Let me begin by dropping a few names: Joss Whedon, Kevin Smith, Stan Lee, and Harry Jay Knowles. If these names resonate with you, then you probably want to make your way to see Comic-Con Episode IV: A Fan’s Hope, a documentary by Morgan Spurlock of Super Size Me fame.
It also doesn’t hurt that the aforementioned geek-icons (and many more) make delightful appearances in Spurlock’s intriguing behind-the-scene’s look at San Diego’s Comic-Con, the world’s largest comic book convention. Instead of focusing on the experiences of the fans (with the exception of documenting a touching marriage proposal between a young couple who met at a previous convention), Spurlock’s Comic-Con explores the individual journeys of a few industry merchants and aspiring artists who arrive to test their mettle at the Convention.
The most interesting stories are the parallel tales of two aspiring comic book artists who travel to the comic mecca in search of employment: one, a triumphant tale of a soldier who has painstakingly trained to develop his art; the other, the more bittersweet journey of a dewey-eyed fanboy who yearns to draw for Dark Horse Comics.
The film also follows an amusing and uplifting the struggle of a talented costume designer in her attempt to reintroduce animatronic puppetry to costuming. Spurlock could have devoted much more time to the Mile High Comic Book merchant who worries, rightfully, whether the digital age will bring about the end of the paper comic.
There are no real revelations here for hardcore comic fanboys and girls, but Comic-Con does serve as an easily digestible entry piece for mainstream audiences. In the wake of other documentaries out to make fun of comic book fans, Spurlock’s film is refreshingly respectful to the community – more of a love letter to the event, if not an outright advertisement for the artists and merchants who gather each year. A bit more “edge” might have made the difference between a good documentary, and a great one.
Running Time: 88 minutes.
Comic-Con Episode IV: A Fan’s Hope’s website.