Thursday, February 23, 2012

A Fan's Hope

Award-winning documentary filmmaker Morgan Spurlock is releasing a movie about the San Diego Comic-Con. I have mixed feelings about it. Take a look a the trailer and we'll talk on the other side.

This film looks like it might be a bit more insightful and ambitious than the superficial "laugh at the freaks and geeks" treatment Comic-Con usually gets. Insiders like Joss Whedon and Stan Lee are listed as producers. I'm encouraged that it appears to highlight people doing interesting creative work, such as the comic book artist and costume designer, rather than focusing entirely on the costumed social misfits.

The thing is, those costumed social misfits are there. Film crews don't have to look hard to find them. And bless their hearts, they have every right to be there, have a good time with people who love the same things they do, and let their freak flags fly. Where else? That's Comic-Con, too. At the same time, I can only groan when the camera settles on a fat guy in a Green Lantern leotard. This does not put our best foot forward.

I know these people. I love these people. Deep down, I am these people. Sometimes I just yearn for a little self-awareness (or, in the case of Green Lantern, a full-length mirror he could glance at before heading out the door)--signs of an inkling they realize "Watchmen" is not a mature foundation for a life philosophy and there's something faintly ridiculous about spending years and a fortune perfecting a homemade suit of Iron Man armor. Some have it, some don't. I think a very few are deeply damaged folks who prefer heroic fantasies to reality. But not many. The huge majority are just having harmless fun.

Writer Mark Evanier says that Comic-Con is four or five different conventions all happening at the same time and place, and it's up to you to find the convention that suits you. I think that's right. There are entire areas of the floor I don't even enter: video games, role-playing games, Hall H where they preview movies and interview stars. They're great and have their place, they're just not my con.

At my con, I ogle original comic book and comic strip art, dig through boxes of old back issues, talk to friends in the business, meet creators like Jerry Robinson, Al Jaffee and Todd Klein, and meet very nice people who like my books. I discover good comics by creators I've never heard of. Sometimes I'm invited to sit on a panel or go to an awards banquet. I spend two or three days immersed in a unique form of art and literature I love. It's dizzying and exhilarating, and it's got nothing to do with squads of Stormtroopers except when they block the aisle I'm trying to walk through.

I'm not saying my con's better than anyone else's. Not at all. Just that it never makes the news.

I think there's an element of "keeping it in the family" at play. We might roll our eyes at the guy who's a little too enthusiastic about scoring his Collector's Edition Gold-Bikini Princess Leia Action Figure, but close ranks when civilians do it. The inevitable newscaster chuckle and head shake is just condescending and rude. "Well, I guess it takes all kinds, Chuck! Back to you in the studio." I hate that.

It'll be interesting to see what Spurlock does. I hope he scratches below the photogenic top millimeter to find smart, talented people doing and appreciating exciting, creative work. That'd be a worthwhile documentary.


Jim O'Kane said...

Spot on, Brian. As a legacy member of the 20-Sided Dice Club, I feel your pain when the news lackeys interpret fan gatherings as fair game for mockery.

Not quite sure why it's acceptable for Duke fans to paint their heads blue, but a guy dressed as Captain America should be ridiculed as being "immature." Fandom is expressed in many manners (not all of which I subscribe) but it's peculiar that costuming seems to always get the brunt of the scorn.

In other topics: holy crap, you met AL JAFFEE? I'm deeply envious (and I know my envy is your joy). If I ever got the opportunity for an autograph, I would demand that he signed it across a fan-fold sheet of paper.

Brian Fies said...

Oh, those 20-sided-dice guys are LAME! What a bunch of dorks.

Wait, did I miss something?

I reported my encounter with Mr. Jaffee here:
What a sweet man, and we had quite a while to talk. Very funny idea about the autograph, wish I'd thought of it (although I doubt it's new to him). I do savor your envy.