The Guy Who Hates Comic-Con Goes to Comic-Con, Part I

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All this week you’re going to be seeing news stories about how great Comic-Con is. So before all that starts I just have to say something.

Comic-Con is not great. Comic-Con is awful.

(More on Techland: A Guide to Having a Good Time at Comic-Con)

No, I mean, God knows, there are good things at Comic-Con. You can walk up to a booth at Comic-Con and there will be the Penny Arcade guys, separated from you by nought but a vinyl banner and a particle-board table. If your arms were long enough, and it weren’t creepy, you could touch them.

And there will be Scott Kurtz. There will be MC Frontalot. And so on. I’m not going to tell you that these things are bad. They are good. They’re especially good when you see them somewhere else, like PAX.

I’m not even talking about the fact that Comic-Con is physically unpleasant, although it is. It’s hot and exhausting and insanely overcrowded, and it smells bad. Water costs $4. Last year 126,000 people went to Comic-Con. Anything even remotely cool will automatically have an hour-long line if not a three-hour line.

But I want to make something clear before I head to San Diego: what you can’t see from a distance is that Comic-Con is spiritually toxic.

Many, many small-market TV news anchors with plastic hair will tell you this week that Comic-Con is “Mecca for nerds.” They may even opine that it is “nerd Woodstock!” They will try to tell you that Comic-Con is a part of your culture, and not just a part of it but the best part.

Have small-market TV news anchors ever lied to you before? No. Not until now.

(More on Techland: Comic-Con 2010: What to Get in Line for Early)

There was once a culturally authentic part of Comic-Con which consisted of enthusiastic people celebrating the culture of comics with the people who create that culture. That part still exists, probably. But you can’t see it because it has been engulfed in a tumorous growth so massive that the original tissue is all but obscured. At some point four or five years ago the major TV and movie studios realized that there was a large captive audience at Comic-Con to be marketed to. And they realized that with a few minutes of a few celebrities’ time and a few minutes of advance footage (both of which you’re supposed to act hysterically grateful for), that audience could be whipped into such a froth that they — and their counterparts in the media — would begin repeating the studio hype.

Now that is most of what goes on at Comic-Con. I grant you, there are quality panels and excellent discussions too, but they’re buried beneath plastic, animatronic advertisements for big-budget rip-offs of intellectual properties that you once loved. If you ever felt that you had a special, important connection to your favorite comics, shows, movies and characters, Comic-Con will do its best to soil those things and that connection.

This is not nerd Woodstock. It is nerd Altamont. You will go expecting to recognize every person you see as your spiritual nerd-kin. You will leave hating your own kind.

They did it to me. They’re about to do it again. I am complicit in the desecration. I’ll be reporting from the dark side of the con all this week.

See you there.

Want more? See: The Guy Who Hates Comic-Con, Part II: Hope Kills

More on Techland:

Comic-Con 2010: Handicapping the Eisner Awards

Where to See Techlanders at Comic-Con