There and Back Again: A Comic-Con Tale
“TARDIS?! Is that you TARDIS?! I have been looking ages for you, what is your name TARDIS? Vanessa?! It’s been over a hundred years and I finally know your name!!”
His first words, I almost cry with excitement at hearing the most fake British accent coming from the eleventh Doctor cosplayed by a 14–32-year-old boy (you really never know at these things). I try to catch a closer glimpse, to see the face that matches the voice, but the hoards of nerds push me through the entrance. “I’m here, I’ve arrived.” Quest Log Updated.
“Making My Way Downtown” starts to play in my head as I go from fourteen to one on the elevator and I try to get into my cosplay character. I am King Thranduil of Mirkwood, son of King Oropher of Greenwood the Great (the former name of Mirkwood), and ada (father) to Prince Legolas Thranduillion (the blond elf from the Lord of the Rings[LOTR] movies), but you can call me Fab Thrandy. In other words, I am that elf in The Hobbit movies who has the long blond hair and rides an elk, but not the blond elf that shoots a bow and arrow. My brows are as thick as two caterpillars and my elven [sic] skin is flawless, it’s almost as if I was wearing pounds of foundation and bronzer. My ears come to perfect points with my prosthetic attachments, and my short hair perfectly matches the explanation that I lost a bet to Lord Elrond (king of the elven [sic] realm of Rivendell, or the elf with the brown hair in Lord of the Rings) and in my drunken state he cut off all my long platinum locks. My beautiful silver robe is gleaming, and as I exit the elevator my face is beaming, my crown made of branches is straight, and my dress fits me like a glove. I am so ready. “Just quickly walk past the security guard and he won’t ask questions.” That is my thinking until I stop dead in my tracks as soon as I reach the door.
“It’s raining??” I groan out loud to no one in particular. I should have seen this coming; it’s been raining almost every weekend since I started college here in New York City. I turn to the security guard, he just stares, that plan turned out so well. “I’ll be right back,” I say before hopping back in the elevator to grab my umbrella. “OK Hannah, just walk out, no convos.” I exit the elevator and pass the security desk, but I’m abruptly stopped.
“You going to Comic Con?” he asks. I’m surprised he knows, but then again I can totally imagine him sitting on a couch reading comic books. We begin to converse, he tells me tricks of the Con and I know now that my quest has begun. It’s like in Lord of the Rings online (LOTRO, a computer game that has a virtual world even larger than World of Warcraft), he had the Flaming Ring above his head, I knew it would be bad to go in without a plan, to go into uncharted territory without any knowledge of the beasts and creatures that inhabit it, like those wretched Longbeard dwarves on the other side of the Misty Mountains…I digress. In LOTRO the Longbeards are the first foes one must face as an elf, so for my own safety, I click accept and I’m sent on my way.
Quest Log Entry One: Walk to New York Comic Con in the pouring rain. Foes lie between here and the Javits Center, be wary traveler for 8th Avenue is treacherous. Before stepping out into the wild I put in my earbuds. I quickly scroll through my phone and find all three LOTR soundtracks. Soon the sweet sounds of “Lothlorien” home to Lady Galadriel and her husband Lord Celeborn (pronounced Keleborn, this is the third elven [sic] realm in Middle Earth). I close my eyes as I make my way from 27th and 7th Ave. to 46th and 11th Ave. using my imagination to turn the buildings into trees and the sidewalks into the moss paved, winding pathways of Mirkwood. I am a king on a walk in my kingdom; all the stares are just my lovely red headed elven [sic] peasants astonished by my magnificence. The wind whips up my robe, my slit in my dress exposing my leg with each stride, I feel on top of the world, oh wait, I already am (I’m really getting into character). I keep walking for what seems like hours…wait I’m an elf, I keep walking for what seems like thousands of years (elves are immortal, to quote Thranduil, “A hundred years is a mere blink in the life of an elf…”) until finally I see someone. He too has a flaming one ring above his head. I look closer to see it’s Jake from Adventure Time, and a word bubble appears from atop his head, “Follow Me,” it says, and I do.
Quest Log Entry Two: You have successfully made it to Comic Con; you get $100 coin, +2 in morale, but a -5 in confidence. Your next task is to establish panel locations and explore artists’ alley. Be on the lookout for friends and foes. I am in cosplay and afraid. I really shouldn’t have gone alone. Underneath my umbrella, I look up and see the five giant, inflatable teen titans, all greeting me with smiles, except Raven of course. I look around me and everyone is rushing to a bin…”Does that say free lanyards?” I power strut (a king never runs) to the bin and grab one. “Would you like to equip yourself with a basic black lanyard?” I select yes and attach my ticket/pass to it and wrap it around my wrist. First rule of quests: Always good to leave as much room as possible in your utility pack. I finally open the doors and I’m immediately met with the warmth of bodies, which actually feels nice after being in the chill of the air for so long, too bad I wasn’t lucky enough to have been given one of the cloaks of Lothlorien (though paper thin, these cloaks are waterproof, warm as ten down coats, and can make you look like a rock). I take out my earbuds and close my umbrella, putting both in my utility pack. “Which way should I go?” I tried to find the map the security guard told me about, but no luck, they were all gone. Questing rule two: It’s never safe to travel without a map, tracking skills required otherwise. Following the rule of Gandalf (The Grey wizard who is in the company of the ring, this is a reference from a scene in The Fellowship of the Ring when they are lost in the Mines of Moria) I followed my nose and headed toward where it smelled less like middle-aged man sweat and that took me down the White Moving Stairs of Javits (it was an escalator) to where the panels occur. The line for the Walking Dead panel had already started two hours prior to the Con, but all I was concerned about was Video Game High School (VGHS) and The Hobbit (I mean duh, I’m freakin dressed as Thranduil). Seeing that there was nowhere else to explore down here, I make my way back up the treacherous climb and there it was in front of me, my second questing location. I head straight toward the sign, staring in awe at some of the cosplays: you have your deadpools, spidermen, batmen, slutty superheroes, Bumblebee, Sailor Moons, Anime schoolgirls, shirtless Gokus, men as princesses, 1–12 Doctors, TARDISes, sexy TARDISes, the Avengers, anyone from Game of Thrones, and of course anyone from the Walking Dead. The time people have on their hands just amazes me. Of course then you have middle-aged men in way too tight fitting t-shirts…I’m just going to leave that at that.
As soon as I arrive in artist alley I see a familiar red head with a bow, and we make awkward nerd eye contact, it’s sporadic and uneasy.
“Tauriel!” I say with open arms as I make my way toward her, “You’re the first Hobbit person I’ve seen today.” She smiles and replies that there has been a Thorin also…stupid dwarf princeling (elves and dwarves HATE each other, especially Thranduil and the Durin’s Folk, it all dates back to the war, Thrandy not getting his precious gems, some lack of payment on both sides…all the details are lost but the hatred remains). I smile and grab a quick picture before walking the aisles of artists. Quest Log Update.
Quest Log Entry Three: You have gained +2 in conversation and +1 in morale. Explore the upper level, but be careful not to get lost in the winding maze of booths. En route with my quest I ascend to the Area Gateway, and I see him in the distance. That Pale Orc, Azog the Defiler, that very orc who killed Thror (Thorin’s, the dwarf princeling’s, grandfather). I strut, my exposed leg being shown to all those middle-aged men, but I don’t care, I only care about The Hobbit. The closer I get I soon see Smaug (the dragon who live(s/d) in Erebor, the only creature to have more greed than a dwarf) with his fire eyes even mechanically blinking. I try, I try so hard to contain my excitement but I can’t. I practically run to the Weta booth (New Zealand company that did everything from prosthetics to animation for LOTR and The Hobbit). Their display almost had me in tears as I examined the rock cutout of a door to Erebor (home of the Durin dwarf bloodline under the Misty Mountains, i.e. Thorin, Thrain, Thror) and Smeagol aka Gollum who was sitting quietly by himself on a rock holding his latest meal. I, in pure awe, take as many selfies and pictures I can of the props you can purchase and the miniature porcelain figurines. Once there was no one taking pictures with Gollum I swiftly moved in to capture the moment of Thrandy moving in to kiss Gollum, “This is going on insta.” I sadly leave the place where I felt at home to continue on with my exploration, vowing to the Valar (Middle Earth gods) that I will return to buy something. Quest Log Updated.
Quest Log Entry Four: You have successfully encircled the entire upper level, you receive a +1 in your tracking skills but a -1 in agility. Do not forget about the VGHS panel at 5 p.m., but be wary, friends may turn out to be foes, travel with caution. I’m not quite sure where I am, I’ve wandered deep into the comic book section, and for being at Comic Con, I really don’t know much about comics. Suddenly an arrow appears on the floor in front of me instructing me on which way to go. I follow it until I come across another Flaming Ring. I strut over to get a closer look as another word bubble pops up, “Free Lip Makeover and Goodie Bag. Do you choose to accept?” “Did I read free?” I quickly click accept and get into line, a copper lip will be the perfect finishing touch to my cosplay. While waiting I insta my Gollum picture, minding my own business when suddenly, out of nowhere, I hear the second fake British accent of the day.
“Excuse me my Lord, but I believe your ear is coming off.”
I turn around and look down to see non other than a stereotypical member of the Slytherin House (doubt this needs a footnote, but Harry Potter) with a tree branch for a wand.
“Oh, thank you, yeah they’re just not made for my ears, but they’re definitely stuck on,” I smile and turn back around…”Is this supposed to be my friend?” She speaks again, any English person would be appalled, and I answer back…regretfully.
It has been two and a half hours and I’m still stuck with her, at least she’s dropped the accent, but she insists on holding my hand as we walk so I seem more “royal.” I have been dragged around to all these booths and at my current age estimation how is a fourteen-year-old girl allowed to buy throwing knives? I look to the ground and see that my quest arrow is pointing the other direction. “How am I going to get out of this?” I already tried once with the whole bathroom thing, but she waited for me. I look at my phone and see that it’s almost three o’clock. We line up for her to get her book signed, but I can’t even go in because I didn’t pre-purchase a ticket. This is my chance…“don’t screw it up now,” Hey, I realized I want to get that poster from the Weta booth. I’ll go and then meet you back here when you’re done.”
She smiles and says ok, and I’m off, trying my hardest not to look like I’m running. “I’m free precious, FREEEEEE!!!” I’ve now returned to my strut, gliding across the red carpeted floor to claim my Tolkien prize (get it, token…Tolkien…). I arrive at the booth and wait in line, why get a poster when I can get a replica of the Key to Erebor…or is it the real key…definitely the real deal. I finally make it to the counter and I’m met with the beautifully charming, real, New Zealand accent of the woman, wife to the head of Weta.
“Can I get a picture of you?” she asks and I, of course, agree, then as if it was written in the stars the other worker, who I’ve seen on the over eighteen hours of extended LOTR footage, says, “Let me get Thranduil’s staff out for you to hold.”
Reader, I don’t know if you will ever understand what this moment means to me. I shakily extend my hand out to grip the staff, “this feels so right.” I can’t stop smiling, it’s so out of character but I don’t care, I physically and mentally can’t care, I’m holding the Staff of Thranduil, THE STAFF, I’M HOLDING HIS STAFF!! I quickly give my phone to the first lady who offered to take my picture. It turns into a mini photo shoot with all the con goers taking my picture. By this point I’m hyperventilating, I can feel my heart beating out of my chest, I think I’m going to puke rainbows. I finally let go, a smile still on my face as I leave the booth after thanking the patrons for the hundredth time. “I’m here, this is my con.” I put my key in my utility pack, Quest Log Updated.
Quest Log Entry Five: You have received a +10 in morale, a +9 in confidence, and a -2 in agility. Your day is halfway over, explore more booths (Star Trek and anything with plushies) and get in the panel line for VGHS (which I end up not getting in to, long story, but if you’ve ever read A-Relief, it relates to that) and then get in line for The Hobbit: Battle of Five Armies Panel. (For a guaranteed spot, I go in two panels ahead of time to secure my seat in the second row. I know so many spoilers reader, who dies, when they die, how they die, it’s great.) After panels, successfully make your way back to your dorm, be wary of foes, for the paths are not safe at night, don’t follow the lights.
Congratulations, you have completed Quest: First Comic Con. Your rewards: one Star Trek t-shirt dress, one cute pin, one free bag and lanyard, one iron on patch, three free stickers, one Key to Erebor, multiple cute pictures, and many compliments. I sadly click the log off button, “Are you sure you want to quit?” I sadly click yes and close my eyes. “And she lived happily ever after, for the rest of her days.”
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