San Diego Comic-Con, Day Zero: Has the Nerd Bubble Burst?

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When you’re a professional, when you’re going there for work, the sad truth is that you do not go to Comic-Con with a feeling of joy in your heart. You go with a weary sense of inevitability.

You’re not complaining, God knows! But Comic-Con is too big and sweaty and busy to really enjoy. And when you’re working — when you’re covering it, or promoting your own stuff there, both of which I’m doing this year — you don’t go to the panels you really care about, and talk to the people want to, you go to and talk to whatever and whoever you have to.

And also, personally, the reason why I’m obsessively interested in science fiction and fantasy has more to do with avoiding other human beings than with stuffing myself into a convention center with 130,000 of them.

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Plus when you’re 42, you feel creepy ogling the teenage cosplayers. You do it — don’t get me wrong! But you feel creepy.

So you’re not exactly sprinting to catch that cross-country flight to San Diego. You’re more like a monarch butterfly returning to that one glade in Mexico that gets all covered with butterflies every year. You’re looking forward to some tasty milkweed or whatever, but damn your wings are tired. And some of those other butterflies could use a shower.

Fortunately I’ve been to Comic-Con enough times that I’ve acquired some survival skills. I’m not going to get enraged at the spectacle of the subculture that kept me alive when I was an alienated 13-year-old being mainstreamed and dumbed-down and sold off for parts. I will be Zen about that. I will also drink one glass of water for every alcoholic beverage I consume.

I’m not going to get stressed out about all the stuff I’m missing out on. For example at 4:45 on Friday afternoon I’m not going to stress about the fact that I’m missing out on the preview footage of the Total Recall reboot, and the Spider-man reboot, and instead will be interviewing Ashley Tisdale about her role as Candace in Phineas and Ferb, because I promised my daughter I would.

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Christ, I would blow off my own panel — Thursday at 3:00! Be there! — to see George R.R. Martin and Peter Dinklage at the Game of Thrones panel. But I will not. I’m a professional.

And I will take solace in the fact that, five years from now, I doubt I’ll even have to cover Comic-Con. See, I have a theory. For the past five years there’s been a powerful myth associated with the show, which is that it can make franchises — that we are a nation of nerds, and that Comic-Con is the tip of our iceberg, and as Comic-Con goes, so goes the nation.

This hasn’t turned out to be true at all. For every Avatar and Alice in Wonderland there’s a Kick-Ass and a Watchmen and a Tron: Legacy. Last year’s show featured Michael Cera’s Gumby-like frame plastered up the side of an entire skyscraper, and Scott Pilgrim was the darling of the show. In the end it just managed to edge out Charlie St. Cloud for 91st at the box office last year. (How ya like me now, Mr. High School Musical!)

(VIDEO: Walk-Through of the Scott Pilgrim Experience)

The point isn’t that Scott Pilgrim was bad. I loved it. I thought Scott Pilgrim was the best film of 2010, and when I saw it at Comic-Con I stood up and cheered. The point is, marketing money spent at Comic-Con is no longer the triple-A investment it once was. The nerd bubble is well on its way to bursting.

And once it does, this nerd will be able to stay home and read fantasy novels in splendid isolation, the way God intended.