Since I’ve yet to make it out to the fangirl Mecca which is Comic-Con International: San Diego (SDCC), I took advantage of the con’s official Preview Night to enjoy the event from view Morgan Spurlock’s exceptional documentary “Comic-Con Episode IV: A Fan’s Hope,” on the chaos, anxiety, passion, disappointment and dream-making that melds together to make the event each year.
As much as I enjoyed (and related to) the film, it left me with a sense of uneasiness and well, a bit of despondence for this ever-growing event that I couldn’t quite put my finger on. Was it the idea the mega-film world taking over the purity of the original Comic-Con mission, the flippancy in which the comic book “ins” treat the hopeful artists or writers, the celebrity worship (yes, I’ve written about those I like, but never consider them at a “higher lever” than myself) or just the sheer amount of humanity in all its supernatural forms pouring in and out of one place.
I’ve decided to turn my inner turmoil into a constructive guide to avoid post-con depression by taking five possible Con cons, as it were, and turning them in to positives:
Con: The movie industry (and its fans) has invaded the purity of the event.
Solution: There is no doubt about it, the “comic” in Comic-Con sees hidden amongst the flash of Hollywood hype, but don’t forget these cons are still the best places to buy signed artwork and books directly from some of the industry’s best, as well as haunt a few of the nation’s top comic book shops. While huge throngs crowd around the latest celebrity appearance, there are slightly smaller numbers around comic book dealers and artists. I’m not telling you to avoid the “movie and television” feature, particularly those inspired by comic book properties, but if you want to avoid feeling lovingly patronized by the “pretty people,” skip the panel presentations and head to more immersive set mock-ups and prop displays. Those are the real stars.
Con: There are so many others trying to get their “foot in the door” in the comic industry…too many!
Solution: For those wanting to “make it” as a writer or artist, keep in mind (and I know you’ve heard this before) some of today’s biggest names in comics were give the old “brush off” by some well-meaning critics. Frank Miller even said he was told to go back and “pump gas” somewhere since he obviously wasn’t meant to break into the business. I know this type of “tough love” can hurt. Trust me, as a long-time writer, it cuts deep to hand your artistic “baby” over for sacrifice only to have it passed over with a “you’re just not what we need” remark. But there is an advantage of getting out there, even if it doesn’t necessarily mean a job. First, a little humility doesn’t hurt. There are a ton of over-the-top talented artists out there, most of whom will never see a published work from Marvel, DC, Dark Horse or any other recognized labels. This is where you need to face one tough question: “Are you doing this for the love of the craft, or for ‘celebrity status’ recognition?” I’m not judging here, attention, applause and recognition can be addictive. But take any rejection and criticism with a grain of both salt and sugar…don’t discount the critiques and use them to better your work, but don’t let them spiral you into self-loathing. If you are doing this for love of the craft and don’t get any “bites” from the big wigs, look for small, regional or local publishers, self-publish, start a blog or get your work on social arts sites that provide encouragement and feedback such as deviantART or etsy (depending on what you’re medium is). Above all, relish in the talented folks you meet while at the ‘con and leave with the resolve to never stop creating….and sharing…your work.
Con: Look at that guy? Am I really that nerdy? Do I really want to be around these people…BE these people?
Solution: Yes you do, along with thousands and thousands of others. Don’t be uptight and smug. Yes, there are those stereotypes that make you feel either a lot worse (of a whole lot better) about yourself, but if the draw to embrace the inner fanboy wasn’t so strong, the birth of the “Hipster” movement of cool poser nerds would never have happened. Everyone secretly wants to let their guard down and just relish life and its eccentricities. This is a place where you can do this!
Con: There are just too, too, too many people. It’s like India with capes instead of saris.
Solution: This is a legit gripe. I kind of adhere to Randal’s ironic “Clerks” philosophy of disliking people but loving gatherings. One thing you need to realize, prepare for and understand early…there will be many, many, oh so many people at SDCC. If this is the one thing keeping you from moseying to San Diego, I’ve learned there are a lot of smaller ‘cons worldwide with similar offerings of artists, celebrities, book signings, cosplay opportunities and traveling exhibits that aren’t so overwhelmingly large. I have a blast at my local cons, and so do plenty of others across the nation. But keep in mind, every relationship between a large con and con-goer is special, but will never be an exclusive one. You’ll have to share it with others, and meet others you’ll want to share I with, too.
Con: Great, here’s yet another venue the “pretty” have taken over from us regular people. I am a troll.
Solution: Here’s a little something I’ve learned along my lifelong journey of low body image. At Comic-Con (and this includes all cons), NOBODY really cares how you look…. as long as YOU like the way you look. There are people there in Weta Workshop and ILM-worthy suits with animatronics and their own light shows, and those who painted eyes on an upside-down KFC bucket screaming “I’m a Storm Trooper!!!!” Comic-con crowds are bridge-building crowds, where everyone is on an equal level, as long as they want to be. Once you have built that bridge..get over it and have fun.
Don’t forget to check out Spurlock’s ”Comic-Con Episode IV: A Fan’s Hope” if you get a chance. Well worth a look.