Comic-Con 2010: An Exercise In Total Failure

At one point, yesterday, Day Three Comic-Con 2010, Max and I were trying to sit down and drink a cup of coffee. I don’t mean relaxing in a rattan chair at an outdoor table admiring the world as it passed by. I mean, like, crouched on the dirty carpeting of a darkened convention center hallway, backs to the wall, weary and exhausted, hoping for just two seconds to avoid the endless crush of eager people (eager for what, exactly?). When we tried to do this, to SIT DOWN, we were told that we weren’t allowed to sit in the hallway because the hallway was reserved for lines into the panels, but where we were sitting there was no line, and if we were to just sit there, then people would THINK there was a line, and then we would start a fake line, and you can’t have fake lines sprouting up all over the place just because two miserable friends want to drink some coffee before throwing themselves off the roof. To clarify: long, insufferable lines are so commonplace at Comic-Con, that were you to simply stand in the wrong place, people might LINE UP BEHIND YOU FOR NO DISCERNIBLE REASON. Good grief. This is not the way things should be. No wonder dude got fucking stabbed.

Comic-Con is for two types of people:

The “fans” and the “industry.” The fans are the ones in the costumes, and the ones trailing their children, and the ones who wouldn’t bother to ask any questions before getting in line behind two people drinking coffee who, it might turn out later, are not in line at all for anything. The discomfort for them is part of the fun, somehow, apparently. The industry are the cast of Bones and the writers of People Magazine, who spend the week moving from one poolside party to the next, and if they do bother to catch any of the panels, it is only by being ushered to a prime seat at the hand of a headset-wearing publicist. Not so bad, probably. And then there are a few unfortunate souls (hi!) who fall between these two categories: who are neither here out of the sheer love of panic-inducing crowds, nor courted by the marketing teams of Showbiz. These middle people are left to rot. Rot until their heads fall off.

Of course, the weird thing is that the “fans” are also left to rot. Despite the Convention’s pride in being for and about the fans, and the democratization of most admission badges (“press” is a meaningless designation, for example), it’s really not for or about the fans at all. If it was, then the dreaded Hall H, for example, would have an overflow room with a projection screen where people could actually see what the fuck was happening. I guess it’s neat that Mark Ruffalo is going to play The Hulk in Joss Whedon’s Avengers movie, but if you end up finding out this information by reading someone else’s Twitter/blog post from a coffee shop half a mile away, where you’re probably stuck at the end of some OTHER line for some OTHER thing that you ALSO won’t get into, what’s the point? They could have just announced it the way they announce everything else, by having Billy Bush say it on Access Hollywood, and saved everyone some trouble. The restrictive nature of each event to the exclusion of thousands of eager fans who just want to be a part of the excitement seems entirely contrary to the stated attitude of the Convention, not to mention just kind of rude. But even more importantly: WHAT THE FUCK IS COMIC-CON ABOUT? Let me explain my question:

Ostensibly, when Comic-Con began in the 1870s in Deadwood, South Dakota, or whatever, it was specifically designed as a haven for social outcasts to come together and celebrate the things that they loved (superheroes, plastic weaponry) without the constant feelings of shame or fear of bodily harm. Basically, it was for nerds. And theoretically that is still true. There are definitely plenty of nerds at Comic-Con. But then will someone to explain to me, for example, the EXPENDABLES PANEL? At what point did nerd culture and Sylvester Stallone’s melt-face come together? Or is it the collaboration of Jason Statham that really thrills the fanboys? Step-by-step, not only at the convention center itself, but for two square miles around the convention center, nerds are being aggressively marketed to in the most lazy and manipulative and disheartening ways, and step-by-step, the nerds seem to be loving it. Come on, nerds! You have finally gained a quasi-social acceptance, and you’re complacently letting that acceptance be used against you in the crassest attempts to make you buy garbage. I thought nerds were supposed to be the smart ones!

As a social experiment, testing the limits of human patience, trying to find just how little personal space a person needs before they stab someone in the fucking face, determining with scientific finality just how many fliers and postcards and stickers and other garish publicity materials someone will carry around in an oversized garbage bag slung over their shoulder (which itself is a garish publicity material), Comic-Con is not without its fascinations. But ultimately it is mostly just an exercise in psychic and physical pain. AND IT HURTS.

Goodbye, Comic-Con 2010. Goodbye, Comic-Con forever.