San Diego Comic Con 2004

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times - it was the San Diego Comic Convention of 2004!  There was tons to see, tons to do, there was good, there was bad, and there was definitely ugly.

Rather than do a review tonight, I thought I'd get up my version of SDCC coverage.  I took a couple hundred photos, but will only have a few here.  If there's something you're looking for, let me know and I'll see if I shot it.

Why not do this as a feature?  Because it's sort of a review - and because I'm too damn lazy and jet lagged to do a review AND this feature!

So without further ado, let's jump into the first section - the 10 BEST THINGS ABOUT SDCC 2004. And in case you're wondering, these aren't in any particular order.  Number one isn't better than number two, etc.  It's just a random list of the things that come to mind that really fluffed the fur of my tail.

1 - Anything Palisades.  Okay, that's not completely true.  The little Alien army men sets didn't do much for me.  But other than that, their entire booth rocked.  From the Muppets, to Ren and Stimpy, to Fairly Odd Parents and Aqua Teen Hunger Force, to the Aliens and Predator statues, everything was amazing.  I picked up one of the Slayer Crosses, the first of the Buffy replicas, for my daughter, and she loved it.  I can't say enough good things about the stuff they were showing, but you'll notice them show up again on the ten worst list...

2 - Mezco's Family Guy.  While the first series fills in the necessary characters, the next series or two move off into brand new territory.  With the necessary Meg, Quagmire, and some rather unique variants, this series looks to be extremely funny.  I only hope that series 1 sells well enough to get us to the later characters.  Who wouldn't want Peter and Lois in their S&M garb?

3 - Sideshow Quarter Scale Figures.  Wow.  Here's a case of both good and bad, and this is another category that you'll see pop up both here, and on the worst list.  But how can you look at figures like the quarter scale Jason, Phantom, Connery Bond, or the amazing Han Solo and not need a drool rag?  The bodies have changed with the newer releases though, and they are now more statues than poseable figures.  The originals, like Frank and Vampyre, had soft bodies with a wire armature.  The newer figures pictured here actually have polystone body parts, with a few strategic joints and a wire frame so that they can still dress them.  But once they are dressed and in position, it's not recommended that you play around with the pose.

Even so, these are truly amazing works of art, combining the best qualities of polystone statues with the realism of clothes.  Sideshow is going to break the wallets of many a collector this year.

4 - And speaking of quarter scale, there was the 18" Jack Sparrow from NECA.  Maybe you weren't a fan of the movie, but you can't possibly deny just how cool this figure is, particularly the serious face.  The detail is simply amazing, and I'm hoping that we get something extremely close to this for the final version.

5 - Majestic Studios Dark Shadows, Battlestar Galactica and Doctor Phibes.  I'll remind you that back when I reviewed the silly Davey and Goliath figures, I told you to watch out for Majestic.  They have the style, quality and conviction to do some great things with the right licenses.  I wasn't thrilled with the Munsters, but have to admit the cartoony style looked better in person than in photos.  But the other three major licenses they are doing in sixth scale looked excellent!

And now for a quick interruption.  If it's Comic Con, then there are freaks all over the place.  Of course, this year was no different - and there were some creative, and odd, people all over the place.  Masquerade had some great costumes as well, and my favorite was the terrific Bender, along with the set up used to get him on the stage.  You had to be there to appreciate it!

6 - Back to the action.  Number six in the list is the terrific panels and previews this year.  The Incredibles, the WB animation section on The Batman (where we got to see an entire episode), JLU and Teen Titans, The Grudge, Star Wars, Constantine, Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow...if you love sci-fi and horror movies, you would have been in heaven.  There were a ton of stars once again, including Sarah Michelle Gellar, Keanu Reeves, Jude Law, Carrie Fisher, and many, many more.  The level of star, and the quality of the panels and information has continued to improve.

I don't take many pictures of 'stars' though, but there was one I wanted to share.  I saw Amber Benson several times during the con, and she was always friendly, sweet and down-to-earth.  It's nice to see a celebrity that doesn't act like one!

7 - The ultra cool displays themselves.  The entire floor was well done this year, with some exceptional displays, including a full size Alien vs. Predator, actual costumes from the LOTR films, and even some, uh, rather unique displays.  And before you ask, the girl in the bikini was actually in a display case, advertising the new Species film.

8 - Sideshow's other stuff.  Sure, the quarter scale stuff deserved it's own mention, but the rest of the booth was eye popping as well.  There was the HUGE, and I mean HUGE 1:1 scale Predator head (you have no idea just how massive this thing is til you see it), the ENORMOUS 1:1 scale T2, the Prophecy Buffy, the Robert Englund Freddy, the Nova/Taylor two pack, and especially the Invisible Man.  Not only does his hat and 'head' come off (so he looks unwrapped), but there are even tiny test tubes in his leather case!

9 - The Balrog.  This is a figure everyone has been anticipating for so long, and NECA is getting closer and closer to bringing it to reality.  They had a resin test shot there, and it was truly amazing.  While it's scaled to 18" or so, it's hard to imagine how large that really means until you see it in person. If they can get this out for $60 or less, it's going to fly off the shelf.

10 - SOTA's new Now Playing line.  Taking over where it seems like Movie Maniacs left off, these look like they have the usual excellent SOTA sculpts, about the right amount of articulation, and all kinds of possibilities.  The first three aren't going to be the best of the series, but even these looked great, and Darkman included his alternate head.

Hmmm.  So there's my top ten and nary a mention of Marvel Legends, DC Direct or any other actual superhero property.  Very weird.

That's by design.  You'll see and hear tons about those lines at every site, so I thought I'd take you places a little less traveled.  But those lines all get honorable mentions, as do a few others.  Here's a few general shots of other lines that were smokin'.  In order, there's Hell's Bell's Anya (the new Cinequest exclusive), Bane from the Mattel Batman line, a maquette from the NECA Incredibles, The Bride from the Cy-Girls, a small sample of many cool new JLU figures including Dr. Fate, a 12" Charlie Brown who talks, and some of wave 3 of The Batman.

Okay, so there was lots of good.  But what about the bad, you say?  Oh, have no fear, there was some of that too.  Here goes my top ten list of the worst things I saw at Comic Con:
1 - Lines.  And more lines.  And then a couple more lines in case you thought you were actually going some place.

The lines to get in this year were overwhelming, due in large part to the utter lack of communication amongst the 'Elite' security force.  Yes, that's really their name.  But don't let names fool you.  Everyone of them thought something else was going on, and they were tremendously disorganized.  It didn't help that if you got there early - as everyone did the first couple days - you had to stand in a never ending line to get in, because only one door was open.  Shortly after opening, they then opened all the other doors, but not so good for the poor folks stuck in the fabled line of no end.

Once inside, it came time to line up for exclusives.  But to avoid lines, the Con organizers told the companies they had to all do it lottery style.  Unfortunately, they didn't actually tell all of them until about 30 minutes before the show started.  I bet you can guess that it was rather chaotic.  Booths weren't allowed to have lines, but you still had to line up to get tickets.  Guess what?  There were lines, and lots of them.  Lines to get tickets, then lines to buy the thing after you won.  Unfortunate companies that had no place for a line ended up getting it capped constantly by our fine friends from Elite.  Of course, that also meant they couldn't sell their exclusives, since you had to have a ticket to get one.  Several companies are probably sitting on exclusives right now, not because the demand wasn't there, but because the show wouldn't let them sell them in a reasonable fashion.

Don't get me wrong - I have nothing against the handing out of tickets.  But why not just hand them out, all around your booth, to whoever asks for one?  You'll end up drawing numbers anyway, and require them to have the proper info to buy (such as not having had your badge already punched), so why force all those people to stand in line just to hand them a ticket?  There was a whole lot of frustration on the floor, and I suspect this was the major topic for the organizers.

2 - Exclusives.  Okay guys, it's official - the exclusives have gone insane.  There were far too many this year, and most of the folks in the company booths were spending their time giving out tickets and selling exclusives to answer any questions about the toys themselves.

3 - Super Beaker.  Speaking of exclusives, there was a major disappointment for Muppet fans and for Palisades.  Their super cool Super Beaker didn't make it to the show.  Yep, the little bastard was a no show.  Something about customs, but I think Ken Lilly is keeping them all for himself.

They did say they'd be selling them through the Palisades store (the regular store, not the Collector's Club), once they got back, and shipping would be free.  As disappointed as I was that SB didn't show, I can only imagine how disappointed Palisades was.

4 - SEG's Alias figures. Ugh.  I think we have our winner for worst figures of the year.  Still, these aren't as bad as some of the stuff we've seen in years past from now defunct companies.

5 - While I'm picking on SEG, let's mention another line from them - Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.  I'm not saying these figures looked bad.  They actually looked pretty good, and I loved the movie as a kid.  But does anyone - and I mean ANYONE - need action figures based on this movie?

Ah, let's take another little break for what I like to call the top four most ironic moments of the show.  They aren't all truly ironic, but since Alanis Morissette already butchered the concept, I figured I can't do much worse.

The tag line for the Alias figures is Ironic Moment Number 1.  See it in the picture above?  "See Sydney as you've never seen her before".  And hopefully never will again.

Ironic Moment Number 2 was thanks to the fine boys (and girls) in blue of San Diego.  The officers of the law were directing traffic at the heavy times outside the only area where you can actually cross the street.  Yes, here's a convention center than can handle 80,000 people inside, but when they leave, they all have to cross at one cross walk.  I won't even mention how brilliant that design is.

No, the ironic moment came when a couple guys started to cross against the light on the opposite side of the street from the policeman.  Dodging traffic like ballerinas on speed, they made it to the median - to be told by the cop to get back across the street because they were crossing against the light.  Did he make them stay at the median?  No, he made them CROSS BACK THROUGH DANGEROUS TRAFFIC because they were breaking the rule.  See what happens when the rule becomes more important than the intent?

The Masquerade was home to my Ironic Moment Number 3.  In the row behind us, a young lady with enough scream capacity to power Monsteropolis for a decade was using her talents for everything, and I mean everything, that happened.  Someone walk on stage?  Scream.  Someone say something funny? Scream.  Someone cough? Scream.  She had a perfectly pitched scream as well, just right for damaging your hearing for the rest of your life.

Several people complained, and her witty response was "deal with it".  Being a girl, no one was willing to beat her to a pulp.  So everyone simply put up with it, expecting (and hoping) that half her vocal chords would come flying out of her gaping maw at any minute.

Now, if you've ever been to masquerade, you'll know that the Master of Ceremonies has the audience call out the number of the next contestant.  He'll say "and now contestant number", and everyone screams 5 or 10 or whatever the hell it is.  And every time, some Don Rickles in the audience yells out an obviously wrong number.  This went on and on and on - I mean, really, the joke just never gets old, you know?

About the fifteenth time it happened, Miss Scream-like-your-life-depended-on-it says in a nice, loud voice (remember Loud Larry on Dilbert?  I suspect he's her father.) "Boy, that's soooo annoying!".  Yet the genius continued to scream in everyone's ears with the regularity of a Swiss time piece.  She clearly needed to look up the word 'annoying' in the dictionary to better understand it.  If yelling out the wrong number over and over is annoying, this girl was seriously *&^%$@# annoying.

Finally, Ironic Moment Number 4 was courtesy of the juggernaut that is George Lucas.  I've never been one to drink deeply of the Lucas Kool Aid, but I am a fan of Star Wars.  The main presentation on Saturday - the one where the announced the already leaked name of the final film - was very easy to recap.  Buy, buy, buy, buy.  You really must buy this video game - the dvd's are must buys - how can you live another moment of your life without buying this t-shirt?

And then the irony - they showed the trailer for the theatrical release of THX-1138 later this year.  You remember the film, it was based on the short George did in college.  It's about an awful future in which humans are fed drugs to be kept in line, sex is outlawed, and their only real purpose is to consume.  In fact, it even mentions it in the trailer.  All this time, we had no idea it was a LFL training film.

Back to the subject at hand - the final five worst experiences of the Con.

6 - Since we're on the subject of Star Wars, and the insane consumerism surrounding it, it seems fitting that I mention the Star Wars blinds.  Yep, at long last you can put the finishing touch on your Star Wars decor with blinds emblazoned with the logo over your windows.  Fifty bucks says we never see these getting used on Trading Spaces.  The company is called '3 Day Blinds'.  I suspect that's because three days was the longest any guy convinced his wife to leave these up.

7 - Sideshow's quarter scale figures.  Okay, so not everything was hunky dory in the Sideshow booth.  I don't care what you say, the Logan looks bad.  Using a cartoon style head, vastly oversized, and a realistically proportioned and clothed body together was a terrible idea.

If that had been the only one though, I might have let it slide.  But as good as Han Solo was, Luke was bad.  Oh, his body and clothes looked great, as did the pose.  But who is the buck toothed guy wearing his costume?

8 - Prices.  Ouch. Everything has gone up, and even the exclusives are costing so much more this year than last.  Sure, there were a few at $15, but damn few.  Add to it that there are so many more, and you'll find yourself putting the serious hurt on your wallet.

9 - Body odor. Even the most hygienic people can get a tad sour when jammed into a tight place with a whole lot of other folks. But please, remember to use the deodorant, antiperspirant and soap. On the flip side, let's try to cut back on the cologne and perfume, since that can be an absolute killer in enclosed place. Besides, you don't want to give any additional credence to the stereotypes that are entrenched in the minds of the…

10 - Moronic media. Oh, I'm not talking about the internet sites and magazines who actually have a clear idea of what the hell is going on. I'm talking about the 'mainstream' media, fawned over by the show and yet completely clueless as to how or what to cover. One morning the local San Diego television crew was there doing an interview with the Hasbro reps. What did they make a huge deal over, talk about the entire time, and show on camera repeatedly? The new talking G.I. Joes. Yep, those were certainly the toy to cover and get the crowds in.

Then I come home and hear my local tv station discussing the announcement of the Revenge of the Sith title.  Of course, they had to be derisive - "It was announced at a comic book convention, and a bunch of people with too much time on their hands jumped up at the news". *sigh*

Well, that's it for another year.  I shipped home four boxes - yes FOUR boxes - worth of stuff from this convention.  I have no idea where it's all going to go, and I'm betting my wife will kill me, or at least beat me to within an inch of my life, once the credit card bill hits.  But even with the bad, it was a marvelous time.  I loved seeing so many readers, and getting to chat with folks from all around the industry and the world.  If you're going to be in Chicago for Wizard World, give me a holler!

Figure from the collection of Michael Crawford.

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