The explosion in popularity "Firefly" has enjoyed since it went off the air is a curious phenomeon.
A gaggle of people -- 10,000, according to a couple of reports -- lined up at the queue for Ballroom 20 in anticipation of Friday's panel at Comic-Con 2012 commemorating the 10-year anniversary of the short-lived sci-fi western created by Joss Whedon. Many of those people lined up overnight. Much like an artist whose work becomes popular and relevant only after that artist dies, the show has become exponentially more popular iin post-cancellation than it ever was when it was on the air.
That didn't seem to have the members of the cast and creative team harboring any ill feelings on Friday, at a press conference following the panel.
"We just couldn't miss," Whedon said. "Sometimes these things come together, and they're extraordinary."
"We were right," show runner Tom Minear said. "We were right about it. That universe was fully realized."
Albeit short-lived. The entire run of "Firefly" consists of 14 episodes -- or, roughly one and a half episodes per year since the show debuted. Whedon got the band back together for a big-screen follow-up titled "Serenity", and still the diehard fan base that call themselves the Browncoats hunger for more. Questions at the press conference reflected fandom's yearning for more tales of Captain Malcolm Reynolds, played by Nathan Fillion, and his lovable motley collection of crew.
They asked about comic books.
They asked about video games.
They asked about an animated series.
One questioner even asked if a "Firefly" reboot could be done.
"Yes, because we need a younger cast," Whedon quipped, before going on to suggest Andrew Garfield to play the captain and adding Zac Efron to this "Serenity Juniors" crew.
Whedon, who's gone on to bigger and better things (you might have heard of a little movie he did that came out in May -- and YES someone asked if he was going to direct "Avengers 2" and NO he didn't give a definitive answer) looks at it like this. The reason the show still works is because everything in those 14 episodes clicked so well.
"We just couldn't miss," he said. "Sometimes these things come together, and they're extraordinary."
But what if?
You've heard of people described as being born in the wrong decade, or the wrong continent. Was "Firefly" simply produced during the wrong era of fandom? These days, social media allows fans to post and Tweet to their hearts' content about what they like and dislike about their entertainment of choice. Might the show have had a better shot had social media been as prevalent in 2002 as it is now?
When I posed this question, most of the actors from the cast agreed. Minear? Not so much.
"Unless you have a network that airs the pilot first, you can tweet in vain," he said.
These days, The Science Channel airs repeats of "Firefly", and marathons of the show's full run occur on a semi-regular basis. According to Fillion, that channel airs "Firefly" the way it was meant to be seen, with the episodes in the proper order.
"Firefly" might be gone, but it's left a lasting legacy not only with fans but those who played the parts.
"I got an amazing group of friends. It was the best work I've ever done. And I got a movie," Fillion said.
Attendees at the press conference included Whedon, Minear, Fillion, Adam Baldwin (Jayne), Summer Glau (River) and Alan Tudyk (Wash).
Gonzogeek caught up with Baldwin in the hallway after the press conference and asked him about the other former projeect he was involved in that's surely poised to take a future Comic-Con by storm.
Other highlights from the press conference?
-- Fillion busted out a spectacular William Shatner imitation.
-- The members of the cast and Whedon and Minear shot a reunion special on Friday morning that The Science Channel plans to air in November.
-- Fillion said working with Whedon "taught me how to act. All the time I came up with ideas. He would say, 'That's a great idea... or...' He'd simplify it in a way that makes it real or human. It's a skill not to make people around you feel stupid."
-- Tudyk disappointed one questioner who asked if members of the cast had unearthed any special themes or narrative subtleties in recent viewings of the series with a one-word answer -- "No" -- but did note that re-watching the series recently with fresh eyes provided a unique perspective. "Everything was discovery again," he said, nothing he "knew a lot more about the show" when doing audio commentary with Fillion for the "War Stories" episode.
-- Baldwin said he was surprised that Jayne's hat went viral.
-- Whedon noted the show is very popular with people in two walks of life: astronauts, and members of the military. "Obviously there is a war element," he said. "They're a platoon. Everything is them bonding in the trenches."
-- Whedon, when asked about the pessimistic view of humanity's future depicted in "Firefly", said "I don't have any faith in mankind, but I love my friends desperately. I have faith in my friends and their ability to band together. I don't think we're going to band together and solve problems."