For reasons that escape me now, I said yes to my son Max when he asked if we could go to Comic Con together this past weekend. Sounded like a fun day out in New York City: hanging with 125,000 pop culture fans at the Javits Center, more than half of whom came dressed as their favorite character from film, TV, comics, video games. I learned from Max that this is called “cosplay,” as in costume play.
Preparation was key, so I checked out the Comic Con NY website for tips. Among them were "Shower" and "Don’t Make It Too Realistic" (i.e., don’t bring real weapons into the convention center). I knew I was in for a crude awakening.
Because I’m not a “real” fan of 97 percent of the brands and products exhibiting at Comic Con, I followed my son from booth to booth, session to session with the personal goal of understanding what all the fuss was about. Why would so many people want to spend an entire day or weekend scrunched into a convention center with strangers who clearly didn’t heed Tip No. 3 to shower before attending, and certainly didn’t think their bosses would see them in that Captain America leotard?
It was clear from the moment I bumped into Thor that I was witnessing Real Community. The passion among the fans at Comic Con was unlike any I’ve seen before at an event. The hunger to meet a favorite graphic artist or a cult favorite TV actor, even if it meant standing in line for 90 minutes to get their autograph, was amazing to me – and admirable. The camaraderie among the attendees was so strong that I wished, for a split second, I had dressed up as Katniss so someone would give me a compliment or take a photo with me.
The passion at Comic Con was palpable and the event a complete fish-out-of-water experience. When I first entered the convention center, I said a little prayer of survival – get me through this so I can win Mother of the Year or “of the Day.” Yet I came away from Comic Con with a greater appreciation of the enthusiast/fan market and with a keener sense of what a passionate brand can lead people to do, say and wear. We often talk of Community in the sense of social media, but at Comic Con, the fans came face to face (or mask to mask) to be part of something big, to be the content and the entertainment. That’s Engagement in action. I thanked Max for taking me to Comic Con and he didn’t quite understand why I was thanking him. It was so out of character.
Diane Schwartz is the SVP and Group Publisher for the Media and Communications Group at Access Intelligence. She can be reached on Twitter: @dianeschwartz.