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Comic Con Day 1: General Impressions and Serial Killers

Despite living in California for several years now and despite having a general interest in most things geek-centric, I have never been to the San Diego Comic-Con, largely because it sounds like a mess of epic proportions every time people tell me about it. But, also, every time people tell me about it, they get this little gleam in their eyes and say, "You have to go!"

Both of these things, as it turns out, are very much true. Comic-Con IS a mess of epic proportions. I stood in line today more than I did anything else. The only thing I could find to eat without throwing off my hectic schedule was a terrible, overpriced hot dog. And there seems to be little rhyme or reason to how people are herded into the various rooms. (At one point while waiting in line for Avatar, the SDCC volunteers pretty much just gave up and let us start trampling over the ropes meant to keep us in place.) At one point, I decided to ditch the Burn Notice panel since Keith was already going to be there and head across to Avatar (because, I don't know if you've heard, but it cures the leprosy), figuring I at least had a shot at getting in. Nah. We had to stand a quarter mile away from the convention center only to learn much, much later that we weren't getting in. I got a sunburn. It was a good time.

All of this should be far more enervating than it actually is. Something about the sheer insanity of the event and the general bonhomie among the fans gathered for it keeps the whole thing from utterly falling apart. I stood in line for nearly three hours while waiting to get in, in a line that snaked all the way around San Diego's Embarcadero, and I pretty much didn't mind. For one thing, the San Diego Pops Orchestra was rehearsing in a nearby bandshell, playing a suite of tunes from Super Mario Bros. For another, the costumes really are as bizarre and varied as you've heard. Sure, there are a ton of Jokers (though less than last year, I guess), but there's also a girl dressed as a sexy Dr. Horrible and an incredibly elaborate Optimus Prime (whom I saw slow dance with Boba Fett). For another, everybody's friendly. It's like Mayberry if Aunt Bea liked to dress up as a sensual steampunk leprechaun on the weekends.

So I spent most of day one drinking in the atmosphere and standing in line. It seems like the only way to see anything you want to see is to just park your ass in one room and hope for the best (which I'll be doing tomorrow as I ride out the entire day in Ballroom 20), but the things you come to see are often secondary anyway. (And if you want my running commentary, my Twitter feed is always a good bet.)

But, that said, I actually did get into the panel for Dexter's fourth season, though I didn't get in soon enough to see the roundly praised trailer for the season, which shows off new cast member John Lithgow, who's apparently playing a very, very creepy character (I'd say more, but I know y'all hate spoilers so). Lithgow was there, as were series stars Michael C. Hall, Julie Benz and Jennifer Carpenter and a phalanx of producers. Ralph Garman (better known to most for his voicework on Family Guy and better known to Los Angelenos for being the KROQ entertainment news guy) moderated the panel, which was more interesting for the things dropped in between the lines than what was actually said. For example, Lithgow has completed five episodes of the show but has yet to share screen time with any of the regular cast. And Keith Carradine will be back as Special Agent Frank Lundy, brought in to capture a new serial killer (and if you read between my lines, you'll get it).

The fan questions all tended to be variations on, "Michael C. Hall, you play a character who is so X but is also really X. How do you do that?", but Hall, who's surely used to this, was mostly patient and answered them. The fans did manage to get a few good bits out of those involved. Benz answered a question about which scenes she found scariest to film by saying her sex scenes (to, uh, hoots and hollers, which can't help) then revealed, tongue in cheek, that the baby playing Dexter's son is a "really good actor." Carpenter said she thinks Deb, Dexter's sister, probably suspects the truth about her brother. And producer Sara Colleton described Dexter's need to kill as his "special needs," which is surely one way of looking at it. All in all, it was the usual fan service, and nothing said really indicated whether or not the show would rebound from a third season that was hit-or-miss, though the fact that Lithgow seems to be relishing putting his 3rd Rock from the Sun days behind him and embracing creepiness sure seems promising.

Tomorrow: Todd VanDerWerff vs. Ballroom 20, wherein I confront Battlestar Galactica, The Big Bang Theory, 24, Bones, the collected works of Joss Whedon and probably some other stuff.