Postcard from Comic-Con
Our globetrotting correspondent Mike Jones reports from the new international safe haven for film geeks, San Diego Comic-Con.
The Comic-Con volunteer working the registration desk has seen most every character in the universe pick up their badge, from the Green Lantern to Alice in Wonderland. "But it was the girl in the French maid outfit carrying an Uzi had me scratching my head," she says. "Bless her, but her generous body just wasn't built for that get-up." Yet that is Comic-Con -- a celebration of secret joys made public. And while its geek growth has made it a target of Letterman and Leno, genre lovers come here to be loved no matter how they look.
And loved they are.
Anything even partially resembling a costume is stopped and photographed. Likewise, every character has their own pose. For some of the more outlandish, it's a chore to even walk across the hall or take a leak without getting stopped. Outside, a Wonder Woman begged off some eager photographers, saying she was desperate for sunblock for her strapless shoulders. Even the unintentional item of flair gets captured as one man with an eyepatch discovered. "It's not a costume," he exclaimed to crowd of eager cell-phone cameras. "I was gouged in the eye by a rapid Harry Potter fan!"
Meanwhile, two real San Diego cops patrolling the convention floor have long ago stopped explaining themselves. Just don't ask them to pose.
Most every major toymaker has a presence in the Convention Center. While their products are plastered over any available space, most realize it's not enough for this crowd. The geeks want things, and it better be exclusive. If there's some game involved to score a limited edition Lego Star Wars figure, even better. Truckloads of toys are swept out as fast as they can be trucked in. Even Hasbro, which already has GI Joe and Transformers here, found a way to add some genre-drama to its My Little Pony line -- it's made a bipolar doll. Their Comic-Con edition pony is half "good," and half "evil." Thankfully, the Pony's evil side isn't horribly disfigured like Batman's two-faced villain Harvey Dent, who's checking out the Peanuts booth down the row.
Movie studios are using every corner of the Con, wheeling in their big draws to wow crowds. Autographs are signed, directors reveal plot details, and a reel or two from an upcoming blockbuster is leaked to a roomful of prime-demographic kids. The cast from the new Twilight chapter faced their fans, again. And James Cameron, who revealed a chunk of his heavily-hyped sci-fier, Avatar, reclaimed his sci-fi crown after a decade. Attendees continue to buzz about the footage, guaranteeing a few Avatar-inspired costumes for next year.
In fact, the Comic-Con ground is so fertile with geek love that it's hard to think of any movie that hasn't played well here. While studios also spend marketing dollars to debut big pictures at Cannes, they risk the famous Riviera boos and hisses if the film doesn't play well. Not so at Comic-Con. As the studios are discovering, there is a geek for every film. And that geek probably blogs.
You can even predict the hour when the tweets and blogs start humming. By 3pm the walls of the Convention Center are lined with seated, exhausted attendees. Darth Vader helmets come off, laptops open, and Comic-Coners wire the day's happenings to their own fanbase. As Comic-Con has not only made it okay to worship your favorite character, the internet has made it possible to find the like-minded. "I have 382 followers on Twitter," said a large, blue Smurf. "I feel like I'm representing them."