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Comic-Con: Fantasies, welcome and otherwise

Milynn Sarley said she hasn't been groped at Comic-Con, but knows others who have had "bad experiences."
Milynn Sarley said she hasn't been groped at Comic-Con, but knows others who have had "bad experiences." K.C. Alfred

Comic-Con is all about fantasy, but not all fantasies are welcome.

Marla Russell attended the convention Thursday dressed as one of Batman’s foes, Poison Ivy. Her tight, low-cut emerald top and fishnet stockings left little to the imagination — and that was a little too much for one stranger.

“I had a 12- or 13-year-old boy come up and ask if he could touch me,” said Russell, a 19-year-old San Diego State student. “I told him no!”

Inappropriate sexual behavior, ranging from crude comments to groping to surreptitious “up skirt” snapshots, is a serious issue that Comic-Con needs to address, charges a group known as Geeks for CONsent.

The convention’s “Code of Conduct,” printed in the program guide, recognizes that the potential for abuse exists. “Harassing or offensive behavior will not be tolerated,” the “Code” notes. “Comic-Con reserves the right to revoke, without refund, the membership and badge of any attendee not in compliance with this policy.”

Comic-Con did not respond to requests for further comments.

Geeks for CONsent’s petition, which now has more that 2,500 signatures, asks the convention to take further action. Among other steps, the group urged signs in the San Diego Convention Center declaring zero-tolerance for harassment; easier, more publicized ways to report incidents; and anti-harassment training for volunteers.

On Thursday, most Congoers were immersed in the imaginary conflicts found in movies, books and video games. On occasion, though, thoughts about this real-life problem intruded.

“I’ve heard from other people that they’ve had bad experiences,” said Milynn Sarley, whose furry white costume — she was dressed as a Poro, a character in the League of Legends game — bared her legs, midriff and cleavage. “For me, everybody has been incredibly polite. Maybe I’ve been lucky.”

The day was launched on a lighter note, with Mayor Kevin Faulconer and Council President Todd Gloria arriving at a Comic-Con news conference via zip line. The local politicians’ presence underscored the social and economic importance of the city’s largest convention, drawing more than 130,000 attendees. The 45th annual Con is one of the world’s premiere pop culture celebrations — and is a steady producer of Twitter-ific moments.

The cast of Fox’s “24: Live Another Day” shared the bad and the good news of filming in London.

“It was difficult,” said Kiefer Sutherland, who stars as agent Jack Bauer. “They have a lot of rules there.”

Could have been worse. “In London,” executive producer Jon Cassar said, “you would put up a barrier and you would tell people to stay behind it and they would do it. In Los Angeles, they would steal the barrier.”

The panel previewing the upcoming “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” movie featured actors Megan Fox and Will Arnett, plus Kevin Eastman, the cartoonist and co-creator behind these four-legged martial artists. But the unexpected star of the session may have been the moderator, Entertainment Weekly’s Keith Staskiewicz, who crooned the theme song from the original “Mutant Ninja” cartoon show: “Heroes in a half shell, turtle power!”

Animals had star-power at the Con. The thousands packed into Hall H responded with Beatles-on-Ed-Sullivan hysteria to an actor who plays a wolf in an upcoming animated feature, “The Penguins of Madagascar.” Benedict Cumberbatch, the British star of BBC’s “Sherlock,” seems to have that effect.

Sex and violence — make-believe versions — are always in demand, too, sometimes in the same presentation. The next season of “Reign,” a TV drama about Mary, Queen of Scots, will feature bodies covered with the plague — “Not everyone will survive,” executive producer Laurie McCarthy warned — and bodies uncovered with passion.

“Back to the gym,” sighed Megan Follows, whose portrayal of Catherine de Medici will include ample bedroom scenes.

Not all the stars were Hollywood types. At the Dave & Adam’s Card World booth, Oliver Hochron displayed a restored copy of “Detective Comics #27,” the comic book that introduced Batman 75 years ago. The asking price: $500,000. Any takers?

“Let’s just say that one person has shown serious interest in the book,” Hochron said.

The Caped Crusader is typical of the cross-fertilization you see at the Con. Comic books lead to TV shows, TV shows to movies, and artists like Todd McFarlane — creator of the comic book character Spawn — spin off new ventures. McFarlane Toys’ “Walking Dead” building sets, complete with human and zombie figures, will be on Toys “R” Us shelves this fall.

His target audience? Young adults, who may have last played with action figures a decade ago.

“Everybody has touched that project across the aisle,” McFarlane said, nodding to the towering Lego booth near his modest space, “so how do you move that product up for a 25-year-old? The answer is, it has got to look like something a 25-year-old will buy.”

At this convention, looks are critical. Most days, Anna Bowman is a 17-year-old Girl Scout and high school student. But at the Con, she wears a costume — and that costume must be spot on.

The toy grenades strapped to her Lady Deadpool outfit? “I asked for those as a Christmas present last year,” she said.

“The grenades,” noted Natasha Bowman, Anna’s mother and the leader of Santee’s Troop 6093, “and a stuffed animal.”

Staff writers Teri Figueroa, Nina Garin, Dana Littlefield, Karla Peterson, Michael Rocha and Lori Weisberg contributed to this report.



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