MrCere writes:

SAN DIEGO – TORn friends, there is yet so much of Comic-Con 2003 that many of you would be interested in that I feel almost powerless to deliver it all. I lack a laptop of my own and so each and every report I filled from there was on a borrowed machine, which made it difficult for both borrower and computer owner. Excuse #2 is that since returning, I have been catching up on the rest of my life which goes on without me when I am gone and demands attention.

So, Con 2003 was an amazing experience, both Tolkien related and not. If you haven’t been to CC, you simply must make plans now for next year. ( I receive no financial remuneration from the Con (which is non-profit) but I am a big supporter of the event because it shines a brighter light on popular culture, including fantasy of all kinds, and the still undiscovered medium of comic books. It is a pop-culture holy land that every geek and true fan must visit at least once. The five-day event is gigantic but to me it always feels intimate because while many there do not share your most specific passions – others do. These people, TORnados for instance, are a joy to meet with and get to know. I have made friends each and every year and deepened those relationships each subsequent year. In behalf of all the TORn staffers in attendance, thank you all for your support and interest, both at Con and on the live web cam and even for reading our reports. But on to the all important details!

Sunday, Day Five of the con, is a bit of a slowdown after the massive Hollywood Day Four. It was a perfect time to host a TORn panel because it allowed us time to sit down and open warm discussions with fans again. We followed the ever-popular Neil Gaimen (book and comic book author), and the CC staff who understood that our core audience would want to sit and chat a spell, told us to carry on as long as needed. Ian Smith had already returned to England or the amazing man might have a complete transcript of every spoken word, assuming he found the panel of interest. I will simply bring you some highlights.

The gregarious and gracious Quickbeam joined TORn founder, designer and workhorse Calisuri and the wise and thoughtful Tookish at the podium to start the discussion. Tookish stalled for a few pre-panel minutes with some groan inducing jokes including some about Uruk-Hai and crossing roads and top ten lists. (If you haven’t delved into the Tookish’s Ticklers section of TORn, what are you waiting for?)

Calisuri, with his ever-ready laptop projecting to the big screen, marched through some TORn statistics including its approximately 95,000 unique visitors per day, ranking it among the top 2,000 most popular web sites in existence – and all without porn!. The stats drew “oohs” and “ahhs” from the audience but it was the audience itself and anybody reading this sentence that deserves the accolades for those impressive numbers. The devotion and contributions of the fans – including the TORn staff – is what drives what has become a powerful internet machine.

Yours truly, MrCere, was then invited onto the podium to speak briefly about line parties which are a true passion of mine and give me an outlet where I can direct my Tolkien energy. I wondered if the wiley old vets of TORn were worried about what I might say in my first public words in TORn’s behalf. I can’t quote myself exactly but I hope I conveyed a desire to help make all the line parties everywhere a way for fans to celebrate this final film in the Tolkien movie trilogy. As somebody who would have loved to be involved in the film in any way, the line parties provide me, a fan, an way to be involved. I hope each fan takes that same opportunity.

I also stated, and deliberately mention here again, that we collectively have made The Lord of the Rings films a great success. The film-makers understand that their core audience, both on and off TORn (but mostly on), fueled the cultural phenomenon by publicly loving these films, by seeing them over and over and over (many of you so many times that it scares me frankly!) and verbally advertised them in a way that media marketing can never match.

With this in mind, New Line does have a very good as yet unveiled idea regarding these Rings movies and its December monster-movie Return Of The King, but alas I must keep it secret and keep it safe so as not to endanger it.

In my line-party dreamland I wish they would ship enough ROTK mini-posters for every line party participant to receive one at their respective line. Keep your eyes peeled at TORn for a potentially amazing announcement from New Line and TORn…eventually. 8) (That was fun but the announcement IS big enough to warrant that type of tease. Stay tuned.)

We then watched about three minutes of the Salt Lake City 2002 Towers video which away from CC seems amazing but in the midst of 80,000 geeks a nine-foot Ent seems like business as usual.

Calisuri then trotted out a presentation about the many and fun potential spoilers in ROTK. I couldn’t write fast enough to keep up with the speculation and I think most or all of it has crossed TORn many times, but to see it all presented together was really a treat. To be perfectly honest I tried not to let too much of it sink in because I want to enjoy ROTK as much as possible. The highlight of the presentation however wasn’t pictures or text on screen but the commentary from the panel that went along with it. Quickbeam, having stood for the full measure of a day atop the ramparts of Minis Tirith during actual filming, was able to lend some flavor to certain set-pictures and speculations. Between the three experts, a lot of theories were presented, all fascinating and maybe some of the true! Weeks of re-shoots has made everything we know about the film suspect.

One big cat that somebody let out of the bag, that should many a TORnado’s broken heart are some Faramir details. Our spy reported that among the 42-minutes of footage to be released on The Two Towers Extended Edition disc will be a lovely section that features Faramir watching his brother glide past in a boat, cloven horn and all.

Then, the very man who is the focus for much of TORn’s fandom freak-out will flashback to a scene with Faramir, Boromir and Denathor which will put the memorable line about Faramir’s quality into a deeper, more meaningful context. Much of the anguish over characterization will be gone as we become privy to his deepest motivations. David Wenham’s, will I suspect, be powerfully enriched as it becomes clearly understood. This is all just a rumor but I think you can absolutely bank on it being true. Imagine if New Line someday decides to release the Extended Editions of these films back to theaters! Were I King of anything, I would plan a simultaneous release of the EE and a shorter theatrical version of ROTK this December. It would be a logistical nightmare, but a fanboy is allowed to dream isn’t he? While we are at it, anybody have Liv Tyler’s phone number? 8)

The spiky wheel came out again, a long mainstay of spoiler debate. One poor woman in the audience, obviously not familiar with TORn, wailed when it was mentioned that “obviously there will not be a scouring of the Shire.” In short, there was basically a spoiler parade with TORn serving as the grandmaster, all the floats, a few marching bands, a police motorcycle brigade and television commentators all at the same time. Good, clean geeky fun.

Have I mentioned that TORn also whipped out LOTR footage that was shown at a gaming trade show a few weeks back? I didn’t? Well, it was poor quality, it was smallish and it was RETURN OF THE FREAKING KING FOOTAGE! In short, it was awesome – I bet. It was a montage of images that somebody filmed (no, NOT us – no really) of gaming footage. Not a bad way to spend Sunday afternoon. You want every detail? I am afraid I mostly didn’t watch, trying to keep myself virginal for ROTK in December. I will only see the film for the first time once. I do recall a regal looking king fellow, a fighting-mad Elf and a whitish tinted wizard standing on ramparts looking off into the distance with great emotion playing across his face. I can only guess at what he was looking, but that Sir Ian can emote without a single syllable of sound. Just so you don’t mail everybody at TORn begging, we are not allowed to post this footage. The handcuffs of copyright have been used and honestly, I strongly advise ya’ll to wait as impatiently as I am waiting and let the movie wash over you unspoiled and filled with surprise.

Well, reading all this so far may have taken longer than real-life events and finally TORn turned its time over to the fans. There were scads and scads of prizes to be given out for appropriate questions and the question came in great doses. I must credit the askers because they were intelligent and appropriate. Sometimes, the panel would have a whole lot to say. The passionate Quickbeam for example responded to an honest query about Tolkien and racism (check the greenbooks if you haven’t already) with an honest and informative answer. After a bit it became obvious that there would not be time for what could have been a fascinating panel on its own and the asker and the answerer decided to chat afterwords for an even better exchange. I am sure boat-loads of prizes didn’t hurt the motivations for prizes, but folks seemed awfully sincere for the most part.

One young lad who had the great misfortune of losing his backpack, or rather of having it lifted, hauled in a lovely and completely sold out Aragorn statue from Sideshow/WETA that elicited gasps and squeals from those attending. Hopefully the statue will leave him with some good memories to go along with the grim wish for revenge that comes with being robbed. Eventually the CC officials came forward to cut us off, despite their earlier invitation, and break down the chairs in the room. I watched the faces of those bucking to ask final questions before the curtain fell on the panel, and for most, on the whole weekend. There was some real angst as the last few folks were squeezed in. TORn and some of the dedicated Tolkien fans could have gone on all day.

There is yet more to tell regarding *TORN’S CLEAN-UP* and my *OVERVIEW* of the entire CC.