"EXCUSE me - I'm from the press, and I was wondering if I could ask you...
what is that you're wearing? Who are you dressed up as?"
I can't remember how often I asked that question last Saturday. Each time, I felt impossibly square. If I'd done my homework I wouldn't have needed to ask. The cool response, the acceptable response, would have been to have copied everyone else's example, to nod in approval and say, "Hey - great costume!"
The occasion was the first-ever MCM Scotland Comic Con, at the SECC. Older people, if they think about comics at all, will probably think of the Dandy, the Beano, or perhaps the Marvel comics, but this convention was light years away from that, even if there were stalls where you could buy these old comics. Manga, anime, a Japanese trading-card game called Yu-Gi-Oh!, giant overhead adverts for about-to-be- released movies such as Ender's Way, actors from Primeval and Babylon 5 coining it in as they signed autographs for eager fans and posed for photographs with them ... if you were a newcomer to the scene, there was a lot to turn your head.
And then there were the costumes. A few - the characters from Kick-Ass, a Gandalf from Lord of the Rings, Austin Powers - were reasonably easy to identify. Others, decidedly, weren't.
The convention's Facebook page afterwards offered some clues - fans saying they'd been dressed up as Poison Ivy, or Edward Elric, or Umbreon, or Black Widow, or Rei Ayanami ... One bloke wrote with pride: "I was dressed as Tobi, the one that was running around, trolling everyone, sliding, swagging, bombing and dancing."
I feel even more of a square to admit that not only have I never heard of these characters, I've never seen Star Wars.
No matter. Saturday was an education. The message is clear: what was once a cult interest has now become mainstream. There were around 10,000 people there on Saturday but the weekend-long London event attracts 80,000. Action-hero movies do big business at the box-office. Stores like Forbidden Planet pull the customers in, too.
I'd like to apologise for my ignorance to all those costumed fans I spoke to. Had any of them asked me who I'd come as - casual dress, earnest facial expression, press badge prominent, notebook and pen in hand - I'd just have shrugged and replied, "Clark Kent - off duty, of course."
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