Thursday, August 2, 2007

Pop Art

I spent the weekend trekking to and through in the postmodern Mecca that is Comic-Con. It’s no wonder it has become the most popular convention in our time; in this era of storytelling, this is the storytelling convention. Mythology, our lifeblood, transcribed into superhero sagas, swords-and-tights swashbucklers and space operas. The new shamanism. The Hero’s Journey come home to roost. Of course there were the ubiquitous Klingons, Stormtroopers and Jedis. Even caught sight of a Hobbit or two. Pirates are back big thanks to Depp’s channeling of Keith Richards (is that rumor even true?) Not since Robert L. Stevenson was the pulp fav have Pirates so dominated public imagination! At least four corset booths! (Not far from our house in North Hollywood: a Pirate Lifestyle store, with waistcoats, breeches, and weekly potluck hummus brunches for the bodice jetset.)
My first time at “the Con,” and I realize: this is the central gathering of the tribes in our postmodern and increasingly Story-centric society. Everything is a story in the postmodern world: the white noise of advertisements fill the airwaves and blot our retinas; the unfolding epics of videogame and television franchise carries its message even to the watercooler oasis where we gather the next morning to share our accounts, taking part in these grand hero-epics. We’re told that the next stage will be fully immersive media, with unprecedented levels of audience participation, even to the point of the audience/storyteller line dissolving. (We’re seeing the forebears of this trend with MySpace and YouTube). If it strikes you that this must be an exciting moment in World History to be alive, then the place to fully realize this is Comic-Con, where it all comes to a head. You see, normally, we can’t walk around dressed like an elf. For some, it’s hard to even admit you read about elves, draw elves or think about elves. But at Comic-Con, your inner elf can hang out for all the world to see. And no matter how outrageous you are, you’re never the most outrageous in the room.
I stood in a grand hallway filled with all my heroes this weekend; from the elders of Mad Magazine to the crackups from the Lowbrow art scene to the subtle alchemists of the graphic novel. I saw what all my heroes looked like, and was surprised to see that even they have pimples.
Comic-Con bills itself as a celebration of the “popular arts” ... which I take comfort in. Having a so-called “fine arts” background I was reminded why I turned my back on that world. Art isn’t something that is hidden in private collections and secretly traded among snooty intellectuals; real art is consumable, packaged in plastic and affects World Culture in immediate and irrevocable ways. The Popular Arts – I presume they refer to illustration, animation, writing, product design and filmmaking – were celebrated in full effect this weekend. And I return to my drawing board drained, yet rejuvenated.

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