Author’s Note: The following review was published in the Yellowknifer on May 1, 2013
In 1970, The US Grand Hotel in San Diego was the host of the world’s first comic con, a place where amateur artists could meet with professional artists and for fans to intermingle and collect.
Flash-forward to 40 years and Comic con had grown into a phenomenon with over 140,000 fanboys and fan girls in attendance to see the latest movies, TV shows or video games.
This Comic-Con International: San Diego and the gushing fan persons are the focus of Morgan Spurlock’s Documentary Comic Con Episode 4: A Fan’s Hope.
If there’s anything Spurlock has a knack for, it’s capturing the impact of pop culture icons, from McDonalds to the Simpsons. Now, he looks at a major event and he has some friends to help him out.
Working alongside him are Marvel demigod Stan Lee, Avengers writer-director Joss Whedon and Aintitcool.com creator Harry Knowles, who provide their own insight and amusing anecdotes alongside such icons as Kevin Smith, Actor Seth Rogan and Frank Miller.
Despite the star power, Spurlock’s true focus is on the fans themselves. Many stars recall being fans themselves, including Eli Roth recalling taking a pee between a Klingon and a Stormtrooper. These fans come in a wide variety.
The first types are those with the dreams of becoming artists. Among them are Skip Harvey and Eric Henson. Harvey is a bartender at a Sci-Fi/Fantasy themed bar. His family is so geeky that his parents met at the 1st Star Trek Convention.
Henson, a family man and a soldier, is the opposite of the geek stereotype.
They’ve both come to show their portfolio to professionals. They both have insecurities about how their work will be judge especially when Walking Dead Creator Robert Kirkman admits that 80% of fans artwork is not good.
The second types are designers of cosplays. There are memorable images of people in costumes. A pint sized spider-man posing with storm troopers. Batman waving Superman’s cape. There’s even a steampunk wheelchair.
Representing the designers is Holly Conrad. She and her friends enter the cosplay contest as characters from Mass Effect 2. Their greatest hope is their animatronic costume of Grunt, a frog like alien soldier. The show goes into detail of the process of a cosplay contest, right down to the correct way of walking onstage.
The third are the collectors of Toys and Comics. One toy collector has a room with walls covered with Marvel action figures and has a vault of such icons as Juggernaut. In the con, he races to get an 18 inch Galactus.
The film doesn’t go into much detail in terms of history. The closest they come to is Chuck Rozanski, veteran comic books dealer and owner of Mile High Comics. As the film begins, he is teaching his apprentice Ashley how to smell a vintage comic.
He is a 41 year old veteran of the con and some of his comics are so valuable that that they are transported by two security guards via handcuffed suitcases. But with lack of sales, Rozanski worries about his future as the focus of Comic con ironically steers away from comics. “We couldn’t use the loading dock anymore because friggin’ Lucas owns the loading dock”.
With Spurlock’s witty yet informative touch, Comic-Con becomes a genuine love letter to fanboys and fangirls.
As Whedon states “(Comic-Con) is a plays that fans can lay down their guns and say ‘We’re cool.”
The film has a full understanding of love fans feel for a medium and how the fans affect pop culture. It’s as delightful as the scent of a vintage comic. Just don’t touch it with your nose.
Epilogue: Looking at it again now, I have a few more things to say about it. I wished there was more of a look at the history of Comic Con. It would be interesting to know at what point did major distribution start using the con to promote their movies and tv shows and when it started becoming less about comics. It also would have been interesting to see behind the scenes of Comic con and see how they go about setting up each year. But that’s not what the documentary is about. It’s about the fans who made the con the powerhouse it is. Despite my nitpicking, I still love this movie.
To be honest, I watched it every other day during this fall season. I had a phase.