Stormtroopers, Indiana Jones and Batman come to London as fantasy trumps reality at London Film & Comic Con

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It was once solely the terrain of only the most ardent comic book fanatic

While Alice rolls a cigarette and the Mad Hatter discusses the economic situation with Indiana Jones, David Hasselhoff shares a coffee with Batman.

It’s not often the Knight Rider could be brought together with the Dark Knight, but the Earl’s Court exhibition centre in west London descended into tragedy and then into farce over the weekend. As news of its demolition, finally approved by Mayor Boris Johnson, coincided with its hosting of the London Film and Comic Con, fantasy trumped reality as the harsh economic realities of everyday life were suspended - if only for a moment - by the weird and wonderful world of make believe.

With crowds of over 80,000, this event and its even larger sister convention, the MCM Comic Con which takes place in the capital in October, has made the comic book conference scene one of the biggest in Europe.

Drawing upon the devotion surrounding of sci-fi, fantasy films, comics and cult TV, the conference serves as part sales pitch, part holy pilgrimage. Events like these are crucial to the continued financial well-being of many production studios and publishing houses. And having initially dismissed the event as a small gathering of hard-line nerds, large multinational media corporations now openly court them, dispatching their most bankable celebrities.

This once niche market is one of the few sectors of the publishing industry which has seen a rise in sales over the past few years. Indeed over the past two decades or so, with the rise of computer games and the internet creating truly global online forums for discussion, the balance of power has shifted from producer to consumer.

Originally started in a hotel dinning room, Comic Con International - which has been held in San Diego every year since 1971 - has grown into one of the largest and most popular conference circuits in the world. This year over 140,000 people are expected to fill the Californian city’s largest exposition space.

It is a trade fair for people who don’t like trade fairs. A platform for new innovations, where creators, artists and fans exchange ideas. It is where new characters are launched and old ones go to re-live their glory days.  It represents an inversion reality, where the ordinary literally become their heroes, while celebrities take off their consumes and sign photographs of themselves.

While first impressions place it somewhere between an arms fair and a porn convention, it is the opposite of exploitative. It is fantasy fetishized, where self-proclaimed geeks can mingle with their heroes, both real and imaginary.

Reality is suspended for the course of the spectacle. Where Comic Con was once solely the terrain of only the most ardent comic book fanatic, its standing as a place for people to experiment which their own identity and persona has seen the event re-marketed as the ultimate anything-goes public forum of self-expression.

There is no mockery and judgement is left at the door. Normally reticent people are transformed into their extroverted alter-ego’s, where posing for photographs for complete strangers becomes a pre-requisite.

One visitor, who only answered to the title Queen of Dragons, said: “At home I am an ordinary girl, here I am a queen. I assume the role of a queen, and people I have never met will bow down in front of me”.

It is a surreal, carnivalesque situation. As Alice lights her cigarette, the Mad Hatter strikes up on the economy again. “I simply don’t trust any of the main parties to get us out of this,” he says. “Incompetence and infighting seem to be diverting attention away from addressing the real economic problems at hand. Labour got us into this mess, and the Coalition seem to have taken a step backwards towards economic inequality.” Is this mad logic from the Mad Hatter?

With all this political talk, I begin to think that a normality of sorts has resumed - but then I look down to see a baby dressed as Yoda pulling at my leg, and realise that it is all still just a dream.

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