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As any self-respecting fan of this site should be aware, Morgan Spurlock has directed a documentary about the San Diego Comic-Con, and Harry, Stan Lee, and Joss Whedon are producers.  You may take it as a foregone conclusion that any review on this site will be a positive one, but you shouldn’t.  Harry and I are good friends (so in that sense I’m biased), but he’s always given me absolute editorial freedom.  He’s always put up anything I’ve written, unchanged, even when I violently disagree with him.  And as he said in his own review, I don’t put up with bullshit from anyone.  My real job is a professional scientist -- I care far more about discovering and reporting the truth (even if it is a subjective one in the case of film), and integrity, than stroking the ego of friends. 

Having said all that, I truly love COMIC-CON EPISODE IV:  A FAN’S HOPE.  Morgan Spurlock is a great documentarian, and I was delighted that he has used his great powers with great responsibility in crafting a heartfelt love letter to fandom.  The film follows five main stories:

  • Holly Conrad is a costume designer who has assembled a team to produce costumes for characters from the MASS EFFECT video game series.  They’ve even created an animatronic head, and they hope their skill and enthusiasm will result in a big win at the Comic-con masquerade.
  •  Chuck Rozanski owns Mile High Comics and has been attending the Con for decades. His business isn’t doing so well, and he’s hoping to sell a very rare comic for $500,000 to pay some of his bills.
  • James Darling is an energetic young fan attending the con with his girlfriend Se Young Kang.  She doesn’t know it, but he’s hoping to propose to her during the Kevin Smith panel.
  • Skip Harvey works as a bartender, but yearns to be a comic book artist.  He’s put together a portfolio and hopes to show it off to as many in the industry as he can find in hopes of catching a big break.
  • Eric Henson is another aspiring comic book artist and member of the US Air Force.  He’s a small-town family man, and is amazed by the crowds and size of the Con and San Diego.

Interwoven between these stories that unfold as Comic-Con nears and transpires, we follow smaller stories:  collectors after the hottest toys, Stan Lee interacting with fans, and the history and changing face of the Con.  Interspersed are commentaries on the Con by famous geeks and attendees like Kevin Smith, Eli Roth, Frank Miller, Guillermo del Toro, and Joss Whedon to name a few. 

The surprise here is that Kevin Smith, who I had long written off, practically steals the show.  He’s got a genuine love for the fans and the Comic-Con experience, and he’s got some damn funny monologues about the whole enterprise.  Maybe he should hire Morgan Spurlock as an editor for all his films.

For years, filmmakers have been asking for permission to make a documentary about Comic-Con but the powers that be always said no.  Perhaps they felt that nobody could do it justice.  Maybe they felt that movie people would focus only on the extremes and mock the fans.  At any rate, in this case any such fears were unfounded.  Morgan Spurlock has sampled a representative cross-section of fandom, and has treated them with respect.  He’s also worked hard to cover as many aspects of the Con-going experience as he could do justice to.  This was no small feat.  To make the film work, he had 15 crews, each with one or two cameras following their subjects around over the course of the Con and sometimes before.   Every night they would come together and watch some of the footage captured during the day’s filming.  The result was an exhausting shoot, but the frenzy of filmmaking paid off.  This isn’t the kind of doc where they missed the key moment and have to explain it in voiceover.  They captured nearly everything, and the narratives and drama are all the better for it.

The title, COMIC-CON EPISODE 4: A FAN’S HOPE is a little clunky.  We all get the reference, but at first glance it seems a bit too cute.  But after seeing the film, I get it.  This is a film about hopes and dreams.  Many of the celebrities interviewed have had their lives changed either by comics or conventions.  Those whose stories we are following hoping desperately for a life-changing experience at this tornado of fan exuberance. 

Harry mentioned that one of his roles was to help choose the people whose stories the doc would follow.  He, and everyone else involved, did a great job.  They cover a great cross-section, from the young to the old, from cosplayers to artists, and from fans, to the business side of things, even to geek love.  They personify so many of the dimensions of what makes this event so special.  And most importantly, everyone that we follow is a compelling character.  

I won’t give any spoilers, but I will say that there are some happy endings and some that don’t turn out exactly as expected.  I was at the world premiere, and there were audience cheers in some places, and tears of joy in others.  I was expecting something interesting from Morgan Spurlock, but I didn’t expect to be so emotionally wrapped up in the stories of strangers.  I had high expectations, and they were exceeded.  Very damn impressive for a documentary about Comic-Con.

So an accomplished Hollywood director has made a documentary about my people.  That’s pretty awesome.  But than that, he’s made a reverent, engaging, and heartfelt movie about them.  That’s fucking fantastic.

Here’s the part where I’m biased.  I know Harry has been working as a producer for some time now on projects that have yet to make it to the screen.  But here, for the first time, everything came together, and the product is a hit.  He pulled it off, and you can see the result of his work on screen.  I’m so glad he got to attend the premiere even though I was there to see it.  Nice work, Harry, I’m proud of you.



Readers Talkback
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  • Sept. 19, 2011, 2:48 p.m. CST

    Holly Conrad is a fox

    by LoopyDAVE76

    A stone cold fox.

  • Sept. 19, 2011, 2:53 p.m. CST

    I'll check this out, it sounds entertaining.

    by Stereotypical Evil Archer

    I've never been to Comic-Con. Do they serve drinks there? Because I'd get drunk as fuck and have a good time.

  • Sept. 19, 2011, 2:54 p.m. CST

    The nerd is strong with this one!

    by Zardoz

    I can't wait to see this!

  • Sept. 19, 2011, 3:10 p.m. CST

    I would love to hear more of this opinion jrb

    by Rob

    how come?

  • Sept. 19, 2011, 4:11 p.m. CST

    I agree with jrb

    by vetepalapinga

  • Sept. 19, 2011, 4:13 p.m. CST

    I stopped at: "Megan Spurlock is a great dcumenrarian"

    by daggor

    Because he isn't. He may have a good point to make, but he has been the STAR of his films, and that's just grandstanding.

  • Sept. 19, 2011, 4:16 p.m. CST

    All public proposals deserve to be shot down..pompous asses

    by alienindisguise

    The's the same people who post what they're eating on facebook and are retards. Social networking has turned the masses into egocentric loons who honestly think the world gives 2 shits about pictures of their kids or any other inane aspect of their lives. Most guys propose in public because they think that with a crowd around there's no way she'll say no. Doesn't always work out that way and I find it hilarious when it goes to shit.

  • Sept. 19, 2011, 4:22 p.m. CST

    Awful title aside this seems worth checking out...

    by performingmonkey

  • I tried to order a stack of comics from them a few years back. Weeks went by and I heard nothing. I tried contacting them, repeatedly, still nothing. Finally, after about 6 months, I sent them a message telling them to cancel the order, if it even existed, and that I would not be patronizing them again. I should have realized in the first place they were worthless, their website looks like a circa 1996 Geocities page. Fucking useless garbage. So, fuck Mile High Comics and Chuck Rozanski. I can't feel sorry for a business doing badly when they do business badly.

  • Sept. 19, 2011, 4:47 p.m. CST

    My bet is James Darling ended up breaking up.

    by HellKing

    I was at Comic Con Hall H during Kevin Smith's panel when James Darling proposed to his girlfriend. Kevin Smith offered to wed the love birds the next year. I was there the next year and there was no wedding, no James Darling at all.

  • Sept. 19, 2011, 4:57 p.m. CST

    Re: alienindisguise

    by SK229

    Amen. And I love the word 'loon'... doesn't get used nearly enough.

  • Sept. 19, 2011, 5:09 p.m. CST

    Morgan Spurlock is a great documentarian

    by Spanish Eddie

    lolwut is it opposite day? McDonalds is bad for you? HOLY SHIT, how insightful. I loathe Spurlock and his pompous hipster moustache.

  • Sept. 19, 2011, 5:24 p.m. CST

    So how long will this film get stuck in the film festival "cage?"

    by gruntybear

    In other words, when will regular schmucks get to see the thing? Or will it be trucked from film festival to film festival for months on end, with reviews trickling out over those many months, only to dumped on the public a year later direct-to-DVD/Blu? Hmm? Anybody? And somewhat related: Chicago Film Festival - WHAT THE FUCK? It's just over 2 weeks to the Festival, how's about releasing the damned screening schedule, you elitist pricks? I'm not buying a ticket for any screening, let alone a 10-pack of admissions, until I know what films are actually playing.

  • Sept. 19, 2011, 5:30 p.m. CST

    Wow... the dial for nerd hate is on 11 already...

    by ewokstew

    and we're barely into the posts.


  • Why include strangers in an incredibly intimate moment? If you do so, you should be damn sure she's gonna say yes.....but with these guys, they usually aren't sure, that's why they want to apply public pressure.

  • Sept. 19, 2011, 6:53 p.m. CST

    Public Proposals

    by ravenink

    As funny as it is when a public proposal goes to shit- I see why people do it. Girls like having an epic story to tell about their proposal and one of the aspects of weddings that many girls find most alluring, is having a day where they are the centre of attention. To precede that with a grand spectacle-style centre of attention moment is nice for the girl. Yeah, other people around vary from being girls gushing over how sweet it is (or sensitive men) and dudes (like many of you) who couldn't give two shits; but remember, for you it's a minor inconvenience to sit through that spectacle, but for the people involved, it's a significant, life changing moment. It is a BIT different than posting "eating an awesome cheeseburger!" as your facebook status. If you care enough to actively complain about such events, you're probably just jealous that the public proposal dude is getting laid and you aren't.

  • Sept. 19, 2011, 6:57 p.m. CST


    by ravenink

    I entirely disagree- I think the guys who propose in public are the ones who have that "yes" as an absolute LOCK. The humiliation that could take place if it's a public proposal gamble is insane. At the same time, if you feel the need to apply public pressure so the girl doesn't say no... that's a pretty good indication that you're jumping the gun.

  • Sept. 19, 2011, 7:04 p.m. CST


    by Bobo_Vision

    Watch this video, and reconsider your thoughts about how "the guys who propose in public are the ones who have that "yes" as an absolute LOCK". <p>

  • Sept. 19, 2011, 7:04 p.m. CST

    Rozanski needs to visit his own stores once in awhile...

    by Grasscutter

    The one on Colorado Blvd is run by assholes who pretend to order stuff but never actually do. And they sneer at you if your taste in comics happens to diverge from their own. I don't care if you don't like Orc Stain. Just sell me the comic and shut the fuck up. The superstore is a messy, disorganized joke. Sure, lots of people enjoy the Magic The Gathering tourneys you put on, but are they making you any money, Chuck?

  • Sept. 19, 2011, 7:22 p.m. CST

    ravenink, watch this one, too

    by Bobo_Vision

    It's a personal fave: <p>

  • Sept. 19, 2011, 7:23 p.m. CST


    by ravenink

    I should've added the qualifier "the guys who propose in public that aren't complete morons". I can say for sure though that I personally know 3 couples who were the result of successful public proposals and a good deal of gorgeous women who are regularly swooning over the opposite type of public proposal youtube video. I get that it can backfire (and I FULLY understand how hilarious it can be when it does- thanks for the vid btw) I just don't think people should be angered when it happens. Little lead in, proposal, answer, kiss and or hilarious rejection and it's over- either way, that's max a minute out of your day for someone to have an extremely important life moment. Bitching about the inconvenience of witnessing a public proposal on the net is far more self-centered than performing one in my opinion.

  • Sept. 19, 2011, 7:32 p.m. CST


    by Bobo_Vision

    If you find it more self-centered to voice an opinion about public proposals in the talkback for an article that makes reference to a public proposal.....than to interrupt a television broadcast to do something personal in front of many people who could care less...then I think you lack perspective.

  • Sept. 19, 2011, 8:11 p.m. CST

    Indecent Proposals...

    by 3774

    When you guys propose *in friggin public* without having *any idea* what the answer is going to be, you are a tool. You're either doing it to pressure us into a yes, or you have zero judgement skills. Between a conniving manipulator or Michael Scott, neither choice is an attractive one. When you know through conversation in advance that the answer is already yes, it's a sweet, frankly ballsy attempt to add weight to a moment that might otherwise be not much more than a formality. A cure for the romance of it being bled out by advance decision. When you guys through conversation in advance believe that the answer is a yes for sure (she's made coy 'when we have kids' comments and such), do it in public, and get turned down, i feel bad, and apologize for women that have led some guys on like that. It's awful. When you sit there eating dinner and watch a successful proposal in public take place, and react with nothing but bitter hate in your black heart, you are a sad, pathetic creature. Public proposals have been around significantly longer than Facebook narcisism. Go channel your misdirected anger at society somewhere else.

  • Sept. 19, 2011, 8:24 p.m. CST


    by ravenink

    Television broadcast? I thought the subject here was a guy proposing to his (presumably Kevin Smith fan) girlfriend during a Kevin Smith Q&A at a comic con? I think con attendees should appreciate what gigantic fans that couple must be if they choose that place for such a significant moment. And as much as seeing strangers get engaged isn't exactly quality TV, in an age of shit reality TV it's hardly the biggest thing about the medium to complain about.

  • Sept. 19, 2011, 8:29 p.m. CST

    talk show proposal vid

    by ravenink

    Hahaha! That one was painful. But again, that dude was like "these have been the happiest MONTHS of my life"- meaning he wasn't with that girl long enough. The proper kinds of public proposals are when the relationship is strong enough to warrant it and the guy decides to make a great memory for his girl. There will always be nutbars that do stupid shit like say "I love you" at the end of a first date- either way though, in public you either witness a nice, sweet moment between two people who love each other, or a hilarious example of a guy gloriously crashing and burning. either way, I have no complaints about public proposals.

  • Sept. 19, 2011, 8:47 p.m. CST


    by Bobo_Vision

    I'm not complaining, just voicing my opinion. If a person needs validation from strangers to make their proposal more special, I think that's a symptom of the mentality of today's society. Having said that, I think if someone does something very creative and special, and it just happens to be in public where others are around to witness it, I can appreciate the proposal on those grounds. Like if a guy were to have his friends take his girlfriend to a particular park, and then he skydives and parachutes into that park and proposes to her....that would be pretty cool. I'm all for creative and special proposals. But if the only thing special about the proposal is that it's in a public place for a lot of people to witness,....I don't approve for the reasons I've stated, and there's no creativity involved.

  • Sept. 19, 2011, 10:58 p.m. CST

    Is that title a bit lazy?

    by Carl XVI Gustaf

    Ha! Listen to me all hatey before my morning coffee! Really looking forward to seeing this one, never been to a proper con, always so far, far away...

  • Sept. 19, 2011, 11:30 p.m. CST

    by tikibars

    Shit, bring a flask. hide it in your Boba Fett knee pads or something.

  • Sept. 20, 2011, 12:07 a.m. CST


    by copernicus

    Oh wow, relationship advice on the AICN talkbacks. This is probably the best place on the internet for that sort of thing. Hold on while I get a pen...

  • Sept. 20, 2011, 1:19 a.m. CST


    by ravenink

    who gave advice? For AICN's resident genius, you didn't seem to read the thread very well- we were debating the validity of a public proposal, not giving each other advice on how one should propose. Granted there is only a subtle difference there, but of all the AICN writers, I'd expect you to pick it up of all people... and to think I've always trusted your science! ...I'm starting to wonder if the solar system is in fact heliocentric after all...

  • Sept. 20, 2011, 1:59 a.m. CST

    @ copernicus

    by 3774

    Yes, because no one who has geek interests could *possibly* have legitimate, relationship knowledge. Let me guess. There are also no girls on the internet either, right? Or they're 'fat and ugly' if they are. That comment simply insulted AICN's entire readership in one swoop, to serve no purpose i can see whatsoever, other than to...what? Make yourself feel better? Did you get turned down or something? I know i'm a nube of sorts. i don't even know who you are. But you are officially the first admin i've seen that i don't like. Sarcasm in debate is the recourse of a weak mind. Is this the part where my post disappears or i get banned now? i keep hearing people mentioning it, but i never know it when it happens. If you think i have no value here, and clearly with your comment you don't think *anyone* does, then knock yourself out.

  • Sept. 20, 2011, 6:38 a.m. CST

    How the eff can you get a No to a proposal?

    by FluffyUnbound

    Seriously. I honestly don't understand how anyone can end up in a situation where they're proposing without being absolutely sure of getting a Yes. What's the thought process? Here's my AICN talkback advice on how to escape this potential pratfall, guys: Just don't ask anyone to marry you until you absolutely HAVE TO. Wait for your girlfriend to set a deadline date after which she will put on Freddy Krueger hands and chop off your dick. Then go out and get a ring the DAY BEFORE that deadline and no sooner. Problem solved. That policy solves a bunch of other problems, too - like minimizing the amount of time you spend in the living hell that is marriage.

  • Sept. 20, 2011, 12:32 p.m. CST

    My Uncle once had sex with a lady

    by Bobo_Vision

    True story.

  • Sept. 20, 2011, 2:11 p.m. CST

    pink, go easy on copernicus

    by coz

    He's one of the few contributors to this site I have any respect for. Wanna know how to get banned? Tell Herc he's a talentless shill whore for Amazon, works like a charm.

  • Sept. 20, 2011, 2:27 p.m. CST

    Lay off Copernicus

    by DougMcKenzie

    I'm sure his point is more about asking a bunch of random people you never met about relationship advice... not something specific to this site and it's followers. Pointing out it's happening on AICN, was only, stating a fact about the situation.

  • Sept. 20, 2011, 2:32 p.m. CST

    is evanier in the movie?

    by john

    if he isnt...pretty epic fail

  • Sept. 20, 2011, 3:35 p.m. CST

    relationship advice

    by copernicus

    Not trying to hurt anyone's feelings. It is just a pet peeve of mine when people make blanket statements about what kind of person someone is without seeing the film. Yes, I was doing it right back to people in the talkbacks, but in an obviously tongue in cheek way to make a point. The point is not that AICN talkbackers can't have partners or spouses (the majority that I know do), but that they often seem to claim semi-infinite knowledge over matters of taste, even without having all the information. I've interacted with James Darling over email and he and Se Yeoung were at the premiere. They are very sweet and an adorable couple. If you've got a negative opinion of them after seeing the film, fine, but please don't be a hater just because of my brief description in a review.

  • Sept. 20, 2011, 11:09 p.m. CST

    So are you willing to hint if they're together?

    by HellKing

    I'm only drawing that conclusion because they met at Comic Con, he proposed the next year at Comic Con. Kevin Smith offered to marry them at Comic Con the next year. He was not there the next year. Unless they got married somewhere else at Comic Con but you'd figure there's a Comic Con theme. I am intersted to know if they're still together.

  • Sept. 21, 2011, 1:54 a.m. CST

    @ wrath_of_spidercoz

    by 3774

    Alright. i will. i just felt that i gave some relatively solid, helpfull assessments, and got needlessly insulted for it. It flipped my bitch switch.

  • Sept. 21, 2011, 8:21 a.m. CST

    on bent knee

    by Seven Sisters

    would someone...anyone....propose to me right here on aicn so I can feel special. I promise to say yes....cause I really want to get out of my mom's basement and breath fresh air again. I already have the ring... yes I do, my precious.