The 2013 San Diego Comic-Con International wrapped up Sunday, capping a four-and-a-half day cultural carnival covering just about every form of entertainment imaginable. Fresh from our trip, we look back at our experience this year — and some of the coolest things we saw along the way.
I will admit: Comic-Con almost broke me. Waking up before dawn to sit in lines, living on overpriced microwave pizza and energy bars — it’s a mass-market entertainment event, after all, and being a fan there is a brutal calling. But there is also nothing on earth like being carried along in a sea of people who love pulp so much that they’re willing to dedicate several days and no small amount of money to being at the nexus of nerd culture. It’s not about the cosplay or the panels or the companies, exactly. It’s about being somewhere so big, so full of life, that it makes the entire city around it seem tiny.
Obviously, the first thing that struck me was the fact that it’s called Comic-Con but most of the panels and all the loudest stuff on the show floor was related to movies and television. Television seemed especially prevalent this year. It really felt like there was a ton of conversation and excitement about Game of Thrones, The Walking Dead, Doctor Who, and all the Adult Swim and Cartoon Network stuff. Maybe that’s because there is some really good TV out there, or maybe it’s because most of the movies that were being promoted aren’t coming out until 2015.
I finally met some comic book artists when I went to Trickster, which is an off-site event for independent comics creators. Looking at their art and stories felt like traveling back to the source of creativity that spawned all the different strains of Comic-Con. The spectacle at the convention center seemed many generations away from the weird, creative stuff that these guys are doing.
The panels seemed to be kind of a honeypot, even though people waited in line for 12 hours sometimes to get in and seemed to enjoy them. But to me it felt like going to school while there was a big party going on outside.
I didn’t want to leave. My feet hurt, I was subsisting largely on coffee and pretzel dogs, but the only thought running through my head on Sunday was Why isn’t there just one more day? (Okay, it was Why isn’t there just one more day? and I need to take a nap but that’s not the point.)
It’s one thing to enjoy entertainment and pop culture — it’s another to celebrate it. It’s something else to immerse yourself so completely that the line between audience and story, creator and creation blurs and ultimately fades away. Of course, that’s not really what happens, even at a place like Comic-Con — but it feels possible. Over 100,000 attendees, united in their unabashed, irony-free love of stories and fiction, create a kind of collective spiritual gravity. The networks and movie studios may be the big names of Comic-Con, but they’re just in orbit around the true center of the experience: the kind, passionate fans themselves.