Comic-Con 2008, Part 2 (Spaced, MAD, and Lynda Barry)
Posted on July 29, 2008 at 8:00 pm
More highlights, observations and pictures from Comic-Con 2008
Most of the presenters mentioned that their name cards had a cautionary note on the back reminding them that they should be careful about what they said because there would likely be children in the audience. And then they ignored it. If there is an overall theme of Comic-Con it is, as Jack Black said in “School of Rock,” sticking it to The Man. Even if The Man is Comic-Con itself.
Like connoisseurs of all kinds, whether wine, art, movies (we should say “cinema”), or sports, there is a specialized and a little pretentious vocabulary for talking about comics. I heard a lot of great terms, including “orchestral” and “meta-paneled.”
In addition to the people listed previously and below, Comic-Con appearances included Deepak Chopra, Paris Hilton, Triumph the insulting dog puppet, Robert Culp and William Katt of “The Greatest American Hero,” Dan Ackroyd (there’s a new “Ghostbusters” computer game), the new Aston Martin from the forthcoming James Bond movie, and cast members from “Lost,” “Chuck,” “Knight Rider,” the new HBO vampire series “True Blood,” created by Alan Ball of “Six Feet Under” and “American Beauty,” and, speaking of vampires, the much-anticipated upcoming film, “Twilight.”
I hardly think that coming as Silent Bob qualifies as a costume. Same with Hancock. But for some very impressive costumes, you can see my photos here. And I also wrote a piece for the Association of Women Film Journalists about Comic-Con posted on their site.
- I interviewed Simon Pegg, Edgar Wright, and Jessica Stevenson about the DVD release of their first project together, a British television show called Spaced. Wright and Pegg went on to make “Shaun of the Dead” and “Hot Fuzz” and Pegg will play Scotty in the new film version of “Star Trek.” Jen Chaney of The Washington Post reported that they were actually filming, too — “Daytrippers” director Greg Mottola is making a movie featuring Pegg and frequent co-star Nick Frost that begins and ends at Comic-Con.
Wright spoke about his American influences, including “Arrested Development,” the plotting of “Seinfeld,” “Flight of the Conchords,” and “The Larry Sanders Show.” “‘Larry Sanders’ was not all that popular but it was one of the most influential series. It led directly to the UK ‘The Office.’ And we wanted to make an associative, clever, original comedy show like ‘Arrested Development.'” They were also influenced by the British sit-com “The Young Ones.” “It changed the lives of the people of our generation. It spoke to us so personally. It was punk for comedy. It helped give us permission to share experiences like our lives. Like us, the characters sat around, procrastinated, played PlayStation, smoked weed, and had adventures. It was a message for the geek community throughout the world: ‘We are taking over the world.'”
Wright also described getting the commentary tracks together for the DVD. “It all came together at the last minute and we did it all in one day in LA. Kevin Smith, Diablo Cody, Matt Stone, and Quentin Tarantino did it all for free, driving themselves. I did have to get Kevin Smith out of bed, though.”
Stevenson talked about her “strong and unique female character. She is different but equal to the male. She’s not intended to be any sort of archetype of stereotype — just an original and authentic character and that was the interesting perspective and because I am female it was strong. The fan base is equally strong in both genders,” she noted. ” That is because it is not escaping into a fantasy world of no gender boundaries; it’s a real world of real people.”
- One of the highlights of a panel discussion on comics in the 1970’s was the raucous recollections of the struggles with the censors. Like the movies, comics had been subject to a code that covered (literally in some cases) what could be depicted. Bernie Wrightson recalled that after six issues of “Swamp Thing,” the censors noticed that he wasn’t wearing any pants. Wrightson explained that (a) no one had objected in the first six issues, (b) this was a creature who emerged from the swamp, where pants are not easily obtained, and (c) he is a plant.
Another great panel was the reminiscences from the MAD Magazine editor and staff about their experiences in the 1960’s. They had especially fond memories of the annual vacation trips the staff would take together to locations all over the world. One year, they went to Haiti and found out ahead of time that MAD had only one subscriber on the island, an American teenager. The entire staff went over to his house and rang the doorbell to ask him to renew.
- It was fun to run into the crew from Rotten Tomatoes — here interviewing Bender the robot from “Futurama”
- One of my favorite events was a very funny and very energizing talk about the power of creativity by author, artist, and comic strip creator Lynda Barry, based on her book, What It Is. Barry has a great gift for specificity and her images were so precise and evocative that she immediately connected to everyone in the room. She talked about how the brain patterns of deep play and creative concentration are the same. But we forget how to be playful — usually around 8th grade, though she spoke sternly about those who show children a DVD of someone playing instead of encouraging them to play on their own. “Play and mental health have something to do with each other,” she said. “Part of us remembers that. Imagination is a natural antidepressant and a boost to immune system.” She told us that we should always listen with the alertness and openness we bring to hearing a joke. Her stories and mental exercises had the audience all leaning forward, utterly engaged.
One more Comic-Con post coming…with Joss Whedon’s panel on “Dollhouse.”