San Diego Comic-Con 2023 was… different? Certainly. Weird? Arguably.
With the Writers’ Guild of America (WGA) and Screen Actors’ Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Actors (SAG-AFTRA) strikes, the year was very light on celebrity presence, as writers and actors were both prohibited from promoting their AMPTA projects. For those who were there to promote unrelated projects, though, it was their time to shine. And in a lot of ways, this felt like Kevin Smith’s biggest and best year at the con yet.
Smith held a series of live episodes throughout the week at the Mooby’s Pop-Up activation held in the Tin Roof in downtown San Diego, as well as photo ops, signings, and more. We were on hand for a live episode of Fat Man Beyond, which Smith co-hosts with his friend Marc Bernardin.
I decided to grab a bite to eat before the show. I didn’t book a reservation for any Mooby Meals, but there was no stand-by line, and they were taking orders. Admittedly, I wasn’t thrilled by the way the food was described, but I couldn’t deny the smell of yumminess coming from the kitchen. My wife and I split an order of chicken fingers, and we were later joined by a friend, who ordered a burger. This wasn’t the greasy “fair food” I was expecting; this was a well-prepared meal that didn’t skimp just because it’s Comic-Con. We got our food fast, but it wasn’t fast food, and it was delicious. We had no problems finding a place to sit, especially if we didn’t mind sharing a long table with one or two other patrons. If we did mind, there were still plenty of table and booth options.
They immediately addressed that giant inflatable elephant in the room and explained to the audience that they could do what they were doing by not representing or promoting their union work. Smith could, however, promote Jay and Silent Bob: The Cruise coming up in February of 2024. They could also broadcast their podcast, since it isn’t owned or distributed by a major company involved in either strike. If anyone can find a way to perform at SDCC and not get in trouble for it, it’s the King of Independent Media, Kevin Smith. It was fun to hear him address his Hall H panel, which he already had plans to cancel before the strikes, and how that panel has been both a blessing and a curse for him. He admitted he gets a great deal of validation from his audience, and it’s disheartening for him to see half the hall get up and leave just before his panel (especially in 2015, when everyone got up and left just before his panel to attend a once-in-a-lifetime Star Wars concert in the Embarcadero).
One of the topics they could talk about was movies they liked or didn’t like. I was there with a friend and former shipmate, who just explained to me that he already owned the new The Flash movie strictly for Michael Keaton’s Batman. I haven’t watched it yet, but of course I’ve heard all the hype (positive and negative) surrounding it and decided to wait for it to come on one of the streaming providers I’m currently subscribing to (please don’t judge me). As if they heard our conversation earlier, Smith admitted he’d seen the movie four times already. When Bernardin remarked that Smith was probably the only person in the room who could say that, you see my hand eagerly calling attention to my friend, and a rapport was formed over a love/hate relationship with The Flash.
Clocking in at just under an hour and forty minutes, Smith and Bernardin clearly had a lot to talk about and wanted to take the time to talk about it. One particular poignant moment was during an Audience Q&A, when someone asked them what their favorite “hat”, or role, was. In other words, do they prefer to be a writer, actor, director, etc., and why? Smith struggled with his answer (five sunset hurricanes will do that to a person), but was ultimately helped with “fan”. At heart, Smith said he will always be a fan, and fandom is at the center of everything he creates. Bernardin, on the other hand, took it a step further when he said, “Parent.” He moved the audience and himself to tears by describing how he prefers to “give of [himself] before giving to [himself]”, how he wishes everyone well with a, “Be good,” á là E.T., which hit everyone right in their feels, and how much he would like to see more genuine kindness in the world.
You can find Fat Man Beyond, Episode 405: LIVE from San Diego Comic-Con 2023 (and my hand) on YouTube.