First discussed in February of this year, and confirmed earlier this week, a documentary about the annual Comic-Con International in San Diego is about to go into production. The team behind it is sort of an all-star roster in the intersection of film and geeks, directed by Super Size Me's Morgan Spurlock, who helmed a Simpsons documentary partially shot at last year's Comic-Con. Producers include Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Firefly creator Joss Whedon, Spider-Man/X-Men/Hulk/Iron Man/tons of other Marvel Comics characters creator Stan Lee–even Harry Knowles is involved, somehow.
As a veteran of nine (soon to be 10!) consecutive Comic-Cons, I've got a
pretty good idea of what's going to be covered: how big of a deal it is
to film and television studios. Fans that dress up in elaborate
costumes. The people who dress up like knights and joust outside. The
washed-up celebrities who sell autographed 8x10s for $20 (and apparently
make enough doing that to come back each year). How it started at a
hotel ballroom. Old-timers complaining that isn't about comic books
anymore. Someone like this
person. But there's a lot of pertinent material that might not make
it into the final cut, luckily we're here to help: here are five things
worth covering in the upcoming doc. And one personal wish.
1) Why is Comic-Con such a big deal for film and television studios?
For as much presence as movies and TV shows have had at Comic-Con in recent years, I've never been quite sure why. While it's obvious that a panel or booth at Comic-Con could do a lot to promote a low-budget movie that might otherwise fly under the radar, or helping out to engender goodwill among the fanbase of a cult fave TV show, I'm pretty sure that Iron Man 2 would have opened just as big as it did even if it didn't have a panel last year with Robert Downey Jr. and Jon Favreau. The Dark Knight didn't do much to promote at Comic-Con other than a viral marketing campaign, and that ended up as the highest-grossing comic book movie of all time. I can't really think of a movie or show that had a “make or break” moment at Comic-Con–it's cool for fans to watch actors in person from things they like, sure, but studios probably aren't flying people in just to please a few thousand nerds who waited in line for hours.
2) There is still more comic books at Comic-Con than any other convention.
There are a ton of comic book conventions all over the country, but try and fine one with as many comic book dealers or as diverse of a showing from comic book publishers than Comic-Con. This, despite all the “Comic-Con isn't even about comic books!” whiners who utter that same complaint every year. It's a big place (and apparently about to get even bigger), and there's plenty to do for everyone: esoteric publishers like First Second and Drawn and Quarterly aren't always at the same conventions as Marvel and DC, but they are at Comic-Con.
3) The amount of weird crap sold at Comic-Con.
Comic-Con is more than a comic book convention, it's more than a way to meet people behind your favorite movies and TV shows, and it's even more than a place where it's OK to ogle young girls in revealing costumes. (It's not really OK guys, don't be gross.) It's also a place where you can buy pretty much any type of bizarre ephemera that has ever been breathed into existence by misguided corporations. It's the place where I found “Jim Henson's Muppets Take The Ice NHL Trading Cards,” which happened to be right next to the Dallas, 21 Jumpstreet and Three's Company trading cards. Once a sweet, middle-aged lady was selling Star Wars hologram cards, that I believe (as did she) were part of a promotional campaign at Taco Bell when the original trilogy was re-released in 1997. The cards were affixed to small plaques, with a corresponding inscription like, “Han Solo and Chewbacca in the Millennium Falcon.” They were like two bucks. I had to buy one. “These cards were originally sold with tacos,” she excitedly told me.
4) How crazy people get over free junk.
You might have heard people talk about all the “swag” they get at Comic-Con. Here's the secret: it pretty much all sucks. Yeah, there are a lot of things you can pick up for free, but very rarely is any of it worthwhile. Sure, some places might be giving out a promotional comic book or two, or you might get a couple fun buttons, but that's about it. Most of it is just crappy, tiny posters or various other advertisements masquerading as something that you might want. Never before has the Mitch Hedberg punchline about fliers–“here, you
throw this away”–seemed more relevant. That doesn't stop people from flocking to the “freebies table,” which is literally all garbage ads for surely terrible movies and comic books, so rabidly that there's always a huge crowd there. A few years ago, Manga publisher Viz gave away some pretty cool bags (small, but canvas), and there eventually was so many people flocking to grab at them that they had to start only giving them out at certain times, with huge lines forming accordingly. Lines. For bags!
5) When is Stormtrooper Elvis going to give it up?
Seriously, dude. Do you even like going to Comic-Con anymore, or is it just all about the photo-ops now? We're holding out for Jedi Roy Orbison.
One more request for documentary makers: find the lady that makes the “10 minutes until the convention floor closes”-type announcements over the PA system. The combination of her soothing voice and how obviously annoyed she sounds by the thousands of nerds, has led my friend and I to conclude that she's probably really hot. Prove us wrong, Spurlock!