Dave Jones (left), Nathan Fletcher and John Chiang at Comic-Con. Courtesy Fletcher’s campaign

By Luis Monteagudo Jr.

Policy wonks met pop culture geeks Saturday at Comic-Con.

The meetup was for a panel called “Who Cleans Up The Mess” with state and local government officials discussing what it would take to rebuild a city damaged by a major superhero battle.

The discussion drew an enthusiastic crowd of more than 100 fans, who filled one of the smaller rooms at the San Diego Convention Center. Just as enthusiastic were the local government leaders, more used to endless public hearing and meetings then a pop culture gathering.

“I’m so very happy to be here with you today,” said a smiling Racquel Vasquez, the Mayor of Lemon Grove.

Other panelists were Oceanside City Councilwoman Esther Sanchez, San Diego City Councilman David Alvarez, California Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones, California Treasurer John Chiang and former San Diego Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher, who wore a Wonder Woman t-shirt.

Clips from movies showed the massive damage that occurred in New York and San Francisco when Spiderman, the X-Men and the Avengers battled villains. What if that happened in San Diego? Panelists said cities would have a variety of departments, from police and fire to public works, respond to an epic battle.

“We’d be more or less deciding whether it’s more of a local emergency,” said Vasquez.

Fletcher said restoring communications and public order, and providing medical aid, shelter and food to residents would be immediate priorities.

Panelists agreed that local, county and state agencies would be able to coordinate their response to an emergency with broader impacts.

“In times of crisis, in times of need, we as Americans come together,” said Alvarez. “We’ve seen it here in San Diego with wildfires.”

And they took the opportunity to praise the public workers who would respond to the emergencies.

“Let me tell you, those are the real heroes,” said Vasquez.

The mix of pop culture fiction with real-life responsibilities led to some humor.

“If it rains in California, it’s a disaster,” quipped Vasquez.

After watching a scene of Spiderman battle villain Dr. Octopus on a New York City subway train, Fletcher joked: “Within minutes of this happening, Gov. Jerry Brown would say this is why we need high speed rail.”

Jones joked that any damage caused by Thor might not be covered by insurance because it would be chalked up to “an act of God.”

But the elected officials did turn serious, calling climate change one of the real-life villains facing cities, with Fletcher noting that the very Convention Center that Comic-Con is being held in is threatened by rising sea levels.

They also took time to encourage audience members to become more politically engaged, with Alvarez saying democracy “only thrives and works if everyone has a part.”

Luis Monteagudo Jr. is a freelance writer and pop culture enthusiast who has attended Comic-Con for more than 20 years. He was written for The San Diego Union-Tribune, USA Today and numerous other publications.