Portsmouth’s Comic Con brings back Marvel-lous memories – Dad’s Diary by Simon Carter

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You know, I always wanted to be Spiderman when I was seven or eight.

That was despite there hardly being any tall buildings in my home city of Exeter to shoot webs at and swing around while avoiding the pesky Green Goblin.

Portsmouth Comic Con  International Festival of Comics brings the best of comic, film, TV and pop culture entertainment and is set to be the largest event of its kind in the South - Michael McDonald (7yrs) as 'Captain America''Picture: Duncan Shepherd

Portsmouth Comic Con International Festival of Comics brings the best of comic, film, TV and pop culture entertainment and is set to be the largest event of its kind in the South - Michael McDonald (7yrs) as 'Captain America''Picture: Duncan Shepherd

This was the mid 1970s, and I was ahead of my time. I had a large comic collection – Spiderman, the Fantastic Four, Thor, Captain America, the Hulk. All bought for literally a few pennies at the city centre market.

This was the time when the Silver Surfer was a cool dude in underpants riding a surfboard in mid-air rather than an elderly person on the internet.

Happy days, for no other reason than escapism should play a large part of one’s early childhood.

I was mesmerised looking through the pages, eyes as wide as saucers. These heroes were cool, years and years before it was cool to like them.

Eventually, I got rid of my entire comic collection. Why? I grew up, I guess. Yet now I wish I hadn’t.

Oh no, I’m glad I grew up; I just wish I’d kept my comics. It would be lovely to immerse myself in the antics of Doctor Octopus all over again.

That pang of nostalgia hit me hard at the weekend as I attended the second Comic Con event at Portsmouth Guildhall. There were thousands there, people of all ages. It was no surprise –  the world of geek is big business these days.

I was shocked to see comics from the mid 70s retailing for £40. Crikey, I’d be sitting on a small fortune if I’d kept all mine.

Now, of course, superheroes are cool. No longer can you be classified as a ‘nerd’ for liking caped crusaders.

Now conventions are held selling their comics. And now more people are looking like them as well.

Cosplay is huge in 2019. For the uninitiated, that’s dressing up as your favourite film, book or game character. Not all the time, obviously – you wouldn’t want to walk through some parts of Portsmouth at night dressed like a Jawa from Star Wars or Mera, Queen of the sea.

Come to think of it, you wouldn’t walk through some parts dressed like that in broad daylight either ...

There were some fantastic cosplayers at the Guildhall on Saturday afternoon, from all parts of the sci-fi, comic, gaming and graphic novel worlds. And all ages too – babes in prams, pre-teens, teens and adults all enthusiastically taking the chance to dress up (or be dressed up). Brilliant.

There were characters I was familiar with, mainly Star Wars and Marvel, and a load I had no idea about. I discovered the world of Anime, either hand-drawn or computer generated animation originating from Japan. That seemed very popular.

I also found out about World of Warcraft, Overwatch and Team Fortress 2. Down with the kids, me!

Though most of went over my head, it was still a great day out.

‘Ridicule is nothing to be scared of’ …

That headline is a great phrase, sung by one of my childhood heroes, Adam Ant, in Prince Charming. Great words, with a great message.

And a message which instantly entered my mind when I read a comment on Comic Con in yesterday’s edition of The News.

Mark Hendley, who owns a company called Go Geek, said: ‘We believe we can create somewhere where people can be themselves without fear of ridicule.’

Very true. Though franchises like Star Wars and the Avengers are box office sensations, we still do not live in a society where it’s considered perfectly respectable to dress like a Twi’lek or Boba Fett and walk down a high street without attracting strange glances.

My own son, Ben, loves his gaming, and perhaps he should really have less screen time than he is allowed. But there is nothing wrong with liking Team Fortress, just as there is nothing wrong with enjoying dressing up as Spiderman or a Jawa. Better that than some of the alternatives ...

It’s my guess that not many teenage cosplayers are regularly out breaking the law, or getting wasted on drugs or alcohol, or taking part in any other anti-social behaviour.

Instead it’s my guess, from what I saw at Comic Con, that those who love to cosplay are the sort of teenagers all parents would love to have – young men and women confident enough to go out in public and show off the fact they might be considered geeks by some.

But remember this, the geeks will inherit the earth ...