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FireflyFirefly - "Serenity" Movie - Scenes From San Diego Comic-Con 2005
By Keith Phipps
Wednesday 3 August 2005, by Webmaster
Where chewbacca roams
Between July 14 and 17, Hogwarts students streamed through the mammoth San Diego Convention Center. At times, they seemed to be in competition with the throngs of Jedi also in attendance, with contingents of vampires, superheroes, and at least one uncannily convincing zombie also putting in appearances. The various camps, not to mention the overwhelming majority of attendees who showed up in civilian wear, got along just fine, but a sense of universes colliding still dominated the 36th annual San Diego Comic-Con. The influx of film, toy, and video-game industry types didn’t quite make the event’s name a misnomer, but they did insure that it doesn’t tell the entire story.
Comic-Con’s unofficial name-The Nerd Prom-does a better job of conveying the atmosphere of high spirits, but this year it took on an additional layer of meaning. A prom is a celebration of moving out into the world, something the culture championed by Comic-Con continues to do. By day three, con-goers could be seen toting around copies of Harry Potter And The Half-Blood Prince, but not, proportionately, more than people walking around outside the convention. San Diego in mid-July may have the highest concentration of hardcore nerds, but there’s no getting around a simple fact: Nerd culture no longer competes with mainstream culture, it’s become mainstream culture.
Just ask Natalie Portman, who was on hand to promote the upcoming adaptation of Alan Moore and David Lloyd’s V For Vendetta. Or director Bryan Singer, who flew all the way from Australia to show early footage from Superman Returns. Or consider one of the con’s high-profile comics premières, the Top Cow title Freshmen, a new miniseries about college freshmen who accidentally obtain superpowers. Co-created by writer Hugh Sterbakov and his childhood pal, actor Seth Green, it was first conceived as a movie pitch. Then Sterbakov and Green kept getting the same advice: Establish it as a comic book first, then worry about the movie. Never mind eliminating the middleman; Hollywood has come to rely on the middleman. That doesn’t mean the glamour has trickled all the way down to the creative side, however. Actor Wilmer Valderrama (That ’70s Show) put in a panel appearance promoting his upcoming film El Muerto, an adaptation of Javier Hernandez’s Aztec-zombie comic. The affable Hernandez, on the other hand, spent the weekend signing books and shaking hands at the El Muerto booth.
That may seem unfair, but there were a handful of old-timers around to remind attendees just how much better today stacks up to yesterday. Comic-Con is also home to the Eisner Awards, which this year unveiled the new Bill Finger Award For Excellence In Comic Book Writing. More specifically, the award, created with the help of early Batman artist and creators’-rights lobbyist Jerry Robinson, is designed to annually honor two comic-book writers-one living and one dead-who didn’t get their due in their time. Superman co-creator Jerry Siegel-who spent his later years staging a long, loud, and ultimately successful campaign for credit-was the posthumous recipient. The other honoree, lively Doom Patrol and Deadman co-creator Arnold Drake, was unmistakably among the living and happy to receive some recognition. How easy was it to get ripped off in comics’ Golden Age? The name of the award says it all. With Robinson and others, Finger invented much of the Batman mythos, while official creator Bob Kane took the credit. How much did Finger create? One attendee of a Finger Award panel asked that question of Drake, who responded bluntly: "Penguin, Catwoman, Riddler, Batmobile, Batcave, batarang... anything with bats in it came from Bill."
Proms are also occasions to reflect on the passing of time, and that spirit dominated the Eisner Awards, the first since the death of their namesake, Spirit creator and graphic-novel pioneer Will Eisner. Almost everyone-winners and presenters-had a Will Eisner story, but no one in attendance seemed to mind. Maybe the bittersweet mood explained why the winners seemed particularly humble in their acceptance speeches. Accepting the award for Best Anthology series for The Amazing Adventures Of The Escapist, Michael Chabon asked, "Have you seen the McSweeney’s?"
On the convention floor, the mood leaned more toward boosterism, if not outright hucksterism. Gadgets whirred beneath inflatable mascots. Short-film directors used street teams to press flyers into the hands of attendees, eager for a literal 15 minutes of fame. A potter before he was an actor, Lance Henriksen unveiled a new collection that fused his crafts: A limited edition of Alien Vs. Predator-themed tiles, bowls, and sculptures. ("Certain to become a collection centerpiece for any fan of the Alien or Predator creatures and/or Lance Henriksen himself," according to Sideshow Collectibles’ flyer.) With such a broad cross-section of geeks in attendance, almost every booth attracted attention from somebody, but it was difficult to figure out why a vendor showed up to sell footage from an original print of Attack Of The Killer Tomatoes at a dollar a yard. Did the profits even cover the cost of hiring the guy in the tomato suit?
Overall, though, the convention had the feel of a high tide that lifted all ships, or at least the ones it didn’t drown. Joss Whedon showed up to preview a scene from Serenity, a continuation of his quickly canceled TV space-Western Firefly, which probably couldn’t have made it to the big screen in less geek-friendly times. Foot traffic from the big DC Comics tent spilled over into the Fantagraphics, Top Shelf, and Drawn & Quarterly stands. While some attendees no doubt showed up to fulfill specific needs-be it original comic-book art, science-fiction movie posters, Thundercats paraphrenelia, or the issue of Wonder Woman in which she battles a giant Chinese egg named Egg Fu-most wandered happily from one spectacle to the next. Prom’s end seemed years away.