In 2011, I met a woman at San Diego Comic Con who flew all the way from the Philippines to grab a piece of artwork for her son, a young adult in his early 20’s who had just completed nursing school in Manila. A special thing about our culture is that you can walk up to any of us, and as long as you’re Filipino and you’re not immediately someone to hate, you’re already family; she used this quality to strike up a conversation with me.
“So…” Auntie Myrna said, her eyes wandering as she spoke with a small hand squeezing my shoulder. “Where is the ticket booth so I can get in?”
There is a stressful quality to every convention I’ve ever attended; I don’t know if the convention is an entity of stress in itself, or if I’m just too “in the moment” to enjoy myself to the fullest. This state of stress has occurred over the last decade or so, but to varying degrees and in different ways. When puberty was still fresh, it was the idea that someone, anyone could see me at this convention. A classmate, a friend of a friend, or my biggest crush at the time could see me walking into the convention doors, sunglasses and trenchcoat lending absolutely nothing to my disguise. Now, it is a much different type of stress, and something that I know most of you feel as well.
First, it’s the stress of not knowing whether we will be able to attend or not. Our labor of love that is Geek Say What? is known in many circles to be a jury-rigged, adorably unique take on nerd culture, but for some conventions, cheekiness and general shenanigans doesn’t even get us near the door. It is in those instances that we have to pay out of pocket to attend, which we are fine with (for now…), but some of these places make it nearly impossible to give them our money. Take the debacle that was the 2012 and 2013 San Diego Comic Con sign-ups: we couldn’t even queue in the “waiting room” section for an absurd amount of time just to be considered for a ticket, let alone allow us to purchase multiple days for ourselves. I want that to sink in for a bit: they even ruined the experience of waiting in lines for stuff.
The people that attend are another issue unto themselves, but I don’t think it’s entirely our faults for the way that we act at large conventions. The atmosphere has gone from creating a safe haven to foster our love for everything nerd to a combination of the Hunger Games and Thunderdome if we want to purchase something. There are not only convention exclusives at these gatherings; there is this awful sense of self-created supply and demand, where in order to gain one of these objects, we have to trade an entire day of entertainment for lines, raffle tickets, and generally standing around to wait for something to happen. These conditions don’t inherently breed good attitudes, to say the very least. I remember a time when I was able to have a genuine conversation with the person behind me in line; now in place of making friends, there is this brooding sense that the person directly in front of you could receive the last item.
I suddenly realize that this is coming off as a bit of a gripe, and I would like to leave this on a lighter note.
Auntie Myrna, with fear and embarrassment setting in, was mortified when I explained to her that she wouldn’t be able to get in. I immediately thought of a plan to smuggle her through the doors. I don’t really know what that says about my character, but take that as you will; I’ve been assured by Dr. T that smugglers are “undeniably cool” and “scruffy-looking”, which always appeals to me, at least. I let her wear my badge in plain sight, and entered one of the convention doors where I knew security would immediately recognize my face, letting us both enter in the process. We had to walk the entirety of the hall to reach Francis Manapul’s (one of my favorite artists) booth, and it turned out that he knew that she was coming for a piece of his artwork. She explained to him what I had done for her, and as a reward he gave me one of his original panels from The Flash #10. The next year DC had rights to his original panel artwork, and he hasn’t been able to release them to the public since.
The point is that even with the many stressors associated with conventions, it is always worth being around the people who support your medium just as much as you do. Can’t get into San Diego this year? Well, I’m really sorry about that, but here is a list of upcoming conventions all around the country. Won’t be able to receive the Limited Edition Transformer or other Con Exclusive? Wait until someone sells it on Ebay or Amazon, and know that the person selling it wasted an entire day of their life to try and turn a profit on something you’re going to love. This is the Age of Nerd, where we don’t have to be ashamed of our culture, because everyone is knee deep in it. Let’s make sure that we are out there in force to enjoy it before that time is gone.