Geek Is Chic: How Comic Con Became a Pop Culture Phenomenon

May 28, 2014

People who attend Comic Con and Star Trek conventions -- or nerds in general -- used to be the butt of jokes, including a famous "Saturday Night Live" skit by William Shatner, where he tells "Trekkers" to get a life.

Now "fandom" is a huge industry. It generates more than $500 million by one estimate, and is growing in both revenue and attendance. 

Credit Pat Loika / Creative Commons

If you look at the major announcements from last year's San Diego Comic Con, it may as well be a listing of the coming year's major action movies and TV shows: "X-Men: Days of Future Past," the Batman/Superman movie, Marvel's "Guardians of the Galaxy" and Avengers movies, "Captain America: the Winter Soldier," AMC's "The Walking Dead." Conventions, and the people who go to them, are being taken seriously.

Hartford is joining in as well. This weekend is Hartford's first Comic Con. This hour, we talk about how geeks have risen in status and prominence through Comic Con, how comic cons have changed over the years, and what this means for pop culture overall.

See a video of Colin giving a tour of WNPR's 6th floor to the Connecticut Ghostbusters.

What do you think? Comment below, email colin@wnpr.org or tweet @wnprcolin.


  • Kaare Andrews is an award-winning comic book writer and artist. His most recent work include the bestsellers Iron Fist: The Living Weapon, and Spider-Man: REIGN, both from Marvel Comics. He’s also the director of an upcoming movie, Cabin Fever: Patient Zero, which hits theaters this summer. He’ll be coming to the Hartford Comic Con this weekend.
  • Matthew Smith is a professor of communication at Wittenberg University in Springfield, Ohio. Each summer he teaches a summer field study course, where he takes students across the country to explore Comic-Con International in San Diego. His latest book is a collection of the best of his projects from this program and it’s called It Happens at Comic-Con! Ethnographic Studies of Popular Culture Phenomenon.
  • John Kantor and Eric Gunther are members of the Connecticut Ghostbusters.  It’s a nonprofit charity and costuming group, servicing Hartford, New Haven and Fairfield counties. They’ve appeared at various comic cons for charity, and they’ll also be at the Hartford Comic Con this weekend.