Sunday, July 21, 2013

Remembering Comic Con's Good Old Days (as happens every July)

As happens every year when Comic Con weekend rolls around I am reminded of attending the event back in the late '80s, before it was an event covered by the entirety of the media (and was more focused on the item from which the event draws its name).

Back then there weren't panels with A-list actors, and even the celebrities of the comic book world (the popular artists) that drew crowds weren't my thing. What I'd do was spend some time in Artists' Alley with some pieces of blank paper, talking to small press artists (both those whose work I read and some who, because they weren't big names, didn't have anyone talking to them) and getting autographs—which they would embellish with a sketch.

I recently came across those pages from the cons in 1987 through 1990; scans of those are featured below.

1987 page 1, including Scott Shaw!, Stan Sakai, Jim Bricker, Scott Saavedra, Lou Scarborough, Jeff Nicholsen, Kevin Eastman, Don Dougherty, and others.

1987 page 2, including Steve Purcell, Joshua Quagmire, Evan Dorkin, Trina Roberts, and others

1988, including Scott Shaw!, Don Dougherty, Stan Sakai, Sergio Aragones, Scott Saavedra, Basilio Amaro, Steve Purcell, and others.

1989 page 1, including Joshua Quagmire, Terry Beatty, and others.

1989 page 2, including Scott Shaw!, Dave Stevens, Eric Larsen, Evan Dorkin, Matt Wagner, Larry Marder, and others. 

1989 page 3, including Dave Thorne, Stan Sakai, Sergio Aragones, Don Dougherty, Bob Burden, Scott Saavedra, and others.

1990 page 1, including 

1990 page 2, including Stan Sakai

It really was a grand time. I certainly hope it's still that way.


And now some thoughts from the present...

I got out of the comic book field 18 years ago (when I stopped working at the comic shop that got me close to graduating from college) and have read very little in that medium in the intervening decades—so yes, I know I am not a proper geek (not that I ever really was, but that's been established previously). Even witnessing the ascendancy of "geek culture" starting in the late '90s and watching the Hollywood takeover of the convention in the last decade, I still cannot get over how different it appears, with San Diego turning into the literal center of the pop culture world for those four days... and how it isn't what I recall fondly from those days of getting autographs.

The trouble, of course, is that fact I was into comics a long time ago (when they weren't "cool" in popular culture) and then my life went in a different direction (not only did I stop working around them but I got more into music) and my experience essentially crystallized around 25 years ago. Time moved on, society changed, and despite observing all of that take place there was that extent to which it never sunk in, never supplanted what I recalled. Each July magazines and TV and podcasts that generally don't cover comic books start talking about it and having people attend it—and not because they are covering the nitty-gritty of the current comic book scene but because of the movies and TV shows that send actors and creators sent there (not that those people don't have an affinity for the source in some cases, but that's not why they are attracting the media)—and I am taken back to my late teens and early 20's, when nobody in the mainstream media even mentioned Con (or if they did it was with the stereotypical condescension). It was huge in the world of comic book fans but that was it.

Perhaps it boils down to this: I was into this stuff at the wrong time. Oh, it was the right time for "purists" but from the perspective of mainstream acceptance (of not getting judgmental looks) it still had a long way to go. And now it has gone that way, and on a subconscious level I have a bit of bitterness over the timing.

It's stupid to have that, I know, but somewhere deep down it is clear there seems little getting past it. And the other 51 weekends a year I have no problem not thinking about it, but then in July the media picks at the "scab" and I have this moment of "I remember when it was about comics" recollection. Then I accept I have no basis for having any current opinion and get on with my life again.


I grant that this makes me sound like both the grumpy old man, muttering about how these kids today don't appreciate how good they have it while at the same time yelling "Get off my lawn!" at the media who crassly interlope on something that I only attended decades ago—and where it wasn't something about which I was super passionate; I enjoyed what I enjoyed, but I was never uber-fanboy over anybody or anything.

Really, I am vastly more impassioned in this quest to figure out why I each year I go through this. Is it as simple as envy of the world that came to be after I was still inclined to benefit from it? That seems unlikely; much as we'd all like to dismiss it thusly, that also seems like the sort of motivation that would dissipate after all this time. It's not as though I was out on some sort of frontier, making it safer for the next generation of nerds to fly their flag. I had no role in the geek ascendancy, so I have no basis for feeling as though I was owed something. The only logical conclusion is there really is no logical conclusion to draw. I suppose I must accept that I am "doomed" (in an exaggerated sense of the term) to re-live this each year, without hope of getting past it because I cannot figure out what it is that I need to get past.

Maybe I unconsciously enjoy rehashing it so I can slowly dissolve the reality of what happened into a deluded memory that transforms me into some kind of hero, someone who actually played a role in transforming the world into one where kids can wear Flash t-shirts they bought at Target without having their underwear (probably also purchased at Target) being wedgied by meathead jocks. Of course, that is because the meathead jock has on a Wolverine shirt, and perhaps never read a comic. And even "civilians" know who Hawkeye is now.

Of course those stereotypes break down in this glorious era, where the lines between geek and non-geek are blurred to the point of nigh-indistinguishability. Maybe I have a perverse longing for the bygone days of my youth when it was a bit more obvious who the "us" and the "them" were, even though that had times when it was less than ideal to be "us" (and it almost goes without saying that I barely could be considered part of "us" even in my heyday of sorts). Could it be nothing more than nostalgia for a time that was less good for geeks in society but was better inside of geekdom in what is ultimately basic human tribalism—even though at the time in theory I would have preferred mainstream acceptance for our "kind"?

(I suppose I can take what solace there is to be found in trying to parcel everyone up into those who knew "nigh" and those who aren't concerned with that.)

I'm sure none of this will be good enough to keep me from going through this again next July. That is about the only thing we can say with certainty.

"Con" is the first syllable in consistency, after all.

1 comment:

  1. What!? You wrote this way back on July 11? I've guilty of downloading your posts to my tablet and promising I would read them later.

    Anyway, I like the observation about the meathead jock wearing the Wolverine shirt. And that might indicate why you're having trouble with the mainstream (over)acceptance of comics and superheroes: it's become in some ways just another goddamn fad that will run its course, leaving behind only the real fans who truly enjoy the stuff and are not into being "cool" with the flavor of the month.


So, what do you think?