They came from across the country, by bus, plane and car — and the final half-mile by foot, taxi and pedicabs.
The sun was barely peeping into the sky when pop culture purveyors and customers began arriving at the San Diego convention center for the 40th Comic-Con International, the annual gathering of the tribe whose rituals include video games, comic books, sci-fi movies, anything avant garde and guaranteed to shock, annoy or perplex the older generation.
“We’re nerds, this is our heaven,” said Larissa Cruz, 19, a plant-science major at the University of Illinois who arrived with three pals from Chicago.
Tom Peterson, 20, is studying to be a cop; Matt Iwinski, 23, works at an office supply store; and Josh Roe, 20, pumps gas. Along with Cruz, they flew to San Diego.
“There’s no other place to be than here at Comic-Con,” said Roe.
Cody Marshall, 21, a butcher from Dallas, felt the same. “Last year I had the greatest time ever,” said Marshall, whose spiky hair and nose rings gave him a distinctive look. “This year, I hear it’s going to be even more awesome.”
Beyond just a desire for a midsummer frolic, attendees shared a feeling of cultural preeminence, a feeling encouraged by the Comic-Con organizers. The spin is that Comic-Con attendees are not just customers but also taste-makers, and that their likes and dislikes dominate the industry. The older generation had better move over before it gets run over.
Case in point: Chris Johnson, 22, and Danielle Madden, 21, who came from Edmonton, Alberta, to “be with people like us.” Johnson wore a Deadpool costume.
To a questioner from a different generation, Johnson explained that Deadpool is a Marvel Comics character, a high-tech mercenary with Canadian roots and a wisecracking mouth, like Wolverine. He should not be confused, Johnson said, with the 1988 Clint Eastwood movie “The Dead Pool.”
“Google ‘Deadpool’ and you get the comic first, not Clint Eastwood,” Johnson said. “Sorry, Clint.”
Michael Murphey, chief executive officer of Iverse Media, based in Waco, Texas, is at the convention to introduce his new product line of digital comics: comics that can be downloaded on your iPhone.
“We’ve had the golden age, silver age and bronze age of comics,” Murphey said as he exited the hall. “Now we’re in the digital age.”
Sarah Gerhardt, 33, an advertising copywriter, took a Greyhound from her home in Portland, Ore. She was accompanied by a Yoda puppet strapped to her back. She’s geared for the Star Wars panel discussions.
Ariel Burrus, 18, of Imperial Beach is working for an online T-shirt company with a booth in the convention hall. As she waited outside for her vendor badge, a stuffed Chewbacca clung to her back.
Burrus will be wearing a different costume each day, including one described as “dead Tinkerbell.” For the masquerade ball, she’ll probably wear her “naughty schoolgirl” outfit.
“My mom hates it,” said Burrus, whose full-time employment is at McDonald’s. “That’s why I’m doing it.”
Ave Rose, 29, and Blaine Hays, 31, came from Los Angeles to present new offerings from Ink Pen Mutations, a publishing company that specializes in demon tales and underground (way underground) poetry. “Demons are back, zombies too,” Rose said.
The Comic-Con crowd favors T-shirts, costumes and tattoos.
Amanda Marquez, 21, of Riverside, has a line of dialogue on her upper chest from the movie “Serenity”: “I am a leaf on the wind, watch how I soar.”
And what does that mean to her?
“It’s just something I like,” she said. “I don’t take my tattoos too seriously.”
Many of the best-known names in film, books and videos will be in attendance. Also attending will be people who some day hope to be known even if they’re currently mere spear-carriers for the industry (some literally, some figuratively).
Stephanie Ann Davies is handing out fliers inviting attendees to a panel discussion by the makers of the USA network show “Psych.” Yes, but she’s already got her own movie, with a title that riffs on a well-known movie of the early 1950s.
Her title: “High Society: A Pot Boiler.” Pot boiler … get it? Must a viewer be stoned to enjoy the effort?
“No,” Davies said, “but it helps.”
– Tony Perry
Photos by Tony Perry. Top, from left: Tom Peterson, Larissa Cruz and Josh Roe; bottom: Sarah Gerhardt and her pal Yoda.
MORE COMIC-CON COVERAGE