Comic book fans unite

Betsy Graca

Where else would grown men and women want to proudly display their Superman, Spider-Man and Jedi costumes? Not at an early Halloween party, but at a comic book convention.

This weekend, nearly 5,000 comic book fans gathered at the State Fairgrounds to attend the 19th annual FallCon comic book convention.

FallCon was hosted by the Midwest Comic Book Association and is the biggest convention of its kind in the upper Midwest.

One hundred and eighty-four illustrators and creators displayed their work, hoping to network and make a sale.

With the industry constantly expanding due to films, video games and the Internet, comic books are more popular than ever.

“You can read the comic, then play the game, then watch the movie,” FallCon attendee and pre-nursing junior Ellen Kuzma said.

Kuzma’s husband, Andrew, a religious studies senior, said he’s been reading comics for as long as he can remember.

He also said over the past 10 years comics have become more interesting and artistically advanced due to the influence of technology.

Nick Postiglione, co-organizer of FallCon and comic book store owner, said the industry has continued to find success because of its easy conversion to our extremely visual society.

Films and comics feed one another to further success, he said.

In addition, he said the industry was once dominated by only two publishers, DC comics and Marvel. However, that is no longer the case due to the Internet allowing creators to self-publish works.

“That is probably the most gratifying,” he said. “Now we have an absolute ocean of independent voices. Technology allows things that just weren’t possible 10 years ago.”

The technology of comics isn’t the only thing that’s changing – so is the fan base.

“It’s no longer a boys’ club,” comic creator Jesse Haller said. “In the past few years, women have been coming more and more often to these conventions.”

Comics are also finding their way into the University’s curriculum.

Physics professor James Kakalios has been offering a superhero freshman seminar since 2001.

The class provoked a large amount of media attention, Kakalios said, including an article in People magazine and even a Trivial Pursuit question that now bears his name.

Kakalios lectured at the convention on the scientific accuracy of many popular comics.

He said once a person makes that one suspension of belief, as in Flash’s incredible speed or Spider-Man’s web-slinging across skyscrapers, the rest is often accurate.

Kakalios used physics equations and laws to prove his theories of characters’ abilities, similar to the structure of his class at the University.

“(I teach students) to eat their spinach by hiding it in their superhero sundae,” he said.

Kakalios was promoting his book, “The Physics of Superheroes,” which has found international success.

Haller, who was displaying his work for the second year, said not everyone is able to financially support themselves in the comic book industry.

He said he received a degree in comic art at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design, but still considers his comics a hobby on top of his day job.

“I create comics because I enjoy it,” he said. “Having fun is the most important part because you don’t make any money. And if it’s not fun, you’ll be miserable.”