By the hoary hosts of hogarth!
Yes. true believers, it is I, Blake Morse. Freshly recuperated from my weekend excursion to San Francisco's annual orgy of nerdy geekdom. I am, of course, referring to WonderCon 2010. You know, the one that I was hyping up with that top ten list? Well, it's come and gone and somehow, despite all the odds against me, I survived my trek through waves of collectibles and cosplayers and have returned to regale you with the epic tale that was this year's Con.
And this time I wasn't alone, Bill the cameraman joined me for all the fun too. You could think of him as my boy wonder without all the homoerotic undertones. We got some great footage and fantastic interviews while we were there, along with quite a few off-camera astonishing tales. So strap on your homemade Cyclops visors and buckle up your utility belts for Bill and Blake's excellent WonderCon Adventure.
Before WC even officially opened, it was time for me to bring justice to the streets of San Francisco. The first stop: The W Hotel to check out Activision's next incarnation of your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man, Shattered Dimensions. In the upcoming title you'll take on the role of four different Spider-Men (Spider-Mans?), each with their unique gameplay features across four distinct Marvel universes. It won't be released until the fall, so for now they're only revealing two of the Spideys that you can expect to play as: Amazing and Noir.
From what I saw in the hands-off demo, the Amazing universe will play similarly to action games like God of War or perhaps more appropriately, Bayonetta, since both Bayonetta and the web-head share a flare for over-the-top acrobatics. I watched intently as enemies were smashed by giant web hammers and whips.
In contrast to the intense action of the Amazing world, Noir is a much more meticulous experience. You can almost think of it as "Spider-Man: Arkhum Asylum". Mobsters with guns tend to be a tad more bloodthirsty and this universe's Peter Parker doesn't like getting shot with bullets, so he's much more prone to using stealth and shadows to take out his enemies systematically.
On top of all the dimension-hopping, another new feature being introduced is the addition of first-person action sequences. These play out a lot like Punch-Out, but with classic comic book hero/villain banter thrown in for good measure. Out of curiosity I asked if we'd see any FPS winging in the game. And as is usually the case when demoing a game in its earlier stage,s a direct answer was not forthcoming, but I was promised that there would be some first-person events that “involve webs”.
After scoping out Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions, it was time for a drink. (Hey, watching someone play a video game can be hard work.) Fortunately for me, the Heroes of Newerth launch party happened to be scheduled that night at SF's Supper Club. I must admit that I was perplexed by their venue choice, as most Bay Area locals are aware of its reputation as an S&M club, but that also meant that I wasn't taken back by the transvestite in a glittery one-piece holding a plate of hors d'oeuvres at the entrance to the bar. But I'm sure some out-of-towners were.
Along with trannies, the party also featured a strip-teasing acrobat doing some amazing tricks on an elevated rope. And trust me, this performer was all woman.
Later on we were treated to some sexy fire dancing as well. People hooted and hollered as the booze flowed like wine through the night. Then it was time for the main event: The Heroes of Newerth Championship Finals of Ultimate Extreme Badassery. Okay, I may have added a few extra adjectives in there, but you get the point.
It was Clan fiVe vs. Clan Loaded in competition for all the virginal glory that comes along with being the winner of an online RTS team competition. The tournament got off to a bit of a rough start… several times. At first it was all planned out to be a best two-out-three competition, but after a couple crashes due to spammers it all boiled down to one winner takes all battle royale. In the end it was Team Loaded that was victorious. Clan fiVe hung their heads down low as they came to the sad realization that they probably could have better spent their time learning how to talk to girls or gaining social skills. But cheer up guys, there's always next year… and girls are scary anyways. So get back to HoNing it up!
I would describe this day as uneventful for the most part. Bill and I spent most of our time wandering the floor looking for cool shit to dick around with. If you've watched our video coverage than you've already seen pretty much the best of what we could find going on. For the last two years, vendor attendance has been mediocre at best with this year being a low point. Normally there's some piece of schwag or at least one shiny object that attracts my attention, but I couldn't find a damn thing beyond a FLCL shirt that was too small.
Which leads me to my next point: How the hell do you not carry t-shirts in XXL at comic book convention?!?! Do you know who your target audience is? Sheesh!
While the day was a bit of wash, the night had a much more enticing conflict to offer. First. there was the 2-hour Kevin Smith talks about whatever the hell he wants panel. I missed him speaking at MacWorld earlier this year due to my X10 coverage, so I was hell bent and determined not to miss him a second time. But there was a catch: At the same time that he was talking, there was an event being held for Tron 2 at Justin Herman Plaza.
To a nerd, this is like having to choose which of your children lives and which one dies. What was I to do? As tempting as the allure of a “Flynn Lives” T-shirt was, I chose to stick with the talk and held out hope that the event would still be going afterward.
It turned out to be the right decision as Mr. Smith is one funny motherfucker. I couldn't help but snicker at all the folks there with kids as Kevin went off about having the greatest sex of his life with his wife and the aid of an adult novelty known as the “Fleshlight” right before leaving for the Con. But he didn't stop there. Nothing is off limits with this guy. The one story that stuck out most was his tale of becoming a stoner.
If you're familiar with his catalog of work, you'll know that he has a penchant for pothead humor. But surprisingly it wasn't until right before he shot Zack and Miri Make a Porno that he really started to indulge in the wacky tobaccy. He explained that him and his wife had been given a couple of joints by a family friend. They smoked one, then without realizing that it takes a minute to kick in, he smoked the second one as well. After that, his face turned green and they started to panic. The solution they came up with was to get some food in his system. And no fat man is going to argue against that.
This lead to a thirty-minute call with a grocery store delivery service, in which he proceeded to order forty-seven bags worth of groceries, including seven pints of Ben and Jerry's that he told the clerk to pick out randomly.
While waiting for the delivery, he thought he could flush his system out with a nice long dump. He described the experience in graphic detail that I'll spare you here, except for a few facts: 1) He thought he was taking the most epic shit ever but it was only a rabbit turd, and 2) He said it felt “ropey".
Two hours later he emerged from the loo to find his wife wide-eyed and surrounded by the aforementioned forty-seven bags of groceries and melted ice cream. Then he started to badger her for not checking on him during his two-hour sabbatical. Only she had checked on him and his only response to her inquiries into his well being were, “It's ropey.”
Hilarious, right? Okay. Maybe you had to be there. But still… aren't you glad that you just read about Kevin Smith pooping while high?
As soon as he'd left the stage, Bill and I were off on a twenty-minute street hike to Justin Herman in a desperate attempt to save our other child at the last minute. But much to our dismay we'd arrived too late. The stages were being taken down and the crowds had dispersed. We found one nice gentleman hanging around who had been there for the whole thing, though, and he filled us in on what we'd missed, which apparently wasn't much.
Earlier in the day Tron 2 promoters had handed out Encom (the evil guys from Tron 1) security badges to random attendees outside of the convention halls. Those who had gotten badges met at a local hotel before the scheduled press conference for a briefing on what they were to do during the actual event. They then made their way to the plaza where everyone was encouraged to make a big ruckus and demand the truth about Flynn's existence. Then after a bit of rallying, the helicopter with the neon lights, that anyone who fights for the users will remember, showed up and someone parachuted out of it into the crowd.
But one might ask what the point of all that was? Well, it turns out that there were signs posted all over the event's gates that informed entrants that they were giving Disney permission to film them while they were there. So basically me and my trusty side-kick missed out on not getting paid to be extras in a Tron 2 crowd scene. Which I think I can live with.
Bill's heart was heavy from not getting in on the oh-so-sweet Tron schwag, but then the most epic thing ever happened. The same guy that had filled us in on what we missed also happened to know exactly where we should go to attempt to get said schwag!
Luck was on our side that night as we stepped into the hotel meeting room and were greeted with T-shirts, posters, Space Paranoids lapel pins and info on where to score our very own custom Encom security badges (hopefully the promo is still running).
After that it was back to the East Bay for a little R&R. I headed down to my local dive bar, The Stork Club, to check out what was going on for Oakland's first Fridays, which is a big open art gallery event held every month in the city's downtown area. Much to my surprise I ran into some Trekkies hanging out at the bar. Turns out they were in a band called The Final Frontiersmen and I'd just missed their set. I watched and snickered as my friend made a vain attempt to put the moves on Uhuru before calling it a night (it was so obvious that she was there with Spock anyways).
I woke up shocked to find that I was not hung over and prepared for what was to be my most ultimate day of WonderCondum, for today was the day I had lined up some ridonkulously big name interviews.
First on my list was the Disney red carpet-style Q&A with some folks from the upcoming Prince of Persia and Sorcerer's Apprentice films. We got time with Jake Gyllenhaal, Nicolas Cage, and Richard Kelly (director of Donnie Darko), along with a cavalcade of other Hollywood big shots.
My one regret, though, was agreeing to let them move us from the prime spot we had in line to the very fucking end. It was like realizing that you'd been taken out of your regular classes and transferred into the remedial ones with the scissors made for little kids
In the future I doubt I will be as accommodating as I was this time, as the move meant that we got the short end of the interview stick. It was like the celebrities were a goat being dropped into a tank of piranhas and we were the toothy little fishes. But I fought the good fight and got GR the best coverage I could under the circumstances. Because that's how much I fucking love you guys!
Next up was my personal highlight from this year, my interview with the guys from Radical Axis Studios. They're the animation team behind such modern classics as Aqua Teen Hunger Force, Squidbillies, and FX's new series, Archer. This time it was just me, Bill, the Radical Axis guys, and a quiet room at the Cartoon Art Museum. It was everything I've ever wanted.
Not only were they all hilarious, but also very down to earth. I think they're all kind of taken back by the idea of having personal fans. We talked for quite some time about everything from Aqua Teen to Archer with no PR people to suddenly pull them away to talk to the local news (BTW Disney, way more people read this site than watch the channel 7 news).
Later on that day they were hosting a panel with an open mic Q&A session that we attended as well. They showed a great little film about how cartoons get made that you can watch here. I even scored some sweet Adult Swim sunglasses (they got a unicorn on them!).
By the end of the Radical Axis panel, everything was shutting down for the day, so we called it a wrap. Unfortunately, the event coordinator's made the tactful decision to hold WonderCon the same weekend as Easter. And as much as I love pop culture and comic books, I love my grandma even more, so I skipped Sunday's activities to spend time with the family. Remember: As much fun as this stuff is to do, family kicks way more ass.