I first entered the comic book culture about five years ago. A friend had a backpack full of Marvel comics and trades, which are typically a collection of an entire story arc. He handed me Marvel’s Infinity Gauntlet to read, and I’ve been a fan ever since. Comic books helped me through a difficult point in my life, as it has given countless adults and children an escape from life’s stressors. Comic books are an escape from reality, as are comic conventions. Yet, at these conventions, fans experience genuine interactions with other attendees, artists, authors, and celebrities.
 Four years later I attended my first Comic-Con, Garden State Comic Fest in Atlantic City, New Jersey with my cousin. As a casual fan, I can still remember the feeling of excitement when I was greeted by a woman in Harley Quinn cosplay. Cosplay is one of the main attractions of any given Comic-Con. Much of my first experience was taking pictures of the different cosplayers ranging from DC,  three different jokers. Marvel, I saw a Green Goblin “battle” a Spider-Man for a group of kids. Other crowd watched Lightsaber battles and Transformers unite. Many conventions host cosplay contests which are as fun for the audience as it is the participants.
My cousin decided to become a comic book collector around the same time I became a comic book fan. He was lucky enough to meet Stan Lee and get his autograph twice. Just a few of the most memorable of many memories he will never forget as a comic collector. Being a comic collector takes preparation. They will check the website regularly to see what guests have been added or have canceled. Then look up their work if not familiar with all some artists’ work. They will collect certain key issues such as first appearances, major deaths, and most epic storylines. Then label the books with the various people involved for signatures. But there are all types of items to purchase and collect aside from comic books available at Comic-Con.
This particular event, we waited in line along with generations of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle fans to meet creator, Kevin Eastman and get his autograph. Some of the most renowned comic book character creators will have lines of fans waiting to interact, and they are happy to meet their fans. There are also artists on the verge of becoming the “next big thing” as well as artists just starting out. Aside from art and comics, there are vendors with cards, clothing, posters, toys, as well as other unique creations too hard to describe without witnessing with your own eyes. One of the most memorable booths I have seen at any Comic Con was artwork created by a girl in middle school. Her unique style was horror focused with “Death Scenes” combining different genres like Marvel and Charlie Brown, a Thanos figure standing over a bloody Charlie Brown and Snoopy figures.
It did not take long to I discover being a part of the fandom is necessary to enjoy a comic book convention. But this was smaller than my next Comic-Con experience, Wizard World last year.  I would compare it to the environment of the Eagles Super Bowl parade. Some people waited their whole lives to enjoy this rare moment. People of all ages interacting, enjoying the rare moment of thousands of people all excited for a common cause. Albeit having their own individual reasons for their fandom. Its a place of true freedom of expression without judgment. Attending a Comic-Con gives you a chance with celebrities from some fan-favorite television shows and movies.
When I attended Wizard World, along with the expected Marvel Cinematic Universe actors, there were also many stars from Game of Thrones making appearances to take selfies with fans. While other fans had artists create custom commissioned drawings and paintings.

The guest panels are another main attraction of comic conventions. The panels range from actors talking about their experiences on the fan favorite shows to artists and inkers describing their methods to authors giving world building advice to aspiring authors. These meetings give fans attending insights they would not get the opportunity to hear otherwise.

The Comic-Con experience transcends the comic book culture. Comic conventions are as much about acceptance and freedom of expression as they are artwork, comics, and movies. Whether attending alone, with a group of friends, or as a family, those attending will leave with memories that will last a lifetime. Casual fans, collectors, or those not a part of fandom attending, whether purchasing or window shopping, everyone leaves with priceless memories that will last a lifetime. Fans exit with the knowledge they just enjoyed a superhuman experience.
Mike Hoff

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