Oliver Roberts goes to his first Comic Con
What a strange thing it is to see a pixie vomiting. There she was, in a somewhat concealed area (but not concealed enough, obvs), bent over, savagely sunlit and retching/crying while her fellow pixies (and an emaciated Batman) rubbed her back and looked on concernedly. This was probably the strangest thing I saw at the inaugural Comic Con Africa held this past weekend at the Kyalami Grand Prix Circuit, but there was some very strong competition. Like the obese, puffing Darth Vader or the bedraggled PR girl eating her sad polystyrened lunch, hunched desperately under an industrial staircase, or, or, the British woman who loudly accused me of taking photographs of the arse of a girl dressed as Harley Quinn (I really wasn’t).
For anyone not in the loop, Comic Con is a gigantic convention for geeks, and for South African geeks, Comic Con has, for far too long, existed as an impossible wet dream, something that happens in the US all the time and is like unbelievably cool and colourful and loud and sexy, but could never possibly reach our cash-strapped shores. But now — probably thanks to gigantic turnouts at events like the Rage Expo and GeekFest — Comic Con was finally here.
Things that happen at Comic Con: people dress up as superheroes/villains/ video-game characters (this is called Cosplay and on the right kind of girl it’s maddeningly sexy (you’ll have to ask a girl whether this same truth applies to a fit guy dressed as, say, a Star Wars Storm Trooper); people participate in Larping, which is a mildly violent yet heaps of fun thing where people dress up as warriors/video-game characters et cetera and have these faux-battles using nonlethal home-made weapons; all the big computer/gaming brands set up massive stalls and use colourful lights and pounding dance music to confuse and pressure geeks into buying very expensive keyboards and monitors and headphones for their game play; people put on virtualreality headsets and look a bit silly while ducking and swatting at thin air; very serious and possibly professional gamers compete against each other while people with Secret Service-type headsets commentate on the action and a crowd of people watch it all unfold on a big screen, enthralled; software engineers who “work from home” wear pleather jackets and Tshirts with “funny” slogans on them (this was on Friday); men and women lose their minds over framed posters signed by the entire cast of Big Bang Theory/Star Trek (the original)/X-Men/Star Wars, et cetera.
Some things overheard at Comic Con Africa:
“I can’t take credit for this — it’s my wife’s work.”
“We are geeking out, hey?” “Ja, we are geeking out and it’s awesome.”
“I’m all hot and sweaty from the five-kay walk to get in here. Thank goodness I changed out of my heels first.”
“Appletiser is amazing.” “I like sugar, so I like Appletiser, ha-ha!”
“Are you taking a picture of her arse?” Let us attempt to define what a geek is, exactly. First off, I don’t think there’s much difference between a nerd and a geek; I think “geek” is really just an updated and much less ugly word for the same entity.
From what I observed at Comic Con, a geek is essentially anyone who is overly enthusiastic about something. Like I think what separates an everyday person from a geek is that the everyday person can experience and express excitement over a particular thing, but they do it in a more reserved and perhaps controlled way; what a geek does to express their passion for something is go completely over the top about it and, as a result, sometimes or often, become a bit annoying.
An example of this was the maybe eight, nine, 10 individuals who utterly lost their shit in a board-games stall when they spotted a game called Exploding Cats .I checked out the game and it seems fun, but, whoa, when these geeks spotted it, they started whooping and pumping their skinny carpal-tunnelled wrists and spraying droplets of saliva. It was just too much. The same thing happened at a stall selling absurdly expensive figurines from Star Wars, et cetera — these geeks were very public about their exhilaration at seeing the merchandise. It got kind of embarrassing.
Another thing that I believe defines a geek is their cringing politeness. Whether they’re purchasing a new HD monitor from some clerk who looks suicidal or buying a fizzy water or insisting you walk through the door before them, geeks are so intolerably polite and sycophantic that you feel like being intentionally rude to them just to see what would happen.
However, work your way through all of this caffeinated zealousness and bad posture and what you’re actually left with is a surprising admiration for geeks. Wouldn’t the world be a better place if we all operated with the same don’t-give-a-shitness that allows very adult people to dress up in elaborate costumes and go berserk when they spot a lifelike 1/60 figurine of Luke Skywalker? Wouldn’t our days be more pleasant if, in even our most basic of social exchanges, we were all a little more polite and optimistic?
I don’t doubt that geeks can have a nasty streak. Some can even be pretty arrogant and cliquey. But at their fast-food, Cokeridden cores they are innocent and wellmeaning, and their enthusiasm for silly games and sci-fi movies is begrudgingly infectious. The result is that Comic Con was pleasantly different to a lot of other big expo-type events because the pervading energy was, instead of macho and aggressively charged, passive and bright.
At a place like Comic Con, everyone is free to be themselves without any fear of ridicule or scorn. And whether you’re geeking out or not, that’s really kind of nice.
PS. I also admittedly got a little shaky and excited at the board-games stall when I spotted (and subsequently bought) a Trivial Pursuit game based on the Friends TV show.
‘WE ARE GEEKING OUT, HEY?’ ’JA, WE ARE GEEKING OUT AND IT’S AWESOME’
THEY WERE WHOOPING AND PUMPING THEIR SKINNY CARPAL TUNNELLED WRISTS