Archive for the ‘Comic-Con International’ Category

POP CULTURE HIGHLIGHTS OF 2011

December 28, 2011

Here’s my annual list of what excited and entertained me in the world of show biz this year:

10. What was my most exciting surprise star sighting of 2011? Was it running into Mark Pellegrino in the hallway of the Convention Center at the San Diego Comic Con and asking him to sign my “Lost” DVD (if I had known then how much I would enjoy his work on “The Closer” this year, I would have embarrassed him with praise!)? Was it standing in the buffet line at the after-screening party for “Take Me Home Tonight” and slowly realizing that the guy in front of me in line was Zac Efron (hey, he had a buzzcut, so he wasn’t that recognizable)? No, the most exciting surprise sighting was exploring the huge ballrooms at the Rio in Las Vegas during the World Series of Poker, walking along aisle after aisle and not spotting anyone famous, only to stop at a table and realize I was staring at Phil Hellmuth, the bad boy of poker! I didn’t see any tantrums though, as Phil seemed to be in a good mood, talking and laughing with his fellow players. Must have been the lack of TV cameras…

9. I have long wished that Barry Manilow would put out one more great album with the kind of varied music of his classic seventies albums. I had to wait through five straight CD’s of covers, but on his latest album, “15 Minutes,” Barry did just that, and included a soaring ballad that belongs with his best called “Bring On Tomorrow.” And let’s give an honorable mention to Richard Marx, who also released some great new songs on his “Stories To Tell” album, “When You Loved Me” and “Loved.”

8. This year I was hired to write a TV show, “The Greatest Duets: It Takes Two,” for PBS. The show was hosted by Kenny Loggins and I got to have lunch with Kenny, an artist whose music I have enjoyed for years.

7. Another artist whose work I have enjoyed for years is that of my friend Ernie Halter. It was great fun this year watching as Ernie added to his fanbase, thanks to Justin Bieber! First Justin covered Ernie’s song, “Come Home To Me,” at a concert and then he attended one of Ernie’s shows and sang it with him. And thanks to the spotlight Justin gave Ernie, Ernie gained a lot of new fans, including just under half a million followers on Twitter. Pay it forward, indeed!

6. I was very happy to see USA bring one of my favorite authors’ books to TV with the movie, “John Sandford’s Certain Prey.” More please!

5. While I always enjoy attending the finale of “American Idol” each year, this year had special significance, even though no one knew it at the time. It was the final performance by saxophonist Clarence Clemons, who was featured on Lady Gaga’s “The Edge Of Glory.” I listen constantly to my Springsteen CD’s and Clarence was a huge part of making Bruce’s music come alive. RIP, Big Man!

4. Another one of my musical heroes is Elton John. While I have never interviewed him, I did get a chance this year to ask him a question at a press conference promoting a film he produced, “Gnomeo And Juliet.” And I was rewarded with a long thoughtful answer about Elton’s influences and his constant search for great new music.

3. Another big Comic-Con highlight came at a panel hosted by Entertainment Weekly’s “Lost” writers Dan Snierson and Jeff Jensen. They were interrupted by a guy in a stormtrooper’s uniform, who was revealed to be “Lost” producer Carlton Cuse, who was soon joined by the second half of the Darlton team, Damon Lindelof. Between a long Q&A and the reveal of a hilarious “lost” “Lost” scene, it was a grand goodbye to a great show.

2. While I may never see another show I love as much as “Lost,” I have to give props to all the great series on FX I discovered this year. First I got into the second season of “Justified,” which was full of great acting and engrossing plots. Then a few months later while on vacation, I was up late and saw a few episodes of “Louie” and instantly loved the show’s surrealistic brand of comedy and drama. Truly amazing. And just a few months ago, I saw “It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia” for the first time and thanks to reruns on FX, Comedy Central and syndication, I’m already caught up with every episode. “Seinfeld” but with even worst people? I love it! Now if FX would only greenlight “Powers”…

1. I took my annual trip to Las Vegas to work on the Academy Of Country Music Awards as well as the special “Girls Night Out” and was wowed by Carrie Underwood’s one-two punch. First she did a surprise duet with Steven Tyler at the ACMA’s on “Walk This Way” that was the highlight of the show and then turned around and topped that performance the next night with her stunning rendition of “How Great Thou Art.” I also have a few more personal highlights from working on the shows, including meeting the great John Fogerty (okay, he just thanked me when I got him some water, but still!) and getting to speak to another of my favorites, the shockingly tall Vince Gill, when I happened upon him sitting outside the rehearsal room. Do I now have some Vince Gill autographed CD’s? Of course!

My Comic Con 2011

July 25, 2011

Once again I headed down to San Diego for the extravaganza known as Comic Con. While movies like “The Amazing Spider-Man” and “The Immortals” were getting the big push from the studios (judging from the wraps done on the sides of the big hotels), I was more focused on the TV shows being promoted.

 

We arrived too late on Wednesday night to do little more than a walk through of the exhibit hall, which followed the layout of the previous year. Thursday I spent haunting the DC Comics booth, where writers and artists show up to meet fans, autograph books and sketch for free. I always hang around the DC booth much more than Marvel’s because while Marvel will have just one line featuring a few of their stars each hour, DC will have three or four going at once, keeping the lines manageable. My thanks to Dan Jurgens, Jeff Lemire, Norm Rapmund and Rafael Albuquerque for the additions to my sketchbook.

 

Of course, my number one priority at the Con was adding autographs to my various books. For instance, I have a book on the history of DC Comics signed by over 130 writers and artists that have worked for the company. I also have books on Marvel Comics, television and Batman, my favorite as I started with the signature of Batman creator Bob Kane 25 years ago and have been adding to the book with the autographs of people that have worked on Batman in comics, TV and movies ever since. Somehow though, one autograph has always eluded me… the signature of comics legend Frank Miller! Once again, I tried and failed, as they capped the line for Frank before I arrived at his signing. Oh well, there’s always next year…

 

But any sadness over that missing signature was washed away by my success at adding autographs to my “Lost” Season One DVD box. I was in time for the signing by Nestor Carbonell, who’s in the new CW show, “Ringer.” It’s a good thing for me Sarah Michelle Gellar didn’t sign, as I’m sure the line would have been around the block! Then Saturday, I added three more “Lost” actors to the box. To participate in Warner Brothers signings, you had to draw a winning ticket from a bag. If you did, they gave you a wristband, which got you into their booth at the appropriate time. I was lucky and got a ticket for “Person Of Interest,” enabling me to get Michael Emerson’s autograph and say a few words to him. I felt bad though, as I was planning to have the other stars of the show sign my TV book, but the security at the booth insisted I only have one item signed, even though it meant I would only have one actor sign for me. Well, the “Lost” DVD came first, of course. When I left the booth, the two guys in front of me in line commented on how badly the security guy had treated me and added that another actor from “Lost,” Mark Pellegrino, was standing near the booth. Unfortunately he had moved away by the time I looked around, but I later saw him in one of the upstairs hallways and he was happy to sign the box right then and there. Finally I had noticed that Daniel Roebuck, who portrayed the not long for this world science teacher Doc Artz on the show, was scheduled to sign free autographs at a booth, so I hightailed it there and added signature number four to the “Lost” box. Dan also gave me an autographed photo of himself (on which he wrote “Kaboom!” which I made me laugh) and spoke of a family film he has coming out called “That’s What I Am.” He’ll also be seen in an episode of “The Mentalist” next season.

 

Of course, my “Lostapalooza” didn’t end there, as I attended the  “Lost: One Year Later” panel and enjoyed the surprise appearance of “Lost” producers Carlton Cuse and Damon Lindelof. Kudos to EW writers Jeff Jensen and Dan Snierson for turning over their panel to Darlton for the duration. Of course, the highlight was the showing of a never before seen “Lost” scene they code named The Marbled Rye. Check it out online if you were a fan of the show. Very funny!

 

Still, the one thing about Comic Con is making choices. Did I err by attending that “Lost” panel and skipping the “Green Lantern” animated series panel hijacked by Conan O’Brien, who answered questions and told jokes for 45 minutes? Should I have attempted to attend a panel in the gigantic but usually packed Hall H, which this year may have had a few empty seats, for the chance to see Steven Spielberg? Maybe, but it doesn’t matter. Because the truth is the thing that keeps me going back to Comic Con year after year is the chance to hang out with my friends in a city that’s full to bursting of people who love the same things I do!

POP CULTURE HIGHLIGHTS OF 2010

December 25, 2010

Here’s my year end wrap-up of what I really enjoyed this year:

1.  “NCIS”:  Back in March, I helped out my friend Chuck The Movie Guy by filming a few of his interviews on the red carpet at the Paley Television Festival. I joined him to cover “Flash Forward,” “Cougar Town” and “NCIS,” and I never would have imagined that a few months later the latter show would become my biggest pop culture obsession of 2010 (which is another way of saying my biggest obsession).

My friend Brad had gotten obsessed with the show a few months before me and had soon seen every episode, a goal made easy by the fact they constantly show old episodes on USA Network. Based on Brad’s recommendation, I caught a few shows while visiting my hometown, and just like Brad, I soon devoted my free time to seeing every episode. Well, almost every episode. I have two more to see. I should have known this would happen. From “Magnum P.I.” to “Quantum Leap” to “JAG,” there hasn’t been one long running show created by Donald Bellisario that I haven’t loved.

2.  “LOST”:  Many were disappointed at the way the show wrapped up, but I liked it just fine all the way to the end. Maybe “Lost” was never as complicated as we viewers thought while trying to puzzle out it’s mysteries through the years, but the revelation of the meaning of the alternate universe still packed a punch. I never thought there would be another show as important to me as “The X-Files,” but this was it.

3.  “BROOKS & DUNN: THE LAST RODEO”:  So many reasons this is on the list. My annual week in Las Vegas working on the show that tapes the night after the Academy Of Country Music Awards is always a joy. The week included such highlights as sitting in on an interview with Carrie Underwood, my first look at City Center and hanging out just a few feet away from great performers like Keith Urban and Jennifer Hudson as they ran through their songs. Then there was the ACMA show itself, the always fun after-party where act after act goes onstage and does a song or two (I loved Laura Bell Bundy singing Tina Turner’s version of “Proud Mary” exactly like Tina Turner, complete with choreography and backup dancers) and “The Last Rodeo” itself, enlivened considerably by the hilarious Kix Brooks.

4.  COMIC-CON:  I only decided to go the week of the show and I’m glad I did, as I got to meet some of my favorite stars, including Pauley Perrette of “NCIS” and Elizabeth Mitchell of “V,” which allowed me to add another signature to my “Lost” DVD box.  Sure, I had to wait in some long lines, but it was totally worth it. And then there was the moment Saturday night as I was packing to leave and suddenly fireworks started lighting up the sky across the street over the convention center. Magic…

5.  The “American Idol” Finale:  While I have to admit I wasn’t too excited by Lee DeWyze’s win, I did enjoy the parade of guest stars like the Bee Gees, Chicago and Hall & Oates and was amazed by Bret Michaels’ appearance so soon after his hospital stay. The show was followed by the always enjoyable after-party, highlighted by Siobahn Magnus’ joy at meeting her idols, the brothers Hanson, as well as catching up with some of my Idol favorites from past seasons.

6.  “Mad Men”:  This was the year I finally really got into the show. “The Suitcase” was the best hour of TV I saw this year.

7.  “The King’s Speech”:  My favorite movie of the year. I was into it right from the very beginning. Funny and touching in equal measure.

8.  Gary Oldman:  My favorite interview of the year came during the junket for “The Book Of Eli,” as Gary admitted he chooses his roles these days around his life as a single father, explained how he turns on the emotion for his angry scenes and admitted he was having such a good time, he didn’t want to leave the room.  We didn’t want him to leave either.

9.  “Inception”:  The only movie this year I couldn’t wait to see. I vote the top keeps spinning!

10. “Sherlock”:  A superb BBC miniseries shown on public TV here in America. Not that I didn’t enjoy the Robert Downey, Jr. version, but this was the Sherlock I grew up knowing.

11.  “Heartbreaker”:  The French show the Americans how it’s done. A great premise and likable leads remind us that a great romantic comedy need not be just a flick for chicks.

COMIC-CON 2010

July 30, 2010

With the demise of “Lost” and the lack of a “Lost” panel at this year’s San Diego Comic-Con, my interest in attending hit a new low. For me, the question is how much is it worth to get a few free sketches and autographs? Wouldn’t I be better off putting that money towards a Vegas vacation? It’s not like Comic-Con is my one chance a year to run elbows with the stars. But when a friend offered me a free credential and my usual hotel mates extended a bargain basement offer to sleep on their floor for $ 50 a night, I decided what could a few days of nerdy fun hurt?

After the traditional stop at Irvine’s Chik-Fil-A for lunch, I hit San Diego Thursday afternoon around 1:30 and dropped my stuff off in the room before heading over to the Convention Center. This year, it actually seemed more crowded outside the building than inside, thanks to an outdoor display of the Green Hornet’s Black Beauty automobile and plenty of scantily-clad models hawking TV shows, movies and comics, which made for a traffic jam in front of the Hard Rock Hotel.

The highlight of the first day was adding the signature of Marvel Comics writer and fellow Chik-Fil-A fan Brian Michael Bendis to my Marvel book. Over the years, I’ve been given many books as gifts and have turned them into autograph books, starting with “The Greatest Batman Stories Ever Told,” which I’ve gotten signed by anyone who’s worked on the Batman comics, movies and cartoons. I also have a book for DC Comics, Marvel Comics and still another one devoted to TV stars and producers. The DC book has the most autographs, with 122. It’s so crowded with signatures, it looks like a high school yearbook owned by the most popular kid in school.

Brian, writer of one of my favorite comics, “Powers,” as well as such current hits as “The Avengers” and “Ultimate Spider-Man,” had his signing scheduled for 6:00, with the convention closing at 7:00 for the evening. Unfortunately by 7:00, I still hadn’t reached Brian, and while he announced that he was prepared to stay until we all had our autographs, the security on hand didn’t exactly agree to that. But I did make it to Brian around 7:14, got my book signed and told him that a few years ago I had inquired about the option on one of his books, “Fire.” He said he was keeping it for himself and sure enough, this year the book was optioned by Universal as a vehicle for Zac Efron, so I congratulated him for his success in selling the property.

The next day I spied a line at the Warner Brothers booth for a signing by the producers and voice talent of “Batman: The Brave And The Bold,” where I had Diedrich Bader, the voice of Batman on the show, sign my Batman book (and if you had told me the guy that played Os on “The Drew Carey Show” would have made a great Batman, I would have laughed in you r face, but he certainly does!). I was also pleased to have my book signed by Andrea Romano, the executive in charge of voice casting on all of Warner’s superhero series in recent years.

I later returned in the afternoon to the WB booth to get in line for the signing for “V” featuring stars Elizabeth Mitchell and Morena Baccarin. Morena’s face was embossed on my hotel key card, which I showed the ladies when it was my turn to approach them. Elizabeth said, “You should have her sign that!” A good idea, but I stuck to having them both sign my TV book and most importantly for Elizabeth to sign my “Lost” DVD box. Of course, it was a surprise to see Morena rocking a new hair color, a whitish blond look. Already one of the world’s most beautiful women, did she suddenly wake up one day and say, “You know, not enough people notice me? I better change my hair so I’m even more stunning!” Well, it worked!

Besides Elizabeth Mitchell, there was one other actress I dearly wanted to meet, and that was Pauley Perrette, who plays forensic expert Abby on “NCIS,” a show I’m currently spending many hours catching up on, so it’s fortunate as I told Pauley that it’s on all the time in reruns. Pauley was part of the autograph line for the participants in the “Tech On TV” panel. Also signing was Anthony Zuiker, creator of “CSI.” Anthony has turned to writing what he calls digi-novels under the title “Level 26.” I had read the first one and he informed me he has another coming out soon, which will include a companion DVD. I guess I won’t be borrowing that one from the library then…

Fortunately, I didn’t have to stand in line every time I wanted to see a star at Comic-Con. It seemed like a number of them were staying in our hotel, as I rode the elevator at various times with the new Green Lantern, Ryan Reynolds, and the new Steve McGarrett of “Hawaii 5-0,” Alex O’Loughlin. The cast of “True Blood” must have been staying there too, as my roommates reported seeing such cast members as Anna Paquin and Evan Rachel Wood around.

When I wasn’t stalking the stars, I was hanging around the Marvel and DC Comics booths adding autographs to my books and standing in line for free sketches. When I get a sketch, I usually tell the artist to draw whatever they want, which in the case of Pop Mhan got me a drawing of a character he said he draws at every convention sooner or later: Ghost Rider. “Green Lantern Corps” artist Patrick Gleason drew me a fan favorite character that’s also a favorite of his, BZZD, an insect-like Green Lantern. I also talked to Cully Hamner, who was the artist on the mini-series “Red,” which has been made into a movie starring Bruce Willis. Cully drew a sketch of main character Paul Moses for me and said he’s writing and drawing a prequel to the “Red” comic.

I left the Con Saturday night after dinner at the Old Spaghetti Factory with friends in the Gaslamp District. As I packed, suddenly a fireworks display began over the Convention Center, the perfect capper to a perfect convention!

TOP TEN POP CULTURE MEMORIES OF 2009

December 21, 2009

Credit where credit is due: Whitney Matheson of USA Today’s Pop Candy blog put together a list of her Top Ten Pop Culture Memories of the past year, which included parties, screenings and concerts.  Loved the idea,  so I copied the idea. Here we go…

10.  “THE AMERICAN MUSIC AWARDS”:

Not quite as fun as the 2008 version, when I hung out during the show with friends who were hunting autographs and photos to impress their kids in the dressing room hallway. We  spotted such stars as Mariah Carey, the Jonas Brothers and Coldplay, who were more than happy to pose.

Still, the AMA’s make the list because this is the year I realized that with a Production Pass, you could just take an empty seat in the back of the hall during the show. But that wasn’t good enough for one of my friends who used to help coordinate the audiences for big events like this. He asked one of the staff to sit us in the front row for a while, and while we only made it to the third row (they were saving the empty front row seats for Marc Anthony as his wife Jennifer Lopez was about to perform), we still were darn close for J. Lo and Whitney Houston…

9.  “THE AMAZING RACE”:

I had the chance to spend a week in Dubai this year, so I loved seeing the two episodes of the Race that were shot in the Emirates. Like the contestants, I visited the Burj Dubai, the Gold Souk, the indoor ski resort Ski Dubai and the Madinat Jumeriah resort. I didn’t make it to that fateful water slide, but unlike Mika, I would have went down it if I had…

8.  “THE ACM ALL STAR JAM”:

While I was in Las Vegas to work on the event you’ll read about at  # 2, I got a chance to attend “The Academy Of Country Music Awards.” And while it was a great show, the real winner was the one that wasn’t on TV. Every year the ACM hosts an informal concert right after the Awards in a ballroom at the MGM Grand. And while I missed an appearance by Kenny Chesney because of a late dinner, I really enjoyed what I did see, including John Rich, the Zac Brown Band and best of all, the newly crowned Entertainer Of The Year, Carrie Underwood in the most no holds barred performance I’ve ever seen her give…

7.  THE “TERMINATOR SALVATION” PRESS DAY:

For years, I’ve been filling a copy of “The Greatest Batman Stories Ever Told” with the autographs of everyone who has added to the legend of the Dark Knight, whether in comics, movies or television. So far I have fifty autographs (including the late Bob Kane, the creator of Batman who was the first person to sign the book) and not one person has personalized it by writing “Thanks, Brian” or anything like that. I’d like to keep the book pristine in that way, but it bothers me that I might have to skip getting someone’s signature for that reason. Which brings me to Christian Bale…

I’ve never seen Christian Bale sign anything without asking for a person’s name to personalize it. I brought my “Batman” book to two previous interviews with Mr. Bale, yet never brought it out for that reason. But there I was sitting beside him at the “Terminator Salvation” roundtables and I decided to chance it. Sure enough, he asked who he should make it out to. I said, “If you wouldn’t mind, could you just put your name?” Christian said, “How do I know you won’t put this on E-Bay?” Fortunately, one of the other interviewers piped up and said that would never happen, as I’ve been getting the book signed for years now. So Christian actually signed it and I breathed a sigh of relief. Now let me point you to my auction on E-Bay… Never!

6. THE “AMERICAN IDOL” FINALE:

This was just a great day, starting with lunch with Neil Sedaka and my friend Fred Bronson, great seats for the finale at the Nokia Theater (with the Kiss appearance and the announcement of the winner being the highlights) and ending with the “19” party which featured appearances by not just this year’s contestants, but many from past years. I especially enjoyed the moment when Kris Allen’s father was telling us about how people were already leaving messages on their porch for Kris and David Archuleta piped in and said, “That’s nothing. We have people walking right into our house!”

5.  TERRY FATOR AT THE MIRAGE:

This year I went to my first Cirque Du Soleil show, “O,” at the Bellagio in Las Vegas. In spite of all the raves I’ve heard over the years, I certainly wasn’t bowled over. I found the show unfocused, meandering and not all that exciting. But that same week, I did see a show I loved, Terry Fator at the Mirage. I had never seen Terry during his winning season on “America’s Got Talent,” so I was amazed by his ability to sing without opening his mouth. Terry proved to be a master impressionist and a great singer all at the same time, combining great music with plenty of laughs…

4.  “STAR TREK”:

I have been a “Star Trek” fan since high school, and while I wasn’t too worried that J.J. Abrams would screw up the reboot as I really liked his work on “Mission Impossible III,” I never imagined this new “Trek” would be so well done, so exciting and respectful to what came before. I literally had tears in my eyes watching it, because I was so happy the movie was so good…

3.  THE “LOST” SEASON FIVE FINALE:

I love “Lost” more than anything else in pop culture right now. The Season Five finale was a true game changer, with answers revealed in the opening scene, and one of the biggest “Lost” shockers ever when we learned John Locke wasn’t quite John Locke. I can’t wait for Season Six to start…

2.  “GEORGE STRAIT: ACM ARTIST OF THE DECADE ALL STAR CONCERT”:

I was the researcher on this show and I don’t think I’ve ever enjoyed working on a project so much. First I got to stay a week in one of my favorite places, Las Vegas. Then I got to attend the rehearsals by each performer as they worked out their songs with the house band. It was like having a private concert by the greats of country music, including Brooks & Dunn (Ronnie Dunn’s voice in person is amazing!), Alan Jackson and Keith Urban.

I was especially pleased when Taylor Swift arrived at the rehearsals and read her script for the show. She was extremely happy with it, and after she learned it was because I had done a phone interview with her about how George Strait had changed her life, she came over and gave me a hug.

But as nice as that was, it was nothing compared to sitting in the audience at the concert and watching performer after performer show their love for the man known as King George. They did it through their words and they did it through their music.  Truly an unforgettable evening…

1.  THE “LOST” PANEL AT COMIC-CON:

It was exciting enough that I actually made it into the “Lost” panel without staying overnight in line, but I never would have guessed how entertaining it would be. Kudos to the “Lost” production staff for working so hard to make this a special occasion for the fans, complete with funny videos, revealing videos and great guest appearances by the actors. Michael Emerson’s interruption of Jorge Garcia was probably the funniest thing I’ve seen all year, and it may have been topped by Nestor Carbonell’s Christian Slater impression. And it bears repeating: I can’t wait for Season 6! I wonder if anything will be able to beat out the “Lost” season finale for number one on this list come next year…

A RANDOM COMIC-CON MOMENT

July 28, 2009

So there I was in line at the Marvel booth waiting to get some books signed by British writer, futurist and comics god Warren Ellis. There’s a cute girl behind me in line, soon joined by a friend of hers. From their conversation, I glean that she’s a writer and from a furtive look at her badge, I see that her name is Caitlin Kittredge. I ask her what she writes and she says urban fantasy.  Suddenly Warren Ellis arrives for the signing and this happens (as recounted on Caitlin’s website):

Warren: Caitlin!
Caitlin: Warren!
[Hugging happens]
Guy in queue behind me: That was the most awesome thing I have ever seen.
Caitlin: If you want to touch my hand, it’s five dollars.

Notice she never mentions yours truly. But she has gotten some good reviews for her books, so I might read one… after I figure out why someone who lives in Olympia, Washington uses the word “queue.”

THE SDCC EXPERIENCE 2009

July 28, 2009

Just back from San Diego and five days at Comic-Con International. As always, there was fun to be had, although I’m never sure if I would have had more fun spending the same money on a real vacation somewhere else.

The show started out on Wednesday night with Preview Night, giving me a few hours on the convention floor to check out the layout, followed by dinner at the Bayfront Hilton beside the Convention Center. I had two friends staying there and they were very happy with the laidback quiet atmosphere. Meanwhile, I was staying at party central at the Hard Rock Hotel (which at night had crowds outside begging to get into the parties inside) and wouldn’t have traded it for the world.

Thursday I learned an important lesson. If you’re really interested in going to a panel, you need to get in line more than ten minutes before it starts. Thus I missed the “Burn Notice” panel, which I might have minded if star Jeffrey Donovan was scheduled to appear. Sadly, that meant I never got one of the cool “Burn Notice” bags people were walking around with.

But it did mean I got into the only panel that really mattered to me (and no, I’m not talking about “Twilight: New Moon”!). Friday morning, I rolled out of my sleeping bag at 7:30 and was in line for the final “Lost” panel of Comic-Con by 8:30. The time went by fast considering the panel was starting at 11:00 and it was worth every second of waiting. Producers Carlton Cuse and Damon Lindelof went all out, spicing up the proceedings with plenty of specially made videos and live guest appearances. You can see it all at docartz.com, so check it out. Just as exciting was the afternoon panel for “Totally Lost,” hosted by Entertainment Weekly’s Jeff Jensen and Dan Snierson. I was sitting near the door and every time someone opened it, I couldn’t hear what was being said. I was getting a little peeved, when suddenly right beside me, I heard someone yell out, “What are you doing?” It was Carlton and Damon making a surprise appearance to kidnap co-producer Greg Nations before he could give up any secrets about the show. That was soon topped by acting genius Michael Emerson walking right by me to go up to the dais to answer questions for ten minutes. Sadly, they ran out of time before I got to ask a question. I also loved seeing the display of “Lost” props on the main convention floor. They had everything, and it will all be auctioned off next year.

Those were the only two panels I attended though. Still I found plenty to do, constantly scouring the DC and Marvel booths as well as Artist’s Alley for comic stars to sign my various books and draw some sketches. I especially appreciated Jill Thompson’s take on her signature character Scary Godmother, “Air” artist M.K. Perker’s detailed rendering of a demon and Ryan Kelly’s head sketch of a character from “The New York Four.” Final total: 13 free sketches and 67 new autographs. Sadly, I just didn’t think it was worth it to pay Adam West $ 40 to autograph my “Greatest Batman Stories” book after 46 people had already signed it for free…

Made it to EW’s TV columnist Michael Ausiello’s meet and greet party on Thursday night (he says he gets the most mail about “Grey’s Anatomy”), although I didn’t get into any other big parties or screenings, including a concert by Daughtry that I could see from the window on my floor when I was waiting for the elevator. Probably had the most fun just hanging out in the Hard Rock’s lobby at night, watching the girls go by as well as the stray star, including “Chuck”’s Adam Baldwin and “Buffy”’s Seth Green. Of course, the biggest star sighting was Marvel’s Stan Lee, whose co-creation of such icons as Spider-Man and the Fantastic Four put him far in front in importance of any appearances by Johnny Depp or Robert Pattinson in my mind.

I also spent some time at the outdoor carnival “Heroes” sponsored to promote their upcoming season, especially enjoying the free snow cones. Didn’t grab too many promotional items, although I was wowed by a copy of Detective Comics # 854 given to me and autographed by writer Greg Rucka. Beautiful artwork by JH Williams.

So another Comic-Con gone. Time to get reservations and tickets for next year!

10 TIPS FOR HAVING FUN AT COMIC-CON

July 13, 2009

I’m a big fan of comic books. I go to a comic book store every week to buy new books and I also keep up with the lastest doings in the comic book world by visiting websites like Comic Book Resources, Newsarama and The Beat.

There’s a weekly column on Comic Book Resources by longtime comics writer Steven Grant called Permanent Damage. In addition to his always interesting take on comics, politics, TV and whatever else strikes his fancy, Steven includes what he calls the Comics Cover Challenge. He illustrates the column with various comic book covers and you have to guess what secret theme they all have in common. Whoever sends in an e-mail first with the right answer wins and gets to plug the website of their choice in the column the following week.

This past week, I finally won the contest with a guess of the word “Bugs” and naturally I’m having Steven mention my blog. Keeping in mind that I’m (hopefully) getting some new readers from a comic book site, I thought I would write about a comic book topic.

Of course, this week everyone who cares anything about comics (as well as movies and TV) has their eye on next week’s 40th annual Comic-Con International in San Diego, so I thought I would come up with ten tips to keep in mind when attending the show. There are many more comprehensive guides online, but here are some suggestions that have served me well over the years:

1.  Try to attend Preview Night:

Attendees with four day passes get to go into the show for a few hours on Wednesday night. Two years ago, I skipped Preview Night and made my first entrance into the show that year on Thursday morning. I soon saw a sign advertising a signing by comics legend Stan Lee. I rushed to the booth where they were distributing the tickets, only to discover that they all been given out the night before at Preview Night (don’t feel too bad for me… I eventually did get a Stan Lee autograph).

Also, if you want to commission a sketch from a popular artist, it’s smart to get on his list as soon as possible before it fills up, so if you can talk to the artist on Preview Night, you’re ahead of the game.

2.  Try to go to Comic-Con on Thursday:

Thursday has always been the least crowded day, even now that the show is sold out for the entire four days. Therefore, if you want to get a sketch or an autograph, it’s easier to do on Thursday when the lines aren’t so long.

3.  Buy a hardbacked sketchbook if you want to get sketches:

When I first decided to buy a sketchbook to take to Comic-Con, I bought one with a softcover to save money. Unfortunately, after taking it to the show a year or two, the book got a little frayed around the edges. You’re much better off with a hardback one. My other tip when it comes to sketching is even if artists are charging for sketches at their tables in Artist’s Alley, if they’re scheduled to appear at a publisher’s booth like DC or Marvel’s, they’ll usually do a sketch at that time for free. I especially like DC’s setup as they’ll have multiple artists sketching at once, with different lines for each.

4.  Make sure you check the daily printed newsletter that Comic-Con puts out:

If there are schedule changes or if someone is added to a panel or will be signing autographs at a certain time, the information will be there.

5.  Check out Kansas City Barbeque, my favorite place to have lunch at the Con:

It’s only a block or two from the Convention Center at 600 W. Harbor Drive and has great, reasonably priced food, yet it’s never that crowded come lunchtime. I usually eat there two or three times during every Comic-Con and I’ve never had to wait for a table.

6.  If you want a soda or something to eat late at night, there’s no reason to pay steep hotel prices:

Just stop in at the Ralph’s Supermarket at 101 G. Street. It’s open 24 hours and is just a few blocks away from the Convention Center.

7.  Go over the convention schedule (it’s already up at the Comic-Con International website) and if there’s anyone appearing that you like, make sure you bring something for them to sign:

In past years, I’ve brought a second suitcase filled with comics to be autographed. You’ll find it’s easy to find the comic artists and writers, who will usually put in hours at their publishers or at their tables in Artist’s Alley. Then there are many actors who are scheduled to be in the autograph area who sell photos, but others who come up for an hour signing after appearing on a panel may not. Imagine my horror while I watched a panel about the great TV show “Veronica Mars” a few years back and realized the cast would be doing an autograph session afterward and I didn’t have a DVD of the show to get signed (again, don’t cry for me, as I eventually got Kristin Bell to sign Season 1 DVD at the “Forgetting Sarah Marshall” junket). It pays to be prepared.

I also have a number of hardbound books that I have been bringing to the Con for years, like “The Greatest Batman Stories Ever Told” that I get everyone who has worked with the Batman universe to sign. I’m currently up to 45 autographs. The first person to sign it was Batman creator Bob Kane. The  most recent was Christian Bale. Obviously it is one of my most treasured belongings and I’m not done filling it up yet (I’m talking about you, Frank Miller!). I also have histories of both DC and Marvel Comics I’ve gotten signed, plus a book each for TV and movie stars. Remember to keep a Sharpie with you too!

8.  At night, various movie companies take over the movie theaters in the Gaslamp District for screenings of upcoming sci-fi and action films:

In recent years, I’ve seen such movies as “Sky Captain And The World Of Tomorrow” and “Shoot ‘Em Up,” so keep your eyes open as you walk by the movie studios’ booths for screening info and ticket giveaways.

9.  If you’re just driving down for one day at the Con, I suggest you park at the large lots behind Petco Park, the Padres’ baseball stadium:

It’s cheaper than the other parking lots near the Convention Center and a lot larger to boot. Unfortunately, you can’t leave your car there overnight.

10.  Have a great time!