Exploring the CON, where 'different' is celebrated
It's always interesting when people find out I'm a pretty dedicated comic con guy. I attend two or three cons in Portland each year, as well as a couple others here in the valley, and I post lots of photos to my Facebook account and generally wax on about the fun I have each and every time.
Two weekends ago I was in Portland getting my Con "season" underway and it got me thinking about why the appeal?
People tend to get dialed into the "comic" portion of the comic con realm, and I understand given that in the not-too-distant past, that was the impetus for the creation of comic cons. But that's no longer true and with the evolution of comic cons has come an increased emphasis on arts, literature, pop culture and the opportunity to meet actors, writers, creators of some of the most popular works on TV and in print.
And while I delve into all of that with a certain youthful glee, there's another reason I have found the Con experience so much to my liking.
As people ask me about why I go or what it is I like about it, the base answer is very simple – it lifts my heart and fills me with joy.
Not from buying graphic novels or meeting stars of my favorite shows, but the simplicity of a vibe that welcomes all and shuns none. There is a joy and lightness to the comic con experience that I think touches a deep nerve within me – heck, I think it touches a nerve in just about everyone that attends.
We live in a world where we struggle with "different." We talk around race, religion, sex, and other issues, or simply refuse to talk intelligently about them while preferring to politicize them, which has left us in a peculiar place and time. We aren't, as a country, who we should be in terms of "different," and I'm not sure, for many, there's a desire to really address it personally or change it corporately.
"Different" still bothers many people in this country, bothers them to the point of violence, abuse and simple ignorance. For all the magnificence of our country, the curious case of "different" seems to hang in the air with an awkwardness that continually surprises me. We should be better at accepting and grasping our "different" by this point, but perhaps at about 250 years old, this country is simply too young to really be ready to let "different" be okay. Perhaps, just perhaps, we're still a generation or two away from really digging down into why "different" continues to be a stumbling block to the full potential this country has.
And that's the likely reason I enjoy comic cons so much – everyone's different and no one gives a damn. In fact, different is celebrated in a way that is both joyful and fun.
No one cares about race, religion, skin color or socio-economic standing. No one cares about being tall, short, fat, skinny or some combination in between. No one cares about the color of one's hair, the style of jeans being worn or the brand of purse or model of car you have. It's simply about being there and accepting the fun around you.
From Rose City Comic Con to Wizard World to Walker Stalker to Cherry City and other cons in the local area, the vibe is always the same, "Hey, we're just glad you're here."
And I find that refreshing and encouraging. The fact that it takes the pop culture nerd and geek set to really put that vibe together is, in itself, a wondrous accomplishment. Truly, the last have become first, and become leaders in the realm of understanding and nourishing the "different" that might be within us all.
I'm a huge fan of taking photos with the cosplay folks. Cosplay is the practice of dressing up as a character from a book, movie, TV show or video and it's rampant within the comic con realm. Seeing the detail and joy that people have in creating their Walking Dead zombie look or the family dressed in The Flash garb is a reminder that "different" is colorful and vibrant, and transcends the narrow box that it is often put in to make others feel more comfortable. From children in strollers to folks in wheelchairs that have been turned into Star Wars ships, there is a joy that the comic con delivers beyond the merchandise and meet-and-greets it offers.
And I think it's that joy that has been the thing to hook me.
But it also gives me hope. Hope that the struggle we have with "different" in this country isn't a struggle that we'll lose, but one day win. It won't be in my lifetime, and perhaps a lifetime or two after that, but walking the floor at a comic con and seeing the unbridled joy and creative passion of people from all walks of life fills me with hope. There are people who see "different" as a bonus for this country, who celebrate it, and who don't mind dressing up as a Little Mermaid, Bill Nye The Science Guy, Conan the Barbarian, a Klingon or Dr. Who to demonstrate their "different" is something special.
Yes, comic cons lift my heart and soul in a unique and wondrous way, fills me with hope and optimism for the future, and just delivers a weekend of fun that is unique and "different." The geeks and nerds seem to have figured it out. Count me as proudly one of them."