Editorial: Superheroes in the Docklands: A Newcomers Con Experience
Andrzej Ryan writes for CBT on his thoughts when he visited London’s ComicCon as a complete newcomer to the comic book scene. He describes the article as the “reflections of someone seeing such an event for the first time and getting thoroughly caught up in it. “
Superheroes in the Docklands
“Next stop, Custom House. All orcs, elves and other inhabitants of Middle Earth should alight here.”
I’m walking up the ramp to the ExCeL centre with a horde of blood-drenched zombies. In my bland suit, I’m the one sticking out. At the entrance, three spidermans queue for a cash machine.
Welcome to ComicCon London, the most committed fancy dress party you will ever attend. Serious inconvenience is no impediment to the pursuit of faithful recreation. Many characters carry weapons several times their size. The delight is in the details. The rust on Iron Man’s outfit. The shade of the Incredible Hulk’s green paint. The precise angle of Neo’s quiff. While many outfits have been purchased, a vast array have been lovingly crafted. Surrounded by superheroes and monsters, the world is suddenly a very fluorescent place.
Much of Comic Con feels like a jumble sale. The peculiar assortment of tat ranges from a rucksack in the shape of a mouse to a four foot tall Batman figurine. Teenage boys swarm eagerly around the stands selling replica swords. A katana is removed from its box and receives gasps of admiration.
An announcement declares that the actor Dougray Scott is signing autographs. I wander over and find a relatively modest queue. Scott’s awkwardness suggests he’s aware that he’s in a world that is not his own. Yet while he doesn’t exude enthusiasm, he is unfailingly polite.
Geek culture is often seen as solitary, defined by hours spent locked away in darkened bedrooms. Comic Con, however, is a sociable affair. Strangers who’ve only just met play board games together like old friends. Attendees constantly stop those in impressive outfits to ask if they can take a photo. These photoshoots are often the start of animated conversations.
In Comic Book Village, independent comic book artists sell their carefully honed works from stands. For the buyers, there’s the chance to hear the intriguing back stories. One artist tells me how she first came up with her lead character while doodling in an English class when just fourteen. Five years of late nights later, that classroom doodle is the central character of a ten volume comic series.
“I just never stopped.”
For once the artists are in control. Instead of having to hope for a positive mention on a website, here they can talk directly to the fans they want to win over.
As I leave, I pass a waiter propped against a wall while on his cigaratte break. He watches the crowd of fictional creations pass by and shakes his head in bewilderment.