a geek. I know this about him, because he's good friends with Guillermo Del Toro - and Guillermo always told me that Jim was just like the rest of us. I'll never forget the time I found a site about real FLYING CARS - got excited and sent it to Guillermo and Rodriguez. We're all BLADE RUNNER geeks. They sent it to Jim - and a couple weeks later Jim was going over blue-prints and had decided there were some rather serious structural problems that needed to be tweaked before he'd get one.
After Jim left, Yoko and I decided to head back over to the hotel to get ready for the WRATH OF CON party - also at our hotel, the HARD ROCK. As we walked through the darkened, empty HALL H - the 2012 reel that would play Saturday began playing again. This time completely.
I absolutely can not fucking wait for 2012. Seriously. 2012 will be one of the great spectaculars of the year. At least I hope so. The images are just stunning. Jim and I had discussed how funny it was that the MGM GRAND was still lit up, even as the whole town of Vegas was being broken apart at a crust level. Jim said, "Yeah - and you can bet there's still people pulling on slot machines in those buildings!" God. I hope Emmerich has a shot of that. The commentary that'd have would be great.
After 2012, it was time for WRATH OF CON. This was really a great party. Met a lot of the fellow website people that I've never met before. The girls prancing about in panties were genius. Free alcohol and cute girls in panties. Also genius. Personally, I didn't get the wrestling or the band that played, but I'm notably uncool in that way. To me, it was all about hot girls. But I kept running into folks at the party I knew. The always wonderful Doug Jones nabbed me, I told him he needs to land a Fred Astaire Bio-pic soon! Ray Parks came up all excited - wanting to do some sort of hand bumping ritual that again... I wasn't quite hip enough for. But seeing the long lost Tom DeSanto, whom I haven't seen in ages was great. He apparently did not hold a grudge over my TRANSFORMERS opinions. For that matter, neither did Bob Orci - who confirmed to me directly that YES, that is him in our Talk Backs.
We discussed STAR TREK a bit. He asked me if I had any story ideas for them. Mr Beaks nearly screamed out GORN! Which got Bob smiling. But then I stated, "well, to me there's only one story I want to see next. I would do THE CAGE / MENAGERIE story line. With Pike no longer Captain of the Enterprise, this mission would fall to Kirk. That the mission went so terribly wrong, that the planet was marked forbidden. I wanted to see how Kirk would handle the first contact situation. The story has a lot of play in it and it would underline that this existence was different. That things would happen in this version of the STAR TREK universe that never happened before." And Bob said, "I never expected a real answer, that's a great lead." I don't know if it is a great lead, I just know that I personally don't want to see Khan till later in the series. Save him, for when you need him. He's not needed just yet in my opinion.
I also talked with Zack Snyder for quite a bit - where I did suck his cock over how much I loved WATCHMEN. Mainly because... I FUCKING LOVE WATCHMEN! It is still one of my favorite movies of the year. Sadly I never did run into Stan Lee at the party - as he was always on the other side of the party from where I was. I don't think on purpose.
Party ended and I got to sleep around 4am.
SATURDAY at Comic Con was in many ways, my favorite day of the convention.
I just had the IRON MAN 2 panel to hit in HALL H - but my greatest concern was that this was my last day to find something awesome at the convention. I was wearing my Fez this time, so maybe that'd help me through the crowd.
We got to the Convention around 10am. And I was determined to shop and search for what I had to have, whatever that was. From that point - till 4pm I was able to shop, pretty much freely, and had a blast. Running into old time dealers that I used to set up with, that asked about Dad - chatted about the "Old Days" before the studios discovered the convention. About the Comic Con that the fire marshall shut down - and all the dealers led a procession of tables in reverse order for 3 blocks to another hotel with larger facilities. The time as a child, I ran from the hotel naked, only to be found hours later being taken care of in an Asian Massage Parlor on the same block. Yes, the old days. They were great. This day cost me around two grand, but made me so happy!
Before I knew it, it was time for IRON MAN 2.
This was - very obviously - the big ticket. People were clawing trying to get their way in. I had two seats that were apparently being held for me, but with about 400 press folks, all with studio purple tickets waiting to be let in - and the security folks telling everyone that HALL H was at capacity and nobody else would be being admitted. Tempers were getting raised. Luckily the Grand Poobah of HALL H saw me and waved us in. WHEW!
Being recognizable does have its benefits. This was one of them. We found our seats and all was good in the world. The IRON MAN 2 presentation was by far the most successful in my opinion.
Don't get me wrong, I don't think it was as great as seeing 25 minutes of AVATAR. Or the wonder of DISNEY's 3D presentation. And I didn't see Warner's big panel, which everyone was raving about to me at the Wrath of Con party - but the showmanship that Favreau and his team demonstrated was the best.
They get geeks. They get how to tease, disappoint, then BLOW AWAY. It was a lot like my BLADE 2 review that way. But then, this is MARVEL. Kevin Feige and Jon Favreau hit the stage and the audience is amping up. Sitting on the otherside of Yoko was Moriarty - but more on that soon.
They begin with a VERY CORPORATE SYNERGISTIC PRESENTATION that used mostly IRON MAN footage to brag about how awesome it was that IRON MAN kicked so much ass, and that this new one had new asses to kick and was prepping to kick every cheek as hard as they could. That's not a direct quote, more of a tonal summation created by me. FYI.
But even as lame as it was, the audience was still cheering. Let's face it. We love IRON MAN. It opened up the Marvel Universe and the dream of a great AVENGERS movie. Something that we geeks really really want.
Jon begins telling us how they had just finished shooting that week and how there wasn't really anything to show - when Robert Downey Jr comes out from the side of the stage that nobody was coming out of. Great misdirection. He begins laying into Kevin and Jon about how painfully lame that shit was. The audience instantly takes Downey's side. It was very important that the powers that be know that we were fully behind Robert Downey Jr in his desire to kick our asses much better than the lame thing they had shown already.
Favs hems and haws for a bit, then gives in.
You've had a breakdown of the footage by Quint and others - but my experience was a bit different. You see. Drew McWeeny was on the other side of my wife - and he was possessed by the spirit of some insane person that was capable of only screaming out Al Pacino grunting exclamations from SCENT OF A WOMAN. Drew's uncontrollable "Hooooooo YAAAAH!!!!" belted with the sound and fury of a Rancor Monster... well... frankly... it scared poor YOKO to death. And it stomped all over Sam Jackson NICK FURY dialogue.
And when Mickey Rourke's lightning whips started crashing the pavement - Drew went into HOOOOO YAAAAAH heaven. Saying the phrase 3 times before adding, "NOW THAT'S WHAT I'M TALKING ABOUT!" also delivered in scary loud crazy man voice.
This caused Yoko to clutch my hand, as if to protect her from the madness of McWeeny. I was trying to ignore all of this, because the footage was great. It wasn't just FX, more than anything - the clips shown were meant to underline that the wit and charm of the first film was intact and different from the first film. And btw... all the new characters fucking own. And they do.
Don Cheadle was just so cool. And the WAR MACHINE bit with crazy fire power going off in all directions... well it ruled. Seriously. Downey versus Gary Shandling's Senator = greatness. Mickey Rourke forging the equipment he needed, with his Russkie accent and hatred for everything that Stark represents... well, it made me very happy. He's going to be amazing here.
Didn't really get a lot from Scarlett in the clips as Black Widow, but given how the rest of it looked, you can bet she'll be great in the film.
After the real reel played, they brought out the rest of the cast, save Rourke and Paltrow - both of whom had conflicts and couldn't make it. But the audience didn't notice. They just got a taste of WAR MACHINE, which broke McWeeny's HOOOO YAAAAAAAAH powers - as it never appeared again after this initial showing.
The Q&A taught us that everything was wonderful, everyone was great and this was a lot of fun. The guy moderating was continually insulted by the members of the panel for stupid questions, and it was turned over to the audience. My personal favorite was this 12 year old kid, who used the phrase ORGASMIC properly in his question. Which made everyone in HALL H smile and everyone on stage laugh. Many people blamed me for this 12 year old's word usage. If that is true, that makes me ORGASMIC!
But the best interaction came when a really big Bob Layton fan got the mike and began lecturing everyone, filmmaker and fan alike, that we all need to bow down and worship Bob Layton for creating the world that these films are playing in. To which, Kevin Feige and Jon Favreau pointed to the front row - and had Bob Layton come up on the stage to tell him what he thought. It was so perfect that the cynic in me refuses to let me believe it was the brilliant back and forth it was - and not just an elaborate mole thing. No matter, it worked perfectly. Bob got up on stage and raved about the filmmakers and the footage he had just seen. Told us about his set visit - and how he was treated by all involved... as a God. Although that said, it seems he almost didn't make it into Hall H.
When Cheadle said he wanted to see the footage, because he had missed it, the entire audience backed him up - and we watched it again. This time we heard dialogue, and the HOOOOOO YAAAAAH monster had died.
Afterwards somebody have me about 50 tickets to redeem for special IRON MAN 2 merch - It seemed like 10,000 people were headed to go get this stuff - so I decided to give my tickets to people that didn't have any. And I headed back onto the floor to wrap up my shopping .
COMIC CON ended for me at the RADICAL party that had KISS playing at it. The first band to play was IKE TURNER's old band - and they fucking owned. Loved it. For some strange reason - Paul Stanley didn't show up, but we did have Gene Simmons, Ace Frehley and Peter Criss kicking ass on stage and Gene's son Nick did a very powerful job as lead singer. I have to say. Beings that I was literally stage front - watching Ace Frehley shredding it from 3 ft away... I was in KISS-geek heaven. I'd seen these guys in full make-up performing at the DETROIT ROCK CITY world premiere, but there was something more intimate about this small hall in the Hard Rock with only 700 other KISS geeks lapping it up.
I had had a lot of folks reach out to me for tickets for the party, but I was only given 5 additional passes. I gave two of them to my groomsmen Paul Dini and his lovely wife Misty Lee. And then the remaining 3 tickets - I gave to some new friends I had met at a Bar in Comic Con, that had come from Detroit - for their first Comic Con. They worshipped KISS, but had never seen them. Given they're from the city of one of KISS' greatest... How could I not help them?
Besides, I wanted to attend with people that really would love and respect the experience. Not talk business.
Around 2am - the party began to break up. I was about 9 Crown & Cokes down. Incredibly drunk. I have a vague recollection that includes Eli Roth, James Purefoy, Samuel Hadida, Michael Bassett, Roger Avary that is very hazy. It's a mix of hugs, drunken babblings and screaming about Sitges rocking! All swearing oaths to Fantastic Fest and that is good.
The next morning Yoko and I began a 12 hour plane extravaganza back home. Storms in Houston delayed our flight by hours. But overall I have to say, COMIC CON was great this year. To the friends I made, thank you. Mark Miller aka Ambush Bug - he fucking rules. He's been writing here for 8 years and we'd never met. What a great guy!
OH - I forgot Chan Wook Park! Saturday kicked off with a phone call from Capone saying that Chan Wook Park wanted to meet me and was hanging out by the swimming pool in my hotel. So I loaded up my Korean expert, YOKO, and we set out to meet Park. He was in a meeting with Wes Craven at the time, but came out to chat. Shortly into our conversation - which was essentially a very gracious talk about how we hadn't met yet. Park thanked me for the OLDBOY commentary I did for him. I thanked him for the 14 minute longer cut of OLDBOY that I have. He then invited me to the Puchon Film Festival as a possible juror. Which my wife accepted immediately in my behalf. So it seems at some point in the future, I'll be going to South Korea. That'll be one hell of an experience.
It probably won't be another 9 years till my next Comic Con. But then, I didn't think it'd be this long before I'd return last time.
The key is to commit to doing these types of things.