A few weeks ago I made my annual pilgrimage to the Boston Comic Con. This comic book convention for fans and collectors has morphed into a meet-and-greet event for media celebrities. The new name, Fan Expo 2018, reflects how much this show has changed since its inception. Comic book and superhero culture has exploded into mainstream media thanks to Hollywood’s multi-million dollar movie revenue. I enjoyed this show much more when I was younger, thumbing through cardboard boxes looking for lost treasures and hidden gems. This year, I felt more like a maze runner dodging lines of people eager to pay $20 for a selfie with their favorite celebrity in attendance.
Many industry favorites converged at the Boston Convention & Exhibition Center: the cast of Back to the Future (complete with Michael J. Fox, Christopher Lloyd and Leah Thompson), Paul Reubens a/k/a Pee Wee Herman, Jason Momoa, ex Drogo from Game of Thrones and star of the upcoming underwater spectacle Aquaman. The list of stars in attendance was long, as were the lines waiting to meet the celebrities. Enthusiastic fans were herded through roped off lines for a chance to say hello and pay for an autograph (or snap a $20 selfie with your favorite on your own phone). Something about paying money to stand next to a star bothered me. I spoke to a fan who told me William Shatner’s $80 price point was a bargain. “And I never even mentioned Star Trek,” the fan proudly told me. At $80 a photo, Shatner brings new meaning to the word “enterprise”.
I found an empty line in front of the table where Keir Dullea was sitting. It seemed the younger generation had no interest in meeting the actor who played David in the 1968 sci-fi classic 2001: A Space Odyssey. He looked bored so I thought this would be a great time to sharpen my celebrity interviewing skills. The years were kind to him. He retained his youthful good looks well into old age. He was friendly and polite (and very thin) with a twinkle in his sky blue eyes. I told him I enjoyed his film and television work. I asked him what it was like to be directed by Stanley Kubrick.
“I loved every minute of it,” he said.
I thanked him for speaking with me and I moved on. He looked disappointed that I didn’t want a $20 selfie.
Maybe I was lucky the other celebrity lines were too long to wait in. I would have told Pee Wee Herman my son and I were big fans (before his arrest). And it would have been awkward confessing to Jason Momoa that when I was 10 years old I would pretend I was Aquaman at Revere Beach.
The highlight of my day was attending a forum hosted by Tom King, the award-winning writer of Batman for DC Comics. Tom is a self-proclaimed super-nerd who turned his life around by joining the CIA as a counter-terrorism operations officer. His job was to recruit people to penetrate terrorist networks and to design operations that would stop terrorism. He opted out of a life of danger to raise a family. He returned to his love of writing as a safer career choice (although that’s debatable after hearing about the death threats he recently received. His latest infamous comic-book story arc about the wedding of Batman and Catwoman pushed some fans over the edge. A small faction of fans were not too pleased how the event was handled. Tom had to hire a bodyguard at this year’s San Diego Comic Con. The writer fielded questions offering insight into how he works. He demonstrated his process by writing an audience-collaborative script on the big screen in the auditorium. I look forward to his upcoming work. He has elevated comic book writing to an art form. His genius is showcased in the hard-to-find Batman/Elmer Fudd crossover book. Scary, poignant, humorous and sad, the story has something for everyone. Much like the author Tom King himself.
The comic book industry has changed dramatically in the last few years. Movie cross-overs and celebrity selfies have infiltrated a once obscure hobby and elevated it into the entertainment mainstream. I much prefer the days of rummaging through cardboard boxes at flea markets seeking the adventures of Superman and Batman with torn covers and yellow pages. But I’m a die-hard fan. Something tells me I’ll be attending future shows, looking for the newest trend. In the world of comic books, it’s all about the next issue.