By Maria Stanislav, Op-Ed for Voices of Ukraine
I’m very fond of my grandfather. His story is one of a classic self-made man, who walked the route from a stonemason to a company founder, while all the while remaining one of the most generous people I’ve ever known. There’s a chance that had it not been for his generosity, I’d have grown up into a golden child with a trust fund. The way it is, I grew up into a writer who took her grandfather’s first name (Stanislav) as her alias. I’m okay with this.
Back in the late 1970’s, my grandfather was one of the foremen at the construction of the then Lenin’s Museum, now the Ukrainian House. For his work on the project, he received a free trip to a health resort, as was customary in the Soviet Union. He met my grandmother at that resort, and they would marry ten years later, and move to Kyiv, where my mother would also meet my dad and have me.
And here I am, decades later, standing outside the very same Ukrainian House that I’ve always pointed out to people with pride (“My grandpa built that!”), waiting in line to attend Kyiv’s second ever Comic Con.
I came to the con from the UK. Was it worth the trip? You could say that. You could also say that the universe is kind of old.
Like any event in its second year, it wasn’t without issues. My own feelings for the Ukrainian House notwithstanding, I sincerely hope next year’s con will be in a larger venue, with more entrances, more exits, and more air conditioning. But to those who complained about waiting in line to come in, let me tell you – this happens at every con. There’s always a line. And we wait. Like people wait outside for rock shows. Like people camp out for movie openings, or go to buy books at a midnight release. Queuing is part of the experience, guys. In the words of a character in Rainbow Rowell’s Kindred Spirits, spoken during a week-long camp-out for the new Star Wars film, “You’ve got to leave some blood on the altar.”
Fun fact: being a frequent con goer and exhibitor, I don’t think I’ve ever had a bad comic convention. On these days, emotions run high, and often one encounter with a jerk can ruin the day – and I’m happy to say I haven’t run into one such jerk yet (not even the time when I, a female size 20, was cosplaying an android in a tight bodysuit).
A person outside the con, hearing that I’m from the UK, asked me how this con compares to ones in the west, and was very surprised to hear me say that it holds its own just fine. Truly, for me, it did.
For me, Kyiv Comic Con was all about the people. (For me, every con is about the people.) Sincere, enthusiastic people, be they artists and sellers and panelists, or professional cosplayers who spent weeks on their costumes, or amateur cosplayers who threw something together to create a semblance of a character they love, or people who took everyone’s photographs, or those who came to play new computer and tabletop games, or those who just looked around in wonder.
Monsters, Inc.’s Sulley with a “Free Hugs” sign. Orange is the New Black’s Alex Vause and Piper Chapman. Zootopia’s Nick Wilde and Officer Judy Hopps. The presenters of the Ukrainian translation of Andrzej Sapkowski’s The Witcher. Every Deadpool, every Harley Quinn. The creator of Inzhyr, the Ukrainian web cat (“Because as we all know, the Internet exists for the sole purpose of posting kitties”). Starlord and Gamora. The small child in the costume of a fairy dragon. Everyone who recognized my husband’s Gerard Way cosplay. Everyone who did NOT recognize my Zoe Washburne (and the one Rey who did).
Here’s to you. Here’s to all of you.
At the panel presenting the first Ukrainian fantasy blockbuster, The Stronghold, the film’s director said that he loves working with his crew, because everyone in it is the good kind of maniac. “They’re all people with fire in their eyes.”
At the panel presenting the third issue of Daogopak, the first Ukrainian graphic novel, one of its writers said that the thing they want most is good competition in the Ukrainian comic book market. “We’re currently taking up maybe 70% of the market. We’d like to be around 10%. We want to see more people making comics!”
So here’s to all the people with fire in their eyes, who came out and made Kyiv’s second comic con a two-day vortex of pop culture, gaming, cosplay, art, and the embodiment of everything that is nerd. Because a nerd is someone who is unironically enthusiastic about things, someone who’s not afraid to express their love for stories and characters, be they in a magical castle, a galaxy far far away, or a post-apocalyptic wasteland.
Here’s to all my fellow nerds. Thank you for Kyiv Comic Con 2016. Thank you for the weekend of May 14-15th. And thank you for giving me the ability to have the following conversation with one of the writers of Daogopak:
I came to their table to ask whether they plan to exhibit in the UK, and to offer any help and advice I can provide to that end.
“That would be great,” said the writer. “Let me friend you on Facebook, so we can get in touch. What’s your name?”
And, standing in the building made by my grandfather, in the middle of my home town’s second ever comic con, I told Maxim Prasolov, co-author of the first Ukrainian graphic novel,
“Just look for Maria Stanislav.”
Some art favorites from the con:
Left to right:
Daogopak, the graphic novel; Inzhyr, Ukraine’s favorite web kitty; Stronghold, Ukrainian fantasy blockbuster, scheduled for release in December 2016; The Will, Ukrainian steampunk comic.
Official teaser of Stronghold:
Plus, two alternative endings to Captain America: Civil War…
And finally, what this is all about:
“The book triumphs over the sword.” – Daogopak