October 8, 2010

Another Year, Another Comic Book Convention.

Today marks the start of “New York Comic Con.” I’ll be in attendance this evening and all weekend, as I have been for the last five years, not as a fan but as a “professional,” a very kind acknowledgement by the convention’s founder, Lance Fensterman, that I’ve been published for 20 years now. I am not rich, and certainly not well known outside of my medium.

The world of comic books is diverse and bizarre. Today it is part transnational commerce, part entertainment, and partly art, although there was a (recent) time when it was judged uniformly as lacking any creativity or merit of any kind. Some, like the late Dr. Fredric Wertham even tried to blame juvenile delinquency and violence in children on comic books. As of 2010, comics characters of all types from Superman to Garfield have become the most successful brand extensions since the figures portrayed in the bible.

Take that, Dr. Wertham.

This weekend is a gathering of fanatics and readers, collectors and artists at the Javitz center in New York City. It will be crowded, wall to wall with people who love the medium I create in, as well as trekkies/trekkers, Star Wars fans, devotees of Tolkien, and various other outsiders drawn to the fellowship that their common love of particular genres of fiction has created. This is (after all is said, laughed about, and done,) a society. In past years, I had always felt estranged from the crowds, put off by their eagerness, and embarrassed by their enthusiasm, and when I was a kid, there were no girls at these things whatsoever (although it’s been noted that the very first Star Trek conventions were organized by exclusively female fans of Leonard Nimoy and George Takei in the early 1970s.) Only recently did I realize that my discomfort had more to do with the fact that I’d internalized the scoldings of my professors, the ridicule of my peers and replaced my own love, my own “fandom” with a kind of self-conscious reserve. I was never going to dress up as Captain Marvel, or Spider-Man, but why have I always looked down on the kids who did? Is it any sillier than some fat drunk bastard showing up to a Giants game in a Manning jersey? People at Comic book conventions don’t love the characters in their favorite titles any less than NASCAR fans love their favorite drivers: comic book fans tend to show it more, and by and large they’re not interested in appearing detached and “cool” about it.

Imagine if people still got this excited at gallery openings, at the premieres of sculpture, or at poetry readings? –When Mark Hamill (who in addition to portraying Luke Skywalker, also defined the voice of The Joker for an entire generation and now entertains millions as various animated characters on Metalocalypse and Regular Show) walks into a room at a convention, the response is deafening. That’s real love: undiluted, unmitigated and eternal. Why shouldn’t they show it?

I’m going to walk around the convention center this evening and try very hard to stamp out my ingrained shames and groundless misgivings about comic books, and take some pride in all those other fans whose only crime is loving something that I love too.

"Live long and prosper."

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