The Non-Nerd’s Guide to Comic Con

51cwj7rjrvlWe are thrilled to welcome today’s guest (and previous contributor) Kathryn Purdie and congratulate her on the release of her second book Crystal Blade. 

So you’ve never attended a comic con, but suddenly this year’s event sounds intriguing because the ridiculously attractive star of your favorite CW show will be there. So you crack. You buy yourself tickets to three days of . . . otherness . . . and now you’re getting cold feet. You’ll be entering the unknown Land of the Nerds, but you’re a cool kid. How will you fit in? And what exactly will you do at said comic con other than stand in a long line waiting for a picture and autograph with your too-gorgeous-to-be-living TV idol? Don’t sweat it. With my help, we’ll have you donning fairy wings and superhero tights in no time. (Kidding, not kidding.) So take a deep breath and read up. Here are your basic comic con survival skills:

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  • Accept you’re a nerd. If you define a nerd as a person willing to spend good money on celebrity sightings and dress-up, then guess what? You’ve already done that by buying tickets to this madness. Own your inner nerd! Be the nerd! Embrace the nerd! A secret truth: nerds have more fun. Moving on . . .

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  • Dress up. Comic Con is basically Halloween on steroids. Who doesn’t want to see that? Now you can either spend your time gawking at all the grown-ups walking around in questionably form-fitted pleather and rolling your eyes at them, but secretly wishing you’d also spent the last year bedazzling your own costumes, or you can just swallow your pride and commit to the experience. When in Rome, right? Having said that, don’t feel pressured to have the best costume in Hall A. Chances are you haven’t planned well in advance, so keep it simple. Be another Star War’s Rey, among a sea of Reys, or throw on a Superman t-shirt. In the very least, you’ll get some nods for effort from your better-dressed cosplaying clones. But if you put a little more effort into it, you’ll likely become a celebrity yourself! Everyone will want to chat about your costume and take pictures with you. Case in point: a year ago, my author friend, Ilima Todd, went as the wall from Stranger Things. She wore a 70s patterned blouse with a painted-on alphabet and a string of Christmas lights woven throughout—a simple, but super creative costume! 14225593_661261700716344_6988909043799797441_nThat was the first year she dressed up, and it ended up being her favorite comic con…all because she dared to cosplay!
  • Talk to strangers. Fans work for months on their costumes. They love compliments and being asked to pose for a picture. But please be respectful! Comic cons are filled with signs saying “cosplay is not consent” for a reason.
  • Make a plan. Comic cons are held in HUGE venues sardine-packed with Klingons, vampires, and gorgons, waiting in long lines to meet the same celebrities you are. But there is so much more to do! You can attend panels and hear special guests nerd out over their love of all things Tolkien, Marvel, or Doctor Who. Additionally, celebrities are often interviewed or on panels themselves, where you can listen to them speak for more than the ten seconds you’ll get with them one-on-one in the cattle call of the autograph lines. But if you don’t plan ahead, you might be too distracted by Captain America’s real shield or a fan’s stunning replica of R2-D2 and miss out on some of the best con events. Bonus: attending a panel is a nice escape from the crowds and a chance to rest your aching feet.

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  • Good shoes are a cosplayer’s best friend. Okay, so your Nikes aren’t period accurate to the 1920s mobster getup you’re wearing. Let it go. Your feet will thank you later. Remember those huge venues I mentioned above? That means you’ll be doing a lot of walking and queuing up for autographs and events over these three days. Happy feet make happy con-goers!
  • Bring a friend. Your first comic con will be an unforgettable experience. You’ll be sure to tell people all about it later, but sharing it with someone during the con is even better! So find the Luke to your Leia, the Thing 1 to your Thing 2, and remember two nerds are better than one.IMG_1757.jpg

I hope you’ve gone from tentative to pumped up, all by the workings of this magical article. 😉 If you happen to be at this year’s Salt Lake Comic Con, be sure to come and say hi! You can look me up on the panel schedule at http://saltlakecomiccon.com/. I may be wearing my Imperial Russian ball gown.

Maybe people will think I’m Anastasia.

Works for me!

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dfc83-webedit-11editedKathryn Purdie is the author of the YA fantasy, BURNING GLASS and CRYSTAL BLADE (Katherine Tegen Books/HarperCollins). She lives near Salt Lake City, Utah, with her husband and three children. Kathryn is a trained classical actress who studied at the Oxford School of Drama and was inspired to write her debut trilogy while recovering from donating a kidney to her older brother. Find her online at kathrynpurdie.com.

Things I Learned in Comics

Long before The Big Bang Theory and the deluge of superhero flicks, long before it was considered cool, I was a nerd. Still am a nerd. A comic shop regular, long box having, homemade X-Men encyclopedia making nerd. I felt a little collective cringe there. It’s okay. I’m more than used to it. As gross as that all may sound I’m raising two more nerds in my image.

*insert evil laughter*

I came about my nerdom through necessity. Where I grew up there was no library to speak of. Also there was no real way to consistently get to a bookstore. Yes, such places exist. What I did have however was a corner store. That corner store had a revolving black rack filled with comics. Costing only a buck and a quarter back then it was right in my eight year old price range. Week after week I’d come in and buy the next issues to come out. Thus my nerdom sprang to life.

Today I get weird stares when I include comic book writers in my list of influential writers, because although nerds are more accepted there’s still a stigma attached to the moniker, and that my skills must be juvenile since all my influences aren’t the greats of literature. Seriously though, comics are just another medium of writing and I’ve learned quite a bit about writing from them. Oh and Stephen King, Laurell K. Hamilton, Jodi Picoult, and Margaret Atwood  have written or are writing comics.

Here are a few things I’ve learned from the comics world:

Don’t make your characters too powerful.

When Superman was first created his only powers were leaping tall buildings, running faster than an old-timey train, and he was bulletproof. That’s it! So where did these other powers that make him near god-like come from? The 1948 serial series where the writers would consistently write themselves into a box. And when that happened *ka-blamo* there was a new power.

We accept these as his powers now, but not without consequence. Nowadays, the character is considered boring by most because there’s almost no chance for him to lose, all because of lazy writing years ago. We want to see ourselves in the hero. The audience wants to feel some connection to the characters, and that can’t happen if there are no stakes involved.

Set the rules and stick to them.

Spider-Man in the comics is able to swing from building to building through vials of web fluid he keeps on his person. This is common knowledge. So how weird would it be if a few pages before he runs out of web fluid, yet he still is swinging? Or what if he was on the moon and just started to swing on the surface of the moon? Two problems there: one is he’s human and shouldn’t be able to breathe and two would be there is nothing for him to swing off of! The audience isn’t dumb so keep the rules you set for your universe in check.

Know how to end a chapter.

Practically every issue of a comic is a chapter. Every issue is important. If an issue ends without compelling the reader to come back next month then it fails. The reader won’t get that next issue which means the writer loses readership, which means their job is put on the chopping block.
That’s true for traditional writers as well. If that chapter isn’t compelling, if the characters are just meandering about, what’s making the reader want to push on?

Be weird but believable. 

One of my favorite series at the moment is called Chew. It’s a series that revolves around a USDA agent in a near future where poultry is banned thus making it a hot commodity on the black market. People are making fake versions of chicken or even killing for the real thing. So it’s up to the USDA to handle these cases, led by Tony Chu who is a cibopath, meaning he can get psychic visions of the last moments of whatever he eats. So every once in awhile he may need to nibble on a corpse.

Weird, right? Well it gets weirder. But it all makes sense. At its core the story is a police procedural. Think Law and Order: Human Buffet. No matter how strange things get, the world that this all takes place in is anchored firmly in cop drama and never strays from that. No matter how unique your story is, you have to make sure your story is tethered in reality somewhere.

There’s plenty more I’ve learned from a lifetime of being a nerd, but I’ll stop for now. So be a little strange, be a little nerdy, and always be writing. Until next time have a writeous day!
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Matt Williams is an avid reader, a collector of many pens, an ever improving father of two, and an all-around fanboy. When he’s not wrestling with cats or a long commute you can find him hunkered down writing something imaginative. He’s working on publishing his first book Beyond Here, a middle grade story involving a coma and a singing flower with a bent stem sometime in 2016, along with a few projects with his other daughter.