First Time Observations from a Comic-Con Newbie
The first convention I ever went to was ConnectiCon, an anime convention in Hartford, CT when I was fifteen. My last brush with anime had been the Sailor Moon VHS I wore out when I was seven, but I had a few friends who were into the angular cartoons, so I tagged along. Overall I remember it as a blur of giant swords and pointy wigs, punctuated by the discovery that Japanese soda bottles are infinitely cooler than their American counterpart. The last thing I remember was blearily trying to make out the subtitles as we watched a live action Sailor Moon in its original Japanese.
Even if I hadn’t decided to check out New York’s Comic Con this weekend, I wouldn’t have been able to completely escape it. Living two blocks from the convention center, I woke up to see streams of people moving towards the center, a mish-mash of blood covered Dexters, rotting zombies, and sexy Pikachus. As they emerged from the subway all I could picture was some terrified tourists, unaware the group of undead teenagers were in completely appropriate attire for their destination, not members of a new sinister gang.
I’d been advised by a true Comic Con-er, that as a visitor to the subculture, I’d be welcome as long as I was respectful and interested. Going because it’s the cool thing to do or complaining about all the funny costumes would be less welcome.
So I entered Comic Con as an interested observer. I had enjoyed the super hero blockbusters that had come out over the last few summers, a few graphic novels are on my bookshelves, and a ton of Hello Kitty can be found in my closet, but I stay away from video games and couldn’t identify half of the incredibly elaborate costumes.
But I found it almost impossible to not be interested. Ninjas struck instant poses as soon as an iPhone was pointed their way, giant screens projected epic video game battles, and the artists’ alley, which was filled with booths of graphic novelists and other visual artists, boasted an incredible amount of talent.
I spent most of my time wandering around the vendor’s booths, flipping through fantasy novels at Penguin, and admiring smiling kidneys at I Heart Guts. I was a little unnerved by the fake and not so fake weapons, and felt the urge to put out a PSA: Former bullies, the kids you use to tease are spending the weekend buying six foot swords. Just so you know.
Being a comic day tripper was isolating, but not because of any unfriendliness from the true comic-lovers. At a time when every other magazine is running a piece on how technology is turning us into isolationists, groups of people sitting next to each other plugged in and cut off, the sense of community that permeated the convention center was almost jarring. Fans who had never met chatted animatedly about a particular scene or costume change in their favorite movie, friends who had met in chat rooms or online fan clubs screeched as they ran into each other in real life for the first time, and more than once I saw a chance meeting of friends amongst the thousands begin with the good-natured reproach, “You were at comic con and you didn’t text me?” Here what you have in common with the people to your left and right is realized instantly. The girl dressed up as Luna Lovegood will probably be willing to engage in a duel, or at least appreciate it when you notice the detail she put into her earrings. In a panel full of graphic novelists you can laugh with fifty strangers about a reference a panelist made like it’s an inside joke.
In one panel I sat between an elderly woman taking notes on a mini-sketchpad and a woman in her twenties balancing an iPad and an iPhone while typing furiously. Across the aisle there were middle aged men and a row of giggling middle school girls talking about cutting school for the event. In spite of the differences, once the panelists started taking, everyone gave them their full attention, their shared passion evident. How many things can hold the attention of a thirteen year old girl and a man old enough to be her father? The Comic-Con community transcends age, race, and, as the pride booth proved, sexual orientation.
When I finally left the convention center, it started to pour. Five Harry Potters stood outside the entrance, their soaked black wigs clinging to their heads. A group of volunteers ushered in a new group of Comic enthusiasts. No one seemed to mind the rain.
Image: Motivators Company Blog
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