The following is a review I wrote for PopMatters for “What If? Punisher #1.” Enjoy!
Every Wednesday, a new batch of comics comes out and for comic fans like me, it’s the biggest highlight of the week that doesn’t involve ice cream and whiskey. Within that batch of comics, it’s hard find the gems that really stand out. That’s why every week, I pick out a comic that I feel warrants extra praise.
This week, my quick pick is “What If? Punisher #1.” Now, this may seem like an odd selection. In fact, this comic is very much an anomaly. There was once a time where Marvel had an ongoing “What If?” series that basically offered alternate history takes on iconic characters and stories.
Personally, I have mixed feelings about how these stories are handled. For the most part, they’re hit or miss. They’re either really good or really bad. Rarely, if ever, are they fleshed out stories.
“What If? Punisher #1” finds a way to stand out because it does more than speculate on what would happen to Spider-Man if he chose a slightly different path. It actually explores the entire premise that with great power comes great responsibility. It even makes the case that the mainline Spider-Man in the long-running “Amazing Spider-Man” series is wholly irresponsible in his methods.
This is an idea that I’ve actually explored before. I once made the argument that Spider-Man is the most inept hero of all time. I got a lot of hate for that piece, mostly by long-time Spider-Man fans. I don’t blame them for a second. However, this comic actually takes some of the concepts I discussed and puts them into a cohesive story.
It doesn’t radically reinvent Peter Parker or Spider-Man. It also doesn’t radically alter his origin. He still fails to stop a burglar that goes onto murder his Uncle Ben. From that tragedy, he learns that critical lesson about power and responsibility. The only difference in this timeline is that great responsibility means killing his enemies, just like the Punisher.
It’s a line that the Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man doesn’t dare cross most of the time. In nearly every famous iteration of Spider-Man, Peter makes clear that he does not kill. However, “What If? Punisher #1” makes the case that not only is this irresponsible. It actually played a part in hurting his loved ones.
How that happens and how it makes this case is something I won’t spoil. Since this is a “What If?” comic, though, there’s not room to dig deeper. There are more than a few gaps and oversights, but most of that is due to logistics rather than merit. At the very least, this comic asks some pretty damning questions about how Spider-Man approaches power and responsibility.
Even though most “What If?” comics are quickly forgotten and have no impact on the actual canon, this issue is worthy of my pick because the concept is so intriguing. It’s too brief and very much incomplete, but the ideas it presents are pretty remarkable. Not all Spider-Man fans will like it, but it’ll definitely get them thinking.
We’ve heard it all our lives from parents, teachers, and cartoon characters. Good things come to those who wait. Patience is a virtue. If something is worth having, then taking your time and going through the process will make it that much more rewarding.
As impatient, overly energetic kids, we hated that. As adults, we still hate it to some extent. However, those inane words of wisdom have proven themselves valid time and again.
To some extent, the Marvel Cinematic Universe has a been a decade-long exercise in patience. That patience has already paid off in so many ways with so many memorable moments, raising the bar for cinematic excellence every step of the way. After ten years of that process, though, how could it possibly vindicate all the patience?
Well, having seen “Avengers: Infinity War,” I’m comfortable saying that all the waiting, hype, and post-credits teasers was totally worth it. Never before has a movie come along that required so much build-up and so much connection from other films over such a lengthy period of time. Never before has a film franchise ever achieved such sustained, consistent success that has raked in billions for its Disney overlords.
By nearly every measure, “Avengers: Infinity War” is the culmination of all those efforts. It’s an effort that spans dozens of movies, made and re-birthed entire careers, and dared to tell the kind of story that required such a lengthy, elaborate process. It’s the kind of movie that, a decade ago, seemed impossible. Well, the impossible has been done and the results are nothing short of astounding.
Beyond the hype, setup, and process that went into making this movie, “Avengers: Infinity War” is a ride like no other. It’s not just about superheroes coming together to battle a common enemy. It’s not just about big battle scenes and witty quips between gods and talking raccoons. This is a movie with a powerful, impactful story that strikes so many emotional chords.
That may seem strange for a superhero movie, which have traditionally been big-budget spectacles meant to delight the inner child/fanboy in us all. The idea that a superhero movie could generate real drama and evoke powerful emotions almost seems like a subversion of the underlying appeal of the genre.
It’s for that reason that “Avengers: Infinity War” is so special. It doesn’t just build around the appeal of all these iconic characters, most of which are older than the actors and actresses playing them. It crafts a story that takes all the emotional stakes that had been set up in other movies and pushes them to the absolute limit.
The emotional journey that began in “Iron Man” and “The Avengers” comes to a head in a way that’s both definitive and powerful. There’s no more teasing surrounding Thanos, the Infinity Stones, and all the agendas surrounding them, many of which began in the earliest phases of the MCU. The stakes are clear, the threat is there, and the battles surrounding both are appropriately epic.
Beyond just the spectacle, though, “Avengers: Infinity War” succeeds in what might be the most important aspect for a movie of this scope and scale. The story and the high-octane clashes that fuel it all unfold in a way that makes the last decade of Marvel movies feel even more relevant.
Marvel big-wigs like Kevin Feige love to say it’s all connected. Well, “Avengers: Infinity War” strengthens those connections. Suddenly, the plots involving the infinity stones, going all the way back to “Captain America” and “Guardians of the Galaxy,” matter that much more.
All those plots gain much greater weight as Thanos fights to retrieve all six stones. Now, all the triumphs and failures of these characters more weight. These characters we’ve been cheering for and connecting with now have to push themselves beyond their limits. The end result is an experience that hits as hard as a punch by the Hulk.
Beyond the connections created by the past ten years of Marvel movies, “Avengers: Infinity War” succeeds in another important way. It crafts the conflict around a powerful, compelling villain. After seeing the movie, I think most would agree that Thanos really steals the show and not just because Josh Brolin’s voice gives us all the right shivers.
It was probably the biggest challenge of this movie, beyond having to build it around a decade of overarching plot points. This movie needed to make Thanos more than just a daunting threat. It had to make him compelling. Given his colorful history in the comics, that was more challenging than most non-comic fans realize.
Thanos needed to be adapted, to some extent, in order for him to work. He couldn’t just be this mad, death-obsessed monster. In a universe that has birthed compelling villains like Loki and Erik Killmonger, he has to have some level of complexity. “Avengers: Infinity War” gives him more than any CGI-generated character could ever hope for.
It’s not just that Thanos is menacing, powerful, and able to subdue the Hulk. It’s that he has a clear, unambiguous motivation. He’s very overt about what he’s doing and why he’s doing it. What makes it all the more remarkable is that he finds a way to justify it that doesn’t come off as outright villainous. I would argue that he justifies his actions are better than any other villain in the MCU.
That doesn’t just make Thanos compelling, as both a character and a villain. It helps create moments that establish he’s not just some overwhelming force of evil. He’s a being who has feelings and emotions. Even in the comics, Thanos is a very emotion-driven character. The emotions, in this case, are directed towards something other than wanting to hook up with the living embodiment of death.
As menacing as Thanos is, though, he’s driven by his passions and those passions push him to the kinds of extremes that make all villains so dangerous. It’s not the same kind of greed and ego that makes Lex Luthor’s villainy so overt. As a result, the Avengers have to tap into their own passions to stop him.
This brings out the best in them as well. There are moments between Iron Man, Spider-Man, Vision, the Scarlet Witch, Starlord, Gamora, and Thor that really elevate the drama. There are moments of romance, building on romantic sub-plots from previous movies. There are moments of heart-wrenching loss, more so than any other Marvel movie to date. Most importantly, though, those moments carry weight and impact.
That, more than anything, is what makes “Avengers: Infinity War” a special cinematic experience that was worth waiting a decade for. To some extent, the movie makes clear that it needed those ten years to build up the drama and story. It also needed those ten years to make us, the audience, really care about all these characters. That way, when the final credits roll, we all feel the true breadth of that impact.
You could, in theory, still watch “Avengers: Infinity War” without having seen any other Marvel movie or superhero movie, in general. Even in that context, it’s still a great movie full of action, drama, and memorable moments featuring gods, super soldiers, and talking raccoons. However, without all the movies that came before it and all the connections from them, it just doesn’t carry the same weight.
If “Avengers: Infinity War” has any flaws, it’s that. To truly appreciate the impact of the movie, it’s necessary to know and somewhat care about the other movies in the MCU that helped set it up. Without that, the movie is just another spectacle. It’s still an amazing spectacle full of quality acting and stunning effects. It just relies so much on the foundation that other movies have crafted.
I’ve no problem saying that “Avengers: Infinity War” is one of the greatest superhero movies ever made. It may very well go onto become the highest-grossing superhero movie of all time. However, it’s not without flaws. They are very minor, but they are there.
If there’s one glaring flaw in this masterful superhero saga, though, it’s that the movie is clearly organized to be in two parts. Like “Kill Bill” or the latest “Star Wars” trilogy, the story is incomplete, by necessity. As a result, the ending feels abrupt. It’s still more impactful than gut punch by an army of Hulks, but it’s one of those endings that never comes off as an endpoint.
This movie is presented very much in the mold of “The Empire Strikes Back” in that it hits the heroes hard, allows the villains to make devastating gains, and really raises the stakes for the sequel. Just as that movie made you want to see Luke Skywalker battle Dearth Vader again, “Avengers: Infinity War” makes you want to see the Avengers take down Thanos.
There’s so many things to love about “Avengers: Infinity War” and what it managed to accomplish. It is definitely a historic achievement for movies and the superhero genre, as a whole. If I had to score it, I’d give it a 9.5 out of 10. It’s not perfect because it’s incomplete, but it’s as close to perfect as anything can get after ten years of build-up.
The wait was long and agonizing, but so worth it. The wait for “Avengers 4” will likely be agonizing as well, but Marvel Studios has made a glorious habit of rewarding such patience so I certainly don’t mind waiting. “Avengers: Infinity War” once again raised the bar. I look forward to seeing how Marvel and Disney raise it again.
If you’re a “Star Wars” fan in any capacity, then these are truly exciting times. It doesn’t matter if you’ve got the blueprints of the Millennium Falcon tattooed on your back or just think porgs are adorable, this is basically your Mardi Gras. Another new “Star Wars” movie is set for release and, by all accounts, “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” is set to give Disney a fresh pool of money to swim in.
Now, I love “Star Wars” as much as anyone who grew up on a healthy diet of sci-fi and comic books. I’ve seen every movie in theaters. I had more than my share of “Star Wars” toys as a kid. I do intend to be in line to see “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” on opening night. Like X-men and football, I’m that passionate about the things I love.
It’s because of that passion that I often find myself coming up with strange, if not eccentric, interpretations of the story. Part of that stems from my love of fan theories and my inclinations to create my own. “Star Wars” has such a rich, vibrant mythology surrounding it. Naturally, it’s going to inspire more theories than most.
However, in getting my mind one with the Force in anticipation of the release of “Star Wars: The Last Jedi,” I found myself contemplating some unexpected ideas. In doing so, I came to a realization that isn’t so much a fan theory as it is an observation, and one that will probably incur the wrath of every adherent of the Jedi Order, which is a thing by the way.
I’m willing to take that chance, though. I don’t know whether the Force will be on my side after this, but in the name of digging deeper into the “Star Wars” mythos, I want to put this out there. If you’re prone to Sith-level outrage, you might want to put up your deflector shields because I’m about to make a statement that strikes at the very heart of what it means to be a Jedi. That statement is this.
Dr. Doom is the perfect embodiment of the Jedi.
I’ll give “Star Wars” a moment to stop seething and Marvel fans a moment to stop laughing. Take all the time you need. I know this sounds like something a man only comes up with after he’s had a few too many glasses of whiskey while re-watching “The Empire Strikes Back” one too many times. Make no mistake. I’m dead serious about this.
By every measure, Victor Von Doom, the same character who is regularly regarded as the greatest villain of all time, represents the values of the Jedi Order better than any other character. Given Doom’s villainous nature, which I’ve discussed before, that sounds like the equivalent of claiming that Jar Jar Binks was a Sith Lord. Actually, that might be a bad example.
However, I do believe there is an argument to be made here and not just because the designs for Darth Vader might have been inspired by Dr. Doom. To understand this argument, we must first understand the core tenants of the Jedi Order. According to the official Star Wars wiki, the Jedi Code is built around these principles.
There is no emotion, there is peace.
There is no ignorance, there is knowledge.
There is no passion, there is serenity.
There is no chaos, there is harmony.
There is no death, there is the Force.
Anyone who has watched at least two “Star Wars” movies can probably see plenty of examples of these tenants. In every movie, in some form or another, the Jedi espouse principles of non-attachment, harmony, knowledge, and an overall understanding that death is neither the end, nor the beginning.
Those who have studied philosophy and theology in any capacity will probably recognize that these concepts are very similar to major principles of Taoist philosophy. In fact, the whole Sith/Jedi dichotomy nicely reflects that of Yin and Yang, which is probably the most well-known Taoist principle.
With those concepts in mind, you might instinctively believe that Dr. Doom would more closely align with the tenants of the Sith. Like the Jedi, they too have their own unique code. Again, according to the official Star Wars wiki, that code is as follows:
Peace is a lie. There is only Passion.
Through Passion I gain Strength.
Through Strength I gain Power.
Through Power I gain Victory.
Through Victory my chains are Broken.
The Force shall free me.
While those tenants may sound like something Dr. Doom embraces, a closer examination of how Doom conducts himself reveals something else. You don’t even have to dig too deep to see just how much Doom embodies the ways of the Jedi.
One of the most distinct differences between a Sith and a Jedi is how they approach passion. Sith, as Anakin Skywalker so nicely demonstrated in “Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith,” are fueled by their passions. Their anger and hate fuels them. Jedi see those emotions as temptations that send Force-wielders down a dark, selfish path. Anakin’s descent into the dark side nicely documents that fall.
However, while Dr. Doom can become annoyed and frustrated, he rarely demonstrates Sith-level anger. In fact, most of the time, Doom’s emotional state is one of cold, callousness. When he donned his famous, obscenely overpowered armor, he did so with the intent of shedding the passions that he believed had held him back.
As a result, Dr. Doom is largely devoid of the kinds of passion that would make him a Sith. If anything, that lack of emotion, along with the immense intelligence that makes him one of the smartest minds in the Marvel universe, grants him two of the key Jedi tenants by default.
The Jedi Code also focuses on tempering chaos, promoting harmony, and achieving serenity. In a sense, these are all perfectly in line with Dr. Doom’s goals. Stan Lee himself, the guy who co-created Dr. Doom, went so far as to say that Doom isn’t a villain in that he seeks to rule the world because he believes he can do a better job.
In a sense, Doom sees the same thing the Jedi sees. The world around him is full of chaos. People, in general, are consumed with chaos. Nothing but destruction will come from that chaos and they both seek to temper it. The only difference is that Doom does more than just attack it with a light sabre.
Dr. Doom’s desire for order are even reflected in the crossover event, Doomwar. It’s in that event that Dr. Doom learns from Bast, the Panther God, that the only future in which mankind is free from suffering, want, and chaos is one where he rules. In a sense, Doom see’s ruling the world as his destiny. Given how often the Jedi and the Sith make a big deal about destiny, Dr. Doom fits right in with those principles.
Even in matters of life and death, Dr. Doom aligns himself with the Jedi, albeit in more overt ways. For him, death is hardly a barrier. Whereas Sith fear and dread death, as Anakin Skywalker did in trying to prevent the death of his loved ones, Dr. Doom basically brushes it off. He doesn’t just cheat death with his army of Doombots. He has actually become a god on more than one occasion.
Whereas a Sith like Anakin will lament the loss of his mother and wife, Dr. Doom will sacrifice the woman he loves to a demon without batting an eye. Like the Jedi, he does not care for personal attachments or petty passions that might hold him back. He sees himself as too smart and too capable for such things. It’s not that he sees himself as a god among men. He’s just smart and powerful enough to prove it.
In a sense, Dr. Doom is the ultimate endgame for a Jedi. He is the ultimate extreme of what happens when you take the Jedi Code and push it beyond the limits of frail human minds. It leads someone to becoming numb to their passions, empowered by knowledge, and driven to forge harmony out of chaos.
With that in mind, I want to acknowledge that there are other intricacies to the Jedi Code with which Dr. Doom is inherently incompatible. Unlike Doom, Jedi don’t seek to rule whereas Sith Lords do. Also unlike the Jedi, Dr. Doom can be pretty damn selfish and arrogant, which are hardly in line with the selflessness championed by the Jedi.
However, when evaluating the code of the Jedi and the Sith, Dr. Doom still checks more boxes with the Jedi. Her certainly wouldn’t get along with the likes of Yoda, Mace Windu, or anyone on the Jedi Council, for that matter.
Then again, Dr. Doom doesn’t get along with anyone and that’s kind of on purpose with him. He doesn’t care whether or not anyone gets along with him. He only cares that they honor his authority and superiority. Like a Jedi, he is beyond petty emotions or blind ignorance. His strength, knowledge, and abilities speak for themselves. He needs no passion or anger to fuel him. He just needs to be Doom.
In writing this, I imagine I will upset and/or anger many “Star Wars” fans whose knowledge of the franchise is far greater than my own. There may even be a few details that effectively nullify my claim about Dr. Doom’s status as the ultimate Jedi. I welcome those discussion, provided they’re not on par with a Sith-level temper tantrum.
Given the upheaval in the Jedi order so artfully promised in “Star Wars: The Last Jedi,” I just felt as though this observation was worth sharing. It’s impossible to know whether Dr. Doom would make for the perfect Jedi, the ultimate Sith, or something in between. It’s just interesting to see how the ideals he embodies fits into this iconic sci-fi mythos.
When I wrote my post on Dr. Doom being the perfect ruler, I expected that a follow-up would be unnecessary. Dr. Doom is one of those characters who gets the point across, regardless of how fictional he might be. When Dr. Doom makes a point, it doesn’t need to be made again. That’s just how he rolls.
Then, someone on a message board brought up an interesting point that I didn’t cover, one that highlighted some even larger implications to Dr. Doom’s character and superheros as a whole. That’s pretty remarkable since a lot of discussions on comic book message boards tend to devolve into arguments about Thor’s hammer and the Hulk’s penis. As such, I feel it’s worth discussing.
Whenever I do a blog post about comic books, whether it’s a movie review or why Spider-Man sucks at his job, I often post links in message boards, such as the one run by Comic Book Resources. For the Dr. Doom article, I posted it in the Official Dr. Doom Appreciation Thread. Yes, that’s a thing.
That’s where one of the regular posters of that thread replied to my link. This is what he said.
Regardless, the existence of Doom in the Marvel Universe does raise an important point, that few Marvel stories actually deal with ruling. It’s been said that ‘with great power comes great responsibility’ but in many ways Marvel’s superheros are dangerously irresponsible. They fight to save the day and defeat evil but they draw the line at actually trying to change society or assume any real positions of authority. Instead, they hand power back to the same short-sighted and corrupt officials, allowing the whole cycle of violence to perpetuate itself. That ultimately, Marvel’s superheros can’t truly save the world, it all ends in ruin eventually as Marvel’s endless crisis and civil wars attest. Only Doom’s leadership has ever been able to bring a measure of stability to the Marvel universe.
Those bold parts are the ones I highlighted. They’re also the parts that stood out to me most because it speaks to a much larger issue about superheroes, one that Dr. Doom reveals just by being what he is.
It’s an issue I’ve touched on, in part, before on this blog. A while back, I wrote about how most superheroes are incompetent by design. They kind of have to be incompetent to keep the story going. If a hero ever became too competent, the world would have too little conflict and no interesting story to tell. At that point, the comics would stop and there would be no new material for billion-dollar superhero movies.
That’s why Superman will never defeat Lex Luthor. That’s why Batman will never defeat the Joker. That’s why the Avengers will never beat Thanos. However, that’s just a matter of publishers and movie studios not wanting to throw away good villains. The problem is that this inescapable flaw in the system creates a paradox, of sorts.
Superheroes, be they in comics or movies, can save the day and stand for all that is good and noble in the world. They can save countless innocent lives, stop every major threat, and embody the greatest qualities that we humans value. However, in the long run, they do nothing to actually fix the flaws in the system that makes their heroics necessary.
It’s like fighting the symptoms, but never attacking the disease. In the real world, that’s a problem because it means someone will think they just have the flu when they actually have something much worse. For superheroes, everything is the flu. There’s no real effort to find another ailment. As such, they never change their tactics.
The approach of most superheroes is fairly standard. It varies in scope, scale, and personalities involved. However, it tends to follow a few major themes.
A dangerous threat emerges
A superhero, or team of heroes, respond to that threat
A battle ensues, complete with setbacks, losses, and personal growth
The heroes win the battle, throw the villains in prison or exile them, and go back to the way they were before
Granted, that’s a very basic and general assessment of how superheros work. However, it’s the first and last parts of the process where the flaw emerges.
For the most part, superheroes aren’t very proactive. They only react to threats. In fact, some major superhero conflicts are built around the idea that being too proactive is evil and working with the authorities will turn you into a villain. Anyone who has ever read Sun Tzu’s “The Art of War” or just played any real-time strategy game in the past 20 years knows that’s a losing strategy.
It’s the end of that process, though, where the paradox really takes hold. Whenever a conflict or story ends for a superhero, they usually go back to their lives and nothing really changes. In fact, it’s somewhat of a running joke among comic book fans that every major change is subject to a “retcon” eventually. That’s not always the case, but it happens so frequently that most comic fans aren’t shocked by it anymore.
As a result, the heroes never really learn from the conflicts. They never attempt to change anything about the system they live in. Bruce Wayne spends much of his vast fictional wealth fighting crime as Batman. However, he never uses any of that wealth to reform the government, create major social programs, or fund projects that actually reduce crime. The same can be said for someone like Iron Man.
With Superman, the potential for change is even greater. Superman isn’t just a paragon of virtue. He has access to advanced alien technology, which he keeps at his Fortress of Solitude. That alien technology could probably solve every major global issue by the end of the week. Technology that advanced could cure cancer, eliminate pollution, and provide clean, safe energy for everyone.
However, Superman never shares this technology with anyone. He never gives a reason for it. In the first “Superman” movie, his father, Jor-El, claims sharing such technology goes against Krypton’s highest laws. He never fully justifies those laws. Keep in mind, though, there are many major laws that have since become obsolete. That makes Superman’s inaction all the more egregious.
By not at least trying to use that advanced alien technology to improve the world, heroes like Superman, Iron Man, and the Fantastic Four effectively doom the planet to the same ills it has always had. At the moment, many of those ills are impossible to fix. With alien technology, they’re not just fixable. They’re basically an afterthought.
Beyond the technology, Superman and other heroes like him never attempt to get involved in the process of actually managing human affairs. They never try to improve the laws, governments, and regulations that effect peoples’ lives far more than an occasional alien invasion. They leave all those ills and flaws untouched.
In a sense, the inaction of many major superheros constitutes a crime in and of itself. If Superman ran for President of any country, he’d win in a landslide. If the Avengers campaigned to take over the United Nations, most average people who aren’t overpaid government bureaucrats would be for it. The fact they don’t do these things means they’re dooming the world to a brutal cycle of conflict that it need not suffer.
Even when they do, which happens from time-to-time, they end up getting corrupted. They become cruel, heartless tyrants. It happened with the Justice League. It happened to Tony Stark. When heroes try to rule the world, they just become evil asshats. That says a lot more about them than it does the villains they fight.
That brings me back to Dr. Doom, a man who doesn’t give half a cow fart about heroic ideals. In a sense, heroes only ever go halfway towards saving the world. Sure, they’ll stop it from being blown up, but they’ll do nothing to fix the cracks.
Victor Von Doom never does anything half way. Hell, he actually became God at one point. He never stops at simply keeping the world in one piece. He seeks to change it in a huge way. Sure, change is scary, but who’s to say those changes wouldn’t be better?
People resisted major changes like same-sex marriage, the abolition of slavery, and not beating children. Some people still resist those changes, some more than others. However, these changes did lead to improvements in the human condition and a reduction in overall suffering.
Superheroes may be willing to confront that suffering, but Dr. Doom is willing to go ten steps further and actually change the conditions that led to it. Sure, he’ll be ruthless about it, bullying and killing anyone who dares get in his way. However, villainous rulers have, historically, inspired positive change.
Since Dr. Doom has no equal in the real or fictional world, he might very well inspire more positive change than any superhero. In that sense, he has the potential to be a greater hero than anyone. Conversely, the deeds of superheroes will always be empty in the long run, their potential squandered by their unwillingness to do more.
Essentially, superheroes are doomed, if that’s not too fitting a word, to be villains through their sheer inaction. Conversely, villains like Dr. Doom have the potential to do the most good. It’s tragic, but painfully pragmatic in the grand scheme of things.
I’ve made no secret of it. I love Las Vegas. I love comic books. So when something comes along that combines them both, I just have to talk about it. That something is called “Amazing Comic Con” and it’s taking place from June 23rd to June 25th, 2017 at the Las Vegas Convention Center in the heart of Las Vegas. There is literally nothing about that last sentence that doesn’t appeal to me.
It’s rare you find two things you love merged into one. Sure, you can dip donuts in hot sauce while receiving a massage from Jennifer Lawrence, but the opportunities for that sort of convergence are rare. Mixing Las Vegas and comic books just feels like chocolate and peanut butter. It’s one of those potent combinations that just feels right.
Now, I’ve gone to multiple comic cons in various cities. Some are small. Some, like the New York Comic Con, are among the biggest in the industry. If you’re new to cons, scenes like New York can be pretty overwhelming and I’m not just talking about the insane work people put into their costumes.
That’s not Photoshopped by the way. That’s real. That’s the kind of awesome stuff you’ll see at a comic convention. That makes a scene like Las Vegas, where it’s not unusual to see Elvis impersonators and men dressed as pirates walking the street, a perfect combination. So if you love comics and Las Vegas, this is quite possibly the best event for you that doesn’t involve free donuts.
“Amazing Comic Con” might not be on the same level as New York, just yet, but it still has all the features that make conventions great. There are artists, vendors, cos-players, and celebrity guests. Those names include the likes of Stan “The Man” Lee, Adam “Batman” West, Ray “Darth Maul” Park, and Rob “I Created Deadpool, Bitches!” Liefeld. If you can’t get excited about at least one of those names, then you’re just being difficult.
That said, it’s not just enough for me to encourage you to check out “Amazing Comic Con.” If neither Las Vegas nor comic conventions appeal to you, then chances are you’ve stumbled onto this blog by mistake and for that, I apologize. If, however, those things get your blood flowing in all the right directions to all the right body parts, I’d like to help.
Just getting there is the easy part. Las Vegas is literally an oasis of high-end resorts, full of every possible amenity meant to make you want to stay. There are any number of discount flights and vacation packages available, which you can find right here. Las Vegas wants you to be there. They’ve gone out of their way to make it as easy as possible.
Once you’re there, though, that’s when the real challenge starts. There’s so much to see and do in Las Vegas. There’s so much to see and do at a comic book convention. The human brain may or may not be equipped to handle so much spectacle, but that never stopped anyone from enjoying it as much as humanly possible.
So in the interest of encouraging everybody to go more comic cons and enjoy the sexy spectacle that is Las Vegas, here are a few tips on having an awesome comic con experience. Some of this may sound like common sense, but trust me. When you’re surrounded by comics, gambling, and beautiful women offering you free alcohol, you can’t expect to think straight. So here’s how to make the experience as awesome as it should be.
Tip #1: Arrive An Hour Early (But Not Much Earlier)
It’s always good to be proactive, but like bacon grease and ice cream, you can overdo it. In my experience, arriving an hour early, but not any earlier, works best. You won’t be at the front of the line, but you won’t be stuck at the back either.
If you arrive too early, you’ll get in first, but you won’t get much else. You’ll just be stuck standing around for hours on end, worried about losing your place in line. Odin help you if you have to go to the bathroom at any point. Comic cons are not like standing in line for a blockbuster movie. They’re in big, spacious convention centers. There’s plenty of room. Getting there really early won’t do much for you.
Now, the only exception to this is if there’s a very specific panel or event you want to attend. If that event is happening early or you know it’s going to get crowded fast, then showing up a little earlier would work. Outside that specific circumstance, don’t bother. You’ll just waste time and energy standing in line that you could put to so many other uses in a town like Las Vegas.
Tip #2: Carry Between $100 to $150 Cash (In Addition To Your Credit Card)
This is something I learned the hard way early on. At most comic cons these days, vendors do take credit cards and debit cards. For some merchandise though, as well as autographs and photo ops, they only accept cash. I’ve missed out on a few very critical autographs because I was stupid enough to not have enough cash. Don’t make that same mistake.
Again, most vendors still take credit cards. It’s not 1997, for crying out loud. Plus, unless you’re a high roller or cos-playing as Richie Rich, it’s not a good idea to have a lot of cash on you. Save that for the casinos. Unless you’re looking to buy something really rare, like one of Jack Kirby’s old pencils, $100 to $150 should do the trick.
Tip #3: Buy (And Keep Charged) An External Battery For Your Smartphone
This is probably the most serious tip I can offer. If you scoff at every other word I’ve written on this post, at least take this seriously. Make sure you have a fully-charged external battery for your smartphone and keep it on your person at all times. Even if you’re cos-playing as the scantily-clad Starfire, find a way to include an external battery.
At every con I’ve been to, I’ve seen huge swaths of people hover around wall outlets as though they’re the lone source of heat in a Siberian winter. People will literally fight each other to access an outlet to charge their phone or tablet. I’ve seen it happen. It can get pretty ugly, especially when they’re dressed as Mortal Kombat characters.
That’s why it’s prudent to invest in at least one external battery. It doesn’t matter where you get it. Just make sure it works and make sure it has at least two full charges. You’ll probably be taking a lot of photos and videos. If you’re going with friends, you’ll probably need to stay in touch with them somehow. If, by chance, you get a cute cos-players phone number, you better make damn sure your phone is active.
Again, and I can’t belabor this enough, make sure you’ve got a battery. Make sure you can charge your phone at a moment’s notice. Nothing kills the comic con experience faster than having a dead phone.
Tip #4: Make Sure You Can Store What You Bring (And Buy)
This is especially important for cos-players. If you’re going to wear a costume to “Amazing Comic Con,” even if it’s a small one, make sure you have a place to store it. The Las Vegas Convention Center, and most convention centers in general, have storage areas that you can use for a small fee. Unless you want to lug a ton of crap around, it’s a worthwhile investment.
I wore a costume to the New York Comic Con last year. It wasn’t a very bulky costume, but it became somewhat of an annoyance when I needed to change out of it for a panel. Not having a storage locker made that really difficult. I had to wait in line at a crowded bathroom to get out of it. That was not a pleasant experience.
It helps that the Las Vegas Convention Center is attached to a hotel. Even if you’re not staying there, the staff will go out of their way to help you store your crap, so long as the price is right. Las Vegas is a very service-oriented town. They will accommodate you, so long as you’re not insultingly cheap.
Storage lockers also are a must if you plan on buying a lot of gear. Whether it’s posters or collectors items, a locker ensures you can keep exploring the convention without lugging around all your stuff. If you don’t plan on buying much or don’t have much cash to spend, just bringing a simple backpack will often suffice.
Tip #5: Be Polite To Cos-Players (And Don’t Be A Dick)
One of the best parts of comic cons are the cos-players. They help make conventions the wonderful spectacles they are and in a city like Las Vegas, which was built on a foundation of spectacles, expect to see plenty of wonderful sights. For better or for worse, you’ll see men, women, and children dressed in some of the most astonishing costumes ever.
Most of these cos-players are happy to pose for a photo. Just being polite and asking nicely will suffice. Every cos-player I’ve met, male or female, have been wonderful. They will literally drop what they’re doing to pose for a photo. Some will even go out of their way to talk comics, which is something you just don’t get with a random Elvis impersonator.
“Amazing Comic Con,” and every con these days, makes a big deal about harassment. I don’t think that needs to be belabored here. If you’re going to be a dick to a cos-player, especially a female cos-player, you can expect to get thrown out or arrested. Remember, you’re in a big convention center full of people dressed as superheroes. Do you really think you’ll get away with being an asshole in that environment?
Tip #6: Know The Layout (And Note The Restrooms And Food Vendors)
Anyone who has ever had to navigate a convention center usually learns this the hard way. Some of these convention centers are huge. I got lost multiple times at the New York Comic Con because the building was so damn big. I’ve been to the Las Vegas Convention Center before. It’s one of the biggest on the west coast. Make sure you have a map of the place and always keep it handy.
I know that may be common sense, but having a map and using it right aren’t the same thing. I usually get a map at every convention center I go to, but those maps aren’t always easy to read. In my experience, it helps to get an official map of the entire convention center. That tends to be more detailed.
In addition, make a note of the restrooms and food vendors. Comic conventions tend to get really crowded. That means you’ll encounter many long lines at the restrooms. To avoid that, make a note of restrooms in areas that aren’t usually crowded. Sometimes you have to really go out of your way to find them, but when you really got to go, that knowledge can be invaluable.
The same goes for food vendors. I once stood in line for a half-hour just to get a small order of chicken and fries. It cost me nearly twenty bucks as well. Some food vendors will gouge you if you let them. If possible, make sure you eat a good meal before the convention and have a plan on where to get a bite when you need one. The less time you spend hungry and in line, the more time you’ll have to enjoy yourself.
These are just a few tips to help your “Amazing Comic Con” experience. Use them or don’t use them. If you can’t find a way to enjoy yourself at a comic con or in a city like Las Vegas, then you need help I’m not qualified to give. For everyone else, this is a beautiful convergence of pop culture and sex appeal. That’s a potent combination and in a town like Las Vegas, that’s saying something.