(Cos)Playing Nice: Geek Etiquette tips for ‘cons and more

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Happy San Diego Comic Con Month!

Here’s the good news: more and more people from all walks of life are embracing their inner geek and comic-con attendance is growing coast to coast every year.

Here’s the bad news: more and more people from all walks of life are embracing their inner geek and comic-con attendance is growing coast to coast every year.

Yes, the geek-friendly lifestyle is getting more diverse, which means more crowded. We original fanboys and gals may lament the “Hollywood-ification” of the comic book culture and sneer at the glamour overtaking the geekiness (although, deep down inside we know that’s also kinda cool).

By taking the comic-con out of the Holiday Inn basement and into the swanky convention centers means we now have more and more people with whom we have to put up. Scratch that. There are now more and more people we can share the experience with.

This also means there are more opportunities to be a geek in public without (too much) ridicule. One example is the Tumbler Tour, promoting the final film in the latest Batman trilogy, “The Dark Knight Rises.” The Tumbler and the Bat Pod are making stops all along the United States for its final destination in Los Angeles for the movie’s opening day.

Jim Johnson, who serves at the official “Transportation Manager for Wayne Enterprises,” has made the trip with the Tumbler and Bat Pod through a good portion of the United States and said he has experienced, for the most part, exceptional behavior from people who want to see the famous four and two-wheeled movie stars.

“Most people are really good around the car,” he said, and added they all seem to realize the one main rule is “no touching” and respect that.

The predominance of social media has also helped get the word out as to the Tumbler’s whereabouts.

“I’m always surprised by the crowds and when I ask people where they heard about this they say, ‘I learned about it on Facebook,’” Johnson said.

He did say there have been a couple of instances where over-eager (and possibly over-lubricated) fans have climbed over the vehicle if it is parked overnight, but those instances are few and far between. The fans that come to see the vehicle during it’s designated stops are fans of the Bat franchise and are very appreciative of the opportunity to just get close to a piece of the Bat universe.

“What we usually do at a stop is unload the car first, then the Bat Pod, and the ropes last,” Johnson said. “People who get there early enough when we are doing this can get close and take their pictures with the vehicles, and everyone is usually really good about being respectful of the vehicles.”

The Tumbler politely poses for photos from the Wally World crowd during the nationwide Tumbler Tour promoting “The Dark Knight Rises” Photo by Rick Tate.

Julian Lawler, founder to one of Texas’s newest, but quickly growing ‘cons, EP-Con, held each September in El Paso, said his biggest advice is for people to attend the ‘con for the right reason — to have fun. Why spend good admission money on an event if you are too uptight to enjoy it?

“The main thing I recommend is to dress up and let loose for a while,” Lawler said. “Just have a fun time; that’s what this is about.”

This year’s con, Lawler said he doesn’t know how big the crowd will be, but said the potential for it to be huge is there, especially with a trio of “Twilight” saga cast members as part of the celebrity appearances. Unfortunately, Lawler said when a franchise as huge as “Twilight” gets represented, it comes with not only its only share of mega-fans, but of haters.

“Of course, when you hear ‘Twilight’ we get a lot of people making both positive and negative comments about these people,” Lawler said. “What they need to also realize is there are also going to be some great comic book creators there as well.”

For example, he said artists like James O’Barr, Brian Pulido and Joe Jusko will be at the event, so even those with no interest in the Hollywood “celebrity” aspect will have plenty to get excited bout.

“I think we will have something everyone can enjoy,” he said.

Making sure these geeky experiences are pleasant for everyone is vital for us geek moms as well, so I’ve taken some advise from people like Johnson, Lawler and fellow ‘IHOGeek staffers and ‘con goers (as well as compiled my own hints and tips), to create a few basic rules of Geeky Etiquette:

Playing Nice With Others:

• Don’t be surprised when other people — sometimes many, many other people — have the same interest as you. There’s a reason The Avengers made enough money to fill Scrooge McDuck’s moneybin this summer, it appealed to TONS of people. You can’t blame them if they are as excited about attending the cast/crew panel discussion as you are.

• Likewise, don’t be disgusted by those who are there for a different reason than you. (See the aforementioned “Twilight” reference.) It takes all kinds of people to make the ‘con world interesting, and just because you aren’t into movie/book A, B or C doesn’t make it a trite horrible thing. I’ll admit I’m guilty of poking fun at my non-interests, but I would never throw that in someone’s face. We all know how it feels to have someone laugh off something we are passionate about. Don’t do it to others.

• If you are non-cosplayer, that’s fine, but don’t be a jerk about how others look. Not everyone is going to look like Chris Hemsworth or Scarlett Johansson, but the fact that they worked their butts off trying deserves some props. The occasional “Hey, great costume,” comment may make their day.

• Give cosplayers and kids the right of way. Those who spent an entire weekend building a Battlestar Galactica costume, as well as a six-year-old who it truly savoring the “make believe” aspect of the con, should be allowed that extra two or three-minutes at the photo ops or getting to meet their movie/comic heroes. They earned it. However, if you are a cosplayer, don’t overstay your welcome, get there, get the photo you want and remember there are other people in line behind you.

• Comic-Cons are just for the young at heart. They are also for kids as well. Be respectful of families and their sensibilities.  Just because you are dressed like Hit Girl (whom I personally think is awesome), doesn’t mean you have to use her special vocabulary when there are kids around. Make sure you are not in the midst of families and young’uns before you spew profanities or exhibit other R-rated behavior. Near-pornographic and over-the-top gore is great at a college party (or a horror con where people know what to expect), but there is a time a place for everything. Show some class, man. A Comic-Con is not where I want to have “THE talk” in an impromptu fashion with my kids.

Planning Ahead:

• Most (I dare say all) major ‘cons have a website with everything from schedules, ticket prices and sometimes online discounts. Find out beforehand where, when and how much everything is before you head off to the event.

• Going as a group? Designate a place to meet and wait for everyone to arrive before entering the building. If you are going to be obscenely late or absent, let everyone know well ahead of time. Also, if you separate off, find a meeting place and time to get back together, especially if you have a costume contest to get to. Don’t make your friends lose the cosplay event because everyone is waiting on Princess Zelda to get her butt out of the loo.

• Yes, there will be lines. Yes, there will be a fee (albeit a sometimes outrageous one) for autographs. Realize this early, especially if you have kids. Broken promises stink, especially when meeting a comic book hero is concerned. Anticipate and pre-select who and what is worth standing in line for and let your kids help choose who they want to see. Here’s where the event website comes to your rescue, once again. Another note. Sometimes more prominent guests (aka Stan Lee) may only reserve a certain number of autographs. You might have to reserve a spot in line ahead of time online.

• If you are participating in any type of cosplay contest, be there — and I can’t stress this enough — EARLY! Not just on time; early! This gives you time to be fully prepared and primped for the event. Also make sure (if there is a fee) you have it all, paid in full. If you had the money to make a retractable Halo helmet, you can pay the extra buckage for the contest.

Table Rules (autographs and vendors):

• I realize it is the artist’s job to give you sketches and autographs, but it does get tiring, like any other job. Be nice, be grateful and be respectful. Don’t try to get someone pushing his new indie character to draw you Hulk, and never complain about the results of the drawing or the length of time they spend on it.  If the artist isn’t there to look at portfolios, don’t try to show yours to them. There are often events set up for that; need I stress any more…look at the ‘con schedule for these.

• I love swag. Who doesn’t? But, when someone hands you a button/poster/comic, keys to a new car, don’t ask for 10 more for your poor buds who couldn’t make the event. Sorry, their loss. Incidentally, it’s usually those freebie-hoarders who are the ones who end up complaining when the swag runs out early.

• As they say in grade school: “No Cuts.” Make the lines (which there will be in any successful ‘con) easier to tolerate by keeping a good attitude and not trying to jump ahead of the crowd. If you don’t want to stand in line for something, you don’t want it that badly.

• Finally, more and more celebrities from A, B and D-listers are making appearances at comic cons and similar events. These people are merely human beings. This means you should:

A)   Compliment the work they do, but do not gush as if they actually do have super powers. You can be nice without inflating already over-active egos.

B)   Not bitch about them not portraying a character the way you think it should, not directing or writing a script the right way or about their lack of “authenticity” in a comic-book related movie. What they do is harder than it looks. You don’t like their work or product you aren’t obligated to meet them.

C)   Everyone appreciates being spoken to in a friendly, casual manner, but don’t try to act as if you are his or her best friend. Even though you may see them every day in pictures or the telly, they are strangers. They don’t know you and you really don’t know them. Don’t make them uncomfortable or have to ask you to leave them alone.  It’s embarrassing to watch, no matter who you are.

QUICK NOTE TO ARTISTS AND CELEBRITIES: I’ve already acknowledged how tiring the job can be, but public grousing is both unbecoming and makes other want the slap you with a fish. You are a lucky, lucky person to be able to do something you love so much you are almost sick of it. See that poor sap with the portfolio or dressed as Jack Sparrow over there? He would love to change places with you. Humble up a bit.

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