By Alix Norman
Trying to get through the doors is like beating the Christmas crowds at Harrods: there are literally thousands of us. I’m swept along in the press – squeezed between a Batman and a Joker, a Daenerys and a Lara Croft – and pass a couple of Jedi coming the other way. There’s a Stormtrooper somewhere ahead of me, and a shock of leaf-strewn, orange hair that can only belong to a Poison Ivy. I identify a Maleficent from a distance (her horns soaring above the throng) and glimpse what seems to be an eight-foot Iron Man lurking just inside the door…
This is the first Cyprus Comic Con, a celebration of all things related to the ninth art, the cultures and subcultures that surround it: sci-fi and fantasy, anime and manga, video games, TV shows and movies.Since the first of these conferences took place in Britain in the late sixties, they’ve attracted hundreds of thousands of those from what is now fondly named ‘geek culture’, a genre that’s seen a massive increase of late as coders, hackers and gamers emerge from their solitary confinement to mingle with aficionados of the latest hit TV series.
“This is the fashion now, Comic Cons are becoming far more mainstream as people accept the genres,” says Tony Michaels, Press Manager for the Cyprus event. “Most people are somehow connected to the culture in some way, through Hollywood movies like Spiderman or series such as Big Bang and Game of Thrones.” Even the crisis, he says, has played its part in bringing this sub-culture to the fore as more traditional jobs disappear, and accountants and lawyers turn to what was a childhood passion to support themselves.
As I pass into the hallowed halls of Comic Con Cyprus 2014, I recall his words. Who were – or are – these people in real life, I wonder. Could the wicked Maleficent perhaps be a kindly, humanitarian doctor by day? Is the six-foot Wonder Woman in miniscule hotpants a demure teacher during the week? And – as I make it into the main conference room, senses assaulted by the sounds and sights of thousands of people perusing the many stands – I wonder if the enthusiasm of the graphic artists and writers whose work is on show might once have been dimmed by the struggle to survive in a conventional office environment…
“This is my whole life, really,” says Maria C. Loizou, referring to the spectacular, multi-hued Game Art that spills from her table to the walls behind her. “I really love what I do and it’s great to be able to show this to so many people.” Down the aisle, there’s a stand full of bubbly girls promoting – with great aplomb – Hallyu, a celebration of Korean pop culture: “I never knew until I came here how many people shared my passion,” says one. “I can’t wait for next year’s Comic Con!”
This is a sentiment much expressed: everyone, everywhere is marvelling at the success of the event; even global celebrity, Neil Gibson of T Publications, author of Amazon Kindle’s best-selling graphic novel Twisted Dark. A supporter of Cyprus Comic Con from the first, he’s very excited to be here: “I’ve been to Cons all over the world, but I’ve never seen a first-time convention so well organised, so successful. It’s very impressive, and there’s such enthusiasm! I’d love to come back next year.”
I’m dying to get my hands on his novel but, unfortunately, “I sold out hours ago,” he says with an infectious grin. “But I’ll send you a link so both you and your readers can access Volume One online.” As good as his word, the link arrives in my inbox almost immediately… but I can’t stop to read it, much as I’d love to, because the Cosplay parade is about to hit the stage. The highlight of the event, this is where all those Batmans (Batmen?) and Jokers have been heading. They’ve been judged on a one-to-one basis, and now it’s time to strut their stuff for the adoring crowds.
“That’s Faith from Mirror’s Edge; Gaara from Naruto; Link from The Legend of Zelda,” report my neighbours, the Sony PlayStation reps who have sponsored first prize, as I struggle to keep up. Enthusiastic whistles and applause greet each clutch of contestants, as they parade for the audience in all their fantastical glory. As a Star Wars devotee, I’m able to recognise a couple of Darth Mauls (both so realistic, I would be terrified if I were standing any closer), a Darth Vader and an Obi-Wan. But I’m lost when it comes to gaming characters and the more obscure series (“a female Shephard from Mass Effect; this one’s the State Alchemist from Fullmetal Alchemist; that’s Link from The Legend of Zelda”).
The parade is an hour of non-stop thrills, for audience and cosplayers alike (someone falls off a table; Daenerys’ dragon – a puppy – has to be taken offstage; one of the contestants tells us this is his dream come true) before the judges announce the winners. In third place is a realistic Mister Oshi, clad in fluorescent Bermuda shorts and straggling beard; Pyramid Head (whose bizarre millinery has been concocted entirely by hand) comes in second; and first place goes to… drum roll please: the eight-foot Iron Man.
There’s a slight delay because he has to get back into his costume (no easy feat when you’ve got stilts inside your apparel, one imagines), before he returns in a scarlet blaze. There’s a wall of sound. More tables collapse. Someone bursts into tears – whether of excitement or sorrow, I’m not sure…
There’s an after-party scheduled to run into the small hours, but it’s time to take my leave. Not only do I have a deadline to meet, but I probably need to garner my strength… for next year. Because, like the Terminator, I’ll be back. But I probably need a good twelve months (and a stiff drink) to recover from Cyprus’ first, amazing, Comic Con!
The first Cyprus Comic Con took place on September 13, 2014, at the European University. For full details of the event and related, upcoming activities, visit www.cypcruscomiccon.org, or the Facebook page www.facebook.com/CyComicCon
Readers of the Cyprus Mail are also offered the chance to read Volume One of bestselling author Neil Gibson’s graphic novel, Twisted Dark. Visit the following link from T Pub to access your free copy: http://joom.ag/EW6b