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Comic-Con Begins!

July 23, 2014 3:53 a.m.

Tonight the 45th San Diego Comic-Con kicks off with preview night. KPBS arts reporter Beth Accomando reminds us that the geek factor begins with the show’s organizers.

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This is a rush transcript created by a contractor for KPBS to improve accessibility for the deaf and hard-of-hearing. Please refer to the media file as the formal record of this interview. Opinions expressed by guests during interviews reflect the guest’s individual views and do not necessarily represent those of KPBS staff, members or its sponsors.

ANCHOR INTRO: Tonight the 45th San Diego Comic-Con kicks off with preview night. KPBS arts reporter Beth Accomando reminds us that the geek factor begins with the show’s organizers.

No one involved in Comic-Con ever suspected their intimate geek gathering that began in a hotel basement would eventually take over the entire San Diego Convention Center, sprawl out into the Gaslamp District, attract upwards of 125,000 attendees, and pour more than $135 million annually into the San Diego economy.

DAVID GLANZER: I don’t think anybody ever thought that this show would be the size that it is.

David Glanzer is spokesperson for Comic-Con. He began attending the show in 1978 and in costume.

DAVID GLANZER: One of the first costumes I ever made was a Tusken Raider from Star Wars.

CLIP Tusken Raider roar

DAVID GLANZER: I have to tell you my friend Allison and myself spent months buying material and trying to find pictures in every magazine, and we made these Tusken Raider costumes and they were a huge hit, incredibly hot to wear but a huge hit.

“Star Wars,” like comics, was a gateway to Comic-Con for many in the late 70s. At the Comic-Con offices you’ll also find Trekkies and Whovians, and shelves filled with toys. That’s because the staff are pop culture enthusiasts. Most began their association with the Con as attendees or volunteers.

DAVID GLANZER: I think we all enjoy the show tremendously but in a very different way than we did before. When I first started coming to the show, we used to have 24 hour film rooms, I loved movies so I’d spend tremendous amount of time in there. I don’t have the luxury of doing that so much any more but there’s still a lot of stuff I get to see, there’s still a lot of stuff I get to do, I get to watch news segments after the show to see what I missed.

This year there is even more to see and experience as the show develops into a kind of Comic-Con campus. Since Comic-Con has run out of convention center space they have had to be creative. The result is what Glanzer calls “activations, ” off site events such a zipline for Fox’s Gotham, an Xbox Gaming Lounge at the Hyatt, Godzilla behind Hall H, and an Assassin’s Creed parkour obstacle course.

DAVID GLANZER: They are sanctioned events basically, things that are open to people with Comic-Con badges and they I think help to alleviate some of the congestion in and around the convention center, it’s something that helps us out and is an added benefit for attendees.

The scale of Comic-Con may distract people from the fact that Comic-Con is a non-profit organization with a mission statement to create awareness of, and appreciation for, comics and related popular art forms. Another part of its education component are panels that cater to educators and librarians such as Graphic Novel Programming for Your Library and Getting the Most Out of Graphic Novels in Your Classroom.

DAVID GLANZER: We are seeing a lot more librarians use comics as a teaching tool. This medium has a wonderful opportunity to help literacy, to help creativity, to help any number of things and I think these specific educational panels really move forward to trying to achieve that.

Marvel’s recently announcement that Thor would be female and Captain America would be black is yet another example of how pop culture can influence mainstream discourse. Glanzer says comic book fans know that anything is possible but the announcement generated a lot of discussion in the media.

DAVID GLANZER: I think you’re going to see these things happen in a manner that the general public is starting to say okay, this can happen maybe it’s not such a shock but it’s different.

But how long can this geek chic maintain such a high level of influence and popularity? Glanzer says that at some point it is likely to wane.

DAVID GLANZER: I think so long as we produce the type of show that we want to attend, so long as we stay true to that we’ll have a good show and I know that there will always be some people who will always enjoy that and that’s the important thing. And also if we can educate people too about the real rich history of some of these areas of popular art and their contributions to art and culture, it’s a great thing.

So prepare for an invasion of zombies, superheroes, and perhaps even a Tusken Raider as Comic-Con opens its doors and arms to geeks of all kinds tonight.

Beth Accomando, KPBS News.