Don’t Get Me Started #3: SDCC

jjjSo another San Diego Comic Con has passed and the tide of FB posts and tweets are ebbing away like the proverbial tide.  And what has been the primary outcome of this massive, nigh-legendary gathering of media, games and comics?? Karen Gillan shaved her head for an upcoming Marvel movie.

I kid you not, true believer.  Not only was that trending on Yahoo searches but it was one of the very few revelations from Comic Con to become a news item in Yahoo’s news-ticker. (You can read it here, if you care.)

So that’s it, kid.  Might as well pack it all up and cart it down to the dump because, if SDCC has proven anything this year, it’s that comics don’t belong here anymore.  Just like when we were kids and the teachers and bullies would rip those brightly colored items of joy out of our hands, the message is clear: “Comics?  What comics?”

SDCC began as a humble convention back in 1970.  Here’s the history as shown on their own website:

Comic-Con International: San Diego began in 1970 when a group of comics, movie, and science fiction fans — including the late Shel Dorf, Ken Krueger, and Richard Alf — banded together to put on the first comic book convention in southern California. Comic-Con started as a one-day “minicon,” called San Diego’s Golden State Comic-Minicon, on March 21, 1970 at the U.S. Grant Hotel in downtown San Diego. The purpose of this single-day event—which included two special guests, Forrest J Ackerman and Mike Royer, and drew about 100 attendees—was to raise funds and generate interest for a larger convention. The success of the minicon led to the first full-fledged, three-day San Diego Comic-Con (called San Diego’s Golden State Comc-Con), held August 1–3, 1970, at the U.S. Grant Hotel, with guests Ray Bradbury, Jack Kirby, and A. E. van Vogt. Over 300 attendees packed into the hotel’s basement for that groundbreaking event, which featured a dealers’ room, programs and panels, film screenings, and more: essentially, the model for every comic book convention to follow.
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Now THAT’S a show I would have loved to been at!  However, being only 7 years old at the time, I doubt my parents would have allowed me to fly from the East Coast for the event.  Or maybe they would have.  I’d long suspected that they had latent ‘fairy tale parent’ motives when I was in my youth particularly with all the encouragement to seek out the “house made of candy in the woods back of our house”.
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Anyway, what’s the thing that really stands out in that description?  The fact that it was something put on by fans because they really loved comic BOOKS.  There were no comic book movies in 1970.  The BATMAN show had already died out and the Hulk tv show was still years away.  These were people who came together to celebrate an art form that, quite frankly, many others thought was a load of crap.  (Some comic creators didn’t have that high an opinion of comics back then either.)
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Today, it seems that the actual comic books that drive many of these movies and mega-media events are pushed to the side like a  dirty, little secret.  Almost all of the news ‘headlines’ out of SDCC had to do with movies, entertainment stars and reunions. (While I dearly love X-FILES, what did a 20 year reunion panel have to do with comic books?  Was it to hype the new comic series that takes up where the show left off?  If so, did anyone hear that?)
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I hear report after report about how many people jam the convention.  Of movie stars climbing over each other for the opportunity to plug their upcoming whatever-it-is.  In previous years, cable channel G4 has had coverage of SDCC which was pretty much just an endless assembly line of celebrities and directors and producers hawking their product like shameless used-car salesmen.  (And someone PLEASE explain why Chris Hardwick is allowed to speak?  His determination to be the David Letterman of pop culture is migraine inducing.)
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I don’t know if G4 covered this year’s convention.  Frankly, I don’t care because when they did, every hour was the same.  “Look at this great guest we have from a show that you might know or remember and clap fast because we’ve got this other great guest lining up behind them!”
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I just bought a used-car recently and damn if SDCC doesn’t remind me of that experience.
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Does anyone even GO to SDCC just for comics anymore?  And where are the panels talking about OLD comics and comics history?  I don’t see those hyped to the gills… if they even exist anymore.  I don’t CARE about a SUPERMAN/BATMAN movie because it’ll just be another blatant money-grab by Warner Brothers.  I don’t CARE that Bryan Cranston walked the con floor dressed as his character from BREAKING BAD.  In what frigging universe does BREAKING BAD have to do with comic BOOKS????
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The answer, of course, is absolutely nothing.  And that, dear friends, is the point.  SDCC has nothing to do with comics books anymore.  It’s all about selling you something, stoking the fan flames to make you want something which, if you thought about it, you’d probably never have wanted to begin with.
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Back in the 80s, I would have loved to have gone to SDCC.  It was a dream of mine that I never realized and never will because that type of convention has vanished from the earth.  Now, when I think about SDCC, all I can hear is some slick huckster’s greasy voice as they slither, “What do I have to do to get you in this movie/tv show/game today?”
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(Sam Gafford is a 25 billion mile gas nebula currently sweltering from the super nova that is the East Coast and is a comic reader and critic.)
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About Sam Gafford
My name is Sam Gafford and I've been doing critical work on William Hope Hodgson for many years. I wrote the article "Writing Backwards: The Novels of William Hope Hodgson" in which I presented evidence that WHH wrote his novels in the reverse order in which they were published. I've recently written an article on Hodgson's confrontation with Houdini and am currently working on a book length study of WHH.

2 Responses to Don’t Get Me Started #3: SDCC

  1. I always love Sam Gafford’s happy, upbeat, positive outlook on everything; he never fails to brighten my day. Thanks!

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