Savant Column

Saturday July 22, 2017


This time I didn’t forget to ask. Savant correspondent and advisor Gary Teetzel goes to Comic-Con every year, and consistently writes diary-like emails to his friends that spell out what the experience is like. This time out I’m lining them up as part of the Savant column. I don’t know how he does it; it sounds like more waiting in line than Disneyland. But these first three ‘diary entries’ should speak for themselves, the first from

Wednesday the 19th:

Greetings Mr. and Mrs. America and all the ships at sea. Comic-Con 2017 got off to a bumpy start for me: I got going over an hour later than I hoped, and then the drive from Van Nuys to San Diego took a grueling 4 1/2 hours. So my hopes of leisurely exploring the exhibits outside the convention center were dashed. I didn’t get in until 7:00 PM, an hour after Preview Night started. I just had time to hit some of the highlights of the main floor. “Profiles in History” has items from the Debbie Reynolds/Carrie Fisher Estate Sale on display. DC has costumes from Justice League. The Warners booth is a bit dull this year, with two displays of props/costumes from IT, and nothing else. Warner isn’t idle, but uses their booth to host a lot of autograph signings during the con. At the Alex Ross booth I saw the outlandishly priced Universal Monsters giclées. I asked if less expensive editions of the art might be made available later; I was told there were no current plans, but it is possible. AMC usually has an elaborate ‘photo op’ set up to promote The Walking Dead, but this year’s is pretty lame — you can sit next to a fake-looking stuffed tiger and pretend to be King Ezekiel. They also have a big ‘Deadquarters’ attraction across the street from the Convention Center. It wasn’t open yet, but I could see that one of the activities was ‘Negan’s Batting Cage,’ which sounds pretty tasteless.

Lots of promos up for Stranger Things, The Defenders, Inhumans etc. So TV seems to be dominating this year, over features.

I might go to the 20th Century Fox presentation tomorrow, and hope to get into a Battlestar Galactica (reboot version) reunion and a Marvel television panel.

Update tomorrow . . . Gary

Thursday night July 20:

Greetings Mr. and Mrs. America and all the ships at sea. Today began with me attending the 20th-Century Fox panel in the fabled Hall H. Hall H is usually impossible to get into since it hosts the biggest, hottest panels, but Thursday was a lighter day, and I got a wristband Wednesday night that guaranteed me entry provided I got in line by 7:30 AM. (Getting this wristband was easy, but long lines form to get the Friday, Saturday and Sunday wristbands. So essentially these are lines for the privilege of waiting in another line the following day.)

Fox chose to devote their entire panel to Kingsman: The Golden Circle, disappointing fans that were hoping for a glimpse of Deadpool 2, or perhaps a little something on the just-started-filming X-Men: Dark Phoenix. A half dozen members of the cast were present: Taron Egerton, Colin Firth, Channing Tatum, Halle Berry, Pedro Pascal and Jeff Bridges. (photo just below) Also there were comic-book legend Dave Gibbons and co-screenwriter Jane Goldman. We all received T-shirts and fidget spinners. There was an odd moment during the Q&A when Halle Berry was challenged to chug a large glass of (alleged) bourbon — and did it. Attendees were also offered a chance to get a free hamburger at the Hard Rock Cafe, inspired by a clip that was shown during the panel.

After that, I spent a little time on the main floor, which was insanely busy for a Comic-Con Thursday. I headed next to Ballroom 20, which had some panels I wanted to see. I arrived a bit early and saw ‘The Great Debates’, in which John Hodgman moderated debates between Adam Savage, Aisha Tyler, Orlando Jones, Charlie Jane Anders and John Barrowman on various pop culture topics: DC vs. Marvel, Star Trek vs. Star Wars, etc. Next there was the first of the panels I wanted to see, a reunion of Battlestar Galactica (reboot version). It brought together producers Ronald D. Moore and David Eick, and cast members Mary McDonnell, Tricia Helfer, Grace Park, Tahmoh Penikett and Michael Trucco; there was also a video greeting from Edward James Olmos.

This was followed by a panel on The Strain, which I don’t watch. Next up, a panel on the FX series Legion, with creator/writer Noah Hawley, executive producer Lauren Shuler and most of the cast, including Dan Stevens, Rachel Keller, Jean Smart and Aubrey Plaza. Since the lead character is, in the Marvel comics, the son of Professor Xavier of the X-Men, the question inevitably arose as to whether we would ever see the Professor on the series and, if so, if he would be portrayed by one of the actors who portrayed him in the film series, Patrick Stewart and James McAvoy. Hawley was evasive, simply commenting that they’d have to see who was willing/available should they ever choose to include Xavier in the show. At the end of the panel, Hawley said that he was developing a feature film with Fox that he felt the audience would be interested in. He said he couldn’t say much beyond two words:

“The first word,” Noah Hawley said, “is: Doctor

The second word is . . .


And the crowd went wild at the prospect of a Noah Hawley-scripted feature centered on one of Marvel’s greatest villains.

The afternoon came to a close with a panel devoted to Marvel’s upcoming Inhumans TV series. Moderated by Marvel’s Jeph Loeb, all of the leads were present, and four clips from the pilot were shown.

(One odd detail: In the show, Black Bolt, whose power lies in his voice, uses sign language to communicate to his wife Medusa, who then speaks on his behalf. It’s not American Sign Language, though, it’s a sign language made up for the show. Imagine you’re a deaf kid tuning in. Although Black Bolt isn’t deaf, you are excited to see a lead character — a superhero no less — who signs. And then you find you can’t understand the signs!

Lots of big TV panels in Hall H tomorrow: The Walking Dead, Game of Thrones, Twin Peaks, The Defenders, etc. I’m not even going to try to get into those, as they’re way too popular, with too many people waiting all day to get a wristband, etc. Since most of the other panels early in the day Friday are of only moderate interest to me, I’m thinking that it might be a good day to check out some of the attractions outside of the Convention Center. There are more of these every year spreading over more San Diego; at times the Con seems to be slowly taking over the whole city, spreading Blob-like through the streets to occupy more and more real estate. One can imagine in 100 years San Diego will no longer exist, there will only be Comicconville, a town devoted to pop culture that only appears for four days per year, like a modern-day Brigadoon.

The only problem is that these off-site ‘experiences’ often feature lines as long as those in the Convention Center. It can take hours to get into, say, the Game of Thrones exhibit. This year there is also a Blade Runner experience, an IT V.R. experience, a Kong: Skull Island exhibit, etc. So there’s no way I can see them all. Tune in tomorrow to find out what I managed to see! — Gary

Friday night July 21

Good evening Mr. and Mrs. America and all the ships at sea. As I indicated yesterday, I decided to devote a good portion of Friday to exploring the off-site attractions. Was going to try to get into the immensely popular Game of Thrones attraction (people camp out overnight on the sidewalk), but I didn’t get my wake-up call, so I got there later than planned. Someone estimated from experience that we’d probably get in around 4 PM, so I bailed. Went to the Kong: Skull Island attraction. It wasn’t much of anything. There was a photo op where you posed by bones of Kong ancestors, and another where you stood in front of Kong’s hand. And you got a free comic book.

I proceeded to the “Interactive Zone” at Petco Park. There was an area for Orange is the New Black, Game of Thrones and Luke Cage-themed photo ops. Mr. Mercedes was being promoted with some sort of ice cream truck. There were a few other booths/attractions, but I gravitated to the IT Virtual Reality attraction. The line was short but very slow; I waited over an hour. The attraction was built to resemble a school bus. Inside, there were about eight seats with V.R. headsets and headphones. The V.R. “experience” involved going down into the sewers of Derry, pursuing a spectral child and being menaced by Pennywise the Clown. Pretty well done, even if some of the graphics have a video game feel.

Next it was off to AMC “Deadquarters” with a variety of Walking Dead– themed attractions. There was the Negan batting cage, an area for assorted photo ops, a demo of an “augmented reality” app that involved being put into a photo with a zombie. There were also video games and, most terrifying of all, free Mountain Dew.

Next it was off to the Blade Runner experience. There were two lines, one that included a V.R. portion, and one without. I opted for the “non-V.R.” version because the line was shorter. They handed out free BLADE RUNNER umbrellas to people in line–but ran out just before they got to me. Although the line wasn’t that long, it was slow, since they stopped you four times: (1) A security check, including a metal detector and bag check; (2) filling out a disclaimer/waiver on a laptop; (3) another stop to give your name, e-mail, etc. and be given a wrist band; and (4) another stop to give your T-shirt size. Fortunately, the attraction inside was pretty good. They had a “L.A. 2049” environment, complete with a full-size spinner and costumed characters that would interact with you. Every once and a while, a police chase would break out. There was a testing station to determine if you were human or a Replicant. (I’m a human. Of course, if I were a Replicant, that’s exactly what I’d say . . . ) There was a ramen noodle vendor (yes, you could get real noodles), props and costumes on display, and a “vending machine” that dispensed your BLADE RUNNER t-shirt after you scanned your wristband. Finally, there was free whiskey. Yes, your read that right–free whiskey, courtesy of Johnny Walker, a sponsor of the attraction. That beats a free Mountain Dew.

I then swung by a nearby hotel to pick up my official Comic-Con t-shirt, then onto the exhibit floor, where I witnessed the annual madness of the Game of Thrones autograph session, and, at another booth, a less crazy TWIN PEAKS autograph signing.

(Sorry, Darren, but the Twin Peaks exclusive toys sold out.)

Then off to the J. Michael Straczynski panel, an annual tradition. He mentioned that he turned in a draft of Rising Stars to MGM, who hopes to turn it into a franchise.

After a break and some food, I was back in the evening for the Shout/Scream Factory panel. A number of Blu-ray titles were announced, including Matinee, Into the Night, Mac and Me, Cyborg, Attack of the Puppet People, Eye of the Cat, American Gothic, Misery, etc. They also spoke about dipping their toes into the theatrical market, and plans to issue some UHD discs.

Final event of the night was an advance screening of the next episode of Twin Peaks. Executive Producer Sabrina Sutherland gave a brief intro, extending greetings from David Lynch, who she had spoken to via Facetime a little earlier. The crowd was also thrilled to see cast members Don Murray, Kimmy Robertson, Everett McGill, Matthew Lillard and James Marshall join the audience, although they did not do a Q & A.

Tomorrow: Not sure. Maybe Ballroom 20 for a big chunk of the day. — Gary

Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson