Comic-Con 2015 Roundup: Best Costumes, Favorite Discoveries

Posted on July 14, 2015 at 2:48 pm

Copyright Nell Minow 2015
Copyright Nell Minow 2015

One thing I look for every year at San Diego Comic-Con is new technology. One looked like silly fun — you can insert your smartphone into a re-designed Mattel Viewmaster that will turn your photos into 3D. Also fun, from Gene Roddenberry’s production company, is a new short film called “White Room O2B3,” filmed with a nine-camera contraption that allows the viewer to select the angle and point of view. The movie can be played dozens, maybe hundreds of times without repeating the experience. It comes with a “straight” version, too. Breckin Meyer stars with six other actors in a locked room mystery as each one of them has to figure out why they are there.

Copyright 2015 Nell Minow
Copyright 2015 Nell Minow

And I was really impressed with the new DJI Phantom drone which will be directed by the operator’s head movements, via goggles. These drones will be used for a variety of important jobs including aid for first responders, construction, and agriculture. But they will also enable new, cheaper, safer opportunities in cinematic storytelling.

As always, I went to as many of the panels featuring the “below the line” filmmakers I could.  These are the extraordinarily talented people responsible for the score, the design, and the special effects.  The storyboard artists were very impressive, showing skill and flexibility — sometimes they have to map out the movie before the script is completed.  The panel of special effects masters from ILM included the great John Goodson, who designed just about every cool spacecraft you’ve ever seen in a movie, and it was fascinating to hear the panelists talk about the advances in technology in the forty years since ILM was created by George Lucas.

Biggest thrill of Comic-Con this year was getting a glimpse of real-life superhero John Lewis, who was there to receive an award for the graphic memoir of his work with the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, March. Lewis dressed as he did when he crossed the bridge in Selma with Dr. King.

The panel on Toy Soldiers War Chest explained that the computer game works like a real-life toy chest. Just as kids don’t segregate their toys in real life, this game allows GI Joe to battle He-Man and — just announced — Assassin’s Creed. “You can bring all the toys you used to play with together and have them fight each other. We just went through the boxes of toys we had as kids and tried to find the coolest looking stuff.” (No She-Ra, though. Expect a Twitter hashtag: #whereisshera.) They are so committed to re-creating the experience of playing with the toys that the figures are accurate to the toys themselves, not to the humans who inspired them. “They even have realistically broken thumbs.” But to meet the requirements of the game, they have more “points of articulation.”

Copyright 2015 Nell Minow
Copyright 2015 Nell Minow

My favorite costume at this year’s San Diego Comic-Con was Disgust from “Inside Out.” I love how she played the part with that great disgusted look. I also loved the way whole families got into the act with coordinated costumes, like the Batman villains and the characters from “Frozen.” You can see 200 of my Comic-Con costume pictures here.

I was very excited to attend the ILM (Industrial Light and Magic) panel. The group was founded by George Lucas 40 years ago, and the “Raiders, Rebels, and Raptors” panel told us how they thought of themselves as “your mind giving the finger to what’s known and letting your imagination fist-bump the unknown. This is what happens when you question everything.” When they began, “we didn’t know the word CGI.” Everything was built out of real materials. But that changed very quickly. They compared the original “Jurassic Park” with just a few minutes of computer graphics (“the first lung-breathing animal created by computer”) to “Jurassic World,” with the dinosaurs almost entirely computer-generated. And they showed us how Mark Ruffalo was able to give a full performance as The Hulk with side-by-side comparisons of the footage of his face, covered with dots for the computer, and the final version of the film. “Captain America and Thor have these great costumes, and all Mark Ruffalo got was dots.” The biggest surprise was the footage of Bill Nighy as Davy Jones. I expected his squid face to be all CGI, but the original footage showed that all of the costumes were added by computer, too. “Everything is based on math and physics,” they told us. We don’t know how dinosaurs moved, so they study other creatures, like ostriches and elephants. On the other hand, “We throw all the science out the window for Transformers. All that matters is that it is exciting.” They always keep in mind, though, that “the human eye is good at picking up what isn’t there.” It doesn’t have to be true, but it does have to be believable.

sdcc batman villains

Comic-Con is not just superheroes and fantasy. TV Land is trying to find a new audience and is replacing its all-rerun schedule with edgy new comedies. The people behind “The Jim Gaffigan Show,” “Teachers,” and “ImPastor” were there. I especially enjoyed the cast of “Teachers,” who all come from a Chicago improv and sketch comedy troupe called “The Katydids,” because they are all named Katie. The show began as a web series and one of the challenges in moving production to LA was finding a school building that looked Midwestern. “They all have breezeways, and we have to shoot around the palm trees.”

Another highlight was the Mad about MAD panel, with the staff of the legendary humor magazine.  While many of the other panels began with a disclaimer or admonition not to record any of the exclusive footage, MAD editor John Ficarra began by soberly telling us his lawyers (who were in the room) required that we all raise our hands and agree to certain provisos.  We all stood up obediently and then found ourselves agreeing not to declare our candidacy for the Republican nomination for the Presidency and several other very funny commitments.  Art director Sam Viviano sang a song about a deli to the tune of “Hello Dolly.”  And we heard about the discussions that led to a cover illustration of Hillary Clinton as Furiosa in “Mad Max: Fury Road.” They don’t do “victim humor’ and admitted that their favorite targets are the Westboro church and Donald Trump.

Copyright 2015 Nell Minow
Copyright 2015 Nell Minow

I’m a huge “Big Bang Theory” fan so was excited to see the panel featuring their writers and producers. And then I was overjoyed when two surprise guests appeared, Kunal Nayyar (Raj) and Mayim Bialik (Amy). The behind the scenes details were fascinating and often very funny. The episode where the characters can’t get a drone to work came from the real-life experience of show creator Chuck Lorre. And their scientific advisor told us about having to come up with an idea for the important paper Sheldon and Leonard were working on. “It’s hard enough to have a significant discovery, but I knew Stephen Hawking was coming on the show and he would be reviewing it.” Nayyar and Bialek both said that they could not wait for the scripts to be delivered on Tuesday nights because they are just as excited to see what is going to happen as the audience is.

The Canadian company Arcana made its first-ever appearance at Comic-Con, and it was charmingly low-key.  Their first animated film, Pixies, was released this week. It features the voices of Christopher Plummer, Bill Paxton, and Alexa PenaVega. While thousands of people were cheering on the cast of “Star Wars” in Hall H, I was happy to be part of a group of under 100 hearing about this new film from a new source.

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Comic-Con 2014: Costumes!

Posted on July 31, 2014 at 8:40 am

About 10-15 percent of Comic-Con attendees come in costume and they are always willing to post for photos.  I love the way there is total fluidity of age, race, gender, and body type.  Even species — see Superdog below (no, that’s not Krypto — look at the super-suit and arms!).  Everyone feels free to come as whatever they want to be, whether an iconic character or something they just made up.  Here are some of my favorites.


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Comic-Con 2013: Costumes

Posted on July 21, 2013 at 5:10 pm

I love the costumes at Comic-Con.  They are colorful expressions of enthusiasm and personality.  And I believe they are what financial types call a leading indicator of the popularity of particular movies, games, and television shows.harem superheroes

This year, I noticed fewer Joksharknado costumeers and Watchmen than in the past.  In honor of the big 50th anniversary celebration, there were many Dr. Whos (mostly men) and TARDIS phone booths (mostly women).  And there were more minions!  The “Despicable Me” characters who look like oblong marshmallow peeps are very popular.  My two favorites: the harem girl superheroes (this year’s version of last year’s Playboy Bunny Avengers) and this tribute to the recent viewer favorite, “Sharknado.”



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Comic-Con Costumes

Posted on July 23, 2010 at 6:09 pm

Thoughts on the costumes at Comic-Con, composed as I waited in line for a panel that turned out to be full:IMG_9993.jpg
There are those who work all year to look good in spandex and those who do not. It is not hard to tell the difference. Spandex gives, my friends, but it does not forgive.
There is something that is just wrong about superheroes on an escalator. On the other hand, zombies seem right at home.
If you’re going for comfort, try the Obi-Wan Kenobi outfit.
I don’t think you can fight crime in high heels. Superheroine boots with stiletto heels don’t seem right to me.
Props to the men who commit to the Wolverine costume enough to grow the facial hair.
I saw hobbit ears for sale in two sizes, Frodo and Sam. The Sam size is larger.
What does a ninja say to a Jedi? I overheard one asking the other if he had a costume repair kit handy as he needed some superglue.
IMG_9980.jpgIf I do not recognize the character, I assume it is from a game, not a movie or comic book. Especially if it involves cotton-candy-colored or spiked hair.
Comic-Con costumes are the equivalent of a trending topic on Twitter, a leading indicator of the direction of popular culture. There were fewer Captain Jack Sparrows and Jokers this year, more Katos and lots more of the three green guys — The Green Lantern, the Green Hornet, and Kick-Ass.
It takes some height to pull off the Darth Vader look, but the big guys in the Vader outfits really make it work.
IMG_9907.jpgNo one should wear Renaissance Faire garb to a Comic-Con. We know you didn’t put that together for this event and it just looks wrong. Steampunk, on the other hand, is most welcome. Love that look, and the people who wear it show excellent attention to detail and an appreciation for natural fibers. Rock on.
Get over it, guys. The utlilikilt is not happening.
I like the way that when I ask people in costume if I may take a picture, they strike a pose.
Kids look adorable in superhero costumes.


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