Every year I think it’d be just awesome to go to the San Diego Comic Con, because I’ve never been to the city or to the convention. And every year I go to Wondercon here in San Francisco, and it kills every desire I have to go to a large gathering of nerds ever again (until the next year, when the cycle starts anew).
Now, I’m aware that I’m a nerd myself. I’ve got no illusions to the contrary. But what the hell, people?
I blame society. For decades we’ve been conditioned to believe that nerds are endearing. Noble, even. We’ve seen countless movies and TV shows telling us “celebrate your individuality” and “be yourself.” This is horrible advice. The lesson to be learned is “be an improved version of yourself.” One that doesn’t act like a complete turd during Q&A sessions with B-list celebrities. One that doesn’t obsessively latch onto an artist as if they were your best pal. One that is familiar with the concept of personal space. One that bathes on a regular basis.
There comes a point during every panel at the Wondercon, where they open the floor up to questions from the audience, when those of us in the audience who were raised with a sense of shame and propriety have to listen and wince uncomfortably. There were several times over the past weekend when I wished I could secrete a chitinous shell so as to protect myself from the blast wave of awkwardness that overtook the room.
If it’s not the guy who hyperventilates when talking to Hilary Swank about her plague movie, it’s the douchebag who, due to an unfortunate upbringing and a series of humiliating events in high school and the internets, decides it’d be a good idea to rag on Ali Larter at a panel about the new Resident Evil movie. (And it pains me to draw attention to the aforementioned douchebag, since he’s probably done vanity Google searches to see how he’s become a weboblogosphere celebrity seeing as how he totally stuck it to the chick from “Heroes,” so let me point out again: he’s a loser, nobody likes him, and he got booed away from the microphone).
What’s annoying is that I’m supposed to feel sympathy for these people, seeing as how I’m more or less one of them. But I’m old school nerd, yo. I was raised before you had your blinkity internet tubes and weblogs and comment boxes, before you could find dozens of other people who felt just as passionately about Who’s The Best Green Lantern as you do, and before you could anonymously and effortlessly tell an artist directly how much you think he sucks. I think the sense of shame and social outcast-ed-ness is essential to being a functional nerd in modern society. There’s not much in the world that’s more annoying than an arrogant geek.
You could totally tell that the convention was in its third day, because the security people had gotten more testy and argumentative. What was “hey look at the wacky kids with their costumes!” on Saturday morning had turned into “GO IN THIS DOOR. THIS DOOR. NOW.” by Sunday afternoon. They were beaten down. They had succumbed to the raw power of social ineptitude.
See, now I’m an obsessive fan of Hellboy and Mike Mignola, myself. So when I found out he was signing stuff at the show, I went to everyone I knew there and told them repeatedly that he was singing stuff, then stood in line, bought a print, got to the front of the line and realized I didn’t have anything interesting to say, so I immediately turned and left. Lowest possible level of awkwardness, he got a few bucks for a print, I got blog material, win-win. That’s how I roll.
After the show, I went to the Comedians of Comedy concert, believing that it’d be a palate-cleanser after a day of Wonderconery. What the hell was I thinking? A concert in San Francisco with Patton Oswalt and Brian Posehn on the same day as a big comic book convention. It attracted one of the few things worse than the arrogant geek — the geek who’s convinced he’s a hipster. I stood in line before a crowd of such people for about an hour, listening to their conversation and willing myself to develop the ability to stop their hearts using the power of my mind.
(The show was fine, but apart from the hilarious Maria Bamford, nothing spectacular. Mostly material I’d heard before. The crowd kept shouting out requests during Oswalt’s set, like “Black Angus!” and “TiVo!,” which seemed to be missing the point of a comedy show. Patton Oswalt is better than any comedian I’ve ever seen at making his entire act seem completely spontaneous, but doesn’t it kind of ruin the joke if everyone knows you’ve heard it before? At least I inadvertently met a friend at the show.)
Before I sound completely misanthropic, I should point out that I had a good time overall. There were the annoyances, but the bulk of the people there were just trying to have good, goofy fun.
And I learned something! I went to the Telltale Games panel on Sunday, to hear them talk about the Sam & Max games, and learn from their new friends they’d made in the audience. It was the first I’d heard about what kind of schedules they’re working under, and the process for doing the music (I hadn’t known, for example, that Jared Emerson-Johnson, the composer of all the music, had also done all the voices for the big musical number in episode 4). The thing that continues to impress me about the Sam & Max games they’re doing is how many people they have that just “get it,” from the voice acting and direction to the animation to the set design to the music, they understand what’s supposed to be funny and how it’s funny. It’s rare to find. And since the panel, I’ve been listening to the theme to Sam & Max’s sitcom over and over again.