There is something about being surrounded by several thousand nerds that is comforting. We all desire to surround ourselves with like-minded individuals.
I have always been a nerd, or a geek. Sure, I like to curl up with a good historical biography or novel. I like to spend three evenings watching Tom Stoppard‘s “Coast of Utopia” (a trio of three-hour plays about 18th-century Russian Philosophers), so I think my intellectual credentials are reasonable.
But I also like a good bit of nerdy escapism. My favorite is, and always has been, Doctor Who (and when I say I go back to the beginning, I am not just talking about the 2005 reboot). Throw in some Star Trek and I am good to go.
Some 20 years ago I attended a Star Trek convention in Houston that featured William Shatner. It was a hoot. I will never forget sitting in iHop for breakfast prior to the doors opening and seeing a nuclear family — mother, father, son, daughter — in full Klingon gear. I was with my daughters and, far from scoffing at their goofiness, we wished we had made that kind of effort. We did leave with a six-feet long 3D cardboard Starship Enterprise, but that’s another story.
The latest bit of fun is “The Walking Dead.” If you are not familiar with the premise, it involves the collapse of society following…. Look, let’s be honest, it’s about killing zombies and if you are not familiar with the show you have probably already checked out, anyway.
So when the chance came to take a couple of middle-schoolers to the Walker/Stalker Con in Dallas, it was too much to pass up.
It’s not particularly cheap, but visiting a convention is worth the effort, if only for the levels of fandom on display. There were various levels of zombie on view, from the simple blood-splattered T-shirt brigade to the full prosthetic look-I-have-a-screwdriver-sticking-out-of-my-eye hardcore fans. Fans both young and old dressed as their favorite characters. There were Ricks, Michonnes, Abrahams (complete with orange hair) and more than one Eugene. To be expected, there were a multitude of Daryls, complete with various forms of crossbow.
My personal favorite is Carol, the domestic abuse victim turned magnificent badass and child intimidator, but she was not at this convention.
Instead, we were treated to a nice talk by the katana-wielding Michonne and everybody’s favorite villain, The Governor. A great clip of their epic fight scene was followed by the pair of them expressing their admiration for their real-life counterparts. In every interview I have ever seen, the cast members talk about being close, and how much fun they have. Really, that is part of the appeal of the show. It really seems like they are having fun. So for 13 weeks a year, we get to sit back and follow the rag-tag group as they sort out how to live and die (and the show has never been shy about whacking a favorite character).
The panel with “Abraham’s Army” was hilarious. The three actors who play Abraham, Rosita and Eugene came on to the show together and have a great rapport. They took questions from the audience and keep the good banter going.
On a side note, I could have done without the audience member who identified himself as a “survivalist” and asked a question about whether the characters believed in a buddy system to stay safe. Not only was his question way too long and totally self-referential, but, um, it’s not real, dude. I am happy you and your weirdo buddies are prepared for the apocalypse, but it’s a TV show. The panelists seemed as confused by his question as the audience.
The panel discussion featuring a bunch of good, but minor characters, revolved around a game of dictionary and had the audience laughing. The actors who play Tara, Noah, Mika and the psychopathic Lizzie yelled out answers (Note to Tyler James Williams who plays Noah — draw faster). The game ended in a tie that was settled by a dance off between Mika and Lizzie.
It was like watching a family game night, and maybe that is the point. The cast refer to themselves as family. The characters on screen have united to be a family. And they seem to appreciate the “family” of fans that attended the convention.
It’s a fun way to spend the day, especially with a couple of kids tagging along. Next up will be the Houston’s Comicpalooza. I hear there may be some Doctor Who characters. And yes, I know they are not real either, but a little escapism never hurt anyone.