I was abducted by aliens last week. 50,000 of them. Hordes of beings dressed like Ironman and Link. Aquaman and Leonidas. Medusa, Mary Poppins, Wonderwoman, and Zelda. Plus a whole lot of Animé and Manga. Mangoes. Mangas. Whatever. And once I got onto the mother ship I was followed around, forced to stand next to aliens and endure flashing lights, stuffed into small rooms where information on writing and filmmaking was washed into my brain, and dragged through massive food lines, where organic vegetative sustenance was slammed onto my plate. It was shocking, gobsmacking, wondrous, and pretty cool.
All in all, Salt Lake City's first ComiCon was a ripping success. And frankly, I can't believe I went. It's so not my thing.
Except . . . it kind of is. I dangled around the outer edges of theater geek-dom all through junior high and high school. Many of my friends were into fantasy and science fiction, as well as a new phenom called Dungeons and Dragons. (Remember that, you oldsters out there? Erm, I mean, People of Broad and Lengthy Life's Experience? Remember those who created worlds and peopled them with miniscule die-cast wizards, magical creatures and warriors? And spent all their downtime detailing them with model paint and itty bitty brushes? Not that I know anything about it . . . ) I didn't do the D&D thing. But I was fascinated by it and was totally into reading and writing fantasy. I hid it, though, so my A Cappella and Sterling Scholar friends wouldn't find out. I mean, how embarrassing. I was what you might call "In that world, but not Of it."
Now here I am a bazillion years later, having attended my first ComiCon and having had the time of my life. Yes, it was a strange and wondrous planet to visit. But I noticed a few things:
1) People were fearless. Most of the attendees dressed to the Nine-est of Nines, having either spent massive amounts of time or money on their character vestments. And they dressed as everything from mythological gods to movie heroes to gaming characters. The fearless factor? Ain't everybody in the real world built for spandex. No, trust me on this. But no one cared.
2) ComiCon has a home here. People want it. This was evidenced by what I would guess were around 10,000 attendees roaming the halls on the first day, maybe 15,000 the second, and about 25,000 the third. The very wide line on Saturday wrapped clear around the Salt Palace in Salt Lake City. A distance of many city blocks. Something that prompted the fire marshal to shut the line down several times throughout the day. And despite the wait, exuberance bubbled right out the roof of that place.
3) Cosplayers are part of a real, respect-worthy community. "Cosplay" stands for Costume Play, and is a dedicated movement. It involves more than just dressing up. It's about pouring yourself into something you love, and gathering with others who love it just as much. Kind of like, oh, I don't know, Superbowl parties. Or history reenacting. Or anything women do together. The Cosplayers at ComiCon were their characters right down to the cellular level, sometimes never dropping out for the entire event. It's less a weird "geek" thing, and more like performance art. Seriously. Best people-watching experience ever.
4) And finally, people were kind. There was no way to avoid bumping into someone at SLC ComiCon. The halls were a straight-up traffic jam and there were lines to get into every class (which, by the way, were just as good as offerings from the best writing conferences I've been to. And much less expensive). Within the space of 20 minutes I was acupunctured on every side by tails, horns, spikes, tubing, swords, spears, and prehensile limbs. And when I bumped someone else? It was always, "Oh, you're fine! It's crowded in here. No problem." Nary a glare there. Just amazing politeness, most likely born of people who grew up knowing what it's like to be bullied. Even the film and televisions stars (*cough* William Shatner *cough*) who came to speak seemed to recognize and respect this.
So, okay. If I gotta be abducted, I'm cool with it being by a conference that brings in the likes of Q, Darth Vader, Chewbacca, and Darth Maul. Not to mention television's Superman and the two hotties from the original Battlestar Galactica. Yeah. I can totally be kidnapped by that. And if I have to be surrounded by polite, creative, non-linear people in the process? That's fine too. I mean, really. Leonard and Sheldon, anyone?