Friday, July 15, 2011

Throwback Week: Joining a New Con-munity

While the beginning of this blog served as an announcement to anyone that cared that I was officially embracing the nerd within, I had never attended a comic convention. That changed last August when my wife, proud of the unapologetic nerd I had blossomed into, suggested we attend one together with our sons. The following post resulted:

When I started writing this blog in February, it was an exercise in self-exposure. I was admitting that there was a long-suffering, stifled nerd inside of me that I was ready to let peek out. I suspected there were others that felt the same way and hoped to reach them and encourage them to let their geek-ish alter egos shine rather than keep them locked away in the dark recesses of their psyche.

At the same time, I was well aware that I was no pioneer. There existed a life path that one could journey as an adult nerd with kids. Plenty of people were on it. I just wasn’t one of them yet. I lurked in the shadows of said path, watching the nerds who bravely and proudly strode along the adult nerd trail from the brush.

From time to time, I would sample the fruits of life as a public nerd: a
Star Wars marathon here, a Lego set purchased for myself there, gifts of action figures to my brothers. But I always had my true nature shielded from scrutiny by the fact that whatever I was participating in could be deflected onto my sons. I had an out.

I’m just doing this because my boys like this stuff.

To be honest, as much as I feared those who make fun of nerds pointing their fingers at me and laughing, I was just as intimidated by not being able to hang with the true nerds. I worried that should I step out from the overgrowth into the sunlight of the nerds’ path, I might not even be welcomed by the nerds traveling upon it. My lack of knowledge in the realms of
Battlestar Gallactica and inability to speak fluent Klingon could be my undoing.

Despite these fears, with my wife’s urging, I found myself and my family attending my first comic con yesterday. My standard self-defense mechanism prepared, I dressed my kids in their Halloween costumes from last year: Boba & Jango Fett. If I could divert attention to the innocent youth then I would be fine.

I am at once ashamed and proud to admit that I gave the nerds of the world too little credit. Within a few short minutes, I was receiving passing compliments from complete strangers on my Mega Man t-shirt. My boys shied away from would-be high fives regarding their costumes.

The convention as a whole was a very welcoming atmosphere. It seemed everyone there was happy to just be in the presence of others who shared their interests. Nobody was excluded. All were welcome.

Instead of bring criticized by some real life version of the Comic Book Guy from
The Simpsons because I didn’t know exactly which issue Wolverine first appeared in, the gentleman running the booth which sold loose action figures watched me and allowed me time to answer my own son’s question.

“Daddy, who is this guy?”

“That is…” I paused and could see him from the corner of my eye, prepared to lend a hand. “Titanium Man.” We then made eye contact and I received a nod that said to me, “Nice job.”

My fears had been eased. I was holding my own.

We walked about and enjoyed some other booths. I bought various items I didn’t need but had to have, like t-shirts and glass tumblers featuring Marvel characters. We unsuccessfully tried to convince my six year old to go stand next to the most realistic Boba Fett costumed man (I assume it was a man underneath) that any of us had ever seen. If it was a man, he gets extra credit for the costume because the strap running from his jet pack beneath his crotch to his belt looked awfully uncomfortable. We ran into Ghost-Busters and complimented an age accurate Hit Girl on her costume, much to her mother’s apparent joy.

And the people sitting behind each table, manning each booth were not pushy. They would very much like for you to purchase their wares. But if all you wanted to do was check them out and say, “That’s awesome,” as you picked up the bust of Zombie Spider-Man or leaned in close for a better look at the Chewbacca painting, they were pleased. As long as you could appreciate what they brought to the show, they were happy.

Perhaps one of the best examples of this was our stop at the Nerd Buttons table (I would link to their website here, but I seem to have lost the business card amongst the other paraphernalia I collected). The buttons featured quotes from classic movies and my wife frequently asked me which movie each was from. I was proud to explain in front of the booth occupants that the amp knob set at eleven was a reference to
Spinal Tap. I told her “We’re on a mission from God,” was from the Blues Brothers. I then received their clarification on whether, “This is my boom stick,” was from Evil Dead 2 or Army of Darkness (it’s from Army of Darkness).

We even had a discussion over my Mega Man shirt (which I decided yesterday I’m going to wear out in public more often). The man behind the button manufacturing said he wanted to create a button with the iconic image of Mega Man leaping but hadn’t due to obvious copyright infringement. For those that don’t know what that looks like:

We then shared a good laugh when I told them I always made a point of hitting the boss doors in mid leap in such a way to momentarily suspend Mega Man in this pose as the screen panned right. When I looked over at my wife, I was well aware that she had no clue what I was talking about, but the smile on her face showed she enjoyed being there and watching me be a nerd with other nerds just the same.

And that was the overall feeling I left the convention with: one of acceptance. My intimidation was misplaced. I walked into my first comic con and was welcomed with open arms. There was no nerd threshold I needed to meet. Nobody ever cared to ask if I knew the slightest about the bridge layout of either the original
Star Trek or The Next Generation. I enjoyed all there was to take in and everyone there enjoyed sharing it.

I decided I will not shy away from such events in the future as I have in the past. Who knows, maybe next time I’ll even wear a costume. The only challenge, at six-foot-six will be finding one in my size.

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