Was there a happier place in America last week?
The vast exhibition hall was chaotic again this year, and I didn't even attempt to navigate it with a purpose. Like Huck Finn, I learned more by letting myself be carried along by the currents.
Some people sensed a certain repetitiveness to the banners and displays above the dealer tables, although personally I couldn't spot it:
Many exhibitors seemed reluctant to tamper with the standard formula for pose and breast size, perhaps out of fear that any originality might jeopardize their profitability. They seemed most comfortable distinguishing themselves on the basis of scale and soundtrack volume.
Just as with the most prestigious fine art fairs, originality at Comic-Con had to tread water in a sea of scented bilge, and was sometimes hard to locate. All of the imitative work could get tiresome, but it was a mistake to blink, or to divert your attention elsewhere. When you paid attention, bright jewels came to you, sometimes in tiny packages:
|Microscopic preliminary sketch by the great Harry Beckhoff|
When it seemed that the great piles of pandering corporate artwork might topple and crush you, you might turn a corner and stumble across the fiercely independent animator Bill Plympton sitting at a table quietly drawing his own highly opinionated animated movies, one drawing at a time.
|Like Winsor McCay, Plympton draws every animation drawing in his films personally|
According to IMdb, the award winning Plympton "turned down a 7-figure offer from the Walt Disney Company to animate Aladdin because any ideas he developed while under contract with them would become their intellectual property."
And so it goes with Comic-Con. Just when you are on the verge of becoming tired or jaded, there is some new revelation waiting around the corner. Attendees were able to try out the new virtual reality Oculus Rift technology which, according to Wired magazine, will "change gaming, movies, TV, music design, medicine, sex, sports, art, travel, social networking, education -- and reality." (The technology was developed by 18 year old Palmer Luckey and recently purchased by Facebook for $2 billion.) If the line was too long, there was always something else awaiting you. The same was true of the panels and seminars; if you couldn't make it into the "Temple of Art" session with Dave McKean, Kent Williams and Barron Storey, push open another door to see Berkeley Breathed or Drew Friedman
Which brings me to the lesson of Comic-Con (and of life), as I see it: you shouldn't respond to the glut of imitative and mediocre work by dropping out or letting your eyes glaze over. The antidote to mundane art is always art that is right and forceful. You know it when you see it, and its restorative powers continue to be miraculous.