Committed: Anticipating Comic Con International

Tomorrow I leave for San Diego and four glorious days of Comic Con International. A lot of friends have asked me why I enjoy it, and I have to admit that it is a little hard to articulate. It isn’t just the easy access to millions of books, or the chance of meeting my creative heroes, hearing industry news, or seeing clips of my favorite science fiction movies and cartoons. All of those things are amazing, but most of all I enjoy being around hundreds of people who love the same thing that I do.

Growing up in London without the internet I didn’t know anyone that liked American comic books. In fact, a lot of the time I didn’t dare tell anyone, as the reaction I got was usually one of initial disbelief, quickly followed by derision. I used to buy extra copies of great books to try and convert my friends to comic book reading. It rarely worked, but at least I was slowly spreading the word. That is why now it is so gratifying to spend some time at Comic Con, with my fellow comic nerds. Internally, I secretly pretend that it is the whole world, and everyone feels as passionately as us about comic books. I realize that this is kind of weird, (there is a reason my column is called “committed”), but I think that the world would be a happier place if everyone was willing to communicate with imagery and text in tandem.

At Comic Con last year I was only a few months into recovering from two slipped discs, I wasn’t even sure if I’d be able to deal with the one hour plus flight, let alone four days of traipsing around. While I managed to spend a good few hours at the convention center each day, I slept late, got an early night, and ate well every day. There was sunbathing, TV watching and relaxed evening walks. It was basically a weird kind of vacation, but at the time I needed it. This year I plan to make a little more of the convention, and a little less of the vacation. It is still top priority that I take care of my body, I have stockpiled vitamins, supplements, and carefully chosen some comfortable shoes. Since I don’t drink caffeine, I’m looking to those supplements to give me the energy I’ll need to spend long hot days soaking up as much comic goodness as I can.

Having said all of that, I wouldn’t want you to think that I didn’t have some incredible convention experiences. It is quite incredible to put faces and voices to these people who’s work we’ve been reading practically our whole lives.

In the past, I always said that if I could meet Bill Sienkiewicz, my convention experience would be complete. Last year I did, and I even commissioned a beautiful drawings from him (of Elektra and Garrett, with guns blazing.) My brother and I joked that we were stalking him, hanging out at his booth for hours, asking him question after question about his creative process. But the truth is that the man couldn’t have been more gracious, he never made us feel unwelcome, and didn’t seem to mind our attention at all. It really was the completion of a dream for us, and I’ll treasure the artwork and the memories from that time.

Comic Con is such a good place to find out of print trade paperbacks, or buy them directly from the creators (when you can also get them signed, and discuss the production of them), for a bit of a fangirl like myself, it can be pretty heady stuff. Finding out how ethereal and loose initial ideas are makes the whole inception process seem that much more magical. I personally love to hear about the motivations of writers and artists, it is tremendously inspiring on a very basic level. I like to know that the people who’re creating the comic books we love are wrestling with the same kind of processes that we all deal with in our day-to-day working life.

While I love comic books, I have to admit that I also have a giant soft spot in my heart for toys, specifically action figures. Comic Con is a wonderful place to find rare toys, see new toys before they are released, and sometimes even meet and talk to the people who design the toys. As a little girl, the only dolls that I had were ballerinas and equestrians (don’t ask me why little girls are meant to like horses, that whole thing went right over my head.) Over the last 10 years I became quite obsessed with female action figures, and how powerfully they’re displayed in their little boxes, all bristling muscles and overtly aggressive posturing. Now that I’m all grown up, and there is no one to ask “Do you really need that toy?”, I can make my own choices about how many and what kind should adorn my house, and at Comic Con, when the options are broader, (and by Sunday afternoon, often a lot cheaper), I can indulge my proclivity.

Have I mentioned the costumes? The costumes are tremendous fun. I wish I were brave enough to dress up, but I tend to save that stuff for Halloween, when alcohol and low light is a lot more forgiving. Meanwhile I applaud and enjoy the brave people at comic book conventions who dress up in outrageous costumes. In truth, I wouldn’t even be brave enough to dress up at Halloween if it weren’t for my little brother, he does it so well that it makes it seem normal. He dressed up at Spider-Man last year (old school style, he looked great), and I followed him around with a camera, listening to him effing and blinding about the heat. It turns out that walking around in a polyester bodysuit and full head mask is a good way to get heat stroke. Still, if you saw all the excited little kids taking photos with him, you’d think it was worth it too. I love all of the costumes and how much people get into it, and this year I'm going to make a concerted effort to take more photos of these brave cosplayers.

There is one thing that I did at a previous convention that last I am (apparently) not supposed to do, and that is squealing loudly when hot actors are around. I managed to deeply embarrass my friends by losing my cool when I walked past Nathan Fillion. According to my friends, you shouldn’t yell “OHMIGOD! IT’S HIM” because it is scary and comes across as slightly crazy. So now I know… but if I’d had a choice about it, I wouldn’t have yelled. I know my social skills are bad, but they aren’t that bad. He surprised me, what can I say? If I’m honest, it could easily happen again, so I’m going to take this opportunity to apologize in advance to all of you for all of the uncool things that I’m going to do and say in the following few days as I enter into the belly of the beast, and indulge in all things comic-related.

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