This year Rhode and I tipped our hats to the home-made and hokey quality of con-culture when we adorned our Comic-Con booth with a giant home-made tin-foil robot and dressed ourselves in cheesy outfits with tin-foil trim and retro/future shades. It was very much the “plan 9 from outer space” aesthetic at our booth this time around.
“The Future is Tomorrow!”
Our concept was that we had brought the robot back from a future time where human beings no longer make comics, instead Robots do all the work and the handmade artwork is a thing of the past. We had no idea if this facetious and silly concept would work, or if we would just make idjits of ourselves, but we were gratified to see that many people actually got a kick out of the home-made and cheesy quality of our booth.
Rhode deserves ALL the credit for constructing the robot. Although we both hatched the concept on the drive home from the 2006 show (the show where we dressed up in cheesy jumpsuits) I was not able to participate in the construction of the robot. That was all done in Stockton by Rhode, while I was at my apartment in San Francisco, locked in a epic clash of wills with my stubborn printer, in an attempt to crank out prints to sell.
While on the one hand it is wonderful to see nerd culture being embraced by the mainstream and even Hollywood, it also makes the event so huge that it becomes a chore to attend. Simply finding the booths that you want to see, even those that you have known about in advance, is so very hard that it sucks all the fun out of the room sometimes.
Moreover, The focus has shifted away from the comics and the artists themselves to media promotion, movies, games, celebrity panels, and limited edition collectibles. A better name for the show that Comic Con has become would be MEDIA CON. Comics seem to be the last thing on people’s minds these days.
But I love going there. I enjoy seeing certain friends who I only ever see at these events. I enjoy wandering around the hall and seeing the beautifully made figurines, the original artwork, the prints the life sized maquettes… I love all of it even though I am not a collector (I got more than my fair share of nerd genes but I did not get the COLLECTOR gene).
Even though I do not collect toys or artwork, I enjoy seeing them. Being able to go to a dealer booth and see original artwork, drawn by my art-heroes, and hold it in my own hands and see the brush strokes is a real charge for a comics dork such as myself. One of my favourite things in the world is to see the work of human hands, and for that reason, I love Comic Con. It also explains why I get a kick out of all the fans in costume, both the shoddy home-made and dorky outfits and the beautifully hand-crafted ones are both a testament to the fan-love that drove the event in the first place.
Some people I know have always expressed embarrassment at the fans in costume, as if they lower the tone, but for me that has always been the heart and soul of the event. Without them it is just a huge room full of people buying stuff. With them in attendance there is some sense of fun and pageantry and, more importantly, an expression of the joy of being there not for profit but just for fun.
This was probably my best show ever, largely due to the intense socialising I did this year, in what was certainly the most tiring show I have ever done. I am still dealing with the cumulative sleep deprivation of a week of fun. And yet, there is a strange love/hate aspect of going to Comic Con that is hard to pin down. Each time I go, I have so much fun, and yet it can be an overwhelming and even frustrating experience as well. I think that no matter where you are on the nerd-spectrum, from super-nerd to barely-nerd, there will be moments of joy and pleasure at Comic Con and moments where you have reached your threshold and want out, ASAP…
In the years I have been going, first as an attendee and more recently as an exhibitor, COMIC CON INTERNATIONAL has grown exponentially into a huge media event, and lately it seems that the hokey and home made quality that I used to love about it is being crowded out by the huge, the corporate and the slick.
For all the reasons listed above, plus the escalation in costs of being an exhibitor (I have never even come close to making back my costs at Comic Con) Rhode and I are not sure whether we will continue to do the show in future… or perhaps we will opt for a smaller cheaper exhibition space next time.