Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Comic-Con: the last word?

If you have a Facebook account, you can go see my pictures.

Here's a bit about the highlights of my experience at San Diego Comic-Con International 2007 (aside from being complimented by random strangers, and the line for Ballroom 20, which are described below):

Neil Gaiman

Obviously, this was a major highlight, being the main reason for me going to Comic-Con in the first place, and it was totally worth it. I got to see him both at the Stardust Preview (which was awesome) and at his Spotlight panel (if you can call one person with a microphone a panel). It was very much like the videos of Q&A that I've seen, and it was great. He's a terrific speaker, amusing, anecdotal, and kind.

The questions were mostly about movie projects and writing. When it comes to inspiration, Gaiman subscribes to a "What if" method: "What if I drove out to where the shooting star/meteorite landed and instead of a rock it was a girl?"
He does not believe in "writer's block," saying that he has seen writers write loads about having writer's block which is rather contradictory and leads him to believe that they are really just stuck on whatever they are working on. Being stuck allows for the situation to improve; writer's block does not. He told about how he got stuck on
Coraline in 1992 and picked it up again in 1998 when he had figured out what to do. I have a hard time imagining that...six years is almost a quarter of my lifetime. I guess what I took from it is that ideas should always be written, and stories always begun, because there is the chance that later, even much later, they can be completed.
He also told us that if you want to be a writer, then you should just write. Do not clean the bathroom or alphabetize your spices...just write.

Beyond that, it's a bit of a blur. An enjoyable, star-struck blur.

Ray Bradbury

I will admit that this was not a particularly awe-inspiring panel, though it was very interesting and cool. It is amazing to see two men so...well-along in their years still actively contributing to the creative pool. The door on Ray's wheelchair lift got stuck, so they panel was delayed a bit...his biographer told us the same thing happened when Ray met the president recently, and that they served him wine while they worked on the problem. My two favorite questions to the author were both from English teacher; the first teaches Fahrenheit 451 and wanted to know just what it was about, and Bradbury describe the fear he felt when he heard about the Nazis and the Russians burning books. F451 was a response to that fear (he wrote the book at age 26!). The second question was from a teacher whose students read the story "There Will Come Soft Rains." The teacher said that her student always ask, if the house can clean up after itself and deal cards, why can't it feed the poor dog? Upon having the question repeated to him, Ray laughed and said that he would rewrite the story tomorrow.

Voice Actors Panel

I said I'd write more about this, so I shall. We went to this panel after realizing there was no way we were getting in to see Heroes, and it was delightful. My favorites on the panel were Rob Paulson (Pinky from Pinky and the Brain, multiple characters from Animaniacs--he sang Yakko's world for the audience, which was awesome) and Wally Wingert (Tallest Red from Invader Zim), mostly because of how excited he was about everything and how all his other roles were fairly obscure, a fact which he humorously referenced a few times. Neil Ross (2003 Academy Awards) was also awesome. The most experienced participant on the panel was Joe Alaskey (click his name to visit his IMDB page, because all I can remember is Daffy Duck). Everyone on the panel did a few of their voices, dropped some names, and made jokes, and the panel closed with a cold reading of Orson Welle's War of the Worlds, and the panelists had to change voices whenever the moderator said so. All in all quite fun.

A word on panels, if I may. The moderator for the panel described above was one of the best we saw all weekend; I cannot complain about the moderator for the Spectacular Spiderman panel, the guy moderating the "How to Pitch and Animated Series" panel did a really nice job, and the Transformers producer tried to moderate the panel of internet movie journalists, but they didn't really let him. We did see some particularly atrocious moderating--if you can call it that. On one extreme, the moderator didn't direct the conversation at all, and the panelists just rambling on and on and back and forth and it was really quite boring. On the other extreme, the moderator didn't let his panelists talk; he must have assumed that being moderator meant he got to talk whenever he wanted to, and I guess he thought he had a lot of good things to say (which amounted to a lot of repeats, actually). There were two people on his panel who said not a word the entire time beyond introducing themselves.

So, if you ever find yourself in the position of panel moderator, here is my advice to you:

1. Know your panelists. If you can, research them ahead of time, so you know what kinds of questions they can answer and what kinds of experiences they can speak to; then, when those things come up, you can direct the questions their way.

2. Direct questions to your panelists. Sometimes they'll just speak up for themselves, but if you know that someone might have something particularly interesting to say, suggest it to them.

3. Always repeat questions. It can be hard to hear the back.

4. Make sure everyone gets a chance to speak. This might mean cutting off other panelists (so pay attention to what they are saying; if they repeat themselves too many times, move it along. You have that power), it might mean watching for when someone is trying to get a word in, and it might invole directing questions to someone.

5. Don't talk too much. Besides helping to introduce your panelists and repeating questions and directing the conversation sometimes, well, those things are really the bulk to your job. It's not really your job to delve too much into your own personal history, unless perhaps it is something really relevant, or it's something you know about one of the panelists that will lead that person into talking about it more in depth themselves(one mod. did this, and it was really nice).

Okay, that's it. I'm not claiming to be an expert, but I did watch quite a few panels and these were my observations and what makes a panel good.

A few words on costumes at Comic-Con

If you can imagine it, I probably saw it. I saw three Doctor Whos, a pirate-girl holding Jack Sparrow's severed head, more Slave Leias that I can count (apparently they do a big photo shoot with them and the life-size Jabba statue during the weekend), Batmen of every shape and size, lots of Transformers including a modded wheelchair which was really cool, lots of leg and cleavage (if you don't have a specific costume in mind, just wear as little clothing and as high of heels as possible!), tons of Imperial soldiers, from officers to storm troopers to TIE pilots to Vader himself, plenty of Griyffindor pupils, Buddy Christ from Dogma, a few Boba Fetts, Anime characters that I can't name, Avatar characters, and on and on. It's really cool that people get so into this stuff, and I would probably want to dress up at least one day the next time I go. (Yes, I want to go back to Comic Con sometime.)

That's about it, I think. If you have a question about something, just ask! Chances are I'll have an answer, unless it's "Did you meet so-and-so?" because then the answer is probably no.

Cheers,

1 comment:

raychurr said...

Brilliant! I met Rob Paulson in a boutique in Cambria, where he was on vacation with his wife. I had no idea who he was at first, but I complimented him on the custom-painted Animaniacs logo on his leather jacket. And yeah, moderators sometimes fail really horribly.