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Now in its third year, Dublin Comic Con is fast becoming one of the key dates in an Irish geek’s social calendar.
Much like the San Diego event, the two-day convention (note: ‘con’ is short for ‘convention’, not ‘conference’ as most mainstream Irish media seem to have latched onto) hosts a variety of well-known guests, writers and artists with whom fans (many of whom dressed as their favourite characters) can meet and pose for pictures, have their memorabilia signed and ask all-important questions, such as where the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles get cash to pay for all that pizza. Also very much like the event in San Diego, calling it a ‘Comic’ Con is a bit of a misnomer as it suggests that the convention is primarily about comics – it’s not. If you have a special interest in any kind of franchise, TV, film, game or otherwise, you’ll find something here for you.
Unlike the San Diego event (which is run by a completely different organisation), Dublin Comic Con is a relatively independent operation run by two brothers who saw a niche in the market for a large-scale all-encompassing fan convention in Dublin. It’s an event run by fans and it shows. For all the hustle and bustle of people and the money exchanging hands, DCC always has a refreshing home-spun feel to it.
Money however, is an issue. The tickets are €20, and while all the Q&A panels throughout the day are free of charge, everything else comes at a price. This is understandable – any comic convention invites you to buy things, but if you’re not thrifty, you could easily wave goodbye to many Euros in a few hours. I had the great pleasure of meeting Kevin Eastman at the event – co-creator of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles back when it was just a silly idea between himself and co-creator Peter Laird to spoof comics at the time. The business-savvy two went on to oversee the majority of TMNT media and quickly turned a quirky independent comic into a billion dollar multimedia franchise. Eastman was a soft-spoken and approachable, but the always-awkward process of paying for an autograph put a bit of a barrier between us. When I asked if he’d get in for a quick photo, I was told by his PA that that would cost another €20. Like a deer in headlights (or a Turtle in a technodrome) I politely declined and made my way. Look, it’s no different anywhere else and the convention need the guests to meet large targets in order to justify the cost of bringing them over (otherwise the convention has to recoup the remaining cost of the guest’s ‘guarantee’) but it’s always a bit disheartening.
It is important to stress as well though, that there is a lot of free events worth attending. The Q&A panel with Kevin Eastman was fantastic (one fan got a huge laugh by asking the aforementioned pizza question to which Eastman kind of just shrugged). There was a number of panels hosted by Irish comic creators with lots of great advice as to how to break into the industry (build it and they will come). The highlight for me was an event by a group of actors known as ‘Storybreakers’, where they did a live reading of JJ Abrams’ unproduced script for Superman from the early 2000s. Like many unproduced superhero scripts, the story is bizarre in places and deviates wildly from the comics – so needless to say, the performance was a riot. The guy playing Lex Luthor was incredible, in case Warner Bros are wondering.
The highlight of DCC is always the effort put in by the fans with their extravagant costumes, often homemade, at great personal expense to the wearer. There were loads of Men, both Bat and Super. Jokers were wild (there was a nice mix of the Heath Ledger version, the new Jared Leto one and interpretations closer to the comic) and Spideys were swinging. There was a lot of Harley Quinns dressed like Margot Robbie in the new Suicide Squad film (none seemed too sunken by the rubbish reviews). Cosplay can be one of the most liberating ways to escape the doldrums of reality and the efforts on show were as impressive as any of the large scale conventions in the UK and the US. Men, women, boys and girls (of which there were a lot more this year, which was nice to see) all came in their droves, in-costume proud of who they were and what their outfit meant to them. There’s always such an incredible warmth and welcoming feeling extended by the fan community – like everyone is in it together. It’s hard to have a cool kids table when you’re dressed in a green polyester jumpsuit.
I should mention that I wasn’t going to go this year at all – I’ve been up to my eyes with work and I wanted to catch up on a couple of things this weekend. Some gutless gasbag on a radio show that shall remain nameless structured a segment on how weird cosplayers are, how you’re not all there if you dress up as a character from something and that the whole thing made him uncomfortable. So I went in full-costume as the Riddler (the 1966 version – people have told me for years that I have an uncanny resemblance to actor Frank Gorshin) to to spite the gasbag. To that person, I say this: In case you haven’t noticed, the geeks have inherited the Earth. In the age of billion dollar superhero movies and Netflix binge-watching, everyone is a fanboy of something. And that’s okay. It really is okay to like things. It’s not 1995 and we’re not living in an episode of Saved by the Bell.
My evening finished up in the Teacher’s Club on Parnell Street where a group of Star Trek fans known as ‘Star Trek Ireland’ were holding a 50th anniversary party. What the heck, I thought. When I arrived, it wasn’t packed – the experimental plan to hold the event directly after the con, on a hot day when people wanted to go home and get out of their costumes hadn’t paid off. Nevertheless, people filtered in over time and there was enough of us there to make a night of it. There was a table quiz, video games, a raffle and dancing. At one point we were all holding hands in a circle singing along to “Star Trekkin’ across the Universe”. All in all, it was surreal, bizarre, a bit naff and one of the best nights out I’ve had in months. The feeling of total-togetherness within this tight-knit group of Trekkies (all from very different backgrounds, young and old) was a little bit lovely (and kind of what Star Trek is all about anyway).
It’s not perfect, but Dublin Comic Con makes me feel proud to be a fan. It aims broad but maybe that’s why it succeeds – no one is left out, no one is left behind, we’re all celebrated and we’re all in this together. That’s definitely worth the cost of a night out in some rubbish nightclub. The human adventure is just beginning.
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