question of the day: Has Hollywood ruined Comic Con?

Comic Con starts today in San Diego. I’ve never attended a Comic Con — well, apart from the upstart New York one a couple years back — it looks as if perhaps I may never get to experience San Diego Comic Con in the form that made it legendary in the first place. At least if I’m to heed the worry that Los Angeles Times film critic Betsy Sharkey expressed a few days ago:

Will mainstream fame destroy Comic-Con? Will the nerds succumb to the narcissism enabled by too much Hollywood love? Will the geek raison d’être be diluted as the films that fill the hallowed halls of the San Diego Convention Center starting Thursday drift further and further from the comic book, sci-fi fanboy core?

I hope not, but there are signs that erosion is already well underway. So I do have fears. And so should you. If the obsession and passion of the freaks and geeks soften, something precious will be lost to all of us. Seriously.

I think it’s a valid question that applies to all things geeky, not just Comic Con, and becomes more and more obvious in a movie year like this one, when the multiplexes are full of movies that theoretically have geek appeal — monsters and mythic warriors, magicians and hero’s journeys, adventure in other realms — yet somehow fail to actually capture what made stories like those click in our geeky minds in the first place.

Is it all the fault of the geeks themselves? Sharkey suggests that not long after Hollywood came calling, bringing all its star power to “kiss the ring” of hard-to-impress fanboys and girls, the “cool” kids — that is, not the geeks — began to overwhelm Comic Con. Sharkey’s solution?

The perception of the convention as still belonging to the geeks lingers, while the reality is that the cool kids are taking over. Before that happens, I am hoping for a coup d’état (coup d’geek?).

Is it too late for that? Has Hollywood ruined Comic Con? Can it be taken back, or is it forever lost to Hollywood glitz and glamor? Perhaps Hollywood will eventually realize that merely appropriating geekitude isn’t enough to create successful movies that geeks like, and will abandon Comic Con on its own?

What do you think?

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Thu, Jul 22, 2010 12:42pm

I’m not convinced that Comic Con being a Hollywood production which nonetheless draws all the major figures in geekdom is also the death knell of geekdom. There are a zillion other cons that Hollywood has no interest in where the hard core devotee is still the majority.

Rachel Hartman
Rachel Hartman
Thu, Jul 22, 2010 1:19pm

As long as there’s a readercon, geekdom will survive. As long as there’s a gaming con where the big companies don’t run the show, geekdom will survive. As long as there are local cons that keep giving the local and regional geeks a fun weekend away from the mundanes, geekdom will survive.

There will be CrockPots percolating in the green rooms. There will be reminders to shower once a day and eat at least twice a day. There will be filk. There will be masquerades. There will be charity auctions. Maybe geekdom doesn’t always see corporate interference as damage to route around, but it’ll find a way.

Thu, Jul 22, 2010 2:36pm

I can’t really speak to ComicCon, since I’ve never been. But I can tell you that geekdom is alive and well at Dragon*Con.

What’s more, is that because it seems like “The Industry” largely ignores it, it’s a massive affair (some 35,000 attendees last year) with a very convivial atmosphere. Skeptics and TAPS fans brush elbows as well as storm troopers and jedi, Trekkies and Browncoats stand in line together and debate either Miyazaki’s latest work or the last episode of Warehouse 13 – or which party to go to that evening and which celebrity might show. Felicia Day swung by last year’s Mighty Fine Shindig and I’ve had the chance to actually talk with the likes of Richard Hatch, Nathan Fillion and even Mary McDonnell.

Long story short, MAJ, you should come one of these years. You’d love the Skeptic Track and the British Sci-Fi Media Track and the Whedonverse Track and the Film Festival!

… maybe I should volunteer for this Con…

Thu, Jul 22, 2010 4:14pm

I’m with everyone else. If the geeks decide ComicCon is ruined, they’ll melt away and start up a new one to replace it. Cons aren’t going anywhere…

Thu, Jul 22, 2010 10:22pm

For the near future I think it’s going to depend on how the new Tron movie does. If comiccon buzz doesn’t translate into ticket sales, the bigger heartless movies that are being much more cynically marketed may give up, leaving the people who get it to hang around. If movies like Tron and Scott Pilgrim end up doing better than expected in part because of buzz, the corporate side is going to get even bigger. And then perhaps comes the backlash.

But yeah, the real geeks don’t outgrow it, and they’ll still need something no matter which way it goes. My guess is that if it gets too unsustainably big, the con might have to split in two- big corporate events in one section, actual traditional con stuff in the other.

Fri, Jul 23, 2010 2:03pm

I don’t think it’s so much “Hollywood” that could kill ComiCon (caveat, I’ve never been there). It’s the fact that geekdom is far, FAR more mainstream now (though i guess that might be a product of Hollywood). It’s no longer totally unacceptable to like scifi if you’re one of the (as said above) “cool kids.” ComiCon will probably always go on, just as a great gathering place for access to all the aspects of the various genres, but it may lose its insanity.