There's a lowbrow pageantry that hangs in the air at Wizard World Comic Con. Between the rows of aging celebrities angling for a photo op and the endless parade of characters, it is, depending on your budget, worth the price of admission for the curiosity factor alone.
I was only at Comic Con on Sunday, at the tail end of the three-day event. For my money, that day belonged to Nick Porter, 18, who made the trip in from Kelso, Washington with his parents, Steven and AnnMarie Beltzer. They've come every year to Comic Con. But this was the first year Nick found the courage to dress up in costume.
Nick came to Comic Con in a zombie get-up, complete with bloody, gaping holes carefully molded onto his skin and a blood red stained athletic T-shirt and pants. His dad Steven did the makeup.
By Comic Con standards, Nick's costume was standard issue - a run of the mill zombie in a room full of superheroes. So, yeah, just another zombie, right?
But there's a catch.
A childhood bout with meningococcal meningitis led to the loss of Nick's arms below the elbow and his legs above the knee. He lost much of his nose to the disease. His upper lip is also gone, along with most of his teeth. Nick's had countless surgeries already. His parents are hoping to get his jaw reconstructed and get some teeth implants for him. He'll need more surgery on his nose, too. He was 21/2 when it happened.
AnnMarie says looking different hasn't always been easy on Nick. He has arm and leg prosthetics, but they're uncomfortable, and cause his body to overheat. He usually forgoes them in favor of the wheelchair.
"Little kids will walk up and say 'Oh my God, what's wrong with him?'" she said. "I just try when I'm with him to be the buffer."
"You can almost say you get used to it, but there are those times you wish you could keep him from it."
At Comic Con, "He doesn't stick out," she said. "There's so much craziness going on around him, he's just one other person who wants to take a picture with them."
"He took on the role and he went with it."
Nick didn't have much of a goal in mind with his get-up. It was, he said, "Just to freak everybody out. Just to have fun."
Nick's parents trailed a few feet behind him and watched as Nick swaggered through the venue. They rolled his wheelchair, just in case he needed it. He didn't.
"It was the first time he stayed out of the chair all day," his dad said. "He didn't get so tuckered out, which is a great thing."
"I felt glad about myself," Nick said. "I sort of did it for myself but also for other people. I think they were, like, surprised by what I could do for myself."
Nick's parents said dressing up like a zombie gave Nick the opportunity to connect with people, and gave his social muscle a needed workout.
"The way his day went for him made my day complete," AnnMarie said.
"I was beaming all the way home. And it was, like, an hour drive."
-- Beth Nakamura