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The Comic-Con Hour

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Jen Chaney and Liz Kelly
'Lost' Bloggers, Pop Culture Wonder Twins
Friday, July 25, 2008; 11:00 AM

Whatever is happening in pop culture happens at Comic-Con. The annual convention, held in San Diego this year from July 23 through July 27, brings sneak peeks at major upcoming movies ("The Spirit," "The Watchmen," "The Pineapple Express"), panel discussions about beloved TV shows ("Heroes," "The Office," and, of course, "Lost") and scores of authors, artists and fans to the San Diego Convention Center for an entertainment feast of epic proportions.

Jen Chaney and Liz Kelly are loading up their pop culture plates and happy to take questions about what's happening at Comic-Con on Friday, July 25 at 11 a.m. ET.

For the latest Comic-Con coverage, check out the Comic-Con archive and the Celebritology Twitter feed.

Liz Kelly writes the Celebritology blog and Jen Chaney acts as movies editrix and DVD columnist for washingtonpost.com. The two also blog about " Lost" and will kick off year two of the site's "Lost" Book Club next month.

A transcript follows.

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Liz Kelly: Morning! We've been in San Diego since Wednesday morning and, honestly, with all that's going on it feels like a week. Hope you've been enjoying the coverage as much as we've enjoyed doing it so far.

Jen's Dharma Recruitment booth video just went live on the blog and later today my interview with Samuel L. Jackson will go up, too. So keep checking back.

Jen Chaney: Comic-Con is a blast. You can't walk two feet without seeing something interesting/hilarious/bizarre. Example: As I was trekking back to the Convention Center last night for the Star Wars Fan Awards, I saw a dude dressed as Shrek walking down the street.

I am going from interview to panel to interview to panel all day today. But enough about us, let's start the geek party.

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East Compton, Va.: I heard you fought the RZA and Samuel Jackson at Comic-Con with your Wu-Tang sword style, and won! Is this true, master?

Liz Kelly: Indeed -- RZA walked past me in one tightly packed hallway, surrounded by a horde of starry-eyed 14-year-old boys. I started getting into position to hit him with some Tiger style and he backed off quickly.

Honestly -- I wish I'd had time to talk to the RZA -- I'm a big Wu-Tang fan and wanted to see if I could get some scoop about this Kung Fu movie he's supposedly making.

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N, PH: Hi Liz,

This isn't a comic-con question, but since the chat was yesterday, I would like to officially nominate Neil Patrick Harris to the Celebritology Unsnarkable list. It was a great chat and NPH seems like a fantastic guy. Plus, Dr. Horrible rocked!

washingtonpost.com: Neil Patrick Harris chat (Post, July 24)

Liz Kelly: Oh good! I actually need to go back and read that chat because I'm talking with NPH tomorrow -- along with John Cho and Kal Penn of the "Harold and Kumar" movies. And, in fact, it was announced just yesterday that a third "Harold and Kumar" is in the offing. They are the new Cheech and Chong -- icons of a new stoner generation.

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Grizzled SD Vet: Ladies, is the Con all you thought/feared/warned about, even after only one day (plus Preview Night)? Did you remember to wear comfortable shoes?

Liz Kelly: As I described this morning in a blog post -- it's like a Grateful Dead concert, a rave, a trade show and a college campus all rolled up into one confined space. I expected huge, but I think I've heard estimates of 150,000 people here. And you can feel that -- it's affected everything in the downtown San Diego vicinity. Traffic is hell on wheels. He he. I'm doing more walking than taking the Comic-Con shuttle or cabs, simply because it's quicker.

Oh, and all the shoes I brought are comfy (yet stylish). But after carrying around a computer, camera and assorted printed materials for a day, I feel like tenderized meat. Anyone know of an on-call massage therapist in the San Diego area?

Jen Chaney: I need that same masseuse. I also was nearly injured in a minor rikshaw accident yesterday, but that's a story for another time. Comic-Con is like Troy McClure's warning about lead paint: Delicious but deadly.

Adding to Liz's list, I also think Comic-Con is like Halloween. Everyone's dressed in ridiculous costumes and amped up like they're in Georgetown on Oct. 31 circa the mid-'80s.

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Jeremy Bentham: PLEASE PLEASE give us an update on "Lost" news. No one has reported on the Octagon recruiting, or any other news. Help. I need a fix.

washingtonpost.com:

Jen Chaney: As you can see from the video, the recuiting is happening now. You have to sign up for an appointment, then you go inside a booth and they ask questions and determine whether you passed.

If I fail the Dharma test, I'm going to feel like a total tool. I mean, Ben's dad (aka Uncle Rico) passed. How hard can it be?

Liz Kelly: Jen, trust me -- compared to some of the other folks I've seen walking around town (like that Shrek guy, who I also had the misfortune to see) -- you have no reason to feel like a tool.

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Baltimore: I am so jealous! I've always wanted to go to the Nerd Prom.

Jen Chaney: And here I've been calling it Lord of the Geeks: The Fellowship of the Dorkballs. Nerd Prom is good, too.

I definitely hope to come back. For all of the hassles -- waiting for shuttles, waiting to get into panels, searching the Convention Center like a deranged lunatic because you can't find a power outlet for your stupid computer with a junky battery (not that this happened to me) -- it's a huge blast.

And as much as we bust on everyone for being geeks (and I include myself in the geekhood), people are incredibly nice and just so earnestly excited to be here and meet their favorite stars. And by stars, I mean Stan Lee. Seriously, that dude had a mess of people rushing him yesterday.

Liz Kelly: Just wanted to echo Jen's sentiment about people here being nice. They truly are -- it's kind of jarring coming from D.C., where people can tend to be a little pinched (for lack of a better word) to an environment of people who are 100 percent ecstatic to be here and feel a sense of community.

And nerd prom is pretty apt. There are a lot of folks here who I would guess had a pretty rough time of it in high school. And you can see how happy they are to be here with others who share their passion-to-the-point-of-mania for this stuff.

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Arlington, Va. : Is it me, or is this event becoming bigger and bigger with more and more media coverage each year? What was once just a summertime oddity seems like a major event in journalism now, like the Oscars or the Super Bowl or even a political convention.

Liz Kelly: Right. EW had a chart in their special Comic-Con issue charting the event's rise from obscurity to a full-on "must" for the studios and networks. As for attendance, as I said above, it's in the 150K range and every journalism outlet is here -- from People and EW all the way down to mom-and-pop comics bloggers.

I was telling Jen last night about the group of reporters at the "Push" and "Knowing" round table interviews with me. Before Dakota Fanning and co. came out, some of them were lamenting the onslaught of Hollywood talent and longing for a return to the good old days. What does Dakota Fanning have to do with comics, they wondered. One reporter kept pointedly asking all the actors who their favorite superhero is, as if he just couldn't bring himself to report on their actual projects.

As a newbie to the convention my take is -- sure it may have gone Hollywood, but judging by the ROAR from the crowd yesterday when Keanu Reeves appeared on-stage in front of 6,000+ fans -- well, I think the fans are okay with that.

Jen Chaney: Based on that EW chart, attendance has more than tripled in the past five years. I understand the concern about Comic-Con getting away from its roots. But I think you only have to walk the end of the Exhibit Hall where the small publishers and independent comic folks sit to see that the heart of the conference still exists.

And I think there is just so much going on at any given point that one can either choose to pursue the big-ticket Hollywood items or to seek out the smaller panels. It's no longer just a comic book convention and it hasn't been for sometime.

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Old Fogey, Wyo.: I like this Twitter thing a lot, but am not sure I'm using it to full effect. Does it do something more than just serve as an IM of Comic-Con updates?

Liz Kelly: Good question. I have to admit that I'm pretty new to Twitter myself, but enjoying it immensely. There's just something satisfying about having someone to share all my inner angst and revelations with and, of course, to get you timely breaking news out of the Con. F'rinstance, yesterday's surprise appearance by Hugh Jackman who showed some of the first footage from the just-finished-filming "X Men Origins: Wolverine."

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Chicago: What's the best cartoon on T.V.? The boondocks, Aqua Teen Hunger Force or South Park?

Liz Kelly: Duh. Simpsons. Hands down.

And, no, it's not always a home run anymore, but each season still contains a few gems.

Jen Chaney: I agree with Liz. "The Simpsons" was, is and remains my favorite show of all time.

I also enjoy the "Robot Chicken" from time to time.

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Location Unknown: Can you tell me what city or cities were used as the location shots for Gotham City in The Dark Knight? It looked like New York and it looked like L.A., but it also looked like places I had never seen before. I'm pretty sure Gotham City is a fictional place right ?

Jen Chaney: This is only vaguely off-topic, so I'll answer it. I believe much of "Dark Knight" was shot in Chicago. People always think of Gotham as New York, but technically it's a fictional place.
Bringing this back to Comic-Con, it's abundantly clear what a phenom "Dark Knight" is already. I mean, we know how much money it made, but so many people are dressed as the Ledger's Joker, or wearing the masks worn during the bank heist scene. It's amazing. One dude stood up during a panel yesterday, wearing a "Harvey Dent for President" T-shirt. Then he yelled into the mic: "Comic-Con Rocks!" Naturally, his pithiness was met with applause.

Liz Kelly: I believe they also did some of the filming in Hong Kong. In fact, "Dark Knight" was there filming at the same time as "Push" -- the Dakota Fanning movie.

Jen Chaney: Ah, yes. Thanks for adding that in. Mr. Wayne does indeed go overseas in the movie, so that makes sense.
(And no, that doesn't count as a spoiler. So shut it.)

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Baltimore: If you run into the DC Comics guys, can you ask them if they're going to bring Superboy back now that the Superboy lawsuit is settled?

washingtonpost.com: Super snit in 'Smallville'(Variety, April 2006)

Jen Chaney: Yes, we can ask. Odds of us running into them in crowds of 100,000-plus? Pretty slim. But you never know.

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Falls Church, Va.: Liz and Jen -- so are you basically the most popular people there, being female and all?

Liz Kelly: No, because we're not dressed like slutty schoolgirls, like many of the women here who I'm guessing are channeling some kind of manga stereotype.

Jen Chaney: Obviously, Liz, you haven't seen the outfit I plan to wear today.

Also, the most popular people here are Frank Miller and Stan Lee. Liz and I can't touch them with a 10-foot-graphic novel.

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Alexandria, Va.: It seems that Comic-Con has become a movie and film con. (If there weren't enough other evidence, the fact that you two are covering it would be sufficient to confirm that.) Can you estimate what percentage of the panels and displays and so forth are devoted to comics, and what percentage is connected to movies and TV? I know that it can be hard to tell the difference. Thanks.

Liz Kelly: I think the overwhelming majority of panels are still comics-related. They may be in smaller rooms and not attract a massive crowd and press coverage, but they're still going on.
Also yesterday, I walked by the staging area where about 100 fledgling comic book artists were nervously waiting to have their portfolios reviewed by a professional.
As Jen said above, Comic-Con is still about comics. It's just about other stuff, too.
I can't believe no one's asked me yet what Corey Feldman was wearing when I interviewed him.

Jen Chaney: To add to that part about portfolios being reviewed, plenty of people in the comic world get "discovered" here and wind up sitting on panels themselves in a couple of years. So it's a very important event for that reason, too.
Like Liz said, the big Hollywood stuff gets a lot of press because they tend to show teasers or unveil surprises at Comic-Con, which naturally gets the media revved into overdrive to cover it. The people behind "Lost" have become masters at this.

Liz, what was Corey Feldman wearing?

Liz Kelly: I'm glad you asked, Jen!

Corey -- who is basically tiny -- was dressed in creme from head to toe. Creme sneaks. Creme bondage-looking pants (replete with lots of laces and buckles), creme matching jacket -- with its own complement of buckles -- and, the crowning glory: a creme bead-dazzled t-shirt that forced me to squint, it was so spangle-y. Also, he had nicely done highlights.

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Methinks: For those of us not schooled in the ways of Comic-Con, what is the average CC attendee like? Just the basics: Age, gender, median income/educational level, political affiliation?

Jen Chaney: I am not sure there is an average, honestly. It's a tremendously mixed bag.

You've got your garden variety, stereotypical Comic-Con folks: White, male, 40-ish, vaguely resembling Chris Elliott.

But there are plenty of females, tweeners (see the screamers during yesterday's "Twilight" panel), twenty-somethings, even babies. And ethnic groups of all sorts are represented, too.

Liz Kelly: Right -- it's an extremely diverse group.

Re: those middle-aged white males. I would love to do a gallery of guys who resemble Comic Book Guy. But that would be mean, right?

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I love Robot Chicken, too!: I just wanted to say...

Jen Chaney: It is pretty brilliant. They're doing a panel today. Too much to do at once!!

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Downtown D.C.: I'm as big a LOST fan as anyone, but can you report back on any Pushing Daisies tidbits you might learn at the show runner's panel later? I hear Brian Fuller's also supposed to be on panel.

Jen Chaney: Yet another thing I want to check out today. I am hoping to get there, and if I do, I will indeed report back.

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Reporting 101: How did you prep for this event? I know you're a Celebritologist by trade, Liz, and that you're a movie/tv/pop culture diva, Jen, but did this require introducing yourselves to vast new genres...or were you already knowledgeable?

Liz Kelly: I'm here to cover celebrities, so I didn't feel the need to immerse myself in comic book culture, though I have read some of the biggies -- "Watchmen" and "Y: The Last Man," for instance.
But I experienced a kind of awakening when I walked the small press area of the exhibition floor -- there were so many cool underground comics available that piqued my interest, well, I plan to go back and load up on Sunday before this thing shuts down.

Jen Chaney: I think I have a working knowledge of a lot of what's here, though certainly not everything. Not even close. There are so many cult-favorite, niche things here that it's hard to be an expert on everything
Because of the massive amount of things happened, my approach was to winnow down the schedule, choose the things I felt like I should cover (which is still a ton -- our combined winnowed down schedule is 17 printed pages) and make sure I know what's up with those. Otherwise, I'd have to do nothing but study for Comic-Con for nine months.

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Washington, D.C.: Who's the cutest guy there? The hottest?

Jen Chaney: My early vote (and I say this without having seen Hugh Jackman yesterday -- dang!) is Robert Pattinson from "Twilight," who may have made a few preteen girls faint yesterday.

Of course, the pendulum will swing in another direction if, say, Josh Holloway or Matthew Fox shows up during the "Lost" panel tomorrow. Is it bad form to weep with joy during a Comic-Con panel? Just askin'....

Liz Kelly: What, the Shrek guy didn't win your heart?

Jen Chaney: He would if he looked like Josh Holloway.

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Methinks: Are you kidding? It would totally NOT be mean to do a photo gallery of "comic book guy(s)". Please oh, please oh...

And thank you for describing that ridiculous outfit Feldman was wearing. I meant to ask earlier...

Liz Kelly: Well, I do have a bit more leeway today. I'll see what I can do.

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Jealous in Virginia: Thanks for getting up early to do this chat. I'm a middle-aged woman who attended Comic-Con last year for the first, and probably only, time and had a blast. I found that no matter how organized I was in mapping out a schedule, I probably didn't get to do half of what I wanted. As working press -- and fans -- are you actually getting any time to do anything just as a fan, or are you basically on-call 24/7 for the paper?

Liz Kelly: We indulged our inner fans a bit on Wednesday evening when we shlepped over to the convention center for preview night. Let me rephrase -- we indulged after waiting in line for two hours to pick up our press credentials. Everything here -- as I'm sure you know from attending -- is optimized for the fans and press is a bit of an afterthought. So, while there were dozens of reps checking in fans, there were only four checking in the hundreds of reporters, photographers, videographers, bloggers, etc., here covering the whole thing.

So back to our inner fans -- we walked the exhibition hall Wednesday night and got to check in on some favorites (Giant Robot kiosk, hello!) and I'm actually going to try to find some time this evening to geek out at a Simpsons Collectors panel.

But, getting one-on-one time with Sam Jackson and quizzing Dakota Fanning about her online habits isn't exactly hardship duty. I'm also looking forward to today's "Watchmen" panel... and not just because it is sure to be one of the biggest talkers of the convention, but because I have a big crush on Billy Crudup, who may or may not be here.

Jen Chaney: Sorry, meant to answer this earlier.

I won't get to do half of what I want either, probably. A lot of awesome things (especially today and tomorrow) are scheduled at the same time. I can't go to "The Spirit" panel and the TV showrunners panel, for example, because there is overlap.

We are mostly on call for the Web site. But we're fortunate in that a lot of the things we both love are things we are required to cover for work. So there is some overlap between the two.

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Chicago: The Dark Knight was filmed in Chicago, mostly on LaSalle street.

Jen Chaney: We mentioned Chicago, but not the specific street. Thanks for the detail.

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Baltimore: What's the buzz on Watchmen?

Jen Chaney: The buzz is positive at the moment, based on the trailer and the throngs of people who were gaping at Nite Owl's ship here. But all that could change if the panel doesn't go over well today.

That is just such a daunting project to take on. You never want to screw up any book or graphic novel that is highly regarded. And "Watchmen" is considered the best comic ever by many, so the potential to muck it up is great. That said, the trailer looks pretty great, at least in terms of matching the look of the comic.

Liz Kelly: And if Jen didn't do it yesterday already, we'll make sure to get a picture of the full-sized Nite Owl's ship that sits on the exhibition floor and have our pal Troy post it to the photo gallery we've been compiling.

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Best cartoon: Family Guy and South Park are funnier than the Simpsons. Picking the Simpsons is like picking Jay Leno over Jon Stewart (or Colbert). But nothing tops The Tick, which is the best superhero cartoon ever.

Liz Kelly: Well comparing The Simpsons to The Tick is an apples to oranges comparison, so I object.

Jen Chaney: OK, you can't call "The Simpsons" Jay Leno. Reason No. 1: "The Simpsons" is actually funny.

Reason No. 2: As long as it's been on, it still manages to have a subversive streak. Not as much as it once did, but it's there.

That said, I do like "South Park" and "The Tick" is cool. I can't get into "Family Guy," though. I'm not sure why, it just doesn't do it for me.

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Mens Wear Dept., Tysons Corner: Since Comic-Con is Nerd Central, are you seeing a higher than normal incidence of pleated pants and shorts? Have there been any sightings of Gary Coleman or his nemesis, the evil taco?

Liz Kelly: No Gary Coleman sightings yet, though I did notice Erin Gray ("Buck Rogers", "Silver Spoons") signing autographs yesterday. And I believe Erik Estrada is going to be manning a booth today, as well.

As for pleated pants -- who can tell under all the costumes?

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The attendance count: I always thought that was actually a total body count over the four days, i.e. divide that 150,000 by four and get 37,500. I don't really think the convention center can hold 150,000. Announcing numbers like that is deceiving.

Jen Chaney: True, that's a good point. It certainly feels like there are 150,000 people here, though. And I bet 70,000 of them are already in line for the shuttle I need to hop on in about five minutes.

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Atlanta: I read that Hugh Jackman thanked the fans for "making his career." Seems like a pretty stand up thing to say considering the X-Men flicks probably allow him to pursue other, less profitable ventures. Do most of the actors seem good about the fan adulation/obsession or are they just holding their collective noses at doing what they have to do?

Liz Kelly: Indeed, he did. Hugh did a great job of thanking the fans -- saying that without them there would be no Wolverine movie. And it seemed heartfelt. Of course the guy's an actor, so... but trust me, virtually all of the talent is thanking the fans because the buzz that comes out of Comic-Con has far-reaching effects on their projects. A tepid or annoyed fan base will not help the bottom line.

Jackman also ran into the audience to shake the hand of Wolverine creator Len Wein. Classy move and one sure to win over even the Comic-Con purists.

Jen Chaney: Taylor Lautner from "Twilight" was also sure to emphasize the fan base and how appreciate he is of that. It's smart PR. And I am sure many of the people here realize how much they owe to these loyal supporters so they genuinely do want to thank them.

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Liz Kelly: This just in: My Samuel L. Jackson video interview, which should be posted to the blog shortly, too.

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Richmond: Any news from either the "Dexter" or "Torchwood" panels? I'm interested in inside info on the new seasons (or, mini-series, in the case of "Torchwood").

Jen Chaney: Unfortunately, I missed those. So no news. I can tell you there are huge Dexter promos on many of the buses in town. These are the graphic prints that were done (I think) by the same artist who did the Obama posters. Except these say "Power Saw to the People," which probably isn't something Obama wants to convey to potential voters.

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Twilight-er: Anything from the Twilight interviews yesterday? I am dying for this movie to come out.

Jen Chaney: I blogged about this last night, so you can get many of the details there. I think some of the stars of the movie aren't totally prepared for all this mayhem and mania. Robert Pattinson seemed like a decent guy. Cam Gigandet, who plays James, had trouble putting his sentences together. May have been nerves.

Several of them seemed jittery during the panel in Hall H, too. The scene they showed from the movie was met with super-loud screams. Then again, so was that pivotal moment when Pattinson moved a strand of his hair...

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Bawlmer: How does a movie qualify, as it were, for Comic-Con inclusion? I'm thinking here of Pineapple Express -- though it looks fun, I'm not seeing the fantasy/sci-fi/comics connection. Have you seen any displays or promos that kind of make you wonder what they're doing there?

Liz Kelly: I'm not sure if there are hard and fast rules. It seems that the panels are more by studio than actual move. So, while there might be a bit of a fantastic tinge to "Push" (about clairavoyant kids) and "Knowing" (about a document that predicts some doomsday scenarios for the world), the studio presenting them here -- Summit Entertainment -- also brought the raunchy road trip movie "Sex Drive," hoping that it would appeal to the 18-35-year-old male demographic that flocks to Comic-Con.

By the way -- it may turn out to be the hit of October -- but not one reporter turned out for the roundtables with the "Sex Drive" stars, so my table ended up talking to star Josh Zuckerman out of pity. Nice guy.

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Silver Spring, Md.: Is this the convention where people dress up as furry animals or the one that makes 28-year-old losers think it's OK to still be playing with Planet of the Apes dolls?

Liz Kelly: Yes.

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Liz Kelly: Okay, that's it for us. We'll be (hopefully) live blogging tomorrow afternoon's "Lost" panel and I'll be Twittering through Sunday. So it's okay to go ahead and spend your weekend with us.

Jen Chaney: I'm off to interview some robots. Thanks for all of your questions. Wish you were all here, as long as that didn't make the lines longer!

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