As I mentioned in my blog last week, this last Saturday I drove down to Philadelphia Comic Con; it was an enjoyable six hour drive down the coast, and it gave me the opportunity to help out at the Post Mortem Press booth and do some promotion for The Cage Legacy. So, now that I’ve gotten back to New England and gathered my thoughts, I’ll start with an admission – an admission that may leave many comic fans gasping, sighing and shaking their heads.
Until this last Saturday, I’d never been to a Comic Con before.
So…what are my thoughts?
Well, let’s start with the obvious; everything you’ve ever heard about Comic Con is true. When you walk through the front doors, it’s as if you’ve stepped into another universe. I’ve heard this before, but until this weekend, I never quite believed it.
It’s not just the costumes, though that’s certainly a large part of it; among all the tables, booths and displays you’ll find thousands of superheroes, video game characters and bloodthirsty aliens walking around, chatting with each other and posing for photos. Look to one corner and you’ll see Starfleet officers trading stories with Storm Troopers. Turn around and you’ll see Duke Nukem strolling on by, with a cocky smirk. Look to another side and you’ll find Spider-Man and Scarlet Spider comparing notes. If you look carefully enough, you’ll even find Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman and the Flash walking around without any pants on – though to be fair, Wonder Woman usually doesn’t wear pants.
But like I said, what makes Comic Con such a unique experience isn’t just the costumes; it’s the atmosphere itself. While the growing mainstream popularity of comic book properties, video games, fantasy and so on has thrust geek culture to the forefront of contemporary entertainment, the degree of in-depth knowledge that a sci-fi/fantasy/etc. fan accumulates still tends to make many fans feel as if they must either repress the desire to openly express their interests, or risk being pushed to the fringe of society. So, what you see at Comic Con is a complete reversal of standard roles. In regular society, one might be looked at uncomfortably if one were to reveal their “geeky” desire to discuss such subjects as one’s favorite issue of Tales to Astonish, the Wilhelm Scream or which of Jason Voorhees’s various hockey masks was the best…but at Comic Con, this dynamic – that is to say, the dynamic wherein the geek is the outcast – is completely turned around. At Comic Con, not only is one expected to have some degree of “geek cred” – but in fact, if one doesn’t, that so-called “normal” person becomes the outsider.
I want to add something here, before we move on. Despite how all of this sounds, it’s important to recognize that at events like this, there’s no hostility toward “normal” people; on the contrary, the atmosphere at Comic Con is amazingly friendly, cheerful and excited. Everyone feels welcome. It’s a gathering of people from all walks of life, people who all share a common interest and are deeply happy to finally have an outlet to openly express it.
So, onto my story.
I drove down the East Coast on Friday night and grabbed a motel room about an hour outside of Philadelphia. I slept for about three hours, grabbed my morning coffee and hit the road. After weaving my way through endless tolls, heavy traffic in China Town and a lack of available parking, I finally made it to Comic Con around noon.
After strolling around for a bit, taking in the sights – and admittedly, grinning like a fool the whole time – I finally found the Post Mortem Press table. I spent most of the day talking to passers-by, selling books and shooting the breeze with Eric Beebe, the founder of Post Mortem Press and an all-around great guy. I owe a lot to Post Mortem Press; through them I was able to realize my writing dreams. It’s always a thrill to get together with Eric at these conventions and discuss everything from those crazy Comic Con costumes to how much we both loved Cabin in the Woods.
Even while sitting at the table, there’s plenty of great discussions to be had with every passer-by; every person who stopped by to check out the books had a unique story, costume or interest to talk about. It’s highly enjoyable to meet new people and, without delay, immediately begin discussing such geeky subjects as Hulk:Gray, the current state of horror films and William Gibson’s Neuromancer. The biggest highlight was probably the arrival of one particularly extroverted little kid, who excitedly brought his mother over to the table and launched into a long conversation with Eric about Dr. Who.
Sitting at the table was already entertaining enough – but since it was Comic Con, I naturally had to look around a bit and see all of the comic book artists, sellers and high profile celebrities. Just walking around for a few minutes, I passed by William Shatner, Henry Winkler, Brandon Routh, Kevin Sorbo, Manu Bennett, Charisma Carpenter, David Aaron Frank, Tom Savini and, of course…Stan Lee!
After Comic Con closed, I decided to do some walking around; during all of my travels throughout the US, I had never stopped by Philadelphia before. Based on advice from a friend, I walked around the corner to a local place called Jake’s, and I grabbed myself a mushroom-loaded Philly cheesesteak. From there, I strolled around town, followed the signs and checked out such locations as the Liberty Bell, the Masonic Temple and Franklin Square.
As in most big cities, Philadelphia is host to a variety of interesting sculptures, statues and memorials. Among them, my favorite is a piece titled “Grumman Greenhouse,” by artist Jordan Griska. The piece was created from a decommissioned Cold War-era naval plane.
Once I was finished exploring, I got some sleep and drove back home the next morning. But before crossing back into NH, I made one last stop; I grabbed an Americano, stopped at the beach and read my new copy of Dostoevsky’s The Idiot. Casually sipping on a coffee as the waves lapped up the beach before me, I felt deeply satisfied and happy to be alive. As I’ve said before, it’s only when we take the chance to enjoy the so-called “little things” – those quiet little moments of happiness – that we finally realize how amazing life truly is. It was a wonderfully peaceful finish to a busy weekend, and I wouldn’t have had it any other way.