The Joy of Comic Conventions
By Eric Ashley (@flapjackashley)
In recent years, it has become acceptable to be labeled a “nerd”. What once was an insult, along with such lovely terms of endearment just as “Pencil-Necked Geek” and “Four Eyes” and “Geek”, it is a badge of honor worn by millions to be labeled a nerd. In fact, some of the most successful people in the world were nerds – Apple’s Steve Jobs, Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg and Microsoft’s Bill Gates all come to mind.
Thankfully in this age of social media and internet, nerds are no longer embarrassed socially awkward people living in basements behind the glow of a personal computer or video game machine. We are encouraged and celebrated, both by mainstream success but also by very lucrative events known as Comic Cons.
What is a Comic Con? It is a large gathering of fans of comics, science fiction, horror, video games, board games and more in an environment that encourages us to be ourselves. While many conventions started off small, yearly events such as Wizard World and PAX has become a multi-million dollar business with attendance fees and concession costs approaching those of amusement theme parks. Comic Cons originally started as a focus on the comic book and animation industry, but many have grown to include other forms of genre media. They draw in huge guests from the universes of comic books and movies, to gaming and YouTube personalities, to wrestlers and pop icons of the past that we never thought we would ever meet. It an event for people that allows them to express love for a particular movie or comic or game that we cannot in everyday life – dressing up as our favorites is no longer restricted to Halloween. And in fact, Cosplay (as it is known) is one of the biggest reasons I love Comic Cons because the time and effort and love fans put into their costumes would give some makeup artists from Hollywood a run for their money.
I recently have gotten back into going to some Comic Cons myself, and I had forgotten about how much fun they can be. I am a veteran of shows such as Wizard World and horror movie conventions like Cinema Wasteland in Ohio and Flashback Weekend in Chicago, but had slowed in going to them. However, in the last two years, I have been to four events – Awesome Con in Washington, DC, Sakura Con and Emerald City Comic Con in Seattle, and – possibly the most important to me – Hall of Heroes in small Elkhart, Indiana just this month. They were a blast, but the Hall of Heroes was particularly encouraging because Elkhart, Indiana (my hometown) is a small community – just 15 miles east of Notre Dame University and 120 miles east of Chicago. The HOH convention made its debut this March and was the very first Comic Con event of its kind in this area, so it was kind of questionable as to how well it would be received. Attending Saturday’s show, I can say it was a huge hit – packed vendor rooms and long lines just to get in the door proved it, and I couldn’t be more happy that Elkhart showed there was a market for events such as these.
But what it also proved is that there are nerds everywhere. And attending a fun event like a convention is a perfect venue for us to be who we are without reservation. I cannot express how easy it is to talk to anyone at a Comic Con because we are all nerds with very similar interests. I have met some of the nicest people at cons, and fans of this nature also tend to be some of the most loyal and diehard in the entertainment and media industry. It is a place that we can feel safe to be who we are without social pressures or prejudice, we can talk to someone dressed up as Goku from Dragonball Z or wearing a Guy Fawkes mask from V for Vendetta or Freddy Krueger without batting an eye, or even dress up as them ourselves.
If you are reading this site, there is a good chance you are a nerd yourself, as I am. If you haven’t been to a Comic Con or convention in your area, it is an experience like no other.