Some other highlights from Comic-Con:
The panel for the Syfy show “Alphas” was a lot of fun and really made me look forward to the second season premiere next Monday. The cast promises some new romance and a new character whose ability makes it possible for her to learn anything very quickly. However, actress Erin Way told us, her mind is like TIVO — something new comes in and something that was there gets erased. And I enjoyed the booth for the upcoming comedy series “The Neighbors.” We were ushered inside a suburban garage by brightly smiling people holding out apple pies. It turned out we were all new arrivals from another planet assembled for our first lesson on how to fit in on planet Earth. The show looks like a cross between the Coneheads, “Galaxy Quest,” and “Third Rock From the Sun,” but it has a good cast and could be fun.
The Girls Gone Genre panel is one of my favorites, with panelists: Marti Noxon (Buffy, Angel), Jane Espenson (Battlestar Galactica, Torchwood), Karyn Kusama (Jennifer’s Body), Deborah Ann Woll (True Blood), Angela Robinson (True Blood) and Gale Anne Hurd (The Walking Dead, The Terminator). As Noxon showed us one element of her work-life balance by cuddling her daughter while her son sat behind the panel, the women talked about “the metaphysical lens of genre” that provides a context “to say something about the real world through heightened reality.” It’s “a safe space to be transgressive.” Hurd talked about working for Roger Corman, who “made genre films long before they were A tentpoles. Ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances make the characters relatable.” Noxon said the worst of gender stereotyping for both genders is to reduce us to just one thing.” And she said she “did not become a writer until I was willing to tell on myself in a way that was humiliating. The devil is in the details. You don’t get there until you learn to write in your own voice. The breakthrough was when I stopped trying to sell and just wrote the truth.” Actress Woll said she is committed to not being too skinny so she can be a role model. Her character in “True Blood” is “stronger the more she opens up to the world. She can be sexy and naïve, sweet and violent, not cynical, compassionate.” And the whole panel laughed about the usual studio “notes” about any female character when they ask to tone her down: “Wouldn’t she be more likable if…..???”
And I always love attending the panels with the designers. This year I heard the illustrators who do the concept sketches to bring imaginary and historical scenes to life and the costume designers who make sure that every detail of the wardrobe helps to reveal something about the characters and their story. It was a treat to see the initial ideas that became iconic images and to hear some tantalizing hints about upcoming productions (and some that have stalled). While one of the people working on next year’s “Ender’s Game” was there, we were not allowed any glimpses of what we’ll be seeing.
And this was my first time at the annual “Starship Smackdown,” where sci-fi geeks (some with serious science chops) debate the merits of the entire fictional universe of spacecraft for a bracketed contest. It’s like an episode of “Big Bang Theory” in real life, smart, fast, and wildly funny. By the way, I went to the “Big Bang Theory” panel, too, though Johnny Galecki’s plane was delayed and Jim Parsons attended via computer screen because he is in NY performing on Broadway, and an interview of the people behind the show that was even more fun. The highlight of the Smackdown was the surprise appearance of real-life superstar (and guest on “Big Bang Theory”) Neil DeGrasse Tyson who helped the group make the right decision on the last bracket: original Starship Enterprise and the refitted version. Three cheers for James T. Kirk! His ship was the winner.