If yesterday was all about comics, today is all about… Well, theoretically about Star Wars, since it is Star Wars day. But the Star Wars vibe just isn't that strong, even with the upcoming Clone Wars coming out. Instead it's Watchmen that's captured the buzz. Which makes me wonder: Is the mainstream fascination with geeky entertainment entering a new phase? A certain amount of self-awareness has crept into the films, via Hancock and the forthcoming Watchmen, which, if it's anything like Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons' original series—and it at least looks a lot like the original series—will be more commentary on superhero adventures than a superhero adventure itself. Scott Tobias once told me that he's sorry that Watchmen was the first superhero comic he ever read since it's kind of like starting with Gravity's Rainbow. A newcomer won't get the references. Have the years of superhero movies leading up to 2008 prepared an audience for a new, self-conscious form of superhero entertainment? TBD. Meanwhile, I'm at the con again.
10:35 A.M.: A man in a Batman costume and a Russian hat with an accent to match is talking to a film crew. I'm geeky enough to spot this as an homage to the Mark Millar-penned series Superman: Red Son, an alternate universe story in which Superman grows up in the U.S.S.R. instead of the States. Does the film crew know this? Does it matter?
10:55 A.M.: On my way to get in line for the Watchmen panel, I swing by Hellboy-creator Mike Mignola's table and buy a sketchbook. One of the best things about the continues to be exclusives like these, both the personal interaction with artists and the items provided for those of us who take the trouble of stopping by. Not that the sketchbook is free or Mignola and I form a lasting friendship or anything. But I do take the trouble of throwing in some extra money for the ASPCA, for whom Mignola has set up a collection jar.
11:05 A.M.: I'm in line for the Watchmen panel and not feeling too good about my chances. Hall H, this biggest facility at the San Diego convention center, holds 6000 people but there are rumors buzzing about the truly devoted showing up at 8:30 A.M. I think showing up nearly an hour early is excessive, but apparently this year is redefining excessive. At least there's the illusion of movement. I circle through the line for a little and become target for marketing. A semi-trailer drives up and down in front of the convention center emblazoned with art from Joy Ride 2. (Yes, Joy Ride 2.) It's followed by a flatbed promoting the video game Mortal Kombat vs. DC. And another promoting Lord Of The Rings Online. And a truck advertising Tru Blood. After a while, a man in a suit with the numbers "8-4" on the jacket walks up. Pauses for photographs, and declaims "I am NOT a number." I guess someone is remaking The Prisoner.
11:25 A.M.: A security guard arrives and shout that anyone waiting to see the presentation on "Watch Man" will not be admitted. The venue is at capacity. I head back into the convention center past some Ghostbusters offering marshmallow-flavored lip balm. That's fine. I was going to Watchmen more out of an obligation to follow the big story. I wanted to go to the panel on the British sitcom Spaced instead. I'm a big fan. It's a cult hit here at best. This should be no problem. (Sidenote: Spaced fans should look for an interview with director Edgar Wright on the site next week.
11:57 A.M.: Of all the people in costume here, the one I keep running into is a woman dressed as Barf, John Candy's character from Spaceballs.
12:02 P.M.: The line for Spaced stretches down the hall, around the corridor, outside, across the patio, down some stairs, and across another patio. I wait, for a while, in front of a man telling his companion that he feels good wearing his kilt around the house but is still self-conscious wearing it outside. After a while, I bail. I'm not getting in. So I head up to the line for Joss Whedon, where I commiserate with someone else who hasn't gotten into any panel all day. Will this break our streak?
1:40 P.M.: Score. The hall is full for Whedon, who's no stranger to Comic-Con. After some brief words of introduction and the announcement that he and Drew Goddard would soon begin work on something called Cabin In The Woods, Whedon brings out the cast and co-creators of Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog, his recent, three-part, Internet-only (for now) musical tragicomedy. This includes three co-writers (two of them Whedon's brothers) and stars Nathan Fillion, Neil Patrick Harris, Felicia Day, and Simon Helberg. Whedon moves immediately to fan Q&As.; He's used to this and clearly loves it.
And the democratic experiment seems appropriate. A superhero-themed musical with a [SPOILER WARNING], downer ending, it's the kind of project that could never get financed or distributed through conventional means. He knows it, too, and knows it can get made thanks to the goodwill of people in this room and people like them elsewhere. Whedon admits it, too, saying that Dr. Horrible is an experiment with a new model "putting power in different hands." Or, put another way, entertainment involving "all of you guys and all of us and maybe not so much some other people." Applause follows.
Other panel members take their turn in the spotlight. Fllion and Harris are particularly charming. No huge surprise.
2:50 P.M.: I hit the floor again for a signing by Darwyn Cooke, the brilliant writer and artist behind The New Frontier. Cooke signs my copy of his retrospective book and we talk about his adaptation of Richard Stark/Donald Westlake's Parker books.
3:10 P.M.: There's a bald guy here in a wheelchair and a tweed suit who looks uncannily like Patrick Stewart. Is he dressed up like Professor Xavier or is he a wheelchair-using comics fan who happens to look the part? Shortly after spotting him I see an African-American man dressed up as Batman. A white guy tells him he's truly the Dark Knight. "That's right," the Batman replies.
3:15 P.M. Overheard: Two teens passing by a stand promoting NASCAR comics:
Teen 1: NASCAR comics?
Teen 2: Oh my God.
Teen 3: Um, epic fail!
3:30 P.M.: Two hours before it starts, the line for the Venture Brothers panel is already ridiculous. People are lining up to get in the panel before it, an X-Box presentation, in order to save space. At least I'm guessing that all those people in Dr. Girlfriend costumes don't happen also to be huge X-Box fans. I had planned to attend. Epic fail.
3:45 P.M.: I decide to spend some time visiting the too-easily-neglected independent publishers area of the exhibit floor. I talk to Alex Robinson, creator of Box Office Poison and the new Too Cool To Be Forgotten. Leigh from Top Shelf, Robinson's publisher, steers me toward the company's new online venture, Top Shelf 2.0. At the First Second booth, my wife gets a sketch from Gene Yang, writer/artist of the award-winning American Born Chinese. The Hernandez Brothers are signing over at Fantagraphics. Everyone's accessible and the atmosphere is pretty chill. It's what the whole con could be like if, you know, there weren't so many people here. Still, I can't help but think that everyone benefits from the crowds and the proximity. Getting a Green Lantern reader intrigued by wandering by the Fantagrphics' area is how you end up with new Love And Rockets readers.
5:10 P.M.: I'd like to meet Eric Powell, creator of The Goon, but his table is mobbed. Again.
7:00 P.M.: I've left the con to take in a screening of the Judd Apatow-produced Pineapple Express. I'm interviewing the film's director David Gordon Green tomorrow. Unfortunately, I'm going to miss the big Mystery Science Theater 3000 reunion hosted by Patton Oswalt. Bah. I'm talking to some of the MST3K guys tomorrow, too, so it's not like I won't get my fix. But this is still a bummer. This movie had better be good. Before the screening, David Gordon Green encourages us to laugh because his parents are here and it's not really their style of comedy. He adds, "But I got them baked in the van." Also in attendance: Simon Pegg, Edgar Wright, and Jessica Hynes (nee Stevenson) from Spaced. It's a meeting of the comedy teams from opposite sides of the Atlantic. I half expect a rumble.
9:15 P.M.: It is pretty good. I'm a bit resistant to action comedies—apart from Midnight Run, Beverly Hills Cop and the films that followed never did much for me—but Pineapple kind of addresses the problems I have when gags and bullets mix. I still have to keep reminding myself that the director of George Washington directed this, too, but there are at least a couple of unmistakably Green moments. Seth Rogen and James Franco make for a memorable buddy team, too, and everyone at the Q&A; session after the screening clearly enjoys hanging out with each other.
9:50 P.M.: I'm supposed to see Tropic Thunder tonight too, but I'm not reviewing it or talking to anyone involved so I'm ending the day, filled-to-capacity panels, endless lines, stoner comedies and all. More tomorrow.