Why Do People Go to Comic-Con?

Con

Eric Garneau covered the San Diego Comic-Con for The MindHut. These are his personal reflections on going to the show for the first time.

Early Thursday in the crowded Room 6DE, before comic writer Jimmy Palmiotti dove into a few of All-Star Western‘s upcoming plotlines for DC’s Dark/Edge panel, he had a few words for the people assembled before him at the San-Diego Comic Con. “I’m so glad you’re here,” he said “because you are the real comic fans.” He went on to explain that he flew out from Florida with a guy who was going to Comic-Con just because it seemed like the thing to do. Jimmy asked the man what he was interested in, and the guy couldn’t answer back. Why, Jimmy wondered, would that guy even go to Comic-Con in the first place?

If you talk to people in San Diego, you’ll get the same line from all of them. Comic-Con is great because it’s a place where a bunch of passionate individuals congregate to share their love of pop culture. In theory, this is wonderful. In practice, it is mostly wonderful.

Why mostly? Because of those people Palmiotti talked about. I stood in lines a lot over the last few days, so I feel fairly authoritative in saying this is a common occurrence: if you’re waiting in line for something, people will come up to you and ask you what you’re waiting for. Sometimes, they just want to know if it’s the line they were already looking for. But at least an equal number of times, they’ll come back with a follow up: “oh, what’s that?” Then as you explain the thing you care enough about to take time out of your day for, you can see the gears in their brain turning as they assess… something. I’m not sure what. But in that thirty-second or however long explanation, what those people are doing is deciding if they want to wait too. They want to know, I think, if the thing you’re waiting for would be considered “valuable.” But valuable to whom?

Isn’t that weird, that you would spend thousands of dollars to go to an event that’s about celebrating your geekiness and not know what you think is cool? What’s the point? But just like the guy Palmiotti talked to, I met numerous people who went to Comic-Con “just to go.” That’s a good enough reason to do anything, I suppose, but to be so passive about the event just seems contrary to what it’s really about.

Some people you talk to like to spout the same complaint over and over again. “Comic-Con used to be about comics, man,” they say in a way that illustrates what dinosaurs would sound like if they could talk. Guys, get over it. For years Comic-Con has turned San Diego into Hollywood 2.0 for a weekend. While people may see this as exploitative, I don’t think that’s necessarily the case. After all, what is nerdiness? To my mind, it’s loving something so much that other people think you’re weird for it. In other words, it’s not what you love but how you love it. What Comic-Con has done, as all those friendly San Diegans pointed out to me, is give people who love all sorts of crazy stuff a five-day oasis where no one will judge them. Comic fans, THIS IS WHAT WE ALWAYS WANTED. When you start saying that certain people don’t belong at your thing because they don’t like the exact same things you do, do you realize that you’re doing the very thing you hated being done to you as a kid? When nerds start telling other nerds they don’t belong, we have a problem. (By the way, almost everything I did at this show was comic-based, and I loved it. It is totally possible to keep Comic-Con about the comics if that’s your proclivity).

Let me put it this way: Twilight is a series of books and films that has a controversial presence at the Comic-Con. But someone loved Twilight enough that she actually died because of it; she was in such a hurry to line up for the Twilight panel days ahead of time that she ran right into the path of a car. I want you to really think about that person’s motivations and tell me with a straight face that they don’t belong at a celebration of geek culture like Comic-Con.

But again, we get back to those people Palmiotti talked about. And even though I said above that the last thing nerds should do is exclude people, I do think that folks who go to Comic-Con “just to go” need to reconsider their priorities and realize they can probably spend their money better somewhere else. If you believe what I’ve been saying, then Comic-Con is a place where you go to love what you love sans judgment. If you don’t love anything, what is there for you to do? Maybe these Comic-Con amblers… let’s call them zombies… just want to see what it’s like for people to embrace a thing so much that they dress up in crazy costumes, wait in line all day for the smallest morsel of new information, or totally lose their cool in the face of a person that no one else would consider a celebrity. Maybe they wish they knew what it was like to really get into something like that. Maybe the value of Comic-Con is really that it lets people know it’s okay to geek out about something, no matter what it is. Hopefully a couple of this year’s zombies figured that out, and maybe the rest of them will stay home next year and make a little breathing room for the rest of us.

tags: comic con, deep thoughts, jimmy palmiotti

  • Jesse Lee Been

    I thought this was one of the best sumaries I have ever read.

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