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The Magic of Comic-Con

For four wonderful days, the Javits Center hosted the one and only New York Comic Con, an annual gathering of fans of every genre of anime, fantasy, science fiction, the big movie universes, and of course, comic books.

I have been going to Star Trek and comic book conventions since I was a teenager. Conventions were the only places to get fan fiction, extended universe books, back issues of comics, and video tapes (!) of series episodes. Stars made themselves available for panels and autographs and there was nothing like the thrill of meeting any of them, just to tell them how much you loved their show.

There was a time when being a comic and sci-fi nerd was absolutely nothing to admit to. But, at the conventions, you could bask in the company of like minded fans, all as eager as you to talk about your favorite shows and the veriest of trivia about the most obscure characters and storylines – would you like an example of a burning topic of conversation? Here’s one: Superman is not actually harmed by kryptonite; it only makes him a normal human so that he can be vulnerable. Now you know!

The New York and San Diego Comic Cons have grown into huge media events, where fans from all backgrounds come together and share their love for the things they’re passionate about. Identities like race and gender have always felt kind of irrelevant (in a good way) at the conventions. Cosplayers embody their characters, and appreciative fans see the love of the character and not race or gender; one fan favorite, a big burly man with chest hair, happily  rocked a Wonder Woman costume that was correctly skimpy. It was a delight to see him, year after year.

Genre fiction itself has always spoken to issues of inequality and social justice. The mutants of the X-Men comics were famously and transparently about gender identity and acceptance. Every iteration of Star Trek has addressed racism and oppression both subtly and overtly. The central theme of Star Wars and Lord of the Rings is freedom from tyranny. And my personal favorite, Superman, created in 1938, is an immigrant alien, dropped off alone in the middle of the heartland but welcomed and nurtured by the family that found him.

My inner teenager has watched with joy as science fiction, comics and fantasy have moved squarely into the mainstream, and brought with them a deep history of storytelling with both imagination and conscience. Comic Con remains a place where we fans can immerse ourselves in the worlds we adore, celebrate our shared passions, and hopefully we can also help to create belonging beyond the convention floor.


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