Devourer of Words 063: Days of Comic-Cons Past

Toucan reading a comic

If you’re the kind of person who attends Comic-Con International then you, like me, have already been preparing for it. You’re months in: You’ve got your badge, your lodging, your transportation sorted—or mostly sorted. (There’s always a bit of last-minute jockeying, especially if you live in the same time zone as San Diego—train or drive? Three people in a hotel room or four?)

But you’re going. You know, deep in your soul, that really wasn’t up for debate. Of course you’re going because going is what you do. This year’s con will be my 17th in a row. I came the first time because of Spider-Man. Well, specifically 2002’s Spider-Man film. I was working for Entertainment Weekly at the time and was looking for a lever into covering comics more for the magazine—and Sam Raimi’s movie making $400 million in the U. S. was a pretty good lever.

Back then, you could book a hotel room about six weeks out without issue. Getting a badge wasn’t insane, because there weren’t 175,000 people descending on the Gaslamp in a weekend. You could just walk into a Room 6 panel, which was Hall H before there was a Hall H. Since that first trip, I’ve seen some pretty amazing things that only could’ve been possible because of Comic-Con.

Stealth Bomb

One of the first big Hollywood panels I witnessed was for 2005’s Stealth. You’d be forgiven for not remembering this one. Directed by Fast and the Furious’ Rob Cohen, it was about a futuristic stealth fighter that becomes both sentient and mad. The best part was watching the three stars—Josh Lucas (who was supposed to be the next Tom Cruise), Jessica Biel (who’d done SDCC for Blade: Trinity and knew a bit of the experience), and Jamie Foxx (who’d just won an Oscar for Ray)—process the experience in different ways. On the panel, Lucas was just kind of wide-eyed, while Biel just kind of smiled at the exercise like a steely-eyed veteran. But Foxx was in full-rock star mode. The man loved a crowd and loved talking about the movie and, to a greater extent, loved himself. (That the film would later come out and bomb only makes the look-back that much more interesting.) There would be more movie stars, and Oscar-winners, to come—and most would learn the lesson first taught by films like Stealth. You have to do more than simply “be famous” to court the Comic-Con crowd.

Launch Date

I’ve done most Comic-Cons as a member of the press but, occasionally, I’ve been involved with a project that’s made its public debut in San Diego. From comic books (like The Authority or Genius) to TV shows (like Alphas or Castle Rock). It’s a different experience, to say the least, but illuminating to be coming to the Con from the other side. There are four cons, honestly: the fan con, the press con, the producer con, and the “we’re the ones throwing the con” con. It’s invaluable to be able to see it from other points of view.

Finding Your Flock

I’ve been going for long enough that there are people that I only see during San Diego the third weekend of July. It’s a bit like, when you were in college, and Thanksgiving would roll around and everyone who’d gone away to school would be home for three days and you’d get to hang out with all your high school homies and share stories and catch up and remember why you were friends to begin with. You promise to stay in touch, but you don’t … because there will always be another Thanksgiving. Some people always refer to Comic-Con as “Nerd Prom,” but I prefer Nerd Thanksgiving. Four days in the middle of the year when you’re home.

See you down there, yeah?

Marc Bernardin’s Devourer of Words appears the third Tuesday of every month here on Toucan! He’ll return in August.

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