In just a few days, you’ll be reading comments about how the San Diego Comic-Con is too crowded, blown up, and sold out. How there are too many poseurs and how real fans can’t get in. That it wasn’t always like this.
No, it wasn’t. When my brother, our friends, and I went for the first time in 1979 there were no star-studded movie previews, exclusive items for sale, or coverage by mainstream press. The vast majority of the floor at the El Cortez and even the old San Diego Convention Center was filled with folding tables covered with back issues and original art. Toys meant old Mego and Disney items, anime was fan-subbed “Japanimation,” and indie comics meant underground comix. As for swords & sandals and sci-fi fandom, they’ve always been around…
It’s true that most of the movie stars that make their appearances have never read a comic in their lives and a lot of the exclusive merch will just get flipped on eBay (not by Giant Robot customers, of course, who are the raddest). And it does kind of suck for the hardcore nerds who get squeezed out because of the trendiness and money to be made. Since my brother and I stopped being on the GR booth crew, we have only been able to get in through luck/the kindness of good friends who were able to purchase passes for us.
But if the Comic-Con never blew up it might be gone by now. As the cover prices of comics have risen and distro has gone more boutique–and kids’ allegiances have shifted to video games–the average age of readers has gone up and the number of readers has gone down. As mainstream comic titles were once published simply to sell Underoos, support Saturday morning cartoons, and hawk toys, they now pretty much exist to support movies and video games. These days, comics can use all the help and hype they can get. Likewise, Hollywood can use all the ideas it can get.
That doesn’t mean that every single genre flick or campy TV show should be presented at Comic-Con. (Ahem, Glee?) But teen vampire movies, TV shows about spies and superheroes, and zombie shows on cable–why not?
Seriously, I went for just one day last year and enjoyed the same sorts of panels and appearances that I enjoyed before Comic-Con ever sold out or “sold out”: Pee-Wee Herman, Los Bros Hernandez, Brian Ralph and friends from all over the place doing rad things… Everything is still there if you are willing to worm your way past the giveaway lines.
And even if it’s not the best convention (let alone era) for collectors of comics, no one can argue that this isn’t the golden age of cosplay. Yikes!
See you on Wednesday.