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International Comic Con 2006

July 20-23, 2006

San Diego Convention Center, San Diego, California


by Michelle

Please do not reproduce this article in whole or in part without permission from the author. Images are for personal use only. Feel free to link to this article.

Stuff I Saw
Sci Fi Booth
Legends Memorabilia
Women of Sci-Fi Calendar
Action Figures
Stargate Panels
Intro

This was my first time to Comic Con, and it didn't disappoint in the sensory overload department. Not a good place if you need wide open spaces or don't like crowds. I wanted to take a picture of the convention center from across the street, but I literally couldn't stop and pull out my camera without halting the moving mass of people. Take my word for it, the place is impressively large. But, according to local news reports, its 525,000 square feet of exhibit space is not big enough for the growing event, and they may have to move it somewhere else. Las Vegas, maybe? But not in July, for the love of God. It was hot enough in San Diego!

The great thing about the event is that it literally overwhelms the city. Block after block around the convention center, one sees groups of humanoids of all types wearing the tell-tale black neckstrap and white badge marking them as Comic Congoers. Many conversations are struck up among strangers, and hotels and restaurants know just what we need: cheap food quick, and fast internet service.

I stayed in the Bristol Hotel, seven blocks north of the center and on the "blue line" of free shuttle bus. It's a very mod hotel, remodeled not long ago. I really liked the decor. And the internet service was nice and fast, if not wireless.

Elvis as a storm trooper

Elvis as a Storm Trooper? Wouldn't have thought of it, but somehow it works.

Sci Fi Booth
Sci Fi BoothSci Fi Booth

The Sci Fi Channel booth was large and amorphous. It sported three iMacs with browsers open to the Sci Fi website, a spaced-out structure with flat screen monitors showing previews of the Sci Fi shows... and freebies being rationed out regularly. Many passersby took advantage of the horizontal surfaces to rest, since chairs were hardly to be found anywhere. On Friday there was no sign of Stargate at the booth, but on Saturday, the day of the panel, there were previews running on the monitors quite often and rather cool keychains being handed out. Apparently some Sci Fi execs stopped by now and then, but I didn't manage to see one.

Who wants to be...

I snapped a shot of these pseudo-superheroes without realizing they are the actual contestants in the new reality show, "Who Wants to be a Superhero?" All I can say is, some people will go to any lengths to be famous. Though based on US TV these days, I guess we knew that already.

Torri Higginson

On Saturday, after the Stargate panels, Torri Higginson was kind enough and brave enough to stop by the Sci Fi booth. She posed for pictures with fans and fielded their questions. I sure would have been overwhelmed in her position, in such a crowded area, but she seemed fine.

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Legends Memorabilia
Legends Memorabilia Booth

I've been very impressed with the high-quality, artistic products that Legends Memorabilia offer via Stargateprops.com, and the generosity of the Stargateautographs.com charity project, so my next stop was the Legends booth, not far from Sci Fi's space. Founder Paul Brown was there, working alongside his lovely wife and two daughters in a very nicely appointed booth. Paul gave me a personal tour of their new and upcoming merchandise. If you don't care about merchandise, you can skip this part!

Legends now offer a full-size staff weapon replica that can be broken down into three pieces for traveling via airplane or other more worm-like modes of travel. At a much lower price are the full-size zat and the charming mini-zat replicas. The staff and zats are made of a very hard resin and have tons of fine detail, though sadly the zats don't do the "phallic extension" thing. The zats come in really beautiful, high-gloss rosewood boxes with the Stargate logo on the top. Paul did immense research just on the boxes and found a great supplier at affordable prices.

Paul showed me the master of a Death Glider about 8 inches across. It will be used to create the mold from which the ships will be produced. It was made in Germany using Rainmaker Digital Effects' software model, modified for use to produce a real 3-D article in a computer-controlled milling machine. It took many hours for the machine to create the master, using a drill bit that was smaller than a human hair for the fine details along the top of the wing. The product will be available soon.

Legends is also working on models of a Goa'uld Ha'tak and Ring Transporter. The cool thing about these is they are testing a magnet system that will make the models appear to levitate above their bases, or in the case of the rings, have space between them. Just don't set them next to your computer or credit cards!

Another cool upcoming product is a glass block with an Egyptian head carved out of the inside, lit in multi-colored lights from the bottom at the push of a button. These are really pretty and fun and will be a lower price point for the less 'flush' fan.

While not yet on their website, Legends is selling sets of five lovely production art pieces. They are limited edition, produced on thick paper, and are just lovely sketches that were used to produce real and CGI sets and props. The show price for a set was $50.

Paul Brown and daughter Angie Brownfull-size zat gun replica

I asked Paul what would happen to his Stargate business if one or both shows were to be cancelled, Nielsen forbid. He said the studio might send him many, many props and costumes to sell for them, perhaps a small consolation to fans in that event. He predicted the fandom of Stargate would stay interested in props and replicas for years to come, as it has for other genre shows. It's nice to know Legends will stay in the business even if some of the show production stops.

James RobbinsJames' art book

The centerpiece of Legends' booth was an upcoming art book, The Art of Stargate. This will feature production art by Production Designer James Robbins. There will be only 2500 copies printed, each will be signed by all the original cast, and each purchaser will receive a personally addressed and signed 'thank you' letter from Richard Dean Anderson. The book has a lovely cover with an "Eye of Ra" symbol embedded in it, and it will be set in a rosewood box. At $650 the book won't be for everyone, but it will be an incredible collectible of the show. The crew is looking forward to getting their own copies. Legends was taking reservations for the book, and James Robbins himself was there giving out signed production prints with each reservation turned in.

I had the chance to chat with James, who was very patient with my naive questions about his business. He's now the production designer for both Stargate shows, which understandably keeps him very busy. He still does a lot of the artwork himself, and sometimes he and his team only have a few days' notice that a new prop or set element is needed. I asked him about the inspiration for the Atlantis set design, which has reminded me of Charles Rennie Mackintosh's designs. He said the inspiration was actually the unlikely combination of Frank Lloyd Wright and an electron microscope image of a snowflake. He was drawn to the regular yet beautiful order of the crystal structure, so it is reflected in the overall layout of Atlantis when seen from above. He's clearly excited about the upcoming book, which will be annotated with his insights about the process of creation for the shows. Plus, James is quite hot. :-)

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Women of Sci-Fi Calendar
Chris Judge signing calendarsChris Judge signing calendars

On Friday afternoon Chris Judge arrived at the booth next to Legends to sign Women of Sci-Fi calendars and DVD's, in all his camo'd glory. The line wasn't too long, so I was happy to buy (another) copy and have it signed by Chris. I told him I was buying to support the Men-of endeavor, and he said it's going to happen and that he was going to be working deals with some of the men in questions at the bar that night. Let's hope it went well!

Cliff Simon

Cliff Simon stopped by and gave Chris a big hug. I had gotten his autograph at the Avatar Comics booth earlier. By the way, there were lots of SG-1 and Atlantis comics there, but I have no idea which ones were new, since I lost track of the comics merchandise a while back. Anyway, I suspect Cliff will be in the calendar, though I have no proof of that!

On Saturday, Rachel Luttrell joined Chris for autographs, and there were at least 100 people in line. Too many fans and minders for me to snap a pic of the pair, but Rachel is even more beautiful in person. Her skin is flawless.

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Action Figures
Future SG-1 Action Figures

I visited the Diamond Select Toys booth, looking forward to finally being able to buy some Stargate action figures. Alas, it was not to be. Friday afternoon, and their Stargate shelves were bare except for a couple of serpent guards. I noticed they had an abundance of "Kirk in Command Chair," however. I guess they misjudged the demand by just a bit, considering the SG-1 crowd hadn't even arrived in full force yet. I did manage to snap a pic of an upcoming phase of figures, including Ascended Daniel, Black Leather Vala, a Prior, Thor, Anubis, and new versions of Carter and Teal'c. Anyway, fans can buy the phase 1 figures at comic book stores or online at DiamondSelectToys.com.

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Stargate Panels

My journey to the Stargate panels was a long and arduous one. I arrived at the 5000-seat ballroom before 10 am, but that was far too late to get in, since the Lost panel was starting at 10:30 am, and it was already filled. So I waited in line with hundreds of others and got into the ballroom at noon. The room is so big that only the first few rows have decent seats for photography, so my mission for the next two hours was to work my way to the front as other panels started and finished. First up was The Simpsons panel, with about a dozen white guys who write and produce the show, including creator Matt Groening. None of the actors who voice the characters were there. I'm a Simpsons fan, but I have to say the panelists came off about as arrogant and full of themselves as my worst image of Hollywood types. Yes, they were glib, ironic and funny, but there wasn't a hint of gratitude to fans for keeping their show on the air for seventeen years. They could barely bring themselves to answer fan questions with a relevant sentence. In answer to one fan who asked how they keep the creative juices going for so long, one producer said ironically "We've actually never been asked that question." Oh the cleverness, the Ivy League degrees, the Hollywood insiderness! Please, dump on us some more! They did show some unfinished clips from their upcoming movie, and maybe there were kinder moments I'm not remembering, but it didn't leave me a bigger fan of the show. Hmm, did I just say all that out loud?

I never made it to a good seat for photos, sadly. During the Ray Bradbury panel, I made it the front row but too far to the side to get any close-ups. So, apologies in advance. I thought about bribing someone out of their center seat but thought I might be ejected. After all, I had to beg my way back in after taking a potty break, being told I had been "unwise" to take such a rash action.

Stargate ballroomSG-1 panel

After the Simpsons panel, I was better able to appreciate how fan-oriented the Stargate panels were by contrast, with many expressions of appreciation for the fans and acknowledgment of our role in keeping the shows on the air.

Gary Jones was the host of both panels. And of course for Gary, it's all about the Technician. He did a great job warming up the audience and keeping things humming. He asked quite a few questions himself, which meant not many fans got to, but given that some of the fan questions were not very interesting to the wider audience, that was okay.

The SG-1 panel was a bit sparse at first, with only Chris Judge from the main cast there. This might have surprised some fans, though it was what I'd expected. I heard the other cast members were either busy or had been let off the hook because they'd traveled to LA for the TV Critics Association party less than two weeks before. Also on the panel was Nora O'Brien, Sci Fi Vice President of Original Programming, whose main focus is SG-1. She seemed very committed to the show and, without directly referencing the poor ratings for the premieres, asked everyone to watch Sci Fi live and not on TiVo/DVR, since those playbacks don't count the same in the ratings. Sadly even in this modern age where fans find all sorts of ways to watch their shows, it's still all down to first-run ratings. I wanted to say I would pay Sci Fi not to have to endure their 6 minute commercial breaks, but I never got the chance. Chris is clearly fond of Nora, and petted her like a cat each time the idea of renewal was mentioned. Later he was asked whether he'd come back for Season 11, and he said yes, for decent money, and she petted him back.

Joe Mallozzi (left) and Paul Mullie

Joe Mallozzi and Paul Mullie were there for both panels and answered lots of production and plotline questions.

Nora said there will be a lot of promotion around episode 200, that she can't wait for us to see it, and that it's a real testament to the fans and the show. Joe gave the background about how it grew from a few vignettes a la The Simpsons (!) to an over-the-top smorgasbord of stories. He said there are parts fans will love and parts we will hate. Chris wondered at that promotion strategy by Joe.

In response to a question, Joe listed all the writers currently on the show, mentioning that Damian Kindler now writes freelance for them. Since he was a producer last year, I found this surprising, but Joe didn't give any more details about that. Paul said all the SG-1 and Atlantis writers work together this year rather than separating by show, perhaps to keep continuity and avoid duplication, and of course to make sense of the crossover episodes.

Gary eventually introduced Cliff Simon and Robert Picardo, to much applause. Cliff is very happy with how the role of Ba'al has grown and persisted. Robert quipped that this is his first experience working in science fiction television, to much laughter. He's very glad his character hasn't been killed yet.

There are no plans to bring Jonas back for Season 10 but there's always the possibility for future seasons.

One fan said she'd just started watching the show, on DVD, and was mid way through Season 7. Joe asked what her favorite episode was and she said, "The groundhog day one" meaning Window of Opportunity. Joe agreed it was a good episode and then mumbled along with Paul that he couldn't remember who wrote that one; I'm not sure how many in the audience realized that was a Joe/Paul script, but that was funny.

Chris went on about how great the people are working on the show and how great the experience is, a once in a lifetime thing. He'll be there as long as the show is around. For the right pay (cue petting).

Joe closed by complimenting Nora on what an involved, intelligent, and fun executive she is to work with, thanking her for that and letting the fans know that Sci Fi is really behind the show [lack of promotion aside!].

Atlantis panelAtlantis panel

Next up was the Atlantis panel. All of the main cast were there aside from Jason Momoa, with no mention of why he wasn't. Joe Mallozzi and Paul Mullie again represented the production, and Tony Optican was there from Sci Fi; he is a Vice President as well and has been involved with the Stargate shows from the beginning, from the first casting session of SG-1. He must not have been working for Sci Fi back then, since the show was on Showtime until Season 6, and Sci Fi wasn't involved (at least as far as I know!). He said the Stargate fans are the best fans in the business, and that it's the fans who make the show such a great pleasure to work on. Very nice of him.

David Hewlett got the biggest round of applause, but the other actors didn't seem to mind. He also got the most questions of anyone. And, he showed a clip of his independent movie, A Dog's Breakfast, which seemed a generous thing for the Powers That Be to allow. The clip was very funny and featured Paul McGillion, Rachel Lutrell and David's sister Kate as well as David and his dog. David has put the teaser up here on YouTube if you haven't seen it. It's quite funny, and David definitely plays the hapless "victim." Later, David mimed his pure joy at being asked to be a regular on Atlantis; Tony smiled beside him.

Joe Flanigan talked about what a great cast and crew Atlantis has and that they all get along well. He said they'd hate each other next season, and David replied "next season?" Joe just smiled. Joe spoke about how they bonded when they first started filming. He invited everyone over to his place to watch Galaxy Quest. Afterward, Torri told him she didn't know whether to laugh or cry. And from then on they were all on the same journey together.

A young man got pilloried for asking a technical question about ZPM's, which the panelists insisted Torri was supposed to answer, namely, how Atlantis has enough power to dial back to Earth regularly. Gary lobbed the "get a life" curse at him. I felt bad because I'd chatted with the guy before the panel and he'd asked me if it was a good question, and not wanting to crush him, I'd said it was a valid question. Poor kid! But he handled it well and was very funny about it.

Paul McGillion did a very funny riff about how he told his parents of his role on Stargate, imitating their Scottish accents, which unsurprisingly is the same as Carson's. They were convinced he must be talking about Star Trek. Later he claimed the room was too hot, squirmed around under the table, pulled out a pair of boxers with a Scottish flag on the rear, and threw them toward the audience. A woman leapt upon them instantly. David quipped that the amazing thing was that he had been the one wearing them. Since they were seated together, David and Paul joked constantly and with frequent reference to possible off-hours activities in hotel rooms... tres funny.

Rachel talked about learning to fight and admitted she has hurt a couple of people, but that she uses her dance training to help. She talked about how she gets teased mercilessly on the set. The day before hiatus she had to be in a tree. It took her a while to climb into it, then once she was up there she couldn't move around much. So right before the director called "action" every time, David and Paul would throw rocks at her and poke her with sticks. David promised they were being "wery quiet."

Atlantis panelAtlantis panel

Then Joe F. talked about how, to get back at Paul and David for always complaining about location shooting, Joe secretly put rocks into their backpacks all day during filming, until they were very heavy. The guys remarked on their tiredness during the day but never really caught on.

Torri said she doesn't try to give the writers ideas. They do a great job writing 40 episodes a year and she wouldn't presume to tell them what to write -- it would be "shameful." Joe Flanigan chimed in proudly that he does give ideas. Asked if there would be romance, Torri hesitated about a Weir/Caldwell relationship, then Joe grabbed her, leaned her back and pretended to kiss her. She smiled then went on without missing a beat!

Spoilers

Joe Mallozzi listed some items he had been "ordered not to discuss," reading from a paper in a very humorous way. Highlight the two paragraphs below to see what he said for each show. Most were not new to spoiler-holics.

Joe said that we'll see Jack and Hammond this season, Hammond in "200," in an "odd" way. Joe listed things he was instructed not to talk about on the panel: The team meets two major characters from Arthurian Lore. Daniel goes darkside and joins the Ori. The Furlings, the Farscape scene, the dragon... all not to be discussed.

For Atlantis, Joe said he shouldn't discuss that Ronon gets retaken by the Wraith and is forced to become a Runner again. The Ancients return to Atlantis. Kolya, General O'Neill, and the Replicators are all off-limits.

Joe M. finished the panel by thanking Tony and the backstage Sci Fi execs for their support. I wonder if it's unusual for a studio to actually respect and get along with their network sponsors. I thought it was brave of Joe to thank them, risking the dreaded arse-kissing label, but it seemed very sincere. Now if only the ratings would improve!

Finally everyone stood up to leave, and those of us who had been praying for a chance to take a picture rushed to the front of the room. The actors were kind and brave enough to stay on stage for a couple of minutes, enduring dozens of flashes going off, and that's when I finally got a couple of okay pictures.

Joe Flanigan

David and PaulTorri, David, Paul

David Hewlett

Overall my Comic Con experience was positive and memorable. It's not an intimate venue for meeting your favorite actors, but it is an energetic and fun atmosphere. The crowd management leans toward the fascist, but with so many people I guess it's either that or anarchy.

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