Saturday, April 7, 2012

A Love Letter to Geeks -- Reflections on "Comic-Con Episode IV: A Fan's Hope" (2012)

Geeks are heroes, too!
My first – and only – experience at the San Diego Comic Convention was when I was 11. My dad and I joined a group of comic geeks at our favorite San Bernardino comic shop, Lone Warrior Comics, and took a charter bus deep into the heart of San Diego. On the road, we watched old Batman serials on the tiny TV at the front of the bus. My heart was pounding the whole way there, full of every fanboy’s fantasy of meeting all my creative heroes.

The experience of Comic-Con was immersive. I remember feeling overwhelmed as I stepped onto the showroom floor, suddenly swimming in a sea of dealers with the coolest comics, posters, shirts, and every conceivable collectible I could think of. All I had burning a hole in my pocket was a paltry $20, but I was going to make it count for something. The only thing I remember buying was a Joker T-shirt with an image of the Joker from Alan Moore’s Batman: The Killing Joke, illustrated by Brian Bolland.

My most vivid memory of the experience was a random encounter with comic writer, Peter David. He was a portly man with a comb over and thick glasses, but when I saw that name on his badge, suddenly he looked to me like I imagine young boys in my grandfather’s generation would have looked at Mickey Mantle or Muhammad Ali. “You’re Peter David!” I exclaimed. To which he quickly responded: “Yes! And you’re Jeremiah the Bullfrog!” I don’t remember the conversation we had afterwards – I think he spent a few minutes telling us about all the cool stuff he was working on – but two things came out of that meet. First, he autographed the copy of Web of Spiderman #1 I was carrying in my backpack, and secondly, I never got upset at being called a bullfrog ever again.

Morgan Spurlock’s documentary, Comic-Con Episode IV: A Fan’s Hope, reminded me of being that kid again, 11 and star struck, in love with the art and bombast of comic books. I stopped collecting comic books right after high school, and have only dabbled here and there in the medium since, but this movie reminded me why I was proud to be a geek back then, and why I am still proud to be a geek now.

The documentary tells the stories of several people who are headed to Comic-Con for various reasons. Some are there to show off their artwork in hopes of scoring a job in the industry. Others are there to get highly coveted collectibles. A comic book dealer, whose business is floundering in our economy, has pinned his hopes on making enough money to save his once blooming business. And a young man is looking to propose to his geeky girlfriend at the Kevin Smith panel. By looking at all these different perspectives, Spurlock shows us that Comic-Con is truly a microcosm of what’s happening in America and across the globe. In so doing, he also reveals the only true solution to what ails us – passion, pride, and hard work.

Along the way, the stories of our featured geeks are punctuated by brief interviews with a number of celebrities and geek icons: Stan Lee, Kevin Smith, Edgar Wright, Eli Roth, Joss Whedon, Todd MacFarlane, Robert Kirkman, Harry Knowles, and a slew of others, including random fans and convention attendees. While the interviews are short and succinct, often meant for a laugh, it’s evident that Spurlock wants us to realize that we’re all in this together, the fans and the creators. We fans may put them on a pedestal, but they put others on them, too. As a fanboy, I like knowing this.

What will the average film goer think of this movie? Probably what the average film goer thinks of Comic-Con in general, I imagine. But it doesn’t much matter. The only opinions that matter on this film are those of the fans, because this movie, above all else, is a finely penned love letter to geek culture and fandom. Like the young lady that builds costumes based on characters of Mass Effect 2 in her San Bernardino, California garage, this movie knows who it’s being made for – the fans. For people like me, who will always remember his first Con experience with religious intensity.


  1. My first and only Comic Con experience was also on The Lone Warrior comic con nerd bus when I was 11. I guess that would be about 1985. I was just wondering what happened to that comic book shop this evening and this blog post is the only trace of it I can find on the internet. Any idea what happened to it or it's owner Gary?

  2. I ran into Gary a few years ago at a comic book store in downtown Redlands. We talked for a few minutes -- I was surprised he even remembered me. He told me he was doing well. He had stopped selling comic books after Lone Warrior folded, and, if I'm not mistaken, was thriving as a stay-at-home dad. He was with his son, and looked happy. It was good seeing him, and brought back lots of fond memories of him pulling those giant boxes of back issues down from the shelves behind the counter and walking me through comic book history. Lone Warrior is still the greatest comic book store I've ever been to.