Turns out that Academy Award-winning documentary film director Morgan Spurlock, director of Super Size Me, is also a huge comic book fan. Spurlock has created Comic-Con Episode IV: A Fan’s Hope, a film documentary about the huge pop culture convention with an accompanying book from DK Publishing with hundreds of photographs from the event that will be released this month and featured on preview night at Comic-Con.
In a phone interview with Spurlock from his office in New York City, he said the book includes hundreds of color photographs of comics artists, publishers and comics professionals, comics shop owners, fans, and cosplayers. The color photographs were shot by photographer Alba Tull, wife of Legendary Pictures chairman Thomas Tull, who shot the celebrities, and by Peter McCabe, who shot pictures of the fans and cosplayers. DK is releasing a 196-page trade edition this month priced at $25 and a 226-page collector’s edition (5,000 copy limited edition) for $75 with 32 additional pages of content that will be on sale during Comic-Con’s preview night, Wednesday July 20 at the Sideshow Collectibles booth. Spurlock will be at the Sideshow booth on preview night along with Stan Lee, Harry Knowles and others involved in producing the film and the book.
The whole project to document Comic-con began in 2009 when Spurlock went to San Diego Comic-Con for the first time to begin filming The Simpson’s 20th Anniversary Special in 3-D!, looking to find Simpson’s “super fans” to film for the show. “While I was there,” he told PW Comics World, “I met Stan Lee, the legend!” Spurlock makes it clear that visiting Comic-Con, let alone meeting Stan Lee, was a spiritual pilgrimage for him. Spurlock said, “I went to kiss his ring and tell him that when I was a kid, he changed my life and made me realize that I could tell all the different kinds of weird adventure stories that were in my head.”
“Stan Lee says to me that we should make a documentary together and it should be about Comic-Con,” Spurlock said. At the same party, Spurlock said he ran into his agent, Robert Michelli from CAA. “I told him I want to make a movie about Comic-Con and he tells me I should meet another client of his—Joss Whedon!”
Spurlock said by the next morning he had contacted Comic-Con board member Mark Yturrlade and arranged to talk to the comic-con board about doing a documentary. “We met with everyone on the Board. We were told that every year someone wants to make a movie about Comic-con but they turn them down,” Spurlock said, “This time, they said, it might work.” The board was likely swayed by the lineup of producers Spurlock put together: Stan Lee, Ain’t It Cool News founder Harry Knowles, and Legendary Pictures chairman Thomas Tull, who turns out to be as big a comic book fan as Spurlock.
“This is the first time a documentary crew has been given full access to Comic-Con by the board,” Spurlock said. “We got access to the fans, the panels and to speakers.” And Spurlock said that a soon as the film was greenlit, “we knew we had to have a book to go along with it. A kind of yearbook that marked the experience of doing this film.” The nerdy serendipity around the fim continued, Spurlock said, when he met DK Publishing sales manager Abe Chang “at the bar at the Marriott. I told him about the movie and he said DK has to do this book. So when you see the movie you will see that Comic-Con is place where all kinds of crazy things can happen.”
The book is a photo-documentary that includes studio photographs of comic-con celebrities like Kevin Smith and Seth Green; as well as such comics artists as Frank Miller, Todd McFarlane and legendary mangaka Moto Hagio; comic book-identified movie stars like Seth Rogen, Thomas Jane and Thor director Kenneth Branagh. And there are scores of photos of hordes of fans taken on the exhibition floor and throughout the San Diego Convention Center. “We had a crew of about 175 for both the movie and the book, it’s the biggest crew I’ve ever worked with,” Spurlock told PW Comics World.
Spurlock said he was “finishing up” the film documentary “and there will be more announcements to come very soon about screenings.” Asked to describe Comic-con Episode IV: A Fan’s Hope—the Book—Spurlock said that for hard-core fans who’ve been to Comic-Con, “you’ll get to see what we already know; why Comic-Con is so great.”
For non-comics fans who have never been to Comic-Con but probably heard a great deal about it, he said: “Everyone who’s ever been to comic-con has already drunk the kool-aid. But we all know that it can be hard to explain it to people who have never been. The book is a primer for the film but the film will be a historical document that explains why Comic-Con is what it is; why we love it and what they’re missing.”