Nerds on Parade

I love comic books.

Surprised? No, of course not.

In spite of being more grown-up these days and not really caring all that much about the latest issue of The Flash or Iron Man, in spite of occaisionally bitching about their over-riding presence in the comics medium, I really do still love super-heroes, too. If presented with the opportunity, I wouldn't disdain to read the latest issues of Amazing Spider-Man, Green Lantern, Justice League of America, X-Men, Superman or any of the others I loved beyond reason when I was fourteen. I like Scott McCloud's analogy from Reinventing Comics: Super-heroes are like chocolate pie with whipped cream topping and Oreo cookie crust. Delicious, but do you want to live on a diet of chocolate pie with whipped cream topping and Oreo cookie crust for the rest of your life?

Anyway...yeah, I'm a big nerd. I love super-heroes, I love Star Wars and The Lord of the Rings, I love Star Trek and Battlestar Galactica, I mourn the premature demise of Firefly like a good nerd should.

But I don't dress up in costumes, except maybe at Halloween. And the truth is, most nerds don't. Look atwebc artoonist Paul Taylor's report and photos from the San Diego Comic Con, especially at the photos of the fans who stopped by his booth which are near the bottom of the page. Only a few costumes in the bunch, and none more elaborate than what you'd see on an average weekend at your local RenFaire.

When the press covers Comic Con, they focus on the costumes. I suppose this is because there's not much else to cover about a giant gathering of nerds. "They gather, they wait in line for hours for sketches and autographs from their favorite creators, they play nerdy games, they spend horrifying sums of money on collectible action figures and such, they dig through quarter bins to find that last issue of West Coast Avengers they need to complete their collection, and most of them dress in T-shirts and shorts."

I understand why they focus on the costumes. They're interesting and often very cool. But it's sort of like doing a story about a Denver Broncos game and focusing entirely on the Barrel Man and the Leprechaun and this guy, while completely ignoring the fact that there's 76,000 other people there who aren't dressed in silly outfits.

The problem is that the whole thing is really a non-story, at least outside the city of San Diego and the comic book world. Stories on websites and in newspapers accompanied by pictures are an easy way to get a few "Look at the freaks!" laughs. The Burning Man freaks are every bit as freakish, in fact probably (read: almost certainly) moreso - but it's a lot harder to send a photographer to the Nevada desert than to send one to the San Diego Convention Center.

It just irks me that even as comic books are only just starting to win acceptance as a legitimate narrative medium as worthy of creative effort and scholarly discussion as prose, theater or cinema, the media is still taking cheap shots and making the entire comic-book-reading population out to be nothing but freaks and weirdos who live in their parents' basements and spend every last dime they make on homemade Stormtrooper uniforms.