Comic Con is happening right now. I am at home. Some evil creature convinced me to go down yesterday for the day, however. I didn't really want to go because as everybody has been saying for years, Comic Con has changed quite a bit from what it used to be -- a comic book convention. There's a lot of "hey, you kids, get off my lawn" shouting from the old-timers about how things used to be so much better, there are hardly any comics now, there are too many people, parking and hotel rooms are impossible, etc. All of this is true, but none of it is the real reason Comic Con is an epic failure.
Back in the day, you could drive down on Saturday, park in the lot next to the convention center, and then go in and buy comics. You could walk into panels, which featured comic book writers talking about comic books. There was the odd film or TV writing panel, maybe even a panel with book writers on it, but the primary focus was comics. Studios paid some attention to it -- there's an adorable photo of fans watching Star Wars at Comic Con in 1976. Now obviously, upon reflection, this looks more charming than it was.
But think about it for a second.
Making Star Wars was a gamble. This is a kind of half-assed attempt at promotion. "Hey, what about those comics people? Maybe we should show it to them." And then, worldwide phenomenon that changed movies forever. But it's pretty obvious from the photos that it wasn't the Comic Con crowd that pushed Stars Wars forward.
The movie didn't give rise to what's happening at Comic Con now. Its surprising success did. Now every entertainment company is owned by some enormous megacorporation. And the one thing big companies cannot abide is failure, which in corporate-speak means something that doesn't make the shareholders money. Companies don't take chances anymore. We all know that. It's not news. Although if it were, the "reboot" of Spiderman should change minds on that. When companies discovered an untapped but potentially valuable core fanbase being held captive in San Diego for four days, they went to fucking town. Literally. Movies -- and particularly TeeVee -- started invading Comic Con. And real geeks who had spent their lives seeking out cool shit found that the cool shit started coming to them. So for awhile, people were happy. Fans didn't realize that they were being used only as a promotional springboard.
Then more companies, more networks and more studios started getting into the act. And the con organizers bent over fucking backwards to accommodate them. Comic Con became THE destination for the year's entertainment product. There was still a dealer's room with comics and books, toys and artwork. And sure, it got a little more crowded, but that's the price you pay.
I'm here to tell you, gentle readers, that we have far surpassed that now.
It doesn't bother me so much that they oversell, it's the fact that it has become literally COMPLETELY impossible to see what you want to see. And really, when you look at the programming, it's 99% about the moving picture. Panels don't have topics. It's actors coming to promote their movies or shows. And whereas panels used to have all kinds of diversity (whether it be literal diversity or diversity of experience), that diversity is gone now. Could a bunch of writers get together and do a panel at Comic Con if they weren't on staff on an approved show, or had written an approved movie? Doubtful. This is a new era of Comic Con, an era in which only corporate-approved product gets presented to the masses.
The venerated Hall H, the bete noir of many a Comic Con goer, has to be entered with a siege mentality. People sit in Hall H all day long, because that's where the movie studios plop big-name actors to hawk their upcoming movies. I don't have a problem with folks who want to sit there all day to catch a glimpse of Harrison Ford, but this is what ALL of Comic Con has become. It's simply product shilling to trapped consumers.
It's cynical advertising and since the con is so drastically oversold, it creates a false demand that frustrates people. It's become the nerd version of Sundance, where only the privileged few can see what they came to see. Look, if I can't get into something, whatever. I didn't pay to get in anyway, and since I have worked in this business, I can't go five minutes without running into someone I know. If I actually could get a hotel room and stayed down there for the entire thing, I'd spend the majority of my time hanging out and hopefully making some new contacts. I'd treat it like what it's become -- a professional networking scene.
But it really bugs me that people spend ALL that money to buy their passes, their plane tickets, their rooms, their frightfully expensive food, and then can't get into anything they want to see. Then they hear about parties they can't get into, where all the stars/writers/directors they would love to talk to are going. So the major draw of Comic Con -- to talk to/interact with people you admire -- is taken away from them. All they have left is to sit in Hall H all weekend to catch that glimpse of their heroes.
Look, Comic Con outcasts, I can't get into the parties either. But fuck it. It's an artificial class system that's been created by executives who have -- once again -- inserted themselves between you and what you came for. And you can't even pay extra to get it. YOU LITERALLY CAN'T GET IT. So if you're coming to Comic Con just for the crazy-ass experience it does indeed provide, if you want to sit in a ballroom or a hall all day to catch the stars of your favorite show, then do it. But if you're looking for a real convention-going experience, or inspiration, or anything that isn't like wandering into a live-action version of a fucking Google search, then find a different convention. And there are MANY to choose from.
It's gotten to the point where all the whores come out. I mean literally THE WHORES, the girls in their sexy superhero-ess costumes who ride in convertibles writhing to house music as they blow bubbles at the crowd and try to get them to watch whatever-the-fuck reality show. The sexy superhero-esses who crowd every street corner (HOW APPROPRIATE) handing out flyers and asking people if they want to party. "We're having an awesome rave down the street." When this kind of trash arrives, you know the world is ending.
I had fun yesterday, but 99% of the fun I had happened outside the convention center. It was great to run into friends and meet new people, and I wish I'd been able to get a hotel room earlier because staying the entire weekend and just doing THAT would have been fun. But geez, they just make it immediately inaccessible. They make people feel like they're on the outside from the second the fucking thing starts. And that's not a nice thing to do to a geek, especially since conventions have traditionally been inclusive. Sure, geeks get together and pick on furries (who doesn't?) but there's still the spirit of geek that used to rule the con and now you just see it in little spurts.
Unfortunately, when you put on that badge, you are entering into a tacit agreement with the corporations that you will consume its product. And the corporate noise drowns out all others. So you'll see people trying desperately to promote their indie comic, or film, or whatever. But they have to do it the way the studios do, or nobody will pay attention. However, by virtue of doing this, they wind up having their product compared to Sony's, and that will always end in tears.
There's just too much fucking noise. There are no surprises, either. Nothing comes out of Comic Con suddenly having buzz. The studios have made sure of that. The buzz going in is the same as the buzz coming out. Nothing must surprise, because it's all teen test-marketed and branded to death. It's just food to the faithful and you, Comic Con goers, are those faithful.
The big geek refrain is that there's only one thing that ruined Comic Con -- Twilight. This couldn't be more fucking stupid. They think Twilight ruined Comic Con because all of a sudden girls were coming. Maybe it's a desperate move on their part, to ignore their own participation in Comic Con's demise by pointing the finger at the newest fanbase. But let's face it, y'all. Comic Con was going downhill FAR before the Twilight kids got there. And the fact that the demographic isn't so startlingly male-driven has nothing to do with Twilight and everything to do with the convention no longer being for geeks. Sony doesn't make some big superhero movie in the hopes that geeks will like it. They use you to get to the rest of the world.
The spirit of the geek, of the unexpected fanbase, isn't completely obliterated, though. The brightest spark I saw all day was when we passed by the Hasbro conflagration. There's a giant fucking My Little Pony there. Seriously so giant that it's ride-able. Lots of little girls getting their pictures taken with it, of course. Because My Little Pony is so obviously marketed towards little sparkly girls. However, there were a lot of guys there, too, waiting rather self-consciously for the little girls to get their pictures taken so they could sidle in.
You may be thinking WTF, but then if you read this link, you'll at least understand what I'm talking about. Guys love the My Little Pony TeeVee show. They certainly don't love it because it's being marketed to them. They love it in spite of the fact that they couldn't be further from the desired demographic.
In the midst of the cynical marketing, advertising and dangerously enormous crowds of people, it's refreshing to see these guys who truly love something so much that they will risk ridicule by showing up for it in public. It proves that inspiration and adoration can still come from unexpected places.
Bronys, my hat is off to you. You saved Friday.