In almost every culture, there is a certain right of passage that one must complete before becoming a man. Spartans had to murder a helot as a way of getting used to taking away another human being’s life. The Maasai tribes in Kenya traditionally hunted down and killed lions with a spear. Frat boys have to run around the quad naked with granny panties as blindfolds while their bros call shout “faggot” in their ears. But all of those guys had it easy. Us geeks, we have to feel the warm breath from a neckbearded man down our back as we browse the 50% off boxes. We have to endure the long walk to find the end of a line that we really have no idea what it’s for, and then stand around for hours before discovering we’ve been waiting to hear the now grown-up kids from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory talk about how much fun it was to watch the oompa loompas dance. We must walk through aisle after aisle of avoiding eye contact with impoverished artists begging you to give them money in exchange for a 11×17 art print of Batman sneaking a peek of Harley Quinn in the shower. Yes, before a young geekling can become a true geek, he must get his pudgy, pimpled ass out of his mother’s basement and into the sea of awkward that is a comic book convention.
If you are a true geek, you go to the San Diego Comic Con. That’s pretty much THE Comic Con, and just about everybody who is anybody in the geek industry will be there. However, I am poor and I don’t live near San Diego, so in order to get my yearly dose of weirdos in joker costumes, I go to Wizard World Chicago. This previous weekend, I attended my second Chicago Comic Con. I went with a friend of mine, Andy, but I thought it was a little odd that he wanted to go. You see, I’m the kind of person who has a shitty WordPress blog about comic books, so there should be no misunderstanding of my interest, but Andy, for the most part, is a normal person. He does have his geeky tendencies, but when he reads comics, he wants to read something interesting and literary, not She-Hulk. He also has a girlfriend and we all know that people who go to conventions are a lot like the people who go to pride parades: they don’t reproduce. Or at least, that was the way it used to be.
Like it or not, geekdom is growing, and we’re not all basement dwelling neckbeards anymore. Well, many of us still are basement dwelling neckbeards, but now there’s room people who have stuff like jobs and friends. I believe with the rise of technology, it is so much easier for us all to have a geeky side, and since Hollywood refuses to stop forcibly inserting comic book movies into our eyeholes, geek culture has just turned into something more massive, inclusive, and uncontrollable. While walking around the show floor this year, I saw an entire spectrum of geeks, from the hardcore who can tell you Barbara Gordon’s bra size to the weekend warriors who really just like The Dark Knight and Marvel movies, and every other geek in between. The experience of being around so many like-minded individuals who share this weird interest with you is almost indescribable.
As lame as it is, for a moment you really do feel like you are a part of something, an actual community, and it’s a feeling you really can’t get anywhere else. But that starts to go away whenever you’re trying to find the booth from the writer/artist who made an interesting book about people in gasmasks and the entire traffic of people is stopped because a bunch of creepers want to get their picture taken with an extremely hot Slave Leia who may or may not be wearing panties underneath those cloth flaps. Then you get pushed into an obese man who was looking over the selection of magical girl anime, and after that you just hope somebody cracks open a vial of the Ebola virus right in the middle of the show floor. Comic Con and all your attendees, I seriously love you and everything you are, but godDAMN do I hate you.
But this year was mostly a good year. I walked by Red Letter Media’s booth and purchased their terrible, terrible movie, which I actually enjoyed. We almost met Jeffrey Brown, writer of incredibly whiny autobiographical comics, but the man does have talent and seems like a pretty cool guy. Andy got a sketch from him for free which seemed incredibly generous, especially since people like former Monkee and current pathetic shell of his former self Peter Tork was charging $25 bucks for an autograph. I had a brief encounter with Peter Mayhew as we were leaving the convention on Friday. He was walking back in the center and because of the huge crowd, my arm brushed against him. I brushed into Chewebacca guys, I’m lucky that my arms are still in their sockets.
While most of the guests were nobodies and celebrities nobody has thought of in 30 years, the two people I was most excited about seeing were Patrick Stewart and Bruce Campbell. There was no way in hell I was going to give them money for an autograph or a picture, but I did want to hear them speak that their panels. Bruce Campbell’s panel was probably one of the funniest things I’ve seen in awhile. He mostly made fun of people and handed out dollar bills. Patrick Stewart’s panel was also funny at times and he had some interesting stories from behind the scenes, like when he fell asleep while some alien was giving a really boring speech. But Stewart seemed to actually enjoy himself there, which I really wasn’t expecting, but that made the whole panel more fun. Last year, I sat in on William Shatner’s panel, and he just wanted to make sure we watch his awful, upcoming sitcom that everybody knew was going to get cancelled after one season, and then he just wouldn’t shut up about Canada. Then again, it really shouldn’t surprise anyone that Patrick Stewart was better at something than William Shatner.
After Patrick Stewart was done speaking, Andy and I quickly sneaked out the side door to avoid the massive crowd. But then we just stopped immediately and our jaws dropped. I think I instinctively knew what was happening before my brain could really register it, but Patrick Stewart was walking right in front of us, just about a foot away. Andy was in front of me, and if we wouldn’t have stopped, he would have bumped into Stewart. He briefly wondered how awesome it would be, to accidentally clothesline Patrick Stewart, but it would not be awesome at all. There are some things you just don’t do, and some people you just respect, goddammit. If Andy would have smacked into Patrick Stewart, he would have been walking those 517 miles back home, because I will have none of that in my car. Even when more people started to pour out of the convention, there was a reverent silence and a respectful distance kept from Patrick Stewart, because we may be pathetic weirdos, but we aren’t heathens. But I was close enough to Patrick Stewart to breath air particles that could have been through his respiratory system, and that makes $50 admission totally worth it.
If you have never been to a comic convention, you really should at some point. It’s just truly a bizarre circus of people that you rarely see in the wild. If you like cheap comic books, interesting cosplayers, random celebrities, bad artists, good artists, and all sorts of weirdos, freaks, social outcasts, and nerds, then you should check out this thing called the “Internet.” But if you’re feeling ambitious, spend a day at a convention, then spend the next day cleaning the con funk out of your hair. Trust me, it’ll be worth it.