Devourer of Words 048: Comic-Con 2017

Toucan reading a comic

I am going to try not to make this about “me,” but I am going to fail. Just a little warning up top.

This past Comic-Con International was my 15th, by my count. I first attended as a journalist, working for Entertainment Weekly. It was just after Sam Raimi’s first Spider-Man made almost a billion dollars and I managed to convince my bosses that, maybe, comics and its progeny would be worth covering in a real way.

Now, I know that, for some, that number feels like an eternity, while, for other Comic-Con mainstays, it’s a drop in the bucket. What made this year different for me is that it was the first year I wasn’t there as a journalist. I was present entirely as a person who makes things.

For me, that turned 2017 into a vastly different convention. I wasn’t bouncing from panel-to-panel to cover stuff or rushing into press rooms and hotel suites to interview people, then skittering off to write it up for EW or THR or Playboy or the L.A. Times. I wasn’t in a rush.

So this time, I got to relax into it. And I got to engage with people who know me from the comics that I write, the journalism that I’ve done or, more frequently, being the cohost of the Fatman on Batman podcast with Kevin Smith.

The fan interactions are always genial and cordial—sometimes a little teary. I am never prepared for it when someone comes up to me and says that the little podcast I appear on has helped them laugh when times were dark; that I, in any way, helped urge them forward to chase a dream they might hold dear. I’m sure Beyoncé knows how to handle it. I do not.

What I am prepared to withstand is derision. I am a person who puts thoughts out into the world and, as such, I have to expect a response to those thoughts. On the Saturday night of Comic-Con, Kevin and I did a live version of our podcast. In it, I gave some thoughts about the first four episodes of Marvel’s The Defenders series, which unites Daredevil, Luke Cage, Jessica Jones, and Iron Fist. I liked most of it just fine. Except for the parts I didn’t—the parts featuring one specific Defender. The room laughed. I did my job, which is to both inform and entertain.

And then the Internet did what the Internet does and decided that I am spreading hate by saying there is one Defender I don’t like. Hate, because I don’t like a TV show. And hate, especially now, is a word I don’t use lightly.

The dichotomy is not lost on me: I spent a long weekend in San Diego, surrounded by people who have pilgrimaged from however far to join 130,000 people who all love things. Driven by passion. SDCC remains the highlight of my year because of that love. Because the emotion that unites all of us is love.

But love shouldn’t be blind. Love should see all and decide to love despite flaws, not in ignorance of them. That way lies devotion, fanaticism, obsession.

So what was SDCC 2017 for me? A reminder of why we gravitated to this kind of stuff in the first place: A shared affinity for the things that made us outcasts from so many other circles. It was also a reminder that love and hate aren’t binary: You can have one without the other. Just because we’re bonded by our love for something, doesn’t mean we need to hate someone who doesn’t share our depth of love for it.

Also, I got to meet Star Trek’s first Uhura, Nichelle Nichols, which was RAD.

Marc Bernardin’s Devourer of Words appears the third Tuesday of every month here on Toucan!

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