Being a veteran of twelve consecutive Comic Cons now, I know the drill when it comes to the big rooms, those being Hall H and Ballroom 20. The two panels I wanted to see the most that Friday were Joss Whedon and Breaking Bad, both which were back to back in Ballroom 20. So like a well trained Comic Con geek, I got in line for that room a good two and half hours early.Turns out, I didn’t need to. I walked in Ballroom 20 literally two hours early and sat through two panels I had no intention of sitting through, but were ultimately worth watching. The first being the CW’s presentation of the pilot for
Green Arrow, Pilot Presentation
So even though I’m a hard core DC Comics freak, I gotta admit I’ve never really followed Green Arrow much, although I know enough of him through reading years and years of Justice League comics. So while I’m no Oliver Queen expert, I’ll say that I know more than the average bear. And while I gotta admit I wasn’t blown away by anything in the Arrow pilot that I saw, I didn’t really hate it either. I guess I saw enough to warrant setting my DVR for at least the first handful of episodes come Fall, and then we’ll see if I give up entirely or not, like I did with Smallville.
The pilot is your basic origin story, where we see spoiled rich Oliver Queen end up on a mysterious island for five years after a ship wreck, during which time he learns to be a bad ass archer, not to mention also learns humility. It all seems only marginally better than other CW shows, but unlike say, the un aired Wonder Woman pilot, this feels like Green Arrow more or less done right. So while there is lots of room for improvement, It can improve. I have to say though, obvious uber hotness aside, I was less than impressed with our new Green Arrow Stephen Amell. He just kind of had than bland delivery that left me cold; it seemed to me the guy was cast for his face and his abs and that’s about it. Apparently, he was the first person to audition for the producers, and when they saw him, they just said “we have our guy” Uh, yeah, I really think they needed to audition more people. Just sayin’.
Also on the panel was Katie Cassidy, formerly of Supernatural and Melrose Place 2.0, who plays Laurel Lance. Now, comics fans like me know that in the comics, Green Arrow’s girlfriend is none other than Black Canary, AKA Dinah Laurel Lance. Was the omission of her first name supposed to make us think they cast Katie Cassidy to be anyone other than Black Canary in the future? Really guys? I actually liked her in the pilot, and think she’d make for a decent Black Canary, just not sure it would be in this particular project. The producers teased that other DC characters would be appearing (we already know that Deathstroke will, at some point) but they wouldn’t say who. Like I said, I’ll DVR this show for a bit, but it’ll have to be better than what I saw here for me to keep doing so long term.
Entertainment Weekly Presents Women Who Kick Ass
As a geek and a feminist, this is a panel I’m glad I attended, even if I only ended up there due to wanting to make sure I had a seat for the next two panels in Ballroom 20. Entertainment Weekly brought together some of geekdom’s current reigning women in genre television and movies, and it was quite an assemblage. The panel featured Kristin Kreuk (Beauty and the Beast, Smallville), Nikki Reed (Twilight), Sarah Wayne Callies (The Walking Dead), Anna Torv (Fringe), Kristin Bauer van Straten (True Blood), and surprise guest, Xena herself Lucy Lawless.
True Blood’s Pam, Kristin Bauer van Straten (possibly the series’ best character, or at least the most fun) came out in her wrecked canary yellow Wal Mart sweat suit (fans of the show will get this little in-joke) to much applause.The Walking Dead’s Sarah Wayne Callies was asked about her future on the show, considering that (SPOILERS) in the comic book version of Walking Dead, her character Lori meets a grisly fate. She answered “You don’t walk into this show thinking ’25 years and a pension!’ Someone then asked what is the most important issue concerning women today, which frankly left most of the panel like they were put on the spot, realizing no matter what they said, they’d change their minds about it later. Lucy Lawless stole the show though, as she retold the story of how she was arrested in February after she and other activists protested aboard an oil-drilling ship in New Zealand, and she then told the audience that she’s not sure what will happen to her during sentencing on Sept. 12, but admitted, “I am guilty — of trying to save the environment!” Warrior Princess indeeed.
Dark Horse Presents: Joss Whedon
Now this is the panel I was actually waiting for while sitting through the other two. I’ve been a hardcore Whedonite for well over a decade, since Buffy and Angel were fighting their weekly battles on the WB Network (RIP) And, of course, I also loved Firefly/Serenity. But add to that Joss Whedon’s run on Astonoshing X-Men, Fray, Dr.Horrible’s Sing- A- Along Blog and even to a ceratin extent Dollhouse, just based on all that alone I’d worship forever at the geek altar of one Joss Whedon. There is simply no one else out there in the pop culture landscape who knows how to combine pathos with sly wit, drama with real stakes and off the cuff humor like Whedon. Others try, and most fail.
And 2012 alone has been a banner year for Joss. Let’s be honest, he’ll probably never have another one like it, between the critical success of Cabin in the Woods and the enormous global success of Avengers. He also just finished filming a low budget version of Much Ado About Nothing, fulfilling one of his dream projects. In short, It is good to be Joss Whedon right now. As a fanboy going back now almost (gulp) fifteen years, it has made me thrilled to see him finally achieve mainstream success.
Before Joss took to the stage, Dark Horse editor Scott Allie took to the podium to promote Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 9, which Joss Whedon is the executive producer and occasional writer of, and also the Angel and Faith series which falls under the Buffy Season 9 banner. To the happiness of much of the crowd in Ballroom 20, Allie announced the return of Firefly to comics, in the first official continuation for those characters since Serenity came out in 2005. Joss Whedon will be co-writing this one with his brother Zed Whedon.
Then the man himself came out to thunderous applause, and deadpanned “Well it’s been an interesting year” He mentioned that he had just finished post production on Much Ado, and for the first time, had also written the score for it. “It’s a very important project to me and I can’t wait to show it to you, though I’m not sure yet how that’s going to be. If no studio picks it up, check iTunes!” I’m pretty sure he was only half joking there. He then announced his next project, which was greeted with pretty thunderous applause, the long awaited Dr. Horrible 2. After the cheering died down for this one, he talked about how he’s been working on it for about two years, and already has “a bunch of songs…we know exactly where we’re going, I can’t wait to tell you more about it.“The last major announcement at the panel was about his upcoming web series Wastelanders, with comic book writer Warren Ellis “I’m also going directly from Comic-Con to London to talk to Warren Ellis about Wastelanders; I’m very excited about what we’re doing and the way we’re distributing it ourself because it means we can put it out our way… and in order” (this being a jab at Fox and how they aired both Firefly and Dollhouse out of their correct order)
During the Q&A, he answered questions in his usual off the cuff witty style, some of them actually good questions, like now with the success of Avengers behind him, what old projects would he return to? (answer: “I’m not actually a big “go-back” guy. Even if it’s unrealized, It’s happened, that relationship has run its course. I kind of tend to look forward. So I think the next thing I create will be something I haven’t created yet. I have some ideas, I have some thoughts” This got lots of applause “I got applause for being able to think. This is the best crowd ever. Watch, I can also walk!” Even more applause. Oh, fanboys.
Lots of silly questions were then asked by fans, some even about the Zombie Apocalypse and what not, but a fan finally asked “What has stood out to you the most personally that you’ve worked on? to which Joss responded “Hopefully something I haven’t written yet! But I think “The Body” is the best episode of television I ever wrote” (Writer’s aside: I concur. Buffy episode The Body is the best thing he’s ever written.) Of course, at any panel Joss does, someone asks him about his love for strong female protaganists, and if they’re still perceived differently in the entertainment industry. The answer was something of a femenist mini-rant from Whedon; “When Buffy had been on for three years, we started pitching the animated series that never went anywhere and literally got “well she has to have a male counterpart who’s just as cool as her or we won’t do it” (They never did do it) “Until recently the industry said that about movies too, but then you get The Hunger Games. The industry will never change it’s mind until the public makes them.
When asked if he ever wanted to make a Broadway musical, after the success of the Buffy musical episode and Dr.Horrible’s Sing A Long Blog, Whedon answered “Here’s the thing… of COURSE I do. But I have too many plans….The question is do I have the time to commit to one of the largest and most difficult projects I could ever encounter.The last question of the panel came from long time Geekscapist Ashton Lauren, who asked “You’ve given so many geek moments, what was YOUR biggest geek moment?” To which Whedon answered “My biggest geek moment? Um… My life is one endless geek moment!” Amen to that sir.
AMC’s Breaking Bad
I’m a bit late to the Breaking Bad party, I have to admit (like four years late) But after hearing rave review after rave review for the series, I finally gave in and watched the entire show over the course of the past month or so. And OH EM GEE, is this show amazing. So a special thank you to every single human who’s been telling me I need to be watching this show for the past several years, because you were so right. For those reading this who are as uninitiated as I was, Breaking Bad is writer/producer Vince Gilligan’s show about a suburban high school chemistry teacher from Albuquerque New Mexico who, upon finding he has terminal cancer and no money to leave for his family, hooks up with a burn out former student of his and begins cooking crystal meth. Telling you anything else would ruin what is an amazing roller coaster ride over four seasons of television. So Netflix this puppy already, then come back and read this, because SPOILERS for the series abound in this report.
This was Breaking Bad’s first appearance at Comic Con, and Ballroom 20 was packed with howling fans who probably were wondering what took them so long to get here (I mean, if Glee is at SDCC, where has Breaking Bad been?) Almost the entire main cast showed up, including Anna Gunn, Dean Norris, Betsy Brandt, R. J. Mitte, Jonathan Banks and finally showing up on stage in their meth cook Hazmat suits (along with a baby doll in a Hazmat suit) Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul. That alone was worth waiting for this panel. When asked about the upcoming fifth and final season, Gilligan mentioned that it was hard proceeding without the character of Gus Fring, and how hard it was for the writers to let go of a character as great as he was, but Gilligan has rebounded: “In season five, we’ve got a new king. King Heisenberg.” This, as one can imagine, got a lot of reaction from the crowd.
When someone asked about breaking the stories in the writers room, Gilligan responded that “is a very organic, living process to come up with these stories.” He then gave the example of how Jesse was supposed to die at the end of season one, but that obviously changed. (I can’t imagine the show without Jesse Pinkman) The role of Hitman Mike also expanded well beyond what Gilligan planned before casting Banks, as he was only cast because Bob Odenkirk, who plays Saul Goodman, was not available for that episode and they needed someone to fill his role of clean up guy after a crime. They loved the actor so much, Hitman Mike is now a permanent fixture on the show.
Other bullet points for season five brought up during the panel; expect to hear a lot more German than Spanish this season (remember, drug kingpin Gus Fring was bankrolled by some mysterious Germans) and that the teaser at the start of season five, episode one is their most revealing teaser yet. When asked what his season was really all about, Gilligan answered “winning, what it means to stay on top.” Gilligan then spoke of Alexander the Great, and how once Alexander conquered the known world, he wept. Cranston asks if the series will simply end on him crying. I’ll wager “probably not.”
Toy Masters and the 25th Anniversary of Masters of the Universe
After four consecutive panels, I wasn’t sure if I was up for one more…but a documentary on thirty years of Masters of the Universe was too tempting to pass up for me. When I was a little kid, between the ages of seven and twelve, I lived and breathed He-Man and the Masters of the Universe. I had every toy (and I mean every toy) and my for awhile there my sheets, pillows, and curtains were all He-Man centric. My bedroom was Eternia itself. So, even though as an adult I realize there really was nothing more to He-Man that Mattel’s efforts to sell me shit, I have a soft spot in my heart for the franchise that gave us so many beloved characters like Buzz-Off (he’s a bee, get it?) and Stinkor (he smells. Brilliant!) He-Man is forever in my DNA, as mostly stupid as it all is.
The upcoming documentary Toy Masters chronicles how this weird mish-mash of Conan the Barbarian with Star Wars became one of the biggest selling action figure lines of all time, leading into a hugely successful cartoon show, spin off series (She-Ra, Princess of Power) live action stage show (The Power Tour) and finally, at the tail end of the whole phenomena, a live action movie. A trailer for the documentary was presented at the panel, and it is clear that at the heart of this movie is the ongoing King of Kong style battle between two old guys and former Mattel employees, Mark Taylor and Roger Sweet, both who claim to have created He-Man. One calls the other’s claim at creating the franchise “unadulterated, absolute barbarian fiction” -hence, the movie’s tagline.
The panel, once again moderated by Free Enterprise’s Robert Meyer Burnett, featured people like Roger Lay, Jr. (director/producer) a He-Man kid like me growing up, Gary Goddard (director of the 1987 film) and Jack and Leslie Wadsworth (live-action He Man and She Ra from the Masters of the Universe: Power Tour), Jack and Leslie, two body buiders/stunt people who met at the Universal Studios Conan/Red Sonja show in the early 80′s and got married, were He-Man and She-Ra for the nation wide Power Tour (I never got to go this; this panel brought back memories of being an angry 11 year old) Both happily married still, they seem happy about their time in Eternia, and even kept their prop swords, which they brought to the panel (awww) The Power Tour still apparently has the house record for the most consecutive sold out shows at Radio City Music Hall, nineteen performances. Crazy. But that’s how big He-Man was for about five years or so.
Most fascinating were the stories of making the 1987 live action He-Man movie, which is celebrating its 25th Anniversarry this year. Director Gary Goddard was on hand, and he talked about how both Cannon Films and Mattel desperatley needed this movie to be a hit; Cannon had sunk every last dime the company had on the movie, and were on the verge of bankruptcy. Meanwhile, in 1987 the toy sales for the line plummeted, and Mattel needed the movie to be a hit to justify continuing the line (the fact that the cartoon had ended making new episodes didn’t seem to occur to anyone for the toy line’s decline baffled me) Gary Goddard, a highly successful creator of theme park attractions going back to EPCOT and as recently as Spider-Man at Universal Florida, was brought in to direct what would be his only big screen feature film. What he ended up with was a movie with the largest Hollywood sound stage in forty years (Castle Greyskull) and then the rest shot in downtown Whittier, CA. on the cheap. According to Goddard, eveyone in Hollywood wanted to see the massive Greyskull set, including Michael Jackson, who asked if he could walk on the Grayskull throne room.
The movie ended up being a giant clusterfuck, Cannon folded and Mattel cancelled the line all together. Twenty five years later though, the Masters brand still strikes a chord in Generation X kids like me, and judging from how well the retro style Masters of the Universe Classics line is selling for Mattel to twenty and thirty somethings, I fully expect to see the line come back one day for real. In the meantime, Toy Masters is making its premiere at the Montreal Film Fest next month, and I can only hope real distribution comes soon, as this panel made me dying to see the final product even more.
Ok, come back tomorrow for my final panel report from SDCC 2012. All I can say is, next time, it’ll be shorter.