Right now, at this moment, there are bins of half-price trade paperbacks going unfondled by me. There are lines of people waiting for hours for the chance to see movie trailers a month before everyone else and I am not one of them. There might be a 40-year-old nerd embarrassing himself in front of Paul Levitz right now, but it is not me this time.
That’s right. I’m not at Comic-Con. I have a newborn baby girl, a three-year-old and a novel due. The choice was not actually that agonizing or difficult.
Thanks to the Internet (and Geoff Boucher), I can get all the news without shoving my way through the crowds. I believe that this year roughly a kajillion people are expected to show up, topping last year’s previous record.
It should be obvious to anyone that geek culture has won, and Comic-Con is its annual victory dance. Even James Wolcott is at Comic-Con this year. Now that Vanity Fair covers Nerd Prom, maybe everyone can finally stop using the goddamn headline, “Not just for kids anymore.”
Like this guy, I feel the need for some credit and recognition: I was a geek long before it was cool. I can still name all the members of the Legion of Super-Heroes (see my embarrassment and Paul Levitz, above); I read Alan Moore before Watchmen; and I was properly ashamed of myself for indulging in what was supposed to be a diversion for subliterates and grade-schoolers.
My very first Comic-Con, I dragged my then-girlfriend/now-wife along. Guys still stared at her like she was some kind of alien species in their midst, and she wasn’t even in spandex. (To be fair, guys stare at her everywhere.) Now the floor is packed with women, many of whom are wearing outfits like the “Wookini.” My second or third Comic-Con, I saw Grant Morrison just hanging out in one of the aisles and said hello. We talked for almost 30 minutes without another person interrupting. I cannot imagine that happening now. For starters, Morrison’s phalanx of elite supermodel bodyguards would never let me near him. Not that I would get that close, since I’d be at the back of the mob straining to touch his blazing white suit.
The backlash is inevitable at this point. Some people cannot wait to turn their backs on the whole thing, as if they’re just as embarrassed as I used to be. Like horror movies a while ago, there’s the forecast of the death of the superhero movie. There’s plenty of evidence for that argument: they’re remaking Judge Dredd, for chrissakes. (This should last at least until The Dark Knight Rises shatters box-office records again.)
Maybe we will return to Jock Culture, which is what I grew up with, and which is still a much bigger generator of revenue, no matter how many kids line up to see Harry Potter at midnight. Maybe we’ll go back to nerds huddling in their nerd-holes, fearful of sunlight and pummelings. Lord knows it is still not easy to be a kid, no matter how many movies they make about guys in spandex.
I’m reading Morrison’s Supergods, just released this week. It’s a book-length essay encapsulating all the things Morrison has been saying in his comics for the past couple decades. But this is the graf that really stood out to me so far:
When you put it that way, it doesn’t seem so much like fantasy anymore. The world is badly in need of saving. Maybe we’re not escaping into comic book worlds as much as we are looking for answers and heroes and hope. Given the alternatives, I would rather have my kids dressing in day-glo colors and believing in infinite possibilities fueled by solar rays and pure imagination. So if they want to go, I’ll take them to Comic-Con someday.
And maybe if we’re lucky, they will come back from their insane splash-page adventures with the ideas that could teach us all to fly.