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Comic-Con 2005: Preview Night
Make Room, Make Room!

Enter into a magical world of fantasy and corporate shilling...
Ah, preview night. The one night of the convention that doesn't seem like a scene from Soylent Green.

Make no mistake. This weekend will be a madhouse (though a fun one), because Wednesday night already seems like a Thursday.

Tonight seemed to lack urgency, and I mean that in a good way. Despite a bigger crowd than seen on preview night in years past, most attendees had a good attitude, relaxed and ready to roll but in no hurry to do so.

In fact, the intrepid Fanboy Planet crew (scaled back to two this year) only encountered one guy having completely lost his cool, lugging bags as heavy as the rocks in his head as he swore at the crowd for getting in his way.

Though many of the usual heavy-hitters are here again, as is to be expected, the enthusiasm seems more spread out. Of course DC attracted a lot of attention with their center ring layout, but nearby Nickelodeon did an effective job of stealing the hearts and minds of the young ones.

Not to be outdone, Disney whipped passers-by into a frenzy with all kinds of giveaways and a truly diverse slate. Mickey, Donald and the Gang were almost superfluous with Disney touting W.I.T.C.H., ToonZone and, the biggest news for comics fans, the imminent return of the franchises formerly known as CrossGen. A huge placard for Abadazad hangs over the magic sprawl, but in a video presentation Disney also shows flashes of other properties, including Way of the Rat. And that's just half of their display.

"Come, children...come..."
Walk around and enter the giant Wardrobe that should transport you to Narnia. It's hard to tell, but I think the costumes inside may actually include tie-in merchandise, and I can't decide if that's really clever or a plan worthy of the Snow Queen. Either way, I've always been too easy a sucker for Turkish Delights.

Other studios don't take Disney's display lying down. Sony has a huge kiosk highlighting a number of releases. Lion's Gate has what may be its most ambitious booth yet, centered around Rob Zombie's The Devil's Rejects, which will have its world premiere at the convention Saturday night.

Bigger still is the display for the upcoming Transformers live-action film, and it couldn't be a bigger tease. Underneath several hundred yards of tarp, Optimus Prime lies hidden from fans. All we could see were his mudflaps.

Though the anime companies still have a presence, they seem far less intrusive than in years past. Maybe they're just waiting for a bigger crowd. We're waiting for the boothbabes, which seem to be a dying breed here -- but more on that in our photo gallery.

A frustrated Mish'al ponders befriending the truck.
Once again, Star Wars has set up a mini-convention within the convention floor, rallying many of its licensors around it for a celebration less of Star Wars and more of Star Wars stuff. Were we ever just in it for the love? At any rate, we don't need love when we have clever t-shirts to keep us warm.

All the big game developers are here, too. According to one company rep, they see this as a huge consumer expo, a chance to give tantalizing glimpses of fun to come. While NCSoft does not have a full demo of City of Villains available (at least as of tonight), they are showing passers-by the possibilities of creating an evil costume. EA has pulled out all the stops for a display of their upcoming crossover game, Marvel Nemesis: Rise of the Imperfects (which itself has a not bad comic book prequel/adaptation going on right now from Marvel).

Enter into a magical world of fantasy and corporate shilling...
Somehow Marvel has managed to get away with videogame bed-hopping. Even as the EA game uses several Marvel character from different franchises, Activision controls the licenses for those individual franchises. As a result, that developer's display has all the eye candy a video-game playing comic book reader could want: demos of the just-released Fantastic Four game, the hotly anticipated X-Men: Legends II and the hopefully not prophetically named Ultimate Spider-Man. Finally, someone found a good use for those MTV visuals.

By the way, if you're looking for Marvel, the Activision booth is the place to be. It's nice to see them ally themselves with a vendor and not a competitor to Comic-Con this year.

Promptly at 9 p.m., with much left to see, convention overseers released their "sweepers," horrible killer cyborgs with only one goal in their programming: kick us out onto the crowded streets of San Diego.

And still, we were happy.

Check out the bonus photo gallery!


Derek McCaw


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