If you want to embrace your inner geekiness, the ultimate event is comic con. I have to admit my geek level, arguably high, is a little closer on the radar to “average joe” than the other end of the spectrum, which appears something like dressing in a cartoon plush bear costume in public. Don’t get me wrong. I think it’s great that people are passionate about their favorite movie, cartoon, comic and everything Comic Con stands for. And I’m a little jealous of those awesome super hero costumes, but not so much that I would ever step into a leotard and take pictures with perfect strangers. It’s just a little past my comfort level.
I’ve always been curious about Comic Con, but the expense of tickets, the insane crowds and the rush to get tickets before they were sold out were always an excuse to put it on the back burner. At least until they opened a brand new Comic Con this year in Elkhart, a relatively small town to fill the shoes of such a big name event. My curiosity won over and I decided to check it out. After all, how could a brand new Comic Con have super huge crowds, especially in a town With the population of a small football stadium. I thought a first year Comic Con can’t be too crazy ( boy was I wrong). I decided to take some teens from work (an after school arts program) just to up the ante.
I knew we were in trouble when we couldn’t find a parking space, which I have never had trouble with in downtown Elkhart. But we drove through lot after lot, then finally parked near McD’s three blocks down. We had driven past a tent and which offered a glimpse of a line of 30+ eventees outside the building, which prompted all the teens in the van to shout for a break at McDonald’s . I don’t get the connection, but whatever.
The event took place in The Lerner Theater. It is a beautifully historic theater in the middle of down town. It’s worth stopping in just to look at the building inside, decorated in turn of the century style. But please do yourself a favor and look at it when there are not a few thousand individuals standing in the lobby. Through the windows of the building all you could see were people, not even walls, just people standing, waiting around, as though in the world’s largest line. I like crowds, but lines make my stomach lurch. I gritted my teeth and moved onwards. There were two lines outside, so our group split up. I went to buy tickets, they went to wait in line like they had tickets. I felt like we had it under control, but after this, I was so out of my element. Most of the rest of the day was a blur of people, lines, crazy costumes, random Star Wars characters, and a whole lot more lines. Oh, and the occasional teen asking for something every few seconds. And did I mention the lines?
Once we got our wristbands bands and entered, we pretty much stepped in a line, to step in a line, to step in a line. If you do not like being in crowds, this is not the event for you. At times I could not even see three people in front of me. And guess what. There are more lines everywhere you look. I asked someone where was the best place to take a bunch of teens, and they said the vendor hall upstairs. Back into a line we went, to get upstairs. Only after waiting for about seven minutes did we realize that line was for making balloon animals, which apparently is a bit awkward for teens. But we found out before it became painful, and we quickly got in the right line.
I have to say, as lines go, Comic Con has the best lines. No one is impatient, everyone is friendly, and every where you look there is some stranger to entertain you. If you love people watching, this is the ultimate event. You actually spend a majority of your time looking at other people while waiting. There are so many costumes, personalities and color everywhere you look. That is, if you can see past the shoulders to your right and left. And while you are waiting, there are even pictures you can take with extremely realistic Star Wars characters. I saw the Joker from Batman get his picture taken next took a black storm trooper and a Rey. I think his buddy was Spider-man. It gets confusing if you try to think too hard. And I would like to point out that the small line for the pictures qualifies as a line within a line.
The vendor hall was a room filled with booths that ranged from the local swap stores to famous artists that worked for Marvel. Not too shabby for a first time Comic Con. To get around to see the vendors, you had to get in line, of course. But it was a fast moving line, which really was more from congested traffic, and you could hop in and out as needed. I had the monumental task of keeping track of a few teenagers feeling the rush of spending someone else’s hard earned money. But I managed to see quite a bit of awesome stuff. I saw a sketch from a Hana Barbara artist walk by, a great collection of legos (definitely a fan) and more comic books than I had the time to look through. There was also a very impressive statue of Yoda.
I was outvoted to go listen to the panel about comics during World War II. I was pleasantly surprised, however, when the line to meat 90’s superstar Dean Cain wound it’s way through the main theater, where the panel was already in progress. I was able to listen to over half of it in line, and for me this was worth the trip. It got into all the great details of tools and what it was like to draw cartoons before computers. (Okay, maybe I am more on the geek spectrum than I thought.) When panel was over, the kid’s Cosplay contest was about to start. I got wise, or desperate, and went to see how long the line wound around outside the theater. Apparently 45 minutes of waiting only gets you halfway to Dean Cain. But someone told me if you don’t want a $50 autograph or picture, you can just walk right through in the back and see the man. I really wish I had found that out 45 minutes earlier, but it was fantastic, because it made the day for a good part of my crowd. We were able to gawk at a movie star for a few minutes, which almost never happens in Midwest Indiana.
We rounded out our day by watching a majority of the kids’ costume contest, and then meeting a variety of the adults role in with their cosplay outfits. I must say, some were super impressive. I missed it, but my friend showed me a picture of her and wolverine, which made me do a double take for sure. Boy am I jealous.
So my adventure with the Elkhart Comic Con was a good warm up should I ever dare to venture to a full blown comic con. I have to say it was enjoyable, but bordered on too much for me. I can take insane crowds, but insane lines are something else. Of course, if you have to wait in a line, Comic Con is the best place to do it. And I have to give kudos to the fellows that organized the show. The organization and ability to handle the thousands of people filtering through the building was quite impressive.