Were you one of the lucky 20,000 people during the first 8 minutes of Blizzcon ticket sales? Well I hope that you’re a big metal head as Blizzard announced who will be headlining at their sorta annual fan event. Ozzy Osbourne, the Prince of Darkness himself, is going to be closing out the show this year and wil prove that priests aren’t the only people who can melt faces.
From the official press release:
“Our goal with BlizzCon is to deliver an unforgettable weekend of entertainment, and we can’t think of a better way to close out this year’s show than having Ozzy rock the house,” said Mike Morhaime, CEO and cofounder of Blizzard Entertainment. “Many of us at Blizzard are lifelong fans of Ozzy’s music, and we’re thrilled that he’ll be performing for all of our BlizzCon attendees as well as those joining us via DIRECTV and the live Internet stream.”
Personally I think this is a great addition to Blizzcon. The past two years, they closed the show with Blizzard’s in house band, L80ETC, and a mini Video Games Live concert. While those are great in their right, seeing the same thing again for a 3rd year in a row would be very stale. Ozzy joins Jay Mohr and Patton Oswalt as celebrities who have appeared at previous Blizzcons.
With a rich history spanning nearly 40 years, Comic-Con International has been attracting fans of all facets of pop culture. What was once a small convention that had an attendance of about 300 people in 1970, this year’s Comic-Con had an attendance of over 125,000. What started as a gathering of comic and sci-fi fans in the basement of the still standing U.S. Grant Hotel, today Comic-Con has taken over the entire San Diego convention center. There are more than 450 different events that cover not just comics and sci-fi, but movies, television, gaming, and anime, Comic-Con truly has something to offer everyone.
This year marked my second time to Comic-Con. Having been attending anime conventions regularly since 2000, last year really opened my eyes to how large Comic-Con is in comparison to even something like Anime Expo. This year was no exception. First timers can really get a scope for how massive it is on Day Zero. The day before the convention opens, they give 4-day attendees a chance to visit the dealer’s hall to get a head’s start on their shopping. The moment I step foot into the dealer’s hall, I was overwhelmed. My first step into the dealer’s hall filled me with an overwhelming feeling. Looking up you see a sign marking you are in aisle 5200, and far in the distance you might make out aisle 100 on the opposite side of the hall. There are booths for video game publishers, movie studios, TV networks, toy makers, comic publishers, vendors and everything in between.
For those unfamiliar to Comic-Con, but who might have gone to anime conventions in the past, nothing can quite prepare you for the more popular booths. One booth that stands out in particular is Hasbro’s. Comic-Con has always been famous for offering exclusive merchandise that you can only purchase at the event and Hasbro – makers of such popular toy lines as G.I. Joe, My Little Pony and Transformers – leads the pack. The Hasbro exclusives are so popular that in order to get in line, you need to line up at a separate location and get a ticket to return to the booth. That’s right, you need to line up for a chance to go line up in another line.
Many other booths share the same kind of craziness. For example network booths that offer autographs sessions from its stars end up feeling like controlled chaos at best and drowning in a sea of people at worst. For example, even though I had a ticket that allowed me a chance to get an autograph with the cast from It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, did not necessarily mean it was going to be an easy process. What made things really difficult was that no lines could be formed until 15 minutes before the actual signing, and of course people showed up long before that time. Milling around the booth, it felt crowded but relatively comfortable, that was until they announced the line was officially starting. What followed after that was a massive rush of people trying to get near the front of the line. Feeling like I was about to be swallowed up by the mob, I took refuge near the corner of the booth and was at a point where no one else could cut in front of me. It was possibly one of the most stressful moments of the convention, but in the end getting a chance to tell the cast members of your favorite show how much you enjoy their work and having them respond back to you in a truly thankful way really exemplifies what Comic-Con is all about.
Now all that I have talked about, that’s just the dealer’s hall and there are still many other things I can talk about that one aspect, but it’s just the tip of the iceberg. Of course it wouldn’t be a convention without panels. Looking at the panel schedule you’re sure to find many panels you would love to attend; unfortunately, what you find is that so many of the panels overlap each other that you have to choose which ones you truly want to go to. While it is cool to go to panels in the massive Hall H, which seats 6500 people, with its high profile movies like Iron Man 2 and celebrities like Robert Downey Jr. in attendance, I prefer the smaller more intimate panels. Two of my favorite panels from this year were the Rifftrax and Kung-Fu Extravaganza. Rifftrax is a group of 3 alumni from the old Mystery Science Theater 3000 TV show. MST3K was one of my favorite shows growing up and having a chance to be 20 feet away from the original cast far outweighs seeing someone like Robert Downey Jr. on a large screen. They did a live riffing of a safety training video and took suggestions from the audience to what movie they should riff next. Sadly the Super Mario Brother’s movie lost to Dragon Wars in the end.
The second panel, the Kung-Fu Extravaganza was hosted by Ric Meyers, who Fanime attendees may already know very well. For people who love Asian cinema, the panel is sure to entertain you with 3 hours of the best action scenes from films old and new. In fact, because of this panel, I can recommend two great films fans of the genre should check out – Red Cliff and Yip Man. Red Cliff, released last year and directed by John Woo it is a great period piece from the Three Kingdoms era. The second film, Yip Man, is a movie about the life of the celebrated master of the legendary Bruce Lee. Both of these film feature awesome fight scenes that will leave you stunned.
So you got a brief look into the dealer’s hall and panels, which granted make up much of what Comic-Con is all about and yet there is still so much more to talk about. On the gaming side, I got to try out games like Left 4 Dead 2, Brutal Legend, Dragon Age, Singularity, Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2 and Tatsunoko vs Capcom. On the autograph side, among the famous people I got to meet included Matt Groening, Doc Hammer and Jackson Publick – the creators of The Venture Brothers, John Kricfalusi – creator of Ren and Stimpy, and Danny Devito to name a few. In addition to what I purchased at the dealer’s hall, I got swag that ran the gamut of free t-shirts and comics, to door hangers and a unique one of a kind Venture Brother’s cup. Among one of the bigger events I missed was the masquerade. It’s such a huge event that you can either watch it live in the hall, or watch a simulcast in a panel room. You could even watch it on a big screen as you enjoy free munchables at a party-like environment that even features a bar to get your drink on.
Of course I’m sure most people will agree that the best thing about Comic-Con and conventions in general are the memories that you forge. Whether it’s staying up all night playing board game and swapping stories with your friends in the hotel room or meeting new people who geek out at the same things you do, it’s always a great feeling knowing that you can celebrate your fandom with thousands of other people. Even our road trip down to San Diego, which consisted of me driving for over 8 hours each way, is something that I wouldn’t want to replace. If you haven’t been to Comic-Con yet, I can’t recommend it enough. As I said before and I’ll say again, even if you have no interest in comics whatsoever, no matter what your fandom is, you’ll find a large group of people to share it with at Comic-Con. I look forward to returning year after year after year as I know that each year will be better than the last. Here’s to you, Comic-Con International! Congratulations on 40 years and counting!
Captain Ahoge here, I shall debut with a report of FanimeCon 2009.
I’ve been attending FanimeCon since 2004, which was the first year they were located in the San Jose Convention Center. Granted, I staffed two out of the six years I’ve attended though. Anyhow, after FanimeCon 2007 and 2008, I wasn’t really sure if I wanted to return for 2009. Not to say that those years were not fun, but I didn’t feel that there were many things that made my trip worth it…until now.
As 2009 came, I was hesitant on dropping money for a badge. Honestly, the only reason I would have went to FanimeCon (besides hanging with friends) was for the new and improved FaniMaid cafe which my friend Jun was running this year. Then, Fanime pulls a fast one on me and announces that Haruko Momoi is a Guest of Honor. That, along with the new FaniMaid cafe sealed the deal. I ended up registering at-con but that was worth it.
I stayed at the San Jose Hilton which went under a remodel recently. The rooms had HDTVs with hookups for A/V, PC, and HDMI! Next time I’m going to bring my PS3 along. Food was no big thing either, as I hit Costco 2 weeks before the convention to stock up. The in room fridge helped, along with my friend Vince bringing a George Foreman grill, a hot plate, and a rice cooker. I only ate out (not counting the Maid Cafe) a grand total of two times during the weekend.
The FaniMaid cafe was a total turn-around from the previous two years. At the entrance, a couple of maids greeted me and took me to my table. I was then served my food, and I just sat and ate and talked with my friends. It did get busy on Saturday, so the maid who served me kinda forgot about me and my friends but I’m not really gonna fault her for that. I did get some pictures at the photo corner and was escorted by some other maids to the exit where we exchanged goodbyes. All in all, I was extremely pleased on how the whole experience turned out. Also, at 2PM on Saturday, the con was treated to an awesome live performance at Stage Zero (a stage that was set up in the central area of the mezzanine of the convention center) by the FaniMaids. The show kicked off with a performance of Akihaba Love by Perfume. Haruko Momoi and the Momoists also showed up and did the callouts and everything. More cool songs followed (including Lum no Love Song, one of my eternal favorite OP songs) and to kinda mix it up a little a guy with a harmonica played the theme song from Doug (anyone remember that?) Anyhow, I stopped by the Maid Cafe after it closed to talk with the staff a bit, and also discovered that some people from Japan said the cafe’s atmosphere and service was better than ones in Akihabara. Hearing that, I was happy for the staff because they really did give it their all into making the cafe something not to be missed. I can also say the lines were quite long both days the cafe was open due to the cafe’s popularity.
Now on to Haruko Momoi. I am thankful that FanimeCon allowed me the opportunity to meet one of my all-time favorite seiyuu. I listened to a bunch of stuff from UNDER17, along with songs she did herself since 2003. I unfortuately missed her concert at AX 2007 (well, that con was a train wreck but let’s not get into that here.) During her autograph session on Saturday morning, I got my Nurse Witch Komugi Vol. 1 DVD autographed. She was all smiles as I told her I loved Komugi-chan and I was honored to have finally met her. I also was playing Matsuri da yo! Komugi-chan Ondo on my iPod boombox during the autograph session. She did take notice and was happy that I enjoyed her music. I also got to snap a couple of pictures with my autographed DVD which you can see in the gallery linked below. Her concert on Sunday was simply breathtaking. Her setlist consisted of fan-favorite songs, including LOVE.EXE, Ai no Medicine, and my favorite, Tenbatsu! Angel Rabbie. The energy at the concert was limitless. There were a number of people doing the callouts for each song with glowsticks and everything. She even called up my friend Jun to perform Saigo no Rock. Also, she also invited people to go up on stage with her as well. There was a bit of a rush for the stage, but the fans calmed down relatively quickly and all was well (although Jun’s boyfriend Mikey got injured…) All in all, that concert was just magical. Tears of happiness were flowing, and although my arms were about to fall off, Momoi herself waved at me and encouraged me to keep going. This is why I have a deep respect for her. She started out as an otaku, and adores her fans as much as we adore her. She is the friendliest seiyuu I have ever had the honor to meet.
Cosplay was cool this year, however I did notice quite a few Maka Albarn cosplayers. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, Soul Eater is pretty damn cool. Unfortunately I didn’t get to see any Valkyria Chronicles cosplay. Oh well. Didn’t get too much from the dealer’s room either.
Anyhow there you have it. Fanime 2009 really set the tone this year. I hope Momoi comes back again. I also want to give a shout out to Jun and the FaniMaid Cafe staff for doing such an amazing job this year! All of your hard work and dedication paid off and I will support you through and through!
Here’s to a great Fanime 2010.
tl;dr: Fanime set the tone. 2010 is going to kick ass.