By Court Allen
Saturdays have a special meaning for me. I’m not alone in this, to be sure. Saturdays are a universal holiday; a weekly respite.
My personal feelings about Saturdays are related to childhood. After a long week of school and the tribulations of growing up, Saturday was the prize – a day of freedom, adventure, parties, special events, or the ultimate possibility – a day spent exploring my imagination. Remember Saturday morning cartoons (better than the rest of the week’s cartoons), or Creature Feature in the afternoon (coolest. thing. ever.)?
Saturdays are the best day of the week, and how you choose to spend them is the real stuff of life. In fact, a few years back I attended a funeral service for a man whose primary tenet in life was to make the most of time away from work. He was famous among friends and family for his belief that there were only so many Saturdays in an average human life, so they must be spent well. A sentiment with which I agree.
I spent this past Saturday at Comic-Con. It was the ultimate Saturday, with all the trappings – adventure, cartoons, creatures, movies, costumes, and most importantly – imagination come to life. My tween age daughter, Chloe, joined me, which just made the whole thing beyond cool.
Now before I continue it should be known that I am neither a writer nor a journalist; I develop low-income housing, but with close connections to the good people at the San Diego Free Press I was asked to contribute something when I got tickets. Apologies in advance.
Comic-Con is famous as a nerd’s kingdom, and while I am surely one of them, I think this phrase is a bit of an injustice. Nerd is surely meant as derogatory, though my fellows have embraced it; it’s now a badge of honor. The word came from Dr. Seuss (I’ll let you research that) and oddly its current use is tied to spelling drunk backwards, to mean people that did not drink or party, instead choosing to study and therefore not socialize much. Oh, the sting of that remark! So sorry for all of our reading, and studying, resulting in well-informed citizenry, great books, enhanced technology and the general betterment of the world. And here’s the truth – when the world hits a real calamity, it won’t be the football captain who figures out how to solve over-population, an alien invasion, or the destruction of our environment – it’ll be a nerd, so thank goodness for them.
Do I sound bitter? Ok, fine, but it’s still true. Nowadays, so-called nerds are captains of industry, the leaders of the tech revolution, and the source of amazing films and stories that captivate our imagination. Our takeover is nearly complete, but do not fear, for in truth we are the kindest people you will ever meet, so our rule will be beneficent. Comic-Con is the perfect example of this.
The attendees of this conference are the coolest and nicest people anywhere. Did we get frustrated being jammed in like sardines forced to mill about and wait in line for everything? Yes, we did. Did we kill each other and have enormous brawls as a result? Not so much.
I took pictures of everyone — well, almost everyone. And every single one of them stopped, smiled (Ok, when I could see their face), posed,
and often waited while I figured out how to adjust my girlfriend’s complicated camera. They were friendly, gracious, willing, and proud to be on display. Even other passersby, delayed by my picture taking, were understanding.
When I asked for advice from a nerd vendor about how to get an item he did not sell, he willingly gave it, including detailed instructions on where to find the right merchant. “Glad to help,” he said, “Have fun.”
When I asked a Dad escorting his Padawan daughter if she could kill a storm trooper for a camera, he laughed and helped me set up thescene. And thanks to the best looking storm trooper I have ever seen for graciously agreeing to a Jedi beheading.
When I asked a random woman for recommendations on cool stuff to see outside, she happily directed us to the outdoor areas featuring Godzilla and the Gotham City zip line. You don’t need a guidebook at Comic Con, just ask anyone around you – except the security guards, who were curiously oblivious though still friendly.
We even had some interesting folks there advocating the principles of the bible. Friendly enough, but I’m not sure I understand the correlation between God and their camo pants getup. Still, they gave me
a “Get out of Hell free card,” which could come in handy. Winter is coming, after all.
Anyhow, as a result of the people, and the glorious spectacle, I wore a smile on my face all day, which is not normal for me, I assure you.
The place was fun incarnate. People in fantastic costumes, cool new and classic movies, awesome video games, beautiful and sometimes bizarre art, and at the heart of it all — incredible and amazing comic books. They don’t call it Comic-Con for nothing, after all.
To me, Comic-Con is a victory of childhood and imagination. The place is a venue for creativity and release, a celebration of not being, as Don Henley so aptly put it “too much in this world”.
The Cosplay folks posing and mock-fighting on the back patio are a great example. Dressed as their favorite characters, laughing, complimenting each other on their costumes, having fun without judgment. Kudos my friends; a little theater in “real” life makes it worth living. I would dress as a Jedi every day if I could, though I feel the bankers might turn down my latest development deal if I told them “agree to this you must, for the fear of loss is a path to the dark side.”
Think about it – some of the best advice given to our over-stressed society is to revel a bit in childhood, to remember and cherish its meaning. This is especially true for those of us who did not have a good childhood; for you, I recommend going to Comic-Con with an open mind, to see and touch some of what it could have been like. It’s there, and you will be welcome.
It’s obvious this message, or some variant, has gotten out because this event is attended by what appears to be the entire population of Earth. Seriously, this thing is huge. The word “throng” comes to mind when navigating the crowds. I knew nerds were everywhere, but this is way beyond that. There have to be some non-nerds attending, which is awesome in and of itself.
The rest of the world is catching on, for the wares of us nerds have massive commercial value on top of being just plain hip. We are now a proven commodity, and I’m glad to see Hollywood and other businesses coming along, though I believe it’s more because we took them over versus being recognized. Either way its good news, despite the Twilight movies, though for the record I liked Sharknado. Come on! It’s a tornado filled with sharks!
As an important aside, there are celebrities in attendance at Comic-Con. Their attendance is apparently a very big deal, though camping out overnight to see them talk about their next movie is beyond me. Don’t get me wrong, it was cool to see Orlando Bloom and Andy Serkis come out and greet fans waiting outside their hotel, despite their goon squad’s clear displeasure. I really like actors who recognize the fans are the most important thing about being a celebrity, and treat them with gratitude and kindness. Good form, guys.
In wrapping up, I want to say that being a nerd can be hard. It’s a tough way to grow up – often awkward, and sometimes downright painful. But in keeping with this experience and theme, it brings to mind one of my favorite quotes from the movie Starman, with Jeff Bridges. In speaking about humanity, he says:
“You are a strange species. Not like any other. And you’d be surprised how many there are. Intelligent but savage. Shall I tell you what Ifind beautiful about you? … You are at your very best when things are worst.”
So maybe nerds need the worst beginnings – it brings out the best in us, like Comic-Con.
My daughter loved it all, by the way. I hope she remembers we celebrated fun and fantasy and dreams. She already knows her Dad is an unabashed geek, but she is at that age when being cool is becoming the most important thing. I say to hell with that – be yourself, Chloe; the sky’s the limit, and personally, I hope to see you Cosplaying at Comic-Con in years to come. I’ll be the Jedi Knight next to you.
We spent our Saturday well. ‘Nuff said.
All photos by Court Allen