Comic-Con: Come for the Comics, Stay for the Community

October 8, 2021

October in New York: Autumn leaves, brisk walks in Central Park, and cosplayers invading Hell’s Kitchen. That’s because this year, after a long covid-gap, Comic-Con finally returns to NYC. The weekend-long event is more than just cosplay, limited-edition collectibles, and of course, comics. It’s a gateway for fans to come together as a community, one that is progressive, inclusive, and ultimately about how the things we’re passionate about, help identify us with one another. 



Since the genesis of comics, they’ve been a mirror of the changing times before the world itself was ready to see it. Take the X-Men, what was originally seen as a run-of-the-mill superhero team, was actually a metaphor of what it felt like to be ostracized by society due to creed, disability, orientation, or color of your skin. Using characters that could shoot laser beams or bend metal as a trojan horse, readers were exposed to stories centering around characters discovering who they are and how they fit into a world that rejected them. As the decades changed, so did the issues. In the 90s, The Legacy Virus storyline featured a strange illness that befell the X-Men and mutant community, becoming a parallel for the AIDS epidemic the world was facing, something that wasn’t being addressed by TV, film, or even our world leaders. In many ways, comics have provided a more honest, even raw, depiction of our history in real-time, albeit through characters in spandex.  



Even today, the most interesting characters are coming from underrepresented communities that are finally getting their due on the page and the big screen. Kamala Khan, a Pakistani teen turned Ms.Marvel and Miles Morales, the biracial Spider-Man, are fresh, newer inclusive characters taking up the mantle of traditionally white superheroes, garnering major fandoms in only a few years. Personally, as a Puerto Rican myself, seeing Spider-Man being yelled at by his mom in Spanglish or having pasteles for Christmas dinner hit close to home. It’s not something you think of when you’re accustomed to seeing one type of culture in all your stories, but witnessing hyper-focused nuances of my culture moved me. It’s a feeling of being understood, that inside the stories I’ve always connected with, that the characters are authentically represented as more than a stereotype but as someone, I can see myself in. 



By far, the most impactful fan reception to representation we’ve seen is 2018’s Black Panther. The film went beyond flash in the pan movie moment and became a cultural movement that struck a chord among Black and Brown communities who, finally, were able to see themselves represented. The film’s chant “Wakanda Forever”  became more than a tagline for the movie but an expression that, in many ways, bonded the community together. The salute evolved into a gesture that symbolized solidarity and cultural pride for these communities to connect to one another on a large cultural scale. 


As you scroll through your Instagram this weekend and see people dressed as anime villains or their favorite superheroes, try to look beyond and see the deeper meaning that lies within. These aren’t just costumes or comic books, they’re a way of self-identifying and, most importantly, creating bonds. The sense of community, self-identity, and inclusivity are baked into the foundation of the things we love to consume, and the convention is a testament to keeping those ideals alive. After all, what’s more, comic book-like than a bunch of misfits discovering who they are and coming together to embrace what they love. 

By Alejandro Cardenas, strategist at the community