I've just returned home from attending my first ever legitimate ComicCon. I've gone to smaller scale events before, but those have been more focused events. Most notably, ever year I attend a local science fiction and fantasy convention that has a dedicated writing track, which has me in and out of panels with authors and editors from Thursday afternoon through Sunday afternoon every spring. ComicCon is a different animal. It's larger, so it has the ability to appeal to a much broader crowd. When most people think of ComicCon, they think of SDCC, the massive event in San Diego every year which results in the release of numerous film and television trailers. The event I just attended isn't even half that size, but still manages to be pretty impressive without the international attention.
The one thing all of these sorts of events have in common is the type of people who attend. Industry professionals, families, couples, grandparents, writers, artists, crafters, gamers, teenagers, and everybody in between. One thing they all have in common is a love of story. I saw infants dressed as Wonder Woman and grandparents in full Stormtrooper armor. I saw adults in screen-accurate superhero costumes bend down to take photos with small children who were grinning from ear to ear. I saw groups of teenagers helping friends in wheelchairs get a good spot where they could see what was happening to make sure nobody missed anything.
Realistically, everyone is a person who enjoys stories. We were essentially programmed by God to love and relate to stories. Jesus communicated consistently in parables, because humans resonate with stories. We recognize good and evil, and we want complexity in characters because we know that real people all fight that battle internally, if not externally as well. I have always had the easiest time communicating with people who love stories. If someone can immediately tell me all about their favourite book series, or their favourite character on a tv show or in a film, then I'm able to learn a lot about that person in a very short amount of time. Stories are a phenomenal way for us to connect to each other, and ultimately follow that inherent good vs. evil battle back to God.
When I attended Realm Makers in Reno, NV back in July, I met many authors who aim their Christian-themed writing directly at the secular market, hoping to win hearts and minds for the Kingdom. A story doesn't have to blast Jesus at the unsaved to direct them to Him. Jesus set a very specific example while He was on Earth of what behaviours are Christ-like that He wanted us to emulate. Above all, Jesus was a message of hope to a dark world. Great stories provide the message that there is hope. Good triumphs over evil.
This particular ComicCon that I attended featured quite a few local independent authors and comic writers, who were all able to interact with their target audience and communicate through a mutual love of story. Realm Makers is putting together a new program to do the same thing, taking books by Christians authors and putting them directly in front of their target audience: story lovers. I hope to one day be able to participate in this kind of direct interaction between author and audience, either vicariously through the Realm Makers Mobile Bookstore or in person. It's encouraging to see so many people excited to talk about characters they identify with and stories that have inspired them in tough times. It's one of the reasons writing can be such an amazing tool for the Kingdom.
As a side note, I have to commend all of the special guests at this ComicCon that I interacted with and witnessed interacting with fans. It would be easy for them to become fatigued and frustrated with the large amounts of people they interact with in concentrated amounts of time, but everyone I saw was genuine and respectful of the interest their fans had in them and their work. Several notable moments stick out to me. I got to watch quite a few interactions between Weird Al Yankovic, the parody artist, and his fans. He listened carefully to everyone who had a story for him and responded with genuine interest. He shook hands with small children and asked them questions to help put them at ease when they were nervous. He thanked long time fans for supporting him and allowing him to do what he loved. I didn't grow up listening to Weird Al, but watching him interact with the people who love him, I wished I had. A more personal interaction I had was with John de Lancie, who most people would probably remember as Q in Star Trek: The Next Generation. I was getting his signature on a book he had co-written. Our interaction wasn't long, but he asked me several questions about who I was and what I did, and when I thanked him before I turned to go, he wished me good luck with my career. In attending panels with actors from various television and film franchises [Peter Capaldi (Doctor Who), James and Oliver Phelps (Harry Potter), Brent Spiner (Star Trek: The Next Generation), etc.], a consistent theme I continually heard was gratitude to those lovers of story who had allowed these actors to be in a position where they could do what they loved and share stories they believed in with the world. Someday, if I'm ever in a position to be sharing my own stories on even a fraction of that scale, I hope to be able to emulate that level of gratitude and down-to-earth genuine respect for the lovers of story who've put me in such a position.