It was a dark epoch indeed before comics were recognized as one of America's pre-eminent art forms. At one time, these dog-eared periodicals were relegated to cardboard boxes under the beds of 10-year-old boys (and surreptitious discarding by room-cleaning moms). These days the umbrella term "comics" includes manga, graphic novels, and the funny pages, and the medium is enjoyed by everyone from seen-it-all hipsters to overeducated commuters to pre-pubescent girls.
Now that these illustrated titles have earned a spot on the national radar, Hollywood studios are gaining street cred by turning graphic novels like Terry Zwigoff's Ghost Worldand Harvey Pekar's American Splendor into films (both were nominated for Academy Awards), and transforming beloved series like X-Men, Spider-Man, and Hellboy into blockbusters. Accordingly, comics sales are up, way up from their late-'90s doldrums, when many predicted the medium's imminent demise.
Don't get us wrong; we think it's way cool that talented comics artists and creators are getting their due -- not to mention their Hulk-size royalties -- but now that our secret world has gone mainstream, what's an OG (that would be "original geek") to do? Head over to WonderCon 2004, where more than 9,000 attendees are expected to revel in the art form and its related offshoots.
Admission is $15 per day or $35 for a three-day pass
The highlight is sure to be Saturday night's WonderCon Independent Film Festival, featuring movies with comics sensibilities by Bay Area directors, along with the winners of the 2002 and 2003 Star Wars Fan Film Awards (look for spoofs such as Jar Jar's Walking Papers and Star Wars Gangsta Rap).
The weekend's goings-on also spotlight the world's fastest cartoonist, Sergio Aragonés; legendary artist/filmmaker/author/publisher Jim Steranko; and Batman/Catwoman impresario Darwyn Cooke. Disgruntled misanthrope Harvey Pekar is feted Friday night with a presentation of the cinematic version of American Splendor, and panels and Q&A discussions take place on Saturday and Sunday. Local horror fans should also note Saturday's appearance by Bay Area television hosts Bob Wilkins and John Stanley from KTVU's old monster-movie showcase, Creature Features. Even Spider-Man 2's Tobey Maguire will be there, hopefully in his skintight Spidey suit -- we dare you to ask how he mastered the art of kissing upside down. For those new to the fine art of fandom, there are plenty of how-to seminars, such as "Costuming for Conventions," "Collecting Original Art," and "Self-Publishing 101."
But the true aficionado comes for the camaraderie. Where else can you haggle over a first-edition Captain America or debate the strengths and weaknesses of each DC Comics hero in excruciating detail? For this Star Wars fanatic, it's as thrilling as a whirl around the galaxy on the Millennium Falcon.