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Comic Book Fans Create Community at 'Awesome Con'


Movies and television with superheroes are popular all over the world.

Both young people and adults love characters like Batman and Spider Man.

But for some people, such characters and their stories are more than just simple entertainment.

Every year, cities around the world hold events for people interested in super heroes, science fiction stories and the world of make-believe. These gatherings are often called comic book conventions, or comic “cons.”

Two of the biggest comic cons in the U.S. are held in San Diego, California and New York City. Until recently, Washington, DC was among the cities in the U.S. without its own big event for superhero and science fiction lovers. This all changed in 2013 when Awesome Con first arrived in Washington.

Ben Penrod has loved comic books, science fiction, fantasy, and all things nerdy throughout his life. Growing up in Annapolis, Maryland, Penrod worked in a store that sold comic books. He says this made his interest in nerdy media grow.

"From there it just became an obsession. And I started making more friends who were into these types of things."

Penrod bought and sold large comic book collections in his free time. He would often visit a store called Third Eye Comics. He then became friends with the owners. Together they decided that Annapolis needed its own comic book convention.

So in 2011 Penrod and his partners organized the first Awesome Con in Annapolis. Over 7,000 people attended.

"It was larger than anything I had ever done before. And it was scary. But it was also exhilarating."

Penrod says these gatherings are a place people can come to share interests that may be considered non-traditional.

In addition to comic book lovers, fans of video games and professional wrestling attend the event.

Artists and creators of comic books and similar media come to comic cons to share their work with the public. Actors from movies and television shows come to meet their fans.

Many people also wear costumes to look like their favorite characters. Dressing in such clothing is often called “cosplay.”

Penrod says fans of almost everything are welcome.

"I think it’s the sense of community. … It’s a chance to be around people who have similar interests and people who really understand them and get them. It’s a place to celebrate the things that you’re passionate about."

Penrod chose to move the convention to the Mt. Vernon Convention Center in Washington, DC in 2013. He hoped the larger space would bring more people.

In 2015, over 40,000 people attended Awesome Con.

The number of people attending events like this shows how popular this kind of media is. Penrod suggests that any new television show or movie can succeed or fail because of the attention fans give.

He also says more and more people are accepting nerdy culture.

"I think nerdy is kind of becoming the new normal."

I’m Pete Musto.

Patrick Merentie reported and wrote this story for VOA Learning English. Pete Musto produced the video. George Grow was the editor.

Now it’s your turn. What kinds of media do you like? Are there similar types of conventions that celebrate nerdy things in your country? Let us know in the comments section or on our Facebook page.

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Words in This Story

superheroes n. a fictional character who has amazing powers such as the ability to fly

character(s) – n. a person who appears in a story, book, play, movie, or television show

entertainmentn. amusement or pleasure that comes from watching a performer, playing a game

science fictionn. stories about how people and societies are affected by imaginary scientific developments in the future

comic bookn. a magazine that is made up of a series of comic strips

fantasyn. a book or movie that tells a story about things that happen in an imaginary world

nerdyadj. relating to interest in non-traditional subjects or behaving awkwardly around other people and usually has non-traditional clothes or hair

obsessionn. a state in which someone thinks about someone or something constantly or frequently especially in a way that is not normal

exhilaratingadj. causing someone to feel very happy and excited

video game(s) – n. an electronic game in which players control images on a television or computer screen

wrestlingn. a sport in which two people try to throw, force, or pin each other to the ground

costume(s) – n. the clothes that are worn by someone such as an actor who is trying to look like a different person or thing

passionateadj. having, showing, or expressing strong emotions or beliefs

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