Comic Con 2023 may have been notable for the lack of studio fanfare, but a local congressman made headlines on that front. Robert Garcia chose the final day of Comic Con to launch his bipartisan Congressional Popular Arts Caucus. Joining Garcia on the panel launching the caucus were Megan Halsband (Library of Congress librarian overseeing the nation’s comic book collection), Josh Trujillo (writer of DC’s Blue Beetle comics) and Jeff Trexler (interim director of the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund). Policy details were light, but what Garcia hoped to accomplish brought glimmers of hope to creators beat down by corporate systems of diminishing returns and the threat of AI technologies.

Robert Garcia, Megan Halsband, Josh Trujillo and Jeff Trexler at the SDCC ’23 Congressional Popular Arts Caucus announcement.

The venue Garcia chose for the announcement made perfect sense. San Diego is the biggest game in town when it comes to pop culture, and as a University of Central Florida report noted comic conventions contribute “billions of dollars in economic impact to host cities.” Translated, this meant trade and jobs, the magical combo transcending nerddom and party lines.

A self-professed comics man, Garcia has attended Comic Con for the last 20 years. Superman was the immigrant kid’s idol. Superman had a secret identity. Superman was from another planet. Superman represented truth, goodness, and doing the right thing. Superman’s importance could not be overstated — Garcia took his oath of office with a copy of Superman #1 tucked beneath the U.S. Constitution.

“To understand comics is to understand social justice and to understand deeply what comics is about is to also understand what kindness is about, and doing the right thing, helping your neighbor and ensuring that we build communities that uplift those that are most marginalized or that need our help.”

The panelists also spoke to how they hoped H.Res.598 would help shape the future within their own spheres of influence. As guardian of the nation’s comic book collection, Halsband echoed much of what Garcia had said of comic books’ importance in the conscience of the nation:  

“Since the beginning of this country, popular artists have played an impact in how we think about ourselves as a country, how we think about ourselves, the United States…so much in comics is contemporary life, representing people’s experiences.”

Trexler and Trujillo concurred, offering insights from the creator and social justice points of view. Trexler spoke of how comics served as a representation of the American Dream while Trujillo reflected on how comics reflected the world at large. Both touched upon the economic inequalities across the industry and the need to level the playing field and defend the rights of all creatives.

In addition to discussions of diversity and social justice, Garcia spoke about the urgent need to address AI. He recognized that many policymakers were clueless about the AI threats and education was needed to inform members of Congress about its impact on the economy and workforce.

Garcia charmed and inspired the audience with charisma and a bucket list of initiatives near and dear to creatives’ hearts. Garcia even expressed promise of a Free Comic Book Day at the Capitol for policy makers and their families to highlight the importance of popular arts. The discussions seemed promising and relevant at the moment, but how these ideas play out in the fledgling Congressional Popular Arts Caucus of lawmakers, however, remains to be seen.

Miss any of our earlier SDCC ’23 coverage? Find it all here!