I've been going to Comic-Con for over 20 years. I met my husband there. You see, my husband and, particularly, his brothers have been doing a comic book that's been pretty successful for lots of years now. I was also involved as a writer and editor in underground/alternative comics back in the day. We even got married in San Diego during a Con weekend. It made sense, because most of the people we knew, from all over the country, were going to be there anyway. This was back when the Con was about comics, of course.
Now we drag the kid along, and she has started dragging her friends, too. They love it. They are into manga (shojo, not shonen, mom!), anime, cosplay, and various other pop culture things. Our interests even intersect in several places, Jossverse places being high on the list. So, we rocked the Con in 2008 in a very Joss-centric way.
Wednesday, Preview Night
Three hours of stampeding consumerism. Fun was had, but the main thing was getting Dr. Horrible shirts for MiAmor and McDiva from the California Browncoats’ booth. I'm not so much t-shirty, but the others in my tribe looked fab. I somehow bought a 12" Subway Spike action figure. Yes, 12 inches of big, bad . . . but I digress. We also ran into various old friends, who brought us up to speed on how their kids are and whatnot. Peter Kuper, who does Spy vs. Spy these days, got a loooong list of the mangas his daughter should check out, straight from the experts (my kid and her buddy). Sweet!
The floor of the convention is madness, so surgical strikes are required, plus lots of breaks while sitting, looking at and listening to people who are very pretty and/or funny/intelligent. In short, it was BBC day, and the Dr. Who panel looked enticing, although I admit to not watching Dr. Who all that much. However, it was followed by the Torchwood panel, and that, my friends, was the main event on my Thursday itinerary. Russell T. Davies was a no-show, unlike last year. However, the head writer, Steven Moffat, and producer Julie Gardner, who did show up to hype Dr. Who were fabulously charming, witty, and (in her case, anyway) pretty as well. Good times.
The Torchwood panel was, um, incandescent. The trailer showed the entire “Song 2” fight scene between Capt. Jack and Capt. John (James Marsters), to the delight of the crowd. Julie Gardner remained, another writer joined, and then John Barrowman (Captain Jack Harkness) came out like a conquering hero, followed by Naoko Mori (Toshiko) and Gareth David-Lloyd (Ianto). There was much smooching, some with dramatic dips thrown in, and it was an instant love-fest. Barrowman introduced the nine members of his family who were in the audience and asked his partner to stand. At least a hundred guys stood up, to get a better look at object of his affections, and I was reminded of Spartacus. “I am Scott.” Heh.
The discussion was filled with innuendo and spoilers, thank god. A high point occurred when it was revealed that Mori’s first professional job was with Barrowman in Miss Saigon at London’s West End. A request from the audience for them to sing “Sun and Moon” was honored on the fly, and they blew everybody away, although the lyrics sometimes escaped them. Still, harmony like that with no preparation warms the heart of a musical-lover like myself. It’s about the emotion, people! Anyway, funny, pretty and heartfelt seemed to be the watchwords.
Following all this, we immediately ran into Felicia Day (Buffy, The Guild, Dr. Horrible) just coming out of registration. McDiva asked for an autograph (standard opening, I guess) and she seemed genuinely pleased. She chatted about how awful traffic had been, how she had barely got there in time (an hour and a half before her first scheduled event), and dove into her box of swag to give us The Guild bookmarks. Score! I told her, “Man! You survived Buffy, just to get killed off now. That guy really wants you dead.” She scoffed, “It’s science fiction. Nobody ever really dies.” We both noted, “Especially with Joss.” Then Len Wein, the guy who created Wolverine, came up to fawn, as well. I got the feeling she was really gonna be surprised at her rock star reception at the Con. Incredibly cute, smart, and funny, that girl. In no particular order.
We wandered the floor, doing whatever caught the fancy of the girls, while MiAmor and Los. Bros did their daily signing session at Fantagraphics. A new issue of Love & Rockets came out in time for the Con, and for those who are interested, it is now 100 pages, square bound, and will be an annual. It’s called “Love & Rockets, New Stories”. I think.
I went to the Bill Willingham panel, which was fairly amusing, not least because Mark Buckingham and Willingham kept teasing their terrifying editor at DC, Shelley Bond, who was in the audience. Eventually, we ended up at California Browncoats again, and there was Felicia with another cast member of “The Guild”, Jeff Lewis (Vork). McDiva and her buddies glomed onto them. Autographs! Photos! I think I told Mr. Lewis my entire life story, for some reason. Perhaps because this is his first Con, and I wanted to put him at ease. I doubt it worked.
We had dinner with my bestest bud from college, who had come down to do press, or help her friend do press, or to shop. It’s not entirely clear why she wanted to come, but who cares! We got to have dinner! We got to talk about proper brassiere construction, old movies, iPhone crap and nothing at all. It was great. Sigh.
It was Star Wars Day, but Dr. Horrible was in the house, and you could feel it. We got in line for the Horrible panel an hour ahead of start time, but it looked very unlikely that we would get in. We persevered. Long story short, we got in, but the panel was already underway and we couldn’t sit together. No big. It was awesome. Joss was joined by brothers/writers Jed (Bad Horse singer, Dead Bowie) and Zack, plus writer Maurissa Tancharoen (Groupie No. 1). Also on hand were Nathan Fillion (Captain Hammer), Neil Patrick Harris (Dr. Horrible/Billy), my very good new friend Felicia Day (Penny), and Simon Helberg (Moist).
People really get it. Joss was ribbed a bit for “frequent character death” in his work. He indicated he’s a two-trick pony, “I kill people, or I ‘out’ them. You’re either ‘out’ or you’re OUT!” Please note, all my quotes are just paraphrasing. Nathan Fillion, who mostly did the funny, also managed to wrap up the tragedy of the ending in a way that had the whole room saying “Ahhhhhhhhhh.” “Dr. Horrible,” he said, “got everything he ever wanted, but Billy lost everything.” Felicia, who I understand couldn’t believe the phenomenon she was seeing as the panel got underway, was caught ‘twittering’ and made a big production of leaving her hands where we could see them, thereafter. Anyway, funny, funny, intelligent and pretty (Jed & Maurissa), so: just perfect. You can watch it all on YouTube.
Then, due to super-secret negotiations involving MiAmor’s contract with Dark Horse, we all got wristbands to attend the Dr. Horrible signing. A coup, indeed. Everybody from the panel, except Simon, were set up to sign Horrible lobby-cards for the fans, with a few (but not many) photo ops while the line worked its way past Joss. The camera had performance anxiety when faced with Nathan, but he was very nice. He signed MiAmor’s Capt. Hammer shirt with enthusiasm, and was very interested when I told Felicia that we were her ‘most frequent fans’. “Really? How so?” I explained that we had already hit her up repeatedly, and planned to do so again after we picked up our The Guild DVD. She was excited by that. Sales! “Please do! I’ll be at the booth tomorrow.” cried my very close personal friend, Felicia Day. Heh. MiAmor charmed NPH by calling him “Mon Dauphin”. He gave a big smile and talked a bit about how great it had been to work on Joan of Arc. I chatted up Jed and Maurissa, teasing her about the sweater vests on the Hammer’s dry cleaning bill.
By then my beloveds had got to Joss, and I managed to squeeze off a photo. Whew! McDiva says she told him “Buffy” is her favorite TV show, and he was nice. I told him he’d turned me into addict who was compelled to read fanfic, and asked him to sign a copy of A Long Way Home (Season 8 Buffy) to my friend/hostess Sid. He seemed bemused, but then I told the story of Sid. How she used to be a guitar goddess in a band with me, but threw it all away to become a pediatric anesthesiologist. He grinned and replied “How many times have I heard that sad tale.” But with humor, you know. I left out that I had hooked her but good on Buffy the year before. When I presented the signed book to her that night, she absolutely freaked. It was very gratifying. She still has Season 7 to go, though. I was very firm that she can have the book, but she can’t read the book, until she’s done watching the show. Again, I digress.
MiAmor had skipped the first part of his own signing to attend the Horrible signing, so we trotted over to Fantagraphics, chatted with the family, and wandered about doing not much until dinner. While wandering, we ran into another The Guild cast member, Robin Thorsen (Clara), who was totally cute and gracious. We also ran into Jeff Lewis again, and I asked how he was holding up. “I think I’ve finally seen everything,” he said, perhaps a bit dazed. “Stay hydrated,” I said. MiAmor bought me a “Graduation Day” Buffy action figure. It’s official. I now collect Buffy action figures. God help me.
After dinner, the girls went off to the Gaia Online event, while MiAmor and I went to catch the end of the Kevin Smith talk, which was hilarious, filthy, and profane, as always. Seth Rogan and Traci Lords were there, among many others, to promote Zack and Miri Make a Porno. All in all, not family friendly, but hey, the kid was off at a tween event. Except that she wasn’t. Although she and her friend got there a half-hour early, the room wasn’t big enough and they were shut out. When we came to collect them, they seemed okay with it, as the Gaians had passed out swag to those left behind. Still, a bitter disappointment.
Then we had a predicament. It was 8PM. The Dr. Horrible Sing-A-Long Blog big screen premiere with thousands of screaming lunatics (my people!) was scheduled for 10:45PM-midnight. MiAmor had an early signing/editor meet on Saturday. We are staying 3 towns away (not such a big deal in Southern California, but still). The line that the girls had been in for Gaia had been converted to a Dr. Horrible line. Which, weirdly, put us at the very front of the line. Or, maybe not. It was unclear. What can I say? We bagged it.
Our final day. We got there early, dropped MiAmor at Fantagraphics, and did a pass for all the uncollected swag, missing mangas, and booty of various sorts. And no, the hairy guy dressed as Prince Namor, the Sub-Mariner, is nowhere on the booty scale. Shudder. We picked up our The Guild DVD from the Browncoats, making a note of the signing time for later. Then McDiva and I went upstairs to camp out in Ballroom 20, scene of the 1PM Dollhouse panel.
First, there was the Dean Koontz panel to sit through, so I used the time to reflect on all the stuff I didn’t do at the Con: Click and Clack panel, Eddie Campbell panel, Keith Knight panel, Robert Rodriguez Red Sonja panel (how did I miss this?), Eion Colfer panel, Jim Woodring panel, Day the Earth Stood Still panel (Keanu!), Repo! The Genetic Opera panel, Larry Marder Beanworld panel, Lynda Barry panel, Scott McCloud panel, Robot Chicken panel, Watchmen preview, The Spirit preview, Pushing Daisies panel, Shojo Beat panel, Pixar preview, and, not least, the Sunday closing event Once More With Feeling” Sing-A-Long. There were many, many more cool things. Some of these even have the Joss-connection, but as a wise woman once told me, “You can’t dance at every party.”
The Dollhouse panel was a thing of beauty. Well, Eliza Dushku was incredibly beautiful, Tamoh (pronounced Tom-o, who knew?) Penikett was beautiful and amusing enough that I might have to re-think my aversion to muscle-bound guys, and Joss was, as always, his beautiful self. In fact, the beauty thing kept coming up in the discussions, and in the questions from the audience, which I think is interesting given the theme of the show. For those of you who haven’t been obsessively following this, Dollhouse is all about pod people (or are they?) who can be downloaded with any skills, knowledge, or emotions needed to play a part for people rich enough to “rent” them. Then, they are “wiped” at the end of the assignment, losing all their personality traits and sense of self (or do they?). Sci-fi, yes, but doesn’t it sound an awful lot like the life of an actor? This source of inspiration is no secret, and has been discussed by the principals quite a bit. Still, it’s odd that nobody can stop talking about Eliza’s great beauty and Tamoh’s great biceps. Including me, apparently.
Anyhoo, Eliza came off as a great dame, in the Mae West/early-Lauren Bacall/mid-Bette Davis mold. A few tales of her recent adventures in Iran (buried under a carpet avalanche in the marketplace), elk-hunting in Wyoming (or Colorado?), and trekking in Peru were discussed as possible fodder for the show’s writers. Tamoh seemed smitten with her, moving his chair closer to hers as the panel went on, which could have been for the funny, or could have been entirely genuine. ¿Quien sabes? Joss spoke sincerely about all of his work being about the search for the soul, a balm to this Spuffy gal, but we’ll see what he says next year.
One great cross-fandom moment came when an audience member asked Tamoh if Eliza’s spine glowed. Big laugh, except from Eliza, who’s never seen Battlestar Galactica. Tamoh answered immediately, “I don’t know, yet.” While Joss struggled to answer the next question, clearly unable to stop thinking about the glowing spine, Tamoh whispered a lengthy explanation to Eliza, resulting in a perfect “OOOOH!” face from her, complete with eyebrows shot to the ceiling. Bigger laugh. (Not only did you have to be there, you also had to have all the relevant obscure cultural references. That’s why I cannot deny my membership in the geek clan.) Cut to chase: Dollhouse on Fox in January. Thirteen episodes have been ordered, all will air. See you there.
Immediately following was the Battlestar Galactica panel, with Ronald D. Moore and about half of the cast. Jamie Bamber – Apollo (he’s Australian?), James Callis – Gaius Baltar, Tricia Helfer – Number Six, Katee Sackhoff – Starbuck, Michael Trucco – Sam Anders all attended, and Tamoh Penikett – Helo dropped in about halfway through, after he was done with the required Dollhouse schmoozing backstage. I would have only been happier if Gaeta had been there, too (yummy!). There were clips of upcoming stuff, which looked pretty amazing, as it always does, and of the “prequel” series Caprica which seemed more detective-y than BSG.
The show had just wrapped 2 weeks earlier, and the actors all discussed their satisfaction with the way it played out, especially happy about the massive amounts of gunplay they get to do in the finale. Katee gibed Tamoh about shooting like a girl, referencing Zoolander in the process. James Callis was starry-eyed about the amount of “tail” and ammo his character went through, but in a very erudite manner. Tricia talked about some of the funny things that happened when she was invisible to anybody but Baltar, including being sat on, and having to crouch behind things and jump up at the right moment. Nobody let slip the identity of the 5th Cylon, though Katee did say that she had never wanted to be a Cylon, because those actors had to work really hard, with running back and forth to wardrobe all the time.
The 5th Cylon question came up the night before at the Kevin Smith panel. According to his story, Lucy Lawless, who he calls, quite simply, Flawless was on a panel he moderated on Thursday. Immediately afterward, she had to catch a plane, but his car came out of valet sooner, so he offered it to her. She accepted and offered to drop him at his hotel. Once they were in the car, he said, “C’mon, it’s just us, the windows are up, nobody’ll ever know. Who is the 5th Cylon?” She refused to tell him, he says, so he dumped her by the side of the road. Ba dum bump. Actually, I believe the story up until the point when he says, “Get the $#&* out of my car.” Actually, I might believe that, too, but I’m pretty sure she made her plane, contractual virtue intact.
Anyway, the coolest thing about the very cool BSG panel, was that the cast finally got their bow. The 3,000+ audience gave them a well-deserved standing ovation, which is something that actors working in television drama don’t get that often, and they seemed touched by the gesture. In other SciFi Channel news, the coveted item at the Con was the purple “Big Frakkin Bag” promo shopping bag. So silly. But we got one!
Then McDiva had to decide whether to stick with Mom for the Chuck panel, maybe see Kristen Chenowith at the already in progress Pushing Daisies panel, or try to get into the Shojo Beat panel, which is where her tribe would be. She chose to hang with me! I’ve still got it! Or, maybe she’d just had enough running around after 4 days. Regardless, we were in the front row, and the living was easy.
Chuck creators Chris Fedak and Josh Schwartz were there, along with cast members Zachary Levi (Chuck), Yvonne Strahovski (Sarah), Joshua Gomez (Morgan), Sarah Lancaster (Ellie), Adam Baldwin (Casey), and Ryan McPartlin (Captain Awesome). Mark Christopher Lawrence (Big Mike) was in the audience and got somebody to ask if he was going to have any romance in season 2. Josh said, oh yeah, with Morgan’s mom, and the jaws of everybody in the cast dropped. “Did you just make that up?” asked Zachary. Head shakes. No sir. Legit scoop.
The clips of the second season looked great. For me, the first season of this show worked on so many levels. It was pretty and slick, yes. Hey, McG directed the opener, what do you expect? It’s spies and it’s funny, but it’s smarter than Get Smart. There is plenty of dead-end job angst and wacky co-worker shenanigans, sort of Reaper-y, but the girl frequently saves the day, which works for me. It’s layered. I am now realizing that I watched way more TV last year, pre-writer’s strike, than I have in decades. Meaning, more than one show per week. Dang. Must retrench.
To no one’s surprise, many of the audience members where there for Adam Baldwin (Angel, Firefly), and he didn’t disappoint, saying that Casey might name his gun “Shiny”, and when asked if he would appear on Dollhouse, replied, “Hell no! I’m on Chuck now!” He pretty much stayed in Casey character, with a few small nods to Jayne, all through the panel, which was a little disturbing, since Casey is a right-wing psychopath. But hey, my perceptions by this point in the Con are a little weird. Time to go.
But first, a stop at the Browncoats’ booth to have our The Guild DVD signed by My Friend™ Felicia Day and Amy Okuda (Tinkerballa) who mention that everybody else is up in the autograph area. I told Felicia that she seems to be holding up well, and she admitted, “I had a nervous breakdown 45 minutes ago.” I’m thinking that she must’ve seen the Prince Namor dude, but I don’t want to push if she’s had that kind of a shock, so I just tell her “I’d never have known.” We then decide to run up to hassle the rest of The Guild cast one last time. There they are, cute as can be. I am fried and mumble something lame about ad libs to Sandeep, and then shoot one last photo and turn my back forever on Con 2008.
Back at HomeBase Sid, we settled in to eat excellent fish tacos and watch Once More With Feeling and then introduce her to Dr. Horrible and a few episodes of The Guild. She is, predictably, immediately hooked. Sunday was spent in family-friendly pursuits with the incredibly cute kids: the Making Music Museum (fun!) and the Encinitas Contemplation Gardens (not their real name). That night, we got Sid started on Buffy, Season 7. Mission accomplished. Our work here is done.
On the plane home, my people were everywhere, and the pretty young things behind us never stopped talking about Dr. Horrible and The Guild, so I was happy to the last. I posted some photos and links for my friends and family when we got back, and my dad called, after watching all 10 episodes of The Guild, to say how happy he was that McDiva got to meet such a wonderful, intelligent and talented girl as Felicia Day, who has apparently now replaced Audrey Hepburn as the girl parents want their daughters to grow up to be like. It’s a wonderful world.
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