Top Ten: Our Favorite “Comic-Cons” in Pop Culture
By Brian Walton on July 15, 2013
We’re just days away from Comic-Con International, and to get us pumped for the pure joy that is San Diego during the con of cons, we thought of our ten favorite “Comic-Cons” from movies and TV:
In “Spaced Out,” the third season episode of the old Wonder Woman television series from 1979, Diana Prince goes undercover to recover some stolen crystals from a jewel thief at a Science Fiction Convention at a Los Angeles hotel. The con in this episode is as stereotypical as it gets regarding how America views geek culture, especially back then; all the conventioneers are your typical “Revenge of the Nerds” style dorks with pocket protectors and giant thick rimmed glasses who slobber all over Lynda Carter as if she’s the first female they’d ever seen. OK, in fairness, it was Lynda Carter.
There are some funny bits about “Paragon Studios” reviving their old series “Space Quest,” an obvious nod to how Paramount was filming Star Trek: The Motion Picture at the time this was made. Ironically, the guy who played the jewel thief in this episode was Rene Auberjonois, who some fifteen years later played Odo on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. Robby the Robot from Forbidden Planet makes an appearance, and for some reason there are tons of references to Logan’s Run. Wonder Woman herself seems none too amused by all these nerds and their wacky sci-fi love, as if she herself didn’t come from an island of Amazons who are immortal and make invisible planes.
On one of the lighter episodes of the soapy WB/CW series Smallville, Warrior takes Clark and Lois undercover at a Comic Book Convention to try to stop a kid from becoming a villain after he’s magically turned into Warrior Angel, Clark’s favorite comic book character. While the con in the show isn’t much to write home about, the episode does feature Erica Durance as both a Storm Trooper and a Wonder Woman-inspired “Amazonian Princess.”
Kevin Smith knows a thing or two about Comic Cons, being not only a lover and connoisseur of all things geeky, but a writer of some notable comics himself, like Marvel’s Daredevil. Before he did that, however, he gave us a big screen portrayal of a comic book convention in his romantic comedy Chasing Amy, a movie which begins and end at a Comic Con, somewhere in New York City. Ben Affleck plays Holden McNeil, creator and artist of Bluntman and Chronic, which is co-owned by writing partner Banky Edwards, who is also his inker. The movie starts out with a surly fan who apparently waited a good long while in a line at a Comic Con just to berate Banky for being a “tracer.” Some people criticize Chasing Amy for its “lesbian meets and falls in love with a man” storyline; we find the idea of a comic book fan not knowing what an inker does more unbelievable.
There really isn’t any piece of Americana that the Simpsons hasn’t parodied in some form at this point, and the Sci-Fi/Comic Con got an early treatment from Matt Groening and company in the second season episode “Three Men and a Comic Book,” first aired back in 1991. In the episode, Bart sees the very first issue of his favorite superhero Radioactive Man for sale at a comic con, so he, Martin, and Milhouse pool their money together to buy it, only to lose it due to their inability to share it, which leads to it getting destroyed by the Simpsons’ dog, Santa’s Little Helper.
This episode is notable for introducing us to Comic Book Guy, owner of the Android’s Dungeon Comic Book and Baseball Card Shop, the epitome of every negative stereotype about comic book and sci-fans there is. (He is also 100% accurate.) The episode also introduces us to Radioactive Man and Fallout Boy, a character who would provide the name for a pop punk band years later.
Batman: Brave & The Bold
The episode “Legends of the Dark Mite,” which featured the 5th dimensional imp Bat-Mite, had a straight up parody of San Diego Comic-Con, in which it was called “the annual comic book, science fiction, fantasy, horror, animation, anime, gaming, action figure, vintage toy, collectable card game, pop culture, & tiddlywinks convention.” In the episode, Bat-Mite moderates a Batman panel at a convention in the 5th Dimension over the validity of some of the sillier aspects of the Brave & the Bold. One annoying know-it-all fan (cons are full of these, by the way) starts going on about how his Batman is a dark crime detective and this is not his Batman, yadda yadda yadda. The panel agrees upon a reply for Bat-Mite to read, where he says this: “Batman’s rich history allows him to be interpreted in a multitude of ways. To be sure, this is a lighter incarnation, but it’s certainly no less valid and true to the character’s roots as the tortured avenger crying out for mommy and daddy.” Bat-mite owned that dude.
When the cast of a short lived TV show is kidnapped by an alien race that used their program as an example of how to live their lives, the stars must band together to remember what made being TV sci-fi heroes great. At the end of the film, the crew must crash land their space ship by being guided into a con’s parking lot by their fans to make for the most spectacular entrance in con history. By Grabthar’s hammer indeed.
The boys from Psych get psyched when a missing persons investigation leads them to TriCon, a comic convention Gus really wants to attend. The pair of private eyes end up being George Takei’s handlers and leverage his appearance at the con to draw out the perpetrator of the crime they’re investigating.
In the opening scenes of Paul, Simon Pegg and Nick Frost recreated Comic-Con to show their love for the con with no equal. The two Brits continue on from San Diego to meet an alien friend named Paul and go on a cross-country road trip to keep him safe. While their time at the con is short, when they revisit Comic-Con at the end of the film, we’re treated to Kristen Wiig in Boushh cosplay.
Kyle Newman’s love letter to Star Wars and its fans had one of the most tumultuous experiences getting from inception to screen, but that’s nothing compared to the scenes of our Star Wars-loving heroes fighting their way out of enemy territory at a Trek-Con in Vegas. While we don’t get to see much of the con itself, we certainly appreciate getting to see Seth Rogen take on a dozen Trekkers, including himself.
The power of Comic-Con to excite a fanbase has been Hollywood’s excuse for traveling a few hundred miles south every summer. Entourage looks at the annual trip from the stars’ perspective and it’s not entirely wholesome. With his Aquaman movie in danger of getting awful publicity from a notorious blogger, Vincent Chase and company have to try to woo him by any means necessary. The highlight of the episode, though, comes when Drama connects with a former co-star whose spin-off show outlasted his own Viking Quest. “Victory!”
Co-Written with Eric Diaz