Friday, July 27, 2007
Comic-Con '07 - Attention advertisers: You, too, can reach this high-quality demographic!
I'm sure somewhere in the beginning, the San Diego Comic-Con was an innocent enough affair.

Like-minded individuals who shared a love for certain flavor of pop culture gathered to trade comic books -- and found that one missing issue to complete their collections. They also discovered something new and exciting.

But like childhood memories that eventually become the reason you start seeing a therapist, the "Con" has also lost its innocence ... and might also want to consider seeking help.

Organizers of this year's event addressed a capacity crowd at the San Diego Convention Center on opening day and confessed they weren't sure what would happen when they decided to extend their programming by a day and begin on a Thursday. They were pleasantly surprised.

And if the crowds yesterday were overwhelming, imagine how that number might grow today -- a Friday, when more people can take the day off to attend. I don't even want to think about Saturday ...

While you can certainly lose yourself with a leisurely stroll through "the quiet part" of the convention center hunting for that elusive back issue from Walt Simonson's run on "Thor," the exhibitors do their best to get your attention by making some serious noise on the other end.

In fact, Comic-Con has become such an important marketplace for Hollywood studios, video game publishers and toy manufacturers, it's become the place to be if you're going to have any hope of making your project a success.

The buzz that is generated from the crowd at Comic-Con is so palpable that it can literally make or break a project. You come here with your A-game, ready to play.

In fact, 20th Century Fox Studios actually pulled out of this year's event because planners weren't sure that their film projects were ready to be shown to this particular audience.

But what if you're a studio that doesn't have a comic-book related film in the works? No problem. Even if it's not in the science fiction or fantasy genre, if you think there's even a slim chance of it having crossover appeal, bring it to the Con. You're never going to get a better gauge for how it'll play in middle America anywhere else. It's a perfect petri dish for pop-cultural audience analysis.

And sometimes, it's the most unlikely thing that gets people's attention.

If you attended, you couldn't help but notice the oversized red-and-yellow tote bags emblazoned with the Warner Bros. logo along with ads for "Smallville" on The CW and the upcoming direct-to-DVD release of the animated film "Superman: Doomsday." So popular was this premium, I overheard someone in the crowd saying that they were being sold by attendees for as much as $20!

You just know that somewhere an accountant at the studio is thinking, "if we could only have tapped that source of revenue ourselves, we wouldn't even have to had to produce the DVD in the first place!" (Warner Bros., incidentally, is a unit of Time Warner -- as is CNN.)

A marketer's dream, sure. But it can honestly feel like an unholy orgy of art and commerce at times.

I would love to tell you what I thought of the 22-minute presentation of "Beowulf" in 3D that was shown last night, but I spent too much time trying to fight my way through the crowds that I missed both of the showings. (I will say, however, the 2D trailer that was shown in a panel yesterday by the film's writer, Neil Gaiman, was GORGEOUS.)

However, along the way I did manage to pick up some Walt Simonson issues of "Thor" -- not to mention a copy of the entire "Kraven's Last Hunt" story line from "Amazing Spider-Man."

Proving it's possible to recapture your innocence if you really want to ... as long as you have cash in hand.

(After all, the studios are counting on it.)
Comic-Con '07 - Day 1
After my first few hours at the San Diego Comic-Con, I found myself reaching out to my editor at CNN.com for guidance.

Apparently, the word I had chosen to describe the first official day of the convention fit neither the CNN style-guide nor the AP style. I was given alternate suggestions such as "chaotic nightmare," "aggravating people-mess," and "cacophonous mind-melting crowd scene." Sold! (Editor's note: The word Matt had in mind wouldn't be, uh, suitable for a family-friendly blog. Though it's probably the most appropriate.)

From the moment the convention center opened at 10:30 a.m. PT, it was sheer madness. From hard-core nerds, to average geeks, to the mildly amused people numbering in the tens of thousands had descended upon the San Diego Convention Center to ... stand in line and fight the crowds to get a look at the same thing the rest of the world was getting to see online on the Internet. (Check out our gallery)

My photographer, Rick Taber, and I stood in line to get into various panels throughout the day -- gleaning such nuggets of pop-cultural insight as "Heroes" star Zachary Quinto would be joining the cast of the new "Star Trek" film as Spock -- might have been exciting ... if we didn't already know this before we ever left Los Angeles. Of course, the appearance of the REAL Spock, Leonard Nimoy, at the convention was pretty cool, but learning that he's going to appear in the same film left us wondering.

But hey -- it's Comic-Con. "Suspend your disbelief and play along" is the order of the day.

Of course, it helps when filmmakers such as Jon Favreau get in on the act, appearing in a video greeting the crowd and making reference to the number of "Comic-Con exclusives" that managed to end up on YouTube the previous year, and by showing what he referred to as "early, not final" samples of his upcoming "Iron Man" film which ended up being nothing more than clips from Marvel's early 1960s animated series of cartoons of the "armored Avenger." Of course, when he debuted a sampling of shots and sequences from the actual film, the crowd went nuts.

(For the record, I did, too. From the look of things, "Iron Man" is going to rock your world when it comes out in 2008! As a fan, I approve ...)

I mean, if you're going to take the time to attend a panel discussion about ABC's hit series "Lost," it might be nice to hear something other than what you read the day before in The Hollywood Reporter about Harold Perrineau returning to the series for its upcoming fourth season. No offense to Mr. Perrineau, but really -- give me something else to look forward to besides such as, I don't know -- some ANSWERS to what the heck is happening on the island? I guess I'll just have to watch with the rest of the world when the show returns in February 2008.

So why fight the crowds? Despite being a virtual fun fair of eye candy, from the costumed to the fully consumed, the whole exercise really felt like a burden at times.

We are literally talking about tens of thousands of the deeply devoted, descending upon a single location, to see -- up close and personal -- stuff that's already been rumored or reported on the Internet. Everything from action figures to sketch-style variant comic book covers that had once existed only as photographs online, are made real -- only to be photographed again, which will probably end up online again.

So why go?

Is it a sense of community or camaraderie? I don't think so.

Though I've been reading comic books for as long as I can remember, I've rarely felt comfortable with the folks that make this particular corner of pop culture their own private Idaho ... or, in this case, Metropolis.

My personal favorite part of the Comic-Con lies on the far end of the convention center floor, where sellers hawk their wares in white, cardboard long-boxes -- a place I've come to refer to as the "quiet part" of the show.

Everything else is just Hollywood marketing, or madness, depending on how deep down the rabbit hole you want to go. Of couse, if you decide to make that journey, there are at least 94 guys dressed as "Neo" from "The Matrix" roaming around here and they're more than happy to to take you there.

Later today, we'll see just how deep that rabbit hole goes ...
Thursday, July 26, 2007
When Mick Jagger turns 64
Mick Jagger is 64 today.

When Paul McCartney turned 64 last year, everybody trotted out the Beatles' "When I'm Sixty-Four" to mark the occasion. So, what Rolling Stones song befits Mr. Jagger's birthday today? The first thing that popped into my mind was "Time Waits for No One," but that could apply to pretty much any birthday.

Any ideas?
Monday, July 23, 2007
Potter postscript: Enjoy yourself
I'm not quite done yet with "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows." That's OK; I'm taking my time.

That's unusual for me. I read the last three Potter books at a gallop. I reviewed one of them and oversaw reviews for the other two. This time around, with our Potter review contributed by CNN's London bureau, I was determined to take my time. (The fastest review was apparently done by a British speed-reader working for the tabloid The Sun. She read "Deathly Hallows" in 47 minutes.)

This is the last book, after all -- most likely -- and it seems worth taking a breath to appreciate what Jo Rowling has accomplished: A richly imagined world, which has inspired incredible enthusiasm and unheard-of sales. All for a book.

(Anecdotally, the Potter fans at the bookstore the other night were majority female. Does Potter have a larger female fan base than other fantasy works I'm aware of, particularly one starring a boy?)

The Potter frenzy has been often compared to Beatlemania, and that has me thinking of how many times the music industry has hoped for another Beatles, and -- occasional superstar crazes notwithstanding (Elton John, the Bee Gees, Michael Jackson, etc.) -- never really gotten one.

We may never see the likes of the Harry Potter phenomenon again. So I'm certainly going to enjoy it.

Now, back to the book.
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