Sunday morning. 10:30 am. I’m a 50-year-old man with a bad back, sitting on a wooden bench in a cold, cavernous exhibition hall. I’m nursing a moderate to severe hangover. The quaint city of Utrecht, and fresh air, are outside. But inside, especially inside my skull, everything is Dutch Comic-Con. It’s a festival of all things comics/TV/movie/gaming/fantasy/sci-fi related.
My 13-year-old daughter and her friend are making their dreams come true, meeting a heroine from their favorite Netflix show. Meanwhile, I’ve had three hours of sleep and I’m fighting a “triple-threat sweat.”
First, I’m suffering from the whisky (Scotch, no “e”) sweats. I could have easily avoided these by saying “no” at the end of an evening brimming with Dutch beer and French wine. Instead, the Ardbeg sorely and maliciously tempted me. And now, I smell like the seediest bars of Zandvoort, Calais, and Glasgow. Combined.
Also, the meat sweats, layered there beneath the booze. I ate something that was once feathered last night. But thanks to the whole vegan thing, my body has clearly gotten used to being meat-free. Now, it is purging and cleansing itself with what (I can only imagine) is the kind of perspiration one might experience at “hot yoga.” If, you know, one did hot yoga. As punishment for my ethical slip, and in honor of meat by-products the world over, I take a seat near a hot-dog stand.
Among my people…
And finally, the cold tendrils of a serious flop-sweat snake their way down my face. LOTS of people come to these things in full costume, called cosplay. Dutch Comic-Con is no exception. One wrong move and I’ll bump into a
giant Dutchman covered in green pool noodles, channeling Groot from Guardians of the Galaxy. He’s arm in arm with his kid, who must’ve spent hours applying fur so that he can be Groot’s buddy, the crazed “not-a-raccoon” raccoon named Rocket.
Plus, the flashing lights and sounds of explosions from the gaming area make me even jumpier.
I can’t perform in these conditions, but I have to try. I must act like a responsible adult. That includes pretending nonchalantly that Captain
Holland Netherlands (like Captain America, but taller and louder) didn’t just sit down next to me to eat his government-mandated lunch—two cheese sandwiches.
Don’t misunderstand me. I love Comic-Con. I even managed to go to the original, the Mother Con if you will, in San Diego, CA many years ago. These are my people. Or they would be if I didn’t feel like Death, who just walked by carrying a giant scythe. The mash-up of the heroes and villains, the desires and terrors of my youth is mind-blowing, which, considering this the Netherlands and any number of ways to blow your mind are readily available, is saying something.
If you’re like me, and you lived in these worlds as a kid, or you still live in these worlds as an adult (guilty, when not hungover), you’ll enjoy this rundown of some crazy stuff I saw:
Half a Two-Face
I saw a father dressed as Malcolm McDowell’s Alex DeLarge character from Stanley Kubrick’s “A Clockwork Orange” comforting his two young daughters, both Alice(s) in Wonderland, by handing each a cheese sandwich. The mother, I noticed later, was The Wicked Witch of the West. Family friendly, right?
From the Marvel Universe, various Deadpools who had consumed too many cheese sandwiches, and were therefore not entirely able to “squeeze those asses into red spandex,” to borrow a quote from the first film. The best, though, was the Deadpool wearing a Luigi disguise. Marvel and Nintendo combined! My heart skipped a beat, or was that the ongoing hangover?
DC was definitely in the house. Many, many Joker wannabes, along with a Riddler, 17 paunchy Bat Men, half a Two-Face, and lots of baseball-bat-wielding Harley Quinns. No Aquamen though, presumably because cheese sandwiches don’t fare well underwater.
Star, Both Wars and Trek
Shockingly, Star Wars got massive play. Two Gamorrean guards led a 7 ft. (2.1 meter) Chewbacca around in chains. Meanwhile, Ponda Baba wandered sad and lonely, clutching a beer (in one hand) and wondering where the Mos Eisley cantina, his other arm, and that jerkface Dr. Evazan had gotten to. Besides dead, I mean.
A dozen Reys battled Kylo Rens, while a few latter-day Luke Skywalkers and an Indiana Jones who clearly wished he was Han Solo looked on. No one had the caecum to dress up as Admiral Akbar, which was a disappointment.
But you could sit in a life-size X-wing prop. Also, a guy was shilling some incredibly realistic, remote-controlled R2-D2s. I asked if you could program this R2 unit to bring you a cheese sandwich after it fixed the water vaporators. The guy didn’t laugh.
Dutch Comic-Con also delivered for Star Trek fans. I saw 20 redshirts, a couple of yellows, and even a blue. Although, if I’m honest, their levels of fitness and training made it look like Starfleet had lowered its standards and accepted recruits from the Gamma Quadrant. “Two sandwiches. Cheese. Cold!” would’ve made a great tagline for this series.
Westworld. Yeah, Dolores and the Man in Black showed up. But, honestly, I’m not a fan of that non-cheese-sandwich-worthy show. Don’t @ me.
But what happened to Wedge?
You get the idea. As the day wore on, my hangover gradually lifted and I managed to see it through the eyes of my daughter and her friend. They both thought this was the coolest thing they’d ever had their parents pay a bunch of money for them to see.
Their expressions alone made it worth every sweat-soaked penny.
Oh, and I believe I found out the fate of Wedge Antilles, Luke Skywalker’s fly-boy buddy who somehow managed to survive a horrific battle on the ice planet of Hoth, not to mention suicide-style attack runs on two different Death Stars.
Based on my recon, Ol’ Wedgie’s semi-retired now in Utrecht. He probably spends his weekdays giving X- and Y- wing lessons to local teens who want to do something more fun than targeting womp rats along the Oudegracht. And on the weekends, he clearly enjoys going to Dutch Comic-Con and perusing semi-explicit pictures of Twi’leks.
Between cheese sandwiches, I mean. An aging hero has priorities, after all.
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