I stood in the mirror today and beheld a scary sight. I now possess a horrible uneven tan. A friend’s younger sister affectionately gave me the nickname “Farmer Yin-Yang” and now I have two tan lines to match the moniker. I look like a walking matchstick. Why has this happened? Did I try to sunbathe and then decide to wear my shirt because I was shy about my gut? Nope, it was because of the San Diego Comic Con, the retarded Twilight fan base and 125,000 very flawed and sweaty people. Comic Con International has been around for 40 years now, but only reached the mind-boggling capacity cluster-fuck of sex starved, spoiler starved, pop culture starved, herds of nerds in the last few years. What happened? Hollywood happened and it happed right at the same time I started going to Comic Con, way back in the year 2000.
When Comic Con International started 40 years ago by Shel Dorf (No relation to Steven Dorff as far as I can tell, so it’s safe to assume he’s not associated with any douchiness.) In 1970, there were only about 300 sweaty, socially awkward guys and girls, ok guys, in attendance. To be fair, that is a huge number of people for a time before Star Wars, The Internet and nerdy girls showing off their pale skinned, slightly flabby, yet delicious goods. Just because the first convention was small and was held in the basement of a hotel didn’t mean that it didn’t have any important guests. Ray Bradbury, Forest J. Ackerman and the god of comics, Jack Kirby, showed up to “rap” with the fans and it didn’t cost twenty dollars for a signature and a shitty Polaroid.
During the early years of the convention attendance pretty much hovered around 5,000 people throughout the 70’s and 80’s. Even some chicks started to show up, but it was still pretty much a sausage fest. Comic-Con wouldn’t become the Mecca for the young and young at heart (also the virgins and virgins at heart) until the 90’s when Comic Con finally moved into the San Diego Convention Center. There was finally room to expand the sales floor and room to walk around. Also with the addition of air-conditioning cut down the sweatiness of the sweaty buzz-kills.
In the year 2000 history was made when I finally showed up to Comic Con. Of course this would be personal history because the rest of the world could give a shit. What the rest of the world would care about was Hollywood showing up to showcase their movies like parading cheap hookers in front of horny prisoners. The first X-Men movie had just come out and with the addition of Lord of the Rings shooting in New Zealand that year, the geeks were finally getting the movies they had always hoped for. Also, these two projects launched Sir Ian Mckellen to geek superstar status. He also showed up before New Line showed a featurette of LOTR, blowing the minds of everyone in the audience and maybe even killing at least one fat guy with a greasy ponytail. Another great moment was Kevin Smith performing in his second career as a Q&A standup comedian. This was the first time I ever heard his now legendary story about working on the Superman script for Warner Bros. I walked out the convention that year dazed and maybe a little teary eyed. I finally found a place to let my geek flag completely unfurl and I vowed to come back every year from then on. I didn’t realize that everyone would tell all their friends and family about it when I made that vow.
Through out the 2000’s Hollywood invaded Comic Con International, pushing the central theme, “comics”, out of the spotlight because Hollywood is a selfish prima donna bitch. It seemed like every year there was at least a Star Wars or Lord of the Rings panel, not to mention Spider-Man, Hellboy, and Terminator. If your movie was slightly geeky then it had a panel at Comic Con but it wasn’t just movies, TV also got greased up and jumped into the no-deodorant orgy. Joss Whedon brought Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel and Firefly, while shows like Lost and Heroes got their first push as well. The thing was it wasn’t just clips or trailers that were shown, the entire cast of some of these things would show up as if they were the Beatles arriving to America and the fans loved it. We all took a giant straw snorted up the magic pixy dust that is Hollywood and everything was perfect…until things got less perfect.
Attendance got out of fucking control and Comic Con became an institution for line waiting. These weren’t just ordinary lines; they were lines the made you feel like you no longer lived in a democratic country (Thank you David Sedaris for that joke that I just stole). The sad thing is that you could waste hours in these soul crushing, oppressive lines and still not get into the panel you wanted to see. It’s the Comic Con “fuck you”. The first time this happened to me was for a panel for the show Dexter about a year ago. It’s a good show, but come on.
This year, crazy-assed teenagers camped out all night just to get into the Twilight panel causing us regular-assed adults to think that all the Twilight fans were fucking retarded (Twi-tards). They were lame because my friends and I all got into the panel with out the need for a tent. Sure we had to wait 3 hours under the hot unforgiving San Diego summer sun (we geeks aren’t used to the outdoors, you see), but we got in. The thing was, we went to the Twilight panel (where a certain lead actress looked totally coked up…in the best way) just to get into the James Cameron’s Avatar panel. When you are locked in a room with 6,000 tweens screaming over footage of some muscle-boy taking off his shirt you can’t help but think, what happened to my special convention? I do have to say that I did have fun at the convention this year, eventually. I had forgotten what Comic Con was about: comics. I had the most fun this year when I walked through Artist Alley and browsed the work of people who have talent in the field we care about.
So what is in store for the future of Comic Con? Possibly a new city, for one. Comic Con’s contract with San Diego will run out in 2012 (of course humanity’s contract with the world may also run out on that year, epecially if Roland Emmeric has anything to say about it). Other cities such as Los Angeles, Anaheim and Las Vegas have already expressed their interest on the geek cash cow and are actively courting the convention like it was an ugly high school girl with rich parents. One thing for sure is that things have to change if Comic Con is to survive. They need more room, better organization and to not sell memberships to capacity. What ever happens to Comic Con I will still continue to attend, but for the right reasons from now on. I will enjoy the many comic book offerings that they still have and leave Hollywood at the theater.