Tonight I had to get up at one in the morning and iron a shirt. It’s not like I didn’t specifically put time in my day to iron the shirt. Of the three shirts I own that need to be ironed all of them pretty much are only ever worn when I’m doing day job things. Standing there above this old ironing board that was stripped of the cushion and cloth that was normally on top (I had to replace it with a beach towel), I repeated the same motion over the ironing board four or five times until the wrinkles were gone. That’s ironing: there’s really nothing to it if you know how to fold your clothes.
I don’t know how many times people have ironed their clothes in the history of the world. I guarantee you that more than half the times we’ve done it as a civilization it was become someone above someone else who didn’t have to iron their shirt told the person below them they did because that’s professional.
I’ve been attempting to sum up my Phoenix Comicon 2017 thoughts for the last week or so. This year marked a turned change from previous years in that I was no longer going as media.
Even though I’m the least professional looking media guy there (including Booster Gold) I always make an attempt to come off as professional. Whatever that means to me now it was different then. Sometimes I’d wear a tie if I had to talk to guests I liked.
This year I was just a fan, so no tie. That’s the secret about wearing a tie: It’s just as much of a costume as putting on a mask is.
A convention is a space that exist as a bunch of separate parts finely orchestrated to work together to craft and sell an experience to someone.
That experience is us. While we’re there as fans to celebrate the things we love, we should also remember a lot of the people that are there we’re celebrating are there to get
paid to do the things they love (which is usually selling art or books).
A convention is sort of a product and sort of not one. On one hand: there’s probably a lot of people that go just for a day to buy some art or some fuckin’ anime sword made of foam or something. If it’s made of foam you can take it to another convention, that’s my #1 convention fan tip for you. On the other hand there’s also going to be your people going to rep their local Street Fighter II scene, or going to listen to a local society of pop cultural restoration host a panel about state history.
So someone’s selling you a product tied to an experience – but part of that experience is tied to experiencing a community. That’s the best way of looking at it and I’m sure there are those places where their efforts to embrace their local nerd community are more hollow and tied to exploitation.
Going to all of my early conventions as media is interesting in relation to this because primarily, all of the media at a convention is there to report solely on the creators involved. Other than niche people, no one was really writing or covering the way different facets of individual nerd communities represent themselves through things like convention.
This is what we can jokingly call Clark Kent Journalism. Conventions offer fans and journalists a like to sit down face-to-face with creators they admire. To young journalists working on their own website, this is a good chance to put on your “I’m a professional” costume (usually consists of a tie and an ironed shirt) in order to get closer to those creators.
Journalism is a great costume for a convention because you get away with it completely unquestioned. People respond differently to someone who can be noticeably picked out of a crowd by the presence of a media badge or a crew of people carrying around microphones and cameras. Being a just a regular fan is sort of like being original. You take a photo with someone and you both get to forget about it afterwards.
What I will say is kind of funny is getting to see the first-year media teams there running around with no real clue of what they want to cover or how to effectively do it. Getting to go “I’ve been there!” and laugh about it while drinking overpriced beer at the hotel bar. Sobbing, quietly, into your overpriced beer while going “I’ve been there!” at the hotel bar.
What I’ve realized walking around as a fan was that my attitude towards Clark Kent journalists actually improved in a way. DEEP-HELL doesn’t want to be that sort of website and this is where I refer to the entire enterprise itself: We’re not interested in writing about the things they way they do.
Fan-Culture is tethered to what we consider a repetition of ideas. Original creators are stifled by the fan market because we all love Wolverine and more people are interested in going to a convention to experience more of what they’re familiar with then what they might not have already heard of. That’s not to say conventions don’t offer creators working on original work or creator owned titles their own outlet but I’ve personally noticed the heavier traffic goes towards what’s already popular.
Conventions are a place where the larger symptoms of the problem with pop-culture get played out in real time. DEEP-HELL’s ethos is that no particular character or work really belongs solely to one person so much as it’s shared with the people that project a meaning on it.
DEEP-HELL’s stance is also that more of an effort still needs to be made to reflect creators who primarily work on things that aren’t already established.
Hell, more effort needs to be made on being more critical of the things consumed and paraded in front of our faces that we’re deeply in love with. You can take this from us, the website with the staff that will wear hats that proudly display “HENTAI” on them in big metal letters. You can take that from us because you know that means we’re completely honest and forthcoming about exactly who we are.
That’s not to say that a giant hat that says “HENTAI” is any less of a costume than an ironed shirt and a blue tie. It’s exactly the same kind of costume, but just to a different audience.
Getting to be a fan this year and see all of the coverage happening live left me wondering who was wearing the costume that was right for me. There were Real Big Kid News organizations at Phoenix Comicon this year and they seemed to be doing a better job asking people about attending more than most of the dudes who say they do that right in their tagline.
Who was engaging in the right sort of cosplay to get me, a fan and totally not a make-believe journalist in disguise interested?
Nobody, probably. Between the people wearing superhero t-shirts and khaki shorts or the guys with the 40$ haircuts who spend more time glamorizing cosplayer bodies than they probably do writing anything about the convention there’s a void that left me feeling like there’s a ton of work not being done in the area that could.
The feeling I get is that no matter what costume young-media teams are wearing when they’re at these sorts of events hat they’re only doing it as media because they feel like they might be too good to do it as fans. This isn’t an elitism thing where I decry that only the Khaki wearing superhero shirt nerds among us are The Real Guys We Need because the same sense of superiority comes from everyone I see in that particular costume as it does the other guys.
Some questions that DEEP-HELL wants to answer is going to be what we can say about comic conventions that’s not just reviews of costumes or stories about the time a guy totally got to get some comic signed in a hallway somewhere. It wont be reviews of comics done so we can tell you to buy the books we get for free from publishers. Those are all things DEEP-HELL doesn’t want to be.
Here’s DEEP-HELL reflecting on our Tale From The Con (because somebody copyrighted the other way of writing it)
Talking to an artist we’d known candidly in a way we didn’t get to before. Without putting a microphone in their face or setting up a camera in front of their booth. Having them tell us personally that they’re not into the way people write about or review comics on the market. The artists in question implying that the way comics are written about is primarily as a product of a market and not an art form.
That’s our Tale From The Con, and you can take that shit to the bank. You probably can’t get any money for it because we’re just repeating what some other artists told us in confidence and you didn’t specifically ask us to come up with it and exchange money for the effort of typing it all out. You can still take it to the bank though, and you can tell em’ DEEP-HELL sent you.
Would I go back to Comicon as a fan? You know the reason I’ve always gone as media has been to meet people. Mostly other journalists, cosplayers, panelists and everyone in between and it’s always seemed a great deal easier as a journalist.
The best person I encountered at Phoenix Comicon this year was dressed as Nathan Drake. He was a teacher and was interviewing people in line about the convention. Not with a microphone or a camera, but with a pen and a notebook. With a costume that included an empty pistol holster and a pair of hiking boots, I wonder if he realized he looked like a war correspondent from some past era.
I don’t know if he was legitimate about why he was interviewing people – which was to get closer to the students in his class so he’d know what they were into and what he could use to relate to them. I never got the chance to follow up even though we’d talked about doing it sometime later. What I do know is that he did more respectable journalism than I’ve seen by dressing up in a costume and not looking like he was doing a bit about the local zoo.
I think I would’ve hesitated if I were in his position. He wasn’t even wearing a media badge while he was talking to me – he was doing the thing we resolved to not do all weekend at DEEP-HELL. Being a part of the convention and talking about it, writing about it at the same time.
Maybe it wasn’t professional to do it that way. Even just dressing up like Drake from Uncharted made him feel like he was actively taking part in the convention and not trying to seem like he was above it on some higher nerd-enlightenment than the rest of the people there. Right after he finished talking to me I watched him get right in line for another panel like it was nothing at all.
That’s the secret to journalism: There’s really nothing to it if you know how to let people talk.