This week is the world-famous San Diego Comic-Con, one of the biggest pop culture events in this day and age. It's an oft-repeated pithy that it has stopped being about comics, and started becoming a promotional event for any given piece of mass media. While it's true that studios have used the convention as advertisement, (Though it seems a few studios are bowing out--Nothing from Lion's Gate for "Mockingjay", and Disney seems to be holding back on "Star Wars') there is a lot stuff for the purists who don't want to wait hours to watch their favorite movie stars pretend to want to be there. In truth, there's a quite a few panels for those who really want to explore history and comics subcultures. This is the entire schedule, but here's a spotlight on what some of the less publicized events might entail.
If you're a would-be teacher who wants to legitimize his or her passion for the geeky stuff and maybe impart it to the youngin's, here's a list of the education panels. In fact, if you want to use comics to supplement your subjects, there's this panel here. If you want a to introduce comics for their own sake, there's one devoted to graphic novel programming. One of the most interesting ones is "Rescued by Batman", which explores the superhero genre, not as a fascist's power fantasy, but as glimmer of hope for abused children. Some excellent stuff on the social impact of comics, with a panel on the Comics Code Authority, and a look at that man who's actions were the catalyst for it, Dr. Fredric Wertham, giving a more nuanced look than the simple pariah comics history paints him as.
If you're aspiring to join the business, here is a list of workshops dedicated to breaking in. Now, I can't verify the credentials of all these gurus, but there are dozens dedicated to writing, drawing, marketing, even something for those with no identifiable skills. There's also a series of short "Film School" tidbits. And for aspiring astronauts (Well, tip number one, don't eat the food there), there's even something from NASA.
Of course, costuming gets its own entire section. The events include everything from cosplaying instructions, to workshops for those who want to break into a doing it pro for stage or screen, and even a masquerade with cash prizes.
There's even a recurring Comic Book Law School, for lawyers who are also geeks, because they weren't satisfied with one set of jokes made about them. Copyright law is one of the most fundamentally important and perplexing aspect of the comics world. Lawsuits that have been around since many fans' grandparents were kids are still going today. Not to mention the weird nebulous legal minutiae that means Quicksilver gets to be in two major blockbusters at once, from two different studios.
On the the subject of creators' rights, there are a couple of tributes, to two of the creators that are believed to have gotten the bummest rap in the industry: "Avengers" co-creator (And technically, "Argo" storyboard artist!) Jack Kirby, and unsung Batman hero, Bill Finger. There's even a panel that commemorates the anniversary of several movies that were released thirty years ago.
If you're taking your kids to Comic Con, (Kids! At a convention for comics and toys? How preposterous!) here's a list of all the youth-oriented events. There are a few how-to-panels, and one I think might be particularly fun, a program where kids tell the story, and artists illustrate it...in real time! By the way, I'm making a habit, not to emphasize projects people are trying to sell, (although if your kid wants to see Warner Bros shell the Lego Movie, I guess that's what you're doing), but Evangeline Lily has a children's book. How weird is that? There's also a how-to on making aerodynamic flying paper toys, if you'd like to deal with that for the rest of your life.
If you're interested, there are some panels dedicated to social justice and the like in the comics industry, here, here, here, here, here, and here, amongst others. A lot of fans don't want to hear about sexual politics, but sometimes comic conventions aren't the safest spaces for some people, and places where people can be welcomed or learn a thing or two is always nice--and a recognition of changing dynamics.
A lot of these are industry, but if you want by-the-fans, for-the-fans type stuff, here are some of the more grassroots events. (Beware! Some of these are by promotional!) There's Bride of Name That Movie, where you can get up and test your film knowledge, or watch other mavens debate who would beat whom in a fight. See if you even know more than the pros! There's a Klingon festival. And of course, the Whedonites. Always the Whedonites. There's the usual Firefly gathering, (that is, gathering for the show "Firefly", not a gathering of actual fireflies), an entire event dedicated to Dr Horrible's Sing Along Blog, and you can also sing along to the enduring "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" episode, Once More, With Feeling. (Has anyone done a live presentation at comic-con yet?) Also fun, and possibly ground for bloodshed, a panel where people debate their favorite movies with critics.
There's also some other interesting stuff, like a chance to pitch a comic idea to Mark Waid, and a panel on whatever happened to romance comics, which, if you've ever actually read romance comics, is a lot more interesting than you'd think.
So there you go. Plan accordingly, wear comfortable shoes, don't make the girls wearing skintight costumes uncomfortable, and once again, don't eat the food!