I love comic conventions.
As San Diego Comic-Con returns for its first major in-person event since Covid-19, I want to say how grateful I am these events simply exist. While the Californian gathering is considered the most popular of its kind, as it's one of the oldest, there are plenty of other variations that take place around the world.
Colourful cosplay, celebrity meet-and-greets and charming artisan stalls are just some of the reasons why I enjoy them. However, it wasn’t until I began attending some myself that I started to understand just how much of a haven they can be for some people.
Scroll through the gallery above to see images from Middle East Film and Comic Con 2022
The first time I went to such an event I went as any other fan, joining the crowds at the Boston Comic Con in 2013. While I’d always wanted to go, the idea of showing up alone felt daunting at the time, especially since they're normally attended by groups of friends or families.
However, I was offered free tickets and had the day off work, so it seemed like a good time to just do it. I quickly learnt whether you're there by yourself or not, it's easy to make a new friend or two. In the end, everyone is there to share the same pop culture experience, without judgement. It's all about having fun and finding like-minded people.
A few years later, now as a journalist, I attended WrestleMania Axxess during WrestleMania 35 weekend at Pier 12 in Brooklyn, New York, in 2019. Although it doesn’t officially have the word “comic con” in it, it’s the same type of affair — a convention for fans to come together to celebrate the thing they love most. In this case, professional wrestling.
As WWE’s biggest weekend, it wasn’t surprising to see the amount of fans who cosplayed as their favourite wrestler. Even though there were long lines for meet-and-greets, they moved fast and plenty of people were left with huge smiles on their faces. During one of the days I was there, I needed somewhere to sit and made a new friend as we bonded over the weekend's festivities. We still follow each other on Instagram to this day.
Throughout the four-day event, I also met fans from China, Japan, Finland and Kuwait, who were enjoying themselves. Even if we didn't speak the same language, we were there for the same reasons and proudly unabashed about it.
In March, I went to my first Middle East Film and Comic Con in March when it was hosted in Abu Dhabi. This time, I attended as both a journalist and a fan. It felt a little bit like stepping into a different world. The moment I got out of my car, I saw people dressed up, cosplaying as their favourite video game, anime or movie character.
I was able to interview celebrities such as Ming-Na Wen and Charles Martinet, the voice of Mario. While it could, at times, feel overwhelming with how many people were there, it was also a reminder I wasn't alone in my appreciation of pop culture — whether it was for video games, animation or something else entirely.
Being backstage also gave me a new respect for how hard it is to host and plan such an event. Behind the glitz of celebrity appearances and new trailer reveals, it brings people together who share common interests in a safe space while also allowing for a much-needed break from reality, which is something we can all probably agree we've needed the past couple of years.
Welcome back, San Diego. You have been missed.
Scroll through the gallery below to see the best cosplay looks from New York Comic Con 2021