But, like many grown-ups I know, I feel lost when I attempt to comprehend our current, comics-saturated pop culture moment. Consider that, once the box-office tallies are all notched, the biggest movies of this summer will no doubt include The Avengers, The Amazing Spider-Man, and The Dark Knight. That’s a towering, teetering stack of comic book provenance looming over the multiplex. And TV offers no respite: The Walking Dead—an AMC zombiepocalypse show based on a hit comic book series—is among the most-watched dramas in the history of basic cable.
But does this Slate article strike anyone else as condescending and close-minded? Especially when the objective is to try and understand Comic Con, comics culture, and its wider impact?
Or is it that I am no longer able to understand “normal” people my age?
At this point, if called upon, I could recite the key facts: whence Iron Man derives his power, which realm Thor hails from, why Batman is doomed to haunt the night. But not because I’ve ever read (or had any emotional connection to) those comic books. I’ve been indoctrinated, along with everybody else who lives in this era. Comics have won. We can assimilate, or we can lock ourselves out of the dominant cultural conversation.Comic book covers for Thor, Nov. 1962; Iron Man, 1977; and Batman, winter 1940.
Marvel Comics, Marvel, and D.C. Comics.
I wonder: How did we arrive at this situation? What does it say about us, good or bad? Will we ever tear off our capes and float back down to solid ground?
To meet America’s inner child, shake his hand, and pose him a few of these questions, I have come to the International Comic-Con in San Diego. Here is ground zero for entertainment in the new millennium. This event, which was a small convention of comics aficionados when it was founded in 1970, now sits at the nexus of comic books, movies, TV, video games, street fashion, and some bizarre role-playing stuff that I don’t understand well enough to categorize (and that frankly scares the bejeezus out of me).