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Morgan Spurlock On Comic-Con: The Movie
The documentary filmmaker on his geekiest film yet

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Morgan Spurlock On Comic-Con: The Movie

"Think locker room," laughs Morgan Spurlock. "Or, better still, think dirty sock." Mid-way through our chat about his Comic Con movie, Empire has raised the subject of the infamous Stink Line that hums over the event - and its mysterious source of power. "You see, some people change their costumes every day. Most go wearing the same outfit, so by Day Three, walking around in that same old Hulk costume, things start to get a little on the, er, funky side." Be afraid. Spurlock's movie is an achievement of Marti Di Bergi proportions: a documentary that captures the sights, the sounds and, yes, the smells of Comic-Con.

Since its inception in 1970, Shel Dorf's comic-book conference has grown like a planet-hungry Galactus. At the first Comic Con, 500 were expected; 145 turned up. This year, 125,0000 fans will descend on San Diego's Convention Center for the geekiest show on earth - a fanboy mecca of superhero worship that caters for every faith, cape and creed imaginable. To the layman, the spectacle looks like a Technicolor nerd circus. To Hollywood, it's a hype machine with a captive audience. Kevin Smith is wary of Con's increasing geeksploitation. But what Spurlock sees is an absurd outpouring of geek love.

You know, there was a time when you'd laugh at these guys and girls as outsiders. Now they're some of the most powerful people in Hollywood.
"My overwhelming feeling was that the mystique has now become one of acceptance," says Spurlock. "You know, there was a time when you'd laugh at these guys and girls as outsiders. Now they're some of the most powerful people in Hollywood. Personally, I think it could get even bigger; it's sold out every year since 2008. Comic Con is massive, but it's still not as big as Comiket in Tokyo. That's /three times/ the size of Comic-Con - or, imagine this, half-a-million geeks."

Shot in 2010 (aka Tron Year) Comic-Con: The Movie, or Comic-Con Episode IV: A Fan's Hope to give it the full nerdy scrolling title, follows six attendees over the four-day event: two aspiring artists, a comic-book dealer, a cos-play performer and a geeky boy and girlfriend. In terms of size and ambition, it's the biggest movie Spurlock's been involved with. "Oh, it was huge - 15 crews, two cameras each, me bouncing around working 21 hour days. But the rewards were immediate - I got to watch the narratives unfold, all in real-time." Of the 2,000 applicants, it's fair to say Spurlock hit the geekpot. There are surprising turns, genuine drama, a marriage proposal, heartbreaking rejections and, in dealer Chuck Rozanski, an agitated suspense as he tries to sell the first edition of Red Raven, the rarest of all Marvel comics. A comic so rare, in fact, that hardly anybody has heard of it, let alone seen it. Asking price: a Dr Evil-esque half-a-million dollars.

While he doesn't appear, or even narrate, the documentary still has that unmistakable Morgan Spurlock Feeling. In fact, it's heaving with priceless details that capture the surreal jamboree that is Comic Con: the platoons of plus-size Bobba Fetts, the Princess Leia bikini pageants, the photographer shouting, "Stormtroopers! You're not smiling!"

What's notable by its absence, however, is any sense of snark. Born out of a chance meeting with Stan Lee (if you ever bump into Spurlock, ask him for his Lee impersonation), the production team is "a geek dream team": Lee, Joss Whedon, web walrus Harry Knowles... "Joss thought we were just gonna come in and make fun of the freakshow," says Spurlock, "but it didn't take long to win him round." Mainly because Spurlock is, in fact, a closet comic-book geek himself. "Oh, I've read them - Spider-man, X-Men, GI Joe... But what I was most into was Plastic Man. I mean, /the/ most uncool comic-book! I had a huge collection... Well, up until my mom threw them all away."

Whether you're a fanboy, fangirl or curious onlooker, the film's great success is in its affable assertion that, ultimately, obsession is just different-coloured anoraks. Spurlock also reveals that he's still in regular contact with his subjects. Chuck, you'll be relieved to hear, has finally sold his Red Raven comic. And Eric, one of the two aspiring artists at the Comic-Con job fair, is now actually working for Spurlock on a superhero project.

And, in a bizarre marketing twist for the movie, along with Stan Lee, Joss Whedon and Harry Knowles, Morgan Spurlock now has his very own action figure. Which begs the question - what's his superpower? "Oh, it's gotta be something like The Moustache Of Death or... no, that's not right... The Moustache Of Knowledge? Yeah! Behold, I am the Moustache Of Knowledge!" Pleased to meet you: we're Empire - but you can call us Stink Line Boy.

Interview by Simon Crook

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