Comic-Con 2012: The Zombie Apocalypse Is Nigh


by Douglas Wolk
Zombie from <i>The Walking Dead</i> / Photo courtesy AMC
Zombie from The Walking Dead / Photo courtesy AMC

AS WE ALL KNOW, POPULAR CULTURE ROTATES THROUGH EPOCHS BELONGING TO ROBOTS, PIRATES AND ZOMBIES. ACCORDING TO THE PREVAILING VIBE OF THIS YEAR'S COMIC-CON, WHICH ARE WE IN RIGHT NOW?
Zombies. No two ways about it. The Walking Dead mania has reached new heights — San Diego's baseball stadium Petco Park has been taken over by a Walking Dead-themed attraction called "Escape," in which "survivors" who pay $75 for the experience attempt to make it through an obstacle course in the stadium while being pursued by zombies. (If they touch you — well, that's it.) The Walking Dead #100 came out this week, and is apparently going to be this month's best-selling comic book by far; AMC debuted a trailer for The Walking Dead's third season at a panel today. On top of that, there was an unaffiliated Zombie Walk today — several hundred people in homemade zombie outfits shambling amok in the Gaslamp Quarter- — ulminating in a Resident Evil-themed party called "Con of the Dead."

SCARY! IS THERE ANYTHING PEOPLE SHOULD FEAR MORE THAN ZOMBIES?
Why, yes: the specter of transmedia. If you don't happen to have encountered that buzzword before, you will — it's the idea of stories with different parts that happen in different media: TV shows, movies, games of various kinds, and so on. Take Defiance: a hybrid thing (a MMO shooting-stuff game and a SyFy TV series), about a future Earth occupied by seven alien races in addition to humans, that will be coming out next April. The slogan plastered on a lot of surfaces in San Diego at the moment is "Watch the show. Play the game. Save the world." The cast is promising — a show with Fionnula Flanagan and Mia Kirshner? Bring it on! But the thing that gives me pause is how one of the people behind it described the genesis of the project at a press conference this morning: "How do you create an IP that's a triple-A game and a hit TV show and not compromise?" Perhaps by thinking of it as a story rather than as a chunk of intellectual property?

ANY PROMISING MOVIE NEWS FROM HALL H?
Yes, as a matter of fact. The initial reports of Neill Blomkamp's Elysium — which had some footage screened for the first time at the Sony panel — are very enthusiastic. (Blomkamp is a favorite at Comic-Con: his first feature, District 9, got a big push coming out of this show a few years ago.) Fans who were willing to brave the infamously long lines for the cavernous, 6500-seat hall also got to see a few minutes of the forthcoming Total Recall remake.

WHO WAS EVERY GEEK'S FAVORITE ACTOR TODAY?
That would be Karl Urban, who at the "35 Years of Judge Dredd" panel (which I moderated) not only revealed himself to be a serious Judge Dredd nerd — he rattled off the titles of some of his favorite storylines from the comics series whose title character he played in the forthcoming Dredd film — but let it be known that we'll be seeing some footage from next year's Star Trek sequel (in which he's playing Dr. McCoy) sometime this weekend.

IS THERE SOME KIND OF AWARDS SHOW THERE?
The annual Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards, better known as the Eisners, happened tonight. The big winners this year were Mark Waid, who won Best Writer, Best Continuing Series (for Daredevil) and Best Single Issue (for Daredevil #7), and A Tale of Sand, an adaptation of a never-filmed Jim Henson screenplay from 1974, which won for Best New Graphic Album, Best Publication Design and Best Penciller/Inker (for Ramón Pérez).

WHAT WAS THE MOST RIDICULOUS PROMOTION YOU'VE SEEN SO FAR?
The big outdoor pavilion converted into a promotional attraction for the forthcoming two-night TV adaptation of Robin Cook's Coma — "don't let them put you under!" — is the runner-up. But the winner is a building around the corner from Petco Park that's been converted into a gigantic promotion for YouTube — it's got a bar, various places to hang out and watch videos, and a giveaway program in which, if you sign up to get updates from various YouTube channels, you get a pair of YouTube tube socks. That's fine, in itself: the "come on in and sample our product and get drinks and snacks and free stuff" strategy is a pretty common one at Comic-Con these days. But does YouTube actually need anything like that to promote it? Who among the people who might visit the YouTube party spot needs any more encouragement to spend more time watching videos there?

WHO ARE THE MOST PERSISTENT ADVERTISERS AT COMIC-CON THIS YEAR?
That would have to be the guys with the black-and-yellow signs who I assumed were promoting some kind of new TV show, until I got a little closer and realized that they were advertising the Bible. Immediately next to one cluster of them, this afternoon, was a ragged, fake-blood-dripping man, holding a sign that said JESUS IS A ZOMBIE.

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