Dragon Con: A Place to be Yourself

He looks great in tights, wears a red cape, and can leap tall buildings in a single bound. Superman turns 80 this year and he’s getting the birthday treatment this weekend at a huge sci-fi convention called Dragon Con in Atlanta.

For years, Dragon Con has been the go-to place for fans of science fiction, fantasy and horror. This year, 85-thousand people are filling downtown hotels. There will be a huge parade on Saturday, before the five-day convention winds down on Monday.

Superman is being especially celebrated this year. He’s been the star of DC comic books, movies, radio and TV since 1938.

Back then, the world was on the brink of war. The nation was still reeling from the Great Depression. Things looked bleak indeed.

The world needed hope.

Here at Dragon Con, spokesman Dan Hammond says today—as when DC Comics issued the very first Superman tale, the Caped Crusader remains relevant.

“In these tense times we live in,” he tells WSB’s Pete Combs, “we could all use a little bit of hope.”

Of the thousands of people attending Dragon Con, scores are dressed as Superman, and most of them know that the big red “S” on his chest doesn’t actually stand for Superman. On his home planet of Krypton, it’s the symbol for hope.

Many of the 85,000 attendees come to Dragon Con to trot out their alter egos. For instance, Matt Gnojek from Denver, is transformed into Captain America by a suit he made himself.

“It is a fully-armored motorcycle suit,” he says. “I took the base suit, did the dying, detailing and customization all on my own.”

In this outfit, Gnojek is traveling by motorcycle from Denver to New York and back on a crusade to fight childhood cancer. It’s a journey he says makes him feel like a superhero.

June Shepherd, dressed as Poison Ivy, says she steps out of her own skin when she dons the skimpy costume made from a $4 bathing suit and some plastic ivy she attached with glue and staples. She wears a flaming red wig and ruby-colored contact lenses.

“People who have social anxiety or feel uncomfortable—everyone is accepted,” she says.

Indeed, it seems no one at this convention is challenged about their religion, race, sexual orientation or political affiliation. The only question people seem to ask of each other at this convention is, “What planet are you from?”

Dragon Con runs through Monday. For more information, check out the web page www.dragoncon.org.

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