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August 4th, 2007

About Mostly Inadvertent Offences

Comic-Con Report, volume 5 03:00 pm
After the small press booths, Susan, my cousin's friend, called me and it turned out she was all right except that she'd decided the line was too long for the Heroes panel and so far hadn't done much but wander. I still don't know if Susan ever actually saw anything.

I wandered northwards from the small press booths and, at the Slave Labour booth, I met a really nice British comic book writer who talked to me about how he met his artist, an Italian woman, on the internet. Damned if I can remember his name or the title of his comic, or even what it was about. As I said to sovay this morning, sometimes I think my head was made for nothing more complicated than breaking ostrich eggs.

I went to the Oni Press booth next and spoke to James Vining, creator of First in Space. It's a comic about a chimpanzee test pilot for NASA named Ham.

"It's good if you like chimpanzees," he said.

"Oh, everyone does," I said. "Except people who lie to themselves."

"Really?" he responded, apparently slightly taken aback.

It was around noon by this point and I was hungry so I decided to get lunch. For the first time this Comic-Con, I ate at the place I ate every day of last year's Con, Pokez. It's more than ten blocks away from the convention centre, but boy, is it ever worth the walk. A great variety of vegetarian options and, most importantly, an enormous bean and cheese burrito with lettuce and stuff for only $3.25. The Con cafeteria is pinned on its face crying, there's no battle.

I thought then about seeing the Joss Whedon panel, but I saw that his panel ended at exactly the time the panel consisting of Mike Nelson, Kevin Murphy, and Bill Corbett began. I chose instead to sit through the two panels preceding the MST3K guys in the same room, a decision which secured me a third row seat for that panel. Plus, I got to see J. Michael Straczynski and tell sovay about it.

The first panel was for The Amazing Spider-Man and was moderated by Joe Quesada himself. The purpose of the panel was to introduce the new writers and artists for the series, which is now going to put out three issues a month. All four of the new writers were there, including Bob Gale, screenwriter for the Back to the Future movies. Looking at his imdb profile, I see he's done little else, but I'm astonished to see that he and Robert Zemekis are credited as writers for all twenty-six episodes of the Back to the Future cartoon series.

Anyway, apparently the plan is to scale back on Spider-Man's presence in other comics in order to consolidate his storyline for comics buyers. The Amazing Spider-Man is to concentrate on Peter Parker's personal life.

Next was J. Michael Straczynski, a writer I've heard many good things about, though I'd not read or seen any of his work since I'd watched He-Man, She-Ra, and The Real Ghostbusters as a kid. He's made Babylon 5 since then and has had a well-received run on The Amazing Spider-Man.

He seemed like an intelligent guy and he was funny and charming. But there's something odd about being the only guy in the room who's not a rabid fan of the person speaking. Straczynski talked like he was only surrounded by those who love him, and I felt slightly like I was watching a couple having tender sex who'd been married for twenty years. I've since picked up a copy of Skin Deep, a collection of a small story-arch from Straczynski's run on The Amazing Spider-Man, and it is indeed good writing.

After him was the panel for The Film Crew, a comedy team comprised of Mystery Science Theatre 3000 writers Mike Nelson, Kevin Murphy, and Bill Corbett. I must say, of all the people I've seen at any Comic-Con, those three were by far the most intimidating.

The panel was moderated by a nervous young guy from Shout! Factory who nevertheless tried to maintain a cocky façade. "How many of you are fans of a little show called Mystery Science Theatre 3000?" he asked before the stars were on stage.

The crowd cheered.

"Well you've come to the wrong place." Although the upcoming Film Crew DVDs are essentially new episodes of Mystery Science Theatre 3000, featuring the main three writers doing the same thing--providing joke commentaries for bad old movies--they're for some mysterious legal reasons unable to carry on under the Mystery Science Theatre 3000 name or premise. I, for one, shall greatly miss the puppet robots.

I've watched Mystery Science Theatre 3000 since I was twelve, when the series had already been on air for four years. The voices of Joel, Mike, and the 'bots are inextricably woven into the voices of my subconscious, so maybe that's why it was so strange to be only a few feet away from these people speaking with these voices, and demonstrating remarkably agile and quick wits.

The moderator first called Bill Corbett, the voice of Crow T. Robot in later years of the series, and Corbett came running up from the back of the room amid cheers; his fists jabbing at the air like Muhammad Ali before he took the stage to yell, "SPARTA!" into the microphone.

Next Kevin Murphy, the voice of Tom Servo (my personal favourite), was called to run up to the stage. After finding he'd crawled up on the wrong side of the table, he came around to his seat and cried into his mic, in an uncertain tone, "Athens . . . ?"

Finally came Mike Nelson, to the biggest cheers. I'm not going to repeat what he said.

The audience was treated to extensive clips from three of the four new Film Crew releases, Killers from Space, The Wild Women of Wongo, and Giant of Marathon.

That last movie, sadly enough directed by the talented Jacques Tourneur at what must have been a very depressing point in his career, stars Steve Reeves, familiar to MST3K fans as the star of many a lame Italian Hercules movie. In Giant of Marathon, he plays the clean-shaven Phillipides, opposite a pretty, talentless actress playing Andromeda, whom Phillipides comes upon cavorting with several nubile young ladies in scanty tunics. "This is what the Jihadists think heaven is like," Mike observed.

The Wild Women of Wongo featured an opening narration by Mother Nature herself, who explained that she and Father Time worked together long ago to create these strange, Wongo societies of cave people seen in the movie. After she finished speaking, Mike volunteered narration of his own; "Hi, folks, this is Father Time. Yeah, I bagged that broad Mother Nature. Don't believe a word she says . . ."

I wish I could remember more of what those guys said. Bill Corbett came off as much funnier than I was expecting. But I'm out of time again . . .
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