Thursday 20 June 2019

Comic Con: Rise of the geeks - how fans of comic books are finally going mainstream

Karl Walsh (left) and Derek Cosgrave, organisers of Dublin Comic Con, with some of their costumes Photo: Fergal Phillips
Karl Walsh (left) and Derek Cosgrave, organisers of Dublin Comic Con, with some of their costumes Photo: Fergal Phillips
Amy King likes dressing up as manga cartoon characters Photo: Steve Humphreys
Kirsty Blake Knox

Kirsty Blake Knox

Blessed are the geeks, for they shall inherit the earth.

There was a time, in the not so distant past, when being a nerd was not cool.

A time when jocks were idolised and horn-rimmed glasses were worn without a trace of irony.

But the times have a-changed and this year's Dublin Comic Con is predicted to attract 16,000 visitors.

Once a sub-stratum of society, a whole army of geeks are alive and kicking in Ireland. There are comic book geeks, Whovians and Trekkies, Dungeons and Dragons fanatics, cosplay enthusiasts and "Bronies" - that's "Bros" who are fans of My Little Pony.

Aware of the emerging fiefdom of geekiness, Derek Cosgrave (35) and his business partner Karl Walsh (29) founded Dublin Comic Con three years ago.

The convention is based on the much-hyped San Diego Comic Con, a gathering of such size and scale it's often dubbed "Glastonbury for nerds".

The Dublin version takes place in the Convention Centre this weekend, and its organisers have pulled in a pretty impressive guest list.

'Star Trek' actress Gates McFadden, Nicholas Brendon of 'Buffy the Vampire Slayer' fame, and 'The Walking Dead's' Michael Rooker are all flying in for the occasion.

"Fans get to meet, talk and dress up as their heroes," explains Derek.

Around 90pc of the attendees at Dublin Comic Con will arrive in fancy dress.

The price of the costumes can range from a few hundred euro to over €5,000.

"Some of the latex costumes cost more than a car," Derek notes. "It can be an expensive hobby."

Spending hours constructing costumes is something Derek knows all about. He is a member of the rather ominously named 'Predator Group of Ireland' - a collection of men who dress up as the monster from John McTiernan's 1988 'Predator' film.

"It can take up to six months to make a good Predator," he tells me.

Derek insists that Dublin Comic Con will not be a male-dominated sphere. "It's 50/50 men to women," he says. "Cosplay, which takes inspiration from Japanese animé, is particularly popular with women."

So popular, in fact, that Dublin native Amy King (30) founded Cosplay Ireland in 2011 to meet other like-minded individuals.

"It's such a creative outlet and a great confidence booster," she said. King likes to dress up as Sailor Moon a "fabled moon warrior" with a penchant for mini-skirts and pig tails. "Cosplay lets you become a different person," she explains.

The "rise of the nerds" can be attributed in part to TV shows such as 'The IT Crowd' and 'The Big Bang Theory'.

These cult series made bespectacled guys and gals protagonists, not underdogs.

Hollywood studios were also quick to realise the box office potential of Marvel Comics and JRR Tolkien's works.

On top of this, "alpha nerds" - like Bill Gates - became key players in the digital revolution.

According to committed Northern Irish Trekkie, Mark Hughes, Ireland's "nerd scene" has evolved radically in the past few years.

"There was no outlet for my nerdiness when I was growing up," he says. "It wasn't until I got into college that I could emerge from my nerd shell."

Hughes, who is currently starring in the Sky series 'King of the Nerds', thinks social media has made "geeky culture" more mainstream.

"Twitter and Facebook have helped connect all these diverging and niche groups.

"Nerds aren't loners hanging out in their parents' basement anymore. We're sociable and mainstream."

Ronan Murphy (39), the proud owner of Galway-based gaming cafe Dungeons and Donuts, agrees.

"'Nerd' is no longer a derogatory term," he says. "These days everyone is a nerd."

Irish Independent

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