One of the biggest pop culture events in the world has kicked off in San Diego where thousands of attendees are dressed far more eccentrically than at your run-of-the-mill conference. Comic-con brings together lovers of comics, film, TV and more.
Hours before show time, costumed crowds brave the San Diego heat waiting for the opportunity to strut their stuff.
I found two enthusiastic attendees dressed from head to toe in winter garb. They were ice climbers from the video game Super Smash Bros.
“Oh yeah, we’re sweating,” they laughed. It’s like a sauna in these things. At least we lost a little bit of weight.”
Shamaun Holsten flew his whole family across the country from Washington, D.C. to attend their first Comic-Con.
Dad was Thor, mom was Black Widow, and their little boys were Captain America and Iron Man.
Photos: The people of Comic-Con
“We wanted to have a theme as a family,” Shamaun Holsten said. “We wanted to be able to have four characters that are part of a team.”
The holy grail of pop culture conferences is Comic-Con’s exhibition hall, where people have been planning all year long how to make their entrance.
We found a man dressed as The Rocketeer carrying quite a load on his back.
“Rocket pack started out as schedule 40 PVC well casing and had to build it up from there,” the enthusiastic cosplayer said. “Maybe three months for the rocket and another six months pulling everything together. Been coming here for five years now and means the world to me.”
Many look at the scenes here at Comic-Con and think this event is for adults who are really just big kids — and lot of attendees take pride in that sentiment.
Some even believe these characters are worthy of further academic research.
“Every good superhero story focuses on some hard moral choices,” Mark D. White, Philosophy Professor at College of Staten Island said.
“And even though they are not mentioning Aristotle, Kant or Plato, people know that’s what they are doing. And that’s what I try to do in my work.”
White will soon be releasing a book on ‘Batman ethics’ and has already written books about Marvel Comics’ civil war and the virtues of Captain America.
“The thing that people have to remember about Captain America is that he always focuses on principle over politics,” White said. “So it’s not supporting whoever is in office, it’s supporting whoever is in office if they stand up for the principles.”
White says that philosophy is certainly relevant in politics today.
He’s not alone in finding higher meaning in the world of comics.
School psychologist Mara Wood recalls reading 300 wonder woman comic books in one summer, which helped her co-edit the book “Wonder Woman Psychology“.
“Looking at how compassion impacts people, how pro-social role models are is so important,” Wood said. “The idea of a community of women or community of friends and how that all boosts people and makes them better.”
Wood is one of the few school pschologists to utilize comic book bibliotheraphy, that is, helping children to identify with superheroes in a story so they can learn from their situations.
“Most of psychology is – the therapeutic relationship between a therapist and especially the child — if you can get them comfortable, if you can get them talking, they keep coming back for more,” Wood said. “Usually using superheroes gets them interested. It gives them a place to start.”
So while the mutli-billlion-dollar industry of comics celebrates characters that appear larger than life, some academics and doctors say their true power is relating to the heroic desires in all of us that are just waiting to be unmasked.