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Tuesday, July 20, 2010 

Mainstream success could doom SDCC

The Kansas City Star/LA Times thinks that the mainstream fame could destroy the San Diego Comicon:
Will mainstream fame destroy Comic-Con? Will the nerds succumb to the narcissism enabled by too much Hollywood love? Will the geek raison d'etre 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 under way. 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.
Unfortunately, it already has been. Yes, the movie business is a contributing factor to the downfall of mainstream comics, but then so too are the people now running Marvel and DC's book scripting.
The problem, as is so often the case, is that success, unless it's handled carefully, can spoil, just as power can corrupt. As the Comic-Con throngs went from 50,000 to 100,000, fanboy fanatics were increasingly being replaced - or at least outnumbered - by the fawning multitudes. The "cool" kids started coming in droves as the studios ramped up red carpet rollouts and the star power became blinding.
When the publishers stop respecting old time fans yet don't do anything to inspire new ones, that's what happens. And power certainly has corrupted Marvel/DC executives.
Hollywood continues to come calling in ever bigger numbers, lugging more the sort of mainstream movie baggage that would have been rousted and rejected by the faithful a few years back. "Salt," starring Angelina Jolie, might turn out to be a terrific spy thriller, and "Tangled," Disney's coming Rapunzel adventure, might be great fun, but worthy of Comic-Con cred? I don't think so.
I'm actually baffled they haven't changed the name of this convention to Holly-Con by now, or merged it with one that already puts movies in focus. The comics that made up the heart of this convention have become almost irrelevant over the past decade.
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'etat (coup d'geek?). Whatever it takes to get the purity back, return the sword to the stone, the rings to the lord. Otherwise, I fear we're in for years of bad casting, bad sequels and bad things being done to swashbuckling sci-borgs and comic book heroes who deserve a far better fate, as do we.
Alas, I think the fate of the SDCC has been sealed, and the train's already left the station. We certainly do deserve better, but the organizers and directors of the SDCC probably don't think so. Yet they're the ones who have the answers to why they're allowing this conquest by Hollywood. I can guess one of them already: because they see it as a way of making money, at the expense of what originally made up the festival's platform.

And they got that last part correct: bad things have been done to great comic book heroes, for more than a decade now.

Update: even USA Today's been willing to ask whether Comicon has been marginalized by too much commercialization:
And what about the mission? Attendees wondered aloud what some films were doing there.

The convention features an annual event known as "Trailer Park," which shows trailers of upcoming films. Attendees broke out into laughter when Charlie St. Cloud, Zac Efron's latest, came on.

"We're here to see movies for us, not for preteens and the (motion picture) academy," says attendee Michelle Goodman, 22, making her fourth Comic-Con appearance.

"Even a couple decades ago, it was still about the comics," says Ted McKeever, author and illustrator of several comic books, including Metropol and Meta 4. McKeever made his first appearance at the convention in 1986.

"Then Hollywood came in," he says. "And the event got bigger and bigger. We've been pushed to the side."

That's literally in some instances. Comic-book peddlers once had run of the center. Now they are relegated to a few aisles, competing against massive movie and TV billboards and "booth babes" who hand out promotional items.

Alison Hodges, 42, wonders if Comic-Con's energies are being spent properly. The Las Vegas mother of two, who has made the trek to Comic-Con for eight straight years, says this will be her last. "You're shoulder-to-shoulder to people," she says. "And it's not about comics. It's action figures and T-shirts and studio swag. That's not why this was started. Just call it Pop Con."
Maybe it's time for a different comics convention to be established elsewhere in the US, but in these troubled times, it may not happen.

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  • I'm Avi Green
  • From Jerusalem, Israel
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