Several years ago I talked with some of my business partners about the idea of creating a documentary about the experience of attending Comic-Con, one of the largest pop cultural conventions in the world. I thought it’d be fun to have a camera follow me around the show floor and showcase what it is really like to be a Journalist covering a convention that really isn’t made for Journalist. You would get a behind the scenes look at what it takes to arrange interviews, watch me have one of my legendary meltdowns and more. The funny thing is, real filmmakers had the same idea.
Comic-Con: Episode IV, A Fan’s Hope (Can I mention how much I hate this name?) isn’t how I would have done a documentary about this event, but it does a pretty good job of taking the subject and the people who attend seriously, maybe a bit too serious. This documentary has more Geek street cred, than I could ever hope to bring to a similar project. It is directed by everyone’s favorite, likeable documentarian Morgan Spurlock and boast an impressive Producing team of Geek All Stars including: Joss Whedon, Stan Lee, Harry Knowles and other folks.
With people like this behind the movie you know you will get interviews with all the big name folks. We get everyone including Kevin Smith, Seth Green, Seth Rogan, Stan Lee, Eli Roth, Joss Whedon and a cast of thousands all talking about their Comic-Con experience.
The interesting thing about Comic-Con is, not only is it a convention, but it also serves as a convention of dreams for and by dreamers. The movie follows several people as they hope to use the convention to realize their deepest desires. For one, James Darling’s hope for the future is a simple one – he wants to ask his girlfriend to marry him during a Kevin Smith keynote.
Two others, Skip Harvey a bartender and Air Force man, Eric Henson each have dreams of breaking into the industry by showing their art during Comic-Con’s artist alley in the hopes that one of the many companies will see something they like in their work. That’s one of the unique things about a comic book convention is they can serve as sort of a job fair for aspiring artists and writers. You only get a minute or two to impress someone, but everyone takes the time to provide valuable feedback that you cannot get anywhere else.
Another major part of the show is Cosplayers – people who dress up as their favorite characters. Representing this group is Holly Conrad a costume designer who made a pretty amazing homemade costume for her favorite video game. Her goal was to enter the annual Cosplay competition. Finally we get Chuck Rozanski the owner of Mile High Comics. His goal is to sell some books and hopefully some of his more valuable stock.
As a documentarian Morgan doesn’t beat you over the head with his agenda. He clearly has one in every movie he directs, but he delivers his messages with balance and he’s not as in your face as some documentarians, cough: Michael Moore cough:.
He clearly loves Comic Con, but the documentary is missing a sense of urgency. Although, there does seem to be a quiet desperation that builds as we watch Skip and Eric go through the gauntlet of trying to get turned down by publisher after publisher until one takes an interest in Eric’s work.
The producers held an online contest where they solicited stories from folks who have attended the show in the past. They received over 5,000 submissions. This selection of folks really does convey the full scope of everything Comic-Con has to offer from the Celebrities to people to dealers selling their wares to people who want to break into the industry. It is an interesting mix of people who attend.
While Spurlock stays away from the inside baseball stuff and treats its subject seriously, I’m not entirely convinced it will appeal to those who are not already part of this culture. Comic-Con: Episode IV, A Fan’s Hope (can I mention how much I really hate the name?) is a good, solid, documentary. Comic-Con: Episode IV, A Fan’s Hope is now available on Video On Demand, on YouTube and in select theaters.