Characters Convene

Comic Con attendees wait to get an autograph from actor Norman Reedus, who stars in the AMC television series"The Walking Dead," which is based on the comic-book series.
Comic Con attendees wait to get an autograph from actor Norman Reedus, who stars in the AMC television series"The Walking Dead," which is based on the comic-book series. (MICHAEL S. WIRTZ / Staff Photographer)
Posted: June 23, 2014

Some fathers bond with their sons over a baseball game, a museum visit, a day at the zoo. Others wake up at 4 in the morning, drive from Virginia to Philadelphia, dress up in Batman, Robin, and Nightwing costumes, and become celebrities at the Wizard World Philadelphia Comic Con.

"It's something we do together," said Dave Huffman, 47, outfitted in full Batman costume. "We've met a lot of fun people."

Huffman drove up from Chesapeake, Va., to spend the day with his sons at the Convention Center, where 25,000 visitors were expected over four days. The convention began Thursday, with Saturday one of the main days for the event.

At one end of the spectrum, some visitors went in everyday wear - the spoilsports. Some people dipped one toe into the outfit pool, wearing graphic tees emblazoned with the Superman "S" or the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles or Harry Potter logos.

Not Huffman, whose costume managed to catch eyes in a sea of superheroes and villains.

"A lot of them think you're the real deal," Huffman said of the kids who often react with delight when they notice him.

"We can't move," said his son Jakob, 12, dressed up as Nightwing. But dressing in costume is the best part of the convention, Jakob said, his 10-year-old brother, Matthew, nodding along, in the persona of Robin to his father's Batman.

Comic Cons have become a tradition for the Huffmans, and the three have gone to a dozen events in three years, traveling to Indiana, Kentucky, and Maryland.

They have upgraded their costumes along the way - Saturday's was the second or third version, Huffman said - and also switched things up, sometimes dressing as characters from the Green Arrow stories. Next up is a Captain America outfit.

The elaborate costumes come from a variety of sources, Huffman said, pointing to a lacrosse chest protector, an Army surplus belt, soccer shin guards, police gear - "just acquired things here and there."

They spent 20 minutes in the parking garage Saturday morning putting the costumes on, but planned on returning to their civilian alter egos halfway through the day in order to walk around freely, without stopping constantly for a steady flood of photos.

"I lose about 10 pounds every time I wear this," Huffman said of his 40-pound outfit.

A few rows over, visitors posed with David Shiffler, 35, and Jacob Fransko, 27. Shiffler, from central Pennsylvania, and Fransko, from Vineland, hadn't known each other before Saturday's convention, but evidently the two Ghostbusters were clearly meant to be friends.

Fransko came with his 6-year-old son (who was costumed, but not as a ghost). The original Ghostbusters movie was released 30 years ago, so the costumes are a way to relate to adults while introducing younger visitors to a cultural force, Fransko said.

"It was our generation's, pass it on to the next generation," said Fransko, who said parents often get excited and whisper to their kids, nudging them to utter the movie's famous catchphrase.

They might not receive the answer they expect.

"You got a lot of people like, 'Who you gonna call?' said Shiffler, pausing. "And I'm like, 'Us. Because we are the Ghostbusters.' "

He added: "I sometimes switch it up and say 'He-Man.' "

Walking past the two Ghostbusters with two children in tow, Iveliz Lopez stopped. "Oh my gosh, Ghostbusters," she said.

Her daughter, Jainaliz, 3, and son, Jahdin, 5, might not understand Mom's excitement, she said, but they were excited to be at the convention because they collect comic books.

"It's just fun being here and seeing my generation's and their generation's superheroes," the Kensington resident said.

"This is a hobby. But I dream of marrying Batman one day," said Lopez, who clarified: "More of the George Clooney Batman. More of the older, deeper voice Batman."


jlai@phillynews.com

856-779-3220

@elaijuh

www.inquirer.com/campusinq

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