by: Chris Eaton
My rants have been answered.
In the two years since this site reopened, I’ve bitched about a great many things. Sometimes it’s about a film. Or the crappy decisions studio heads make. Occasionally, it’s about why certain TV shows blow. But amongst all of that noise, the one thing I’ve been the most vocal about is Comic Con. I complain about Comic Con because I love it so much. It’s equitable to being in an abusive relationship. Head over heels about Con, but every year, it fucks you in the ass when your not looking, only to be in denial about it and eagerly await the next time a cornholing happens. Why dose some one like me put up with this crap? Because at one point, Con was the equivalent of a good person that lost it’s way.
Where did it go wrong? Probably when it started getting attention from Hollywood and not the comic industry that it was created for. No longer did it seem that small press, or even big press, were of any importance. No, after a while it became about which celebs were showing up to promote whatever bullshit they were putting out. Many of which could give a flying fuck about being in a room with a huge group of nerds and geeks. Ones that are there because they were told to be there. These celebs attracted many folks who would never have come to Comic Con in the first place. Nor would they ever. But one word that an A-Lister is going to be there in the flesh, these folks are there front and center. These people come to star fuck, and give less than two shits about companies like Slave Labor Graphics or Dark Horse. These people showed up due to hype, and to possibly get a picture with a A list celeb who will be shuffled in the back gate by a motorcade that makes the president’s setup look like an amateur act, only to then dash right out after they’ve paid their time to the studios that brought them there. Basically, Comic Con became a coke whore. One who loves to sodomize its old lovers and is addicted to fame.
The sad thing is, when it’s on that coke, it’s still fun as hell.
This has been my relationship with Comic Con for the last eight years or so. Ever since attending my first one in 1994, at the tender age of ten, I’ve not missed a show. Now some 17 years later, Con has become a different beast all together. There was a time when you could get into a panel without having to wait three hours beforehand, through a bunch of panels you had no interest in. There was a point when you could get one on one time with your favorite artist and not have to fork over $50 for a simple sketch. There was a point when the convention center was half the size it was now, and you could stand in the middle of an isle, and were able to put your arms out at full length without hitting someone. And that was at a full show! Now it’s worse than Hong Kong in terms of traffic. Many of the artist are reduced to paying outrageous fees to get tables and charge up the ass for a head sketch. And if you want to see a decent panel, you better get there early before the convention center opens up to grab a seat at 10 am for that 430 pm panel you want to see. If you want a show exclusive, you almost have to suck dick to get it. All of this thanks to Hollywood, and mainstream media. Oh, fuck it – the Internet is to blame too.
We, the attendees of old, have drunk the kool aid. I know I have. Admittedly so, I loved it when Hall H was built. I could get in to see guys like Robert Rodriguez and Guillermo Del Toro pimp Sin City and Hellboy. I got free posters and other goodies from people like Fox and Lionsgate that were only available at Con. (I took many of these and sold them on Ebay afterwards) It was a week to spend away from home with my buddies in this awesome mecca of geekdom that was only getting bigger every year. It was something I told everyone I knew that they had to attend at least once. That snake bit me on the hand. Everyone seemed to get in on this idea and new people were showing up every year as they heard that people like Angelina Jolie and Johnny Depp were showing up. Early looks at the latest Batman film were too good to pass up. A free Tenacious D concert? Fuck yes. It’s all fine and dandy on paper. But then you have a group of people like hard core movie bloggers showing up, that are cynical as fuck, poo pooing everything they see. There are people who never bothered to come before, bitching about the people and there being nothing to do. These people look forward to the end of the day to just hang out and drink in the Gaslamp area. More and more non-comic or pop culture shows and movies taking up space to maximize free publicity that Con has to offer. Finally, the icing on the cake. The Twilight whores. A huge murder of underage girls and their terrible middle-aged mothers (who should know better), all girl-stroking themselves to the dumbest fucking movie series in the last decade. It’s here the environment is starting to turn on you, and your fun is starting to wane.
I make these points to direct you to this story in the New York Times. Studios reassessing Comic Con. Basically, the dream and ideal that 130,000 people over four days will help your film or TV show with early buzz and marketing will get over is no more. Over the last few years, as the studios maximized their presence at Con, the films and shows they’ve brought haven’t lived up to the effort they put forth at the Convention. Case in points: Tron Legacy, Kick Ass, Scott Pilgrim, Sucker Punch, Serenity, Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, Skyline are a few that didn’t live up to any hype created at Comic Con. True, these are hit and miss examples – there are a good majority of them that are quite good that never seemed to find an audience out side of a niche group. While several TV shows have seen some great success out of Con, Heroes and Lost, many still come and go with out a whimper or a bang.
So what does this mean? It means that this year, Warner Bros.’ movie division, Disney, Dreamworks, and the Weinstein Co. are all sitting this one out. Disney and Warners being the biggies; their panels usually draw huge attendance, as they normally have giant projects that people on the net are aching for any info on. Paramount, who has done fairly well with Con, will still be there in force. They plan on debuting Cowboys and Aliens at the Con much like Universal did with Scott Pilgrim last year. That experience was phenomenal, and unfortunately, seemed to be only because of the crowd at Comic Con was into Scott Pilgrim. The rest of the world seemed not to be. Sony will be there to pimp The Amazing Spider-Man, which just finished shooting. Smaller companies like Lionsgate and Relativity, who don’t have as much money vested in their geek friendly films as the bigger studios do, will be there as well. So will the Twilight crowd. But lets be honest. Twilight and Spider-Man are going to make huge sacks of cash either way. They’re already established film series that the general public will be seeing if they show up at Comic Con or not. Even with these guys, there’s still going to be a huge chunk of movie marketing gone. Lots of people were holding out hope that WB would have something Dark Knight Rises or Man Of Steel related, but if they do, it’ll be viral only. Marvel is even on the fence about showing up. Avengers is only a few weeks in to shooting, so they might not drop everything they’re doing to go answer dumb questions or drop any news on the film that they’re not ready to do yet. Too all of this, I say good.
Why? With less big-time bullshit around, more people will probably say “fuck it” to attending. There’s already a dent being made, with people not wanting to go due to the crowds. The idea that, if you’re not at Comic Con to see a panel you’re missing out, is also gone. Last year, we posted many videos of the panels in session at Con. The so called ”exclusive clips” that they show during these panels usually make their way onto the Internet in a few days anyway. Even with the threat of a law suit. ( Though if you’re pimping a film, one would say to show said clips online anyway to build buzz.) Less a chance of big movies, that are still over a year away, having any presence and no celebs is a big deterrent. This makes for a slightly smaller crowd at the show. Which makes things better for people like me, who just like going to the Con for the whole experience all together.
What I’m hoping is that this is a retracting of the massive tide that broke over the convention almost a decade ago. A hopeful return to a time when groups like G4 and ET didn’t cover the show like it was the fucking Oscars and making it a trendy thing to do for a couple of days in San Diego. Right now, it’s still impossible to get in to the show. When less than four years ago, you could still walk up to the door and buy a pass. I’m hoping that come 2015, those expansions that the city is putting into the convention center will be moot. I’m sure that these studios pulling out doesn’t bode well for the Con organizers. But in my opinion, fuck ‘em; they’ve gotten greedy. There’s always been problems at Comic Con, but the bending over for the studios, so that attendance can balloon up, is something that they brought upon themselves. I’m all for making money in our capitalist society, but there’s only so far you can go with anything. The show has reached its breaking point, but these people, along with the city of San Diego, have been trying to shove attendees into the center and city like clowns in a Shriner’s car. It’s too much, and the pressure needs to be relived.
Look, Comic Con is an experience in itself. The whole show is the size of Disneyland and gets more people than the fucking Super Bowl every year. There’s always been more to it than covering films and shitty TV shows only to hop over to the local pubs to get wasted. There’s the comics. There’s the small press. There’s the cosplayers. The Masquerade. The dealers. Artist’s Alley. The people you meet. I know it sounds like I’m making it out to be some sappy Hallmark TV movie of the week, but there’s still a bit of magic at Comic Con that can’t be replicated. Even though many have tried but never succeeded.
While it took almost billions of dollars in commercial failures of film and TV, people waking up to see that Con is still a niche market and in the long run, doesn’t help a film or show. I don’t want Comic Con to become one of these upstart cons that barley fill a ball room at your local Marriott. I don’t think that will happen, but I want it to be the big show that a lot of the hardcore nerds and geeks can get together at once a year and celebrate the shit they love. Doing so without a bunch of corporate whoring shoved down their throats. I know I sound selfish, and I am, but I’m tired of being fucked over by something I love.
Here’s to to downsizing of Comic Con, and the stabilizing of Fandom.