I took the boys to “Free Comic Book” day at Source Comics and Games today. For those unfamiliar with the comic and gaming subculture, this is a big deal. The event has its own website which describes the day like this:
Free Comic Book Day is a single day – the first Saturday in May each year – when participating comic book shops across North America and around the world give away comic books absolutely FREE* to anyone who comes into their stores. *Check with your local shop for their participation and rules.
My brother-in-law introduced me to this event. He’s the geek that I never had the courage to be when I was a kid, and my sons are lucky to have an uncle that’s got the inside scoop on everything super-hero and comic related. I’ve come along for the ride and am getting pretty into the whole adventure. Braden and I have “Justice League Nights” every Tuesday and have watched the complete series a few times by now.
When we arrived at this event, I wasn’t expecting the crowd, and was really surprised by the reaction of my boys. Normally, they’re pretty outgoing and it’s hard to keep track of them. This is even the case with big crowds like at the Minnesota State Fair. But when we hit the ground at Free Comic Book day, they both changed. I wasn’t sure if it was the four-block walk from our eventual parking place or the full-sized real-life superheros that were gathered for pictures near the door, but both of my guys were suddenly very shy. Braden didn’t want to leave my side to take pictures, and Cullen didn’t even want me to put him down. Something had frozen them up like a blast from Iceman.
I noticed that many of the other kids were the same way, and then it hit me. They were star-struck. Sure, if I’d have said “Wow, I think that’s really Wolverine” my five-year-old would have set me straight right away. Even though his experience with the complex kid-social structure is still at the pre-K level, he’s already got an edgy “I’m exasperated with my parents” tone of voice down pretty good. I can almost hear it: “Dad. Come on. It’s just a costume.”
But in spite of that, for this moment, in this place, both of my boys were so nervous that they didn’t even want me to suggest that they get their pictures taken. Sure, they weren’t REAL superheros, but if you get to dress up like one, there must be something pretty awesome about you. On our way to the back of the store to pick up our free comic books, we passed Storm from X-men, Superman, Batman, Loki, Wolverine, Thor, Luke Skywalker, Darth Maul, Princess Leah, a Storm Trooper, Anakin Skywalker, and Spiderman in the black suit.
On our way out, Braden mustered up the courage to get his photo taken with Wolverine. It was at that point that I saw through the crowd, the long walk, the waiting in lines, and tired kids to the blessing that was being bestowed on me by the geeks dressed up in costumes for this event. They made it possible for my boys to understand that it’s okay to keep wonder, imagination, and playfulness alive in a world that forces kids to be grown-up way too young. They were giving my kids the chance to muster-up the courage to have a picture with an imaginary hero. These guys were embracing their own sense of wonder and playfulness to provide something that I couldn’t ever reproduce for my kids. Thanks Wolverine.