Hanging Around … San Diego Comic-Con 2008

“These aren’t the droids you’re looking for.”

Beginning July 23, over 130,000 people gathered into the San Diego Convention Center for four days of panels, discussions, celebrity sightings and lines. Lots and lots of lines. And though attendees came from all different backgrounds all over the world, they all shared a common interest: a love of sci-fi, fantasy, comic and cult culture. When it comes right down to it, Comic-Con is four straight days of Nerd Pride.

This year, the Con’s 39th in existence, was a historic one. For the first time ever, all the passes (multi and single day alike) sold out weeks in advance. And it showed. The exhibition hall was essentially one giant mass of moving flesh, all attempting to amble in different directions. Some towards the anime and manga area, some towards the larger and more ornate areas devoted to big studios, like Warner Brothers and Lion’s Gate. And some were heading toward the booth for the Furry Appreciation Society. There was definitely something for everybody. And naturally, many were in costume.

Many attendees were overheard saying how different the Con is now versus years past. No longer is it solely devoted to the more classically associated sci-fi, fantasy and comic, but it’s expanded to include booths and panels devoted to shows like The Office and upcoming films like The Pineapple Express.

Paris Hilton was there, too.

As the Con is a very large jumble of hundreds of different panels and events taking place all at once, here are some highlights:

Doctor Who

(featuring Steven Moffat and Julie Gardner)

Newly appointed executive producer and head writer Steven Moffat kept the crowd in fits of laughter at the panel for the beloved BBC sci-fi program. He is basically a one-man version of his brilliant and missed show Coupling. He and Producer Julie Gardner didn’t give too much away regarding future plotlines, but Moffat did promise to keep true to how he has always viewed Who.

“I just remember being absolutely terrified, so that’s what I’m going to write.”

In regards to his feelings about his new position, Moffat said, “I suppose it should be daunting or nerve-wracking, but aw, what the hell, it’s not a real job like working in hospital.”

When it came to direct questions regarding the future of Who, Moffat and Gardner were both hilariously evasive. One audience member relayed that Neil Gaiman, upon being asked if he would write an episode for DW, said, “That would be nice, wouldn’t it?” Moffat, true to form, responded with full bravado, “I can absolutely confirm that that would be nice.”

For the first time ever, the full trailer for this year’s Christmas special was shown, and it’s got everything. Cybermen, the 1800s and the doctor running around like mad.

The Mystery Science Theater 3000
20th Anniversary Reunion

(featuring Trace Beaulieu, Paul Chaplin, Frank Conniff, Bill Corbett, Joel Hodgson, Jim Mallon, Kevin Murphy, Mike Nelson, Bridget Nelson, Mary Jo Pehl, J. Elvis Weinstein, and moderated by Patton Oswalt

“Hello, sweaty shut-ins.”

Crow T. Robot makes an appearance

Right from the moment he walked on stage, Patton Oswalt completely won over the packed room full of hardcore MSTies, many of whom had sat in the room since 3 or 4 p.m. to ensure entrance. These fans were the lucky ones, as hundreds in line for the event were turned away. The beloved Comedy Central, and later Sci-Fi Channel, program known for its trademark silhouettes of a man and two robots cracking wise at bad movies, still has one of the most rabid followings around, even though it was cancelled almost ten years ago. For the first time ever, the entire cast and team of writers from all ten seasons sat down and had a panel discussion. While quoting some of their own favorite lines (such as “I’m gonna sink this bitch” from the Titanic portion of their Oscar special) and discussing how the characters came about, the fans hung on every word, and it was one of the only panels that didn’t prominently feature fans yelling at the panelists the whole time (though there was one moment of that. Joel Hodgson quipped, “I don’t know how to react when someone yells things at me.”)

Those hoping for any drama or admitted bitterness were certainly let down. Everyone got along so well, with all the hilariousness that made them famous, and with all the Midwestern niceness they’ve become just as well-known for. Though much has been made on Internet forums about on-set squabbles and who’s-raking-in-the-royalty-money-and-who-isn’t, everyone seemed genuinely happy to be around each other and supportive of each others’ endeavors. They’ve essentially divided into three camps now, Rifftrax (featuring Nelson, Corbett, and Murphy), Cinematic Titanic (Hodgson, Beaulieu, Pehl, Weinstein and Conniff) and the new MST3K.com (Mallon and Chaplin), but crossovers have not been ruled out, and at least in Pehl’s case, has already happened (she worked with Mike Nelson on a Rifftrax of Glitter).

One new announcement was the coming 20th Anniversary DVD set from Shout Factory. This set will feature the episodes “First Spaceship on Venus,” “Laserblast,” “Werewolf” and “Future War.” The set will also contain lobby cards, a Crow T. Robot figurine, new interviews (shot at Comic-Con, so they’re VERY new) as well as the Anniversary Panel itself. It can be preordered now on Amazon.

Rifftrax Live at the Balboa Theater
Plan 9 From Outer Space

Though not part of the Con proper, this event was a perfect weekend capper and worthy enough for many to purchase additional tickets and walk through downtown San Diego (in costume, in some cases) to the beautiful Balboa Theater. Mike Nelson, Bill Corbett and Kevin Murphy of MST3K and Rifftrax did two live shows (7 p.m. and 9:30 p.m.), riffing on the Ed Wood anti-classic Plan 9 From Outer Space – a film they never used on MST3K due to problems with the narration obscuring their own riffs. They finally were able to make it happen. And it was worth the wait. Picking on Bela Lugosi’s incredibly obvious post-mortem double, Vampira’s inhumanly tiny waist and above all else, Tor Johnson (evidently named so because “that’s what he did to his mother at birth”) what was already hilarious on its own (albeit, unintentionally) became a true work of comedic art.

So if you have a love of the “popular arts” and a high tolerance for crowds, costumes and overpriced pop, they’re already taking reservations for next year. It’s certainly an experience one will never forget.

Written by Courtney Enlow, July 2008. For more information on Comic-Con or to make reservations for 2009, visit the official site. For a more personal account of the Comic-Con, read Enlow’s Outside of the In-Crowd.

  1. KimBoosh August 25, 2008
  2. KimBoosh August 25, 2008

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