Another Comic-Con has come and gone, and with it, another set of unforgettable highlights. 2011 was an interesting year for my home away from home. Hall H had more magic for the cinephiles of the convention rather than the celebrity-obsessed or even us comic book geeks, trotting out multiple visionary directors to discuss their work over the course of the event, resulting in panels which were always fascinating, informative, and in the case of Spielberg and Jackson, simply a sight to behold. Ballroom 20 often felt like a rock concert, especially on Thursday when the deafening screams for Peter Dinklage at Game of Thrones easily trumped those for Breaking Dawn's Robert Pattinson. The Dealer's Room seemed decidedly less crowded every day except for Sunday, which normally has been regarded as the best day to hit the floor because of the mass attendee exodus. Guess word got out? And the city of San Diego was transformed to an bigger extent. Everywhere you looked was a lounge, cafe, oasis, re-creation of South Park (seriously, it was nuts), outdoor party, indoor party, screenings, themed pedicabs, branded trucks, or a separate off-site convention such as NERD HQ, Tr!ckster, or Gam3rCon. With so much great programming both on-site and off, it seemed like there was *always* something fantastic for someone to do. Even if all that something was, was taking shots of the weekend's exceptional cosplay.
But I'm not here for generalities and neither are you. While the Con was in fact a great time all around, there were particular highlights that definitely stood out, making for a memorable, hilarious, exhilarating, and often moving experience once again.
Andrew Garfield Officially Wins
There is no way to talk about Comic-Con 2011 without addressing Andrew Garfield's heartfelt speech to the crowd in Hall H. Clad in a Spider-Man costume and fanny pack, Garfield brought tears to our eyes as he read aloud two pages of hand-written thoughts. And before you start calling shenanigans -- I have it on good authority that this was 100 percent his idea and he was being completely and utterly genuine. Throw in the spectacular first clip package that showed off his chemistry with Emma Stone, the darker nature of this reboot, and just how Peter Parker Garfield truly is, and there's no denying this role was made for him.
Badassery: Khal Drogo
One of my favorite moments at the Game of Thrones panel was when George R. R. Martin asked Jason Momoa who would win in a fight, Khal Drogo or Conan the Barbarian. Momoa responded, "Between you and me, George, Khal would kick Conan's ass." The audience, already at a 10, slid on up to an 11 for that one.
Pee-wee Takes the Stage
A late addition to the Comic-Con roster, this ended up being one of those gems of a half hour we might not have gotten had some tentpoles that didn't show this year snatched up the spot earlier on. This was one of the most hilarious Q&As I have ever seen in Hall H. Pee-wee was on fire and the audience ate it up. I laughed so hard my face hurt and in the span of 20 minutes went from not caring about Pee-wee Herman to highly anticipating the movie he is making with Judd Apatow. He had the perfect punch line to every single question, and that kind of wit is difficult to come by. But perhaps the best part of the entire panel? When he took a moment at the end to explain how much the love from the crowd meant to him.
Improved WB Bags
OK, so whoever came up with the mechanics to turn the WB bags into backpacks is a GENIUS. Poster tube slot AND backpack capable?! All it's missing now is a way to get newly purchased items into the backpack bag without having to take it off. Come on, WB bag innovators, I know you can do it!
Hershel Farm Reveal
I'll be honest, I wasn't too thrilled by the mildly redundant Walking Dead Season 2 Trailer, until roughly the last 15 seconds. Something about seeing Maggie in the flesh immediately reinvigorated my interest in the show.
A New Tradition?
For the first time, Hall H hosted an evening panel focusing on films that would perhaps be a bit too dark, scary, or blue for a daytime slot, but still deserved the chance to be discovered. The dedicated crowd that remained got treated to a "drive-in" experience of sorts, at first watching a slew of trailers, some premieres, some not, followed by the feature presentation -- writer/producer/director Robert Meyer Burnett moderating a lively and engrossing panel on two lesser known indies -- the found footage horror film that got raves at Tribeca, Grave Encounters, and Tucker and Dale vs. Evil, starring Tyler Labine and Alan Tudyk, a horror comedy that's been generating fantastic buzz. Here's hoping this concept continues to grow and becomes an even greater outlet for up-and-coming filmmakers to show off their goods.
Han Solo in Carbonite Cosplay
There are no words?
Joss Whedon Dance Party Redux. And threedux. (Or as @davidehrlich called it, Joss Whedon Dance Party, Parts Two and Three, filmed back to back)
I can promise you something. With absolute certainly. If you ever go to a party and Joss Whedon is there, he will dance. Most likely, this will eventually turn into a full-on dance party. And yes, he does want you to join in. Saturday night, there have been multiple accounts of people leaving him dancing at one party, only to walk into the next to find him dancing there as well. Two Joss Whedons? Teleportation? MAGIC? However he did it, Comic-Con will now never be truly complete without dancing in a circle with the Whedon for at least one song.
Also, here's a fun fact for you Whedonites out there -- I heard, and I really wish I remembered from whom, that Sookie Stackhouse herself, Anna Paquin, is a huge Joss fan and arranged for them to be introduced this Comic-Con. Adorbz.
Best. Last. Question. Ever.In a move so brilliant, I'm surprised he was the first in 40 years to try it, a fan asked Steven Spielberg at the end of the Tintin Panel whether he still used film, but his shirt, huge on the Hall H screen, read "If possible, I would like to meet Steven Spielberg just to shake his hand and say thank you very much." Spielberg, Jackson, and the entire Hall H audience was so impressed with his originality that the legend pulled him on stage and in "the most directed photo ever taken," shook his hand as Peter Jackson snapped away. As if this wasn't fantastic enough as it was, as soon as there was a lull in the excitement, the guy said, sounding as sincere as can be, "I just wanted to know if you still use film!" (To which the answer was yes, but not for Tintin because no film is involved at all.) Moments like this don't often happen in the big room anyway, so when they do, it's a pleasure to witness. Of course, by the next day, people asking questions were holding up signs as they asked other questions, petitioning for hugs or handshakes, but none were welcomed as favorably as the first and original was.
Statue of Avatar Aang
During the best panel of Comic-Con 2011, the minds behind the new series, Legend of Korra, a sequel to Avatar: The Last Airbender, took to the stage in 6BCF to premiere the trailer and take us though a slideshow of concept art. That was IT. And it was unfrakkingbelievable. The exact moment I suspected the panel would turn out as special as it did was when the trailer revealed the statue of an adult Avatar Aang. I immediately started crying and in a room packed to the brim with the most dedicated fanbase I had seen collected in one place during the entire convention, I was most certainly not the only one. What followed was a panel that was as basic and beautiful as it gets -- which is why it was so amazing. Sometimes simplicity over spectacle is key.
Getting Everything I Wanted From the Dealer's Room
For whatever reason this year, the Dealer's Room was significantly easier to navigate than in Cons past. I suspect some of that related to my prep, involving an ever-growing, detailed list of giveaways and exclusives and a map with every corresponding booth circled, but I swear, there was a larger sense of ease and accommodation in the air. So what did I score? Expect an article tomorrow wrapping up my finds on the floor.
If You Can't Get Annie...
Although a lack of Alison Brie at the Community panel was truly disappointing, Annie's Boobs (aka Cynthia) made her first Comic-Con appearance in her stead, presenting the Season 2 DVD to the Indigo Ballroom audience.
Joe Lynch's Enthusiasm
One of the most electric filmmakers appearing on stage, amidst one legend after another, was Joe Lynch, who is making his theatrical debut with the Metal/LARPer/Horror/Comedy Knights of Badassdom. Lynch was so excited to be in Hall H (one of many, including Andrew Garfield and Darren Criss, who all dreamt of being there one day), you couldn't help but hang on to his every joy-soaked word. When he first got on stage and exclaimed, "We're in Hall H ... THANK YOU!!!!", we all suspected we were in for a treat. Strongly backing up his passion for the project was a fantastic cast, stellar footage, and the announcements that the creature is practical, through Guillermo del Toro's Spectral Motion, and that Bear McCreary is putting together a metal orchestra and composing the score.
This Photo (courtesy of Francis Ford Coppola's TWIXT)
This year, more than ever, the place was crawling with amazing folks I know or had been dying to meet, from Twitter pals to pros to bloggers to friends who live across the country. Staying out til 4 a.m. had never been easier, and to everyone I had the pleasure of spending time with this Comic-Con, I can't wait to do it again next year.
Of course, these moments are barely the tip of the iceberg; there were many other highlights, including Bryan Cranston stealing the Total Recall panel, the sheer beauty of Emilia Clarke and Kit Harrington at Game of Thrones, the intense Haywire footage, Joshua Jackson surprising the Fringe audience in Observer cosplay, Hall H singing happy birthday to Patrick Stewart, Ridley Scott getting us jazzed up for Prometheus, getting our makeup done for free at the Wired Cafe while sipping on cocktails thanks to True Blood, and more. All in all, another great year. Already counting down to the next one.