Thursday, July 31, 2008

A Life Unknown: My experience at Comic Con 2008

My first experience with people dressing up in costumes for an event goes back to the days of the Renaissance Fair where my cousin dressed as the town drunk, got drunk, and ran around drunk off of mead people had prepared. I remember the bewilderment I felt as I walked through this small valley and people were dressed in clothing I had never seen before, speaking in a language unfamiliar to me. It was so intriguing to me that I wanted to be a part of it when I was old enough. Unfortunately for this story, years passed by and so did my interest in the Renaissance Fair. I haven't been in years, nor do I really have the desire to attend it any more. I guess I feel like adults dressing up for a particular theme and really going after their role for no good reason other than to do it is boring and really not my cup of tea.

That being said, if the renaissance fair isn't my cup of tea, Comic Con is my cup of coffee.

I attended this event Friday and Saturday. The friends of mine from college who were there had been there since Wednesday, going around to see as much as they could because they had specific goals for the trip. One of my friends collects vinyl toys, many of which were being sold in limited editions at the event. Upon my arrival, I had no idea what to expect. I had seen a few pictures and heard about how many people show up, but I had no idea what I had gotten myself into.

Day One

We arrived fairly early to get a good start, which was around 10am. As soon as we stepped on the train, I knew we were in for a treat as there were 2 Ghostbusters already on. They had their proton packs on with their name tags on front, ready for any ghosts they might encounter. As the train crept closer to the convention center, more and more people were getting on the train who OBVIOUSLY were going to Comic Con. As far as the train is concerned, there were a lot more men than women dressed up for it, as was expected. I had been told earlier that quite a few women dressed up for this but I was a bit skeptical as all of the girls I knew growing up and still know really never had much interest in comics.

So we arrive at the center and it was packed.

I had never been to the San Diego Convention Center before, so I didn't know what to expect in terms of size. I had been to an activities director conference at the town and country a few years back and thought that was huge. When we went inside I soon realized it paled in comparison. There were literally blocks set up with giant signs indicating where you were. The blocks ranged from 100 all the way up to 5000. There were huge booths set up for the big vendors like Marvel Comics and Disney. Lego had a big area, as did some of the network TV stations. There was a Dharma Initiative station for those who are addicted to Lost, there was a booth for shows like The Office and 30 Rock, and there were a ton of random movie stars, musicians and athletes there as well.

As we wandered around the convention, I noticed many things. Obviously, there were a ton of people in costume. There were singles, couples, and families wandering around dressed as their favorite cartoon, comic, or movie character. The most popular costumes were Batman and Robin, the newest Joker, and a bunch of anime characters whom I had no idea who they were. There were also a ton of Star Wars characters, which were my favorite. Here are a few of the pics:

Mr. Hustle has a posse

The pictures above were the norm for the convention. While the plain clothed outnumbered the costumed, there were so many people in some form of costume that I sometimes was unable to tell if someone was wearing a costume or not, but that soon became irrelevant as I suddenly found myself at ease with all of these costumed fans. I will post a link to my flickr page where you can view the photos in their entirety at the end of this post.

As you will see in the photos, there was quite a large amount of teenagers in attendance. "Of course Mr. Hustle", you might say, "it's a comic book convention." Yes yes, I know that teenagers love comics. What I mention it for though is not my amazement at their attendance, but more of the choices they made while they were there. I was disturbed by the volume of signs I saw these teenagers holding that read, "FREE HUGS" or "Hug meter low, in need of affection". It was odd to see kids, much like those I teach, asking complete strangers for hugs. Or hoping that they would be asked for a hug. For a minute, amidst the drugs and the bright lights and costumes, I thought I was at a rave. I remembered those sweet days and nights of ecstasy and mushrooms and grass and loud music and candy ravers hugging you until you felt your heart would explode from all the fucking love surrounding you. At those parties teenagers hugging complete strangers was somehow okay because you were high and nobody gave a fuck and it was all about love and feeling each others' auras (but mostly getting fucked up). Now though, as I walk around this convention center, surrounded by the oddest folks I've ever been surrounded by (aside from my recent venture into Alaska), it didn't feel right to have these children asking for hugs from strangers. Am I wrong for letting this disturb me? I mean, a hug is what you make of it, but if I had a teenage daughter or son and they were giving out free hugs to complete strangers I would be a little bothered. Maybe that's my conservative side, but it was weird. Here's a few shots:

While in San Diego, I also learned about a few things that may or may not be of some interest to you. The first is pretty basic and it is referred to as "cosplay". Apparently, cosplay is short for costume play, where you dress up as a character and act like them. Hence the storm and scout troopers constantly talking about finding "those pesky droids". Maybe this is old news to anybody reading this, but I had never heard of cosplay. The closest I had heard was some weird sexual thing called plushies where people put on huge furry costumes and hump each other. HBO had some weird special on it and I got kinda freaked out so now I avoid all furry costumed people.

Another term I learned about, which I was able to witness on one occasion, was "LARPing". LARPing stands for "Live Action Role Playing". This is where people are dressed up in the costumes and there is a story teller who essentially tells them what to do and how to do it. Like, if there are two people dressed up as knights, and they are fighting each other, the storyteller would say something like, "The black knight struck down the green knight and took 5 energy clouds away from him. You must fall down." And then, the green knight would get hit hard by the black knight and fall down, moaning. Or something. I don't really know. But there were groups of people dressed as special forces soldiers with really real looking guns running around using hand signals and shit and it was kind of freaking me out until my friend Jim explained what they were doing. That being said, LARPing still freaks me out. It's like a super duty Dungeons and Dragons for adults.

At the end of the first day something rather odd happened, which I will retell in a different post.


Day two was much more mellow. We walked around for a while and I took a ton more photos. I also spent a lot of money on random little things because I have some weird obsession with collecting crap that serves no real purpose. I did however get some pretty cool posters that are giant, basic, comic strips. They will look nice once they're framed in my house.

At the end of the day, we went to the masquerade. The masquerade was incredible. Only people who made their own costumes were allowed to enter. We showed up late and left early, mostly because we were in the back row and it wasn't that great. However, by some divine act, we witnessed the majority of the winning costumes parade across the stage. Here is a short clip of the costume that won the masquerade.

I would post the video, but I have no idea how.

All in all, the Comic Con experience was fun and like nothing else I have ever experienced. If any of what I have written is appealing to you or anybody that you know, please do not hesitate to check it out next year. San Diego is a fun town and the Comic Con experience is insane. In order to get a better understanding of what I am talking about, you have check out the link to my flickr page and view the Comic Con set.

I hope you enjoy this.

Hawk and Dove: The Ambiguously Gay Duo

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