Comic-Con Grows Up

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Forty years after a small band of comic book enthusiasts gathered in a subterranean lair, Comic-Con is now Comic-Con International. This weekend, the rich and beautiful will mingle with more nerds than you can shake a light saber at. Host Scott Simon previews the star-studded convention in San Diego with Geoff Boucher of the Los Angeles Times, author of the paper's Hero Complex blog.

SCOTT SIMON, host:

This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon.

(Soundbite of "Star Wars" theme music)

SIMON: A long time ago in a city far, far away from the East Coast, a small band of comic book enthusiasts gathered in a subterranean lair - you might call it a basement in other dimensions - to trade tales of combat, valor and superheroes. They were geeks, and they were gathering in San Diego for what's called Comic-Con.

Forty years later, and now the geeks - well, they're still geeks, but they're cool geeks. They still trade tales of sci-fi adventures and superhuman heroes, but they're sought after by Hollywood celebrities and power brokers eager to hawk their latest projects to a gathering of more than 125,000 convention-goers.

Today, Comic-Con is Comic-Con International, and this weekend the rich and the beautiful will mingle with more nerds than you can shake a light saber at. Geoff Boucher writes the Hero Complex blog for the Los Angeles Times. He's in San Diego for Comic-Con. Thanks very much for being with us.

Mr. GEOFF BOUCHER (Hero Complex Blogger): Oh, it's nice to be with you.

SIMON: So there's still comics at Comic-Con?

Mr. BOUCHER: Oh, absolutely, and some of them cost quite a bit. I saw that some of the comic books that are up for auction, some of the vintage ones are going for upwards of a million dollars.

SIMON: A million dollars for a comic book?

Mr. BOUCHER: Yes, exactly. I think the lower the price tag on the cover, the original price, and the more important the superhero, the more expensive it is now.

SIMON: I got to tell you - I mean, what does that say about this?

Mr. BOUCHER: Well, I think what it says is that, you know, the pop culture that you love when you're young stays with you for a very long time. And these are the mythological heroes of America. I mean, this is the Hercules and the King Arthur of American culture. And now that we're in the special effects era with film, where huge things like "Lord of the Rings" or "Matrix" can be accomplished on a screen, and "Avatar," the original comic book stories now can be realized with a visual style that lives up to the exploits on the page.

SIMON: You see some comic books and superheroes being essentially touted there at Comic-Con?

Mr. BOUCHER: Yeah. The way Comic-Con breaks down is, part of it's like a giant car show, and that's where people are selling things and giving things away and just trying to create the elusive buzz that everyone talks about. And then there's one room, it's called Hall H. It's really an airplane hangar, I think, with chairs, and it seats 6,500 people. And they have a series of panels there, and that's where Hollywood stars parade up there with directors. And they try to win over the crowd. They show footage from films that havent been seen yet. Sometimes, they do little stunts. And thats the part that gets the most press coverage.

SIMON: A lot of Trekkies there?

Mr. BOUCHER: There are a lot of Trekkies. And it's interesting to see, too - you know, one of the interesting things about Comic-Con is that it's become such a amplifier stack for pop culture and such a powerful microphone that really, it's no longer just the geek culture that comes here. "Glee" is here on Sunday. And TV shows like "White Collar" and "Californication" and "Weeds," which have really, little or no connection to the fanboy culture, now come here because it's a Cannes for capes, and the press is watching.

SIMON: You mean, a Cannes for capes?

Mr. BOUCHER: Exactly.

SIMON: See anything that's knocked your cape off?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. BOUCHER: My cape is fully affixed. But there are some things that I think people are going to walk away from here at Comic-Con. I think "Sucker Punch" is the movie that a lot of people think will light the largest firecracker here, as far as getting people's attention. And that's a movie from Zach Snyder, who's done "Watchmen" and "300," and this is his first original script. He wrote and directed the film thats coming out next year.

And it's - I would call it - it's a kind of a clumsy description, but I would say it's "Alice in Wonderland" meets "One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest." It's sort of a strange, inner fantasy of a woman who's in an insane asylum, but she fights samurais and German soldiers and killer droids, and all the things that are in her head. And I think that's a movie that - it really seems attuned to the video game generation and the remote control generation. I think they're going to really like a movie that flips around faster than they do.

SIMON: Mr. Boucher, thanks so much.

Mr. BOUCHER: Thank you.

SIMON: Geoff Boucher writes the Hero Complex blog for the Los Angeles Times. He joined us from Comic-Con International in San Diego. And you can find him on herocomplex.com.

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