It’s Monday morning, and I have just survived an entire weekend at downtown Elkhart’s first ever Comic Con. What’s a Comic Con, you ask? Well, it is a comic book convention – thus the name – at which thousands of fans gather to meet celebrities, buy collectibles, listen to guest speakers, watch movies, network with other fans, and dress up as their favorite comic characters.
I approached the event not knowing what to expect. I think I imagined a scene sort of like a renaissance festival, only with shorter pants. Ahead of time, I jotted down a list of things I thought I would find:
Star Trek outfits, especially Spock ears
People dressed like Pokemon
Weird board games with rules I can’t understand
Someone dressed up like the god Thor
Exotic medieval-looking food
Conversations full of words I don’t understand
The urge to run away and hide
Well, on that list, I was almost entirely wrong. It was so much fun. Where do I even begin?
The costumes. Oh my. So many characters, so little time. I felt like I was the only person playing myself. Just look around. In the main hallway all weekend stood a group of Star Wars storm troopers, flanking a white robed princess with cinnamon bun hair. They posed for photos with every kid that asked. Planted by the main staircase was the giant tree-creature Groot, from Guardians of the Galaxy. His occupant spent most of the day on stilts, slowly shedding bark on the carpet. In the alcove by the elevator, I met a service dog dressed up as an Imperial Walker, robotic legs and all. I quickly learned never to sit behind any of the batmen – their ears blocked my view of the stage. And anything with wings was just a general distraction all around. There were Pokemon, superheroes, supervillains, and a generous helping of steampunk fancy. Even a senior WVPE employee resplendent in full Spiderman. After a few hours in this human ragout, nothing seemed strange to me any more. Heading to the bathroom, I encountered the bounty hunter Boba Fett, waving a dangerous-looking blaster. I just nodded hello and kept moving. He was probably wondering why I was wearing jeans.
The movie theater was showing classic Saturday morning cartoons. Over the course of an hour, the Super Friends repeatedly zoomed from the Hall of Justice in capes, or in Wonder Woman’s case, an invisible plane - to save the planet from all manner of threats. I was transported back to my childhood, lying with my legs hanging over the end of the couch with a bowl of cornflakes balanced on my chest.
Proving that Comic Con has a strong sense of humor, Saturday evening was given over to a live performance of Mystery Science Theater, in which the hosts of that venerable TV show screened a truly awful 1950s B-movie and provided live commentary for its seventy-minute duration. If anyone ever suggests you watch the Chuck Connors classic Walk The Dark Street, I can only suggest you fake a sudden and violent illness.
Upstairs in the ballroom, the entire room was crammed floor-to-ceiling with memorabilia, games, costumes and classic comic books. The vendors were doing brisk business. I noticed the Mayor working the room, seeming to enjoy every minute.
Back in the theater it was time for the Cosplay contest. It was like a fashion show for anyone who had come in costume. This is serious business for some, and just plain fun for others. The costumes ranged from a stick and a t-shirt, to an intricately-stitched Victorian-era dress. The crowd cheered for every person who posed on stage, delighted to see their favorite characters brought to life. The adults were amazing, but it was the kids that won my heart. One young Clark Kent couldn’t yank his shirt open because his tie was too tight. Squirrel girl had a giant brown tail. And a pint-sized Captain America looked like he could slip through the legs of any super-villain.
We cheered for them all. Yes, “we.” Somewhere in the middle of the two days, “they” became “we” – I was part of it all.
So, by Sunday night how did my list turn out? I never found any exotic food – just popcorn. And no sign of Thor, although Iron Man was much in evidence. But for the rest, my expectations were filled in spades. To my surprise, I was completely enchanted by the event. It felt like walking into someone else’s family reunion. A wild and crazy family of people who cheered for each other, cherished each other’s quirks, and never had to ask why.
I tip my hat to the committee that organized this event. They did an amazing job. I hope Comic Con comes back to Elkhart next year. If it does, maybe I’ll bring my light saber.