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Comic-Con 2004: Day One
The Imminent Threat of Giant Robots

At Comic-Con, you're always this close to being crushed to death by a giant robot.

For some reason, it stands out this year that Comic-Con actually gets advertised all over town as a "celebration of the popular arts." Notice that. Not a celebration of comics, but of everything. Consider that the loudest booths are for anime (as they were last year) and videogames. At almost every turn, you stumble across a company touting a collectible card game for a licensed product (even Mighty Beanz). Throwing comics into the mix seems almost an afterthought, so it came as a strange relief for Disney to show up at the convention with a focus on reintroducing its comics to an American audience.

Already, the Hollywood attention has begun. Paramount has begun early by pushing Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, both with a kicking booth and by stationing menacing giant robots on either side of First Street just across from the Convention Center grounds. Luckily for our peace of mind, we saw one in the process of set-up and can say those words heard way too often in our lives, "hmmm...it's not as impressive when it's deflated."

At least she was given squeezy toys to play with...
Impressive but sure to be controversial, MGM chose to advertise its video product Species III by putting a woman on display. Not necessarily a new tactic, as convention attendees certainly like to stop and ogle. But this time around, though in context of the Species series, actress/models have been hired to loll around in glass case and look bored. With that many eyes upon you, looking bored may actually be a major acting achievement. That was overlooked by a few female convention goers that took umbrage at this naked exploitation. Maybe naked isn't the best word.

For Hollywood, Thursday tends to be the day devoted to cult films and TV shows, and this year maintains the tradition. Writer/director Richard Kelly got to stave off at least one fan who took Donnie Darko a little too seriously, while in Room 6AB, the geeks of Freaks and Geeks gathered with show creator Paul Feig for a bittersweet reunion. What does it have to do with comics? Not much. But it's a show that comics fans clearly love.

Earlier in the day, a Creative Light panel offered advice to aspiring filmmakers. Despite a problem with the sound, it went over well, and most of the audience appeared to be in some stage of putting together their own productions. We have to give the shout out here because Scott Zakarin gave it out to us during the panel, taking every opportunity to wedge in a mention of Fanboy Planet.

Let us give a shout out to a show that Comedy Central previewed this afternoon: Drawn Together. An eight episode series (so far) set to debut this fall, the show brings together eight different cartoon characters to live in one house and not drive each other crazy. A simple premise that looks like it could go really tasteless really quickly, but funny all the way. And one of its writers is thirteen years old, which only revives my bitterness over not having been a child prodigy.

While that went on, DC Comics made some not so quiet announcements. At a panel entitled "In The Name of Justice," they dropped the bombshell that they would launch another Justice League title. Before you write this off as a strange time-traveling accident to about ten years ago, note that Justice League Classified will start off with an arc by Grant Morrison and Ed McGuinness. It's possible that they may continue, or come back after a break, but the title is designed to handle story arcs by top flight creators, set in random periods of Justice League history. Any bets on Gail Simone somehow making Justice League Detroit seem cool?

We don't know, really.
If you have woken up with night sweats that Chuck Austen would remain on the regular JLA book, DC confirmed a recent rumor that Kurt Busiek would take over the book, with a possible Austen fill-in.

Over in Gotham City proper, Judd Winick got named permanent writer on Batman. I haven't had time to review his current run with Dustin Nguyen, so let me go on record here as saying I really didn't think Winick would make a great Batman writer. AND I WAS WRONG, OH SO WRONG.

So congratulations, Judd, because you write one hell of a Dark Knight. Now if you could just help a videogame company make one of Batman's games cool...

Though he will not go into in-depth until next week, Michael Goodson spent some time with THQ previewing The Punisher game. When I found him in the hotel room he was jumping up and down in his chair, giggling and repeating "wood chipper" over and over. That must mean it was very cool. In weeks to come, he'll be offering his viewpoint on the many games that he sampled today. What happens at Comic-Con gets exploited for months afterward.

Tonight was also the Star Wars Fan Film Festival, an event attended by our own Mish'al Samman. As of this writing, he hasn't filed a report, but then it's late and I turned off my cellphone. The event was huge last year, as were fan films in general, and this year these are the only films you'll see freely using licensed properties. After last year's Batman: Dead End kerfuffle (Batman fights Alien and Predator, and basically, fans went nuts), Warner Brothers put the kibosh on Comic-Con allowing anybody to show a film with one of the big guns. It keeps us all the more untainted for Green Lantern.

At the end of the day, the Fanboy Planet staff dined with Mark Teague and Geoff Johns at the Gaslamp Strip Club, a fine steakhouse where you grill your own meat. Actually, Geoff was two tables over and didn't realize we were there, but I'm sure it was an oversight.

See? This close to being crushed to death by a giant robot..

For further photos from today, click here.

Tomorrow: Comic-Con Day Three -- in which ye olde editor has a birthday, making him merely ye olde.

Derek McCaw


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