Comic Con 2013 -- Now Movie Con?
The mutants descended on Comic-Con last weekend in a blur of costumes, celebrities, vendors, artists, and backpacks emblazoned with the latest TV show or videogame. Comic-Con has become such an international event, that it can bring in well over $163 million in a five day period for the San Diego area.
Over 130,000 fans of the event descend on the city to celebrate comic books, film, TV, videogames, Cosplay (costume-wearing) and a plethora of other niche interests. There’s literally something to appeal to everyone, which is why it certainly isn’t just for comic-book nerds or fans of science fiction anymore. It has become such a juggernaut of everything pop culture that it’s almost too overwhelming to fathom.
When the convention first began 40 years ago, it was solely for comic-book fans and garnered about 300 attendees. Today, it is something of a publicity godsend. Film studios have monopolized so much of the exhibition floor that it might as well be renamed "Movie-Com." And that’s not necessarily a bad thing. It’s fun to attend panels with 6200 other screaming fans - keen to get a first look at upcoming films like "Godzilla" and "X-Men." Subsequently, the star power here is as potent as at the Oscars, with many A-List celebrities signing autographs on the exhibition hall floor.
This year brought out the cast of "True Blood," "Thor," "Captain America" and many, many more. Even Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt were in the mix, emblazoning their John Hancock’s to promote next summer’s Sci-Fi extravaganza, "Edge of Tomorrow."
Indeed, the publicity machine is so deft, and so rampant, that Comic-Con has become the place that major studios announce much of their next year’s slate, and reveal coveted information that they know fans will freak out over.
Joss Whedon presented the name of the next Avenger’s movie ("The Avengers: Age of Ultron"), and director Zack Snyder announced his plans to direct a Superman/Batman movie inspired by Frank Miller’s "The Dark Knight Returns." (Without Christian Bale, as he has decided to move on from the role.) Lucky fans were also privy to exclusive footage from "X-Men: Days of Future Past," a first look at the new pirate TV series on Starz called "Black Sails," and AMC even brought along the first scene from their final season of "Breaking Bad" (which isn’t even a genre show!) Furthermore, the fans went absolutely crazy over the first episode of ABC’s new Marvel show "The Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D."
But that’s not all. Some studios prepared "experiences" to promote their product. There was a zombie run/attack at the Petco center, presented by AMC’s "The Walking Dead," and there was also the "Godzilla Encounter," which took place inside a warehouse - designed to look like a Tokyo street, where fans got to experience what it would feel like to be involved in an "actual" Godzilla attack.
Other fun tid-bits were new trailers for "The Hunger Games: Catching Fire," and the kick-starter funded "Veronica Mars" movie. Also, Vin Diesel talked "Riddick," while director Alfonso Cuaron showed off intense footage from his new space thriller "Gravity," starring Sandra Bullock and George Clooney. There really wasn’t any future blockbuster movie that wasn’t represented at the convention, so unless you’re exclusively into romantic comedies or reality shows, there was something at the convention that would’ve thrilled and excited you.
But it’s not all about big studios promoting their wares. Artists from around the globe set up shop to promote anything from fan-concept movie posters and art, to original graphic novels. People sold costumes, self-published genre books, as well as t-shirts, trinkets, and action figures. There is always so much on the main exhibition hall floor - it’s simply impossible to see and experience it all in one day.
And perhaps that is the one problem with Comic-Con. To really experience it, you need to go for at least three of the five days, which can run you a lot of cash. With hundreds of panels to choose from, and the bigger ones having wait times of three to five hours, visiting the world-famous convention requires effort and stamina. Visiting on a Saturday, especially, is a daunting task. The exhibition hall is thick with people and patrolled by security that constantly tells you to "move along", and this can be a problem, because half the fun of Comic-Con is seeing people in costume and getting your picture taken with them. Successfully doing so requires swift action, before being told you’re causing a logjam. Indeed, even standing against certain walls can get you questioned, while rules and directions on how to behave are relatively non-existent. It can be a frustrating experience, but it can be rewarding as well.
A rare breed
Certainly, there’s always that bauble or long-desired item you find at a vendor’s booth on the main floor. There are beloved movie and TV stars that are just feet away. There are hundreds of people as geeky as you, nerding out at the same stuff, making it a communal experience that is somewhat rare. Not even a sporting event brings people together in the way that Comic-Con does. That’s because the folks that attend Comic-Con are a rare breed. They are passionate about their interests. They are people that know the intricate histories of the X-Men’s long lost cousin’s brother’s sister-in-law, or details about gaffes in "Dr. Who" episodes. They understand the obsession that lovers of a certain kind of genre have for what they adore. For a long time these people felt like outsiders, because much of what excited them was too nerdy to be revealed in the light of day. Here, they can let that all go because everyone accepts and celebrates them. It’s kind of a Gay Pride for Comic book/Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Horror fans.
Certainly, Comic-Con is a place to feel welcome and unashamed - a venue to let those obsessions hang out. The Wampa stuffed animal that I bought with absolutely no embarrassment whatsoever can attest to that.