Going to Comic Con International is like drinking from a fire hose. There is so much going on and you want to be part of all of it. But like drinking from that fire hose, you eventually end up being overwhelmed.
Comic Con International for 2015, held at the San Diego Convention Center, was July 8-12. This was my third year going. One of the things that I felt was that there were more people there this year than the previous years.
That is really impossible, because the number for the event is capped. The number given for attendance was over 130,000. That is the number reported for every year. It seemed like all of those 130,000 people were in the convention site every day and every moment I was there.
What happens at Comic Con, besides the selling of stuff which seems to be reason many attend, are panels. These panels deal with topics around popular culture. These panels include previews of new television shows, new comics and books. There are panels on how to break into voice acting, comic retailing, writing and technical aspects of the production of comics.
But the real draw to Comic Con is Hollywood rolling out their new movies.
The place everyone wants to get into at Comic Con is Hall H. Hall H is the largest room in the convention center. It seats 6,130 people. This is the place where you see the stars of new movies and get sneak peaks at the movies themselves.
It is impossible to just walk into Hall H. To get in you have to camp out for the next day.
I talked with a young woman who did just that. She told me she and her friends camped out in line for Hall H. To get in Saturday’s events in Hall H, she and her friends were outside for thirty hours.
When she got in she spent the whole day there, watching the panels for the upcoming “Batman vs. Superman” movie, Quentin Tarantino’s next film, and listening to Joss Whedon, the director of the two “Avengers” movies field questions.
As I talked to her, I heard her story of the experience. There was the very early morning encounter with Zack Snyder, the director of “Batman vs. Superman,” who gave out t-shirts to those waiting in line. She told of being in the audience when they demanded to see a trailer for a movie that just premiered there to be shown a second time.
Her story reminded me of the times in my high school days when we would stand in line for hours to see the latest movie. In those days there was no pre-sale of tickets. You stood in line, and they counted off the number of people the theater would hold. When that number was reached, if you did not get into the screening, you stood there until the next screening.
What we talked about was the story. We shared in the story of following something we thought was great and wonderful. The story of the experience is what is at the core. One of the things you experience at Comic Con is a chance to have a story.
We Christians are called to remember the story. The story is about our experience with Christ.
Back in the day we were told to know how to give our testimony. The testimony was the story of our experience in becoming a Christian. We were taught to tell about how we were before we were a Christian. Then we were to tell about how we knew that Christ was calling us. After that you were to share what you did to become a Christian. Finally, we shared what our lives are like now that we are Christians. There was an idea that stood behind all of this.
That idea is simple: the story should invite others into our experience and allow them to find their place in the experience. We shared of how our lives were transformed by the experience.
In listening to the story of waiting thirty hours to get into a room and see things no one else would see, I found my place and I remembered what it was to wait to see the newest “Star Wars” movie. And there was a bonding because we both knew of what it meant to wait for something. We both knew about waiting for something that would be great. Though I was old enough to be this person’s father, we shared in the common experience of being a geek and following our bliss as geeks.
Thinking about story, I attended a panel on the use of fairy tale as inspiration for new works of fiction. This panel focused on the writing of four female novelists who used myths and fairy tales as the basis of their work.
One of the authors, Tonya Hurley, used the stories of Christian martyrs as the basis of work. She said that she tries to write, “Morality without being preachy.”
Listening to these female writers, I was struck by how they were mining the past, the old stories, and using them to tell contemporary stories.
The church could learn from this. We have the “old, old story.” But how have we tailored it for our time? What do we do with this story? Have we tried to keep it under wraps, afraid to turn it loose on the world? Why have we not mined our story as a means of telling it again?
Another panel I attended was about video games, but the title intrigued me. The panel was called, “StreetPass San Diego: Growing a Community.”
The panel dealt with a part of the software in the Nintendo 3DS. What the StreetPass software does is allow people to exchange data from each other. This allows the owners to gain new features to games they own and unlock puzzle pieces in another program called “Puzzle Swap.”
What this group in San Diego did was build a community around that piece of software. They have monthly gatherings where they share together in the fun that is Nintendo. And they must be having fun because their monthly meetings have attendance of close to 150. According to the information shared at the panel, this group is the largest in North America.
Why did I find this important? It speaks to the concept of community that should be at the heart of the church.
What these people find is fellowship with one another. They have built their community around the common interest of Nintendo, and they use that common interest to go deeper with each other and become more than mere acquaintances. There was genuine love and concern on the part of the members of the group present.
But there was one aspect in particular that I found interesting. One of their number declared that he did not want to see the group get any larger. He wanted to cap the group at the size it currently was. The reason was that it is getting hard to know everyone in the group. Making the group bigger would make it harder to know the “new people.”
This belief stands as one of the objections raised for churches getting larger. The fear is voiced that we will not know everyone in the group. The mission of the group moves from being outreach to maintenance of what we have. Maintenance is not the mission of the church, but it became the driving force of many congregations.
The most important panel I attended was the panel done about the second volume of the graphic novel, “March.” This is the story of Congressman John Lewis’ involvement in the civil rights movement and his work with Martin Luther King, Jr. The first volume was released in 2013.
During the panel Congressman Lewis got into the spirit of Comic Con. Many come to the gathering in costume. It is called cosplay.
Congressman Lewis wore a costume. His costume was the trench coat and backpack he wore on the day of the crossing of the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama.
During his comments about where the movement is, Congressman Lewis declared that a new generation of activists needs to rise up. He said, “The future of the planet will be determined by the young. And these young people need to find a way to get into the way. And they need to find a way to get into necessary trouble.”
Andrew Aydin, the co-author of the graphic novel stated that those who graduate from high school today have a nine word problem when it comes to civil rights. Those nine words are: Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King, and “I have a dream.” Aydin said that is all this present generation knows about the civil rights movement.
When it came time for questions, I asked Congressman Lewis this question: “When you see the Confederate flag, what do you see?”
His answer was simple: “On March 7, 1965, I was beaten on the Edmund Pettus Bridge. The people that beat me wore that flag on their helmets. “
“The people that hold to that flag hold to a symbol of division and hate. The flag is a symbol of a divided house. We live in one house.”
I left Comic Con wanting to see the one house that Congressman Lewis spoke of. I was grateful to be given the chance to attend and hear his words.
Of all the heroes I saw there, he was the most super of all.