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Fear and Loathing in San Diego


I write about fear.  Generally I write about how to create fear, how I respond to fear, what tactics and philosophies work when generating fear, how fear translates to the language of cinema, etc. So when I got the offer to write coverage on my trip to Comic-Con, I hesitated a little bit, because frankly, the mere word Comic-Con fills me with joy. Comic-Con is Christmas in July around here.

Then I thought, well maybe I'll cover the horror events and releases down there. But I'm not much of a fanboy and that angle just felt shallow. Besides, other people were doing that, and doing a much better job of it than I ever could.

So I decided to find the fear in Comic-Con. And if you look close enough... you'll find it...

I used to have agoraphobia. Really bad. Mostly when I was a kid. It got worse when I was a teen. As an adult it still lingered, but not as bad as the old days. I had trouble at concerts, flea markets, malls, anywhere that looked like a sea of people, and where I was in the middle of that sea. Hell, I could even get the cold sweats in Costco.

But somewhere over the years, the fear dissipated. And I didn't even notice it. Well actually I did notice it. I noticed it on Friday during my 24 hour whirlwind tour of Comic-Con.  I had two interviews, six meetings and a C'thulian-octopus-worth of handshaking to do there, and I only had one day in my schedule clear to  do it in. I've been going to Comic-Con for 9 years now and it's always a great time. Last year I had a booth promoting my short films, this year I had meetings and parties, but most years I would just go for the love of the art and to join in the annual trip to Mecca with all my fellow pop-culture-whores from around the world.

This year was different. At fist I thought it was because I was caught up in a malestrom of texts that read like this, "I'm @ section B-2 by the pretzels next to a guy dressed like Chewbacca. Which way 2 U?" But it wasn't the text storm. It was something else. Something felt lighter, easier, more fun. Something in my heart had been lifted but WTF was it? I mean, even though I love Comic-Con, spending time wedged in-between 200,000 of your closest friends, 25% of which are dressed like slutty superhero vixens or armored Star Wars characters can be pretty taxing for an agoraphobic.

There I was, standing beside a ginormous inflatable Totoro when it hit me, (the revelation, not the Totoro). I wasn't feeling my old friend "fear" any more. I wasn't even nervous. Instead I felt as if I could work through the crowd unfettered and without even a drip of nervous perspiration.  Then I remembered back to try and figure out when this fear went away and I couldn't do it. It didn't just disappear. It seems to have slowly drifted into tiny pieces over the years, and floated away, like smoke.

As I stood sipping my iced coffee in the main aisle by a massive WALKING DEAD series billboard, watching the crowd pass around and almost through me, all I could think of was how stupidly happy I was.  How rapturous it was to be free of whatever the hell was scaring me about crowds. 

And that scares me.

But not as much as getting stabbed in the eye.

Gaudium Per Atrox.


FEARnet's "The Sights of Comic-Con" Gallery: