You know, for years now, I have been thinking that I really have to get around to attending the San Diego Comic Con. Too many friends of mine have come back from that event absolutely blithering about what an amazing time they'd just had. What it felt like to be crammed into the San Diego Convention Center with 75,000 other comic book fans for what basically amounts to a five day long media binge. Unfortunately, given that the Comic Con usually runs on the exact same dates that the National Fantasy Fan Club holds its annual Disneyana convention, I've yet to be able to escape Anaheim long enough to get down to San Diego to find out what all the fuss is about.
Well, thanks to Mark Hamill's "Comic Book: The Movie" (a good portion of which was actually filmed on location at the 2002 Con), now I feel like I have a pretty good idea what the San Diego Comic Con actually looks and sounds like. And -- to be honest -- it looks pretty cool.
Hamill's film ... Well, it's kind of rough hewn. But -- then again -- that's understandable. Given that much of "Comic Book: The Movie"'s dialogue was ad-libbed. Anyway ... "Comic Book: The Movie" is basically a valentine to the San Diego Comic Con specifically and comic books in general.
Mark's model for "Comic Book: The Movie" seems to have been Christopher Guest's wonderful improvisational comic films, "This is Spinal Tap," "Waiting for Guffman," "Best in Show" and "A Mighty Wind." In that Hamill has surrounded himself with some amazing comic talents, placed these performers in a rather unusual setting and then -- after quickly sketching out a rough approximation as to how that particular scene should go -- turned the camera on and let his actors fly.
And -- if you're as big a cartoon voice fan as I am -- you're going to freak over "Comic Book: The Movie." Why for? Because among the talented performers that Mark persuaded to come on camera and perform with him are Tom Kenny ("SpongeBob Squarepants"), Jess Harnell ("Animaniacs"), Billy West ("Futurama") and Daran Norris ("Fairly Oddparents").
"Comic Book: The Movie"'s story (what little there is of it) basically deals with Donald Swan (Hamill), a comic book store owner who is hired by a major movie studio to be a creative consultant on a "Commander Courage" film. Swan -- as it turns out -- is the expert on this faux 1940s era comic book hero. Which is why the studio has supposedly hired Donald, so that he can produce the documentary that will inevitably appear as an extra on the "Commander Courage" DVD.
That thin premise gives Hamill an excuse to wander around the San Diego Comic Con, camera crew in tow, and take in all the craziness and color. It also gives Mark a reason to sit down and improvise interviews with some of the world's biggest comic book fans. Among them are filmmaker Kevin Smith ("Jersey Girl"), actor Bruce Campbell ("Evil Dead") as well as Stan Lee, co-creator of Spider-Man, the Hulk, the X-Men and the Fantastic Four. Hamill also stages a brief-but-funny on-camera re-union with his "Star Wars" co-stars: David Prowse (Darth Vader), Peter Mayhew (Chewbacca) and Jeremy Bulloch (Boba Fett).
You see what I'm saying here? "Comic Book: The Movie" is loaded with great, geeky fun. Sure, it would have been nicer if the film had better production values or its pacing was a little tighter. But -- that said -- I still got a kick out of watching this flick.
Particularly the extras on disc two. There's a recording of a voice panel from the 2002 San Diego Comic Con that -- all by itself -- is worth the money that it takes to buy "Comic Book: The Movie." This is where Kenny, Harnell, West and Norris -- along with their friends Roger Rose, Jim Cummings, Maurice LaMarche, Rob Paulsen, Lori Alan and Gary Owens -- really get to cut lose. Telling all these great stories about what it's like to work behind-the-mike on some of your favorite cartoons. (Just wait 'til you hear LaMarche's "Orson Compulsion Disorder" riff. Funny, funny stuff.)
You know -- based on this Miramax DVD alone -- maybe I'll take a pass on the N.F.F.C. convention this year and head on down to San Diego. "Comic Book: The Movie" makes the Comic Con look like such a fun take-in.
Don't believe me? Then go pick up a copy of "Comic Book: The Movie" today and see for yourself. It really is great geeky fun.
If you'd like to pick up your own copy of "Comic Book: The Movie,"
then why not click on the Amazon.con image to your right?
Your cost will (unfortunately) remain the same (though Amazon.com
is currently offering this 2-disc DVD set for 10% off!) But -- if
you go there through us -- JHM gets a tiny cut of what you spend. So help
keep Jim Hill behind the computer where he belongs and pick up your copy
of "Comic Book: The Movie" through the link to the right.