Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Comic-Con Episode IV: A Fan's Hope

Year 9, Day 219 - 8/7/17 - Movie #2,708

BEFORE: Well, Geek Week is now past its halfway point and I've circled back to San Diego Comic-Con, the epicenter of all things geeky and nerdy.  I was just THERE two weeks ago, and on my first workday back in New York, I started calling my contacts at New York Comic-Con to make sure we were going to have a booth, to help make up for our losses on the San Diego trip.  So these Comic-Cons are really my version of the Macy's Thanksgiving Parade - one day after the current one, I have to start thinking about the next one.  But that may change next year.

Things did not go spectacularly well for me in San Diego this year - from the frustrations of learning a whole new set of rules and regulations and places to stand in line for things, there was the awful experience of dealing with 125,000 other people, many of whom are now so self-entitled on a personal level that they just don't care who they bump into, cut in line in front of, or inconvenience with their enormous robot costume or the fact that they couldn't be bothered to take a shower that morning.  I came back and wrote a 9-page manifesto-like rant about it, but since it was written mostly in anger, I edited it down to only its most pertinent details and posted it here, if you're interested:


I know, at the end of the day it's a JOB for me, I'm not there to have fun, I go there to work at a booth, and maybe have a little fun if I can.  But after 15 years of flying out to San Diego to work this convention, I've got a different definition of fun now.  Fun for me now is hitting one of my regular eateries at the end of the day, loading up on some barbecue or some fried seafood, or hitting a food truck by the stadium and then seeking out a beer float.  Then going back to my AirBnB and hitting the sack, so I can get up early and do it all again the next day.

I've known about this documentary, directed by Morgan Spurlock, for some time now - but I guess I've avoided it because I've lived it on an annual basis, so it seemed there was probably no need.  But I can't deny it fits in here with the other Geek Week programming, and interview subject Scott Mantz carries over from "For the Love of Spock", so there's my justification for finally watching this.  This one was available on iTunes for just 99 cents - at least it WAS until I tried to rent it, at which point it was "unavailable" because the listing was being changed, with the price suddenly rising to $2.99.  So, yeah, thanks for that.

THE PLOT: A behind-the-scenes look at the fans who gather by the thousands each year in San Diego to attend Comic-Con, the world's largest comic-book (and pop culture) convention.

AFTER: I suppose I was somewhat upset with Morgan Spurlock at first - because I re-met him in 2009 (after first meeting him at Sundance in 2004) when he came to hang out in my boss's booth at New York Comic-Con, which was most likely the first time he ever went to a Comic-Con.  Then a couple years later in 2011, out came this documentary he directed about the San Diego Con, and neither I nor my boss had been invited to appear in it. (I was probably riding high after my appearance in the 2010 documentary "The People vs. George Lucas"...).  Hey, that's what Comic-Con is all about, hobnobbing with celebrities, especially the geeky ones, so you can drop their names later.

But now I see what his focus for the film needed to be - Spurlock followed the stories of 5 "regular" people (and that term becomes somewhat subjective at Comic-Con, where really nobody is regular or normal, just different degrees of weird...) or perhaps I should say "non-famous" people as they attend the convention with very different goals.  Two of them, Eric and Skip, are aspiring comic-book artists who want to show their portfolios to representatives from noted comic book publishers, another, Holly, is a costume designer who wants to show off her work at the famed Saturday Masquerade, and one is James, a young man who met his girlfriend the year before at the convention, and wants to surprise her with a wedding proposal during the Kevin Smith panel in Hall H.  (After reviewing my photos, I determined that this was filmed at the 2010 San Diego Con, and that was back when you only had to wait a few hours in line to get into Hall H, not 2 days...)

The fifth subject is Chuck Rozanski, owner of Mile High Comics, who's been coming to the event since the early days, back when it was at the U.S. Grant Hotel (before the El Cortez, even!) and runs a successful booth along the front wall, selling used comics and a lot of trade paperbacks.  This was the person I identified most with, because I've also managed a booth at this show for a good number of years, and like Chuck, I've noticed the decline in revenue from selling physical media - our DVD sales were way down this year, because the kids today want everything streamed to their laptops and tablet, with no respect for the past.  I feel your pain, Chuck.  in this documentary, Chuck decides to bring his 9.0-rated copy of "Red Raven Comics" #1 to the convention, to find a collector willing to pay his $500,000 asking price, a sale which could pay off all of the outstanding debts he's incurred running a comic-book store with an enormous warehoused back-log.  Circling around Chuck is Mike Carbonaro, who I know as the founder of the Big Apple Con, and Mike here claims to have a buyer who may be interested in purchasing the Red Raven.

Interspersed with a host of celebrities telling us how important the San Diego Con has become (and the worst of the bunch is Stan Lee mansplaining comic books - "They're like stories, with pictures!"  Gee, thanks, Stan...) we follow the paths of Eric, Skip, Holly, James and Chuck through their 2010 SDCC experiences, the highs and the lows.  And part of anyone's Comic-Con experience is not only navigating the crowd, but trying to dig through all the things that aren't personally relevant to them in order to find the things that are.  Holly's costumes are a hit at the Masquerade, for example.  Now, I used to attend the closed-circuit broadcasts of the Saturday Masquerade, back when they showed that up in the Sails Pavilion and served free nachos.  (One year "Cupcake Wars" was there with cupcakes, that was cool...).  But I stopped going to this years ago because I just couldn't stay up that late on Saturday night - the Masquerade starts rather late and goes until "whenever" - plus if you want to see it in person, you have to wait in line first thing Saturday morning to get your wristband, which only guarantees you a place to wait in the REAL ticket line for the rest of the day.  I'm not kidding.

For many, it can be a magical place where nerd dreams come true, especially if your nerd dreams involve standing at a urinal between a Stormtrooper and a Klingon.  But it's also a maddening, confusing, frustrating place, which is what it's become for me these last few years.  I'm just not having much fun there anymore - I want to get up, show up, pitch in, put out, work hard, clean up, punch out, get out, eat out, go home, turn in and sack out.  Repeat 4 or 5 times, then get on the plane and fly home.  I collected a lot of photos and memories during my times in San Diego - I think I did the math and figured out that I've lived in that city for three months, just 6 days at a time.  I've had enough of it.  Maybe I'll feel sad next year when July rolls around and I'm not at the convention, but I'm willing to take that chance.

Also starring Eric Henson, Skip Harvey, Holly Conrad, Chuck Rozanski, James Darling, Se Young Kong, Mike Carbonaro, and interview subjects Kevin Smith (last seen in "Comic Book: the Movie"), Stan Lee (ditto), Joss Whedon, Eli Roth (last seen in "Death Proof"), Todd McFarlane, Frank Miller (last seen in "Sin City: A Dame to Kill For"), Guillermo del Toro (last heard in "The Book of Life"), Edgar Wright (last heard in "Sing"), Kenneth Branagh (last seen in "Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit"), Seth Rogen (last heard in "Sausage Party"), Seth Green (last heard in "The Lego Batman Movie"), Corey Feldman (last seen in "The Lost Boys"), Thomas Jane (last seen in "The Sweetest Thing"), Olivia Wilde (last seen in "Her"), Paul Scheer (last seen in "Bride Wars"), Matt Groening (also last seen in "Comic Book: The Movie"), Paul Dini (ditto), Jon Schnepp (last seen in "The Death of Superman Lives: What Happened?"), Grant Morrison (ditto), Harry Jay Knowles (last seen in "The Faculty"), Steve Sansweet, Morgan Webb, Gerard Way, Joe Quesada, Matt Fraction, Robert Kirkman, Marc Guggenheim and cameos from Adrianne Curry, Harrison Ford (last seen in "Elstree 1976"), Sylvester Stallone (last seen in "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2"), Dolph Lundgren (last seen in "Jodorowsky's Dune").

RATING: 5 out of 10 slave Leias at the Gentle Giant booth

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