Wikipedia, that compendium of irrefutable knowledge, defines a Comic-Con as: “An event with a primary focus on comic books and comic book culture, in which comic book fans gather to meet creators, experts, and each other. Commonly, comic conventions are multi-day events hosted at convention centers, hotels, or college campuses”.
How It All Began
What we know as a “comic-con’ began in New York City in 1964. It wasn’t long before other similar events began popping up; some of them recurring over the next several years. There was the Detroit Triple Fan Fair, which lasted from ’65 through ’78, and the Academy Convention, from ’65 to ’67. But, the Mother of All Comic-Cons, San Diego Comic-Con, the one by which all others are measured, got its start on May 21, 1970. SDCC – as it has now become known – is nothing short of an economic juggernaut (pun for Marvel comic fans) for San Diego. In fact, the San Diego Convention & Visitors’ Bureau has asserted that SDCC has been generating an annual economic input of approximately $162.5 billion dollars! That’s a considerable boon from not only comic books but also animation, toys, collectibles, video games, and fantasy novels. Additionally, anime, manga, and the horror genre round out the family, with more to be added to the already lucrative stable.
Heroes: What’s The Big Deal?
From the Epic of Gilgamesh, through the trials of Odysseus, Beowulf and his legendary struggles, Robin Hood & his Merry Men, on to Don Quixote, tilting at windmills for his fair Dulcinea, the quick-witted Elizabeth Bennett, Huck Finn of the American South, Dracula, Lord of Darkness, 007 James Bond, Harry Potter, and finally, the men and women of 911. There are too many heroes to list. It matters not that in my brief list, some are fictional characters, for heroes capture our imaginations in a way that puts them on a permanent plane above us. Yet, we see something of ourselves in all of them, even as we consent to their superiority. And as we glory in their exploits, so too, many gather together to celebrate the “hero in all of us”, and thus, we have seen the rise of the Comic-Con. But there is a foundational story, if you will; a story from which all stories find their common root. And it is to that story, I turn next.
St. Paul in the marketplace
The Story – of the Passion, Death, and Resurrection of Jesus Christ – got an airing one day in Athens, at a place, northwest of the city of Athens, known as The Areopagus, or Mars Hill. The latter term arose from the passage in the Book of Acts 17:18-32, where the valiant Apostle found himself debating the skeptics and philosophers who would daily gather on the hill to talk about the latest ideas. In fact, Paul actively sought out those who were willing to talk about subjects weightier than than politics or the weather. So, while he waited for the arrival of Silas and Timothy, he was agitated at seeing all the statues erected to pagan gods. What he chose to do next is the highlight of this blog entry.
St. Paul: The Philosopher Hero
There were those who were wanting to engage Paul, noting that he “was preaching about Jesus and the Resurrection” (Acts 18:18). Among the Epicureans and Stoics, such a message was bound to garner attention, and it did, not all of it positive, “What is this scavenger trying to say? He sounds like a promoter of foreign deities” (v.18). Paul – our hero in this tale – was armed only with the armor of God (Ephes. 6:10-18). That was all he needed. You might even say, that was his “costume”, in this grandest of all Comic-Cons – the marketplace of ideas. It is all we need. And like St. Paul, we need to also be unafraid, willing to walk among others, opening ourselves to the Spirit. All of us live our lives in the midst of contrary philosophies – some in our very own homes. At that day, on the Areopagus, the Stoics – believing in a grim unloving fate, and the Epicureans – lovers of delight in a world where the Divine does not intervene – Paul offered a God who entered into human affairs in the person of Jesus Christ, and spoke of a resurrection where all will answer for their lives. This was a strange, beguiling fiction to the philosophers, and they wanted to know more.
Crashing The Party
All were there, arrayed in their various guises – their human philosophies – and Paul, ever the vigilant and alert one, noticed an “altar, inscribed ‘To an Unknown God'”(v.23). And he teaches us, today. Seek common ground with your friends, your colleagues, your enemies. Find something to talk about. As he did so, Paul presented the Salvation story – the Story from which all other stories are sprouted. He even quoted from the pagan poet, Aratus, saying, “In him we live and move, and have our being” (v.28). Being well versed also means being familiar with “the oppositions” sources. And isn’t that what it’s really all about? I began talking about the cultural phenomenon that is the Comic-Con, which is an outgrowth of our fascination, as a culture, with super heroes and fantasy beings, alternate realities and science fiction constructs. It is how we do our mythology today. The gods, if you will are still with us; we simply put them on a movie screen or depict them in a comic book or graphic novel.
Wanting To Be A Hero
Paul didn’t achieve great results, according to the account in Acts: “When they heard about the resurrection of the dead, some began to scoff, but others said, “”We should like to hear you on this some other time”” (v.32). Sometimes, we will have settle for a compromise in all of our giving; there are those who will not believe; there are still others who will come around some other day. It’s a mixed bag. But we can temper our disappointments with the hope that the “some other time” folks may repent and believe the truth that is Jesus Christ. Until then, we don our armor (costume) and we march out to the daily battle confident that our hero, Jesus, has defeated the most powerful enemy – death – and has given us the power to release hordes of others from the captivity to sin, and that power is, of course, ‘love’. “This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (Jo. 13:35, NABRE).