So, what is the best way to offer our thoughts on SDCC? Why, a Two-Man Weave, of course. That’s right, after a post-Game of Thrones absence, Two-Man Weave is back, as Kyu and I discuss all the highs, lows, and middles of SDCC 2014.
David: Back again! Let’s start simple: what was your best experience at SDCC? While there were a lot of options, mine happened rather early on Thursday, when we spent most of the day in Ballroom 20. I had expected to get in line around 11 or so, and then possibly get inside in time for the Community panel, but really just hoping to make the Hannibal panel after last year’s debacle (when I didn’t get in… and almost got into a screaming match with other people in line… it was a low moment). So let’s just say I was stunned when I showed up at 11 to discover that there was basically no line, and walked right into the second panel of the day, Under the Dome. Now, look, I don’t care about Under the Dome in the slightest, but being able to just walk right into Ballroom 20 was quite the treat. Next up was a screening of the pilot for Scorpion, a new CBS show premiering this fall. The pilot was generally meh, but there is a part where a plane flies just above a convertible going full speed so an Ethernet cable from the plane can be connected to a laptop in the car (and as ridiculous as that was to read, it is even more ridiculous to see). Then there was the Reign panel, which is a show that is fun to hear about, even if I don’t have time to really watch it.
Finally it was time for the Community panel. As always, it delivered in spades. It was funny, insightful, and somewhat tense. (Gillian Jacobs seemed. let’s say, conflicted—she is obviously thrilled about the show coming back, but less than thrilled that Community’s return cost her the leading role in Judd Apatow’s new show on Hulu.) As good as the Community panel was, the best panel of the day for me was the Teen Wolf panel that followed it. The crowd was electric, the cast was engaging, and everyone got a sweet bestiary (as mentioned in the last Welcome to the Wolfpack) containing awesome drawings of the various monsters in Teen Wolf. The Hannibal panel that followed was fun, and it was nice seeing the non-leads get showcased in the panel, but it really could have used either Hugh Dancy (off filming in Australia with a strange moustache) or Mads Mikkelsen (off being a megastar in Denmark). We also got a cool soundtrack CD and season 2 DVD cover. Finally, there was Penny Dreadful, which was really insightful. Of all these panels, it was the one that made me the most excited about watching the show when it returns for season 2. Plus, we were given “booster packs” of Tarot cards in the style of the deck used on the show, which was my favorite swag from the whole con.
Why did this sequence of panels stand out so much to me? Mainly because Ballroom 20 ran as it should run the entire day. Outside of the end of the Reign panel, there was always a steady stream of people leaving and new people entering after every panel. The room had a diverse panel selection that really offered little fan overlap (other than Tumblr and, well, me, but those don’t count), and nobody was forced to sit through panels they didn’t want to watch in order to see those they did. It was a refreshing turn of events that really helped set the tone for the rest of SDCC, which made the Ballroom 20 the best experience of the whole con. What about you, Kyu? What was your best experience?
Kyu: Leaving! Hyuk-hyuk-hyuk. No, wait, leaving was terrible. David and I were so sick at that point that a 2.5 hour drive took at least twice that long. No, although I did really like that Ballroom 20 run—thank you, Comic-Con, for scheduling so many things I enjoyed in one room in a row—my pick for best experience has to be Kevin Smith. Now, I’ve been a fan of Smith for a long time. He’s one of the great writers of movie dialogue, and that makes pretty much everything he’s written incredibly entertaining, from the hilarious (Clerks) to the heartfelt (Chasing Amy) to the absurd (Dogma). That same facility, I think, along with his willingness to mine his real life for comedy, makes it a joy to listen to the man speak. Smith is an inveterate rambler, and his “Q and A”s have a very high A to Q ratio, if you get my meaning. A simple question like “What is your favorite of your movies?” will lead him on a 20-minute anecdote from his personal, sexual, or scatological history that leaves the audience rolling and the original question totally forgotten.
I’ve heard Smith talk a few times before, including at the Austin premiere of Clerks 2, and even once before at Comic-Con. Every year for SDCC he’ll do a 90 minute Q and A to close out Hall H on either Friday or Saturday. I skipped last year’s, but two years before I went and heard some entertaining stories about where his life was at that moment. He was just getting into pot, had just come off a traumatic experience directing Bruce Willis on the set of Cop Out, and was essentially ready to be a podcaster for the rest of his life. The stories were funny, but I was definitely saddened by the idea that one of my favorite filmmakers was hanging up the little chair with his name on it, or whatever it is directors hang up when they retire. So I was tremendously elated this year to find out that Kevin Smith had, essentially, gotten his mojo back. After a long and funny story about his visit to the set of Star Wars Episode VII (punchline: “Use the Force, fucker!”), Smith opened up about this new phase in his filmmaking career. On the one hand, he felt like he had priced himself out of doing interesting movies—he never wanted to make another cash grab like Cop Out ever again. On the other hand, he couldn’t simply go back to making the same kinds of independent movies he’d made before, because he felt he’d run out of things to say. As he put it, he was no longer miserable, and so the burning desire to express himself on the subject of religion (Dogma) or relationships (Chasing Amy) or wage-slavery (Clerks 1 & 2) simply didn’t exist for him anymore. But a single whimsical idea brought him back from semi-retirement: “I could make shit up!”
Now Smith is super excited about an upcoming trilogy of ridiculous, absurd horror/comedies: Tusk, a Cronenbergian body horror movie about a guy who tries to turn another guy into a walrus; Yoga Hosers, a teen comedy about a pair of 15-year-old girls fighting supernatural monsters; and Moose Jaws, which is like Jaws but with a moose. The best Smith movies to me are the ones where he’s fully engaged, so seeing Smith excited made me excited. Also exciting: Tusk, whose trailer Smith brought with him to Hall H. Unlike every other presenter, he encouraged us to film and photograph his footage, because that’s just the kind of guy he is. I could describe how creepy and hilarious this looks, or talk about how excited I am to see Michael Parks fully let loose, but why would I? You can see for yourself:
Comic-Con is in a weird way often a depressing experience for me. It represents in immense physical form a conflict I often struggle with internally, the tension between being a fan, a media consumer, and being a writer, a creator. A large portion of the Comic-Con audience is there because they, too, dream of creating the kinds of things that they love watching, reading, and playing; but too often I feel like they and I should spend less time consuming and more time making. Like many of the presenters at SDCC, Kevin Smith is a fan as well as a creator, a kind of patron saint for us hopefuls. He proves that with talent and hard work and a little luck and a convenience store you can get into after hours, you, too, can be the guy on stage, the guy whose weird, walrus-y dreams came true. So seeing Smith deciding to take up the whatever it is that he put down in the first place (do directors even use those bullhorns anymore?) was really inspiring. What about you, David? Do you take more inspiration or despair from a convention like this? Or do you take it more as a vacation than the way I always seem to, as a personal and career referendum?
David: These are all good questions that shall be answered in Part 2 of our SDCC Round Up. Until then, here are some more photos from our guest photographer, RJ.