By Jonathan W. Gray
July 12, 2012 at 01:00 PM EDT
Jerod Harris/Getty Images

I am a college professor hired for my expertise in post-World War II American culture, which somehow led to me teaching an incredibly popular college course on comics and graphic novels. Despite growing up on comic books, until this year I had never been to San Diego Comic Con. Of course I’ve known about SDCC for what feels like my whole life, and I’ve certainly wanted to go. But I transitioned from a poor undergraduate to a poor grad student to a not-so-poor professor without ever having attended. I assumed that I would make the trip with my family when the kids were big enough to handle the crowds and the crazy. But it hadn’t happened yet, so when EW asked me to lend my particular and peculiar expertise to their coverage of SDCC 2012 I jumped at the chance. And here I am, finally, on a pilgrim to my chosen temple of culture.

I came up in a golden age of comics. No not THE golden age, c’mon now. But I used to go to the comic shop and pick up Frank Miller’s Daredevil, Alan Moore’s Swamp Thing, Chris Claremont’s X-Men, Marv Wolfman and George Perez’s Teen Titans. Now, these icons of my tween years are multi-platform brands. Moore, Miller, et al were not plotting to take over Hollywood like so many writers of today’s comics — it just sort of happened. And, despite all the movie studio money that depends on comics, this sort of organic movement from the margins to the center is still happening. Take John Layman and Rob Guillory’s Chew, which might be my favorite comic right now. Showtime has optioned the book for development into a series, but the idiosyncratic creator-owned project about an Asian single-dad detective with an unusual palate is a grass roots success. I’m happy that despite all the PR dollars that now get lavished on SDCC, organic growth like this is still possible in the 21st century synergistic entertainment industry.

Still, this is all new to me, and I’m excited to be seeing it from the inside. Because I’m part of team EW, I received a list of all the celebs who have confirmed they are appearing this year. That’s crazy. Not only am I going to see 30 minutes of Django Unchained, I already know if Leo is going to show up for the Q&A. It would have been enough to have waited outside of Hall H for hours with all the other fans. Which, by the way I’m still totally doing. The Django ticket is hot, with seemingly 1/2 of EW lined up to cover it, so I’ve got to get up early and get on line like everyone else.

And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Jonathan W. Gray is an assistant professor of English and Gender Studies at John Jay College/CUNY. Follow him @elmcitytree.