Montreal’s Comic-Con is one event where it isn’t always the headliner who’s in costume. It’s one of many conventions held across North America dedicated to science fiction movies, TV shows and (of course) comic books.
Comic-Con events takes place three times a year in Montreal – the largest one will be held this weekend at Place Bonaventure. The organizers aren’t the only ones who get ready for it, either.
Every art genre has its enthusiasts &- there are people who dedicate themselves to detective stories, silent movies, and jazz music. What makes the audience for comics and science fiction different is that the fan culture includes taking on ownership of stories, characters and imaginary worlds in a way that is fundamentally creative.
At the same time as Comic-Con’s press releases announce the lineup of illustrators, actors and writers, many attendees are getting ready for events like the costume contest. Comic-Con only takes place a few times a year, but to be able to really get something out of it means keeping up with the genre all year long.
Live action role playing (LARPing), cos(tume) play and writing fan fiction are some of the most popular art forms connected to science fiction culture. In each case someone uses the culture and characters of a world that has already been created in a comic or TV series and then improvises their own stories around it – while being careful not to contradict what has already been established. The same way people once made up new stories around figures like Robin Hood or King Arthur, modern science fiction fans reimagine the adventures of superheroes and TV characters like Xena the Warrior Princess.
In an age where copyright and protection of intellectual property are big issues, exactly how much ownership people can take is strictly controlled. Publishing stories on the Internet starring a hero from a Marvel or DC comic book is a long-standing tradition among science fiction fans, but if that text shows up in print with someone’s name attached to it? That’s when the lawsuits show up. Turns out most of us are worth a lot less than Batman.
These universes constructed by the people at production companies may inspire its audience to be creative, but to actually produce one of these stories so that it will be accepted by fans requires the seal of approval by whoever owns the trademark. This focus on exclusiveness and getting the “official” piece is what allows the darker commercial side of science fiction conventions to go on.
It’s also where you can find the subgroup I will refer to as “looters”: people who will spend copious amounts of money at conventions buying limited editions of comics they won’t read, movie props they won’t touch, and actions figures that will be kept in their boxes. For them, conventions are basically stock markets where they can browse for investments surrounded by weirdos in capes; they claim ownership of alternate worlds through their wallets, without taking it on and making it their own.
Over the last 50 years the people who work in the science fiction genre have come a long way to being accepted as artists in their own right, but within the subculture they are only part of the story. At events like Comic-Con, the producers only make up a small portion of the people whose creativity is on display.
Montreal Comic-Con takes place Sept. 11 and 12 at Place Bonaventure. For more information go to www.montrealcomiccon.com