At the NYCC the space is divided into two main sections. The lower floor has the panels. And the upper floor offers a massive chamber in which some 400 or 500 booths have been set up. This is the massively oversaturated, overcrowded heart of the Comicon. In many ways it’s like an indoor version of the classic Middle Eastern bazaar: a million little shops sell everything from back issues of comic books to autographed pictures, film posters, knick knacks, games and swords, with packed narrow alleyways in between; hucksters try to draw attention to their wares with costumes, gimmicks and swag; artists in the Artist’s Alley sign autographs and try to sell sketches; and above all spectacle prevails -- giveaways, celebrity signings, films to watch, test rides of the newest video games; and oh-so-unusual costumes. Today’s specialty seemed to be manga gear; if you didn’t recognize a costume (or if it had animal ears, or whiskers), it was definitely manga.
But I also saw a heavyset Spiderman, half of whose homemade costume was sewn from an argyle print; yet another slave dancer Princess Leia (they and stormtroopers really are de riguer at these festivals); a number of zombies – zombies are very big in the comic book world right now; and two girls wearing wonderful old fashioner bomber caps and goggles.
As I walked around I talked to a number of the costumed about why they had chosen to dress up today. Two things really struck me; first, many of the people I spoke to said it was a way of making friends. People who liked your character would come up and talk to you about them, as would other costumed wonders who represented characters from the same set of stories.
Second, some articulated a sort of self-identification with the character that they were playing. One woman in particular talked about how dressing up gave her the chance to be her favorite character. And on the panels you would see something similar at work when panelists, much to the delight of everyone in the room, would address people asking questions while in costume as though they were the characters themselves.
Somehow for me this circles back to the question I was left with yesterday – why are we all sitting here listening to person after person ask for information that no one is going to give them. Perhaps people stay because they identify with the characters being discussed. Any scrap of information that might be tossed out is a possible window into one’s own soul. And into theirs, as well; we suffer through the sometime tediousness for the love of the character and for the love of the universe that they inhabit.
Watching this now for two days I have this funny image, which may not fit, that certain characters– be they comic book, novel, television or film – are like really good friends we only get to see every once in a while. When they’re gone, we really miss them, but we have to wait for them to come back. And interacting with creators is like talking to someone who has seen them more recently; we like it because they can tell us, at least a little bit, of how they’re doing.
Jim McDermott, SJ