This ain’t no party

…this ain’t no foolin’ around…yeah, so, for whatever reason, I’ve decided to start blogging again, and I’ve decided to go with a new name. I may well change it, but for now, I’m going with This Ain’t No Disco, a line from Talking Heads’ “Life During Wartime” that I’ve always loved for some reason. At the moment, it’s hitting me because I’m in a kind of rejectionist mood - I’m at San Diego Comic Con, and there’s no there there.

This thing is *huge*. I don’t think I can properly sum up the size for someone who’s not here. I knew it was big before I got here, but this is just bonkers. The convention floor spans a few city blocks - it’s impossible to get from one end to the other in anything resembling a reasonable time. And despite this size, it’s not big enough. There were well over a hundred thousand people there today. In order to get into any reasonably popular panel, you have to line up half an hour beforehand. I saw the line for a panel on Geoff Johns go a few hundred yards, turn around, go back the whole distance, turn around again, and go back halfway. It was silly. What the hell are these people showing up for?

Not comics, I can tell you that much. They’re here for the schwag. They’re here for the movies and TV crap. Comic Con is not like a science fiction convention, which are generally run for fans by fans. This is a giant marketing device masquerading as a fan convention. Almost all the panels are absurd things with a few famous people sitting up high at the front of a huge room, shilling whatever crap they’ve got coming out soon. It doesn’t matter which medium we’re talking about - it’s Mad Libs. Plug in toys, comics, movies, TV shows, video games…it all flows the same. Now, I don’t mean every panel. I saw the tail end of a great one on teaching comics today, right after a great panel focusing on Keith Giffen. But before the Giffen panel, I sat in on an unnamed minor publisher’s panel, and it was abominable. There was nothing to it but name-dropping (”When [c-list movie star] pitches you a comic, that’s cool!” No, it’s not.), licensed pap, “casual” mentions of their books getting optioned for film, and introducing every new book by mentioning how one or more of the creators worked on some other book for them that “did great for us” (”us” being the publisher in question). It wasn’t a panel about the stories they’re telling, or what’s possible with the artform, or anything even remotely interesting: it was a sequence of sales pitches, aimed at…ok, I don’t even know who they were aiming at. Probably the reporters/bloggers from Major Comics News Sites in the audience.

That kind of panel, combined with the fact that a good third of the convention floor is taken up by video game companies, movie/TV studios, toy companies, or other entirely non-comics corporate crap, makes me want to stab babies. I mean, I hate crowds and would probably not be perfectly happy here under any circumstances, and the Comics Arts Conference panels are absolutely spectacular, but 95+% of the people here are just interested in snagging free shit, taking pictures of movie stars, or seeing the trailer for the next Terminator movie. Where’s the discussion? Where’s the interaction? Where’s the sense of fandom as something other than a collective death march into a commercial gulag? How do we get comic conventions back to something more like science fiction conventions? Sci-fi cons are, generally, run for fans by fans. The biggest one each year, World Con, moves every year, and is run by a local con group at its location that year. Hell, they even have sci-fi people presenting their big awards - here, at the Eisners, they had Sam Jackson, the voice of Spongebob, and some schmucks from Reno 911.

I realize that I’m probably sounding like your classic culture snob right now. But I swear, that’s not me. I love trash. I love the goofy. I just want to know why comics conventions have to be entirely about the filthy lucre with almost no place for discussion, be it between fans and pros, critics and academics, or any other combination. Screw the movies, screw the Big Corporate Book Announcement - let’s talk about fucking comics already.

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