Comic-Con, Korra, and Being an Introvert

San Diego Comic-Con can be an inspiring, magical place or a hive of frustration and discontent, depending on your expectations going in. It’s been both for me over the years. I attended my first Comic-Con in ’97 or ’98 (I can’t remember exactly…)  At that time, it was a pretty big affair, but nothing like what it is now. Those were the good old days, when you could get a pass the day of, see any panel without waiting in line for days, walk the floor relatively unimpeded, and maybe even score a hotel room last minute. According to Wikipedia, attendance those years was a mere 42,000. By comparison, last year drew over 130,000. Ah, the simpler times…

Comic-Con 2004: Our very first Avatar panel drew a couple hundred people.

Comic-Con 2004: Our very first Avatar panel drew a couple hundred people. (From left to right): The moderator, Bryan Konietzko, Lauren MacMullan, Anthony Lioi, me, Dave Filoni, Giancarlo Volpe, Eric Coleman

In mentally preparing myself for this year’s con, I watched Morgan Spurlock’s Comic Con Episode IV: A Fan’s Hope, which is now streaming on Hulu. I remember hearing that he was shooting the doc at the 2010 SDCC, which was the first year we were there promoting Korra. It’s a great story about fans and creators that depicts a small, but from my experience accurate, portrayal of life at the con.

Last year, we had our first panel in Ballroom 20, which holds around 5,000 people.  Photo by Bryan, who was sitting next to me. Behind me are Joaquim Dos Santos, Janet Varney, David Faustino, PJ Byrne, Seychelle Gabriel, and Andrea Romano

Last year, we had our first panel in Ballroom 20, which holds around 5,000 people. Photo by Bryan, who was sitting next to me. To my right are Joaquim Dos Santos, Janet Varney, David Faustino, PJ Byrne, Seychelle Gabriel, and Andrea Romano

I have a love/hate relationship with Comic-Con, but watching this film made me appreciate what it has become and why it’s important to popular culture. Sure, it’s  more crowded and Hollywood-focused than it used to be. But through the people he followed, Spurlock showed how despite all that, it’s still a place where fans come to meet the creators of the things they love, express themselves through cosplay, and pursue their dreams as artists and future creators. The people interviewed in the film expressed how the Con was a place where they felt like they belonged. They didn’t feel weird or worry they’d be made fun of. They felt like they could really be themselves, which is a pretty beautiful thing.

Me and Bryan signing posters at Comic-Con 2004

Me and Bryan signing posters at Comic-Con 2004

It’s amazing to look back at that first SDCC I went to and where I am now. At the time, I never imagined being part of panels attended by thousands of people, or sitting at a booth where hundreds line up to get my autograph and picture. The thing is, I’ve never sought attention like that. Historically, I’ve pretty much tried to avoid being noticed. Part of that was from being self-conscious and fearing what others would think of me. The other part was from being an introvert. But that’s the amazing thing about Comic-Con, it can bring out the extrovert in all of us introverts (who I’m guessing make up 99% of the attendees.)

Susan Cain wrote a great book about introverts called Quiet. (She also did a TEDtalk about it.) I highly recommend it for all you introverts out there. Two big takeaways for me:

1. We live in a society that worships and rewards extroverts, despite the fact that many of the great innovations and creative leaps in the world were made by introverts.

2. We are born with certain personality traits, but we aren’t bound by them.  Cain writes, “Introverts are capable of acting like extroverts for the sake of work they consider important, people they love, or anything they value highly.”

Me and Bryan in an early interview at the Nickelodeon booth

Me and Bryan in an early interview at the Nickelodeon booth, before we became the media-savvy guys we are now.

That’s why, at an event like Comic-Con, where thousands of eyes are on me, I’m able to overcome my natural shyness and become extroverted for a while. I love Korra and the world I’ve helped create and I’m passionate about sharing it with others and meeting  fans of the show. It’s an exhausting event for sure, but always rewarding, especially when a fan shares his or her personal story about how Avatar has touched their life in some meaningful way.

Amon and Beifong cosplayers pose for Bryan

Amon and Beifong cosplayers pose for Bryan — Comic-Con 2012

I’m looking forward to this year’s Con more than any other. Book 2 is coming together beautifully and I can’t wait to finally share some of what we’ve been up to since last year. Hope to see you there!

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32 thoughts on “Comic-Con, Korra, and Being an Introvert

  1. Saw introvert and immediately thought of Quiet :) I’m an INFJ but I get totally jazzed if I get to speak about my passions and have the opportunity to engage in deep discussions. I do need time to recharge my batteries afterwards though!

      1. Thanks very much! I’m currently in the midst of doing an extended look at Hayao Miyazaki’s Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind epic graphic novel. I consider it his definitive story, and hope you have a chance to check it out.

  2. I wish I could be there to see you guys. I’m from Venezuela and I wanted to let you know that Avatar indeed has changed my everything since it first started airing in Nickelodeon LatinAmerica back en 2005… I have managed to acquire every original season and comic, it’s been so difficult to me, but I did it out of pure love and passion for this series you guys created, all my friends call me Avatar Aang now, just ‘cuz I’m bald and my personality is a lot like Aang’s! I’m 21yo and I’ll try to follow this year’s SDCC just because of my excitement of feeling you guys up there in your “throne” making us all feel this burning passion for the Avatar Universe… I love you Mike, and I really wish I can meet you and Bryan someday, I know I will! I’m writing this just so you know that you’ve changed lives ALL OVER THE WORLD!

      1. Thank you Mike! I freaked out when I saw that you replied to my comment! Keep up the perfection, can’t wait ’til next week to find out some news!

  3. Great post Mike. I definitely think your comment about introverts becoming extroverts is correct. I’ve always been a little shy and am able to really open up when I talk to people who share the same interests as myself. Down at college, I started hosting this anime podcast with a group of my friends. When I’m on the show, I have to be a bit of a different person because I have to steer the conversation and dig into the details of every show. In those situations, I have to be extroverted and I’m able to because we’re talking about a subject I love.

    I’m actually hoping for a fall release date for Book 2 so we can do weekly podcasts on it like we did for Book 1. Can’t wait to see what Korra news comes out of Comic-Con this year!

  4. Thanks for stepping out of your comfort zone, Mike. I can’t imagine what it’s like to have the eyes of so many people on you! (Even if there are adoring gazes). Go introverts!

  5. I can relate to you a bit; I used to be kinda introverted myself. In fact, I still kinda am. It’s always the quiet ones, isn’t it: we’re often very creative people. You & Bryan have definitely shown us all that. From Avatar to Korra, I’ve been enjoying your work for years.

    Avatar actually changed my life; I was born with delayed motor skills, and never thought that I’d become an artist. Then, I found out that an official Toph plush doll was never made. Wanting to finish my Avatar plush collection, I joined deviantART just over 2 years ago as Freespirit81 to ask for advice on making one. Today, with the help of both Krystalin (who created the faces for my Toph, Korra, Lain Iwakura and Juna Ariyoshi plushies), as well as my new partner Caroline-chan5 (she made the faces for my Arrietty, Bolin, and [upcoming] Mako plushies), I am now a deviantART member with several projects completed! :D

    I can’t wait ’til my copy of the Korra Book 1:Air DVD set arrives later today at my home! Thanks for releasing it, and I can’t wait to see Book 2:Spirits later this year! :D

  6. Righteous, can’t wait for the information.

    The introversion-extroversion thing really struck me, because I plan to go into science (I was looking at biology, but math is too hard, so now I’m looking at psychology with a focus on animal research), & my introverted tendencies are helpful when it comes to getting things done without (too much) distraction. However, as I continue to get higher in the field, I’ll inevitably have to take on more extroverted traits, because for various reasons, the field of science is becoming increasingly dependent on teamwork.

    That said, I think I’d feel out-of-place even at Comic Con. I’m not the type to dress up or go to conventions for anything.

  7. Wonderful post and so great to see those old photos. (And the Amon cosplay!) I do a pretty good imitation of an extrovert, but I’m introvert to the core. I found SDCC totally overwhelming last year and I’ll admit to being a little intimidated by it this year as well. If you find me hiding under a table or muttering in a corner, you’ll know why.

  8. Yeah, I mostly introverted too. I wish I could go to a comic-con. It does sound like fun and your panel would be one I would want to attend.

  9. Comic-Con helped unleash my inner extrovert, most certainly! I’ve been to several smaller conventions since then and they’ve been so great in recapturing simply the palpable aura of enthusiasm I felt at Comic-Con. It’s been 2 years since I went and I think about it often. I never got frustrated since I wasn’t interested in seeing the really big star-studded panels. My priority first and foremost was of course the Legend of Korra panel, which was the only one in the program that had the exclamation “Finally!” written in front of it! Thankfully I got the the panel room early because there was an awesome voice acting panel beforehand, in which I got to witness the incredible genius of these enigmatic individuals. But when the lights dimmed and the trailer rolled, it felt truly ethereal!

    On a final note, I understand it must feel weird to have gained so many devoted fans in such a short time. Heck, I’m one of them! Meeting you and Bryan back in 2011 was one of my life’s greatest highlights, and definitively the highlight of my trip to Comic-Con. I had only seen Avatar one year prior as a (slightly skeptical) adult, and yet it resonated with me so much, I was rabidly awaiting whatever came next! That’s the wonder of storytelling. And I have you to thank for proving that its magic can be just as potent in adulthood as it was in my childhood.

  10. Hey Mike, I loved reading your blog, it was very inspiring. It’s really amazing to see people so sincere and down-to-earth about the work they do. I too am a bit introverted, but like you said, my extroverted side comes out when I talk about things important to me, such as when discussing ATLA and LOK with my friends! Anyways, I hope you guys keep on doing awesome stuff! As Hiroshi said to Korra, “We are all expecting great things from you [guys]!”

  11. What a lovely post, Mike – thank you. This year will be my first SDCC, and I still can’t quite believe it. I hope my coping strategy for New York Comic Con (accept the overwhelmingness) holds up against The Big One!

  12. Any chance you’re going to swing by Fan Expo some time? It’s essentially the Canadian version of fan expo. To put that in perspective, last year over 90,000 people showed up, and this year it’ll likely be over a 100,000. Last year there was a wedding. I know a lot of people mention their own home con, and you can’t visit each one (unless god forbid you paused season 2 to summer 2016 or something), but this one is kinda special.

    BTW, just grabbed the blu-ray for season 1. Surprised I didn’t see any message from Korra Nation about it’s release, or The Search: Part 2’s release tommorrow.

  13. Thank you Mr. Dimartino for all of your hard work and dedication to the shows you and Bryan have created. You’re creations are what inspired me to draw and create. When avatar first started, I always wondered how could people make a cartoon look so beautiful. I wanted to emulate that goodness on the paper. Since then, I’ve gotten art awards at school, and people crowd on me as I draw. If it wasn’t for your hard work, goodness knows how I’d be today without the positivity that comes out of art. Once again, I thank you for EVERYTHING mmkay…

  14. As a fellow introvert, I have to admit that I am not a fan of the con-going experience. I actually envy those who find release and solace at conventions, in addition to coming across like-minded folks who share each other’s unabashed passion for [insert anime, cartoon, television show, film, comic, etc.]. Whether due to a deficit in legitimate nerdiness or a guarded suspicion of fandoms (for which I blame “Fight Club”), I often feel just as isolated at cons as I do anywhere else. Maybe I’m just approaching the con-going experience from the wrong angle…?

    As for the introversion/extroversion conversation, I say as long as you can make a real, active [hopefully positive] contribution to the world outside your head, you’re fine. Conversation is optional at that point.

  15. Been viewing all the ATLA & TLOK panels since I was a young teenager back in 2006. I may not been at SDCC personally but I thoroughly enjoyed the tweets and tumblr posts by those who went to the Korra panel. However, there is this sentence Bryan said at the panel which disturbs me and displeased quite a number of fans.

    Bryan, “For all the people online that are like bitter, and jealous, and angry with you guys for getting to see this. You know, ‘We’ve waited, give us a release date.’ We’re like yeah but did you guys wait outside the whole night in San Diego?”

    Personally, I am not those “bitter, jealous and angry” fans online who complain about the lack of a release date and I patiently wait for news because I know the episodes are being worked on and they will be released in the future so I don’t find the dying need to scrounge for updates. I also understood that the episode 201 was an exclusive since exclusives are shown at SDCC all the time.

    I have to fork out at least $2000 for just a two way ticket to the US (hotel lodgings not included yet) and that is money I don’t easily have. Why am I being mocked for not being a true fan because I did not fly over to the US and queue overnight outside the convention centre?

    Even if Bryan meant it jokingly and had no ill intent, it is not fair to blanket the fans online for having a negative reaction towards ep 201 being released at SDCC only. Some of us are just truly happy that the episode is completed. Others are happy to see the wacky concept art that is shown yearly.

    Only a small portion of the fandom are loud, self-entitled and think Nickelodeon or you and Bryan owe them an explanation about the lack of Korra news. It is a pity that said part of the fandom are the loudest and leaves the worst impact on you guys. I just want to say not all of us fans are this obnoxious and bratty.

    I’ve just graduated from university and it’s my first year working. Hopefully I save enough to go to SDCC personally next year. It has been my dream to attend at TLOK panel in person. I just wish that next year, poking fun at people who didn’t go to SDCC won’t happen again.

  16. Thanks. I enjoyed getting your honest take on these conventions. Your openness helped me see a world of which I had no knowledge.

  17. Mike i want to kiss you…lol….Avatar the legend of aang is the best anime i’ve ever seen, specially i like the character of zuko, love it sir, you rocks!!!

  18. Are you familiar with ambiversion? It’s a personality configuration that contains characteristics of both introversion and extroversion. Sometimes, I feel like I exhibit both qualities of introversion and extroversion depending on the person(s) I am with, as well as the reason I’d be with a certain group of people in the first place. Lately, I’ve been more attuned to my introvertedness and I thought I could share you some introverted encouragement.

    So here!

    Vela Noble’s thesis film she dedicates to introverts, “Disconnected”.

    Luchie Byron’s comic of “Introversion” exploration of a daily life.

    http://heyluchie.tumblr.com/post/53461087106/my-comic-introversion-is-finished-please-go-to

    And a ‘Recharging’, Introvert Infographic by Phillypu.

    http://picnicblanketmelodies.tumblr.com/post/85932066409/2ndhalfoflife-phillypu-sometimes-you-just

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