The San Diego Comic-Con International is the center of the universe for nerds and nerd-wannabees. To celebrate 50 years seems sweet justice for all the years we endured being uncool and insecure about our love for comics, manga, science fiction movies, video games, and everything else we’d rather spend our time on rather than going to Homecoming or watching a football game (“Go Trojans!”). Not that I’m bitter. Just thankful I’m no longer in high school.
When the Con began, held in a hotel basement and attended by perhaps 145 people, nerd culture was a fringe pursuit. Not only we were being stuffed into lockers but the publishers and movie studios took a very long time to get hip to what we liked and wanted to see or buy. The film studio 20th Century Fox famously gave away the merchandising, licensing, and sequel rights away for “Stars Wars” because they thought them worthless. They were kicking themselves shortly afterward. When the movie debuted, in terms of merchandise, there was nil to buy except for the Marvel Comics adaptation and maybe posters. Because of the long lead time it takes to produce toys, many kids found I.O.U.s when they opened their presents at Christmastime 1977, promising toys that would be forthcoming.
On a trip to the States (from Japan) in 1978, I was able to amass a huge set of Star Wars bubblegum cards and a Viewfinder with footage from the movie (plus I was there during one of the crucial three months of the DC Explosion (before the Implosion) which I’ll cover sometime in the future). And everything expanded from there. The studios also put very little effort and resources in producing good quality superhero and fantasy movies, with some wonderful exceptions and that has luckily changed over time so that our types of films now rule the box office (Hah! Take that!).
So Comic-Con has become Kilometre Zero for the entertainment biz. Going there can be stressful as there is so much to stimulate the senses, with every company vying for attention, from movie and TV studios, publishers, video gamers, and toymakers along with an explosion of non-geek products from fast-food to websites, mostly being hawked in the area across from the convention center, which has become quite a zoo.
Peter and I had been going to the Con from the mid-2000s, helping with the Prism Comics booth, and finding that each year it was becoming increasingly packed (there are now up to 130,000 attendees) and stressful to navigate or attend panels and screenings. Hotel rooms were becoming difficult to secure to the point we ended up staying on the other side of the airport. Along with being geeks, we are also introverts, so the massive crowds and general overstimulation became too much and we stopped going. But for those of you still wanting to go, god bless. If I could attend being carted around in a bubble with blinders on, I might consider it again.
There were some great perks, of course; got to meet great people including some famous artists. Here’s me (wow, looking like I’ve applied the FaceApp) with Alison Bechdel of “Fun Home” fame. She is an awfully nice and generous person, I have to say.
In any case, if you do go, please visit the Prism Comics booth. They promote LGBTQ+ creators and their comics plus LGBTQ+ characters in the wider media. With the giant monster that Comic-Con has become, Prism has managed to create a safe cove for mostly indie comic book creators amidst a sea of giant booths and displays as well as “lands” (Stars Wars and others) for some of the bigger companies. This year Prism has some familiar faces (familiar to me, that is) appearing: Justin Hall, Bob Schreck, Tara Madison Avery, Steve MacIsaac, Jeff Krell, Andy Mangels, Abby Denson, and many many more. I’m especially glad to see Welsh creator Joe Glass of The Pride comic, whom I met years ago at a small comics convention in Bristol, UK.
Here are some pics I took over the years showing the cray-cray of the CON and attendees: