Despite criticism, Comic-Con still about the comic books

It’s that time of the year again.

In the next month, the San Diego Comic-Con International website will be filled with requests for press passes, following months of mad dashes for hotel rooms and deals on San Diego accomodations. It’s the annual geek scramble.

But this year, as before, critics are upset that Comic-Con is not about comic books anymore. Some fans argue the convention has lost its focus, emphasizing television and videogames over the medium that gives the event its name.

In some ways, it’s true. It’s hard to walk through the aisles at the convention and not hear about some movie panel or see some actor or musician sitting down to talk about entering the comic industry.

But are these media so distinct from the comics industry?

Not really.

Sure, some things have no real reason to be at the convention (crime procedurals like White Collar or Burn Notice come to mind), but what about all of the projects based off comics? If Disney is making a film based on The Avengers, why not show it at Comic-Con? It is, after all, based on a comic.

Franchises and licensed properties have become a staple of stories for Hollywood, television and videogames. The big studios are turning to comics for ideas, and now comics appear in a wide array of media, with genres from superhero to crime to horror.

It’s not as if Comic-Con is the first event of its kind to go through this kind of influx from different fields. Sundance screens some mainstream movies, albeit ones with a decidedly “indie” twist. SXSW started out as a music festival, but is now known more for its technological aspects.

It’s not as if those original focuses have gone away. Yes, someone might go to Sundance solely to mingle with actors and watch an established director’s latest film, and someone might go to Comic-Con just to wait four days for one panel in Hall H, the part of the convention center with the biggest panels. Yet, the people who come for the movies will still see the comics.

And look at the bright side: More people are coming to Comic-Con. Every year the convention has been selling out four-day passes; this year, they sold out in February.

So although mainstream media are invading Comic-Con, more people are exposed to comics and the industry is reaching a wider audience.

What started as a small convention with about 300 attendees in a very niche industry has grown to hold more than 120,000 attendees and has become one of the biggest entertainment events in the world. Comic book writers and artists are treated like rock stars at panels, and word of mouth on the latest projects spreads like wildfire.

Comics are still going strong, and no matter how much hype the bigger projects might bring, it’s the comic industry that really gets the biggest gains out of Comic-Con.

Yes, the crowds will be there this year, the lines for Hall H will be ludicrous and there will surely be fans screaming about the latest movie trailer, video game footage or celebrity sighting.

But the comics aren’t going away. The event won’t suddenly become the A-list celebrity Gossip-Con.

Instead, Comic-Con is evolving, and if fans want to make sure the comic book aspect of it stays, they should go and support comic book creators there.

Why grumble about what should be a fun experience?

For geeks, nothing else compares to four days in this nerd paradise.

Nicholas Slayton is a sophomore majoring in print and digital journalism. His column, “Age of the Geek,” runs Fridays.

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