New York Comic Con 2011
Last week, New York City played host to the largest pop-culture event on the East Coast. With celebrities, comic books and, of course, cosplayers, NYCC has it all!
By Jason Pearl
The Avengers's movie panel was easily the most anticipated and least accessible (see this week's column) at this year's New York Comic Con. Luckily, the event's lack of seating room and noteworthy revelations was made up for by its sheer entertainment value.
The panel was introduced and hosted by the always-enjoyable Chris Hardwick of G4's Web Soup, and featured stars Chris Evans (Captain America), Tom Hiddleston (Loki), Cobie Smulders (Maria Hill), Clark Gregg (Agent Coulson), Mark Ruffalo (Hulk) and Marvel Studios head Kevin Feige. After engaging in the usual trivial banter about experiences on set and the like, the discussion moved towards some new information. Feige confirmed that Ruffalo will not only be portraying Bruce Banner (Hulk's alter ego) but will also be doing the motion capture for the Jade Giant himself. Questions from the fans yielded few results, as seemingly dozens of teenage girls spent the day in the theater to get the chance to speak to Tom Hiddleston. The other panelists didn't get to speak as much as the spotlight-stealing God of Mischief, and in some cases, it was for the best. Chris Evans looked like he had been dragged off the floor backstage and propped up in front of the crowd. He was wearing a black cap pulled low over his face, sat with his head in his hands, and when he did speak, it was in a language of slurs and gurgles. Basically, he had either been subjected to another experimental serum, or he was supremely hungover. On the other hand, Cobie Smulders was cheerful and alert enough, but appeared to know nothing about The Avengers, Marvel or her general surroundings. Thankfully, the final True Believer task a question elicited the most interesting news. When asked about the pre-production adaptations of Inhumans and Guardians of the Galaxy, Feige discussed the plans for a nebulous "Phase 2" of Marvel films, the next wave of movies that would culminate in The Avengers 2. Feige further commented that the Inhumans and Guardians characters would not be getting solo films as the Avengers did and instead will have their individual origins told in team films.
As for the footage screened, none of it revealed anything new or important. In addition to the trailer released last week, two exclusive clips were presented. In the first scene, the Black Widow attempts to recruit Bruce Banner for his gamma radiation expertise, not for his...other talents. The second scene showed the seeds of friction being sown between Captain America and Iron Man after the Armored Avenger tries to force Banner to change into the Hulk and was a classic representation of their relationship.
While The Avengers is clearly going to be the film to beat next summer, the panel, while amusing, still left something to be desired. The Avengers assemble in theaters May 4, 2012.
The Walking Dead
There was not an empty seat in sight during AMC's The Walking Dead panel at New York Comic Con. Moderated by Chris Hardwick, the host of the spin-off talk show The Talking Dead, it was kicked off with creator Robert Kirkman, executive producer Gale Ann Hurd and special effects supervisor/writer/director Greg Nicotero.
Hurd began the event by touching upon Kirkman's increased involvement in the show's second season, explaining, "We lured Robert from Kentucky to the wilds of Los Angeles, so he can participate in the writers' room every day." Kirkman noted that it was interesting to revisit his graphic novel, especially since the first season deviated a bit from his stories. At this point in the comic, Jon Bemthal's character Shane was already dead. "His character existing in this world changes those storylines and makes them richer and adds different levels." This portion of the panel made Kirkman fans squeal with delight upon the knowledge of his place in the series.
The scale of the production was a reoccurring topic of conversation. Nicotero mentioned that on any given day there were around 150 zombie actors that would rotate throughout scenes. As you can imagine, then, Nicotero's special effects team is very busy, endlessly making latex and silicon zombie decals for all of the extras. The scenes within the upcoming season have upped the ante as well, many of which involved shutting down an entire section of a major highway in Atlanta.
The cast members were then brought out one-by-one, with Norman Reedus (who plays Daryl Dixon) as the clear crowd favorite. He described his character as a man who needs a hug, "but if you try to hug him, he will stab you." He undoubtedly earned the wildest applause every time he spoke or gestured whatsoever.
Chandler Riggs (who plays Rick's son Carl) is the youngest member of the cast, but perhaps the most articulate and insightful. He noted that he felt like he was playing a completely different character this season, a Carl who gets in the middle of the action rather than standing idly by. He also mentioned that he felt he has grown as an actor because of the level of talent and commitment of his fellow cast mates. He has also perfected the ability to cry on cue.
Answers to the audience's questions were informative, but did not really give anything away aside from a few comments. One particular panel guest had not been in the previous season, so the character had to be defined, but nothing said was really a dead giveaway as far as plot development.
The audience, as expected, asked both thoughtful and less serious questions. When an audience member asked the cast what kind of weapon they'd prefer in a zombie apocalypse, answers varied, but the best answer was when Riggs quipped, "A flamethrower with a bayonet."
The Walking Dead airs on AMC, Sundays at 9 p.m.
Star Wars: The Old Republic
By Ryan Surujnath
One of the most anticipated titles of the year is Bioware's upcoming MMORPG, Star Wars: The Old Republic. Last weekend at New York Comic Con, mmorpg.com hosted a panel that consisted of several of the game's directors and producers.
Taking place more than 3,900 years before the events of the original trilogy, The Old Republic places the player in the center of a Galactic Cold War between the Republic and Sith Empire. Over the years, Bioware has repeatedly stressed the importance of infusing story with traditional MMO elements. Game director James Ohlen furthered this point by promising players that they will not see a single duplicate mission between classes. Each playable class will have its own distinct story, making for several hundred hours of gameplay.
The panel specifically focused on some of the player versus player aspects that will be implemented in The Old Republic. At launch, there will be three PVP Warzones: Alderaan, Hutt Ball and the Voidstar. Butler showed the audience a video detailing gameplay in the Voidstar Warzone. The premise is that the Republic seeks to claim and old piece of Imperial technology. Players are divided into teams and will alternate playing attacker and defender. The attacking team must set explosives at four key points, while the defenders aim to thwart them. In addition to the confirmed warzones, Butler made reference to an "open-world warzone," though he refused to go into further detail.
Though the panel was informative, Comic Con guests had the opportunity to get a hands-on demo of The Old Republic on the show floor. Players had the option of taking part in a local PVP match or playing a small part of the single player campaign. I chose the latter, and decided to familiarize myself with the Sith Inquisitor. The Inquisitor, one of four Imperial character classes, has a distinct focus on lightsaber play and damage dealing force powers. For the sake of time, Bioware pre-chose character races; this Inquisitor was a Zabrak (like Darth Maul from The Phantom Menace) who, given Imperial prejudices against aliens, arrived at the Sith academy as a slave. The Inquisitor was tasked with completing some sort of initiation test, in which he was required to slay his classmates.
Since the demo took place toward the beginning of the game, the characters were lowered to level one, and were only given their most basic abilities. Nonetheless, combat felt rather satisfying, as the Inquisitor used a combination of melee moves and Force Lightning that subdued the early game opponents. The Old Republic boasts an interface that is very similar to that found in World of Warcraft. As of now, The Old Republic has a few problems with camera control and some of the animations feel rough. These issues will surely be rectified by launch day, which is slated worldwide for Dec. 20.