Sorry for the length, but I didn't have time to write a short blog.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

A Nerd Journey, Part 2: I Get "Con"ed

After I stopped going to StarFest, I had little to do with my fellow nerds except for a rare trip.  One was the old style conference where a few nerds and geeks would gather in a meeting room at some hotel.  There, they might discuss their favorite episodes or what they were reading and to see one celebrity up close and hear him or her talk.  And that was exactly what happened.  With no other sponsors, Starland invited for a nominal fee their clients to a meeting for the old style convention.  The guest was George Takei. I took my son and together we listened for nearly four hours as Takai answered all questions, posed for photos and signed autographs.  He still did them for free at that point.

We also went to a small comic book con that took up a large meeting room where artists, who I did not know, were doing drawings or loose sketches and talking to fans, while Mile High Comics and a few smaller venders sold comic books and trading cards.  Graphic novels were non-existent.  I knew little about comics any more, but my son had become a fan, and so we went.  I must admit, it was his desire to get comics that rekindled my comic book like, and I started collecting a few here and there.  In all, at this comic book convention, there were maybe 45 or 50 people including vendors and artists in the room at any given time.

I also still had my connections.  Students had become more and more nerdish and would talk to me about comic book movies and the book I was reading.  There were also fellow nerd teachers.  One, an avid comic book collector and the other a fellow English teacher who loved the same science fiction and fantasy books I loved. I also had my connection to a middle school theatre teacher who I mentored and has over the years become one of my closest friends.  His knowledge of all things comic book has guided me through many a new read and into the world of more alternative comics like Alan Moore, James O'Barr and Neil Gaiman.  I was reading Sandman, Crow, League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and Watchmen long before Hollywood discovered them as properties they could mess with.  He became my mentor in this nerd world, and now he wants me to learn role play card gaming.  I think I may have missed that boat.

But as nerds became cool, so did the conventions.  Little did I know that a Con was about to enter my life and send me back to the time when I did models and painted miniatures in the late 80's and early 90's.  In 2012, a comic book convention took place in Denver.  Nobody I knew actually knew about it until it was too late to go.  It was a huge deal, because it was the first of its kind in Denver, and it was attempting to be the next San Diego Comic Con.  There are a few of these all over the world, but no one realized that anything that huge could hit the Mile High City.  And hit it did.  It would be the first Con to dedicate itself to raising money for children's literacy.  In short, it was the only one or size that was going to be a charity driven event.  I decided, after hearing from friends that it was really cool, I would go for the second year of the event.

I had retired the year of the inaugural event so getting the time for the 2nd annual was not a problem.  What surprised me was that my wife who is as far from a nerd as I am from a Renaissance sculptor, said she wanted to go to.  I bought tickets, and so we wouldn't have to get up early every morning we also got a room less than a block away. We tried to go to a few of the panels but what truly was amazing was the people.  In 2012, 27,700 people had attended the event.  The event organizers had hoped for around 12,000. In its second year, Denver Comic Con had nearly 61,000 people show up for the event.  The organizers had expected 47,000.  They were in no way prepared for what was in its second year about to become one of the five largest Cons in the US and Canada.  Next year, they will hopefully take lessons from cons like San Diego and let you in once  you have your badge.  There are still lines even at the older Cons but waiting to get in if you already have a badge isn't one of them.

At the Denver Comic Con,  I was at home in a manner of speaking.  It was nerd heaven.  Sure, I was appalled at the Celebs hawking their signature for money from the nerds, but it was a place that I knew.  I understood.  I could talk to the people there.  I could admire the cosplay.  I was with my species.  I went to a few of the panels, missed a few that I wanted to see because of being forced to stand in line to get in, took a pictures of the cosplayers, bought a fez, and spent time with my wife who lovingly let me go where I wanted and see all that I could.  My close friend - my graphic novel guide-stumbled past a few times with his daughters in tow.  Despite the frustration of trying to get in, I will go back.  I am so excited to return to my people.

Still...there came the Big Daddy (all the nerds who read this will get the reference) of all cons.  I also went to Nerd Prom in San Diego.