We all remember high school. There was a definitive separation between the “geeks” and the “cool kids.” A lunchtime nightmare that turned out to be the best thing that could have happened to many of us. Being declared a geek in high school may have made our noses cringe then, but to many today, it’s a badge of honor. And rightfully so, as the definition of a geek has acquired new, flattering connotations in more recent years. Moreover, those who still fall under the classic representation of the term are often the happiest and most successful people around. (Yes, Bill Gates, we’re talking to you.)
As with everything else, as soon as the geeky stuff gets explicit media attention, and ultimately becomes “cool,” the “cool kids” want in. Comic-Con is no exception here.
In 1970, one of Comic-Con’s pioneering gatherings, the then “Golden State Comic-Con,” was but a simple 300-person gathering of comic-reading enthusiasts. This number has grown exponentially with almost 130,000 attendees at the convention in 2011. In addition, according to the San Diego Metropolitan Magazine, the convention now poses as the largest annual event to the San Diego Convention Center in terms of economic impact, hotel usage by those attending, and attendance in general.
With the expansion of the event in general has come the expansion of what to expect featured at the event. No longer is Comic-Con simply about prevalent comic books and their contained villains and superheroes. As Comic-Con continues to expand its horizons to include popular television shows, sitcoms and movies, a debate continues to rise: is Comic-Con too mainstream?
The rising inquisition of Comic-Con’s motives seems fair, as the first sold out event occurred in 2008 when the cast of the box-office phenomenon Twilight was in attendance. Each year since, the event has sold out, with panels including casts from popular shows like Glee, The Big Bang Theory, Game of Thrones, and How I Met Your Mother. as well as a handful of up-and-coming movies like the anticipated Spiderman 2 (understandable).
Some are bothered by the hopelessly crowded event, claiming that Comic-Con has lost sight of its true theme and the purpose for which it was established over 40 years ago. Brian Lowry of Variety wrote a reminiscent article of his early memories of Comic-Con stating that, ”Back then Comic-Con was truly about comicbooks and the only stars one was likely to see there were the artists and writers who created them.
Others welcome the expansion, looking at it as a celebration of pop culture as a whole. The diversity of the group is as expansive as the event itself and that is quite enjoyable for some. Zachary Levi, co-founder of The Nerd Machine went so far as to state that he believes that the convention is no longer Comic-Con, but “entertainment-con.”
It’s all no wonder either, the city of San Diego makes a pretty penny from the event. According to a recent study released by the San Diego Convention Center Corp., between the years of 2013 and 2015 (when the Comic-Con International contract to keep the convention in San Diego expires), Comic-Con is expected to have an economic impact of $488.4 million with direct spending totaling about $203.4 million.
Love it or hate it, it’s clear that the new concept of Comic-Con is here to stay. The movie and entertainment industry have found a clear benefit in the convention’s appeal and will undoubtedly continue this trend; the economic value of the convention, too, is well-known and appreciated. While we may have to make room for the cool kids once again, we will also continue to celebrate the true geekdom behind Comic-Con’s inception.