Batman is engaged in conversation with what looks like a court jester, a rather sinister court jester, the kind of jester who would sooner murder the court than entertain them.
I avert my gaze. To stare could be folly.
A child with a large sword walks past, swiftly followed by the scary, green monster from Minecraft. I turn away, disorientated, distressed, only to be met by a troupe of spiky-haired, armour-clad teens, cackling wildly as they engage in battle.
I’m scared. I want to go home.
As a child, I always felt the need to suppress my inner-nerd; to out oneself as a video-game enthusiast, comic-book fan, or anything deviating from the norm was to risk public shame, or worse.
Thankfully those days have long since passed. Kids today can not only embrace their true selves, they can do so in numbers at events like Brocon, Limerick’s premier gaming and comic convention.
And what numbers they were. Over the course of three days last weekend, the University of Limerick played host to hundreds of video-game enthusiasts and comic-book fans. Some came dressed as their favourite characters, others professed their affiliation through t-shirts and hoodies, but most were content to just dress in their skivvies, like me.
The overriding feeling though, was one of inclusion; here, in this building, you are free to be whoever you want.
For many, that meant showcasing their skills in the Games Room. A seat in front of one of the widescreen televisions was considered prime real estate, because with it came the chance to showcase your skills to a captive audience.
One child, matched against an opponent old enough to be his granddad, began playing to the crowd, toying with his foe, revelling in the spotlight. Of course, some of us had done this years ago, in the arcades, but I wasn’t about to spoil his moment.
Those unable to compete in such rarified company could console themselves with a spot of retail therapy. The Trade Hall contained just about every piece of gaming and comic-related paraphernalia imaginable; pin badges and replica figurines lay side-by-side with jewelry and, brilliantly, cake.
Then there was the comics themselves, and the games, and then more comics, and a few more games – just to be safe.
A trip upstairs brought the curious and brave into a darkened theatre where the stars of the comics and games below were brought to life through the magic of cinema. Anime played here from morning till evening, with no breaks in between, a mecca for all things Japanese, in the Mid-West of Ireland.
But try as one may, it was impossible to ignore Brocon’s major attraction. Whether they frightened you, overawed you, or just downright appalled you, it was the cosplayers, the costume roleplayers, who stole the show.
A masquerade, a fashion show of sorts, sought to determine which was the best. But it’s outcome was, in many ways, an irrelevance.
The victor was the event itself, an event which allowed those attending to feel they like belonged to something tangible, allowed them to pander to their passion without fear of reprisal.
As I departed I wondered was it too late for me to join their ranks. Perhaps I could return next year, dressed as my own childhood favourite?
Anyone know where I can get a He-Man costume?