When Comic-Con Became Comic-Cannes

This year Hollywood had its fingerprints all over San Diego’s annual celebration of nerd culture.

BY Alonso Duralde

July 30 2008 11:00 PM ET

There was a time when the most networking I did at the annual Comic-Con International in San Diego was to chat up the publicists for DC Comics and Fantagraphics Books. But this year I found myself in conversation with Simon Halls, a principal at PMK/HBH, a top publicity firm. Halls, at his first Comic-Con, wore a slightly overwhelmed expression on his face, like most other first-timers.

After all, the event drew in some 125,000 people a day, selling out all four days in advance, an unprecedented feat. I told Halls that the event had become "Nerd Sundance," and he retorted, "No -- it’s Nerd Cannes."

And so it was. An event that once featured 300 comic book lovers crowding into a hotel basement has become an internationally recognized launching pad for many of the movies and TV shows you'll see over the next year. Watchmen was everywhere, of course -- the March release of the long-awaited film adaptation of the classic graphic novel started its hype parade with its trailer preceding The Dark Knight. But Comic-Con hyped everything from Joss Whedon's Dollhouse and Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog (the latter starring Neil Patrick Harris as a would-be supervillain) and Alan Ball's HBO vampire series True Blood to such nongenre properties as Hamlet 2, Pineapple Express, and The Office.

Even if Hollywood vultures were swooping in to take advantage of an audience they don't really understand, it was interesting to see how media coverage of the event has changed. In years past camera crews would follow around the people dressed as Wonder Woman and Mr. Spock and chortle over the fact that adults were participating in such folly. This year I heard two press people chatting enthusiastically about the one-sheet posters for the upcoming Star Trek movie, and it dawned on me that coverage of the Comic-Con has changed for the same reason that coverage of queer issues has -- nerds, like LGBT journalists, have invaded the mainstream, and now we get some say in how our interests are portrayed. That’s why you get reams of Entertainment Weekly coverage written by people who obviously follow these shows and movies religiously and write about them from a fan’s perspective.

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