I’m a geek, a nerd, a fanboy, or whatever you want to call it. I am not ashamed of it, nor should I be. Some people like other things and I like Star Wars. However, I have never been to the San Diego Comic-Con. I have been to Star Wars Celebration VI, so that cancels out some of that shame. The annual San Diego Comic-Con functions as a sort of sanctuary for people like me: people who like things other ‘normal’ people might frown upon. Morgan Spurlock’s documentary Comic-Con Episode IV: A Fan’s Hope provides a glimpse into the world of Comic-Con, a world that is totally incomprehensible for many.
A word of warning: this is in no way a historical record of the San Diego Comic-Con. Some history is provided at the beginning and a comment may be included here and there about the old days, but that’s all you’re going to learn about the Con itself. This is a love letter to the people attending the convention and not the convention itself.
In Comic-Con Episode IV: A Fan’s Hope we follow several people who attended San Diego Comic-Con in 2010. There is the veteran salesman from Mile High Comics who laments the change in focus from comics to entertainment in general at the convention. Then there is the costume builder who wants to show off her newest creations based on video game Mass Effect. Two aspiring comic artists travel to San Diego to try their luck at landing a job with a comics publisher. And finally a young couple of which the male half has a surprise for his girlfriend. We see how these people go about their days at the convention in search of whatever they are looking for.
Spurlock paints a loving picture of Comic-Con. He obviously likes the convention and he wants other to do so as well. He enlists a great number of people (famous and non-famous) to provide context in front of a white screen. They tell you the convention is a great experience for everybody there and that you can actually be yourself (or dress up as somebody else) without feeling you have to check yourself at every moment. Having been to Star Wars Celebration I can certainly sympathize with that sentiment. It is a wonderful experience to not have to check yourself at the door and finally geek out for three or four days. Of course, in a perfect world these would not have to be necessary, but we’re not entirely there yet.
There is one small complaint I have for Spurlock (who actually doesn’t appear at all). There is not enough of the documentary. At nearly ninety minutes I feel some of the people we follow don’t get enough room to tell their story. For example, the story about the comics seller who has to contend with a change in climate at the convention is a very interesting one. The convention has been focusing a lot more on movie and television promotion and less and less on what the convention was built on: comics. Sales have been declining and with the emergence of digital comics it would be interesting to see how that story played out. Maybe something someone can take on as a subject for a future documentary?
On a whole I really enjoyed Comic-Con Episode IV: A Fan’s Hope, although I don’t really understand the title. There is not all that much Star Wars in the movie to begin with and the title feels more like pandering than something inspired. Don’t let that deter you from watching this fine documentary, though. Maybe someday I will have the opportunity to attend a San Diego Comic-Con, until then Phoenix Comic-Con will do.