Comic-Con Episode IV: A Fan’s Hope

B Pop-culture documentary

  • Directed by Morgan Spurlock

Morgan Spurlock’s latest documentary will disappoint his fans, which is odd because it’s all about fandom.

In this documentary, Spurlock doesn’t experiment with diet or sell himself to corporations. He doesn’t even put on a Batman costume. In fact, Spurlock never appears on camera and you never hear his voice. The film is entirely upbeat and apolitical. The subject is one that many find strange and eccentric, but few worry about: fans of comic books, video games, and sci-fi/fantasy movies.

The film follows professionals, fans, and fans hoping to become professionals as comic-conthey prepare for and attend Comic-Con, a large convention for comic book fans. Except that Comic-Con isn’t just about comic books, anymore. It now attracts fans of just about everything involving sci-fi, fantasy, and regularly reoccurring characters. These fans often refer to themselves, affectionately, as geeks.

I have never been to Comic-Con or a similar convention, but I have some insight into the mindset. I used to be married to a comic book geek, and both my son and future daughter-in-law qualify. And I’ve been active in other subcultures that encouraged dressing in costumes and pretending to be someone else.

Spurlock explores the convention and the subculture by following several attendees. Two struggling artists attend the show hoping that they can show their work to professionals and kick start their careers. A costume designer brings friends and elaborate outfits for a competition. For the well-aged owner of a comic distribution company and his young assistant, Comic-Com is part of their business, and they worry about the bottom line. Young lovers, who met at last year’s convention, attend this one while the boy plans an elaborate and very public proposal.

That proposal makes Comic-Con Episode IV‘s best moment. It’s crazy, but it’s also sweet and romantic, and very much involves Kevin Smith. But then, I may be especially susceptible right now to elaborate marriage proposals between young geeks. (Why? Go back two paragraphs and figure it out.)

In addition to its central characters, the movie contains short interview segments by a number of people, many of whom are major celebrities inside (and even outside) of geekdom. These include the aforementioned Smith, Josh Whedon, Matt Groening, Seth Rogen, and the god of geekdom: Marvel Comic’s Stan Lee.

Whedon and Lee "Present" the film, so you can expect a positive view of the subculture. It revels in costumes and enthusiasms, ignores the sore feet and bad, over-priced food (part of any convention), and does its best to dispel the myth that geeks are just a bunch of overgrown boys who can’t get laid. On the other hand, by including a professional and two hope-to-be professionals amongst its subjects, the movie shows us that while comic books can be a fulfilling hobby, they’re also a very difficult way to earn a living.

I found the film entertaining for the most part, but lightweight and not particularly deep. I occasionally found myself checking my watch and wondering when it would be over. If you’re curious about this subculture or subcultures in general, it’s worth catching. But if you go because you’re a Morgan Spurlock fan, you’re going to be disappointed.

Comic-Con Episode IV: A Fan’s Hope opens Friday for a one-week run at the Vogue. Spurlock will be there himself on Sunday for Q&A.