Mister Comic Con International: Interviewing Tony B. Kim
written by Justin Prince (@prince_justin)
If you've ever been to Comic Con International, followed announcements leading up to Comic Con International, or have been a part of this convention since its more humble days, you may recognize the name. Tony B. Kim, better known by his Twitter handle @Crazy4ComicCon, has been a staple in the Comic Con International community over the past few years. Held annually in beautiful San Diego, CA; Comic Con International is the premier pop culture event on the planet. Thousands of fervent fans attend yearly and badges sell out almost instantaneously.
With geek culture now standing at the forefront of pop culture, we the geek community have a responsibility to be a positive influence when representing this amazing sub-culture. Tony is the prime example of being a geek and also standing for positive, a true "lifted geek," the definition of what we strive for here at LG.
Lifted Geek: First of, introduce yourself to our g33ks.
Tony B. Kim: I’m Tony B Kim, aka Crazy4ComicCon. As a 9 year veteran to Comic-Con, I am a writer, Tweeter, and moderator for SDCC and many other conventions.
LG: You've been a staple to Comic Con International for a while now, I knew of you before I even attended my first SDCC in 2011. What started you on this path to be a voice for Comic Con International?
Tony: I was fortunate enough to start my Comic-Con journey since 2006. I was able to experience the explosive growth years from 2007-09. While I loved the show, i realized the pain and confusion was also growing for the fans. My desire was to write down some general tips in a blog in hopes of alleviating some of the frustration for a first timer. While no one could have seen exactly how popular Comic-Con would become, I did feel in my heart that once the world discovered how special it was, it would never return to the simpler days of 2006. I started between the 2009-2010 shows and slowly discovered that there were others that were ‘crazy 4 Comic-Con’ and that my site was becoming a useful resource for first timers and veterans alike.
LG: You've been very vocal about how the community has to come together, how do you feel geek culture has changed over the last decade?
Tony: There has never been more of a demand for comic conventions then than there are today. Now there is a 'comic con’ occurring in some part of the world every weekend of the year. If you look at the top grossing films of all time, they are all sic-fi, superhero, and fantasy genre films. Nerds and geeks have become the shapers of pop culture and the mass consumers for the comics, TV, and film industries. We are also a tech savvy community and have successfully adopted and utilized social media platforms like Twitter into the Comic-Con experience. This has all helped us not only to mobilize our tribe but to have a voice.
LG: I love your views on the community reporting their experiences, why do you prefer the notion of multiple voices over one large empire?
Tony: Ultimately, what makes our Comic-Con community unique is the diversity of experiences. There are so many interests and passions that no one’s story is exactly the same. So I believe in harnessing the power of the tribe to express the beauty and awesomeness of all the aspects of Comic-Con. I am especially passionate about inspiring and encouraging young writers to create their own platform and discover their voice. If we pool our resources and collective wisdom, we become better together. Because of the breadth of Comic-Con, I don’t believe a single source of information or news best serves the fans. Instead, my hope and dream is to help unleash an army of creators to write, tweet, and Vlog about what they love the most.
LG: Now I won't beat around the bush, but I won't spend too much time on this either. You recently shared your experience working with the Unofficial Comic Con blog and explained why you split, in a nut shell what rubbed you wrong the most about how their organization was run?
Tony: I don’t want to go to far into it, that’s why I shared the details in my recent blog post [link]. I also don’t want to encourage silly politics or the notion of a ‘con war’. I am just passionate about the fans and I feel personally very protective. There are a millions of nerd and geek website out there. Just reporting news is not enough to rise about all the noise out there. In order to stand above the rest, you have to create with truth, integrity, and conviction. Whenever those values are compromised within our con community, it’s hard for me to sit on my hands and watch it have a negative impact. I am far from perfect but I am very committed to do (and write) about whatever is needed, no matter how hard, in order to benefit the fans.
LG: In the aftermath of your post, the #BlameTony hashtag hit Twitter hard, how did it even start?
Tony: I guess I was being unreasonably criticized for a certain problem at the show. So I tweeted out a general apology for the hotdogs at the convention center. From that point, the fans started blaming me for the long lines, elusive Exclusives, feet blisters, and more. They used #BlameTony as the rally cry and a sign of support. The followers of the site are soooo awesome and it meant so much to me that they were willing to throw me under the bus for the most creative problems. It was another example of how the larger tribe can work together to diffuse and solve problems.
LG: There was some truly funny posts in #BlameTony, do you have a favorite amongst the many you received?
Tony: I think being blamed for the cancellation of Firefly was the funniest one to me. Someone also blamed me for Hayden Christiansen’s Anakin Skywalker- which, I can’t lie, that was a little painful ;)v [ED NOTE: that was me bro... but still funny yeah?]
LG: Let's touch on a bit of the way-back. If you'll step into my Tardis, tell me about your childhood and upbringing.
Tony: I grew up as a child of immigrant parents. Being a young Korean kid in a very mono-ethnic culture in Dallas, Texas was not exactly easy. I felt marginalized and misunderstood. I turned to comics and genre films like Star Trek and Star Wars to help cope with the pain. In a lot of ways, Superman and Wonder Woman were like my parents. From them I found my moral center and learned the values of truth, justice, and the American way. As a teen, I became intensely involved in these hobbies and was a passionate evangelists to others. I always felt a little weird or different but have finally felt vindicated because of the current geek renaissance that we are enjoying today.
LG: What was your earliest memory where you discovered your geekier interests?
Tony: There is so much. I can’t even imagine a time where my imagination wasn’t running wild in multiple genres. However, the thing that really started it all was Star Trek. From TOS to the Motion Picture in 1979, I first discovered a universe I could explore. Not only were there movies and the TV show, but and endless supply of comics, books, and technical manuals. I was proud of the fact that I knew more about Star Trek then anyone- not that anyone cared. However, it would eventually be the foundation of who I would become.
LG: Did you ever face ridicule from your peers in school because of your geekier interests?
Tony: I know I stopped wearing cloaks to school because the bullies could easily grab them. Oh for sure. Between being one of the only minorities and into all these geeky things, I got ridiculed from time to time. Fortunately, because of the Asian karate stereotype, bullies kept their distance (and I made sure to sell it). Fortunately, I found a small group of friends that shared my interests so we had each other’s back.
LG: What is your "geek?" For clarification, what genres of geekdom are your thing? Are you a gamer? An anime fan? Etc?
Tony: Two main areas. While I love Marvel- especially the Ultimate universe, I am a DC guy at heart. To me, Superman is the ultimate immigrant. Coming from another world, he had to learn how to embrace living in multiple cultures while trying to discover his ultimate purpose. I really identified with his story and it helped me navigate some difficult times. My second love is the sci-fi genre like Star Trek and Star Wars. If it has aliens or robots in it- I am there!
LG: Is there anything the geeky kids find popular these days you just don't get? For example, I just can't get the whole Homestuck fandom, perhaps I'm too old for it or something.
Tony: I am not into the vampire thing- and I am not talking about just Twilight. As a whole, I have not been ‘bitten’ despite multiple attempts. It’s ok, I need that time to eat and shower anyways.
LG: How do you feel geek culture has "leveled up" over the last decade?
Tony: While before it was seen as detrimental, I think it is now an asset to have geek interests. For instance, it’s a great way to network and create business opportunities. Once you make a connection with others about a certain fandom, it tends to speed up the trust quicker. I think it’s also easier for guys and girls to date and connect. I also believe we are early adopters of technology so we are quick to implement new social media platforms and tools. If there is a new way to spread our love for something, we will use it!
LG: Where do you think it can still improve?
Tony: We are a cynical bunch. I am guilty of it to, but it’s easy to become negative about a new casting announcement or a gender change in a character. We have to learn to be open minded and help the pop culture world progress into the future.
LG: You're also an advocate for cosplayers of any race or ethnicity cosplaying characters they love, you even speak on panels, how did you get involved with a movement like that?
Tony: Like I mentioned early, I have experienced lot of pain and confusion as a youth in the area of culture. However, I have found that the idea of ‘culture confusion’ is integrated within many of our popular genre stories. By telling our stories and celebrating the similarities, I see it as a real opportunity to for healing and growth to occur. Comic-Cons area fertile soil for that to occur. About 18 months ago, I started my Battle for Multicultural Heroes panel and found that it has become a very enlightening and therapeutic experience for many. I don’t know where it will go but looking forward to the future. I am also grateful for all the support and love that it has received from fans.
LG: The famous bag cosplay is something that took the internet by storm. How did you even conceive turning your old Comic Con bags into a costume?
When the whole phenomenon first surfaced about 5 years ago, I was immediately fascinated. I have not been a cosplayer in the past but knew that if I were to ‘come out’ it would be in a WB bag costume. Fast forward to the future, I have been able to make costumes the past two years with current WB bags thanks to a very talented friend of mine. Now I have people asking me about how to do it and what I plan on next year. I didn’t plan on it, but I think it’s becoming my thing- which makes sense since I am crazy 4 Comic-Con!
LG: Your growth in this subculture has been impressive, but in meeting you you're such a cool guy, how do you manage to stay humble? What do you tell yourself to remind yourself to stay humble?
Tony: Ha! Thanks so much- seriously, thanks so much. I dunno. I just know at heart that I am a nerdy little kid like everyone else. We are all have the same insecurities, issues, challenges, and faults. We need each other and I know we are better together. The fact that ANYONE says they are touched or impacted by something I wrote still blows me away. I hope I can have the honor of serving the con community for many years to come. I believe they are the very best fan base of any sub culture and I am proud to be associated with them.
LG: In closing, do you have a personal message you'd like to share with our readers here at Lifted Geek?
Tony: It’s important to do good. Much of what we do is mass consume- whether it’s comics, TV, film, or the internet, we absorb a LOT of content. So I believe that giving back is important for our fandom. Specifically at Comic-Con, many people have shared stories of not only spreading generosity but being the recipient of generosity. Not only is it a good feeling but it really can make a difference in another attendees experience. But beyond the Con, we need to do more. Whether it’s creating blogs, raising money for charities, helping kids in need, or whatever it is, we have a responsibility to help others less fortunate. Remember, with great power, comes… well, I know I don’t have to finish that line with you all :)
LG: Thanks Tony, it was a pleasure interviewing you.
Tony: Thanks so much- and thanks so much for what you are doing in the geek-o-spehere. Keep up the great work and nerd on!
And that, my sweet lil g33ks... was Tony B. Kim. As crazy for Comic Con as many of the fans that attend year after year. The man belongs at Comic Con, it just wouldn't feel the same without him and the fact that he stands for inspiring good in fellow geeks, his influence will be felt for years to come. The faces and names may change, and everything has its time... but it's undeniable that Mister Tony B. Kim is just as much Comic Con as you or I. Make sure to stay up on all things Crazy 4 Comic Con by checking out Tony's Blog. Stay Frosty Tony... and Get Lifted.