As we wander the halls of Valhalla here at Movie-Con, there’s lot of those upstart comic book people clogging the aisles. Can’t they get out of the way so we can get to the White Collar panel?
In the run-up to the show, the media was full of self-referential “Can they hack it at Comic-Con?” stories that played up how important a good showing in Hall H is for any future movie, nerd-tastic or not. This one from Variety had the most level-headed take from veteran Zack Snyder:
“I feel like one Comic-Con fan is worth 100 moviegoers,” said director Zack Snyder, who will use the confab to promote “Sucker Punch,” an actioner, described as “Alice in Wonderland” with guns, that Warners will distribute in March.
Snyder has become a regular presenter at Comic-Con, using the show to launch “300” and “Watchmen,” and was an avid attendee before that for eight years, so he understands the type of crowd attending the show, especially after winning last year’s Wrath of Con award. “There’s no dorkier award, but I proudly display it in my office,” he said.
Warner Bros. agreed with Snyder not to show any footage from the film until the studio’s presentation Saturday to build anticipation and make a bigger promotional splash. “Showing footage for me is like going to my buddies and saying, ‘Look what I did!’ ” Snyder said.
Snyder may have inadvertently nailed what Comic-Con is increasingly about — looking good in front of your Hollywood pals. There is not and never was any evidence that a good showing at Comic-Con can increase box office — as proven by the SNAKES ON A PLANE fiasco. I can attest that after the AVATAR panel last year people, were openly mocking James Cameron — which he surely he channeled into his “This is my face while I’m screwing you in the ass” moment after AVATAR became the King of the Nerds.
A great showing at Comic-Con definitely gets people excited about a project — AT COMIC-CON. But as is being increasingly noted, Comic-Con has become the equivalent of a family vacation at Disneyland as far as costs and planning go, so it isn’t exactly the most coveted demographic — we see a lot of tired middle-class Orange County families pushing around fleets of strollers here and they aren’t really tastemakers — they just see lots of movies about farting chipmunks.
The other dominant demographic here is people who write for entertainment websites, and they are out in full force, although even here some fatigue has set in. Even with the reported winnowing of media outlets granted press credentials this year, the jockeying for spots, access, and party invites is wearying and brutal. Douche Prom is a harsh, unforgiving place.
But they know their onions. And this is THEIR big show in a way that comic book people barely have to worry about any more. We were struck by the thoroughness of the 2010 San Diego Comic-Con Survival Guide created by PR firm Click Communication. No surprise that there is page after page of movie, TV, and video game coverage, but it’s nice that they included ONE page of comics in it.
By far the most annoying thing about media coverage of Con is how even media outlets that used to be in the forefront of mole coverage have completely forgotten what Comic-Con used to be about. EW is the worst offender here. Their “Comic-Con” issue didn’t even mention comics aside from a Buffy motion comic — hardly anything that people will be talking about five minutes from now, let alone five weeks from now. When EW launched their “Visionaries” panels a few years ago, at least they paid lip service to comics with a panel including Jim Lee, Colleen Doran, Mike Mignola and so on — sadly, they screwed up again by not letting half the people on their panel into their party later on, but at least the panel acknowledged the origins of half the material they were covering.
However, since the departure of avowed comics moles Nisha Gopalan and Mark Bernadin, EW’s comics coverage has been all but nonexistent. Which makes them look kinda of lame, at least from where we sit. Sadly, it’s kind of typical — most major media has barely had a line about comics in their pre-show coverage.
It doesn’t help that comics are barely fighting back, although it is hard to compete with rumors about Brad Pitt. DC released all their news last week (although their blog-only PR efforts are a different form of “preaching to the converted”). Marvel has promised a lot of news, upcoming. Even those of us who WANT to give comics their due are finding it hard — comics news left the building a long time ago.
But there are ways. Why aren’t the Eisners a bigger deal? EVERYONE, it seems, has planned their party opposite the Eisners, and it’s understandable when the ceremony has evolved into such a chore even for the nominees. But that’s not how it should be. Why isn’t EVERY media outlet covering the Eisners? The ceremony is caught between the Old Ways and the Newfangled. It wants to be the last ceremony of the Olden Days with the Russ Manning award and Sergio and retailers — but it also wants to have nerdlebrities — Jane Wiedlin and stormtroopers. We say — make the studios pony up! If they want to keep competing with their poker pals to have the biggest display in the parking lot outside the Gaslamp Hilton, make ’em spend some money to make the Eisners party the Governor’s ball! Make it THE place you have to be before you go off to your studio/agency soiree.
The relationship between movies, TV shows, and the little Picts of comics will continue to evolve as Comic-Con evolves — we’ve heard some chatter that the studios are beginning to put some money back into the show — and not just in banners and bags — a welcome change that can only get all elements of the con working more smoothly.
We’ll give the last word to Elisabeth Rappe, who writes for Cinematical and has a excellent piece called “Con Men and Women” on how evolving from a movie fan to part of the Comic-Con process has its own ups and downs:
A lot of people loathe ComicCon. A lot of industry people regard it with a mixture of sadness, regret, and nostalgia. This is an event that began in a guy’s basement, and boasted nothing more than a few boxes of comics. Now it’s this megalith of pop culture where comics and their longboxes are taking a smaller and smaller seat at the table. Actually, I think many — not just comic book professionals — feel the con has been taken away from them. Fans lament the focus, the crowds and occasionally grim “Welcome to ComicCon, time to queue up!” atmosphere. ComicCon used to be a casual geek party. Now it’s an obstacle course that even Rambo would sweat to navigate. (Since Stallone is coming to the con this year, we should totally put it to the test!)
Comic-Con has always been about mingling of tribes and cross-pollination of ideas. The one thing I’ve learned about the movie folks is that they are here to stay and a lot of them are Just Like Us. And the sooner we all learn to live together, and gain some mutual respect, the better we’ll all do our jobs.
Heidi MacDonald is the founder and editor in chief of The Beat. In the past, she worked for Disney, DC Comics, Fox and Publishers Weekly. She can be heard regularly on the More To Come Podcast. She likes coffee, cats and noble struggle.