This year is the first year where my daughter, 5, attended Comicpalooza with us is a full-blown, all-day capacity. Last year she was little more than a surly presence in a red wagon as we waited in line to meet John Barrowman. Aside from bribing her with a stuffed Cthulhu and letting her nap on mommy’s lap while daddy interviewed Paul McGann (Doctor Who) her contribution to the experience was minimal.
So this year I decided to go full out with her participation to try and leave a trail for other parents that might want to drag their little Elsas and Iron Men along for the ride. I designated Saturday at Comicpalooza to be family day.
That wagon is not optional, by the way. Bring a wagon, preferably one big enough for your kid to lie down in. Far be it from me to accuse the tender heart of a child of duplicity, but it’s the perfect thing to have when mysterious bouts of leg tiredness set in and they decide they no longer have any energy to make their way across the vast expanse to whatever activity you’re hoping to please them with.
A check in the pro column for Comicpalooza this year is that they have not one, but two dedicated child areas nicely segregated from the rest of the action. The first on the ground floor contains a comprehensive, if prohibitively expensive, round of bouncy castles, slides, tricycle races and archery games. You can burn through $10 for 20 minutes of entertainment, so it’s the sort of thing I recommend going to near the end of your day when they’re lower on energy and the staff tends to be a little more lenient on time limits.
A much better investment is the ton of science and creative building centers areas that are also housed near the more physical attractions. One table contained a giant working model of human lungs that the demonstrators would pump to show how they worked. There were interactive models of hearts, fossils, and even rocks that when waved over with a Geiger counter were shown to be radioative.
In fact, there’s this whole segment of Comicpalooza hidden over in the extreme east end that I am fully sure is going to be the origin story of some revolutionary genius we’ll see in the news 20 years from now. My daughter crafted three-dimensional models with a 3D model pen, investigated a booth full of 3D printers, and saw a ton of other invention and science-based booths. Fond as I am of the pop culture explosion that engulfs George R. Brown every year, it might be nice to see a smaller gathering of mad scientists with fewer distractions in a separate con sometime.
Then again, I can tell you with no uncertainty that for a little kid 90 percent of the wonder of Comicpalooza is the cosplayers. My daughter practically fell to her knees to declare her blind obedience to a particularly impressive Princess Celestia that she found almost immediately when she entered the convention. Her eyes were constantly searching for Spider-men, Doctors, and princesses. Especially princesses. I’m not sure I’ve ever realized how extensive the cosplay princess community can be. Elsas and Annas were in abundance, but there were some really amazing examples of the recent Cinderalla and Angelina Jolie’s Maleficent.
The ones that really knocked her over though were the more inventive of the gender swaps. The number of female Captains America rivaled that of the males, and probably outnumbered them if you discounted the number of guys who considered jeans, a T-shirt and a shield to be a costume. There was also the Sailor Scout Avengers, Sailor Moon-themed versions of Iron Man, Thor, Loki and Cap. It’s the kind of thing that people who write crossover comics kick themselves for not having though of.
In fact, probably the thing that brings me personally the most joy taking my young daughter to Comicpalooza is the fact that when it comes to geekdom, the girls are winning. Handily. The world is changing rapidly, and just a causal look at the attendees shows that women and girl fans are assuming an equal stand in these communities.
In fact, when we made our way up to the other segregated children’s area on the third floor the difference was even more apparent. The little girls inventing heroes outnumbered the boys and about half of the free comics on hand featured female protagonists. It's very welcoming, and let;s me know that if her talents lie in some kind of geekish creation she'll find the path towards it more open than many women of my generation did.
All day long the convention hosts various events spanning from talent shows and dance socials to LEGO workshops, superhero creation sessions and cosplay for children tutorials. I can’t express how helpful this to a con-going parent.
For starters, it’s free. Totally. Keeping kids entertained in a venue that is literally hawking magic at every turn in some for can become a very expensive endeavor. It’s nice that Comicpalooza goes out of its way to offer both passive and interactive options to soak up the time. Quidditch is always fun to watch, as are the Dalek races, but with everything that is going on sometimes what a kid needs the most is some quiet time to color a picture of Deadpool.
Regardless, here’s a brief list of the things I can tell you you’re going to want to prepare for if you bring kids.
DO: Get a room. Yes, even if you live in the same city as the con. Nothing makes dealing with kids easier than having a home base for them to crash in and recharge watching cartoons.
DON’T: Feel bad about grabbing an adult beverage while in the halls of the convention, even if it feels weird to drink in front of your kid. It can take the edge off a hangry tantrum and save your temper.
DO: Let kids set some of the schedule. They will act better if you allow them to control some of the afternoon. Let them go through a schedule and circle events or panels they are interested. Include them in the decision making process and they’ll feel slightly more obligated to cooperating as part of the group.
DON’T: Take sudden bouts of shyness personally. No, not even if you did spend more than you’d like to admit on dressing them in a near perfect Spider-Gwen outfit. Try to remember that a comic convention is a big, bright, loud, confusing place that is sometimes literally full of scary looking monsters (To the parents of the 12-year-old Pennywise… Dear God, why?). Be kind/
DO: Have an eating plan that does not involve the food stands at the con if at all possible. You never know when they’re going to be closed or out or ridiculously crowded. A backpack with snacks is always a good idea.
DON’T: Wander into the various panel rooms on the third floor of the George R. Brown without a very thorough understanding of where you are going. The only aggravating things about the children’s area up there was that finding the bloody thing took forever among the identical walls and doors.
DO: Go on the last day of the convention if there is a celebrity that your child wants to meet. The crowds are always the smallest on Monday of Comicpalooza and often you can just walk up and say hello to all but the biggest stars. They’ll still charge you for pictures most of the time, but a simple handshake and expression of admiration is always free. Most of the guests are pretty bored by then and happy for the company.
DON’T: Forget to have fun. A comic convention is not a series of objectives to overcome, but an experience to be a part of. You’ll be much happier if you take it easy and try to just find what’s on the ground to see and touch.
I’ve been covering Comicpalooza ever since it first started in the George R. Brown. You get used to being an adult with an endless playroom of your favorite things as far as the eye can see. You tend to just assume that everything is horror movie screenings and psychological dissections of Buffy the Vampire Slayer episodes. It’s important for us to remember that we have to hand the geek mantle down to the next generation. Don’t get me wrong; I’m looking forward to tomorrow when my daughter will send the day at her Nana’s and my wife and I can maneuver without three feet of sass demanding something every five minutes. On the other hand you’ve got to water your growing geek with outing like this.