Comic-Con 2016: Day Three/Four, by David Bax
After Friday’s highlight of Blair Witch, I was glad to have a relaxed schedule on Saturday. If you’re looking for coverage of the major Warner Bros. and Marvel announcements and trailers from Hall H, look to the sites that do that well, with insight from people dedicated enough to wait all night for the chance to bring you the news. Instead, I decided to start off with a comic book panel.
Well, it was mostly a comic book panel. The Archie Comics 75th anniversary panel was not quite the retrospective I was hoping for but it was fun nonetheless. Archie Comics is celebrating this anniversary with a number of new ventures, the flagship of which is the first ever live-action version of Archie himself. The new CW show Riverdale is a teen soap opera but instead of the aw-shucks pleasantness associated with the brand, it’s a murder mystery. The fact that this constitutes no sort of sacrilege is a testament to the malleability of this created world. Over the years, Archie has time-traveled, fought zombies and done plenty else so why not solve the murder of series fixture Jason Blossom? After a brief behind the scenes video, the panel moved on to the upcoming Betty and Veronica fashion line (we saw a denim jacket with a bunch of patches on it) and then, finally, into new comics. Archie Meets Ramones obviously looks fun but the main attraction is the all new Betty and Veronica series. Writer and artist Adam Hughes discussed his approach and we all got an issue #1 with a variant cover.
From there, I walked over to the Indigo Ballroom (another official event space at Comic-Con not located inside the convention center). I tried to get some real food but the glut of hungry nerds pushed the estimated wait time to over an hour. So, con food it was. Luckily, the concessions at the Hilton Bayfront are of higher quality than across the street and I was able to enjoy a (dry, but still) pulled pork sandwich and french fries while gazing out at the newly establish Comic-Con HQ, a mini-con on the Hilton’s front lawn co-sponsored by Comic-Con International themselves (this whole thing is beginning to consume itself). The cast of a television show, possibly The Originals was being interviewed in the hot sun.
I have enjoyed the output of Phil Lord and Chris Miller, in terms of both film (Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, The Lego Movie) and television (more on that later). So I was looking forward to their new live action/animation hybrid, prime time sitcom Son of Zorn. Animation being a difficult and lengthy process, they were unable to show us the finished pilot but we did get to see the presentation pilot made a year ago and a few minutes of works in progress from the show proper. Jason Sudeikis voices Zorn, an animated He-Man type who has come back into the lives of his human ex-wife (Cheryl Hines) and son (Johnny Pemberton). The presentation pilot had some good gags, mostly involving the counterintuitively violent nature of Zorn’s homeland but lacked focus. But with its talented cast, including Tim Meadows (who appeared on the panel with Hines and Pemberton) and the Lord and Miller pedigree, it could turn out to be something great.
Case in point, the next panel was for The Last Man on Earth. Despite having one of the best pilots I’ve ever seen, the first season of this post-apocalyptic comedy got bogged down in repetition and horndog juvenilia. Yet, the second season roared back, becoming deeper, more confident and weirder while strengthening the show’s characters and themes. Similarly, this year’s panel was a major improvement over the last. In 2015, star/creator Will Forte and co-star January Jones were the first show of the day and no one (on stage or in the audience) seemed fully awake. This year, Forte and Jones were joined by Kristen Schaal, Mel Rodriguez, Cleopatra Coleman and the great Mary Steenburgen. There was no footage or announcements (though it was implied that the show will move on from its Malibu setting) but everyone was game and funny, most notably Steenburgen, who talked about the show’s blend of absurdity and emotional rawness but also rapped the lyrics to “Informer” by Snow.
That was just about enough for me. I returned to the exhibit hall floor the next afternoon to pick up some exclusive vinyl (Over the Garden Wall OST and Inside Out/Black Flag parody cover 7”) and made my way home. This year’s convention had highlights both inside (Valerian) and outside (Blair Witch) the official goings-on. I may never be able to do San Diego Comic-Con again like I used to. For one thing, there are fewer and fewer movie panels each year and, for another, their being crammed into Saturday makes it an impossible ticket. But, as long as I stay light on my feet and roll with the changes, I can still have a fun time by remembering that Comic-Con isn’t about any of the things I’m missing. It’s not about any one thing at all. It’s five days a year when all of popular culture comes together and forms an unwieldy, sweaty, drunken, exhilarating Voltron.