Comic-Con International Hits San Diego

Jul 19, 2013
Originally published on July 19, 2013 3:45 pm

Storm troopers, bat men and every alien you can think of are descending on the streets of San Diego for the annual Comic-Con International convention.

It’s the biggest convention of the year for fans of comic books, science fiction and pop culture.

Creating a lot of buzz this year is the Sci Fi movie Ender’s Game, where children train as soldiers to fight an alien menace who’s attacking earth.

The author of the book that the movie is based on has made homophobic statements, and several groups are calling for a boycott of the movie.

There was a panel about the movie last night, which the author, Orson Scott Card, did not attend.


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It's HERE AND NOW. Stormtroopers, Batman and every alien you can think of are currently descending on the streets of San Diego for Comic-Con. It is the biggest annual convention for fans of comic books, science fiction and pop culture. And for more on that and all things Comic-Con, we turn to Laura Hudson who's covering it for Wired magazine. She's with us from the studios of KPBS in San Diego. Laura, welcome.

LAURA HUDSON: Thank you for having me.

HOBSON: Well, so let's start with this controversy that's going on about the sci-fi movie "Ender's Game," where children train as soldiers to fight an alien menace that is attacking earth. Here's a clip.


HARRISON FORD: (as Colonel Hyrum Graff) We need minds like yours, Ender. You'll be the finest commander we've ever trained.

ASA BUTTERFIELD: (as Ender Wiggin) So I'm not the first?

BEN KINGSLEY: (as Mazer Rackham) No. But you will be the last.

HOBSON: OK. So the buzz is not about that exactly, it's about what? Laura.

HUDSON: Yeah. It has very little to do with the actual content of the movie itself and a lot more to do with the views of the person who created the original book the movie is based on, who is Orson Scott Card. He's very, very opposed to same-sex marriage. These views have come much more to light in the public sphere because of the high profile movie.

And there's been a lot of opposition and there's been a suggested boycott as well of the movie from people who feel very offended by his views and feel that this is a human rights issue. And that people should not be going to the movie and not support it because of the views of the author.

HOBSON: And is this front of mind at Comic-Con?

HUDSON: It very much is. And, you know, we were at the panel itself yesterday for "Ender's Game." And there was actually a fan who sort of rushed the mic to ask a question about gay marriage. And as far as the people who are making the movie are concerned and they definitely don't support this perspective at all. And potentially even see it as a platform to talk about the fact that they do support LGBT rights.

That's a very complicated issue and it's something, I think, each consumer is going to have to decide how they're going to approach it and whether it's something that they want to support personally with their money.

HOBSON: All right. Well, "Ender's Game" and its controversy aside, just give us a sense of this event, what it is and what it means to those who love comics and it sounds like TV shows, movies and everything else.

HUDSON: Well, that's the thing. Originally, Comic-Con, of course, as the name suggests, was purely about comic books. But it's really becoming much, much larger media event. And by large, I mean, the attendance has topped 100,000...


HUDSON: ...the last several years. I mean, that's something that I've emphasized. I try to scare people - my new staff members before they go to Comic-Con ahead of time, that, you know, if you're going to try to get across the convention floor, that could take an hour on a bad day.



HUDSON: But it's very - it can be very - it's very exciting. It's very overwhelming. There's lots of cosplay. Certainly, there are people who spend, you know, the entire year, you know, handcrafting elaborate and incredibly inventive costumes. Yesterday, I saw four people dressed as different Tetris pieces...


HUDSON: ...who are dancing around and fitting together. And they do, you know, photos with people or this is...

HOBSON: And we should say that when you say cosplay, you're talking about people getting dressed up in costumes.

HUDSON: Yes. It's costume play. There is a weapons check here at Comic-Con, which is, you have to bring your fake weapons to the weapons check, to check that in before you get to the convention floor to make sure...

HOBSON: Your fake weapons?

HUDSON: Your fake weapons. So if you have a giant foam sword of a cloud from "Final Fantasy," you have to check that at the weapons check just to make sure it's all right.

HOBSON: Now, one of the great things about having all of these comic characters and all of these TV shows and movies in one place is that there can be convergence, and I want to talk about mashups. Lego is coming out with a movie featuring characters from Lego sets - some that were based on movies like Batman and Indiana Jones.


MORGAN FREEMAN: (as a wizard) My fellow master builders, including but not limited to, Superman, Wonder Woman, the Mermaid, Green Ninja, 1980-something space guy, Michelangelo, Michelangelo and the 2002 NBA All-Stars, we have learned that Lord Business plans to end the world as we know it.

HOBSON: So Laura, what other crazy mashups of culture are you seeing there at Comic-Con this year?

HUDSON: There's a Superman and Wolverine that I saw crossing over between Marvel and DC. But in terms of the properties, I think that that's something in general that you see at a lot of companies. For example, Marvel Entertainment. One of the wonderful things that they can do is when you saw this with the "Avengers" movie is they're able to create a very unified world of film between all of their movies, like "Thor," like "Iron Man" and that sort of culminated in the "Avengers."

And then you're going to see that's spinning out of Comic-Con into "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.," which is the new television show, so they're bringing it to television, created by Joss Whedon. And I don't know if that - you would consider that necessarily the same type of crossover, but I mean, I would consider it sprawl in a certain way where you have those properties that exist and then move, you know, further and further into other media.

You see it as well with "Walking Dead," which started out as a comic book and is now a TV show and has also become a video game. I mean, each iteration of that is different. Each one manifests in a slightly different way. The plot's a little different. There are slightly different characters. And that's the sort of stuff that fans are so interested in, is could this character potentially crossover from the comic to the TV show? Will we ever see anything in the comic from the character who was in a video game?

Those are the questions that people want to have answered at Comic-Con because they're so passionate about, you know, every single iteration, and because it's a such a multi-media experience, it does span that range from television to movies, to video games to comics.

HOBSON: Laura, for people who are listening to this and saying what in the world is she talking about? And I'm sure you've got friends who say the same thing when they hear you talk about Comic-Con.


HOBSON: What are you talking about? What is this all about?

HUDSON: Comic-Con, to some degree, is about nerd culture. But what I think we've seen, you know, over the last decade or so, at Comic-Con as well as in larger culture, is that nerd culture has become mainstream culture. And I think everybody's had the experience of being really passionate about a TV show or a book or movie or a character.


HUDSON: Everybody has had that. And Comic-Con is that exploded to a degree that is difficult to imagine if you aren't actually there. I think it's for people who have that type of passion about all of these sort of, you know, quote, unquote, "nerd culture properties," to go there and to meet other people who are as excited as they are, who are as invested as they are and all of these things - share them together, talk about them and actually get to interact with the people who make them. I think it's a unique opportunity, and that's what makes it such an exciting event.

HOBSON: Laura Hudson from Wired talking with us about Comic-Con in San Diego. Laura, thank you so much, and have fun.

HUDSON: Thanks for having me. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.