A longtime showbiz journalist and fan's thoughts on comic books, movies and other cool stuff.

Month: April 2010

Tomorrow is Free Comic Book Day!

Tomorrow is the first Saturday in May, which means it’s Free Comic Book Day!

It’s hard to believe this is the ninth Free Comic Book Day — or how radical the idea seemed way back when it started.

Now, we’ve got this cool video ad with voiceover from Kevin Smith, plus almost every shop (in my area at least) is doing some kind of event or signing.

Of the local events, I have to say Collector’s Paradise in Canoga Park has an impressive lineup of creators signing, including a bunch of Top Cow folks (including Marc Silvestri), Bongo Comics’ chief Bill Morrison and writer Marv Wolfman. Earth-2 Comics also has some top talent, with writer Mark Waid appearing at the Northridge store. Closer to home, Comic Odyssey in Pasadena actually scored a signing with Stan Lee from noon to 2 p.m.  Tumble Creek Press is taking part in a FCBD Festival at 4 Color Fantasies in Rancho Cucamonga. Meltdown in Hollywood is working with Archaia Studios Press with Fraggle Rock comics creators Sam Humphries and Jeremy Love. And Golden Apple has signings all day with folks like Hulk writer Greg Pak and Manhunter writer Marc Andreyko.

I don’t know if I’ll have time to hit more than one or maybe two of these, but I definitely will be getting free comics from somewhere!

The freebie I’m most looking forward to is the Dark Horse Magnus/Dr. Solar preview. If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, it shouldn’t surprise you to learn I was a big fan of Jim Shooter’s work on the early Valiant titles, and I look forward to seeing him return to these characters.

Beyond that, I hope to come across a few surprises. If you need to find a participating comic shop near you, visit www.freecomicbookday.com, and they’ll help you out.

‘Kick-Ass’ and ‘The Losers’: A Tale of Two Comic Book Movies

We’re just about exactly ten years into the wave of comic book movies kicked off with the surprise success of Bryan Singer’s first X-Men movie in 2000, and the number of comic book movies both set for release and in development still appears to not have peaked.

The most-recent one-two punch of Kick-Ass and The Losers (with Iron Man 2 just around the corner) shows both how far comic-based movies have come while also demonstrating their limits. Having caught both movies the past few days, it’s clear that Kick-Ass is the superior film of the two, though The Losers is not without its charms.

Of course, Kick-Ass was always meant to be movie. The comic book first hit about two years ago (read my review of issue #1 here) and it took until just recently to bring “Book 1” to a conclusion at eight issues. When this book came out, Millar was riding high on the then-upcoming release of Wanted, the movie based on his Top Cow series. Wanted was a hit, and it was made clear in a couple of interviews that the experience on Wanted made Millar want to develop more creator-owned material that he could sell to Hollywood. Kick-Ass was the first such series, with the Image series War Heroes also cast in the same mould, and now his most-recent series, Nemesis.

Millar loves to push buttons, and arguably does it quite well. His comics take rather obvious premises and then takes them to an extreme. Wanted, for example, was about what if the villains won? War Heroes is about superheroes in the military. And Kick-Ass is the obvious what if some kid really did try to become a superhero? This works much better when Millar is playing with his own creations as fanboys are remarkably resistant to anyone messing too much with established icons.

The movie version of Kick-Ass, as adapted by director Matthew Vaughn and his co-writer Jane Goldman, sticks really closely to the comic and successfully retains its subversive tone and Millar’s button-pushing antics. The way the film plays with and subverts the conventions of the superhero genre works for movie audiences now that superheroes have become standard Hollywood fare. Movie audiences are now as familiar with the standard superhero arc as Dave Lizewski is in the movie, and you don’t have to be a comic book obsessive to understand that by becoming Kick-Ass, Lizewski is trying to live out the same arc as Peter Parker, Tony Stark and Bruce Wayne have: finding the hero within as a way to find purpose in life, save the world and get the girl — even if nobody else can know about it.

All of which gets upstaged by the arrival of Hit-Girl, who takes everything up a level by being everything Dave wants to be. She has the tragic origin story, the mentor who provides the training, and pure certainty in the righteousness of her mission.

Much has been made of Hit-Girl by critics. I’m surprised at Roger Ebert’s take because I usually find him one of the most even-handed and least prejudiced of critics. And reading Anthony Lane in The New Yorker tear apart films like this that he has no interest in or even a desire to understand is an exercise best reserved for only the most supercilious film snobs.

Because Hit-Girl makes this movie. Far from being morally reprehensible, her actions and the circumstances she’s been put in do have repercussions. She isn’t just a one-note fantasy figure, and while she’s certainly not as complicated as Hamlet this character and her arc works just fine in a superhero movie. I could care less that she says the word “cunt” in the movie. That’s Millar pushing buttons, and the word is far more common and less pejorative in the United Kingdom, where both Millar and Vaughn are from. That this is an 11-year-old girl meting out extreme violence instead of an 11-year-old boy also doesn’t bother me — in fact, I think it’s an essential part of the subversiveness that makes this story and this movie work. It plays on the idea that girls (and women) are not capable of that kind of violence or language and that’s a bullshit argument that has become increasingly tiring with every iteration from Bonnie and Clyde to Ellen Ripley in Alien to The Bride in Kill Bill.

Vaughn brings to Kick-Ass much the same quick and slick vibe as he did to Layer Cake, a sadly underrated crime movie. Kick-Ass shares some of the same story elements with the somewhat generic mobsters who are the villains of the piece. The film has a few pacing problems. It dragged so much after the initial premise was set up that I was mentally preparing myself to be disappointed in the final result. But about halfway through, the pace really picks up and the complications begin to pay off and the whole movie gets more interesting as it goes along. The finale does what it needs to and becomes so much like a standard superhero movie that it’s almost impossible to tell them apart. Kick-Ass gets his wish fulfilled of living out a comic book story, though as with any good story it’s not exactly everything he expected.

The overall result is an impressive and fun movie that works pretty much exactly the way it should. For all its button pushing, Kick-Ass is a solid film because there’s more to it than swear words and over-the-top violence. It establishes its premise and sticks to it, throwing enough loops into the process to keep it cool and compelling along the way.

So, why did the film not do better at the box office? It’s a good question, because the clips shown last summer at Comic-Con generated a ton of buzz and the extensive marketing for the film was good enough to raise expectations way beyond the $20 million opening. Obviously, the best result that could have been hoped for was a hit on the order of 300, which also was an R-rated, stylized, violent movie based on a graphic novel that few outside of fandom would have heard of. The good news is it did far better than The Spirit, which was nowhere near as good a movie and earned a total domestic gross about equal to what Kick-Ass did its opening weekend. And given that Kick-Ass was made for about $30 million and was financed in traditional indie fashion by Vaughn and his partners, it’ll make back its money at some point.

But the questions that have the most impact on comic book movies overall is whether anyone is interested in seeing superhero movies that are either R-rated or based on characters not well known to the general public.

Lots of comics folks will look at the box office on Watchmen and this film and not go too much further. But it’s not just superheroes that have trouble these days with R ratings, as R-rated movies in general have become a niche market. The days when the perceived edge of an R-rating lead to big box office grosses for the likes of Beverly Hills Cop, Terminator 2: Judgment Day or The Matrix is largely over. What’s worked in the past decade for studios is PG or PG-13 tent poles that can travel, like Harry Potter, The Lord of the Rings, Spider-Man, the Star Wars prequels and Avatar.

As for lesser known comic book characters, I think it’s less of an issue for Hollywood than for comics fans. These days, Hollywood simply doesn’t make big movies that are not based on something — a comic, a book, a toy, an old TV show, a play or an old movie. And with Comic-Con still ground zero for taste making in fandom, even the least known superhero comics will continue to get at least a shot at the big screen. This is at least in part due to the fact that the big characters from Marvel and DC are already completely locked up, so anyone who wants to make a superhero movie will have to look elsewhere for a property to develop.

Which brings me to The Losers, which is more of a typical action movie than a comic book movie. When I saw the movie, they played a preview for the upcoming reimagining of The A-Team, a movie that appears to be shooting for the exact same audience as The Losers.
The Losers, directed by Sylvain White, is a mixed bag. A lot of that has to do with it playing very heavily into the conventions of the action movie genre, which is even more well worn than the superhero genre. As such, this movie does a lot of the things that all action movies do — things that I think responsible for the genre’s decline and replacement by the superhero movie. Namely, that it avoids exposition or explanation of character or circumstance. In the real world, people who do high-end covert military operations are not exactly fun-loving, quippy or even likeable folks — except in action movies. 

That such people would also have Main Street-style patriotism and “honor” as their primary motivations also rings hollow in a real-world setting. The heroes in action movies also have no problem staging operations of massive destruction in public areas with almost no consequences to themselves or the world around them. The only such event that comes to my mind that’s even close to the kind of thing we see in action movies is that big showdown in Hollywood about 10, 12 years ago. Superhero movies work better because the fantasy elements are more obvious and force filmmakers to build stories strong enough to support them. They’re also easier to make work as PG or PG-13 movies, giving them a much wider potential audience to appeal to.

Putting all that aside for a moment, the best thing The Losers has going for it is a good cast and relatively likable characters who interact and conflict with each other in interesting ways. Jeffrey Dean Morgan looks a little too old to be in this movie, but Idris Elba, Chris Evans and Oscar Jaenada all deliver nice performances as characters with distinct personalities. Zoe Saldana also is good, though Hollywood’s predilection for casting waifishly thin supermodel types as tough action heroines undermines her credibility. It’s almost laughable to see this wisp of a girl fire a rocket launcher without the kickback tossing her on her pretty behind.

The movie also has a lot of style, though it’s not consistent. The action sequences are nicely stylized, but in the plot scenes in between, the movie is generic enough to be an episode of 24. The film also is color graded within an inch of its life. It looks interesting, but it also looks very little like the real world.

On the negative side, the film’s biggest problem is it lacks a really compelling villain. Jason Patric does a good job giving Max the air of eccentricity, though he can’t help that the script gives him no motive beyond greed, with the exception of one single throwaway line about wanting to start a war that will restore the proper order to the world. As in a lot of action movies, he’s bad because he crossed the good guys and the script says he’s bad, rather than anyone seeing him actually do anything bad.

Another problem is a lack of scale and perspective. The action sequences in the film are well staged in that it’s always pretty clear what’s going on. But in typical Hollywood fashion, every action sequence is so maxed out with intensity that there’s no sense of things building to a climax. The first sequence in the film is as crazy and over the top as the last. And these sequences are all hermetically sealed off from the rest of the world — the cops don’t seem to respond at all to trucks being blown up in city streets or explosions and machine gun fire at one of the world’s largest ports. Bringing in the outside world, giving some context and believability to the picture, would only help. But this is what happens when movies become stuck in the conventions of their genre. It all becomes so much white noise, with none of the variations in intensity that would provide some suspense and add some scope and stakes to the story.

At the box office, The Losers grossed less than half of what Kick-Ass earned in its first weekend. I think this says more about the marketing push for the film and the general reception for action films than it does about comic book movies. It will be interesting to see if The A-Team is good enough to bring some life back to the action genre. It looks to be a hit, but I think it’ll have to be a huge hit and offer at least a slightly different approach to the genre to have a wider impact.

And getting back to whether R-rated comic book movies work, it’s interesting to not that the performance of these movies is not that far off from the estimated sales of the comics they’re based on. Kick-Ass made a bit of a splash when it debuted and sold well through its run. The series sold very consistently, with most issues selling in the range of 46,000 to 50,000 copies, according to estimates at ICv2.com. That puts it solidly in the same range as such Marvel mainstays as Hulk, Mighty Avengers and Invincible Iron Man. Still it’s only about half as much as it would need to get near the top of the charts.

The Losers, which ran 32 issues from 2003 to 2006, was critically acclaimed and earned a couple of Eisner Award nominations. But sales were always an issue, as they are with most of DC’s Vertigo line. The debut issue of the series sold just under 20,000, dropping to about 8,100 with the last issue in 2006, according to estimates at ICv2.com.

The point being that even when more R-rated properties do well, they don’t come close to competing with the big numbers that PG or PG-13 properties can rack up in either medium.

With Kick-Ass not having been financed by a studio, it’s an anomaly that can’t be used to predict future studio behavior. Which means that you probably won’t see much change in studios’ approach to comic book movies. The genre is still lucrative and the heat will pick up again in just a couple weeks when Iron Man 2 arrives and its grosses make executives all over Hollywood want to get into the comic book movie business.

Anaheim Comic Con makes a play for the mainstream

It was a big weekend for comic conventions this weekend, with the inaugural C2E2 landing at last in Chicago. While most of the comic book publishing industry was there, I was heading south from L.A. to the Wizard World Anaheim Comic Con, which was more full of pop culture celebrities than comic book folks

Let me talk about Chicago first. This was the first show in Chicago put on by Reed Exhibitions, a sister company to Reed Business publisher Variety that has extensive experience putting on trade shows all over the world. It’s best known to comics types for putting on Book Expo America and New York Comic-Con, which has shifted from chilly February to fall for this year’s fifth annual gathering.

By all accounts, this was a show very much like New York — focused on the publishing side of comics. Pretty much all the top writers, artists, editors, publishers and retailers in the comic book business were at Chicago, and it sounds like anyone who loves and reads today’s comics would have had a total blast. As you would expect from a company like Reed, the show appears to have been very professionally run and I particularly like that photos of the main hall showed large windows that let in some natural light to the place, which is always nice at these shows. The usual comic book news sites — Newsarama, CBR, Bleeding Cool, The Beat, Comics Reporter, etc. — were all there and extensively covered the industry announcements.  Few of those announcements struck me as particularly fantastic — there’s always creative churns on long-running titles, a few new titles to announce, etc. But it does sound a like a terrific show that I hope to catch one year soon, especially since I’ve never had the luck to visit Chicago and would like to do so.

Since I wasn’t going to Chicago, I was already planning to spend a day at the new Anaheim Comic Con, when Newsarama’s Mike Doran emailed with some panels they needed covering. If you haven’t seen them already, head over to Newsarama and you can see what I live blogged from a joint Stan Lee and Avi Arad panel, as well as the 1960s Batman TV show cast Q & A and writeups on the Empire Strikes Back 30th anniversary panel, the William Shatner panel and a panel with Superman movie producer Ilya Salkind.

I was unsure what to expect from the new Anaheim convention. I had been to a number of previous Wizard World shows — two in Long Beach, two in Los Angeles and one in Texas about five years ago — and found them varying widely in quality. The first show in Long Beach was quite good, but each subsequent year seemed to slide a bit as the programming never developed beyond publisher promotions and the number and quality of exhibitors appeared to be either static or declining.

But this is a new version of the Wizard World shows. It is less focused on the comic book publishing industry and more about celebrity appearances, collectibles and cosplay. If you must have your comic book industry presence, this model is not going to be satisfying for you. But for the vast majority of people who attend shows like Comic-Con International: San Diego or New York who are less interested in comics and more interested in an overall pop culture experience, this kind of show is going to scratch that itch perfectly.

Part of the plan with the new Wizard World shows is to make it into a tour. Wizard founder and president Gareb Shamus has been steadily adding shows and is fashioning his schedule into a touring show that can hit a different city every couple of weeks and deliver the comic con experience to places it’s never been able to hit before.

The tour idea works for a couple of reasons. One, the show in Anaheim depended less on comic book companies and creators, who realistically can’t devote the kind of time out of the office and away from work required to hit a full tour of such shows. But the retailers can.

And so can a number of the celebrities involved, especially if their work schedule is less than full. And there was a really diverse range of celebrities, though it likely won’t be fully replicated in places farther away from Los Angeles. Among the folks who had booths and were happily signing autographs and posing for pictures were Shannen Doherty, Mickey Dolenz of The Monkees, Lindsay Wagner and Richard Anderson from the old Bionic Woman, Mickey Rooney, Jewel Staite, Brady Bunch star Christopher Knight, Jason Mewes, Ted Raimi, Loretta Swit from M*A*S*H and tons more. That’s in addition to the top-line draws like Adam West and Burt Ward from Batman, Shatner and fellow Star Trek stars Levar Burton and Michael Dorn, and on and on. They were all making money — Shatner was charging $75 an autograph; West, $50; and most of the rest anywhere from $10 to $20 a shot. And only a handful of them would be sitting idly as I walked the floor.

The rest of the floor was devoted to the usual assortment of vendors selling new and old comic books, graphic novels, toys, T-shirts, etc. The selection and variety of vendors was quite good, though I would have like to see some original art vendors there. I managed to pick up a few items: Heavily discounted copies of Iron Man: Demon in a Bottle (which I have never read!), Green Lantern: Emerald Dawn and four pint glasses for beer decorated with classic Marvel character designs (two Avengers, two X-Men). (I later realized that both those books feature the main character dealing with a drinking problem, making all my purchases at the show booze-related).

The artist alley at the rear of the hall featured a number of small press and indie efforts in addition to a few pros, such as J.M. DeMatteis and Glenn Fabry. It wasn’t the biggest or best artist alley ever, but there was activity there throughout the day.

As for the crowd, the best way I can describe it is comfortable. Neither jam-packed nor deserted looking, it felt full without being jam packed or uncomfortable. Wizard’s methodology for calculating attendance is suspect, so I don’t know that comparing numbers with Chicago will be terribly useful. (For the record, C2E2 pegged attendance at 27,500, which reportedly is a bit less than expected).

Perhaps the biggest difference between this show and the previous Wizard shows is that this one was run much more professionally. I arrived around 10 a.m. and while there was a line queued up outside, it wasn’t too onerous. Check in was easy. The floor was well laid out, there was some good variety in food choices (even liquor if you wanted it). Of course, it’s never 100 percent perfect, and the hike to the panel rooms (around a specialty coffee convention going on at the same time) was a bit of a pain and likely contributed to all the panels I saw (except Shatner) filling only a half to three-quarters of the room.

The take-away from all this is that the new Wizard World Comic Con shows are eminently viable and fill a potentially huge niche. This is a show that brings the flavor of the full, crazy San Diego experience to a lot of cities and is perfectly suited for people and families for whom

 as a kind of touring version of the comic con experience perfectly suited for folks who have heard about and are interested in the big San Diego show but not up for traveling to it or dealing with the kinds of crowds it draws. It’s essentially comic con lite, focusing on the elements that land shows like San Diego on the news every summer: costumes, collectibles, celebrities and movie previews.

Of course, anyone who’s been to San Diego or the big New York show and dug the intensity of those events is going to find this a different and potentially disappointing experience. But the Anaheim show didn’t present itself as that kind of show and I don’t think you can fault it for delivering a different, less stressful show.

I’ll be interested to see how well Wizard can replicate the pleasant experience of Anaheim in other cities. It seems completely possible that the relationships built up with such celebrities as Shatner, West, et al., will bring in decent crowds in any city given the right promotion. And while Wizard shows are competing dates-wise with some larger shows, it looks like Wizard can survive just fine without the hard-core comic book industry should its shows end up clashing with anything from Wonder Con to Heroes Con to New York Comic Con.

Lastly, attending the show Anaheim convinced me that as a potential site for Comic Con International, it would be a step backward from San Diego. I understand that the convention center has a more floor space, but the intangibles of the area surround the convention center — into which thousands of con-goers would venture each night of the show — is dull compared to downtown San Diego. It is family friendly — lots of reasonable-looking motels and chain hotels, plenty of chain and non-chain family restaurants such as Coco’s, Denny’s and Cheesecake Factory — but little hip and interesting enough to support the party scene — both hosted events and general gathering spots — that is important to a lot of people who attend the show. Just touring around a bit after the show reinforced what I remembered from previous visits to the area: it lacks the charm and sophistication that San Diego brought to its downtown. It’s hard to imagine the annual super-hip and exclusive SyFy/EW/Marvel party working in any of these hotels, and comics pros and fans who like to head out for a good steak dinner or a few pints of local brewed beer will similarly have far fewer options. All of which negates any benefit from the slightly larger convention center that will still be strained to its limits by Comic-Con size crowds. Better to either stay in San Diego or head up to the burgeoning downtown core in Los Angeles, which if current plans continue apace will be an even hotter spot by 2013.

L.A.’s Comic-Con Bid Looking Up

It looks like we can expect an announcement soon on whether Comic-Con will be moving from San Diego and if so, where.

The field has been narrowed down to either Anaheim or Los Angeles, with advocates for both sides (as well as keeping it in San Diego) making their cases on various sites and on Facebook. (I think Las Vegas in the summer is a poor choice for a consumer-driven, family-oriented event. It has lots of hotel rooms, but with 100,000 people coming to town they won’t be cheap. Also, its convention center is isolated and has outdoor areas that won’t be comfortable to anyone in 105 degree July heat.)

Last week, a pretty impressive Facebook page promoting Los Angeles as the new home of Comic-Con was launched. It features some nice color drawings from Doug Davis, who does the editorial cartoons for The Downtown News. It also lays out a very confident and compelling case for Los Angeles as a good home for the convention. They did a good job of dispelling myths about the area that are easy to believe if you haven’t been in the area in a while.

I have spent a fair bit of time down at L.A. Live in the past six months, seeing movies at the new and excellent Regal Cinemas (all digital screens, great 3D), visiting the Grammy Museum, eating at the restaurants (The Yard House, Trader Vic’s, Fleming’s Steakhouse) and heading over to Staples Center to cheer on the Kings, who take on Vancouver in the first round of the NHL playoffs. Yes, this spot that once was a dirt parking lot next to the freeway has, especially with the opening of the new J.W. Marriott Hotel and the Ritz Carlton hotel and residences (I hear Hayao Miyazaki bought the penthouse for $10 million and made the builders customize the column placement to accommodate his feng shui requirements), is on its way to becoming a world-class entertainment district.

San Diego meanwhile has responded with movement on a plan to expand the convention center and add the space Comic-Con has been requesting.

But it seems to me that the Los Angeles bid is gaining momentum, with the professional Facebook page, my gut feeling that the San Diego move is too little too late and a comment from AEG Group President and CEO Tim Leiweke at a civic event late last week about pending announcements for major new conventions coming to town.

Here’s what I know about the comments: Leiweke made them last week before about a thousand people at the Central City Association’s Treasures of Los Angeles event held at the J.W. Marriott at L.A. Live. I was not at the event myself, but folks who were there have confirmed what he said. Leiweke said he didn’t want to steal the Convention Center’s thunder, but he was quite excited that announcements would soon be made that two of the nation’s largest conventions are coming to the Los Angeles Convention Center in the next three or four years.

That’s not much, obviously. It’s just a hint, and it’s easy to imagine that it’s confident bluster, or possibly referring to other shows. But it also fits with the timeline Comic-Con has announced for making its decision on whether to stay in San Diego or to move.

And my gut tells me this is going to happen. And I am the first to admit that my gut is not always right. But sometimes I’m not completely wrong, either.

But the more I think about it, the more I like the idea. L.A. is definitely preferably to Anaheim, which, with all due respect, is, outside of Disneyland, pretty dull and lacking in the nighttime amenities for parties, fine dining and hanging out that make San Diego and now L.A. so much fun. You can’t really walk from the convention center in Anaheim to a bunch of cool hotels or fun restaurants (unless Denny’s qualifies as a fun restaurant, which to me it does not). Plus, there already is a pretty massive year-round attraction in Disneyland that fills up the city’s hotels and restaurants pretty well, especially during summer.

Downtown Los Angeles, however, is definitely on the upswing. There still are some scary parts (Skid Row) not too far away, but most of the rest of the area from the Arts District to Little Tokyo to Broadway is blossoming with cool new restaurants, bars and restaurants.

Transportation has improved tremendously with the Metro, which will further be improved in the coming years with the regional connector and a modern streetcar route (like the one in Portland) set to be up and running in 2014. There’s a lot of parking in downtown, and it could use more hotels within walking distance, but public transit is making it easier to quickly commute from as far away Hollywood, Pasadena, Long Beach or even the Mid-City/Koreatown areas (and locations in between) — all of which offer interesting attractions in their own right.

The Los Angeles Convention Center itself will be a major change for the show, as its space is divided among three halls of various sizes, with a connecting passage over Pico. I don’t know where they would put the meetings, as it doesn’t appear to have as much meeting room space as San Diego, though the proximity of both the Nokia Theater and even Staples Center pose some interesting possibilities for replacing the makeshift Hall H with something both truly spectacular and large enough to handle the crowds. The facility itself may be the weakest part of this proposal, but it has played host to numerous E3 Expos as well as the 2007 Star Wars Celebration IV and been more than adequate.

But most of all, there is a feeling of confidence and competence in the Los Angeles effort lacking in the other campaigns. It feels like L.A. wants the show and is enthusiastic about it and has enough to offer the show to make it worth gambling on a move to L.A. San Diego, I think, has long taken the show for granted and it’s too late at this point for the city to come in and undo years of bad-mouthing the show and failing to address its concerns.

On a more personal note, this will be the first San Diego con I will have to miss since 1996. The reason is a family event that requires travel back east. And while I will definitely miss the convention, there is a part of me that’s maybe just a bit relieved that I won’t have to deal with the stress of conspiring to find a way into Hall H to see a movie panel or fight through the crowds to spend a few minutes chatting with very cool people I usually only get to see at Comic-Con. I plan to be back in 2011 and 2012, and then wherever the show leads in 2013.

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