Comic Book Fans Create Community at 'Awesome Con'
Movies and television with superheroes are popular all over the world.
Both young people and adults love characters like Batman and Spider Man.
But for some people, such characters and their stories are more than just simple entertainment.
Every year, cities around the world hold events for people interested in super heroes, science fiction stories and the world of make-believe. These gatherings are often called comic book conventions, or comic "cons."
Two of the biggest comic cons in the U.S. are held in San Diego, California and New York City. Until recently, Washington, DC was among the cities in the U.S. without its own big event for superhero and science fiction lovers. This all changed in 2013 when Awesome Con first arrived in Washington.
Ben Penrod has loved comic books, science fiction, fantasy, and all things nerdy throughout his life. Growing up in Annapolis, Maryland, Penrod worked in a store that sold comic books. He says this made his interest in nerdy media grow.
"From there it just became an obsession. And I started making more friends who were into these types of things."
Penrod bought and sold large comic book collections in his free time. He would often visit a store called Third Eye Comics. He then became friends with the owners. Together they decided that Annapolis needed its own comic book convention.
So in 2011 Penrod and his partners organized the first Awesome Con in Annapolis. Over 7,000 people attended.
"It was larger than anything I had ever done before. And it was scary. But it was also exhilarating."
Penrod says these gatherings are a place people can come to share interests that may be considered non-traditional.
In addition to comic book lovers, fans of video games and professional wrestling attend the event.
Artists and creators of comic books and similar media come to comic cons to share their work with the public. Actors from movies and television shows come to meet their fans.
Many people also wear costumes to look like their favorite characters. Dressing in such clothing is often called "cosplay."
Penrod says fans of almost everything are welcome.
"I think it's the sense of community. ... It's a chance to be around people who have similar interests and people who really understand them and get them. It's a place to celebrate the things that you're passionate about."
Penrod chose to move the convention to the Mt. Vernon Convention Center in Washington, DC in 2013. He hoped the larger space would bring more people.
In 2015, over 40,000 people attended Awesome Con.
The number of people attending events like this shows how popular this kind of media is. Penrod suggests that any new television show or movie can succeed or fail because of the attention fans give.
He also says more and more people are accepting nerdy culture.
"I think nerdy is kind of becoming the new normal."
I'm Pete Musto.