Last night, I attended a midnight release party for the final volume of the Scott Pilgrim series, Scott Pilgrim’s Finest Hour at Local Heroes Comics in Norfolk, Virginia. When I told people that I’d be attending (non-geek people), I got a bunch of odd stares and blinking. They just couldn’t understand.
“So it’s a midnight release party…for a comic book?”
“Yeah, but it’s a pretty big deal comic book. It’s kind of like the equivalent of a midnight release for a major novel.”
“But can’t you just get it the next day? It’s a comic book.”
“Yeah, but they’re doing a whole big thing at the midnight event – a sale, beer, and cupcakes!”
“Cupcakes are not a big enough reason for me to go out at midnight to buy a comic book.”
And then you get the weird geek stares that remind you that, no matter how far comics have come in pop culture, people still view them as a lesser literary material.
And I get it, I guess. Even though movies based on comics have been nominated for Academy Awards and are some of the biggest money makers at the box office (and all time – The Dark Knight), some people just can’t get into the idea that they’re legitimate reading material, and not something to be ashamed off like a stash of 70’s Playboys in your closet (not that I have one of those…heh).
What really surprises me, though, is when fellow geeks don’t support geek culture in their own area. I like the Scott Pilgrim books, but I’m not rabid about them. Even though I purchased the book last night, I had no intention of reading it until today (or whenever the hell I got to it, really). It’s not like I had plans to rush home and read it before going to sleep. So why get off of my tired ass at 11 o’clock last night to drive to my comic shop and buy it? Well, besides partaking in cupcake goodness?
Because I like to support geek culture in my area. One of the reasons I switched to Local Heroes Comics as my main comic shop is because the owner makes an effort to do events like this, or to reach our in the community to advertise his shop, whether it be setting up a table at midnight releases for movies based on comic shops, or events like Free Comic Book Day or a creator signing, whereas most other shops in the area just don’t.
We don’t have comic conventions in my area, and the odd geek-related convention that we do have is typically anime-related. We don’t have late night showings of classic geek cinema (though we used to), or film festivals that appeal to genre fans. Limited release genre movies don’t play around here. It’s pretty darn rare that a comic creator who’s not from the area will do a signing anywhere around here.
But why? I know there are plenty of geeks around here like me. After all, the Scott Pilgrim release party was really well attended last night – I’d venture to say the store sold out of the copies they ordered, more than making it worth the time to actually have the sale. The library holds regular sci-fi/horror movie double features that can be well attended, depending on what they’re showing.
Still, an event attended by enough people to fill in a comic shop just isn’t enough to support ongoing geek events. I remember After Dark Horrorfest (a horror movie festival released nationwide) played here its first two years. Since then, the closest it’s come is DC. I attended the first two years (admittedly, not every film due to the weird ass scheduling), and though Horrorfest seemed to make some money those years, the theaters I went to were shockingly empty. Other events I’ve attended (the few and far between) are just as sparse.
Yet 5 hours away, in Charlotte, NC, we have the extremely well attended Heroes Con.
The rare, few events that are held in the area are poorly attended, yet we have enough of a geek culture to support at least eight comic shops (that I can think of off the top of my head) within a 30 mile radius of each other, which is pretty much unprecedented in most areas. Not only that, multiple sold out showing of the Serenity movie (pre-release) were held in the area, and Whedonites recently held a sold out screening of the movie (along with the Dr. Horrible webisodes) at a local theater in the area.
I found that geeks are a fickle bunch, myself included. We complain that there’s nothing cool and geeky to do, but, really, when something does happen, it’s so poorly attended that it loses money, so no one is willing to invest in it again. And why is that? Free Comic Book Day is pretty popular (depending on the shop you go to) but actual events that cost money do really poorly. A local theater (the Naro) did midnight showings of classic sci-fi films like Creature from the Black Lagoon (in 3D!) and Forbidden Planet. There may have been 30 people at each showing.
I missed out on a recent anime convention because I didn’t know it was in the area – I would have attended, and I’m not even the biggest anime fan. Why? Because I feel it’s important to support geek culture. I mean, there’s a limit, of course – if you really hate something, there’s not point in going, but if you have an interest in something, as a geek, I feel it’s important to support events in your area. I’ll attend screenings of classic movies, with the hopes that the series will continue and bring in cooler stuff, like Army Of Darkness or The Crow (both of which we had playing for special midnight showings when I was a supervisor at a local movie theater).
I understand times are tight, and time is money, and DVD/Blu-Ray makes it so that you don’t even want to go to the movies anymore. But geek culture is becoming an increasingly lonely hobby, discussable only in comic shops and podcasts. Check the internet, look at the newspapers and fliers in your comic shop – find out what’s coming. Get out there and support your local geek events – the more money they make, the more likely something big is to come to your area.
For those interested in my Scott Pilgrim review, I’ll be talking about the book on next week’s Funnybooks.