Last week I attended San Diego Comic Con International at the convention center on the harbor in San Diego. This is a semi-regular event for me, my husband has attended most years since 1972. When we were newlyweds, I went with him every year but when we returned from Japan in 1997, the Con I remembered was no more. It had morphed from a small convention of 18,000 members to a whopping 90,000 people. This year the estimated attendance was a massive 130,000. With numbers like that it causes difficulty moving just from one panel to another.
The large crowds do allow for some wonderful people-watching and cosplay gazing. I’ll admit the cosplay was cool – lots of Wonder Woman outfits this year. The cutest was an Elsa (Frozen) / Wonder Woman mash-up – she wore Elsa’s blue gown with Wonder Woman’s chest armor, tiara, and sword in blue (Sorry no pic, her mom declined when I asked if I could take a picture). The oddest one was the bearded Wonder Woman, he told me his wife helped him create the costume.
Despite the large crowds, there were some panels worth facing the crowds and attending. Here are three I went to:
Star Trek: The Next 50 Years – Authors Mark A. Altman and Edward Gross (The Fifty-Year Mission) along with Scott Mantz from Access Hollywood looked back over the last fifty years of Star Trek and speculated on where the franchise will boldly go during the next fifty years. They looked at how the television program and the movies have inspired generations to explore careers in science and technology – both male and female, and of all ethnic and racial groups due to the strong characters in the series. They cited the importance of Uhura (ST:TOS), Benjamin Sisco (ST:DS9), and Michael Doren (ST:NG) as role-models to name a few. It wasn’t easy to deal with the serious topics of equality and war, but under Gene Rodenberry’s leadership, determination to preserve his vision, and tenacity to stand up to network executives he won most of the time. One example when he backed down was that of Majel Barrett being demoted to Nurse Chapel from Number One in the original pilot because the network said no body would believe a woman as second in command.
Most of the lore they discussed was familiar, but they talked about a new movie in the works as well as a new television series – Star Trek: Discovery. Discovery is reported to take place ten years before ST:TOS, but it’s unclear if that is before or during the same time as ST: Enterprise. It will launch part one of the pilot on Sunday, September 24 following NFL Football and 60 Minutes, then part two will stream on CBS All Access immediately following. All remaining episodes will also be available on CBS All Access. It was discussed if fans would be willing to pay the approximately $4.95 per week to watch the weekly series. I’m sure I will find out more at the Star Trek Convention in Las Vegas next week (more on that to come.)
Comics Arts Conference #5: Lassoing the Truth: Marston Verses Wertham in the Wonder Woman War – The Comic Arts Conference is an academic conference within Comic Con study the role of comics in society, as well as the history and art. The topic was looking at William Moulton Marston, a psychologist and creator of Wonder Woman, who wanted to empower America’s youth and especially the girls to reach for something higher. He believed that if women were in power, the world would be a better place and free of war and poverty because the female of our species was more nurturing and empathetic than the males. When Fredric Wertham, a psychiatrist, wrote his book the Seduction of the Innocent (1954) he blamed the rise juvenile delinquency on the proliferation of comic books. Wertham attacked Marston, who passed away in 1947, and his creation. Wertham felt it promoted S&M and lesbianism. He also felt that Wonder Woman gave girls a false sense of their abilities, and encouraged them to be un-feminine. Time has shown that Wertham’s thoughts couldn’t be further from the truth. Wonder Woman has inspired countless girls to grow up and be soldiers, pilots, and police officers (and much more).
The panel included several notable participants: The first was Trina Robbins (The Legend of Wonder Woman), who I met at my first Comic Con in 1984, a comic book writer and historian. The other was Christi Marston (The Wonder Woman Network and Family Museum) William Moulton Marston’s granddaughter, whom I’ve wanted to meet. Also leading the panel were Doctors Travis Langley and Mara Wood, whose book Wonder Woman Psychology: Lassoing the Truth was released this month.
Tales from the Comic Book Crackdown – This was more than a panel, it was a performance by the Captured Aural Phantasy Theater, led by Ben Dickow, about EC Comics publisher of titles such as Tales from the Crypt and Weird Science. , Within the pages of their comics, there was clever commentary about the issues of the day including racism and McCarthyism. This “panel” was a presentation about the publisher of EC Comics, William Gaines, being brought before the U.S. Senate to testify in a hearing that would lead to censorship of comic books in 1954. Presented with music, slides, actual testimony from the hearing, and with additional commentary by comic historian Grant Geissman, it entertained the audience as well as informed them. The group, working with the Gaines family, hope to bring a full production to the stage in the fall. I heard about this hearing but listening to the actual testimony and looking at the actual pages of comics in question was enlightening and entertaining.
Many fans will wait days in line to get into Hall H, where many big stars appear to promote the latest blockbuster films – Thor Ragnarok, The Kingsmen II, and Justice League just to name a few. I personally won’t go there, for two reasons. First, you can spend the entire day waiting in the heat (the line is outside) to see one panel, and given what the cost of membership is to me it’s not worth it. Second, most of the events will be posted on YouTube so I can see them later.
Confession time – I did stand in one line, but only for ninety minutes, to get an autograph. It was worth this shortish wait for five minutes with John Barrowman. Best known for his roles in Doctor Who and Torchwood (Captain Jack Harkness), and is most currently in Arrow (Malcolm Merlyn). When I asked him, with a new Doctor in the wings wasn’t it time for a Doctor/Jack reunion? His response – “Hell, yes!”
One major attraction of Comic Con is the Exhibition Hall. Here publishers, writers, authors, and Hollywood studios vie for your attention. There are opportunities to see artists at work, get autographs, free swag, and of course for shopping. This year I was in the company of my husband’s eleven-year-old sister. This being her first Con, she was a bit overwhelmed but reported that it was “freakin’ fun” and that I, her sister-in-law, was “really cool.”
The Exhibition Hall, the size of six football fields or more, could keep anyone busy for the four-day run of the convention. I bought a few books, a Star Trek t-shirt, a Doctor Who t-shirt, and Sarah Jane Pop! Toy. I stayed well within my budget for the weekend.
It was a long, exhausting weekend, but a time to spend with my husband and catch up with friends I hadn’t seen in a while. According to my Fitbit, I walked 52,191 steps (approximately 22 miles) over the four days. Most days we left my parent’s house at 6 AM to get parked and didn’t hit the sack until nearly midnight.
I am just now recovering from the long, active weekend I’m off on another adventure. This will be the last of the summer as I return to work on 7 August. This week I’m heading north to Las Vegas, Nevada (not to be confused with Las Vegas, New Mexico) for the 50th Anniversary Star Trek Convention. To boldly go where I’ve never gone before.
Until next time remember the door is always open and the kettle is always on.