Wednesday, May 9, 2012

I am King Conan, or, Embrace your Inner Geek

                I think everyone was a little bit skeptical when I decided I would dress as Conan for Free Comic Book Day.  In fact, I know they were.  When I told my wife that I planned to wear a short tartan made out of faux fur, boots, bracers, and little else to a public place, her response was less than enthusiastic.  In fact, the direct quote was as follows; “I don’t have to go with you, do I?”
                Her reaction, I think, was due less to the fact that I’m probably not the first person that comes to mind when you think of barbarian warriors—I am appropriately dense and hairy, but fairly lacking in the muscle department—and more that I am a grown man who could think of no better way to spend their Saturday than by dressing as a fictional character.  The irony here is that the woman I married is just as enamored with Halloween as I am, perhaps even more so considering that she is already making plans for this year’s costume.  She even accompanies me to the yearly zombie walk downtown, which is essentially a very narrow second Halloween.  Yet dressing up as a literary/comic book character?  That was just silly. 
                Of course, she wasn’t alone in this line of thought.  There were plenty of people lining up to tell me I was being crazy, and while some of them have moved beyond celebrating Halloween, the majority still get dressed up each October.  I have to assume it’s a matter of ratio.  If you go downtown on October 31st, almost everyone you see will have some sort of costume on.  In fact, if you were to show up at a bar in your street clothes, you’d clearly be marked an outsider.  But at Free Comic Book day, those of us who take the time to get dressed up are in the minority; furthermore, the bulk of people who do show up in costume go the safe route, donning some sort of prepared Captain America mask or a bright red cape, something that can easily be removed and forgotten.  I can tell from the Internet that America has a vibrant culture dedicated to dressing up as the heroes and heroines of comic books, but that culture is still very much a minority in Boise, Idaho. 
                Luckily, if this sort of behavior really is crazy, at least I’m not alone.  My co-worker Michelle was the one who first proposed dressing up, actually.  We’d been swapping comics at work for a couple of years when I first mentioned Free Comic Book Day, and we made plans to go to the 2011 edition when her mom unexpectedly arrived in town.  I went with my children in civilian attire, and quickly noticed two things.  One was that a few people had bothered to dress up (I saw no costumes in 2010.)  The other was that the costumes themselves left a lot to be desired.  When I told Michelle about the out of shape Wonder Woman and the legions of store-bought Batmen, it was decided.  We would go this year, and we would be the coolest people there. 
                It wasn’t hard to decide on who we’d be.  Conan was one of the main books I was reading when we discovered our mutual love of comics, and she’d been providing me with Red Sonja books all winter.  It was only a matter of making the costumes work.  She got started right away, using her considerable art skills to make a Red Sonja outfit that is on par with any of the cosplay out there, in my opinion.  I bought fur and stared at it uncertainly until, with barely a month until the big day, I just begged her to do my sewing for me.  After a price was agreed upon, she accepted the challenge to make my costume as well, despite being in the process both of moving and of taking finals. 
                The day itself turned out to be less than ideal; it has been an unseasonably cold spring, and as we joined the long line wrapping around Captain Comics the decision to wear such revealing outfits was constantly called into question.  A strong breeze would occasionally hit the side of the store and cause our teeth to chatter.  Both of us had goose pimples running the length of our bodies, and both of us (for entirely different reasons) were terrified of encountering a wardrobe malfunction.  Meanwhile, my children (who went as the decidedly un-comic Bilbo Baggins and a vampire princess that Trysta made up that morning just so she could be something,) were bored.  They were cold.  Even the fact that I had brought chocolate and pepper jack cheese did little to improve their spirits.  And yet, I was having a great time.  Even as I shivered and counted the minutes until the store would open its doors, I felt proud to be here, clearly (short of my partner in crime,) the coolest person there.  Though I heard rumors of a Dead Pool hidden somewhere further down the line, we were more elaborately dressed than anyone else there.  People stared at us, and asked for pictures.  I can see why some people might be more comfortable dressing up in the anonymity of an event like Halloween, but I enjoyed being the star of the show.  We finally gathered our comics an hour and a half after we arrived, and then retreated to the warmth of the indoors.  It was almost time to rejoin the real world, with its bills and jobs and other complications.  But first, we had to take some pictures to commemorate the day.
                Even still, there are a few people that think I was foolish to go out in public (in May, no less,) as a half naked barbarian.  But I think there are more who, upon reflection, realize that as silly as it seems moments like this keep us young.  I might not be built like Arnold Schwarzenegger or Jason Mamoa, but for several hours I got to stop being a custodian and be King Conan instead.  How cool is that?  


  1. Awesome job Conan & Red Sonja. Two questions: 1. chocolate and pepper jack cheese? 2. Has the Boise Weekly gotten ahold of this??? Alannah

  2. 1. Yeah, the snacks I picked were less than healthful--cheese and crackers, followed by chocolate. But we eat lots of healthy stuff at home. Besides, Red Sonja doesn't operate properly without chocolate.

    2. No. Boise media makes brief mention of FCBD every year BEFORE it happens, never hear anything afterwards.