July 22, 2010

Report on Comic-Con 2010

Thursday I attended the opening day of this year's San Diego Comic-Con. As usual, I went with my pal Victor, an enrolled Pechanga Indian. This time his young friends Rebecca and Eric accompanied us.

As always, I looked for signs of Native and multicultural work. Here's what we saw:

  • Zombies, vampires, and post-apocalyptic worlds continued to be big. Among licensed properties, Star Wars seems to be the perennial champ.

  • The movies getting the biggest push included Green Hornet, Tron: Legacy, and Battle: Los Angeles. I don't know how big they'll be, but they don't have the same cachet as Iron Man, Harry Potter, or Lord of the Rings.

  • Avatar had almost no presence. There was one giant statue of Neytiri, the hot Indian Na'vi princess, and one vendor was selling a few Neytiri figurines. She may have been there only because she's a sexy fantasy female, not because anyone is demanding Avatar merchandise.

  • Twilight also had almost no presence, which was a bit surprising. I guess comics and sci-fi fans don't overlap much with Twilight fans.

  • The Last Airbender also had almost no presence, which probably wasn't surprising given its critical drubbing. I did see one or two kids dressed as Aang, the Asian hero played by a white actor.

  • Jonah Hex had no presence at all. That must be one of the biggest losers that could've been a franchise.

    Native and multicultural aspects

  • A couple of booths were selling black comic books. Other than that and the usual Japanese anime and manga, I didn't see many signs of minority-themed creative projects.

  • One t-shirt artist says he was donating part of the proceeds to the fight against SB 1070, Arizona's anti-immigrant law. Nice touch, but it would've been better if he were advertising his opposition on a sign rather than telling to a few customers.

  • I believe this artist also was working on "Aliens vs. Predators" video. I.e., immigrants vs. enforcers...get it? The one second of video I saw showed Latinos firing futuristic weapons at somebody.

  • The Blacklava booth was selling Racebending and other t-shirts with pro-Asian messages. It may have been the only booth with an overt message about racial politics.

  • The Neytiri statue was the biggest example of an "indigenous" presence, and she's a Smurf-cat alien. That's sad.

  • We saw a poster of Tonto as a knife-wielding savage and a painting of Turok as a dinosaur-killing savage. We saw a few pages of old Western comic-book art featuring Indians, and Victor bought a copy of INDIANS #17 (Spring 1953). A vendor had a Deftones poster with an Aztec priest and a winged serpent.

    And that's about it for the Native presence. It was about as close as you can get to zero without being zero.

    A genuine protest

    We did have one notable multicultural encounter. Fred Phelps and his Westboro Baptist Church, the people who protested gays at a military funeral, showed up at lunchtime to harangue the fans and motorists. They carried signs saying "Fags Are Beasts" and the like.

    But the Comic-Con people were prepared. Some had counter-signs such as "God Hates Fred Phelps." Others used hyperbole such as "God Hates Kittens" and "Kill All Humans." This did an effective job of parodying the protesters' fanaticism.

    You can read more about it here. Eventually the anti-gay protesters left. Victor tweeted the following:The Comic-Conners chased Fred Phelps & his haters away from the event. The Force is strong with the nerds.It makes sense that people who love aliens, monsters, and elves would be tolerant toward gays. But there's a huge contingent of fans who love vigilantes, warriors, and serial killers. I wonder if they're pro-gay too. Did they join the counter-protest or stay indoors with their ultra-macho, ultra-violent "heroes"? Overall impressions The Con may have been slightly less crowded this year. Since the crowds are a huge problem, that's good. Trends: Toys and video games were up this year. Movies and TV shows were down. Comics held their ground: Marvel and DC were down, but smaller publishers were up. Some people have proposed a Creator-Con as an alternative to Comic-Con. This would return the focus to comics. My pal Victor proposed a similar idea called Comic-Con for Comics. Good one, Vic. Comic-Con is becoming a Wal-Mart of pop culture. It needs to stop kowtowing to vendors selling merchandise and return to satisfying fans. For more on the subject, see Pix of Comic-Con 2009 and Report on Comic-Con 2009.

    Terrie said...

    "But there's a huge contingent of fans who love vigilantes, warriors, and serial killers. I wonder if they're pro-gay too. Did they join the counter-protest or stay indoors with their ultra-macho, ultra-violent "heroes"?"

    Wow, that was not the thoughtfulness I've come to expect from this blog. I happen to enjoy good stories, which can be about those vigilantes and serial killers. And you know what? Not all of them fit your narrow stereotype. Nor do their fans.

    That, combined with the statement "When comic-book nerds support gay rights, you can believe the issue has gone mainstream." makes me wonder about your opinion of nerds.

    Rob said...

    "I wonder" means I'm asking the question, not assuming the answer.

    I've created a comic called PEACE PARTY and have a page devoted to nonviolence, you know. I've come down on vigilantes, warriors, and killers many times. You must be a new reader if my position surprises you.

    Since I've absorbed tens of thousands of comic books, TV shows, movies, and novels about vigilante types, you may be sure I enjoy them too. But for every good story about vigilantes, there must be ten bad ones. I like the former and loathe the latter.

    Comic-Con isn't a celebration of Dashiell Hammett, The Sopranos, SCALPED, or whatever you consider the best of noir fiction. It showcases hundreds of grim 'n' gritty properties you've never heard of before and will never hear of again. They're there because fans like ultra-macho, ultra-violent "heroes," not because they appreciate good storytelling.

    Rob said...

    I include myself among the comic-book nerds and geeks, although "nerd" and "geek" aren't the right terms for fans like me. Therefore, I can speak about them from firsthand knowledge.

    In my experience, comic-book nerds aren't on the cutting edge of political and social change. They're probably closer to the center than to either extreme. Therefore, "when comic-book nerds support gay rights, you can believe the issue has gone mainstream."

    Rob said...

    Something I didn't see:


    San Diego Comic Con:  DC Focus Grant Morrison

    The best moment of the panel was when a young Native American man walked up to the microphone. He made reference to an interview where Morrison said he would like to see more Native America writers. The questioner told Morrison that he inspired him to write his own comic which he held up in his hand. Morrison asked for him to bring it up to him as the questioning resumed.