Comics Ate My Brain

July 26, 2004

San Diego Diary, Day 2

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tom Bondurant @ 4:45 pm

Friday, July 23

Going to Comic-Con inevitably reminds me of going on marching band trips. I am always just on the outskirts of feeling sufficiently socialized to deal with these ritzy settings, and here I am doing something which many people consider somewhat juvenile. This is a long way of saying I couldn’t navigate the room-service menu well enough to order for 4 people and still keep within our budget.

Friday also saw the arrival of the aircraft carrier Ronald Reagan, which would have San Diego as its home port. All the local TV stations gave it massive coverage, of course. Nancy was there. We had no idea whether it would come close enough to us to affect the water taxi. It didn’t, but I halfway expected to go out to the dock and see a couple of destroyers floating calmly between me and the convention. We did count at least 4 helicopters hovering over the city. Don’t know whether they were news or military. Probably both.

The big attraction for me on Friday was the Batman Begins panel, because I hoped they’d premiere the rumored teaser trailer. No such luck. Instead, we 6,500 assembled in Hall H got an entertaining session with writer David Goyer and actor Cillian (Scarecrow) Murphy. Goyer assured us that he was more than pleased with the way the film turned out; it’s the Batman film he’s always wanted to see; and nothing anyone hated about the last four movies is in this one. There was also a taped greeting from director Chris Nolan and star Christian Bale. Bale looked fidgety and tired, but maybe that’s just me.

The BB show also included a look at Constantine. I wonder if anyone at Warner Bros. appreciated the irony of putting these two movies together. Batman had long been rumored to be the most faithful adaptation of the comics, whereas Constantine took a character conceived as a seedy bleach-blond British occult con-man and turned him into an American played by Keanu Reeves. (The original model for the character, some 20 years ago, was Sting.) In other words, fans came to be reassured about Batman, and quite possibly to vent about the liberties being taken with Constantine. However, Warners did a pretty credible job of showing that Constantine would still be a dark, disturbing trip through Heaven and Hell, and Keanu (who was there in person) acquitted himself well. I had no interest in Constantine before this presentation, but I do now.

Warners also showed trailers for its Exorcist prequel (it tried hard, but not quite) and A Sound of Thunder. The latter is based on the Ray Bradbury short story about a group of hunters who travel back in time to hunt a tyrannosaur and end up changing history. The trailer had the advantage of being introduced by Mr. Bradbury, and it was nice to see how many people of all ages still appreciate him and his contributions to SF/F. Thunder looks pretty decent — more of an action film than an ironic commentary, but probably enjoyable.

Next up for me was the Superman panel. There were a couple of interesting tidbits about the books themselves. Adventures of Superman writer Greg Rucka said that writing Superman isn’t easy because of his powers, it’s hard because you have to tell a good story despite the powers. (I’m paraphrasing terribly.) Superman/Batman writer Jeph Loeb disclosed that he plans to leave the book after about another year, and explained that his next big arc on the book would have our heroes taking over the world.

The panel was dominated by a couple of fans who started arguing with the creators. The first one said he felt lost by the changes in the books since April (when new creative teams took over) and wanted to know if he should have gotten any special issue. The short answer was no, he was supposed to feel lost; but this took quite a while to sink in. The other guy wanted to know why there were so many new one-off villains, and couldn’t the creators use some of the older, more familiar ones? Again, the short answer was that the writers and artists got paid to think up new things. That was met with a conspiratorial “that’s just a publisher’s directive” reply, but Rucka basically said they all liked thinking up new villains, not just doing the latest Luthor story.

However, I did get to talk to Chuck Austen and Super-editor Eddie Berganza after the panel. Austen confirmed for me that the wacky doctor was based on Jack Black. Berganza was very gracious with his time, answering my questions about whether Clark Kent was slated exclusively for Adventures, and talking about the time-twisting ramifications of Superman #200 and Superman: Birthright. He didn’t have to be as nice as he was, so I appreciated his time.

After bumming around a couple of other panels for an hour or so, I went to the Warner Bros. Animation presentation, which talked about the Cartoon Network series Justice League Unlimited, Teen Titans, and The Batman. The Justice League and Teen Titans presentations were pretty entertaining, and most of the Titans cast was there. As for The Batman (so named to distinguish itself from the long-running Batman: The Animated Series), an entire episode was shown (featuring Man-Bat), but much of the comments seemed designed to assure fans of the earlier series that they had the utmost respect for the show’s predecessor and would be happy if the new one were half as good. The episode itself was OK. While the vigilante Batman is being chased by the police, the monstrous Man-Bat appears, and the chaos he causes rubs off on Batman’s reputation. It didn’t seem as deep as an average episode of the earlier series, but it’s hard to judge.

Still didn’t get a chance to hand out any cards.

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