The New Cool

The New Cool

An Abstract Web Exclusive
Previously presented in a modified on-air form for ThinkTech Hawaii
Text by Richard Melendez // Images by James Charisma

 

Once upon a time, comic books were often looked upon with derision, while the readers were cast out as nerds, worthy of ridicule.

My, how times have changed.

  Dragon Con in Atlanta, 2014

Dragon Con in Atlanta, 2014

Take the San Diego Comic Con, for instance, which happens every July. Despite having "comic" in its name, it's arguably one of the biggest pop culture conventions in the world. For lovers of comic books, and all things related to geek culture, San Diego Comic Con is the place to be.

Humans are social beings by nature, but comic book reading and collecting can often be a solitary pursuit. Comic book conventions allow publishers, creators and fans converge to revel in their passion, and interact with their peers. It's also a chance for the publishers to tease upcoming projects and drum up excitement about their initiatives. It's a win for everyone involved.

But in recent years, comic conventions, and especially San Diego Comic Con, have grown into something much grander. It's evolved far beyond a gathering of fans and hobbyists, into a pop culture ground zero. Yes, the dedicated comic fan can still meet their favorite artists, or seek out that elusive collectible back issue to fill out their collection. They just have to brave larger crowds to find them. Yes, comic books have entered into the mainstream. The explosive popularity of superhero films has helped fuel that. Science fiction, horror and fantasy have been embraced by television. The internet facilitates the building of new geek communities. And video games have served as a universal language where jocks, geeks, and professionals of every class, gender and race can find common ground.

So while comic conventions were once a gathering of social misfits, they're now a setting where anybody who's anybody can go to promote their latest movie project, hype their newest video game, dress up as their favorite characters or just stargaze over the parade of celebrities, along with several thousand other like minded people, all crammed into one building. All eyes are on Comic Con, and it's now as much a place to be seen as it's a place to see all the things that you love. Part of me wonders if it's become too much of a spectacle. It often feels as if comic books have been overshadowed by all the hype and the business and celebrity, along with other aspects of geek culture that aren't necessarily related to comics.

  Dragon Con in Atlanta, 2014

Dragon Con in Atlanta, 2014

Don't get me wrong. There's obviously a place for this sort of spectacle, and there's no doubt that Comic Con is successful at what it does. Each year, thousands of people descend upon San Diego to take part in this event, and quite frankly, it's a blast. If you can deal with the long lines, the huge crowds and the heat, it's something that everybody who enjoys geek culture should do at least once.

It's like getting swept up in the collective energy and hype at Times Square on New Year's, but there's actually stuff to do and see. It's like braving the wilds of Disney World, but with less Mickey. Today it's clear that being a geek, specifically a comic geek, is no longer an outsider activity. Geek has become the new cool.

I'm amazed at how many people, young and old, are into comics these days. But the younger generation especially inspires me. To have a 15 year old girl tell me, without the slightest sense of irony, that Aquaman is her favorite character, or to see a father help his young son search for a Spider-Man book, that's pretty cool. And super hero comics can serve as an ideal gateway to bigger and better things. It's but an entry point to a multiverse of story possibilities.

  Dragon Con in Atlanta, 2014

Dragon Con in Atlanta, 2014

So yeah, part of me might be a little ticked off when I think about how San Diego Comic Con isn't really about the comics anymore. Another part of me is baffled at how geek culture has been appropriated by pretty much everybody. But when it introduces so many people to this wonderful artistic medium, then I can't help but think that it's a good thing.

So go ahead and get your geek on, already. It's okay now.