Dallas Comic-Con helps fans escape reality

by RYAN FITZGERALD//Staff Writer

Mark Hamill

Fans across the state flocked to Dallas for 2017’s Fan Expo with hopes of seeing the best in popular culture and mainstream entertainment.

Located in the heart of downtown Dallas, the Kay Bailey Hutchinson Convention Center was the site for thousands of attendees who travelled hundreds and even thousands of miles for the state’s largest comic convention, which was held the first weekend of April.

The convention itself is more than a centralized location for fans of all ages to don outlandish, yet creative, outfits paying homage to fictional heroes of old and new – it’s a celebration of all things nerd culture.

This year’s most famous guests included Mark Hamill, Tim Curry, Stan Lee and even an appearance by ‘70s rocker, Meat Loaf. On top of that, there were tons of panels and booths packed with cast members of the “Walking Dead,” including Norman Reedus, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, and Khary Payton. Across the exhibit hall was the cast from “Harry Potter,” “The Boondock Saints,” “The Power Rangers” and the CW’s “Arrow,” just down from Adam West, Burt Ward and the original Batmobile.

Among the lines of fans waiting for photo-ops and autographs were cosplayers bringing their unique takes to video game characters, comic book heroes, and other familiar figures from the silver screen in an attempt to connect to the mythical and fictional influences from their own lives.

Aside from the best in iconic celebrities and cosplayers, you have tons of shopping – aisles upon aisles of rare comic books, figurines, costumes, Hollywood memorabilia, autographed merchandise, and artwork.

All of this taken as a whole, the event exists to provide an environment that is an opportunity to find a bit of peace and enjoyment in the pop culture niche of your choice. Children and adults, women and men, lawyers, doctors, high schoolers, and college students – all running around dressed as anything from Batman to Kevin Smith impersonators, to Jedi and random Pokémon that only three attendees actually recognize, who are in search of that must have Pop! figure or wait in line with fellow nerds just to snap a picture in front of a life-sized “Star Wars” land speeder.

That’s the whole purpose behind the comic convention “craze.” During the first night of Fan Expo weekend, Mark Hamill, known for portraying Luke Skywalker in the beloved “Star Wars” franchise, addressed a packed ballroom of fans on this very subject. Every person in the entertainment industry, every star who portrays a character in any television show or in a movie, is in the escapism industry.

Comics may not be your thing, nor manga, independent film, or even cosplay. But maybe your escape is music, sports or video games. Whether a world of science fiction and fantasy or one grounded in the post-apocalyptic world that’s to come, the convention has something for everyone.

Consider the convention a form of “personal development.” Your personal development comes in many shapes, sizes and even art forms. Sometimes individuals have to simply improve themselves, through whatever medium works for them. Life is about the process of learning to work through the hard realities we all face during our lives, week in week out. That is why “escapism” exists.

Some people don’t or can’t just snap out of the monotonous, mesmerizing daily grind. Escapism allows those who need it a way to clear their head and truly find themselves.  It becomes a method to cope or unwind. It gives fans something to relate to – why do I feel like this character? Why does this movie speak to me the way it does? Escapism becomes a depiction of the journey one takes to grow and change. It reflects the move away from a socially constructed personality that has been tempered and molded by the box that the world has forced you to operate within, to the individual you personally want to become – because even through fiction, everyone can learn something about themselves.

The event offered a little bit of everything: from Q&A panels with the best in comics including Jim Lee, a DC comics staple, writer Scott Snyder of “Batman” and Image Comics fame, and Lubbock’s own Sam de la Rosa, who is among the best at drawing Spider-Man, to photo-ops and autograph signings with cast members from “The Walking Dead,” “Dr. Who,” and the original cast from “The Rocky Horror Picture Show.”

Additionally, the event wouldn’t have been worthwhile if it wasn’t for the fans.  The lines were long, the staff disoriented, and directions few and far between. But among the disorganized messed, the beauty of frustrated fans relying on one another for details or a little comic relief while waiting in line with hundreds of others was the most enjoyable part. Discussions related to “Star Wars,” everyone’s daily finds, their favorite panels and the shared hatred of wading through packed aisles of sweaty fans while trying to find a specific vendor offering the rarest in books, toys and memorabilia.

So you see, escapism is a necessary aspect of our lives, because being berated day after day by the same routine tasks in the name of earning a paycheck to cover the bills, simply wears on you.  You can become the hero of your own story – or someone else’s. You see, no one has to go it alone, and there are people scattered far and wide that find pleasure in the weirdest of things.

Everyone has a chance to rip through the fabric of their woven reality, to bring out the adventurous side each fan has tucked away deep inside. If you’re niche was “Star Trek,” go buy an authentic phaser from the original series, or maybe you prefer a Jeffrey Dean Morgan-autographed replica of “Lucille,” Negan’s infamous baseball bat from the latest season of “The Walking Dead.”

I know it may blow your mind to think that people would actually flock to a convention hall full of notorious books from the golden age of comics and hard-to-find action figures. But sometimes people just need to re-connect to that one part of their past that brings a smile, as they remember a time in their life that once was.

[Photo by RYAN FITZGERALD/PLAINSMAN PRESS]

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