Once a year, the quiet California city of San Diego becomes a geek Mecca, as fanboys (and fangirls) from all over the world descend on the futuristic convention center for Comic-Con International. Now in its 35th year, the sci-fi-palooza has gotten bigger in every way: more attendees (upwards of 75,000 people this time), more celebrity special guests (Sarah Michelle! Keanu! Ben Browder!), more events, more sneak previews and, most importantly, more free goodies. In fact, there was so much to do and see last weekend that this TV Guide Online reporter often found himself wishing for a handy cloning device (or at least that Time-Turner gadget that Hermione had in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban) so he could be in two places at once. Until reality catches up with science fiction, here are the highs and lows of a weekend in comic-book paradise.
The Firefly faithful were out in force to welcome Joss Whedon and the cast of Serenity, the feature-film version of the canceled-but-not-forgotten Fox TV series. Fans were so happy to see the Buffy mastermind that they greeted him with a rousing standing ovation. Whedon returned the favor by premiering an action-packed teaser for the movie, due in theaters next April. The love in the room was so thick, you could only break through it with one of the Serenity crew members' wicked guns.
It ain't easy being in charge of WB's most popular prime-time series. Just ask Smallville honchos Miles Millar and Alfred Gough, who withstood some withering attacks from devoted Clark/Lana worshippers demanding to know when their favorite couple would be getting together once and for all. The answer? Not anytime soon, especially since Lois Lane is being introduced this season. Plus, as the producers themselves insisted, if Clark and Lana ever did enter into a real relationship, they would instantly become the most boring couple on TV.
Gandalf confronting Saruman. Aragorn treating a dying Eowyn at the Houses of Healing. Sam and Frodo disguising themselves as Orcs to reach Mount Doom. Snippets from all of these new scenes were on display in the trailer for The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King's extended-edition DVD (with 50 extra minutes!), which hits stores this December. You know you wants it, my preciousss...
Ray Bradbury is a legend among sci-fi writers — no argument there. And more movies probably should be made from his groundbreaking books. But A Sound of Thunder — the upcoming Edward Burns-Ben Kingsley time-travel adventure, based on Bradbury's short story — looks dead on arrival. Lame special effects, a convoluted plot and Kingsley's scary hairstyle do not a promising movie make. And did I mention that it stars Ed Burns?
Most Conspicuously Absent Trailer
Let me get this straight: Joss Whedon has only been shooting Serenity for a little over a month and he still managed to get a teaser ready in time for the convention. But Christopher Nolan has been filming Batman Begins since the spring and didn't have any footage to show off? You better believe that had Bat fans grumbling. Methinks that Warner Brothers was being a little too protective of 2005's most highly anticipated comic-book movie. (Maybe they wised up and realized that, since trailer finally went live online yesterday.)
Most Welcome Return
Farscape is back! Ben Browder and Claudia Black were on hand to show off an awesome teaser for the upcoming miniseries The Peacekeeper Wars. "There was always a fifth season in mind," said writer David Kemper. "It didn't happen, but we took it as the theme for this series. This will lead us to the future instead of closing the door [on Farscape]." [Keep reading Insider for more Farscape news, coming soon.]
After avoiding Comic-Con during her years on Buffy, Sarah Michelle Gellar turned up to promote her new horror movie, The Grudge, along with costar Jason Behr (Roswell). They must be pretty confident in their flick's box-office potential, because neither was shy about poking fun at the audience. When one guy asked if Gellar would work with "Josh Whedlon" again, she replied that she would answer that question if he got the name right. Ouch!
Ron Perlman and Guillermo del Toro returned to Comic-Con to hype the DVD release of their cult hit Hellboy. Unlike some celebrity guests, these two weren't shy about getting on the floor and mingling with their fellow geeks. Del Toro in particular took the time to chat and pose for pictures with anyone who approached him. In between autographs, the director revealed that a three-disc edition of the Hellboy DVD will be available this fall, complete with a longer cut, a new commentary track and lots of other goodies.
During the panel for Constantine, a die-hard Keanu Reeves fan told the actor that she had brought him an early birthday present. So Keanu invited the starstruck woman to the front of the stage, where he gave her a big hug and accepted her gift, a book called The Elegant Universe: Superstrings, Hidden Dimensions and the Quest for the Ultimate Theory. Believe it or not, Keanu already had a copy. All together now: Whoa.
Most Welcome Announcement
The late, great Fox series Wonderfalls is getting a DVD release on December 6. So buy a bunch — they make great geeky stocking stuffers!
Do you miss the days when the Jim Henson Company made trippy movies like Labyrinth and The Dark Crystal? Then you'll be happy to know that they're returning to the well with Mirrormask, a truly bizarre-looking movie about a young girl who enters a mysterious dreamworld populated by strange creatures. Written by comic-book guru Neil Gaiman and directed by master artist Dave McKean, this already looks like one of 2005's coolest movies.
Lest we forget the reason this convention began in the first place, one of my most memorable moments of the weekend came when I found a comic I've been searching for for ages: The New Warriors Annual No. 2, which contains the last installment in a four-part series I started collecting almost 10 years ago. Better still, it only cost me a dollar! Only at Comic-Con...