Comic-Con 2017 Day One, by David Bax

21 Jul

This is my twelfth Comic-Con and, for all I know, it may be my last. I certainly wasn’t feeling that familiar jolt of con joy on Thursday morning as I navigated multiple lines that moved or didn’t move with little in the way of sense or form. I was trying to get tickets to the screening of Death Note that Netflix had planned for that evening. Spoiler alert: I didn’t get them.

One doesn’t simply not get into something at Comic-Con, though. First there are the clueless staff, security and volunteers who will give you varying, sometimes competing, answers to your questions; that is, if they even know what you’re talking about at all. I’ve found the best strategy is to ask enough of them the same question that you can locate the mean.

So, after it took me over 90 minutes and earned me a sunburn to not get the thing I was waiting for, I decided to try my luck with the Ballroom 20 line. Ballroom 20 is the second biggest Comic-Con panel room and traditionally plays host to the TV shows whose casts and creators have come to promote their product. In past years, though, many of the most popular shows (The Walking DeadGame of Thrones) have moved into the much larger Hall H. That doesn’t mean there’s fewer TV shows in Ballroom 20, though. It means that there are more TV shows at Comic-Con than ever before and the stuff that ends up in Ballroom 20 can now often be a weird hodgepodge.

The room kicked off its programming in a non-television fashion, with the 18th Annual Animation Show of Shows. This is a wonderful and delightful program of animated shorts but I’d already seen it at WonderCon (check out my review here) so I used the opportunity to get some sleep.

Next up was a panel I’d been curious, if not excited, to see. It was the pilot screening of a show called Medinah. It’s a near future science fiction show with an ensemble cast including Eric Roberts and Natasha Henstridge in which a moonshot attempt to change our atmosphere and stop global warming goes wrong and either invites or awakens some malevolent nonhuman force. It’s polished and expensive-looking, with impressive cinematography and visual effects. It’s also not very good, with its host of stock character type and a number of cringingly wooden performances.

Far more interesting, though, is the very fact of Medinah. As television becomes more a more prestigious and, for some, a more lucrative pursuit, it is discovering new methods of production. You’ll notice I have not yet mentioned the network (or streaming service) on which Medinah can be viewed. That’s because it doesn’t have one yet. It’s a multinational (shot in Qatar), multi-million dollar series that completed its entire seven episode first season essentially on spec. That it even exists is a testament to the wealth of possibilities in our new television world. But it also makes me wonder when the bubble is going to burst.

I was still in a bit of a funk when the next panel started. But that wouldn’t last. Syfy presented a panel that existed for the sole purpose of having as much fun as possible. Moderated by John Hodgman, a killer panel of John Barrowman, Charlie Jane Anders, Orlando Jones, Aisha Tyler and Adam Savage debated important nerd topics like Star Trek vs. Star Wars and what is the best John Williams theme. It was a blast. And for the record, both the panel and the audience were overwhelmingly pro-Trek.

Considerably cheered and finally getting into the Comic-Con groove again, I was pumped for the next panel, the one I’d entered Ballroom 20 for in the first place. The Battlestar Galactica reunion featured Ron Moore, David Eick, Tricia Helfer, Mary McDonnell, Grace Park, Tahmoh Penikett, Aaron Douglas and Michael Trucco plus a pre-taped word from Edward James Olmos, along with a tribute to the late Richard Hatch. Despite the absence of popular stars like Katee Sackhoff and James Callis, the panel was lively and funny. It made me want to watch the great series again and, I don’t mind telling you, it brought a tear to my eye.

My final panel of the day, before heading into San Diego’s Gaslamp neighborhood for an evening of booze and fun, was the Warner Archive’s discussion of their newly restored Blu-ray of Batman: Mask of the Phantasm. With screenwriter Alan Burnett, director Bruce Timm and Batman himself, Kevin Conroy, the panel blended behind the scenes stories (at an executive’s insistence, Timm had to cut together and present a chronological cut of the film, with all of the many flashbacks stacked up at the top; Batman didn’t even show up until halfway through), technical looks at the restoration (lazy third party animators who didn’t wipe cells clean of dust made this a costly endeavor) and, of course, a look at the footage itself (the opening eight minutes), which is brilliant and crisp and will no doubt look even better on your TV than on the convention center’s 1080i projector.

I went into Thursday wondering if this, my twelfth Comic-Con, would be my last. Nah, I’m coming back.

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