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Everyday heroes turn weary as Comic-Con ends

Time to take off the superhero capes for another year: San Diego's enormous Comic-Con gathering has come to an end.
/ Source: Reuters

They came, they bought, they stood in long lines and as the sprawling comic book convention Comic-Con drew to a close on Sunday, capes dragged, makeup ran, and thousands of previously chipper superheroes looked a little ragged.

Over the past four days, the San Diego convention center has been a mecca for 125,000 fans who came from around the world -- many dressed as their favorite superheroes -- in search of all manner of comics-related books, movies, games, toys, information and free products.

They packed screenings of movies with names like “Hamlet 2” and saw promotional trailers for other titles such as “The Spirit.” They stood in lines that snaked around the building -- sometimes for hours -- to glimpse movie stars including Kiefer Sutherland, Keanu Reeves and Carmen Electra.

By many accounts, sales of toys, video games, T-shirts and other memorabilia were brisk, though less so than in recent years due to the current economic downturn, vendors said.

Daryl Graham, 37, an animation student from San Diego, said he found the latest super power action figures in just the right sizes to add to a collection he has been building since junior high school.

“As a collector, you want all your action figures to be even when you display them. You don’t want your Batman an inch taller than your Spider-Man,” Graham said.

But others expressed disappointment with what they see as the increasing commercialism of Comic-Con. They say the convention, devoted to celebrating comic book art, has been co-opted in recent years by large companies and Hollywood studios generating buzz for new movies and related products.

This year, scores of films were promoted ranging in genre from sci-fi and horror to comedy. Screenings and promotional trailers were shown, free items were handed out, and fans were drawn into scores of special exhibits.

“I only come for the comics and I think what has happened here is sad,” said Robert Farrell, who has attended Comic-Con since 1975. He noted most traditional comics dealers appeared to be relegated to the edges of the cavernous exhibit hall. “I won’t be coming back next year,” he said.

Dale Roberts of Kentucky, who has sold vintage comic books at Comic-Con for the last 12 years, said traditional comic book fans and vendors “are feeling marginalized.”

“Comic-Con will tell you that what we have is a perception problem and that comics have not been diminished in any way, they have just changed form,” said a third vendor, Chuck Rozanski. He has been coming to Comic-Con since 1973 and says he has sold more than $100 million in comic books.

“We built this house and suddenly we’re finding our furniture on the lawn. We let these rich relatives in and suddenly we’re not good enough to live here anymore,” he said.

A spokeswoman for Comic-Con was not immediately available to comment.