Rep. Robert Garcia, the Self-Proclaimed “Biggest Nerd in Congress,” Launches Popular Arts Caucus

Rep. Robert Garcia, the Self-Proclaimed “Biggest Nerd in Congress,” Launches Popular Arts Caucus

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“I probably am the biggest nerd in Congress.” That’s Rep. Robert Garcia’s self-assessment, at least when it comes to comic books (and the movies inspired by them). The Democrat and former Mayor of Long Beach has been an avid comic book fan since he was child, and says he’s seen every Marvel and DC movie multiple times.

Garcia made waves in the comic book community in January when he was sworn in on a rare copy of 1939’s Superman No. 1. He continued to gain notice with tweets lobbed at DC Studios co-head James Gunn, including one in which he jokingly threatened a congressional inquiry unless Gunn delivered a DC slate by the end of January. (Gunn, who had previously stated the slate would come that month, complied two days later.) He is even poised to lead Wednesday’s public hearings on Unidentified Aerial Phenomena (formerly known as UFOs).

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Now Garcia is putting all that geek cred to work. Over the weekend at Comic-Con, Garcia unveiled the Congressional Popular Arts Caucus. It has attracted 20 lawmakers from both sides of the aisle, lawmakers with an interest in movies, TV and gaming — and the issues affecting those spaces.

“It’s recognizing that the popular arts dominate so much of the American economy and the local economy,” Garcia tells The Hollywood Reporter. “Think about what the biggest movies are – it’s Marvel blockbusters, it’s Star Wars, it’s DC.”

In particular, the caucus will look at copyright issues, piracy, artificial intelligence and labor in these spheres.

The caucus comes at a tumultuous time, with the writers and actors strikes bringing Hollywood to a halt. That was felt acutely at Comic-Con, which for the first time in decades had very little Hollywood presence.

Garcia himself appeared on a Comic-Con panel to introduce the caucus, and also took part in a SAG-AFTRA demonstration.

Asked if there is anything lawmakers could do to bring the studios and the unions together, Garcia says that at this stage, he just wants to show support for the WGA and SAG-AFTRA.

“Right now they are trying to negotiate their deal,” says Garcia. “If sometime in the future we as policymakers need to step in and support that, we’ll do that. But right now I think they’re at the table.”

Garcia has been going to Comic-Con since the ‘90s, and has fond memories of waiting in line for Hall H for some of its biggest reveals, among them, the first trailer for 2013’s Man of Steel, and a few years later, the first trailer for 2016’s Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice.

At this year’s Comic-Con, he found himself the one getting the attention from the comic book faithful. After his panel, attendees swarmed him, wanting photos.

But even if Garcia was now a minor Comic-Con celebrity, the big takeaway for him was that the Con felt like a convention of times past.

Says Garcia: “This brings me back to the days when it was comic focused.”

Borys Kit contributed to this report.