Comic-Con Episode IV: A Fan’s Hope – Review

With Comic-Con 2013 in our rear-view, I thought it would be a good time to watch the documentary Comic-Con Episode IV: A Fan’s Hope, which is currently streaming on Hulu.

I almost bought the DVD of Comic-Con Episode IV: A Fan’s Hope last year. Four HeroClix figures of Stan Lee, Joss Whedon, Morgan Spurlock and Harry Knowles were packaged with the DVD. Unfortunately, I could never track down the version that came with all four. They were divided up into Stan and Harry or Joss and Morgan  But the ones I wanted were Stan and Joss, and I couldn’t see myself buying two copies of the DVD to get both of them. Sorry Morgan and Harry…

I have to say, I really enjoyed this movie, which I found surprising. I thought this was going to be another fansploitation film, the kind that basically says “Look at these weirdos being weird.” But that’s not what happens here. Comic-Con Episode IV: A Fan’s Hope is very hopeful in all of the stories it tells. No one is mocked, either to their face or behind their back. It’s an honest movie. These are real people being featured here, and if you have attended Comic-Con, you can probably relate to at least one of them.

There are six main stories in Comic-Con Episode IV: A Fan’s Hope, with each story focusing on different fans. Two of the stories follow two artists trying to break into the comic book industry. Another follows a guy who wants to propose to his girl at Comic-Con. One follows a toy collector who needs to get his hands on the latest exclusive from Hasbro. Chuck Rozanski, the founder of Mile High Comics, is the focus of another. But my favorite of the stories followed Holly Conrad and her friends.

I’ve seen a lot of cosplay at conventions over the years, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen homemade costumes that were as cool as the Mass Effect costumes that Holly Conrad and her friends made for the masquerade at Comic-Con. And I’ve never even played Mass Effect. But that one alien costume, with the lights and the moving eyes and mouth just blew me away.

That costume on the left is insanely awesome!

My second favorite story was Rozanski’s. His part of the documentary was interesting because Rozanski is a retailer. He’s not at Comic-Con to just have fun. He’s there to make his livelihood. While the fans and celebrities are staying at fancy, high rise hotels near the convention center, Rozanski and his crew are at a much more modest motel. The financial crisis hit Rozanski’s business hard, and at this Comic-Con, he’s thinking about selling his most prized comics, something he doesn’t want to do, but something he realizes he needs to do to stay in business. New York City based fans might recognize Michael Carbonaro, whom Rozanski goes to for help brokering a deal to sell Rozanki’s $500,000 CGC graded Red Raven Comics #1. Carbonaro runs the New York Comic Book Marketplace convention and used to run Big Apple Con before selling that show to Wizard World. I think this movie is the calmest I’ve ever seen Carbonaro. He’s usually a bombastic ball of energy at cons in NYC. It was amazing to see him standing still quietly having a conversation here. I wonder if the filmmakers secretly switched him to decaf on the days they needed to film him.

I once met Chuck Rozanski when he was the auctioneer at a CBLDF auction.
Nicest guy ever. And he signed my paddle.

There is drama throughout the movie. Rozanski isn’t sure if he’ll turn a profit. Holly and her friends deal with technical malfunctions. James, the guy who wants to propose, can’t ditch his girlfriend long enough to pick up the ring. And not all of the stories have happy endings. One of the two artists looking for work doesn’t have the big break he hoped he would.

Interspersed throughout the stories are celebrities, fans and comic book creators talking about what they love about Comic-Con and their experiences there. It was cool seeing the likes of Grant Morrison, Seth Rogan, Joss Whedon and Matt Fraction talk about what they love about Comic-Con.

Comic-Con Episode IV: A Fan’s Hope is a great documentary. I recommend watching it even if you have no interest in going to Comic-Con. It gives insight into this very unique world that pops up and exists for only a long weekend every year. I really think this is now my favorite Mogran Spurlock movie.

Spurlock also put together a cool book
 on the Comic-Con he filmed.

And if you take away one lesson from Comic-Con Episode IV: A Fan’s Hope, it should be this: if you’re going to propose to your girlfriend at Comic-Con, make sure you have the ring in your hand before you get there. And if Kevin Smith offers to officiate your wedding, maybe take him up on it.