A hero, in fantasy, might be a legendary or even mythological figure endowed with great strength or ability who comes to save the day. In real life, heroes are ordinary people who save the day.
As I set out this weekend to attend the second annual Alamo City Comic Con (ACCC), I tried to keep those definitions of a hero in my mind.
Con attendees all have their own heroes. The con, short for convention, is about paying homage to those heroes – and the villains.
In its first year, ACCC drew more than 35,000 attendees over the course of the three-day weekend. Convention officials estimate this year was as big or bigger. ACCC enlivens the city’s downtown streets with a dose of costumed fun and provides a serious financial impact on the local economy – approximately $15 million according to the Convention and Visitors Bureau.
Beyond the economic impact, the con is essentially about artistic make-believe. But the characters achieve a strong foundation in reality because so many real people imagine them. Somehow, they make us think about the real heroes.
The first panel session I attended explored 75 years of Batman through comics. As one of the artists on the panel pointed out, “hero” comics did not just appear one day. They came from a growing movement. But there was a signature moment, according to Robert Emmons, a documentary filmmaker who explores American culture and history.
“In fact, the appearance of what is typically classified as the first ‘super’ hero in comic books is 1938, with the publication of ‘Action Comics #1,'” Emmons wrote.
“Action Comics No. 1” introduced the world to Superman. American popular culture has never been the same.
The “30 Years of Transformers” panel featured voice actors from the original animated series. I was excited to attend this one – I am a child of the ’80s, after all. It seems like only yesterday when I was enjoying Saturday morning cartoons and watching classics like Transformers and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
The voice actors on the Transformers panel charmed the audience with their quirky personalities and occasionally making remarks in their trademark robotic voices. Dan Gilvezan thanked the crowd for attending the con and the panel session. He said he appreciated the cosplayers (costumed fans) for their loyalty and enthusiasm – especially the parents who cosplay with their children.
“You are creating a whole new generation of fans,” Gilvezan said.
For myself, the defining moment came when I stepped into the registration area of the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center and came face to face with one of my childhood heroines. A cosplayer portrayed Jem from the 1980s cartoon “Jem and the Holograms.” She was middle-aged, with a husband and infant in tow. I could not help but snap her picture and think of the mini-tape deck sound stage that my parents gave me.
The dolls and the sound stage are a distant memory now, but they came back the whole distance in that moment. I have two nieces (2 and 5 years old) that I will be teaching the ways of pop culture soon. I have started with Star Wars and the other major film classics, but I will soon transition to popular cartoons of my own decade.
I’ll show them my heroes, but ultimately they will have to find their own.