Chatting with the famed documentarian about his new film, Comic-Con Episode IV: A Fan's Hope
Comic-Con and Morgan Spurlock belong together. The Comic-Con phenomenon, with the annual July event in San Diego as its centerpiece, is arguably the premiere pop-cultural force in America today, bestowed with an unparalleled ability to shape a range of media, from Hollywood movies to video games and television. Spurlock, meanwhile, has perfected a form of populist documentary infotainment, most notably in Super Size Me, in which he famously ate nothing but McDonald's for a month.
But Comic Con: Episode IV: A Fan's Hope isn't the sort of fast-paced, graphics-heavy, performance-piece doc one expects from Spurlock. The filmmaker stays off-screen here, stepping back to focus on four individuals and one couple attending the 2010 San Diego Con, all of whom are hoping to achieve various significant goals. There's a veteran seller hawking a valuable comic, two illustrators armed with portfolios, a costume designer hoping to garner industry attention when her work is displayed during the Comic-Con Masquerade, and a boyfriend planning to propose during a Kevin Smith panel.
With the movie opening in limited release and premiering on demand this week, Spurlock shares his thoughts on the genesis of the film, the challenges he faced in getting it made, and the joys of proudly being a nerd in "later adulthood."
What told you that the time was right for a Comic-Con documentary?
It was 2009 when I was at Comic-Con doing The Simpsons [20th anniversary] special for Fox. I was there and I was like, "Wow, this is a movie." This is just getting bigger. The popularity is just growing. It's something that's affected so many different pieces now. It's not just comics. It's not just movies. It's video games, it's television, it's toys, it's painters [and] it's artists. I was like, "There's a bigger thing that is still growing around this."
"I didn't know that Comic-Con as a geek job fair existed. ... People were going there with their portfolios to get jobs."
Are there any downsides to Comic-Con's extraordinary influence?
Personally, being somebody who was a geek and a nerd throughout my childhood and into my adulthood, and still into my later adulthood, I find it to be a really positive thing. People love to say that movies have ruined Comic-Con. When I look at that, I'm like, "No, movies have ruined the press coverage of Comic-Con, because that's all that the press likes to talk about." You go to Comic-Con and movies aren't dominating Comic-Con. You'll have movies in Hall H, and 6,000 people are in Hall H, and there're 144,000 people that are anywhere else but Hall H. I think there is a much larger cultural phenomenon beyond this Hollywood takeover.
What do you see as Comic-Con's primary achievement?
It's just continued to popularize a lot of these things that many of us knew were cool for years. We grew up knowing comics were cool. We grew up knowing video games were cool. And they've only gotten cooler. They've only gotten deeper. They're like little movies themselves now. What it's done is it's helped these things become part of the mainstream.