I've seen my generation destroyed by Spandex. I've seen hysterical drag queens pushing themselves through the sweaty aisles of the Orange County Convention Center looking for rare comic books or Japanese cartoons. I, like thousands of other fanboys and fangirls, have spent a weekend paying homage to popular culture. Yes, I have been to The Megaconvention.

Every year I look forward to Megacon. It's one of the few times when fans can cast off pretense and embrace the geek within. For people like me it's about finding cool toys or art, meeting the artists and watching the freak show that is the crowd.

For some, however, Megacon it is a chance to shed one identity for another, to dress up in homemade costumes and take on the role of their favorite movie or cartoon character. It is escapism in its truest form, Halloween for the big kids. Looking around you will see the timid transformed into champions, the introverted into exhibitionists, and occasionally, the men into little girls.

Imagine geek heaven. Not to disparage geekdom, for I myself am a proud member of the tribe, but this is Shangri-La for nerds. The convention is filled with toys, comics, movies (primarily bootlegs), artists, gaming events and an assortment of lower-tier and mostly forgotten celebrities.

But what makes the show are are the throngs of fans that fill the aisles. They come from all walks of life, and they converge like freakish coral-reef-type society. They can teach you things if you take the time to look.

Probably the first and most important thing that I learned at Megacon this year is that Spandex (despite what many believe) is a privilege, not a right. In comic books, heroes wear Spandex. They have the bodies for it. And they are cartoons.

Too many people who attend these conventions do not have the bodies to wear Spandex. Of course there are some very fit and attractive people at the show, but there are also many who apparently don't own mirrors. When you are large enough that the folds of your skin have worked their way through the seams of your costume, it is time to consider another secret identity.

There were some gorgeous women there, but all was not as it seemed. Some of the school girls were in fact school girls. More disturbingly, some were not girls at all, as evidenced in one case by a 50-year-old "teenage girl" with a five o' clock shadow.

As I carefully made my way through the drag queens, school girls, super heroes and gun-toting bunnies that inhabit Megacon, I was reminded of a wonderful invention that my mother introduced me to when I was but a little baby: soap. I am not sure if it is just the sheer number of people at Megacon, the fact that many are swathed in leather, latex and other heavy materials that don't breathe, or perhaps many of them were just so excited about attending the event that they forgot to shower. Whatever the case, Megacon supplies you with a colorful experience for the eyes and the nose. Add the sickly sweet scent of sugared nuts from the stand right out side, mix in the pungent aroma of the bourbon chicken being sold at the back of the hall and it creates an aroma that you will not soon forget.

Finally, the reason most people come to events like Megacon is to run elbows with semi celebrities. Walking through the gallery of talent is almost like moving through a b-list wax museum. Stars from movies like "Beetlejuice," "I was a Teenage Werewolf", and "Neverending Story" are all lined up at their tables waiting eagerly to meet with fans who will tell them how watching their movies changed their lives and then happily fork over $20 for a signed photo. For me the most amazing part is to see the actors without their makeup- or to see how they have aged. Who would have ever thought Sid Haig, Captain Spaulding from "The House of 1000 Corpses", is scarier without his clown make-up?

I may not don a pair of tights or a set of neon dragon wings, but I still had a great time at Megacon, and I look forward to the one weekend next year when I can put away grown up things and let my inner geek run free.


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