Mark Bonington provides the 10 steps to surviving your first Comic Con.
As someone whose previous experience of Comic Con was restricted to isolated episodes of the Big Bang Theory, I didn’t know quite what to expect walking through the doors of Earls Court 2, Brompton Road on Friday evening.
At that point, frankly, I was simply glad I had made it across London dressed as Simon Tam from Firefly without being punched.
But after being greeted upon arrival by an enormous Game of Thrones dragon skull, I quickly came to the swift conclusion that normal social conventions had been suspended.
As such, here are 10 things I learned from my first time at Comic Con:
1. Cosplay, the founding theme of events like comic con, is now big business. No longer the reclusive corner cave of under-sexed, spotty teens, it is a form of theatrical self-expression practised by those of all ages and genders. At Comic Con, you’re as likely to see Queen Elsa from Frozen as you are an Ewok. Probably more so, actually. Entire businesses are now devoted to providing accurate costuming for those who wish to emulate their favourite film and video game icons, not to mention the props and accessories which accompany them.
2. For some, this may be plastic swords. For others, it involves buying meticulously crafted (or even hand made and genuine) swords and katanas. Whole stalls were devoted to these, and they sold for several hundred pounds apiece. Interestingly, I learned, the only prerequisite to owning a 5 ft death-dealing medieval weapon is that you’re over 18. That’s it. But to own a small antique pistol which couldn’t put a bullet through paper, you must be fully licensed and registered.
3. Comic con is, in many ways, like theatre; it is a place where normal convention breaks down and distorts (well, obviously, you don’t tend to see someone dressed like a character from Assassin’s Creed on the Jubilee Line). If you like meeting new people, and are willing to enter into the spirit of the event, then it’s the perfect opportunity to network and make friends.
4. A large part of the draw of Comic Con are various famous-faces, which will be on hand to give autographs and grudgingly pose for selfies. These will usually be topped by a small number of genuinely A/B list bods (read: Lena Headey, Natalie Dormer, Carrie Fisher etc.). However, they will be backed by a (much larger number) of “celebrities” who played roles like ‘that Neimoidian assistant at the start of Episode I’ or ‘that dancer in that scene that one time’. “Celebrity”, like mostly everything else at comic con, takes on its own meaning.
5. For that reason, be prepared for the A-listers to cancel. At the last minute. Don’t make getting a photo with Summer Glau your sole reason for going, because there’s a strong chance you’ll leave disappointed.
6. And anyway, the real A-listers are those who made the most effort
with costumes. Do that, and you’ll be getting snapped left, right and centre.
7. Then again, occasionally, you will spot a rare and elusive creature at an event like Comic Con, which I guess must be like going on Safari in Africa and seeing a Black Rhinoceros. At Comic Con, this is the “normie”. The too-cool-for-school guy who came along in regular clothing, because dressing up was ‘weird’. Word to the wise: don’t be that guy.
8. Why? Because that guy will be shunted off into a corner like an unwanted train and left there. Comic con is about freedom and pride –
and in the modern age of selfies and social media, you need a phone to fully enjoy that (remember: until it’s on Instagram, it didn’t happen – a defense I’m waiting to one day hear in a court of law). The low battery must be the bane of the cosplay’s existence, so make sure your device is fully charged before setting out.
9. Go in a group. And if possible, theme that group appropriately.
10. Enjoy it. You’ll see stalls filled with everything from toys to books to games to DVDs to every piece of sci-fi geekery you could possibly imagine. This ranges from corporate-sponsored stalls to something resembling George Lucas’ car-boot sale. Don’t question it too much, just go with it. And take cash.