So Giancarlo, an artist and director at Nickelodeon (here's an interview with him on one of the Avatar sites), informed Brian that he hooked us up with Comic-Con badges again. It was a geekfest when we went two years ago so I was anticipating more of the same.

What you won't see in the following: Samuel L. Jackson in the Snakes on a Plane panel (I was too far in the back), Elvira, Mistress of the Dark, without her makeup (we ran into her in the lobby as Cassandra Peterson but, being in a rush, she wouldn't take a picture with us), Giancarlo's opening flatulence salvo (because I can't photograph stink), or the big-ass Chicago style pizza Brian and I ate on Saturday night that may have been the culprit of his nausea and Hershey squirts for days after.


I called Brian to let him know what time I was picking him up, reminding him to shave the Grizzly Adams beard he had grown (one of the luxuries of not teaching summer school). When I arrived I saw that he certainly had shaved his beard -- leaving a suh-weet porn star mustache. Yes, it was an accurate indicator of the weekend to follow. Bonus points to Brian for the Lycra Spiderman shirt. Lookout Comic-Con, here we come.


San Diego: Land of the Free, Home of Comic-Con International.


With Nickelodeon picking up the bill for one night, coupled with Giancarlo and Brian's cousin Angela sharing a room with us, we paid a mere $75 each for a weekend stay at the decadent Manchester Grand Hyatt, located next door to the San Diego Convention Center. As Brian shows, pimpin' aint easy, but sometimes it's affordable.


We prepare to get our Comic-Con on.


So it begins.


Aren't you a little hot to be a stormtrooper? I'll tell you what though, she just made a bit easier to join the dark side.


The three of us are in, baby! (Me, Brian, and his mustache.)


Yes, in case you are wondering, that's how it's going to be. And, yes, I have accepted the fact that there is a little corner in Hell reserved for me.


Check out the boss tattoos we got from the Rogue Pictures booth. Me: Balls of Fury. Brian: Hot Fuzz.


Brian with Phoenix, who apparently lit his fire. (I got a million of 'em.)


It's only because of Harry Knowles' Butt-Numb-A-Thon in Austin that this advertisement for The Descent made me weak in the knees. Screw you, Harry, and the nightmares that movie gave me.


Will the real Darth Vader please stand up, please stand up, please stand up. David Prowse.


Temuera Morrison, AKA Jengo Fett.


Mmmmmm.... Tiffany Taylor. Who, you may ask?


TIFFANY TAYLOR!


Brian made a new friend in the Owly line who kept chatting it up with him. I stood behind him whispering, "Brian's got a girlfriend." Yes, maturity missed the ride to Comic-Con.


We stood in line for about 20 minutes for Andy Runton, the artist of Owly, one of Brian's favorite books (though claims he bought 50 bucks worth of stuff for his "daughter").


Upon closer inspection the artist is indeed inscribing the book to Sarah, along with a little Owly drawing.


This is not actually about Brian's kung fu skills in front of the Drunken Master booth, but the only guy at Comic-Con with a cooler mustache than Brian (look to the right). I tried to take a better picture but I think the guy caught on to our paparazzi act.


Has any man sacrificed more for his art?


By 4 p.m. we were ready for dinner. Aw yeah, boooyyy, you know what that meant: Hooters. (Incidentally, it was at Comic-Con two years ago that I visited a Hooters for the first time.) Although the luscious Aliscia wasn't actually our waitress, I couldn't resist her charms. That's right, Brian, thumbs up.


As our luck would have it our server was probably the most unattractive waitress in the joint. But apparently when I was taking the picture of Brian and Aliscia, our own girl, Allison, walked by and did a double take. I guess tradition states that you only take pictures with your own. D'oh! So Brian asks her if I can get in a picture with her. Thank you Captain Self-Esteem Builder. So I stole one of Brian's signature moves and threw a boobie glance just as the picture was snapped. Unfortunately, Allison wanted to see how cute we looked. Red alert! Defensive maneuvers, Mr. Sulu! After pretending to search the camera for the photo, I finally announced that the picture must not have been taken. So we took another.


This is the one she saw. Yeah, we're idiots.


Once again, this is not about the $20 stuffed owl Brian bought an hour ago (although maybe it should be) but about why tattoo placement should be chosen with greater forethought.


We heard from Giancarlo and Angela who had taken the train down from North Hollywood and decided to meet up at the hotel. On our way back we encountered a couple of interesting looking ladies giving out free tattoos that double as passes into a new club called Ocular Effects (see her upper arm for an example).


Brian's going clubbing.


We sat out in front of the hotel for a few minutes and waited for Giancarlo and Angela to return from the convention center when, suddenly, some guy ran from behind us, grabbed Brian's Comic-Con bag (with all his Owly paraphernalia) and took off. Brian admitted later that he thought his stuff was gone, since he wasn't running after the thief. It turned out to be none other than that merry prankster, Giancarlo. Crazy kids today.


While we were sitting there some strange dude kept staring at us and smiling, then jotting things in his journal. Finally Brian said to the guy, "What's up Smiley?" The dude actually turned about 75 degrees in our direction and just shined a super creepy grin at us, then continued writing. So Giancarlo walked over and pulled the old pretend-to-talk-on-your-cellphone-while-looking-over-the-guy's-shoulder-to-see-what-he's-writing move. Crafty. Sadly, Smiley's writing was too small so his secrets remain between him and Beelzebub.
Sidenote: We actually ran into Smiley inside Comic-Con the next day as he came out of a panel. It's a small (and sometimes creepy) world.


That night we saw Clerks II and Brian found a photo op in the theater.


The next morning I got a shot out of our hotel window. $75, baby!


We arrived back at Comic-Con just in time to see the Imperial Forces on the move.


Here's a shot of Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez on the panel for Grind House. Tarantino was manic as usual and Rodriguez was cool as usual. Both did a great job at answering questions and hyping us up for the double feature of Planet Terror and Death Proof. We got a sneak peak at Rodriguez's Planet Terror which included Rose McGowen sitting on the back of a Freddy Rodriguez-driven motorcycle blasting the hell out of fools with a machine gun/rocket launcher acting as a prosthesis for her amputated leg. Good times.


My new favorite superhero: Super String-Bikini Panty Girl.


The Sympathy for Lady Vengeance booth. Again, a message to Harry Knowles: Screw you, man!


Two years ago I took a similar picture with a different Wonder Woman,


New Wonder Woman = New Wonder Woman's butt. Comic-Con rules.


Disturbing.


I don't know what she's selling, but I'll take two.


The Snakes on a Plane booth.


I take it all back, this is my new favorite superhero: Super ________ (you fill in the blank).


I like fairies. A lot.


Admission price for a four-day pass to Comic-Con International: $65.
Hotel room for three days and two nights in downtown San Diego: $500.
Having some guy pull a Ron Jeremy while you are bent over in obvious pain from hours on the convention center floor: Priceless!


He's just joking around. (A million of 'em, I tells ya.)


As I explained in the preface, Elvira wouldn't take a picture with us earlier. Well, she can run but she can't hide.


Elvira's butt. Yeah, baby, yeah!


We made our way over to the Avatar panel where Giancarlo became a star before our very eyes. He gave a virtual tour of Aang's world, making everyone laugh. Even though a couple of the voice actors were there the crowd gravitated towards the Italian Stallion.


The funniest part of Comic-Con is the supergeeks that ask questions at the panels. The redhead talking to Giancarlo is a graduate student at UCLA. She asked if there was an Avatar soundtrack coming soon because she "really needed the music." After the panel she asked Brian, who was standing near Giancarlo, if he worked on the show. He replied in the affirmative and added that he worked on the music. She then became quite interested in Brian until he finally confessed that he was joking. In the hallway a half an hour later, after patiently biding her time while Giancarlo talked to friends and coworkers, she cornered him and began showing him her design portfolio. While Brian and I couldn't stop laughing, Giancarlo indulged her, making positive comments on her work. You're a good man, Charlie Brown.


Kickin' it while Aang bends some air. This girl received so much attention this weekend that I overheard her tell a friend that she may not grow her back. I'll bet Monday morning was a different story.


Giancarlo with the universe he helped create.


We went out for some food and realized the fun wasn't about to end.


Brian heard the Padres were playing the Giants and had the idea to catch a game so we could boo Barry Bonds. The stadium was across the street from the convention center so we walked on over. Yes, the Padres were playing the Giants... in San Francisco. Oh well, the best laid plans....


Still looking for food we thought about Dick's Last Resort but the ambiance failed to entice us.


A shot from up the street during this wandering. I needed to hurry for obvious reasons.


I ran into an old school Klingon and apologized to the pair for my shirt.


I stepped into the open area of a booth to see some Simpsons toys, and since the toys were facing the inside of the booth it was a natural move. Suddenly some lady rudely escorted me out of the area, telling me it was now closed, while physically sweeping me to the side with her arm. Brian saw that there was an interview with Spawn creator Todd MacFarlane. Okay, I respect his space, but seriously show some respect to the fans. As we were walking away I snapped a shot through one of his display cases. Suck it, biyatch!


Now, those who know me well know I don't like being on the wrong side of an injustice. With a need for reparations I saw a replica of James Tiberius Kirk's captain's chair with a sign in front explaining that pictures were for those that bought $20 or more in merchandise. I gave the camera to Brian, climbed over the velvet rope, and went where no geek had gone for free that weekend. Just like that, the stars were back in alignment, the balance was restored to the force, and Comic-Con and I were even-steven.


Speaking of rip-off artists, Lou Ferrigno AKA the OG Incredible Hulk, was charging $20 for a polaroid and a "free" black & white poster. Click, muthafucka!


Brian throws down the trifecta on the Hulkster: the eyebrow, the mustache, and the effyou flex.


Nothing beats a hard day at a comic book convention like a dip in the pool.


Giancarlo and Angela joined us a bit later for a rub-a-dub-dub in the hot tub. We were enjoying ourselves until a group of drunk and annoying 909ers hopped in with us. Two things made it worth it, though. 1) One of the inebriates slipped on the wet ground a few feet from the hot tub and hit the ground with a sickening thud. Yesss. 2) As we were getting out one of them began to tell a joke:
How do you get a white trash chick to suck your dick?
(It was here that the four of us, in a mixture of disgust and curiosity, actually paused for the punchline.)
Put ranch on it!
Classic.


Now we were hungry (not for ranch dressing, though). We noticed a sign for an awesome 6-9 p.m. all-you-can-eat buffet in the hotel restaurant. Too bad it was now 9:20. I convinced Brian to use the magic of the mustache to talk the hostess into extending the offer a few extra minutes. All the sweet-talking in the world would not budge this San Diego soup nazi. No buffet for you! Even the free mint she allowed him couldn't turn his frown upside down.


The next morning I snapped a picture of Giancarlo in full primp mode. Money, baby! My only regret is that I was too close to capture him pinching his own nipples.


Brian salutes a fellow Trekkie.


We dropped Giancarlo and Angela off at the train station and began the journey home.


Once we hit the freeway the cruise control was set to... well, you know.


Heh heh, heh heh... nipples.


An hour and a half into the trip my gaslight came on, we were still about 30 miles from home, and I had no plans to stop and fill up because I have deep faith in my Prius. I'm not actually sure how big my tank is, so knowing how many miles I had driven on this tankfull and my MPG really doesn't help. Brian, getting nervous with every mile we drive, pulled out the owner's manual to find out my tank's capacity. When he saw it was 11.9 gallons he felt a little better.


We made it home without a problem. That's 517 miles and 50.8 mpg on this tank of gas. Hybrid, baby!


Let the record show that on one tank of gas I drove to Palm Springs and back the weekend before, went to work and ferried Coleridge to and from school the whole week, and drove to San Diego and back, all the while blasting the air conditioner... and still had over a gallon to spare! Excuse me while I step back and kiss myself!

Postscript: The movies I was introduced to that I am waiting with bated breath to see (in order of "excited" to "creaming my BVDs"): Stardust, Balls of Fury, Snakes on a Plane, Hot Fuzz, 300, Grind House, and Tenacious D in 'The Pick of Destiny'. While I don't have any of the release dates memorized, I'm wondering if Harry Knowles could hook any these up for Butt-Numb-A-Thon 8....