Sour Capes

As you are no doubt reminded every time you open your RSS feed reader, it’s almost time for the San Diego Comic-Con — oops, “Comic-Con International” — to drop its annual geek bomb on popular culture. In a matter of days, the San Diego Convention Center will be teeming with fat Spider-Men, Klingons in bifocals, and Hollywood stars whose upcoming films actually have nothing to do with comics but who have been forced to come and pander to the demographic like presidential candidates at a New Hampshire pancake breakfast. (As upcoming panelist Mark Wahlberg put it in the most recent issue of Entertainment Weekly — and I’m afraid I have to paraphrase here — “I had never heard of Comic-Con before we used it in an episode of Entourage. Is that the one with, like, Trekkies?” Yeah: this guy gets to go, and I don’t. If those of you headed to the convention this week could please go to Mr. Wahlberg’s panel and ask as many questions as possible about the Funky Bunch, I would consider it a personal favor. Anyone who pretends to be bewildered and asks him what it was like to be in the New Kids on the Block will be my personal hero for the day.)

Yes, the convention will be packed with all types of people from creators to fans to women dressed as Witchblade who were nowhere to be found when I was single, but once again it will not be packed with me. I have never been to Comic-Con, and I have an increasingly strong sense that I may never get there. For one thing, I am apparently a codger now, with practical day-job, diaper-changing, cross-country-travel-affording considerations. The closest a decent con gets to me here in the Midwest is Wizard World Chicago, and even that tantalizingly close one is difficult to justify to my otherwise patient family, especially when I forget that not everyone hears “Chicago” and automatically fills in the “Wizard World.”

“Man, I am never going to get to Chicago,” I said to my wife a month or so ago.

“We’ll go back soon,” she reassured me. “Once the weather gets a little cooler, maybe we can book a room over by the Navy Pier and–”

“Oh, no no,” I replied before I had a second to think about the words coming out of my stupidity hole, “I’m not talking about going with you guys. I’m talking about the comic convention.”

Later, we would laugh about that glare. Much later.

Anyway, there are obstacles even bigger than dealing with my grownup stuff. As much as one may want to joke about the nerdiness of the people on the con floor (and Lord Almighty Above Us, I do) Comic-Con is now the kind of hot ticket that means having a serious long-term plan of attack. Even now, people are booking their tickets and rooms for next year, and as of this posting I have no plan in place for lunch today. Come to think of it, I don’t even know if there’s any lunch money in my wallet. Until science devises a gene therapy for whatever get-it-together protein is missing from my DNA, Artists’ Alley and Howard the Duck cosplay are just not in the cards for me.

Faced with these hard facts, and seeing all the fun my colleagues have planned at San Diego this year, my only available psychological defense mechanism is to convince myself that I’m not missing all that much, or rather to remind myself that there is far too much to miss.

You see, the reason people are already planning for next year is because this convention has swelled into a leviathan; it is the last thing agoraphobics see before they wake up shrieking in a puddle of chilled sweat. At the dawn of the comic book boom in 1993, 28,000 people were at the San Diego Comic-Con. Ten years ago, it had only grown to 42,000 people. 125-freaking-000 people attended last year, and this year every “membership” has already sold out several days before the convention could even begin. (I like this use of the word “membership.” It’s soothing. It conveys “small, exclusive club,” as opposed to “ten times as many people as are enrolled at your college in any given year all standing in the same room.”) There is so much going on, it sounds like you can miss the convention while you’re at the convention.

Mainly, though, I wonder if I shouldn’t be paying a lot less attention to these preview panels and sneak peek tidbits from the men behind the curtain. It’s fun to talk about comics (he said understatedly, looking around at where he was) but I’m not sure how healthy it is in the long term to talk  about the ones that haven’t come out yet. Those of you who will be in the 125,000-strong throng this week will spend days hearing people from DC, Marvel and elsewhere priming the pump for series that will not even exist until October, or even next year. Does that build excitement and enhance enjoyment, or does it build expectations unrealistically and ensure disappointment? As I read the comments and forum posts about this summer’s biggest mini-series, I get the distinct sense that a lot of people knew a little too much about them before issue #1 ever left the printers, and now they find themselves impatiently tapping their feet waiting for the stories to tell them something they didn’t already know from listening to podcasts or reading Newsarama last February.

Believe me, I say this as one of the guilty parties. Between the comic news sites, the comics blogosphere, the comics podcasto-don’t-really-have-a-good-name-for-it-yet-o-sphere, the creators’ Myspace pages, and the virtual food pellet dispenser that is Twitter, I have about three moments of clarity a week when I realize, holy crap, I must spend easily three times as many minutes a week reading about comics as I spend actually reading comics, only to shake off the realization and go right back to reading some writer’s panel-by-panel dissection of the latest issue of Whatever Adventures. In this all-access age, where my mom watches the box office results on Monday morning like they’re American Idol and I read the monthly comic sales charts like they’re baseball box scores and/or I am a Kremlinologist, there is such a thing as too much information, but even knowing that it is hard not to get addicted.

Is that a bad thing? Does it matter? Do you like your comics more knowing how they’re made, knowing how many Robin scripts Chuck Dixon had in the can before getting canned? Is the behind-the-scenes stuff more entertaining than the books?

Whatever the answers, I’m going to try and keep the questions in mind as I resist the urge to feverishly refresh the news sites all week. Those of you staying home like me might want to consider doing the same and see how much more fun we’re having six months from now. And as for you so’s-and-so’s who do get to go this week, I hope you get to commune with your favorite comics superstars without getting too swept up in the hype of it all. And a little, tiny green-eyed part of me secretly hopes you forget to bring your Gold Bond.


Jim Mroczkowski would totally dress up like a Ghostbuster if he thought he could pull it off. You can reach him far, far from San Diego all week long at or



  1. I’m also missing out on San Diego this year … again.

    On the whole talking about/reading comics thing, I hit my breaking point a few months ago.  I don’t really talk about comics anymore, I don’t really read any comics news.  Hell, I only spent about an hour at the New York Con this year.  I think I’ve realized that I’m only really going for the parties at this point.  At some point [earlier this year perceptive reader], it just became enough for me to read comics.  I really don’t need to waste my time talking or bitching about them anymore.  The desire to dress up like Red Sonya and go to EmeraldCon is totally gone, but I will still make fun of you for doing it.  So, please, be my guest.

    On the fat Spider-man thing, people are stupid.  I mean, Jesus, at least try to fit the generic profile of the character that you’re portraying.  Like for instance Mario [God isn’t that fucking weird but anyway…], if you’re going to dress up as Mario, or Luigi for that matter, you probably shouldn’t be six foot fucking six.  I’m just sayin’.

    And cosplay while pregnant … you know who you are and should be ashamed of yourself. 😉

    Yes, that does exist and I’ve seen it.


  2. I had the joy of going last year, some people make a pilgrimage to mecca, I went to San diego

  3. Paul Montgomery (@fuzzytypewriter) says:

    Next year!  Next year!

  4. I’m quite alright not going to San Diego, and quite honestly, attending only the Baltimore Con every year. I tend to not like being amid a mass of humanity. Nothing against my fellow human beings, but I can’t stand being around people who just don’t watch (or care) where they’re going, who think they’ll find that missing issue of Captain Carrot amid the 20 or so quarter boxes on the floor – damn causing a log jam in the aisle, or bring up a long box of comics – often times containing duplicate copies of the same issues – to get signed. If I had to put up with that more than one time a year and not be able to go directly home at the end of the day, I’d probably end up doing things to my fellow human beings that would get me arrested.

    That being said, I’m not opposed to trying out a San Diego, New York, or Chicago, but it’s not a priority for me.

  5. Every year my wife asks if I plan on going to Comic Con and every year I respond with, "I get all the sweaty stinky people I can handle at work", but that is just my sour capes talking.

  6. I’m not going this year, either. I went last year, I had a fun time, but holy crap were the crowds insane and holy shit did I blow too much money on staying in a motel for three nights. When I was done, I wasn’t sure I was gonna go in ’08 and after acquiring a girlfriend, I decided I had better ways to spend my vacation and my money. 🙂

    The panels are kind of neat and fun, as are the booths. I’m not sure there are better bargains to be found for buying stuff than you might find on eBay. The "exclusives" are ok; best piece of swag I got was Pushing Daisies iPod speakers.

    I would suggest going once, eventually, but don’t let the not going beat ya up.


  7. I went to the NYC Comic Con this year and it kind of freaked me out to be honest.  I hear San Diego is that times a 1,000.  I don’t know if I could handle it.

  8. Dan said. "bring up a long box of comics – often times containing duplicate copies of the same issues – to get signed. If I had to put up with that more than one time a year and not be able to go directly home at the end of the day, I’d probably end up doing things to my fellow human beings that would get me arrested.

    FACE sez, "i’d like to show the ass who does that Joker’s dissapearing pencil trick."

  9. "Howard the Duck cosplay"…

    my wonderful cup of coffee seems to have found a home on my computer screen.  Hysterical, sir!

  10. I’ve always wanted to go to San Diego because it’s one of those things that everyone says you should do once.  But as I get older, more broke, and less inclined to be shoving my way through throngs of people, I’m thinking it’s probably not in the cards.  I do hope to someday go to a comic con.  I’m thinking probably Emerald City or Heroes.  But we’ll just have to see how that all works out.

    As for talking about comics, I’ve restricted myself to this site alone as my one escape.  I don’t really have many friends around that read comics, so it’s nice to call this my comics home.  I don’t know how the iFanbase got so lucky 🙂

    Also, I pretty much avoid all pre-press about upcoming series.  Usually, all I want to know is who’s writing and who’s in it.  After that, I want to go in with no expectations.

  11. Im a broke college student so yeah….  sour capes for me as well.

    Good article.  I also hope Wahlberg is bombarded with questions about the funky bunch.

  12. Wait, Mark Wahlberg is a douchebag?

    I, for one, am shocked.

    But let’s give it up for Donnie Wahlberg as Carwood Lipton!  

    And back to the scheduled topic. 

  13. Im going to Con  but only b/c i live in the city that host it, and if i happen to be doing nothing and decide to go to the wahlberg panel i will try and ask him about his experience in new kids on the block.

  14. @Josh – off topic quickly; I was an extra on BOB and Donnie is an uber-douche!

  15. @Neb  At the risk of being a broken record on this subject, I can’t recommend Heroes Con enough.  Great venue, great guests, good size, and everybody really friendly and accessible.  It’s also relatively cheap to fly into Charlotte, and we stayed in a nice hotel near the con for a very reasonable price.

    I’m sort of genuinely Sour Capes about San Diego.  I think it would overwhelm me a bit.  I’m just going to enjoy watching from a distance.

  16. "I’m sort of genuinely Sour Capes about San Diego."

    I love the thought that I might have just spawned some kind of saying with the abominable pun I almost deleted in shame. 

  17. Paul Montgomery (@fuzzytypewriter) says:

    No such thing as a bad pun.  

  18. I’m slow clappin’ for Jimski–great post. You are the voice of we married comic readers out there. I feel your pain Jimski…but you know what? Fuggit–I had to walk away from the news sites and such, with the exception of Ifanboy which has always avoided the blow by blow of which creator farted today. I think all the infrastructure surrounding comics now make delude us into thinking they are somehow something more than they really are…funny books.

  19. 1) Why stay near Navy Pier when the Sanctuary of Chicago is available in Chicago?  That being my apartment.

    2) I adhere to Tim Burton’s quote about trailers and conventions.  When he was a little boy Mr. Burton enjoyed going to movies where he only knew the title and nothing else.  Didn’t it seem that people used to complain about spoilers and how trailers are too long and give everything away?  Yet, now people want to go to a crowded convention hall and see a bunch of those.  I could see the Dark Knight or I could read the plot summary on wikipedia the day it’s released.  As for me, I’d like to hide in a cave and not know anything about an upcoming television show or movie. 

    …or I could just stay in my sanctuary of solitude.

  20. I didn’t find Wahlberg’s comment to be particularly douchy.  We did earn our rep, after all.  It’s only been in the last 7 or 8 years that we’ve moved out of our mom’s basements.  We’re sexy now.