by Karen Veazey
You may wonder what possesses someone to attend something like Comic Con. To use valuable vacation time, travel across country, maybe camp out overnight, just to sit for a few minutes and listen to people talk about entertainment. The answer is stories. A good story is at the center of every beloved piece of literature, every film or show, every comic and even many games.
Why Writers Matter
After the excitement of yesterdays star studded panels, today it was nice to relax with the storytellers. Be listening for the name Orson Scott Card over the coming year, as the film adaptation of his acclaimed and beloved sci-fi novel Ender’s Game (watch the trailer here) finally comes to theaters. Card was just one of seven amazing panelists in a session on the future of comics and sci fi writing. Or that was the intended topic; these incredibly smart men and women touched on everything from particle physics to dark matter, including some sharply traded opinions on the Arab Spring and the evolution of human behavior. (A favorite quote – regarding dark matter, which makes up a huge percentage of the universe yet we don’t know what it is – “Dark matter is failed TV pilots.”) Moderator Greg Bear nicely rounded the discussion back around to the point that no scientific progress can replicate the human capacity to feel joy.
While actors get the press coverage, it is these passionate, informed minds who create the foundation of our best entertainment. Aside from reality TV, much of the current wave of pop culture comes from stories written decades to centuries ago. Green Lantern, The Avengers, Grimm, vampires and zombies, Clash of the Titans, The Hobbit – even Guillermo del Toro’s upcoming blockbuster Pacific Rim is rooted in the era of HG Wells giant robots and Japanese giant monsters. Brin noted that the winds do seem to be shifting, with fewer studios presenting at Comic Con and fans greeting screenwriters with the same fervor and admiration given to celebrities. Still, theres a long way to go before gifted novelists will get their due. Even with these heavyweights on the panel it was held in a room seating maybe three hundred people. I was encouraged that it was, at least, full.
Christian Comic Arts Society
The only thing that can draw a smaller crowd than writers at Comic Con is Christians. The crowd for The Christian Comic Arts Society’s panel on Christian themes in comics was sparse, yet the room held that kind of friendly camaraderie you feel when walking into church. Its no secret that the world of comics can be dark. While there are wonderful themes to discuss and learn from, violence is nearly a given in these stories of villains and heroes, and portrayals of women are notoriously sexy. After three days of sensory bombardment it felt like fresh air to walk into a room of people who love pop culture yet share a brighter, more uplifting perspective. So why do I go to Comic Con if it can be dark? Because I think Christians are supposed to be in the midst of the entertainment industry just as we are to be scientists and educators and construction workers and retail clerks. God puts His people everywhere, and there we are to do our best.
Because the panel was titled “Christian Themes in Comics” I expected to hear how their faith inspired the panelists work. Instead the conversation veered toward the search for spiritual significance in mainstream entertainment, including themes of heroism, sacrifice and internal conflicts of choice and morality. Believe it or not, zombies came up as an example of turning the superhero model upside down. Rather than the hero defending society form the monster the hero is now defending himself from society, who has become the monster. Panelist Leo Partible gave some fascinating comments on the inspiration and hope he finds when mainstream secular artists produce spiritual work – Robert Plant’s “Great Spirit” was one example – saying, “For God to inspire these hard living people to sing this song they normally wouldn’t want to inspires me. It tells me there is a God.” The session ended on the topic of the constant tension between Christians who want all entertainment made by Christians to be squeaky clean and evangelical, and those who want to portray the harsher reality of life. Lifeway Christian stores just pulled the DVD of The Blind Side from its shelves after protests against its realistic portrayal of urban life, including swearing. Yet if the Bible were adapted to film it would be rated R (at least) for its murder, incest, slavery, polygamy and of course, crucifixion. As panelist Sergio Cariello (The Action Bible) commented, “I don’t think God ever said ‘Should I put that in there?’”
As a side note, if you love faith and you love entertainment you owe it to yourself to check out the Act One Program, a top-tier organization that’s been training Christians to make great art for more than a decade.
Hall H and Ballroom 20 Playback
After that mentally and spiritually fulfilling afternoon we settled in for some lighter fare. Comic Con made a great decision last year to play back videos of the Hall H and Ballroom 20 panels at night. We went to the playback hoping to see The Hobbit but instead saw Guillermo del Toro and the cast of next summer’s monsters vs robots spectacle Pacific Rim, and a surprise appearance from Will Ferrell and Zach Galifianakis to stump their upcoming The Campaign. The audience, so many of them punchy from camping out all night were the best part of the session with goofy questions and odd behavior. Nerd titles well earned.
Thing that didn’t make it into the Hall playback but which were buzzing all around Comic Con included 10 minutes of footage from The Hobbit, and announcements about the upcoming movies for Thor, Captain America and Superman.
Party on, nerds!
I popped in to watch the Masquerade, Comic Con’s huge costume party. Costumes are judged and prizes awarded and with all the costumes at the Con I expected it would be an hours-long bizarre fashion parade. I was surprised to see only eighty entrants, with Best in Show going to the gang with Project Runway; Star Wars Edition. After judging the DJ cranked up and glow sticks came out as the largest nerd party in the world commenced. Just like high school, a small contingent hit the dance floor while most stood around kind of be-bopping in place.
More tomorrow on the gaming opportunities at Comic Con and hopefully, I’ll finally make it down to the Expo hall!
Previous reports from Comic-Con:
Handy Twitter, um, Handles:
@kmyvz – Karen Veazey
@SergioCariello Sergio Cariello
@ChristianComics – Christian Comic Arts Society
@ActOneProgram – Act One Program