Comicon as You Are

Photo Laura Beeston
Photo Laura Beeston
Photo Laura Beeston
Photo Laura Beeston
Photo Laura Beeston

Near the heart of Montreal’s downtown, where the city’s watery edges creep up on the island, masked men and women rejoice in the shared passions that bring them all together.

Here, the city’s nerdy underbelly spends one weekend a year living in the fantasy world they love so much. Through movies, television and whispers in the night, that world is rapidly expanding.

The nerds are ready to take over.

Mass nerdism

Alex Laprova, Comicon Montreal’s co-organizer and founder, estimates that about 3,000 people attended Comicon on Sept. 11. Scattered among those thousands were all sorts of nerds who jumped at the chance to dress up.

Merrick, a Dawson student outfitted in a Guy Fawkes mask à la V for Vendetta, preferred to reveal neither his last name nor his face (his mask never came off) when he explained what drew him to events like Comicon.

“Mass nerdism,” he said in a deadpan voice. According to Merrick, mass nerdism entails “a bunch of nerds, dressing up as their favourite characters from anything and going to a public place.”

Although Merrick says he’ll dress up anytime and anyplace, some of Comicon’s attendees enjoyed the opportunity to show a side of themselves they might otherwise hide.

Corrine Auger is a petite French Canadian most of the year. Events like Comicon allow her to display her alter ego: Princess Toadstool.

“Like at Halloween,” Auger said, “[Comicon] is one of the rare times we can dress up and escape from the routine of our daily lives.”

The collective

Comicon is a reunion for the nerds of Montreal. Fans recognized one another through the details on their elaborate storm trooper costumes or from regular run-ins at the same little comic store.

Nowhere is this more evident than around the Yu Gi Oh tournament, a trading card game based off the manga—a Japanese comic art—by the same name. Generally, these tournaments draw the same people.

Mike Thomas, the tournament’s organizer, says he’ll usually recognize most, if not all, of the players. This, he says, is one of the main reasons people keep playing for so long.

“Every game should have a community, people who stick together,” he said.

Swept up

Laprova was only eight when he read his first Superman comic. After that, he said, it became an obsession.

Like Laprova, many adults present at Comicon on Saturday had been nurturing a love for some aspect of nerd culture since they were too small to see over a comic store counter.

Thomas, similarly, began playing Yu Gi Oh as a kid after watching the manga’s TV adaptation.

It seemed many nerd parents were hoping Comicon could be a similar experience for their children. One girl, no older than seven, ran around the hall fully dressed as a character from Avatar.

Laprova hoped to encourage children participating by giving a reduced price to anyone under the age of six.

“You’ve got to offer something like this for the children to be swept up off their feet,” he said. “That’s our future.”

Taking over Hollywood

Laprova understands why so many people turn up to show their love for comics.

“What other form of entertainment do you know that stimulates you visually and intellectually at the same time?”

Because of this appeal, the adaptation of comics into movies is something Laprova isn’t surprised by.

“[Comic book movies] are stealing our scripts right now, they realize that the best stories are in comic books,” he said.

The strength behind comic stories and artwork, Laprova feels, is lifting nerds into a new social status.

“You know what? Us geeks, we’re taking over Hollywood,” he said. “And eventually, we’re getting all the women.”

Laprova, along with his friend, organized the entire event. The two of them had travelled to many Comicons and became frustrated that nothing similar existed in Montreal.

“We just want to give the [Montreal] fans what they deserve, a good comic book show,” he said.

Laprova says he’s starting to feel empowered for the first time by his connection to nerd culture. Although he can only speak for himself, his growing pride could very well be shared by all who attended Comicon. “I’m a 40 year old geek,” he said. “And I’m happy to finally be in the spotlight.”

This article originally appeared in Volume 31, Issue 05, published September 14, 2010.