By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
I thanked the firemen. Then I got back in my car and went to the store.
At the Comicon
I stood beside Vader. “Darth,” I believe, is how his slender, pigtailed companion addressed him. His cape rippling in the wind just outside the San Diego Convention Center, Vader breathed deep and scratchy through the (slightly rusty) vent on his mask. Impressive. Then Vader’s cell phone rang. “How do you work this thing?” he whined in a nasal, slightly effeminate voice. One fantasy deflated.
I didn’t wear a costume, or even a mask, to the 32nd Comicon, the massive annual gathering of the comic-book industry and associated businesses (video games, toys, collectibles, film, what’s left of the dot-com/flash-animation outlets). But plenty of others did — everyone from eager, scrubbed college kids and young/hip/Ghost Worldtypes, to hardcore fanboys and computer geeks. X-Men’s Wolverine was still big this year. Generic goth-fairies, dinosaurs, Batmen and Catwomen munched hot dogs and pizza at the food stands. Klingons sized up imperial storm troopers over Mrs. Fields’ Cookies.
Out on the floor, the convention center was a veritable buzzing, hissing hive of consumerism. Some 50,000 people from all over the country snaked through a maze of booths hawking action figures, vintage movie posters, fanzines, sci-fi/fantasy/horror memorabilia, autographed photos, rare books, original artwork. EBay, Yahoo! and Amazon had booths, promoting themselves as venues to auction off the very same collectibles people were collecting at the convention. Japanese anime, manga and other paraphernalia — stickers, tattoos, T-shirts, superballs, even silk pajamas. And free stuff. Everybody was vying for free stuff. At the Spawn.com booth, reps tossed plastic action figures into the crowd, watching as people dived for the toys as if they were foul balls.
At the Simpsonsbooth, a bald and stubby middle-aged man in a Duke University T-shirt, tube socks and loafers squinted contemplatively at a pile of Bart Simpson viewfinders. “Never seen the show,” he muttered to his buddy. “But for $2, yeah. It’d look good on my desk at the office.”
“What’d you get?” asked a guy behind me in line at the ATM. From the tone of his voice I could just tell he was standing on his tiptoes and peering over my shoulder, into my bag.
“A hat, some T-shirts, stickers,” I said.
He nodded, then carefully lifted a print from his portfolio case, smiling proudly and balancing the corners delicately, so as not to smudge the ink.
“An original, signed John Byrne page,” he said. “$110.”
Later, I spotted a pack of slickly dressed, goateed, cell-phone-wielding Hollywood types circling the periphery of the convention, mining it for material and stuffing their backpacks with comics. “What’s it called? Okay. I’ll take three,” one said, snapping open his wallet. His sidekick leaned in: “It’s like a buddy story, but set in space.”
“Nooo!” wailed a 6-year-old boy wearing a Pooh Bear outfit and pounding his little fists on the carpet. Did he want a toy? A cookie? To stop Hollywood’s cynical appropriation of his favorite comic? A nap? He couldn’t say. His father scooped him up by the armpits and dragged him out of the Con, shrieking.