Director Kevin Smith Dishes On Comic-Con

The largest pop-culture convention in the nation is under way in San Diego. Comic-Con runs through this weekend, and 125,000 people are expected to pass through each day. It's also become a marketing destination for the entertainment industry. To find out what draws so many to Comic-Con, Steve Inskeep talks with comic book aficionado and movie director Kevin Smith, whose films include Clerks and Chasing Amy.

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The largest pop culture convention in the nation is underway in San Diego. Comic-Con, which pretty much started as a little comic book convention, runs through this weekend, and 125,000 people are expected to pass through each day. It's become a marketing destination for the entertainment industry. To hear what draws so many people to Comic-Con, we called comic book aficionado and movie director Kevin Smith, whose films include "Clerks" and "Chasing Amy." He's been a regular at Comic-Con for years.

Mr. KEVIN SMITH (Director): It's amazing. It's not just for people who like comic books. If you're a people watcher and you're anywhere near San Diego, go. You get to see all different breeds of geeks. It's not just like, man, go down there and you'll see a bunch of people dressed up like Admirable Ackbar from "Return of the Jedi."

No, you'll see normal people too, who you're like, what are you doing here? You can't possibly be into this geek stuff. So you could blend, is what I'm saying. You won't stick out. You don't have to go dressed like Jabba. That's just what I do.

(Soundbite of laughter)

INSKEEP: Do you really?

Mr. SMITH: No, but I should, because then I could walk the floor. I used to enjoy going to the con just to go shopping. For me it isn't so much about shopping anymore. Now it's like annual check-up for me for the audience. So it's become something of a dopey tradition for me to go down there and Q&A, even though I have nothing to whore out. That's what Comic-Con's kind of become about. Like most of the studios now go down there and kind of court the geek dollar.

INSKEEP: I want to know, are they trying to get the audience or are they actually trying to find ideas that they'll turn into movies later when Hollywood executives head for Comic-Con?

Mr. SMITH: I mean, if I had to guess I would go with the latter, because the funny thing about like when Hollywood comes down and throws up previews and courts this audience - like, this is a pre-sold audience. You don't have to let these cats know that the "Watchmen"'s coming. They know. You know, it's the rest of the world you've got to let know.

But I guess there might be an aspect of, hey, maybe we can go down there and cull some ideas for stories. The business could do a lot worse than tap some of these very imaginative people who take the trip down every year.

INSKEEP: If you're talking to somebody who's never been to Comic-Con, will you just walk us in the door? Where do you go? What do you see? What does it look like?

Mr. SMITH: It's intimidating. When you first get down there, the first thing you see as you approach is going to be massive lines. You walk in, tables galore. It's like that shot from "Gone with the Wind" where they crane up, you see all the people who've been hurt by the war, you know, between the states.

It's tough to actually audibly prepare people for what they're going to see just because you've never seen anything like it. You've never seen that many people gathered over things that are so insignificant. Like it's one thing when that many people gather together for the march on Washington or something. But this is just a bunch of people gathered together because they like sci-fi and fantasy. You've just got to be glad that these folks aren't organized.

(Soundbite of laughter)

INSKEEP: Are you looking to buy something this year?

Mr. SMITH: No. I mean, my - sadly for me - or not so sadly, I've been kind of fortunate in my career in as much as people like what we do, but the trade-off for that is in places like Comic-Con you kind of give up your freedom of movement. Like, you know, in the real world I can walk around and every once in a while people are like, hey, that fat guy looks like the dude from "Clerks." At Comic-Con I'm easy to find there.

INSKEEP: It sounds like even though you are 37, that this convention…

Mr. SMITH: I'm 38. I'm going to be 39 in like a week and a half, Steve. I'll be honest with you.

INSKEEP: Okay. Happy birthday to you. It sounds like this convention brings out a side of you that will always be 14.

Mr. SMITH: Yeah, absolutely. It's just fun to me. Every time around this time of year it's fun. And granted, I go to the con differently now than I did the first time, but at the same time every year when I drive down there, as I see the convention center as we get closer and closer, same feeling comes back, where I'm just like, man, I'm so glad there's still something left in life that I can find a childlike fascination and excitement for.

INSKEEP: Well, Kevin Smith, thanks very much for taking the time.

Mr. SMITH: Thanks.

INSKEEP: Director and comic book writer Kevin Smith.

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