When the San Diego Comic-Con started in 1979, it was 400 comic enthusiasts gathered in a small section of a local hotel. Three decades later, it’s a major pop culture fixture, numbering over 125,000 attendees and filling the San Diego Convention Center to the brim. Think of it as Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory with superheroes instead of sweets, “Star Wars” aficionados instead of Oompa Loompas. A world of pure imagination, indeed.

One aspect of the event that can get easily overlooked, though, is the religious and spiritual content. But it’s there in spades, including a “Spirituality in Comics” panel moderated by Leo Partible, author of “Behind the Scenes: Insiders on Faith, Film & Culture.”
Though sponsored by the Christian Comics Arts Society, the talk included believers of all types, such as “Sabrina the Teenage Witch” writer Holly Golightly, herself a practicing witch. (“I read Beliefnet every day!” she gleefully noted. “I love taking the quizzes.”) “I’m a good Christian pastor’s kid,” said fellow panelist Cory Edwards, director of “Hoodwinked,” “but I’m not exactly making a Christian product.” Scott Wong, President of Brethren Entertainment, agreed that “what is outwardly ‘religious’ for someone might be utterly confusing to another individual.” “Alter Ego”‘s P.C. Hamerlinck had the most succinct viewpoint: “To be spiritually minded is Life and Peace.”

This was not the final word, of course, with the Christian Comic Arts Society Panel taking place on Sunday and faith-related wares of every sort available on the huge exhibitor’s floor. Attendees could purchase independent and small press publications like the straightforward “Eye Witness” series from Head Press or the more whimsical “God the Dyslexic Dog” from Bliss On Tap. (Yes, it’s exactly what it sounds like–God manifesting as man’s best friend.) More mainstream items were also easy to find, such as “The Lone and Level Sands,” “Cairo,” “Testament,” “Devi,” “Kingdom Come,” “Persepolis,” “Blankets,” and more.
In fact, scratch the surface just slightly, and the convention revealed a large focus on the spiritual and the faithful. Comic book superstar Grant Morrison announced that he would be reworking the epic story of the Mahabharata for Virgin Comics as the animated “MBX.” Fans from across the world traveled to celebrate the spiritual messages of “Lost,” “Star Wars,” and “Battlestar Galactica.”
It was, in almost every sense of the word, an annual pilgrimage–the success of generations’ geek crusades. Worship, though, began at $35 per day. And beware of the Wookiees.
–written by A. Dave Lewis

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