To get to the Venture Brothers panel at New York Comic Con 2011, I had to wait in a long line to get to another line, to get to another line, all to get to the main line for admission to the IGN Theater. During the wait, I befriended the suited guy in front of me, who said he’d recently moved to New York from Atlanta. Trying to think of something conversation-y to say, I told him I was surprised that so many people wore costumes when the costume contest wasn’t till Sunday. He smiled at me and said, “You’ve never been to a con before, have you?”
When we finally got inside, the Venture Bro.s’ creators, Doc Hammer and Jackson Publick, were up at a teeny-tiny dais and projected onto two large screens on either side of the gigantic theater. They read a lot of Twitter-submitted questions, of which the most substantive were things like “What exactly is a Rusty Venture?” (Answer: Masturbating until your dick is red and raw) and “Is Ghost Robot dead?” (Answer: Can you kill a robot…or a ghost?) The last 45 minutes passed with Doc Hammer reading a very lengthy list of phrases he no longer wants to hear people say (hot mess, totes, redonkulous, conversate, meh, get your _____ on, pure win, etc.) the entirety of which I weirdly wrote down in my official reporter notebook like it was gospel.
The list would’ve been a cute Tumblr post, I guess, but surely it wasn’t what fans came all this way to see. I’d been expecting, I don’t know, insider info on the characters’ backstories and insights into their writing process. Why would people dress up in elaborate costumes and pay a hefty admission fee just to listen to people who created something they love talk about nothing?
The form of the interaction – the two of them sitting up there, with us down below looking up at the screens – felt partly like we were worshipping them, and partly like we were all just alone at home on our computers. We were still looking at the onscreen image of Doc and Jackson, even through we were in the same room as them.
At the Robot Chicken panel that followed, surprise guest Macauley Culkin was asked to do a sexy pose and licked Seth Green’s face. I saw it on the big IGN Theater screen, and then the next day I saw it on the Internet. Honestly, it wasn’t that different.
Also during that panel, someone in the audience told Macauley Culkin that they got to second base for the first time while watching Saved, and thanked him. Our personal experiences seem to us to be tied to the people involved in entertainment projects, but our fandom is really not about them. It’s about our relationship with the entertainment and our enthusiasm for it, and our bond with the other people who have the same enthusiasm.
Walking around the main floor of the con, there was a sense of community everywhere. One girl in a costume I didn’t recognize turned over her shoulder as she walked by and called out to another girl, “Codex! Awesome! I love it!” Comic Con is special not because of the famous guests, but because it’s a place where you can go and know that everyone there will be familiar with a videogame comedy web series. And applaud you for dressing up like one of the characters.
One of the truly great parts about the con’s cosplay (the one that made up for the number of times I got poked in the eye by light sabers) was seeing anime characters at a cash register paying for a tuna sandwich or texting on their phone. How dull we would all be if we really were superheroes. But that’s the thing: it’s not necessarily about wanting to be a superhero. It seemed to me like it’s just the clearest way to wear fandom literally on your sleeve.
I have a friend who’s really, really into the hamburger chain Shake Shack, reading up on its creators, reveling in any chance to eat there or just walk by one of the locations. His life advice when I’m feeling down invariably comes in the form of “find your Shake Shack.” And it kind of works. It sounds stupid, but finding something to be enthusiastic about – no matter what it is, how cool its creators are, how smart or funny or great the thing itself is – makes you happy.
And it can make you better at making things of your own. Comic book writer and inker Jimmy Palmiotti talked about how watching TV and movies taught him how to do pacing and dialogue – and how not to do them. “Knowing when something’s not working is just another superpower,” he said.
What I took away from Comic Con was an understanding of why someone might go to Comic Con. Not to get an autograph from the writer of their favorite comic book, but to celebrate their own love for the comic book and be with other people who feel a similar love. I can’t stop thinking about how unbelievably sick it would be if there were a Comedy Con devoted entirely to television comedies. But even if there isn’t, maybe I’ll go as Leslie Knope for Halloween.