A rumbling roar of superheroes, villains, and everything Wizard World, Comic Con advanced upon and landed in the cosmos of perilous candor that is New Orleans. The promise of the day intoxicated me. As I cruised past the century-old abandoned Market Street Power Plant on my bicycle, wearing my Supergirl costume, David Bowie played in my head as a soundtrack—
“We can be Heroes, just for one day
We can be us, just for one day.”
My Supergirl twin, Sarah, had flown in from Austin to school me on all things Comic Con, just to make sure I did not make an embarrassing blooper. The cult-like following that draws thousands to these events is serious; it is in the smallest details and inaccuracies that you can reveal your naiveté.
A procession of what looked like Batmobiles pulling up to the side entrance of the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center caught my attention. There was no red carpet rolled out here — only an empty industrial steel room with cold gray concrete floors and a single inconspicuous door in the corner leading the actors and artists through a secluded entrance. They seemed completely unfazed by my arrival. I began greeting people as they stepped out of the sleek, blacked-out, chauffeur-driven vehicles. A slight giggle and smile graced Scott Wilson’s (star of The Walking Dead and upcoming A&E series Damien) face as he admired my costume as I extended my hand and introduced myself. After a few hellos and welcomes, I bid my adieu and continued my journey.
My eyes were in for a dazzling spectacular; the photo frenzy began. The costumes were magnificent, bold, creative, and authentic. The excitement was contagious and everyone seemed to be photographers and superstars. We walked amongst Batman, Catwoman, Harley, Invisible Man, Clark Kent, 11th Doctor, Thor, and even a mini-me Supergirl. Best friend Comic Con enthusiasts Christina Venable and Monica Musso couldn’t choose just one costume, so managed a successful wardrobe change from twin Dr. Who’s to double-trouble Skyrim: Nightingale Armors.
The first floor hosted the artist alleys—a visual arts extravaganza of exhibitors’ booths, gaming, autograph area, and photo ops. This year, if you were patient, you had the opportunity to snap a photograph and meet Chris Evans, Jenna Coleman, Jeremey Renner, William Shatner, Erin Richards, Ben McKenzie, Jamie Kennedy, and the 2016 Bacchus monarch Anthony Mackie, a native New Orleanian.
The second floor held programming, an array of panels with topics ranging from cosplay (how to make and dress up in costumes and go out in public) to how to start and grow a successful small business. You could even catch a panel about tips on how to prepare for a zombie apocalypse, presented by Dr. Robert Collins, Professor of Urban Studies and Public Policy at Dillard University.
While taking a necessary break, I began chatting with Kelly Vines, one of the many dedicated volunteers. From Gonzales, Louisiana, she is one mother who can be described as a real-life superhero to her family. Desperately wanting to connect with her introverted son and find a commonality to spark conversation between them, Kelly discovered Wizard World Comic Con to be the glue that brought her family together.
“My son has always been my difficult child,” Kelly told me. “When we have this experience and we come here, then it’s something shared and, no matter how different that he thinks he is, this grounds us and this is the hub.”
Of their fifth consecutive Comic Con, Kelly explained, “This is my Christmas present to my family. We rent a condo for the weekend … this is a big deal, this is the family vacation for the year.”
Kelly and her son volunteer, while Dad plays the role of bodyguard and doubles as purse holder as daughter and future son-in-law run around being fans. Even Grandma has become involved, Kelly says.
“She is our newbie; I got her interested in The Walking Dead about a year ago when my dad passed away. We brought her this year so she could have a brand new experience and integrate her more into our lives.”
Family was a common thread at Comic Con, and it did not stop with Wizard World fans. Married couples Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti, of Harley Quinn; Ruth Fletcher Gage and Christos Gage, of Netflix’s DareDevil; along with mother-son duo Barbara Haspiel and Dean Haspiel, The Red Hook, spoke on a panel about working and collaborating with family. Trust and honesty were the two main emphases they all agreed upon when it comes to working with family. They were a fun bunch who put me at ease, enough so to work up the nerve to ask moderator Danny Fingeroth, Spider-Man editor and writer, if I could photobomb the panel. They were all game!
For Amanda and her family, this was a sort of homecoming and definitely a family affair. Her father grew up in New Orleans, and her aunt and uncle still reside in Lakeview. The family beamed with pride as they all pitched in to help Amanda and Jimmy manage their booth. Mom and Aunt were busy helping with sales, while Dad and Uncle sat protectively overlooking the operations.
Wizard World Comic Con New Orleans proved one weekend when we could all be kids running around in our homemade costumes, making friends with every click of a camera. The weird and the bizarre were not so strange after all. We were all family.
My sequenced red shoes did not seem to touch the ground throughout the day. Waking up Monday morning to the news of the death of personal hero David Bowie, I thought about my bicycle ride that Saturday morning with Bowie playing in my head.
“We can be Heroes, for ever and ever
What d’you say?”