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Geek in Gear: Comic-Con isn't just for comics, and that's OK

Batman is teaming up with Superman on the big screen. “Supernatural” is trying its luck at a spinoff series. “Doctor Who” premiered the trailer for its much-anticipated 50th anniversary special. The newest “Catching Fire” teaser finally gave us shots of some key scenes from the book. And Loki found himself another army.

In other words, San Diego Comic-Con 2013 wrapped up this past weekend amid exciting announcements and celebrity appearances. This year was perfect for me to attend San Diego Comic-Con at long last. However, like thousands of others, I failed to score first-time tickets thanks to problems with the ticketing system. But life goes on, and like any pop-culture nerd who likes to be on top of things, I still kept a close — though jealous — eye on the events. What I saw was a lot of hype and news about movies and TV series based on comics and just as many, if not more, that weren’t . . . despite the convention’s name.

And you know what? That’s OK.

For the past several years, that’s been the case. Not only at San Diego, but also at the numerous comic-cons popping up around the United States. The demand for geek-centered conventions is higher than ever. Denver Comic-Con reported doubled attendance numbers for its 2013 con, and it’s only in its second year. Salt Lake has its first comic-con ever scheduled for this September, and it’s long since sold out of Saturday-only tickets. While these cons still regularly schedule comic artists and writers as guests, it’s even more likely to find the names of movie and TV stars on the roster, in the panels and on the merchandise.

Amidst it all, I’ve seen some fans complain about how mainstream the comic-cons (and other conventions) are becoming. It’s “comic”-con, not “everything remotely geeky and popular”-con. And despite my thinking “hipster” to myself as I roll my eyes and smile, I completely understand where they’re coming from. The things that we like are special to us. For many, it’s what makes us who we are. We grew up on them and made them part of our lives. Shifting niche cons into the mainstream, seemingly to make more money and attract more attention, can feel like a sellout, especially when tickets are hotter than Superman’s heat vision.

The worst part of the shift is the belief that some fans (usually male) are “truer fans” compared to others. Some have taken up shaming other fans because they haven’t been in the culture as long or seem to be the type only there because it’s popular. This behavior is usually directed at females, since it seems mind-boggling for some that girls liked comics, video games and other geeky things long before it was mainstream-cool.

And that is seriously not cool. There’s no such thing as a true fan or a better fan, only elitists who never learned how to play nice and share with others. Everyone enjoys different things to different degrees. Some watch a TV show whenever they come across it while flipping channels, and others plan themed parties to watch it as it airs. Some go to comic-cons to meet their favorite comic writer from childhood, and others started their superhero journey with “The Avengers.”

Where some fans approach this shift with frustration and indignation, I’m part of the group that’s all for it. More positive interest means a better and more accepting overall view of geek culture. More money and attention going into the culture means more product (movies, TV series, comics, merchandise) coming out. And I don’t know about you, but I enjoy watching movies with my favorite characters from childhood, so let’s up the demand and drag more people with us.

Comic-cons are not treehouses with “boys only” signs on them or even “comic fans only” signs. They’re open and accessible to everyone, which means more opportunities for new fans. Maybe I’m weird, but when I love something as deeply as I love “Doctor Who” or the quirky relationships between superheroes in Marvel’s universe, I want to share it, and if I’m sharing it with someone who’s never experienced it before, then that makes it all the sweeter. It’s like introducing a child to a beloved Pixar movie for the first time and watching her face light up in joy when she demands to watch it again. And again. And play dress-up. And meet the characters at Disneyland.

It’s something special. Something awesome.

And totally OK.

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