On Saturday it rained and was pretty crumby in general and I had wanted to do some walking with a particular young lady. Plans for a day in Lincoln Park and a visit to the Conservatory, or the Peggy Notebaert Whatever, were out of the question.
Using what nominally passes for brains, I read that there was a Comic Book Convention at McCormick Place - C2E2. I love McCormick Place, or the Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Whatever. I am also the press, in manner of speaking. I brought by credential letter from Chicago Daily Observer and purchased a ticket for the young woman whom I intended to keep dry.
We parked very close to the North Entrance and entered the vast warehouse of conventions past and to be. Walking with us were Star Wars, Star Trek, Doctor Who, Captain America, Incredible Hulks, a score of Green Lanterns, Harry Potters and Battle Star Gallacticans of every rank, solar system and moral compass.
At the registration and press desk I was asked by a tough looking fifty something Babe, " What're you decked out as, Honey?"
The woman who resembled every third person in line for kielbasa and kapusta at Bobak's on Archer noted my standard-issue middle-aged Joe College attire - pressed chinos, open collar blue button-down oxford cloth shirt under a V-neck Allan pain Shetland bedecking a frame of tightly muscled and nicely defined homo erectus to which I replied, " A 19th Ward, close-knot ethnic helot, my good woman."
She gave me the twice-over, " Nice. Should be hit at every booth. NEXT!"
In we strolled. The largest Fantasy Exhibition C2E2 features artists, entertainers, writers, comic fantasy game producers, used comic (graphic novels, or whatever)vendors and toy sellers. There was a big section dedicated to autographs from Fantasy Icons and actors. The biggest names that I noted were Sean Astin -RUDY! and Val Kilmer. Val Kilmer is a very good actor, who played the ultimate Western Icon - Doctor James 'Doc' Holiday in the movie Tombstone. Sean Astin played Rudy who triumphed over size and ability with heart to play a few downs at Notre Dame, thanks to Dan Devine.
Kilmer and Astin were lonely. There were massive lines to see - actors who played roles in Doctor Who, or whatever. I did not get it. I asked one of the security guards shepherding costumed autograph seekers, "what gives? Val Kilmer is a great actor why is he not choked with supplicants?"
" He was not on Doctor Who, or whatever."
Riddle solved. Val Kilmer played a real flesh-and-blood heroic person. Sean Astin played a real and still breathing, though under legal scrutiny, hero. The two fine actors represented flesh and blood historical folks and not the Fantastic.
This was the largest exposition of Fantasy and I had been exposed.
We arrived at McCormick Place at about 2:30 and pressed through the throngs and phalanxes of Storm Troopers, Wizards, Caped Creatures and stuffed leotards of every size and shape with the heavy percentage going to the morbidly obese.
My guest and fellow traveller is diminutive, sylph-like damsel and she was a terrified within this press of flesh as a three-year old with her hung-over Mom and Aunt Tootsie on Black Friday.
This was a Fantasy Feast! Fantasy helps the young make sense of this earth and world. The earth we can not do much about, but we can make a world by drawing things to us and with the Grace of God it is people. Fantasy can also be a sanctuary from hurts, slights, and horrors. Like meditation and prayer it can be a tool to create the world as it should be and how we might like it to be and get us to act better.
Fantasy should be taken in sparing portions, like food, drink, meditation and prayer.
Val Kilmer and Sean Astin put in time on the chairs with professionalism and stoic charity, from what I observed. They are two very good guys it seems. The Dr. Who, Gallactican, or Marvelous actors, I could not see for the throngs of devotees. Kilmer and Astin played and represented people who actually had drawn breath and were ignored by the Fans of Fantasy.
The day before I turned eleven, I was sitting in my desk along with my classmates at Little Flower Grammar School at 80th & Honore eagerly awaiting my copy of the Treasure Chest. Treasure Chest was a comic book published in Ohio and distributed to Catholic Grammar Schools. It featured games, puzzles and stories about heroes of American History and the Catholic Faith. We read about Dr. Tom Dooley, a Navy Doctor helping Vietnamese refugees tortured and threatened by Ho Chi Minh, Capt. John Barry of County Wexford -The Father of the US Navy, Elizabeth Seton, Brother Edmund Rice, Mother Cabrini, Father Francis Duffy and Wild Bill Donovan, Enrico Fermi, Casimier Pulaski, Madame Currie, Gregor Mendel, Mother Auley, Carroll Family of Maryland and of course JFK, always drawn and illustrated by a guy named Joe Sinnott. Funny how memory works much like fanasty.
After several hours with the Incredibles, Hulks, Star Ship Troopers, Wonder Women, Green Lanterns and the Fantastic hundreds, it was time to take the escalator back to the ground floor and the North Parking Lot. All through the day, my thoughts and associations turned to the woman at registration - Tough babe;Bobaks, Kielbasa, Peirogi, Kapusta, Stuffed Cabbage!!!!
My love and I eschewed the food court fare and motored to the fantastic Warsaw Inn Polish Buffet at Cermak & Mannheim. We talked about Fantasy, Whimsey and WTF? witnessed that day.
I had read wonderful article written by Jillian Melchior for The Daily on Thursday, April 12, 2012 about Bishop James E. Walsh ( click my post title) which we placed into perspective.
On November 7, 1963, me and my classmates were awaiting next issue in the series about Maryknoll Missionary and Bishop of China James E. Walsh who continued to suffer in a Chinese Communist prison. Bishop Walsh was a super hero who refused to turn the keys of the Church and the Keys of the Kingdom over to Chairman Mao. Bishop Walsh refused to abandon the people he had christened and confirmed in the Faith. Bishop Walsh was a tough guy - he could take it and like it. He took it for a decade and change and was only released from the Reds, when Nixon decided to make nice with Mao.
Val Kilmer or Sean Astin could play Bishop Walsh without make-up.
I watched them take it and like on Saturday.
Fantasy with out a lifeline to reality is drifting in space, it seems to me; anyway, or whatever. Comic books used to represent heroism grounded in reality as well as fanatsy. Today's Graphic Novels? Whatever.