Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Bang a Gong! Comic Con!

Okay, I'm going to depart from the usual Dave's Long Box paradigm and get a little autobiographical on your ass and tell you about my trip to this year's Comic Con in sultry San Diego.

Nerd Vegas. Nerd Prom. Geek Mecca. The Terrordome. Comic Con International. Whatever you call it, it's the biggest comic/sci-fi/toy/movie/whatever convention in North America (I think) and it's usually pretty fun. I think if I spent the whole four days there I'd probably be ready to commit lightsaber seppuku, but one day of immersion in the Lazarus Pit of Pop Culture recharges my batteries and helps make me feel connected to the Hive Mind again.

I went on Friday this year, avoiding the Saturday crush. I got in as a guest on my friend Bob's pro pass, so no waiting in line and no entry fee for me, which is never a bad thing. Picked up some vintage Sternako Nick Fury comics, found that issue of Scurvy Dogs I was looking for (because pirates are the new monkeys), and generally just got a lot of crappy comics like Weird War Tales #119, the only comic which features monster-on-lion sodomy. I also finally found my beloved Detective Comics #479, the comic that got Young Dave Campbell into Batman in a big way. I'll be reviewing/fawning over that issue shortly.

Most of all, though, I just wandered around checking out the different booths and did some people watching. Marvel Comics was conspicuously absent - what's the deal with that? Are they so in bed with Wizard that they only do the Chicago show? Their absence from the Con was baffling, and it wasn't the first year they weren't there. The Ghost Rider motorcycle looked pretty cool, as did the life-size Lego Chewbacca. Hasbro had a covered Optimus Prime semi-truck there, guarded by blondes in tight shirts. Did they ever unveil that thing, or was it just a regular truck? I'm guessing the latter. There were the usual assortment of cosplay geeks, booth babes, beseiged pros, and minor celebrities. Look, freakishly tall Peter Mayhew! There's Ray Park! And Elizabeth "Showgirls" Berkley and her pissed-looking boyfriend. The stormtrooper quotient was pretty low this year, which made me a little nostalgic for years past when you couldn't swing a replica gaffi stick without smacking one of them.

"...if I spent the whole four days there I'd probably be ready to commit lightsaber seppuku..."
I've come to realize that I am a total wuss when it comes to talking to professional comic creators that I admire. I couldn't work up the nerve to stop Steven Grant on the floor and tell him how much I dig his stuff. Same with Peter David, Tony Millionaire, and Jill Thompson, who has nice hair, BTW. The list goes on. I just felt like such a fanboy that I couldn't bring myself to say hi, which sucks for me. I'm sure they wouldn't have minded, I don't know what my problem is.

Apparently I didn't have any trouble talking to cute cosplay girls, like the female Captain America and Ultimate Jean Grey (above) and the Black Cat (below). I don't know what that says about me - probably nothing flattering.

Man, I look fat. I'm taking prednisone right now, so my face has bloated to Phil Collins proportions. Get Dave a bucket of fried chicken, stat!

So, that was the Con for me.

The high point of my trip to SoCal was actually not Comic Con. On Saturday my friends Bob Lindenmayer (master prop collector and web designer for yes, My Little Pony and Transformers) and Ken Christiansen (ninja artist and my partner in sequential art crime, lord of Badflip Productions) and I all spent an afternoon at the home of the legendary Bob Burns, the ultimate movie prop and artifact collector. Ever.

I'm not only a comic geek, I'm also a big genre movie geek, so this was really special for me. My friend Bob L and Bob Burns are really tight, so we were invited over to Mr. Burns' home to check out his stuff. He has a huge add-on to his house that holds a Smithsonian's worth of movie stuff from every era. I swear to God, I gasped when I walked through the door.

Bob Burns has everything. Everything. I'm getting goose bumps just writing this, I really am.
"Man, I look fat."
Where do I start?
The Kroenen costume from Hellboy. Rohan armor and a life-size Uruk-Hai from The Lord of the Rings. Six or seven alien masks from the cantina scene in Star Wars. The Syd Mead designed Sulaco marine ship from Aliens, as well as a huge marine drop-ship miniature. Darth Vader's severed hand, with lightsaber. A giant chrome hunter-killer from Terminator. Everything from Alien - eggs, face-huggers, masks, claws, miniatures. Numerous Nautilus models from 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea, one of which is five feet long. Lasers and blasters from every sci-fi movie you can think of. The frickin' time machine from George Pal's original Time Machine movie. The Creature from The Black Lagoon. Space helmets up the proverbial ass. Tons of Rick Baker's props from American Werewolf in London. Jet packs. Collectible toys. Matte paintings. Miniatures and maquettes and statues and costumes from hundreds of movies. The costumes from the 1940's Captain America and Captain Marvel serials. Rick Deckard's gun from Blade Runner. I could go on and on. I often do.
And this blew me away - the original stop-motion armatures from King Kong and Mighty Joe Young. Bob said that whenever Ray Harryhausen visits he puts them in different poses, and he just leaves them like that until Ray stops by again. You know, like it's no big deal.

It was the high point of my year, and such a great honor to be allowed to root through all his stuff. Bob and his charming wife Kathy Burns made us popcorn, got us some pop, and regaled us with a million stories and anecdotes. They were the most gracious, friendly people you'd ever meet. As Bob L said, "Yeah, they're quality." I think they just really enjoy sharing their passion with people who appreciate it, and I was just floored by their generosity and hospitality.

Okay, I'm gushing, but it really was an unforgettable and moving experience for a geek like me. Seriously, I almost cried I was so happy. I forgot all about Comic Con and just bathed in the film history.

Here's a shot of me with Oscar winning special effects artist Rick Baker's werewolf from American Werewolf in London. This is the puppet that they used during the London rampage sequence at the end of the film. Fucking brilliant.

I hope Mr Burns doesn't mind if I post a picture of all of us. Here's Bob Burns, Bob Lindenmayer, me, and Ken Christiansen in the middle of the legendary "Bob's Basement." Behind us are a bunch of alien heads from the Alien films. Over to the left you can just barely see a big-ass Popeye statue, and behind that -- you see those boots on the wall? Those are Boris Karloff's Frankenstein boots from the classic 1931 Universal movie. You see what I mean? Movie history.

How does he get all this stuff, you ask? People give it to him, because they know it will have a good home. Jim Cameron, Rick Baker, Guillermo del Toro, Peter Jackson... they all love the guy, and now I do too.

All hail Bob and Kathy Burns! They probably have no idea how much my afternoon with them meant to me. Have I mentioned the twenty foot tentacle from 20,000 Leagues in his garage...?

All that, and I got to hang out with two of my favorite homies? Best. Weekend. Ever.


Anonymous said...

"Marvel Comics was conspicuously absent - what's the deal with that? Are they so in bed with Wizard that they only do the Chicago show?"

Basically yes; IIRC, per whatever agreement they have, Marvel only has an official presance at WizardWorld conventions.

Anonymous said...

O, Captain, my Captain!

Very nice. Seriously, I was so busy staring at her shield that I thought the one on your other arm was Zatana. I must have looked at the picture a half-dozen times before I realized that her hair was red.

A Megatron semi-truck? Should that be Optimus Prime, or am I missing something?

DougBot said...

Captain America never had his own little nuclear family the way Batman did in the 50s, did he?

There's Bucky, of course, but like the elder son you never talk about, you don't dress as Bucky (looking at you, Rick Jones) and you don't mention him unless you want a brooding Cap for a while.

Man, Marvel missed out. Captainess America. Dog America. Captain America, Jr., Robot America. Hedgehog America. Vespucci, the little imp that loves Captain America..

If Comic Con is Nerd Prom, Bob's basement must be...? Nerd Vahalla?

Psychbloke said...

"You have beautiful hair......."

Hmmmmm...... maybe better if you do stay away from these people.....

Edward Liu said...

Hey, Avi, I think I know who I want to play Cap in the movie!

And I think drooling over this particular Cap doesn't indicate geekness as much as it indicates being a heterosexual male.

Pere Ubu said...

Btween the Female Cap and the Black Cat, I may have to re-evaluate my feelings about Marvel characters...

(why yes, I am shallow - why do you ask?)

David Campbell said...

Crikey, how embarassing! OK, I'm changing those errors - thanks Pete and kjtoo!

Anonymous said...

I wasn't even certain there was an error, as I've heard rumors that Megatron isn't a handgun anymore (or, at least, won't be in the live-action movie). I'm not exactly in the Transformers loop these days.

(But I'm all about Rom, Spaceknight, baby!)

Will Pfeifer said...

I've pored over the pages of the IT CAME FROM BOB'S BASEMENT book many times, so of course I am very jealous of you, Dave. Very, very jealous.

Anonymous said...

imo Black Cat was the best.
Another picture of her (from CBR) at

The blonde female Captain America is from a possible future Marvel universe, the same where Spider-girl lives. I think it's called Universe 815 or something similar.

Harvey Jerkwater said...

If I ever got into Bob's Basement, I would have to try on Commando Cody's jetpack bomber jacket. I'm sure he has it.

Damn, that thing was pimpin'. It had three knobs on the front: on/off, up/down, and, uh, talk/rock.

I probably couldn't get the bucket helmet over my epic noggin, but that's okay.

About the women in the pictures, I will only say that they speak for themselves. I feel a painful combination of nerdy and unclean for being so drawn to them. Aigh.

Anonymous said...

Man, you have excellent taste in cosplay girls.


Oh, and the other stuff sounded pretty cool too.

thekelvingreen said...


Robot Captain America? Check out Marvel's upcoming Megamorphs series (and toy line) for more on that.

Female Captain America? There was American Dream from A-Next, which was indeed set in the MC2 alternate future that also spawned Spider-Girl. Her name was Shannon Carter, and she was the daughter of the cousin of Sharon Carter.

Megatron's alternate form changed from a gun to a tank at some point in the late-80's, just in time for the Transformers Generation 2 series. A victim of the toy gun purge of that period, presumably.

On to other matters, did Bob's time machine work?

Anonymous said...

Seeing you wearing that T-shirt and standing next to Black Cat, "Dave's Long Box" takes on a whole other meaning...

Anonymous said...
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David Campbell said...

Thanks anonymous, for the creepy mysogynist comment. I feel juvenille enough posting those pictures without you dragging a whole other level of weirdness into it. I'd like to think that this isn't a totally hostile environment for female readers, and that everyone drooling over Capt. America is just hetero-hormones and hopefully not offensive to the few women who stop by. But you - you get the honor of being the first comment deleted from Dave's Long Box, because you are a total dick.

David Campbell said...

On a less pissed-off note:

Harvey, it's funny that you should mention Commando Cody, King of the Rocketmen, because one of the reasons for visiting Bob Burns was that my buddy Bob L had recently acquired the stunt version of the incredibly dorky Commando Cody helmet and he wanted to show Bob Burns, who (of course) owns the original Commando Cody helmet. Bob Burns was stoked, because the two helmets haven't been together for decades, and he thought the stunt helmet was lost forever. The two Bobs set the helmets together and took countless pictures of them - prop geeks are a rare and mysterious breed.

I learned that the stunt Commando Cody helmet was created because the stunt guy broke his nose while doing the classic look-I'm-flying springboard jump, so he created a lightweight version of the Cody helmet with a mesh face plate that was more forgiving if you did a face plant. So there you go, some Commando Cody trivia for you.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

Marvel does have an official presence at the con. They're part of the Activision booth, which was over in Aisle 4500. It's not a huge thing, like DC, but it is a couple of tables with continuous artist and writer signings.

This all started when Marvel was having money woes. The story goes that they couldn't get a special deal from the folks at SDCC for the space, whereas the Wizard folk would have them at their cons practically for free. With the rising number of conventions every year, Marvel made the decision to attend the multiple smaller cons throughout the country each year for a lesser cost.

Saddest of all -- Optimus Prime never did transform and roll out, nor did they take the tarp off it. I also think that the booth babes at the INCREDIBLES booth were cuter than the TRANSFORMERS ones.

David Campbell said...

Thanks Augie - I'm bummed I wasn't there on Thursday for the blogging panel.

Anonymous said...

Wow. I always wanted to go to the SDC. Dave you lucky dog!!!! Maybe when my four kids grow up and maybe I will be able to go....

Who am kidding, when my four kids grow up i'll be broke.... :(

Captain America... ummm booooiiiinnng.... Salute!!!!

thekelvingreen said...

I remember that one morning on weekend kids' show Get Fresh they had some of the Marvel UK Transformers people in talking about their comic. Outside the studio, they had a moving Galvatron robot, which must have been about twenty feet tall. I never saw this thing again, and I don't know where it came from or what happened to it, but it was cool as heck to see an actual walking Transformer.

I've also bumped into the ABC Warrior from the Judge Dredd movie, ata music festival bizarrely, but he was nowhere near as cool as an almost-full-sized Galvatron.

Dirk said...

You can see another picture of the female Cap on Warren Ellis's flickr page.

Anonymous said...

Regarding "special deals" for Marvel: Comic-Con International is a nonprofit organization. It must offer the same booth rate to all exhibitors or get in trouble with the State of California and the IRS. As a for-profit company, Wizard has much more leeway in its dealings with exhibitors.

Jackie Estrada

David Campbell said...

Yeah, but Wizard suxxit!

Thanks Jackie! I did not know that.

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