“Comic-Con Episode IV: A Fan’s Hope” is the Comic-Con documentary to crush all other Comic-Con documentaries. It’s a movie made by fans, for fans, and it is gleefully unapologetic about that fact.
Filmed primarily at the 2010 San Diego Comic-Con, “Comic-Con Episode IV” is a love letter to the convention that has gathered comic book enthusiasts and the who’s who of geekdom for decades.
Created by Morgan Spurlock (of “Super Size Me” fame) and co-produced by Stan “The Man” Lee, Joss Whedon, and Harry Knowles, the documentary follows a handful of San-Diego Comic-Con attendees as they complete their various Comic-Con-related quests.
There’s Holly Conrad, the costume designer on a quest to gain recognition with her animatronic “Mass Effect” cosplay. Chuck Rozanski, the owner of Colorado’s Mile High Comics and a member of the Comic-Con old guard. James Darling and Se Young Kang, on a mission to get engaged at the con. Skip Harvey and Eric Henson, two aspiring comic book artists destined to sink or swim in the competitive comics industry. And of course, there’s the ubiquitous collectors of action figures.
The journeys of the fans are interspersed with interviews with prominent Comic-Con personalities. And because no review of “Comic-Con Episode IV” would be complete without some shameless name-dropping, those famously nerdy personalities include Joss Whedon, Kevin Smith, Seth Green, Stan Lee, Seth Rogan, Eli Roth, Paul Scheer, and Harry Knowles.
The interviewees tell tales of Comic-Cons past, and the reasons why the convention means so much to them. Seth Green’s story about meeting his wife at Comic-Con segways perfectly into the story of the Darlings and their engagement at the Kevin Smith panel. Stories about meeting their idols at the con transition into a montage of Stan Lee and his entourage, escorted through the crowds like Comic-Con royalty.
While the documentary focuses both on both geek idols and a variety of regular fans who attend every year, there is something decidedly nostalgic about the con. Lingering over the costume contest and the action figure collectors and the panels for “The Expendables” and “The Avengers” is a note of sadness for the Comic-Con first class, as it were.
This nostalgia takes two forms. First, there is the story of the comic book vendors like Chuck Rozanski of Mile High Comics, who feel like they are being shouldered out of the convention by the giant movie production companies. To some, it feels like this formerly small comic book convention has diverted from its original purpose, becoming a full-on pop culture convention, at the expense of the comic books that gave it its name.
Then there was another form of nostalgia, that was less sad but still… strange. Many of the interviewees made a point that Comic-Con is now a place “where you can pick up chicks,” in Kevin Smith’s words. Where it used to be primarily attended by men, now women are a huge part of the convention. This sentiment is misleading. It isn’t that women have suddenly within the last generation decided to like comic books, action movies, and all things nerdy. It’s more that the nerd community and genre are more welcoming to enthusiasts of all genders.
The women who attend Comic-Con aren’t shopping for a geeky husband who will tailor their marriage vows after the Green Lantern’s oath. They’re there because like the men, they are true fans.
Despite––and perhaps even because of––the nostalgia, “Comic-Con Episode IV” is a delightful documentary that is a must-see for anyone who’s ever attended Comic-Con or wanted to.sdd