SDCC 2011: GameSpot’s Ricardo Torres

In this second installment of our SDCC interviews, we talk with Ricardo Torres, GameSpot‘s Editor-in-Chief, about our favorite pop culture convention from outside of the hallowed halls of the San Diego Convention Center.

Torres discusses the evolution of Comic-Con International, GameSpot’s role at the convention, the new DCU 52, and more!  Having attending the convention over the past decade, Torres has seen everything SDCC has to offer, both as a fan and as a reporter, and he has a fascinatingly unique perspective on nerdvana.  You should watch, unless you don’t like wonderfully cool people.

Thanks, Ricardo!

Open the Fridge: Ricardo, thank you for joining us.

Ricardo Torres: Thank you for having me.

OTF: So tell us, how long have you been coming here to SDCC?

RT: Oh, man… over ten [years], probably like twelve at this point.

OTF: Wow. So you’ve seen this grow from the small convention that it was, when people sold comics out of cardboard boxes, to the giant media-rich behemoth it is now?

RT: Yeah, it’s very mind boggling because 10, 12 years ago, it was much smaller. It really was a lot more intimate, and now it’s scaled up so hugely. It’s really amazing because, as it’s grown, you’ve kind of gotten a sense that pop culture has wrapped its arms around comics and games and movies and TV, specifically in sci-fi and fantasy in a way that it never has before. So, it’s kind of awesome because it validates the kind of stuff that we like, right?

OTF: Absolutely. It seems like geeks and nerds and kind of taking over pop culture, Hollywood, and beyond. SDCC is a prime example of that.

RT: You know, the reality is that there’s no such thing as a “geek” or a “nerd” anymore. Because how do you define that? We all have very similar tastes now, right? You look at the numbers of Harry Potter; you look at the numbers of Twilight… And [that’s] talking about vampires and wizards. I mean, come on. Theoretically, by definition, that should just be “geek stuff,” but it’s not. There aren’t “geeks” anymore.

OTF: So what are you looking forward to the most from the convention this year?

RT: I have a soft spot for Spider-Man, so I really want to see everything I can about the new Spider-Man movie. I, for sure, want to check that out. Game-wise, I’m really excited to get my hands on Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3. That got announced [yesterday.] I was a huge fan of the original, and this one has a bunch of improvements and more characters, which is all I wanted.

OTF: For those who haven’t seen it yet, what new characters are coming in this game?

RT: Ghost Rider, Hawkeye, Strider. He’s a Capcom character that hasn’t been in his own game in a while, but he has a very loyal fanbase, so that’s pretty cool that they’re bringing him back.

OTF: And there are rumors of Phoenix Wright being involved?

RT: They haven’t announced the whole roster yet. You may be wishing, but he’s not announced yet.

OTF: Outside of the video games, you mentioned you were excited about the new Spider-Man. What else is exciting you? Cowboys and Aliens, for example, is world premiereing here. Captain America is coming out in a few days…

RT: Yeah, Cowboys and Aliens, I’m really excited about. Captain America, I’m very curious about. That is a tough one to translate to the screen. If you know the book, for a long time, they just treated him like a big boy scout. He got really interesting the past couple of years, so now there’s a lot to work with, but how do you take all that and make it work on screen? He’s got a super rich history, and it’s not as clear cut as, like, a Spider-Man.

OTF: For Gamespot, what kind of coverage are you giving the convention this year?

RT: For Gamespot, this is an opportunity for us to have a lot of fun. We just had E3 last month. That’s kind of our Comic-Con, in a way, because it’s strictly focused on games – all kinds of new annoucements, new hardware. This past year was a great one, but, for us, it’s a lot of work. It’s super fun, but it’s a lot of work to nail everything.

Here [at SDCC], there is a game presence. There are some new games, like Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 and a few other odds and ends, but it’s not quite as stressful. So we get to indulge in our stuff. We are going to cover the games; we’re going to cover some of the TV stuff; we’re going to cover some of the movie stuff. Clearly, there’s going to be stuff on toys. We have to do stuff on toys!

Comic-Con is a great intersection for all that. You have companies like DC Direct that make incredible action figures. And [they’re] high-end stuff, too. We’re not going to talk about the Power Battery in my office or the Kryptonite display or the ring display, but they do make those items and you can purchase them!

OTF: Haha! Yeah, we don’t have to talk about the fact that we think we know someone who has them

RT: Yeah, so we don’t have to talk about that. But they also do video game toys, as well. DC Direct has been doing the incredible World of Warcraft action figures. They’re up to, like, Series 5 or 6, and they’re going to have all of their upcoming prototypes here. That is the coolest thing – if you’re into toys, they’re going to show the stuff that you’ll be blowing your money on in the next six months to a year. And they all look so great.

OTF: As you said, you’ve been coming to this convention for about a decade now. What about Comic-Con, do you think, is the biggest draw for people coming here? I know that’s a hard question because there’s so much going on, not just in the convention hall, but out in the Gaslamp District right across the street and into Downtown. But what do you think is the biggest draw nowadays?

RT: So this is a little crazy, but I think it’s two things. More introspectively, it’s validation for a lot of these guys. Sometimes, some of the folks that come here aren’t in the super popular crowd at school, even though everybody has the same interests. But you come here, and it’s a safe place. You can dress up in a costume, you can do whatevery you want, and no one’s going to look at you funny. This is all something that we’re all celebrating. Being validated as part of this celebration, I think, is great for a lot of people.

It’s also a really great testatment to the power that these people hold with all of these different industries. You tell me, where else, at any other event in the world, you would actually get an A-list celebrity that is within touching distance of all of these people, or would be in a situation where anybody in the audience can walk up to a microphone and ask them a question?

OTF: Yeah, that doesn’t happen anywhere.

RT: That never happens. I think if you look at a lot of the pop culture stuff that’s out there, like the red carpets… All of that is very controlled, and it’s limited access to certain press and what have you. They don’t care here. Literally, you can bump into people. Comic-Con is the great equalizer. You will bump into people on the show floor, sometimes, just shopping. A couple years ago, I bumped into Seth Rogen, and he had bags of stuff. And I bumped into him because I had a bags of stuff.

It’s the great equalizer because everyone has this shared passion. It’s really awesome to see that you’re maybe not as misplaced or as out-of-step as you might feel sometimes. I think that’s the great thing.

OTF: Any tips of the trade you want to offer us for covering the convention? And for our readers for surviving the convention?

RT: All right. First things first, be respectful when you approach celebrities. Massive party foul to go up to someone at the urinal. It’s been done! But don’t do it! That’s bad.

Pace yourself on your shopping. Shopping is crazy because the “Comic-Con Exclusive” has taken on a life of its own. There’s now a whole page on the site that says “Here’s all the stuff you can get!” And as I learned last year: really pay attetion to just how big these object are! Sometimes, the website is like a rear-view mirror: objects may appear bigger than they are. There was a Galactus action figure a couple of years ago. It looked awesome. I didn’t know he was this big, but he was! I got a Starro set with the Justice League that was a proper box, and I was like, “Ooookay!” So you want to be careful. Pace yourself. Know that there is a Fedex/Kinko’s in here open on Sunday, so you can just send it all home. Of course, that’s a sign that you may want to rethink your shopping habits, when you can’t actually physically take back what you bought and you have to ship it to yourself.

Get in line early for the panels. For Hall H and for Ballroom 20, it’s going to get crammed.

OTF: No kidding. There’s people lined up for Hall H right now! [Ed. note: And this was on Wednesday, the day before the convention officially opened!]

RT: Oh, yeah. There’s a Twilight panel, I think, Thursday or Friday. I wouldn’t be surprised if people weren’t in line for that right now. Again, you get to see these celebrities; you get to ask them questions. That kind of interaction just doesn’t happen anywhere else.

OTF: Well, seeing as this is Comic-Con, and clearly you know you stuff, I have to ask about comic books. What is your opinion of the DC reboot?

RT: Okay, so I’m either going to make a lot of friends or a lot of enemies here, but I am not currently a fan of the reboot. I think, like a lot of people, I’ve just seen what’s been released on the internet officially and unofficially, and I think I’m having that human reaction [being opposed to change.] Bear in mind, I’ve been a little [on the fence] on DC ever since the Wonder Woman reboot.

Don’t get me wrong: I’m all about evolving the character, but the pants thing and the early-90s Bolero jacket… She kind of looked like one of the girl groups from the early 90s! I wasn’t too thrilled with that. I was happy that it looks like she got her shorts back for the reboot, from the leaked imagery we’ve seen. I hope they’re going to stick with what we like, what we know, and just evolve the character. Honestly, she didn’t need to be rebooted. George Perez did a phenomenal job with her reboot in the mid-80s. We don’t have to do that again.

As far as Superman goes, he’s been rebooted a lot. I’m not going to hold a lot of stock in the

aren’t together because you know that’s going to change. The one constant in comic books is that, no matter how often they try and change things, it always comes back.

OTF: Always end up hitting that reset button again.

RT: Yeah, Superman’s been dead, I forget how many… I remember the first time he died! And he keeps coming back. They split him up into Red and Blue. They made a lot of change to him, but he keeps coming back. Batman died; he came back. He seems to be all right. Let’s not get into how times Professor Xavier could walk and had his spine broken.

OTF: And how many times Jean Grey has seen the afterlife.

RT: It’s all up and down! It’s an emotional roller coaster for the fans. But, back to your question, right now, I think I’m on the fence about the reboot. They’re making a lot of change… Some books needed it, don’t get me wrong, but I”m a little disappointed. Green Lantern had such a phenomenal run in the past couple of years with all of the Lantern stuff that they did; it’s been great! It got me so excited for that book in a way that I hadn’t been in years. I’m kind of bummed out that, maybe as part of this reboot, it’s all going to be tweaked. Again, same thing about that Wonder Woman stuff that Perez did. I was really bummed to see that go away. Aside from the fact that his art is just phenomenal, the story writing was great when he did it. It just made sense. And that’s saying something when she’s just walking around essentially in hot pants, a push up bra, and a rope. But he made it work. So I’m a little worried where they’re going. Batman, on the other hand… I’m iffy about some of the recent changes there. Wasn’t a huge fan of Batman, Inc., so, in that respect, I am happy about the reboot.

You know, “emotional rollercoaster,” I think, is the adjective I’d use to describe the reboot. They’re going to talk about it here, and I’m going to go to a couple of their panels because I want to see. You know that when they open it up to Q/A, that’s going to be some good times.

OTF: Yeah, absolutely, because I’m sure you’re not the only one who is questioning the logic behind it all.

RT: I’m sure.

OTF: Well, thank you, Ricardo, for your time. Thanks for chatting with us, and have a great convention!

Once again, thanks for joining us, Ricardo! We’ll chat again in the future!

Written by: Dwight Tejano

Dwight is the founder of Open the Fridge, which he started in 2008 and rebooted in 2010. Due to the nature of early adopting, his bank account is normally empty. He likes to sing in world-renown choruses to forget such things.

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