The Big Con

Out of the basement and into the spotlight, Comic-Con 2007 is the place to be

The Sci-Fi Channel plans a couple of rather dubious resurrections: Tin Man recasts The Wizard of Ozinto a futuristic landscape, with Zooey Deschanel as heroine "D.G.," while Smallville's Eric Johnson stars as the new Flash Gordon, sans awesome Brian May theme tune. Prepare yourself with a first look at each.

And let us not forget that Star Wars is also making the leap to your small screen. Where? When? How? Announcements are expected.

TOYS
Comic-Con-exclusive toys are a blessing for attendees—and torture for those who can't make it. This year sees a bunch of items to frustrate the far-away, most notably Art Asylum's Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan action figures. Fans around the country will be able to get Kirk, Spock and Khan, but only convention-goers can buy McCoy, Scotty, Sulu and Chekov. Did we mention each must be purchased at a different booth, and if you buy them all, you get an exclusive battle-injured Khan figure? Prepare the pitchforks, Trekkers.

Exclusives that seem to miss the point are ones you have to order online in advance, which completely rules out the impulse buyers. If you haven't already gotten the special "Vanishing" Bugs Bunny figure from DC Direct, it's too late now; ditto Sideshow Collectibles' 12-inch scale "holographic" Darth Sidious from Star Wars. Mattel typically holds raffles to allow only a limited number of customers per day to buy their exclusives, which this year include an albino version of Batman's enemy Man-Bat and two special Naruto figures.

Hasbro offers a new version of Rodimus Prime, hero of the original Transformers animated movie, along with special Star Wars figures based on artist Ralph McQuarrie's original concept designs for Obi-Wan and Yoda, an exclusive She-Hulk figure with removable attorney's outfit, and a special "pimp-daddy" color scheme for G.I. Joe enemy Destro.

There are too many others to list in the space we have, but they include a comic-styled Abe Sapien figure from Hellboy, battle-ravaged King Leonidas figure from 300, an action-figure-scaled mini-statue of He-Man in his classic cartoon color scheme, a fully articulated Elephant Swordsman figure from famed toy sculptors the Four Horsemen, and Mortal Kombat villain Goro.

Hasbro, Mattel, McFarlane Toys and Sideshow will also have several panels spotlighting their work and allowing collectors to yell at them over minutiae, but the most interesting company to watch will be the industry's very own version of an Ed Wood production, Shocker Toys. Widely derided in the toy-collecting community due to their ridiculous concepts (action figures designed to be worn on the shoulder like pirate parrots), frequent announcement of toy lines that never happen, awful prototypes, and the aggressive, bombastic behavior of company president Geoff Beckett, who's prone to threatening legal action against anyone who criticizes him, Shocker is asking for trouble by having a Q&A of their very own. Expect some of the most vicious geek sarcasm you've ever heard if you can make it to this one.

OTHER FUN STUFF
Saturday night is the Masquerade Ball, where the wildest costumes you didn't see on the convention floor compete for prizes. Watch it live in the upstairs ballroom, or via closed-circuit TV over free nachos in the adjacent pavilion.

Rosario Dawson may not have a new movie to promote, but she does have her own comic book, Occult Crimes Taskforce, and she's looking to promote it. Need we say more? But if hot chicks are more than you can handle, there are also useful seminars such as "How to Become an Internet Geek Super-Star," as well as a discussion of Internet fan sites featuring panelists such as Ain't-It-Cool's Drew "Moriarty" McWeeny and Bloody-Disgusting's Brad Miska.

"Disguised as Clark Kent: Jews, Comics and the Creation of the Superhero" investigates whether there's any significance to the fact that superheroes were created by Jews. Just don't tell Mad Max. Convention fave Neil Gaiman gets his own panel every year to talk about film, comics, music and everything else he somehow has a hand in, lucky bastard! The Jim Henson company will showcase new puppet stuff, J. Michael Straczynski shows off the new direct-to-DVD Babylon 5 movie, Team America/Killer Klowns puppeteers the Chiodo brothers show off their latest tricks, and animation historian Jerry Beck returns with a collection of the Worst Cartoons Ever! As always, the best way to wind down your convention experience is with Sunday's "Starship Smackdown," in which a panel of "experts" way geekier than you can imagine debate the results of a grand tournament pitting their all-time favorite fictional spaceships and robots against one another. As my little brother used to put it, "If him and him, if they fighted . . . who would win?"

You win if you attend even a fraction of all this good stuff. And if you can't make it, don't worry: We'll be blogging it for ya. With slideshows! Check out Navel Gazing starting July 25.

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