Previously, in Pop on Pop: Geek dad shared too much in order to figure out what kind of a geek he is, only to realize he is obviously just that -- a geek dad.
Thanks to the Internet, you don't really have to attend Comic Con, Toy Fair, or any of the other smaller, stinkier, lesser known annual geek events. Just check the right blogs and sundry geeksites on the appropriate dates, and you'll be in the loop. But there's something special about running with the geeks en masse. Being one with the hive-mind -- collectively decked out in cosplay gear, homemade superhero duds, or ironic t-shirts, swarming the convention center (and, for the biggest shows, the surrounding neighborhood), shopping for collectibles, people watching, celebrity stalking, or just soaking in the collective musk of shared fandom -- is a must-have experience for geeks of all shapes and genres.
So, as the 4th Annual New York Comic Con (my con of choice) came to the Jacob Javitz Center this past February, I decided to make sure Alexa Sky got to have that experience with her dad (that's me).
Now, like my wife and the kindly folks at Social Services, you might be wondering if it was such a wise parenting decision to bring my delicate 16-month-old girl to the east coast geek mecca during a nerd high holy day. The short answer is yes, as Lady Lex made it out in one piece and didn't even catch the nerd flu that was going around Javitz. But this wouldn't be much of a column if I left it at that. So pay attention, as I share my Top 3 Survival Tips for Baby's First Comic Con!
STEP 1. BE PREPARED
The first thing you need to do is prepare yourself and your baby for the day (or days) ahead. Stock up on the obvious essentials for any day out with the baby -- diapers, snacks, toys, an extra outfit (for the kid, at least), and plenty of patience. But you also don't want to bring your child into a totally foreign, seemingly hostile environment.
The onslaught of noises and colors, the constant bombardment of snark and obscure movie quotes, and the sea of fan folk dressed in poorly-fitting costumes can be a lot for an ill-prepared, unsuspecting mind, and it will be bad for the kid, too!
You'll want to prime your child's mind over the days or weeks leading up to the event with small doses of dorkiness. Introduce pop culture iconography into your home decor -- movie posters or action figures, for example. Buy age-appropriate superhero toys and books for the child. You could even record your favorite prime time TV shows or movies and play them on loop in the background while your child plays, eat, and sleeps. Flashcards might work.
In addition to doing several of the suggestions above (I'll let you guess which ones), I decided to prep my daughter for her first comic convention with another, possibly more significantly geeky first. We watched the original Star Wars Trilogy.
Episode IV was a big hit.* Lesky clapped for Vader's first appearance and during the award ceremony at the end. As expected, her attention drifted often, but she was engaged by every big music cue and ran to the TV for all the major C3P0/R2-D2 moments. She definitely dug it. But more importantly, she now had a point of reference for all those stormtroopers and Jedi she was bound to run into at the show.
(*Sadly, the next two films didn't go over as well. I expected this with the dark, serious tone of Empire, but was surprised when the kid totally no-sold the Ewoks in Jedi. Maybe she's a Trekker at heart.)
But it isn't called the New York Star Wars Con, so I also had to make sure Lesky had plenty of comics on the brain. We've been watching Batman: Brave and the Bold on Saturday mornings, recently, and before that, I watched Spectacular Spider-Man and Legion of Superheroes with her regularly. But animation doesn't quite hold her attention, and she's more likely to EAT my comics than let me read them to her. I settled for flipping through a copy of Wizard with her the week before the show. Not only is Wizard written close to her reading level (she finds the Comics Journal a little dry), but it also had a huge feature on Watchmen -- sure to be a major presence at NYCC.
I've been prepping this girl for all-things geeky since the day she was born, so, with this last-minute cramming, I was confident that her mind was primed for NYCC. Now all I had to do was make sure she dressed the part.
The big day for Alexa at the show was going to be Sunday, but I went on Saturday, too; so I was able to pick up this cool, subtly geeky onesie from one of the vendors, Chop Shop (How many shirts do you own that have Mork, ALF, and Galactus on them?!):
Sure, I could have put her in some superhero Halloween getup, but I'm more of a cool T-shirt guy. I figured I'd let Alexa be a cool shirt gal. Mommy was a little irked that I got the onesie in blue, so I added a hair ribbon to chick things up:
The kid was ready.
STEP 2. GO WITH THE FLOW
You don't want to wheel a baby into a crowded convention center expecting to follow a rigid agenda, hit every panel, see every booth, or really do anything on your terms. You'll be setting yourself up for disappointment if you do. Instead, just keep it simple and go where the day takes you.
You want your child to have an experience ... so let them experience it.
But that isn't to say you should just drop your kid on the floor and follow. Have some goals for the day, just keep them loose and don't be mad if you can't accomplish them all. For example, I had two goals for the day:
1. Take a lot of photos of Alexa with costumed con goers.
2. Get Lou Ferrigno to change Alexa's diaper.
I got a lot of photos, which was good enough for me:
Here we are at the main entrance checkpoint. We were not the droids he was looking for.
Either my kid is a Ratzi, or she's not enjoying Ed Brubaker's run on Cap.
Alexa has a few Marvel toys at home and I've been supplying her older cousin Mason with Super Hero Squad figures since Wave 1, so one of our first stops was the display of new/upcoming Super Hero Squad and Mighty Muggs figures:
We strolled through Artist's Alley, where I was sad to learn Cliff Chiang had sold out of prints of this awesome Batgirl/Purple Rain mash-up. I don't know how it happened, but Alexa LOVES Purple Rain. She reacts to "Let's Go Crazy" the way I thought she'd react to the Ewoks!
I wish Alexa felt for Luke and Leia the way she does Morris Day and the Time. (Oh-ee-oh-ee-oh.)
While in Artist's Alley, we had a brief staredown with Morgan Spurlock, who was at the show with his family. Either he was spending 30 Days as a dork, or he's a genuine geek dad.
I mentioned earlier that Alexa isn't ready to read comics yet, but one day she will be. I picked up a copy of the awesomely adorable Tiny Titans collection from the genius creators, Art Balthazar and Franco. They even autographed it!
One day, Alexa will finally learn to read, and she will know what they wrote for her.
STEP 3. HAVE FUN
Well, those of you who have kids of your own know that actually having fun is one of the hardest things to do when you're out with the kids. But luckily, Alexa was in good spirits for the day, and we paced ourselves just right.
We took a lunch break with Jughead.
We stuck a kick-me sign on the back of a storm trooper.
We met another geek dad and his eager-to-zap-us sidekick.
We stopped the Baroness from activating the Weather Dominator.
We even got the Flash to slow down and say hi.
It was a long, exhausting day for the kid, but I think she'll remember the experience fondly.
NEXT TIME: Playdate interview!
Psst -- I'm on Twitter now @D18Matt and still looking for the best of the comic blogosphere at ComicBlogElite.com. And don't forget to check out all the WATCHMEN WEEK features here at Forces of Geek!