To the uninitiated, a Comic Con really needs to be explained – because a convention for comics does not do it justice at all.
Firstly, it is much broader than the comic world and encompasses all areas of entertainment from film, games, TV, sports, online, comics of course and everything to do with fame and celebrity more generally.
Also, the Comic Con is very much an immersive experience with the attendees themselves becoming part of the attraction and contributing greatly to the atmosphere.
By which I mean that the majority of attendees dress up as their favourite characters creating what is essentially a giant fancy dress party. It is certainly something to behold standing in behind Darth Vader in the toilets.
And what a huge commitment on the part of these fans. The time in getting ready. Pulling on the tights, shawls and head-gear. Applying the make-up and picking up the axe, shield or light saber and presumably enduring a compromising journey to the convention if it involves public transport and not to mention the very considerable costs involved.
These are the Super fans I guess – and the day does have a competitive feel to it, although not explicit and without prizes – although judging by the queue of people for selfies for the best turned-out characters is a prize in itself.
I am intrigued by the gestation of an ordinary cinema goer in to such a fan and especially since the demography is so broad; both male, female and people of all ages.
As a father of four boys, nobody needs to explain to me the excitement of dressing up as one’s hero. Paddy was Indiana Jones for so long that he completely wore out at least two full costumes. A genuine rites of passage thing. An adorable and innocent phase of childhood and I suspect less acceptable and more frowned upon when it extends in to adulthood – and this might explain the ever-growing popularity of the Comic-Con.
And I get this because don’t we all imagine ourselves being heroic? Absolutely I wanted to be Marty McFly when I first saw those remarkable films. And the Comic Con is just an extension of this. It allows our unlikely dreams to be fulfilled and realised in an atmosphere that is kind, inclusive and non-judgemental. Which is why the whole thing feels more like a congregation than just a gathering.
I know people love their Marvel films. Sitting in theatres across the world, captivated by what is presented to them on the screen. Cheering when Thanos is finally vanquished and crying that this victory came at the cost of Tony Stark’s life.
But that said, I am intrigued and interested in the point in a movie goers life that they decide that they will don an outfit themselves? Loving Spider-Man on the screen is just not enough anymore. I need to become Spider- Man myself.
I imagine that it is incremental. A love that builds and a yearning that evolves and as yet, it has not occurred to me and I arrived on Saturday in sober jeans and tee-shirt – and even then I was immediately judged and as it transpired, quite flatteringly so as well.
On a foul Saturday morning then, with our car packed to the gunnels, we set out for the convention centre in central London. Arrived safely, we unloaded the car and I left Nikki and our friend Jenny to set up while I drove off to get parked.
I nudged the car back in to the heavy rain and immediately I knew that I was in the right place as I saw multiple Hulks, Thors, Spider-Mans and rather appropriately, an Aqua-man queuing politely outside.
On the day that we attended, there were two conventions taking place – the Comic Con – and The World Forum for Anaesthesia with presumably eminent medics attending from across the world and I would guess that these attendees dress more soberly.
Having parked my car and hurrying along in the rain, a shouty security guard was spotting attendees and demarking them for which convention they would attend and pointing them to separate queues.
Some were obvious of course and easy to pick. The man dressed as Chewbakka was unlikely to be an anaesthetist – but in my jeans, trainers and jacket, I presented much more vaguely.
I could be either – and so I was delighted when the shouty man looked me up and down and stated confidently…
“You’re a doctor, right?”
I was so flattered and delighted, I almost passed out which would have been highly appropriate and comic.
But I didn’t of course.
Nikki and I attended the London Comic Con this Saturday for The Brothers Trust, with signed posters to raffle off and various wares for sale: dog collars, tee-shirts, copies of Open Links and Eclipsed – with all proceeds going to the BT.
We had a great day, raising just shy of £1,400 for our charity – which is much less than we can make through our online events and raffles – but great fun to meet the fans who support us.
Thank you to everyone who came along to our impromptu stand to say hello and especially those who bought merchandise or raffle tickets. And congratulations to our two winners, from France and Israel.
And my apologies to the two adolescent girls who came to our stand. They were nervous and anxious and so I was quick to allay their concerns and put them at their ease. And what better way to engage with them than to discuss their outfits and who they might be.
Because I am a man of a certain age and not well versed in the comic world, no harm whatever in not recognising their chosen character.
More a revelation of my ignorance than their unconvincing outfit – and in their case, a rather bland outfit that included Whigs and odd glasses.
“Hello, girls, who have you two come as, then?” I asked warmly.
“Peter Parker.” They answered.
“Oh… sorry,” I floundered.
Finally, a big thank you to Showmasters London Comic Con for allowing us to attend and without any charge at all. To Jill and Davey, for making us feel so welcome.
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