The Ghetto of Geeks vs. the Geriatric Wards of Success

Posted by Michael Pinto on Feb 7, 2009 in Comic Books, Fandom |

Action Comics #270 1960: Superman's Old Age

Editor’s Note: This essay is the result of my walking about the New York Comic Book Convention this year and asking myself the question “What brings you here?”

While escaping the New York Comic Book Convention I came across a series of Watchmen posters in the street, saturated by the orgy of the show I naturally assumed that the posters were aimed at folks entering and exiting the mega gathering of geekdom. However several blocks I realized that I was only kidding myself as I came across the same set of posters again — what was once the realm of fanboys twenty years ago was the mainstream of Hollywood today. In this way Watchmen is no different than Oprah or any frat boy focused reality TV show on MTV that’s a hit.

And this brought to mind everything that I’ve always hated about colossal comic book conventions: For the most part they’re lavish state funerals for what use to be exciting. In order for Hollywood or the video game industry to embrace something from the ghetto it has to be past its peak — it’s for this reason we’re about to see a series of movies about hip hop artists from the 80s and the early 90s, sadly they’re no longer the Public Enemy that they once were.

At over twenty years old Watchmen is a relatively youthful title, but to me it was much more interesting in the last hours of the Cold War before the world had discovered the internet. A cellphone or a website would look out of place in that film, which is made all the ironic by the fact that so many of the folks seeing tha film don’t remember a time when there wasn’t an internet. Yet Watchmen seemed to own a good chunk of real estate of the floor at the convention — I was sort of amazed that on one row there was a display of the graphic novels for sale. I had to wonder who wouldn’t have owned a copy of this graphic novel already? At this point maybe my Mom hasn’t read it, but without a doubt you couldn’t be a card carrying nerd if that volume wasn’t already on your bookshelf.

It's not healthy to worship your past: Watchmen and Reagan

Dominating the displays of Comic Con you see the same faces over-and-over again — my old nemeses the League of Superheroes! Growing up as a child I always found Superman and Batman to feel dated and somewhat silly. In the case of Batman there was some good reinvention of his character in the late 80s, but frankly Superman still seems so silly to me today. Yet these memes which are over fifty years old are the mainstream of video games and high budget movies. It’s this aspect of the shows that I hate the most even though they’re they’re the most user friendly aspect of fandom, the mundane on ramp if you will.

But what keeps me coming back? It’s the ghetto of geekdom of course. My favorite corner of the show is always shoved to the back — and it’s artists alley where the new talent gathers. And of course my heart is more with the hardcore minority of anime fans who gather in small rooms where publishers gladly brag that they’re “still in business” and have a few gems ready to hit the streets. And of course I also have a soft spot for the small time indie publisher or urban toy designer who is breaking new ground and sits patiently in their booths as the masses race by to autograph sessions at the Marvel or DC booths. To me the ghetto is always more interesting because it’s where the action is at and it’s the future of the field, not the stale past.

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