Under normal circumstances, it isn't ideal for a TV show to make its big Comic-Con splash in the potentially cavernous Ballroom 20 without its leading man and leading lady in attendance.
But there was USA's "Burn Notice" filling the hall on Thursday (July 23), sans stars Jeffrey Donovan and Gabrielle Anwar. Comic-Con organizers were probably never worried, though, because they knew that "Burn Notice" has one very not-so-secret weapon. That would be Mr. Bruce Campbell.
If there's any crowd in the world capable of being held fully in the sway of actor, writer, director, pitchman and raconteur Bruce Campbell, it's the Comic-Con crowd. And nobody left disappointed.
"It's like watching a rock star work the crowd," said very talented (but unavoidably overshadowed) "Burn Notice" guest star Jay Karns. "It's like watching a comic and a rock star."
From the panel's beginning -- Campbell walked in to the sort of lengthy "Bruuuuuuce" chorus that only denim-wearing rockers from New Jersey -- to its end, the "Evil Dead" star was holding court, clearly appreciative of his appreciators.
"Thank you for for watching," began Campbell's final statement. "If you didn't, we wouldn't be here right now. We'd be in the ballroom over there watching the new 'Twilight.'"
Some of the finer moments of wit and wisdom delivered by Campbell throughout the "Burn Notice" panel:
*** "'How was Comic-Con, Bruce?' 'Expensive.'" Through the panel, Campbell delivered cash to three people in the crowd out of gratitude for questions daring to probe the depths of his awesomeness. [Two of the payoffs went to the same person, much to Campbell's amusement and chagrin.]
*** What was "Burn Notice" doing at Comic-Con anyway? Well, Campbell explained that his character's last name -- Axe -- fulfilled the horror aspect. Plus, "Science fiction -- If you've ever been to Miami, you know there's lots of aliens there... Fantasy -- What does 'Burn' Notice have to do with fantasy? Well my character, Sam Axe, sleeps with a string of rich Miami women and that's a heck of a fantasy for me."
*** Asked when it's time for him (not specifying between Campbell and Sam Axe): "Ask my wife of 17 years if it's time to settle down. As for Sam Axe, why would he? He's still laying the hammer down."
*** Despite the aforementioned wife of 17 years, when Campbell was asked about Sam's appreciation for mojitos and what he'd want on a date with her [the questioner], the actor replied, "A room and your naked body.... I can't see you out there. So I may change that. That's a good start. There's a Xena out there I want to boff. But there's a Pikachu who's hotter than hell."
*** Campbell's advice to aspiring filmmakers? "Don't copy anybody. Don't copy Quentin Tarantino. Don't copy Sam Raimi. Don't copy Martin Scorsese. Make people copy you."
*** Was Campbell offered a role in Sam Raimi's "Drag Me to Hell"? "No I was not offered a role in 'Drag Me to Hell.' That's the answer to your question. Amy I happy about that? No. Will Sam pay for that? Yeah. Because he's gonna have to put me in 'Spider-Man 4, 5 and 6.'"
It wasn't like Campbell was totally a one-man show, though.
Some other, non-Bruce Campbell, "Burn Notice" panel highlights:
*** After a lot of joking about whether or not "House" veteran Michael Weston actual had to audition for his recent guest-starring role opposite the fictional Westen, Nix suggested that Weston had once been tossed out for the role of Weston, but "That would have been a little twee."
*** On the mystery/backstory involving Michael's father, Nix said, "To be honest, when you start out writing a television pilot, your expectation really is that your script will be put in a drawer and forgotten forever. And you don't think about the fact that if you write in a missing father in a show that contains a mystery element, the entire world will say, 'The father is a mystery.'" Nix then pronounced, in no uncertain terms, that Michael was not burned by his father.
*** On Michael's fantastic inventions, gizmos, gadgets and technological workarounds, Nix and Alfredo Barrios Jr. said that the show's ex-spy consultant came up with many of the ideas, but, as Barrios put it, "The bulk of it is just stuff you get on the internet. It's surprising what you can find. Kinda scary, too." Nix added that the show still has a safety policy, saying "Let's not teach anybody how to kill themselves, too specifically. It should require another step after the episode. You must go to the Internet."
*** Nix on why you rarely see Sam Axe showcasing his fighting skills: "He doesn't really go karate time on people... We imagine Sam having a very powerful right cross. Fights with Sam are usually over quickly."