Finding your ‘happy place’

By Bill Colvard -

“So you’re going to the Comic Con?” asked a co-worker after I’d given him a rundown of the Mount Airy events I was covering this past Saturday.

“Yes,” I answered, and having detected the slightest hint of an eye roll, I asked him if he knew anything about it.

“It’s alright,” he said. “They try. But if you want to see what a real Comic Con is like, you should go to Supercon in Raleigh. That’s where I’m going.”

After learning that he has some unresolved issues resulting from a childhood crush on the Pink Power Ranger, I find out she will be appearing in Raleigh and a quick Google image search showed she was visually unchanged from her 1990s heyday.

I wondered for a second if she is destined for a Thelma Lou future, and if she will still be making personal appearances as the same character 60 years down the road. I can’t decide how an actor would feel about such a fate, happy for the guaranteed lifelong income or resentful of the typecasting. A bit of both, I’d imagine.

Anyway, I tell him I’m not particularly interested in Comic Con as a thing, it’s just for work, and assure him I know all about the good ones. I did live in New York for quite a while, and even though I left before the New York Comic Con got started, I still have one friend there who is into that kind of thing.

After much sturm und drang about his costume, and how it must absolutely be better than last year, I am treated to an avalanche of Instagram photos from this friend culminating in what looks like a parade on Fifth Avenue. I have never been sure if it is an actual, permitted parade, or just a bunch of people ambushing the avenue. It’s really hard to tell, but either way, it’s impressive.

But I have another friend who is into SantaCon, and truth to tell, I like that better. The nutsiness factor of thousands of Santas representing any and all cultures on this and other planets and time frames — not to mention a plethora of widely assorted elves and reindeer — is quite something. Picture the Star Wars cantina at Christmas, and you’ll have the beginnings of a visual. (And please, don’t anyone mention this to the events committee of the downtown association. They might get ideas.)

After heading up to Main Street to check out the local Comic Con, and quite frankly, not expecting much, after my friend has characterized it as “kids in pajamas,” I was pleasantly surprised.

When I told him later it was better than ‘kids in pajamas,’ he asked, “Halloween costumes?”

“Well, mostly,” I admit, but the whole was so much more than the sum of its parts.

The passion of the die-hard fans was inspiring. I’m always fascinated when someone is really into something. And completely unabashed by their passion, even when they know others may not understand.

And I don’t understand. I read comics as a child. But I rarely bought them. I liked regular books better, and the library gave me those for free. Granted, I had to give them back, but they always let me have some more.

And the pictures kind of got in the way of the story, I thought. I preferred an unillustrated book so I could imagine the setting and the characters as I liked, and not be bound by some illustrator’s point of view. It’s probably the same reason I almost always prefer a book to the movie made from it.

Except for “The Devil Wears Prada,” which was an excellent movie made from a very poorly written book, but that’s the exception that proves the rule.

I didn’t buy a lot of comic books as a kid, but I had one friend who spent most of his allowance on them, and I read a lot of his. He mostly focused on Superman, Batman and Spiderman. I liked Batman the best of the lot. Superman and Spiderman just seemed kind of silly. (I know. It’s a little judgy to think a human spider is silly, but a villainous Penguin is not, but I am no longer in control of my 10-year-old brain, no more than you are of yours, unless you are in fact 10 years old, in which case, I salute you for having the attention span to read a newspaper.)

Speaking of passion for a subject, Ronnie Brady, who was a vendor at Comic Con, was amazing. We’re probably of an age, and he’s been into comics his whole life. It’s mind-blowing to me that someone can sustain interest in a subject over the decades of a lifetime. I can’t imagine whipping up even the slightest bit of interest in some of the shiny, glittery things that attracted my attention in my teens and twenties, much less my childhood, even on a nostalgic level.

I also learned from Ronnie that a lot of TV shows put out accompanying comics, particularly Westerns. Or maybe that’s just where Ronnie’s interests lay. He also showed me one for The Andy Griffith Show. I believe he said there were only two issues of that one. That should get a lot of attention in these parts. I knew that comics often became TV shows — Superman, Batman, Archie — but I didn’t know it went in the other direction.

Which made the costume contest a little later make more sense. Pretty much everything is a comic, or has been one at one point. I didn’t know that before.

But the big lesson was that it didn’t matter if it was ‘kids in pajamas’, ‘kids in Halloween costumes’ or even super-great full-size adults fully inhabiting their characters, like John Wayne, Batman and Alf (who were all spectacular, by the way), but enjoying the experience of people being fully in their element, or ‘happy place,’ as Ronnie Brady called it.

We all need a ‘happy place’ and the sooner in life we find it, the better off we are.

But the concept of a life-long happy place still astonishes me.

By Bill Colvard

Reach Bill Colvard at 336-415-4699.

Reach Bill Colvard at 336-415-4699.