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Sean P. Means: As another Comic Con looms, will 'nerd fatigue' set in?

Published May 16, 2014 7:18 am

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2014, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

With fanfare, and a ring of stormtroopers, the folks behind Salt Lake Comic Con this week announced the first round of celebrities signed to the second annual cluster of geek coming to Salt Palace this September.

I missed the news conference — at which the names John Barrowman ("Torchwood," "Doctor Who"), Bruce Campbell ("Evil Dead," "Burn Notice"), Cary Elwes ("The Princess Bride," "Saw"), Ernie Hudson ("Ghostbusters," "The Crow"), Christopher Lloyd ("Back to the Future," "Who Framed Roger Rabbit") and Sam Witwer ("Smallville," "Battlestar Galactica") were announced.

But, to paraphrase the line from "Office Space," I wouldn't say I missed it.

I wonder how many times a person can go "squee" over the promise of seeing favorite stars in the Salt Palace.

After all, we're only a month removed from the last major event organized by Salt Lake Comic Con, the Fan Experience — aka FanX — which drew an estimated 100,000 people to the Salt Palace in April.

At FanX, as at the first Comic Con in September, a whole lot of people dressed up as their favorite superhero, TV icon, video-game character or Disney princess. They walked through aisles of vendors selling T-shirts, buttons, fake weapons and all manner of other geek-related product. They sat in massive halls to hear their favorite stars talk about themselves. They stood in line, and sometimes paid ridiculous prices, to get those same stars to sign autographs.

I admit, it was a blast seeing everyone in cosplay. I had fun spouting off in a panel with fellow movie critics. And it was a thrill to meet Karen Gillan, the Scottish actress who played Amy Pond on "Doctor Who" — and who got one of the most enthusiastic audience responses in the Salt Palace's biggest ballroom.

But is there a law of diminishing returns? Is there a point where we all suffer from "nerd fatigue"?

By the time Comic Con rolls around in September, the Salt Palace will have seen three of these events (the first Comic Con, the second one and FanX) in the course of 12 months. There's also the rival FantasyCon, due for the Independence Day weekend, which is boasting such celebs as Rose McGowan ("Charmed," "Grindhouse"), Sean Astin ("The Lord of the Rings") and John Rhys-Davies ("The Lord of the Rings," "Raiders of the Lost Ark").

Each event has been, or will be, preceded with weeks of hype — as organizers cagily parse out announcements of new celebrity bookings, right up until showtime. (At last year's Comic Con, Stan Lee's appearance was a last-minute thing, and at FanX, Patrick Stewart's Saturday appearance was announced on the Thursday the event started.)

And with each announcement, a contingent of bloggers, podcasters and tweeters will collectively lose all sphincter control.

Comic Con organizers are feeding a massive market for information about fans' favorite science fiction, fantasy and genre pop culture.

It's part of a wider pattern, where every bit of news about a pop-culture franchise is trumpeted over a network of hit-hungry websites. On the same day Comic Con announced its first six celebrities, there were news items about:

• The first photo, tweeted by director Zack Snyder, of Ben Affleck in his Batsuit for next year's Batman-vs.-Superman blockbuster.

• An announcement that screenwriter Roberto Orci had been picked to direct the third "Star Trek" movie.

• Warner Bros. revealing a release date — Nov. 18, 2016 — for "Fantastic Beasts," a spinoff of the "Harry Potter" movie franchise.

Keep in mind that for each of these franchises — and countless others — these are just one story in a string of them. Last year, the geek world was debating the casting of Affleck as Batman. As this year goes on, we'll surely hear story after story about actors chosen for "Star Trek" or "Fantastic Beasts," and Twitter will go into overdrive with each one.

I get it. I'm a geek. I get excited, too. I wear my "Doctor Who" T-shirt with pride. I cheered when Nick Fury showed up in the "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." season finale. I can't watch a rerun of a '60s TV show without saying to my wife, "He was on an episode of 'Star Trek.' "

But there's a limit to how much anyone can react to a sustained hype machine. Right now, the folks behind Salt Lake Comic Con are riding a wave of popularity that's big enough to sustain two major events a year. How long will that wave keep going?