Day 1 at San Diego Comic Con

Posted by Michael Bakich
on Friday, July 22, 2016

Adam Nimoy poses before his father’s painting, “Hand in Vulcan Gesture.” // All photos: Astronomy: Michael E. Bakich
The world’s greatest multigenre convention is taking place. San Diego Comic-Con International 2016 officially started Thursday, July 20, and runs through Sunday the 23rd. Actually, Preview Night occurred Wednesday, July 19, for professionals, exhibitors, and press like me. I was fortunate enough to be awarded press credentials for the fifth time. I’m here for the whole shebang, and I’ve already had a heck of a time, scientifically speaking, that is.

Comic-Con started in 1970 as a three-day gathering called the Golden State Comic-Con. The event drew 300 people. That’s amazing. This year, organizers expect the attendance to exceed 150,000. Wait. That’s amazing!

The central area of Comic-Con features the exhibitors. Here’s where you’ll find the booths set up by comic book companies, video game producers, movie studios, specialists in online programming, and more collectible manufacturers and dealers than you can shake a lightsaber at. Nearby, Artist’s Alley features the best illustrators from each genre producing sketches for sale and signing already completed works.

Steve Snyder of the Fleet Science Center moderates a panel that discussed the interplay between science and comics.
Surrounding the exhibitor area, rooms large and small (and I’m not kidding here: Capacities range from 280 to 6,500 seats) host panels, seminars, and workshops featuring some of the biggest names in the entertainment industry and pop culture.

My adventure started a few hours before Preview Night began. A few weeks earlier, I had received a press invitation to “Star Trek: 50 Artists, 50 Years.” This exhibition would be on display throughout the convention at Michael J. Wolf Fine Arts in San Diego’s Gaslamp District. After Comic-Con, the exhibit will head out on a world tour.

The exhibit was a combination of 2-D and 3-D art. They all were great, each one a showstopper. But the one that drew the most attention was by Leonard Nimoy – Mr. Spock of Star Trek fame. And the person who drew the most attention was Nimoy’s son, Andy. He’s just finishing a publicly funded documentary of his father called “For the Love of Spock.” It debuts in September.

I got to chat with Andy for a while and thanked him for continuing a great tradition. We talked about the connection between science and science fiction, and I learned that he had availed himself of many science consultants while putting the documentary together. He really was quite gracious, and I'm looking forward to seeing his film.

Stephen Petranek, the author of How We’ll Live on Mars, spoke about that very subject at the party sponsored by National Geographic.
The next day, I attended a panel at noon called “IDW and the Ruben H. Fleet Science Center Present Crossover: Where Comics & Science Meet.” The moderator, Steve Snyder, CEO of the Fleet Science Center, is an old friend and co-worker. I didn’t know he was moderating until I showed up.

Then at 1:30, Snyder moderated a second panel, “Fiction vs. Reality: An Investigation of Science in Movies.” Both panels emphasized the importance of relying on science as the underpinning of good sci-fi. One of the panelists put it this way: “You can stray from accuracy, but only after you’ve established some facts.” He summed it up by instructing filmmakers to tell nine truths before they introduce the lie.

Finally, tonight I attended a party labeled as “Nerd Nite Presented by NatGeo: A Galactic Adventure to Mars.” While there, I met Stephen Petranek, the author of How We’ll Live on Mars. His book is the impetus for the six-part series, Mars, which will run on the National Geographic Channel beginning in November. He’s a knowledgeable fellow and really quite optimistic that humanity will begin to colonize the Red Planet starting around the mid-2020s. I hope he’s right.

Yep, there was lots of science on day one of Comic-Con that kept me running from room to room. And I still haven’t heard any of NASA’s panels. Stay tuned.

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