Saturday, July 26, 2014

San Diego Comic-Con 2014: Friday aka Panels on Panels on Panels!

After the awesome Paramount panel, it was time for a break and then Hero Complex's rooftop party at the Hotel Solomar where I not only saw two former co-workers and met some nice Con goers but Michael Rooker of Tombstone, Mallrats and the upcoming Guardians of the Galaxy was in attendance!  IMAX was on hand with Hercules and Guardians swag along with an open bar and flip book photo booth.  Then it was off into the Gaslamp District for sustenance and more Jameson.

Friday morning I was beat and bummed around a while before heading over to the show.  Not feeling like navigating the exhibition floor I opted for an afternoon of panels where one turned into six!

First up was Secret Origins: How the Industry's Best and Brightest Began with Chip Mosher, David Steinberger, Mike Marts, Shannon Watters, Marc Bernardin and Frank J. Barbiere who collectively have worked for Marvel, Starlog, Entertainment Weekly and DC shared their sagas of breaking into the comics game.  From starting off as an intern who never left to selling 60 copies of a self financed book at conventions to a Singing Major who changed careers at 34 to e-mailing Jim Lee once a month for 13 months, it was a very cool and inspiring panel that reminded us, especially in this day and age that you just have to do what you love and there's no excuse for not setting goals big and small in this era of fans easily becoming creators thanks to the internet and advancements in technology.  As ComiXology was recently purchased by Amazon, the first 2 individuals who asked questions received a free Kindle Fire!

Next was Free Enterprise: 15th Anniversary Reunion which celebrated the 1999 release of low budget romantic comedy Free Enterprise starring Eric McCormack (Will & Grace) and William "Bill" Shatner.  Writer/producer Mark A. Altman shared hilarious stories of trying to land Shatner in the role of himself, written as a uber-sage to two pop culture loving nerds trying to make it in Los Angeles.  Shatner declined on the basis of not wanting to play a God like character but was open to the idea of giving him everyday problems like trying to meet women.  Altman also told a great story about Al Pacino seeing Star Trek: Generations and loving the fact that it took a mountain to crash on Shatner's Captain Kirk to kill him while the "Shakespeare guy" (Patrick Stewart) took a pebble to the shoulder and went down.  Altman and company are looking to resurrect FE as an online series and shared a pitch video from their ongoing Kickstarter.

After that it was time for Brands Gone Geek:  How Media and Marketers Are Harnessing the Might of the Superfan which looked at the way big business is targeting the Comic-Con and pop culture crowd with insights from a large panel of guests involved with BOOM! Studios, a former movie producer turned comic book store owner, the Bonfire Agency, online reporting, Hero Complex and many more.  Hosted by Sydney Pollack doppleganger Steve Rotterdam, it was an eye opening look at what I've been saying for years, we live in a time when you can sell people's childhoods back to them.  Comic books, collectibles and the like account for over $1 billion dollars in sales a year with the average con goer spending more on their cool swag and stuff than sports fans.  Basically, all the kids who were made fun of in school for liking comic books, cartoons, fantasy literature etc are now in control of popular culture from the plethora of comic book and fantasy movies topping the box office to Chase bank, Dunkin Donuts and Carl's Jr. among others vying for the Comic-Con crowd without insulting them through commercials and campaigns.

Then it was time for the annual Street Fighter! panel where Capcom's Francis Mao and company took us through all things SF like the new Street Fighter 4: Ultra, merchandise and the yearlong Capcom Cup/e-sports league where players from all over the world compete for a spot in the finals in December.  Qualifying rounds are happening over SDCC weekend with the finals taking place on Sunday at the Omni hotel with $3,000 bucks on the line. Attention was shifted to successful online series Assassin's Fist where actor/writer/director Joey Ansah and actors Mike Moh and Gaku Space talked about making the series, working on wires, translating fights to live action, staying faithful to the source material and future plans that includes a stacked Blu-Ray release with commentary, deleted scenes, featurettes and more as well as official word that sequel series World Warrior is in development.  Street Fighter producer Yoshinori Ono showed up dressed as Hugo after coming in as Chun-Li last year.  Audience members partook in some live SF play with was surprisingly fun and draining to watch.

Penultimate panel of the Friday was a real treat for movie buffs with The Superheroes of Legacy Effects with John Rosengrant, Shane Mahan, Lindsay MacGowan and Jason Lopes taking the audience through their company's wide ranging work that includes design, make up f/x, sculpting, 3D printing and animatronics for commercials, television and film.  I recognized Rosengrant and Mahan from watching copious amounts of The Terminator and Aliens featurettes as the former was their first big movie.  The duo started at Stan Winston's studio and have worked on the likes of the Jurassic Park and Terminator series including the upcoming 2015 releases.  Legacy now has a random niche market with suit making after 4 Iron Man adventures, Pacific Rim and 2014's Robocop.  With a staff of about 100, Legacy works on 200 commercials and 20 + movies a year.  Their shop includes half a dozen 3D printers straight from military and aerospace manufacturers.  Rosengrant and Mahan singled out director James Cameron as the pinnacle of a strong director with his talent and vision and I wanted to ask what they thought of Michael shirts on the way out too boot, a really cool panel overall.

Finally I caught a few minutes of An Inside Look at Shout! Factory where sub-brands Kids and Scream Factory crew talked about the process of getting hired, procuring and restoring titles then outfitting them with special features.  Shout does a great job of asking fans what they want and reaching out to anyone involved with the production.  Two fans actually sent in prints of an obscure title when the company couldn't find a suitable copy for restoration and release.  I didn't realize they put out so many titles as last year saw 300 some releases up for grabs.  So far 2 of them have starred Dolph Lundgren so keep'em coming please.

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