San Diego Comic-Con is alive and well as this year’s gathering of hundreds of thousands of fans can attest. It did not fall short because of the writer/actor strikes. I’ve enjoyed Comic-Con over years as much for the core reasons as for the Hollywood component. Ideally, everyone, from the casual observers to the various insiders and power brokers, gain something from the experience. You can pontificate over the decline of civilization all you want but, at the end of the day, the people, actual flesh-and-blood real people, not abstractions, have spoken and voted with their time and pocketbook.
Some folks are at the con just to buy that prized rarity they’ve been eyeing for years at previous cons. Some folks are more like innocent bystanders who have simply come along for the ride. Not everyone is a regular reader or a fan of anything in particular. But, then again, there are more people and stories packed within the convention floor than any intrepid reporter will ever know. Most, it seems, can’t see the forest for the trees. The best one can hope for is that San Diego Comic-Con continues to do the good work it is doing–and that you can count on. You may not be aware of this but San Diego Comic-Con is a nonprofit with a long history of its own with impeccable standards and codes of ethics. The notion that “Hollywood” can make or break it is, well, a bit of a distraction.
Really, at the end of it all, the fact remains that some folks are at the con to buy something they’ve been coveting; while other folks, maybe the vast majority, simply thought it would be fun to go, whether they got to see a celebrity or not. If you stop and think about it, there’s so much more going on. I let the whole thing wash over me, the free-spirited interactions, the genuine acts of goodwill, the whole Gaslamp Quarter party. There’s something primal and transcendent happening. It’s not just about comics, and that’s totally fine. People are in costume for more reasons than you’ll ever know. It’s a carnival, and I love it.
Well, of course, so much more can be said on the specific subject of San Diego Comic-Con, along with other topics closely linked to it. A pretty tall pile of books have been written on it, whole careers have been cultivated in the name of “comics journalism” and the like. From my experience, you have to choose your own battles, decide what’s worth concentrating on, what’s worth fight for. Specifically, for me, it came down to carving my way out of doing just one thing, which I’ve always done anyway. I’ve always respected me! I made the time for my own art, my own comics. And that ultimately led to my graphic novel, George’s Run, published by Rutgers University Press. And my having a panel at SDCC. Yes, panels are alive and well. For journalists, as well as anyone, panels are part of the core of Comic-Con and a place to learn about what makes it tick. I’m sorry if you missed my panel because it was great. I’ll feature it in an upcoming post. I will be forever grateful to those who pay it forward, who share the vision and goodwill, like Rutgers and Comic-Con.
You can’t control people, even if some marketing firms would beg to differ. What you can do is try to inspire people: entertain them; guide them and educate them. But, first, you need to get their attention. And here’s the thing, the real kick-in-the-pants epiphany: you really can’t pontificate and ultimately it does come down to the grass-roots approach: speaking to people one-on-one, in-person, the real deal. And that is what you’ll see on the ground floor, the convention floor. That is what is ultimately real and that’s never going to go away.