By Richard Campbell
There is probably no building more suited to the Boston Comicon than the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center, with its strikingly similar design to the Star Ship Enterprise, space geeks would most certainly feel right at home at this Fan Expo. This past week August 11th-13th, a full scale invasion commenced, and no, I’m not referring to North Korea. With well over 50,000 fans and 500 exhibits, the Comicon draws exhibitors from all over the country, but my non-scientific poll would place the majority of the fans to hail from New England. One thing that is very apparent, besides the scale of the event, is that it attracts a pretty diverse audience. I was under the impression that the event would draw primarily children, but not so- many adults were getting their geeks on, dressed in homemade costumes, attending “panels”, snapping selfies and waiting in long lines for autographs of their favorite artists.
Dominated by Fan Art (art that copies famous graphic novel and cartoon illustrations, but is not by the original artists) comic book, and graphic novels, Comicon also features Cosplay- that is people dressed in costumes resembling their favorite characters. All sorts of fandom mediums were available for purchase: from video game demonstrations, anime, on the spot portrait artists, costumes, and t-shirts, tchotchkes, posters, swords, pendants, figurines, flooded the hall- enough to fill several large landfills. Anthropologists who discover the remains of these individuals are going to have their hands full, I’ve never seen such plethora of conflicting visual symbols and outrageous identities. While I was familiar with comic book superheroes like Superman and Batman, and serial money makers like Star Wars and Star Trek as profitable franchises, I never knew there was so much money in the subcultures invented by individual artists- but holy cow, talk about a profitable event.
There are also groups of artists who form their own quirky community, like the Steampunks of New group members, “The Citizens of Antiford”, an imaginary kingdom of Steampunkers who take their craft more seriously than some people take their actual existence. The character “Lucas Merriweather Buford” is a pacifist, technological evangelist, and engineer, the producer of the Buford Automation Company. He sports his engineered mechanical arm for me, and introduces me to a lady who is more Alice in Wonderland than Steampunk. Then there are the artists, from legendary comic book creators like Stan Lee, of Marvel Comics who helped create the Incredible Hulk, X Men, the Fantastic Four and Iron Man, as well as the not so legendary, but cult worthy movie actors like Anthony Daniels, who portrayed C-3PO in Star Wars, Gillian Lee of the recent Doctor Who fame, or Rocky Horror Picture Show’s Tim Curry. I had nearly forgotten about C-3PO, but I guess no one forgets Tim Curry, even if they try.
Of more interest to the adult readers who have past the Hulk and Spiderman phase, are the graphic novels. Here I do reveal my age when I say they strike me as being well produced comic books, but having read some of the “accepted” or “serious” versions of this genre, like Maus or Persepolis, doesn’t really qualify me to pass judgement on the trendier or zanier new materials. I met up with graphic novelist Daniel Cooney, who recently penned “Tommy Gun Dolls: Masked Maidens, Murder, Mayhem, and Bathtub Gin” a story of prohibition era burlesque dancers who fight the mob in San Francisco- that reminded me of the musical Chicago. Let’s just say that if edgy is the intended goal, Mr. Cooney has succeeded. Another graphic novelist, Philip Adams was signing his most recent work, “Blood of the Summoned” that is billed as a paranormal thriller, and involves Anglo Saxon vampires. Evidently, he did not sign his books in blood! I am afraid that though I have an interest in science fiction, the whole vampire, doom, zombie thing is well too trite for me- but one could see the artistry in the graphic novel genres. Underneath a lot of schlock, there were some serious artists exhibiting work that approached fine illustration.
One might be amused at how enthusiastic these reveling fans are for their various niches in the Comicon world, but I began to get the idea that a certain amount of this fantasy was harmless escape from the real world. Given that situation recently, it is no surprise what a success these events are across the country.