Emily S. Whitten: SDCC 2015 Part IV – Panels!
Greetings, ComicMixers! Did everyone have a good weekend? I hope so! But I know, I know, there was probably one thing missing from your hopefully glorious and relaxing weekend – my SDCC coverage! Yes, that’s right – Along with Part I (the con floor!); Part II (the Her Universe Fashion Show!); and Part III (The party round-up!), here comes Part IV – the panels!
Contrary to what folks who see me at cons might think, I can actually sit still for at least an hour at a time, and sometimes I even want to. In particular, I do like to try and see a few panels whenever I’m at a con; and going into SDCC, I definitely had some on my agenda. This year, unlike many, I actually even managed to see most of them, and I’m glad I did, because they were awesome and I want to share them with you. So here we go!
Voice Over Celebration with Beloved Cartoon, Video Game, and Film VO Actors
Look, the day they have voice actor panels at a con and I don’t make it to at least one is the day you’ll know I’ve lost my joy in life (the same goes for any panel featuring the delightful Rob Paulsen – and since I couldn’t make the TMNT panel (and see the awesome TMNT SDCC mini scene in person!) due to a scheduling conflict, this panel was definitely a must). The panel featured Susan Eisenberg, Rob Paulsen, Caitlin Glass, Anthony Bowling, Tara Platt, Yuri Lowenthal, and Genese Davis, and was primarily a Q&A, with the usual fun (and funny voices) that goes on at a VO panel.
Genese Davis was a fantastic moderator, and you could just feel the love these VO folks have for their work and the fans. It was also neat to hear, e.g., Eisenberg discuss what voicing Wonder Woman has meant to her, and other great and inspiring stories from the panelists. My favorite funny bit of the panel was Lowenthal’s explanation for why he has a mohawk, which basically varies depending on the moment and his mood. “You know, a fan will ask me, ‘Did you get a mohawk because your character has one?’ And I’m like, ‘Oh, yeah, what a good idea – of course that’s why I got it!'” Hah!
The Black Panel
For those who don’t know, The Black Panel is an SDCC staple that’s been happening since 1997. It primarily features black creators in and connected with the genre entertainment industry (although often there is also a “token white person” on the panel) and discusses their impact on and experiences within the industry. While the panel is known for the irreverent humor and moderating style of organizer Michael Davis , it’s also known for the impressive list of top-tier creators it’s featured over the years, and the valuable advice they have shared for young creators and others in the audience.
This year, the panel featured Joe Illidge, Eric Dean Seaton, Don McGregor, Tatiana EL-Khouri, and of course, moderator Davis. Although distilled wisdom and good advice were shared with the audience by all of the panelists, as usual, this panel was also bittersweet and truly the end of an era, as we learned that this was going to be the last SDCC Black Panel. It then featured a scrolling list of all of the luminaries who have been on the panel, as well as at least two fans whose Q&A questions consisted of talking about how valuable the Black Panel has been to them over the years in raising awareness of black talent (one woman in particular, a librarian, discussed how the panel had helped her to find black-created comics to include in her library stock). It was truly an inspiring panel, both in hearing what the panelists shared, and in hearing what the panel has meant to people; although of course, the trademark humor of the panel was still present. In classic Black Panel style, Davis closed the final Black Panel with, “Oh yeah: white people, get out!”
Dark Horse: An Afternoon with Joss Whedon
This panel was an absolute delight (and can be watched in its entirety here, thanks to others who actually filmed it). Whedon started with a nice thanks to Dark Horse and a funny Oz joke: ” I want to talk about how ridiculously grateful I am to everybody at Dark Horse for doing what is honestly one of the hardest jobs in the world. When you take a licensed product, something that already exists, and you have to continue those stories, you have to be so faithful and yet so inventive to make the stories come to life. And that is a tightrope act. It is really difficult for someone; for anyone, to carry on something that is so beloved, and take it to another level, while still being true to all the voices and the characters and what we were trying to do way back when. Thank you to Scott, who’s been my editor forever, and Sierra, who is working on the books; Mike Richardson, who built the house we’re all in, and particularly the writers and artists – Christos Gage has been killing it, Rebekah Isaacs, and Georges Jeanty of course; Zack Whedon. …I feel like five years ago a tornado ripped up my house and dropped it in the land of Marvel, and it’s been a very weird time. And (pointing to the audience) you were in it, and you were there, and you were there…and all that while, all these people have been working so hard and doing such beautiful work, and it’s been so great for me to know that the things I care most about are being taken care of. So I want to give Dark Horse a shout-out for their amazing work.”
Following that was some big news from Whedon; the announcement of a new Dark Horse six issue book, The Twist, about which Whedon said, “it basically deals with the most important moral question facing us, which is why isn’t there a Victorian female Batman?” He then decided to impart some life and creative advice to all of us, which was, ” Continue to earn what you already have.” Followed quickly with more witty repartee, including discussion of the Marvel movies, about which he observed, “What’s exciting was that everyone was so perfectly pleased with how I handled Natasha.” Followed by, “Yeah, I still got it,” in response to the ensuing laughter.
The whole panel is well worth a watch, but in particular Joss’s answer to this fan question is worth paying attention to. The fan said, “I, like many of us, gain a lot of peace from your work, even though it’s about people who exist in very non-peaceful situations. My question is: what is the world, what is existence, why are we here, how can I and all of us feel more sane and purposeful in our own lives, and how do you represent that philosophy in your writings?”
Whedon replied with, “You think I’m not going to…but I’m going to answer that! The world is a random and meaningless terrifying place, and we all, spoiler alert, die. Most critters are designed not to know that. We are designed uniquely to transcend that. To understand that…Ooh, I can quote myself, this is fun! ‘A thing isn’t beautiful because it lasts.’ That what we have right now, right here, has as much meaning as anything we’re afraid of. And the way we’re designed to do this is that the main function of the human brain, the primary instant function, is storytelling. Memory is storytelling. If we all remembered everything, we would be Rain Man, and we would not be socially active at all. We learn to forget and we learn to also distort, and from the very beginning, we’re learning to tell a story about ourselves.
I keep hoping to be the hero of my story; I’m kind of like the annoying sidekick. I’m like Rosie O’Donnell in the Tarzan movie that Disney did. I’m that annoying. I was like, “But I’m Tarzan, right?’ And they were like, “No. You’re that weird ape that we don’t know if it’s a girl.” But, it is still a narrative. And since we’re doing that from the moment we’re alive, living stories that we then hear and see and internalize and wear hats from and come to conventions about; we all come here to celebrate only exactly that: storytelling. And the shared experience of what that gives us. And it may give us strength; it may distract us. It can do almost anything. And that, for me, is how we live peacefully, and how we live with ourselves, and each other. We understand our story, everybody else’s story, that we’re all part of that; and that story is going to be with us, and can be controlled by us, and can be surprising and delightful and horrifying and all those things, but it’s something we can survive because, unlike me, you all are the hero of the story. That is my answer.”
Wow. And after that profoundness, I’ll end my summary of this panel with this quote from Whedon, which clearly needs no context: “This is very simple, and I think everyone can relate to where I am on this. I love bees. I just want to put bees in my clothes. And have bee-time.”
Thanks for that, Joss. And for being awesome.
20th Century Fox
Ohhhhh, you guys know where this is going, right? Okay, so the Fox panel showcased a bunch of projects, including The Maze Runner: Scorch Trials, Victor Frankenstein (which featured the most hilariously homoerotic panel I have experienced in person), Fantastic Four, and X-Men: Apocalypse, several of which I’m excited about (X-Men in particular); but you all know why I sat my butt on those hard seats in the Most Depressing Room of SDCC for two hours after Joss Whedon left, right? Deadpool. (Look, I’m not the only one. The Wall Street Journal is all about the Deadpool, too. As is Nicholas Hoult, who, when asked about his character Beast on the X-Men panel, replied, “I can’t concentrate because I’m still psyched about the ‘Deadpool’ trailer.”)
In the midst of all of the other cool Fox stuff going on, moderator Chris Hardwick of Nerdist started the Deadpool ball rolling with, “I believe we have a special announcement before the next panel…?” That was the cue to roll an SDCC Hall H exclusive video which showed Ryan Reynolds in his full Deadpool regalia, seated in a Masterpiece Theatre-style chair, complete with pipe in hand, as he intoned, “In a world divided by fear, one man must save the world… From the studio that inexplicably sewed his fucking mouth shut the first time, comes five-time Academy Award-winner Ryan Reynolds as a man on an e-Harmony date with destiny. Ladies and gentlemen of Hall H, I give you…me! Deadpool! To teach you to take these broken wings and learn to fucking fly again.” And then, of course, Deadpool tried to put the pipe in his masked mouth and dropped it.
Amidst an absolute uproar of delighted cheers and screams, Reynolds snuck onto the still-dark stage to surprise us all as the lights came up and lead off an awesome, raunchy, totally Deadpool-esque panel that also featured Tim Miller (Director), Morena Baccarin (Vanessa Carlysle), T.J. Miller (Weasel), Brianna Hildebrand (Negasonic Teenage Warhead), Ed Skrein (Ajax), and Gina Carano (Angel Dust). Reynolds responded to the crowd’s cheers with, “Looks like we’re ready to make the chimi-fucking-changas already. It’s only been eleven years in the waiting.” When Hardwick asked him how it felt for the movie to finally be coming out, Reynolds replied, clearly delighted, “One year ago, almost today, some asshole leaked that footage, and that’s why we’re standing here… You guys – the internet, fans, you made the studio do this.” Reynolds, Miller, and cast also gave credit to the excellent script of Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick.
Miller said about the movie finally being made that, “I would have made this fucking movie anytime, but it had to come at the right time, and the studio was ready to make it now. And I think it’s because as Ryan said, it’s the fans. He is the perfect character for our time, I think.” Reynolds added, “I think this character inhabits a space in the comic universe that no other person can or will ever inhabit. It’s got everything you’d ever want. …For one I just think it’s an absolute miracle that a studio let us make Deadpool, let alone an R-rated Deadpool.” He added, “…No matter what the rating is, though, babies will love this.”
All of the actors discussed their characters, and were clearly excited about their roles in the film. When asked about her character Vanessa, Baccarin said, “She’s a badass. It was really awesome to read the script. You don’t get to read many superhero movies that have a badass romantic lead. She gives him lip right back, and not necessarily the talking kind. …She’s the perfect match to his crassness.”
After the Q&A they showed some exclusive footage, which was amazing and appears very loyal to Deadpool’s origins. Expanding on the earlier leaked footage, it showed more characters and backstory (including that Negasonic Teenage Warhead starts out in training with Colossus), included more great comedic moments, and highlighted Deadpool’s fighting prowess when he shot three people in the head with one bullet. It was also rife with fourth-wall breakage, and featured a Liefeld joke, a dig at Green Lantern, and an appearance by Blind Al (w00t!). It was such a hit that at the finish, Hall H exploded into chants of, “One more time!” and Hardwick obliged by running the footage again, to more cheers.
In summary, this panel was hilarious and the movie looks like it is going to be awesome and, and, and you guys. I can’t even. I almost died of happiness during the panel. Deadpool. Is finally coming to theaters. And it looks fantastic. Y’all are lucky I didn’t expire right there in Hall H and am still here to write this.
And that I was still vaguely coherent for the next Fox panel, X-Men: Apocalypse. I feel like no matter what, I’ll do this write-up a disservice, because I was still buzzing so much from Deadpool that I could hardly concentrate; but I will say that the footage looked amazing, the cast is huge but it seems to work, there was a moment where Hugh Jackman sat on Jennifer Lawrence’s lap, and I am really looking forward to the film. If Deadpool hadn’t been on the panel agenda, this would have been the Fox movie I’m most looking forward to.
The Fox panel wrapped with a giant selfie of “the most superheroes,” with the casts of Wolverine, Deadpool, X-Men: Apocalypse, and Fantastic Four, and a special appearance by Stan Lee. Sweet.
X-Men: Days of Future Past – The Rogue Cut
The last panel-like thing I did while at SDCC was actually a screening – of X-Men: Days of Future Past – The Rogue Cut. Essentially, a Rogue storyline got cut out of the movie for running time, and it’s been added back by Bryan Singer, who introduced the screening for the new DVD. The screening was cool – it was fun to see the film again on the big screen, and while the movie does work without the Rogue storyline, I did feel it added to the overall story to include it. Certainly for a movie on DVD (where you can pause anytime for snack and bathroom breaks!) I’d advocate getting the longer cut.
And that’s it for me and the panels! Check out my panel photo album here or my whole SDCC collection of photos here.
And until next time, Servo Lectio!