Published on September 21st, 2020 | by Robert Barry Francos


Comic Book Junkies

Comic Book Junkies is a comedy about fans and cosplayers who are thrown into a spin when the Coronavirus cancels San Diego Comic Con 2020.

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In the current pandemic crisis, has Zoom become the new artistic toolbox launch-pad, especially in the cinema field?

Lenny Schwartz is a writer who has a history of presenting plays about comic book originators, such as his production Co-Creator, the story of Bill Finger, who helped bring Batman to life. So Lenny, who is well-versed in all things comics-related, has now given us an original idea that interweaves the fantastical with the everyday, in a comedy superhero low-budget adventure spectacular, co-directed and edited by Nathan Suher.

The style of this film is that we are introduced to the cast through a series of Zoom chats, phone video services and mini-cameras, who one-by-one introduce the next one. But rather than discussing the pandemic (though you know it’s coming), the topic at hand at the start in Act 1 is them getting tickets online to the San Diego Comic Con, arguable the comic convention.

One of the nice things about this is that the fans are all ages and genders, not just some guys living in their mom’s basement (though there is at least one of those here, too). While there is a lot of inside joking, talking about particular artists like Jack Kirby and filmmaker Joss Whedon, honestly, you don’t have to be a follower of any particular brand or universe (e.g., Marvel or DC) to find the humor in these characters. In fact, not all of those presented are even comic book fans, but are involved with those do are. The palate is quite wide. It’s the level of fanaticism that is the focus, in my opinion. For example one person complains about not caring about the convention because it is silly, but she is just as fervent about water polo (you heard me).

A fun way to watch this is to pay attention to the room behind the person talking, often filled with interesting memorabilia with anything from Batman to Star Wars paraphernalia. It’s even curious when there is an absence of such. It’s like walking by someone’s house after dark and their front window shade is open, and you can see a little bit of their lives. A true mixture of fiction and reality.

The first part of the film spans a few months, from pre-COIVD to the epicenter, with the cancellation of the Comic Con, and the freak-out that follows. This wisely follows the fans’ reaction to the termination, rather than focusing on the misguided and dangerous anti-maskers who deny.

Act 2 starts with, I kid you not – after all, this is about comic books and superhero worship – the Earth being swallowed by some kind of black hole of white light. Now evil aliens are on the prowl. So, who ya gonna call? Since superheroes aren’t real, is it up to the cosplay heroes to defend the earth?

This dimension is clearly a metaphor for the isolation of distancing, the economy crashing, the lack of governmental oversight and care, and a general mixture of malaise, ennui, and terror of this virus culture. And since there are lots of heroes and hero-wannabes, there are also a number of potential supervillains who side with the darker forces here as well (Samantha Acampura has a funny, over the top moment as a follower of the dark side in what appears to me a Harry Potter cosplay). Act 3 is the transition to post-black hole that runs the gamut from startingly bad to deliciously hilarious. For example, one person ponders, “I just paid off my 30-year student loan and now space aliens are invading. Just perfect.” In another, an alien states, laughing hysterically, “Not even David Caruso can save you.”

The acting is… well, it’s a bunch of cosplayers, actors, directors, filmmakers, artists and every-day folk so you’re going to have a wide range of skills, but each bit is no more than two minutes, so like they say about the weather in these parts, “If you don’t like it, it’ll change in a minute.” The kids near the end tend to dominate the storyline and are great, and there is a wonderful rant by Mr. Troma himself, Lloyd Kaufman (the man is a treasure, I tell ya!). After the credits, wait for a spooky, demonic end piece cameo with Michael Thurber as Mr. Dark.

The film usually respects the characters, even the fanboys of both genders (we need a better, more inclusive term). Yeah, they can be a little wacko, as I have seen first-hand, but mostly it’s a collection of people who have focused in on a single thing with the passion of those ammosexuals, except a comic book isn’t going to drive a truck into someone for their beliefs.

This is a bit of a miss-mash and sometimes the storyline is a bit WTF, but it’s inherently and dominantly fun and watchable, even though it touches on something tragic at the same time. I enjoyed it from beginning to end.

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About the Author

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has lived in Saskatoon for over a decade, having spent most of his life in New York City. Part of the New York punk scene from nearly its inception, he has been known to hang out with musicians, artists and theatrical types. His fanzine, FFanzeen, was published from 1977 through 1988, giving him opportunity to see now famous bands in their early stages. Media, writing and photography have been a core interest for most of his life, leading to a Masters in Media Ecology from New York University. This has led to travel to Mexico, England, the Netherlands, Germany, Poland, Israel and Egypt, and recently he taught a university class in media theory in China.

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