Friday, July 15, 2016

Get Yo' Geek On

Every once in a while I feel the need to unequivocally declare that I am now, and always have been, a nerd.  That said, I go through phases of different flavors of nerdiness, the way I go through phases where all I want to eat is pho noodles, or Mexican (actually, every damn time I'm home...ask me how many times I ate at Chipotle while I was in Chicago, go on - I dare you).  When I was in middle school, it was Dragonlance.  As a freshman in high school, Star Wars.  Later in high school it was the X-Men.  During my time in Ras Al Khaimah I got hooked on Doctor Who.  There are a few fandoms I haven't gotten sucked into, but they are rare.  Anyways, regardless of my current fandom, being a nerd is sort of my thing, and so when I found out that there was a comic con thing happening in the same convention center as the national art teachers' conference I went to last month, it was only a matter of time before I broke down and bought a pass.
Well?  Have you???
The convention was actually the Chicago Comics and Entertainment Expo: C2E2, which sounds like a robot from Star Wars and most of the time I have referred to it as "that comic con thing," since that way people actually know what I'm talking about.  Now, a little FYI for all the haters out there who may find themselves feeling salty thinking that I took time off to go to a comic convention...I didn't.  I dutifully walked past all the cosplayers (I'm SO sad I didn't see Captain America and Iron Man in historic civil war garb until the photo showed up on my facebook feed) and the big entrance to the hall with all the booths selling shiny wonderful merch until the last session of my professional development was over, around 20 hours before I flew out of Chicago on the flight I'd booked long before I heard about C2E2.  I'd have to be stupid to miss out on my kickass art teacher workshops, the whole reason I went there.  That means I paid $40 for a pass that I got to use for about 3 hours, but it was worth every penny. 
Lego Rey

A big part of the reason I decided to go was the fact that I've never been to a comic convention.  My certifiable nerdiness notwithstanding, I've just never been in the right place at the right time.  So I decided to carpe the fuck out of my last diem in Chicago and find out what it was all about.  I mean, I had an idea, of course.  Panels and cosplay and all sorts of stuff for sale.  But to see it firsthand?  To experience people walking around in the most unbelievable costumes, with the most beautiful hair and makeup - not because it was their job but just for shits and giggles?  To watch the mania of consumerism unfold in all its geeky glory?  To hear experts in the industry talk about their shit?  In short, to meet with my people?

Totally. Worth. It.

I've got to say that nerds are actually the best.  For being hot as balls and super crowded, "The Floor" (as it is known) was actually a very polite, upbeat place.  People were actually really friendly and basically in a great mood.  I had my backpack on and bumped into more than one person while I was navigating it, and always found my apologies accepted by a smiling face.  If you're reading this back home, this may not seem like a big deal (unless you've been to a Trump rally recently, in which case, my condolences!) but after doing my two years in China I've come to appreciate it a lot.

Then there was the line for churros.  It was ridiculously long, as I figured out by asking the woman who was actually selling them.  I said I'd pass - I was too hungry to wait in the line, and she just handed it over to me to eat while I waited to pay.  Maybe that wasn't being nice - maybe that was good business sense, because by the time I'd made it to the front of the line I was ready for another.  Either way, it was super effective.

One thing that caught my eye while I indulged my impulse shopping (for the bajillionth time that week) was Valiant's superheroine, Faith.  I know it's a thing now, for comic books to have more representation of different races, such as the new Ms. Marvel, who is of Pakistani descent, and I think they've represented characters who are differently-abled.  To be honest, I haven't actually read American comics for a while, so I'm not sure how much they've come to be inclusive of other body types, but I thought it was really cool so see they had a fat woman for a superheroine, in her own limited series.  Like, not cutely chubby...definitively fat.  I only got to read the first issue, so I'm not sure how legit she is - there was one scene where she was defending puppies, which are cute and all (even if they grow up to be dogs) but made me wonder if they'd actually let her be a badass - but the fact that they had her out there with her own cardboard stand-up was definitely a step in the right direction.
For the last two years, my nerd boat has been docked in the harbor known as Anime, so the only panel I actually went to was the Funimation one.  I was actually kind of sad at how little representation anime actually got, both in terms of merchandise and in the convention generally. 
When I messaged the Kawaii Kid about it later, we both agreed that if we combined his knowledge with my mad craftin' skills we'd make a fortune.  But I found at least a few things to spend my cash on.  One of the great things about cosplaying is that it highlights what you may be looking for, so when one of the vendors told me they had the Nendoroid figure of Celty (the character I'm dressed as) I forked out a chunk of change, and then did it again when I found a dakimakura of my favorite male character, Yato.  I bought a bunch of Lego minifigs for Five, who has been amusing us by setting up and photographing tiny adventures with the two she already had - honestly, she only cared about the Batman one I brought her, the others were just bonuses.  The art historian (what little there is) in me loved stumbling across the Ukiyo-Pop booth - BD Judkins takes pop culture icons such as Star Wars and envisions it as Japanese prints from the 1800s - the golden era, one of my favorite art forms!  I ended up buying Deadpool, because OF COURSE I BOUGHT DEADPOOL.  (Hello, ninjas!)  But my favorite find was actually a new game - Superfight.  You remember being a kid and having debates with your friends about who would win in a fight - Batman or Superman?  (If not, sorry, but your childhood sucked).  This game is basically built on that premise.  You draw three character-type cards and three attribute cards, then create your best fighter using one of each.  The difference between some of my other favorite card games (such as Cards Against Humanity or Apples to Apples) is that you play your character openly and argue for why they would beat the other character.  I've only played it a couple of times, but it's awesome, especially when you get the right group of people together (ie, total nerds).
Far be it from me to belabor the point, but lest anyone have any doubt that going to C2E2 while I was in Chicago for the NAEA conference was work related, it did spur me on to organize my school's first (ever, as far as I could tell) anime night.  I have written ad nauseum about how awesome my kids are, and after experiencing C2E2, I wanted to share the excitement with them.  I teach a LOT of nerds (possibly why I like my students so much), and when I had permission and started telling them about it, the response was fantastic.  We watched a movie, ate sushi, did a trivia quiz, and - of course - had cosplayers, most of whom were hardcore and did a LOT of work on their costumes.  I found it kind of hard to believe that nobody had organized something like this before, especially since the two who got me hooked on anime were actually IN the student council the previous year.  Anyway, it was a lot of fun, and the next time I go to a convention it will be anime-centered to get the most out of the experience.

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