Every year for the last couple years, I’ve gone to New York Comic Con (NYCC) with a close friend of mine. It’s a tradition of ours; she flies up from Alabama to New York to join me in an annual three-day nerd-out session of comic book panels, anime screenings, costume contests and more. Whenever I’d describe the experience to my non-nerd friends and family members, they wouldn’t quite get how much of an event it was.
It’s an art, mastering Comic Con. You have to have a plan going in that first day, take the time to sit down with that program book and plot out which panels and screenings you have to get to and when to start lining up (also, ask yourself, “How popular is this panel? About how many people will be there? When will they start lining up? Are there any other queues that will conflict with this? When will it be necessary to tag-team these lines?”). You have to familiarize yourself with the Jacob Javits Center, map out the quickest routes to the best events. You have to make your shopping list in advance (Chain mail and body armor? Check. Signed copy of Bryan Lee O’ Malley’s new book? Check. Natsu Dragneel cosplay wig? Check. Expensive steampunk corset dress? Check. Random large costume death scythe to help you get through the crowds on the show floor? Double check.) and map out those vendors, pushing past scantily clad Harley Quinns and ducking under wire wings and other troublesome costume appendages. You have to plan bathroom time. Yes, even that, because figuring out how to pee while dressed as a Balrog of Morgoth may take quite a bit of time, and you’ve got 20 people in front of you and you’re still going to have to catch that “Doctor Who” panel in 15 minutes. Like a boss.
Point is, Comic Con is one of my annual treats, something to look forward to and prep for. It’s no surprise that the event keeps growing every year.
When I went to my first NYCC, I got my ticket online with no rush and no hassle. Even the year I had track down a ticket at a retailer a few weeks before the convention, I was in and out in no time, with no problems to speak of. Every successive year has gotten more difficult. This year, NYCC tried out a new, poorly designed online system, and the tickets sold out within two hours. Nerds almost broke the Internet with their fury.
When retailers started selling NYCC tickets this week, all hell broke loose. Midtown Comics in the Financial District announced they would start selling tickets first. People started camping out 27 hours in advance, and by the time the store opened the next morning, about 2,000 people were lined up. One thing you have to say about nerds: They’re persistent. Or they don’t have jobs. Or both. Either way, nerds be crazy. Still, the nerdpocalypse didn’t even end there; all of the retailers of NYCC tickets throughout New York and New Jersey were selling out almost immediately. People were camping out in front of even the smallest, most obscure locations. Even locations in the middle of nowhere were flooded by nerds. People had gone mad.
My question is, how did we get here?
It’s not surprising that an already popular event like this one would grow exponentially every year. Plus, nerds are everywhere, right? We’re a group that’s known for our loyalty and enthusiasm for our interests. So that shouldn’t be surprising. But since when did the process of buying Comic Con tickets become akin to the craziness of Black Friday? I suppose you could say Comic Con is the equivalent of a nerd’s Christmas, but it still seems as though there is something else to this whole process.
Nerds are growing. Being a nerd is now hip and mainstream. Every year, we see more and more superhero flicks hit the big screen as Hollywood continues to capitalize on a market with a growing fan base and endless earning potential. All of this hype attracts veteran nerds and noobie nerds alike and draws them to events like NYCC, where they can see things like the cast of “Game of Thrones” and screenings of new shows.
But the causes of what we’re seeing are not limited to media exposure and a newfound interest in nerddom; rather, a culture has developed around the very idea of nerddom. The allure of nerddom lies in its recognition as a subculture that was traditionally considered uncool but has been transformed into something that’s seen as unique and ahead of the cultural curve, a bit ahead of the mainstream. But the best part is the fans, the community of nerds who share this same degree of passion and loyalty and knowledge about these very specific genres of entertainment.
You can have a conversation with anyone at Comic Con. Someone will complement your state alchemist pocket watch or mention the “Sailor Moon” reboot and you just start talking about it. Or you’ll commiserate with the people around you who have also been waiting in line for 2 hours to see the teaser trailer for the next Avengers movie. Even I, a terribly antisocial nerd who dislikes crowds, feel some kinship with the nerds I’m pushing out of the way to get to my next panel. Even when I’m sitting in on a panel of some nerddom that I’m not that excited about, it’s still hard not to be affected by the excitement of my neighbors. It’s infectious. You know you’ve stumbled onto something big when a surprise guest steps onto the stage and hundreds of people gasp in delight at the exact same time.
It’s becoming more and more obvious that people are being drawn in by this idea of fandom. People are ruled by their passions and love to share them. And who else are more passionate than nerds? Sure, the X-Men are great. Sure, “Star Wars” is great. But so many people also simply get excited by the idea of getting excited, the prospect of being a part of this fanatic group of people who will camp outside of a comic book store for over 24 hours just to get tickets. It’s being part of a movement, something larger than yourself.
Once upon a time, Comic Con used to be just for comic book collectors and artists, who I personally consider the foundation of nerddom as we know it. The very grit and history beneath what we consider nerdy today. Now it’s grown to include something for pretty much every kind of nerd—gamer nerds, steampunk nerds, otaku, comic book nerds, etc.—and non-nerds as well. Everyone has something to get excited about, and that feeling pervades the atmosphere of the convention.
It’s like the Super Bowl. You may hate football, but you’re still going to eat buffalo wings and cheer because that one dude kicked the ball and hit a home run or whatever it is, right?
Everyone wants to be a diehard fan of something, to wear the badge of honor that says, “Yeah, I waited in line for hours for some goddamn tickets. What of it?” And if you’re going to do that anyway, you may as well do it as a nerd. Trust me, the nerdpocalypse is coming. We’re taking over.