Comic-Con widens its view

by Ellen Gray

Philadelphia Daily News (MCT)

24 July 2009


SAN DIEGO — This is the week the geeks inherit the earth.

Or at least a sunny slice of it.

The phenomenon known as San Diego Comic-Con started here Thursday, and what began some four decades ago as a small comic-book show is expected to attract the population of a decent-sized city over the next four days for a dizzying (and already sold-out) array of screenings, autograph signings and how-to sessions with comics professionals.

Curious about Archie’s decision to marry Veronica? There’s a panel.

Into dark doodles? Check out “How to Draw Monsters.”

There’s even a session called “Comic Book Law School 101.”

But put more than 100,000 people — I’ve read estimates from 120,000 to 150,000 — in one place just a couple of hours south of Los Angeles and the entertainment industry’s bound to take notice. Movies and TV shows have been coming to Comic-Con for years in an attempt to fan the flames (and inflame the fans) for movies like “Iron Man” — whose sequel will be teased here a year in advance — and shows like ABC’s “Lost” and NBC’s “Heroes.”

Not that it always works: Just ask NBC’s “Bionic Woman.”

And even shows that reportedly had warmer receptions — “Heroes,” for instance — have struggled in the outside world, victims perhaps of what Variety critic Brian Lowry terms “the Comic-Con false positive.”

Yet as some networks seem more interested than ever in the sci-fi/fantasy/action genres that are aimed, like just about everything on television, at people well under 50, the lines at Comic-Con aren’t just getting longer — they’re starting to blur.

You clearly don’t need to know your Asimov from your elbow to make the schedule.

Fox, for instance, is bringing its sophomore sci-fi shows, “Fringe” and “Dollhouse,” here, along with “Bones,” “24” and a new thriller called “Human Target” that stars “Fringe” veteran Mark Valley.

But it’s also bringing “Glee,” its high school musical about an Ohio show choir from “Nip/Tuck” creator Ryan Murphy.

The producers and stars of FX’s “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” will be dropping by on Saturday afternoon to sign autographs, no doubt because it’s more dependably sunny on this coast.

And ABC will be screening its newest genre shows, “FlashForward,” “V,” “Eastwick” and “Past Life,” and bringing in writers and actors from “Lost.” But the ABC show that might actually get lost in this crowd? A new family sitcom called “The Middle,” whose star, Patricia Heaton (“Everybody Loves Raymond,” “Back to You”), will be introducing a screening of the pilot at noon Friday.

How’d someone like Heaton end up at Comic-Con for the first time?

Here’s how her character’s being described in the program: “Frankie Heck (Heaton) is a superhero. Well, no, not an actual superhero — but sometimes it seems as though getting her kids out the door for school every morning is a superheroic act. Middle-aged, middle class and living in the middle of the country, this harried wife and working mother of three uses her wry wit and sense of humor to try to get her family through each day intact.”

OK, so they’re reaching.

But then this is my first Comic-Con, too. Good to know I won’t be the only fish out of water.

Topics: comic-con
//Mixed media