Dressed in a realistic foam costume she spent some 80 hours creating, Danielle Victorio regally strode the halls of the Baltimore Convention Center on Saturday, proudly playing the role of Diana of Themyscira — better known as Wonder Woman — and posing for pictures with scores of other superhero wannabes, young and old.
"It feels amazing, having people admire the hours upon hours that I've put into this costume," said Victorio, 21, a senior at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, who had come to the 18th Baltimore Comic-Convention determined to do Princess Diana proud.
"It's really great when people recognize you and they want to take a picture of you," she said. "It's really amazing."
A lot of that sort of amazing was going around Saturday. True, you didn't have to be in costume to get into the convention, an annual gathering of comic-book fans from across the nation where they mix, mingle, catch up on their back issues and just generally geek-out on anything comic-related, but it sure helped.
"I just wanted to get dressed up," said Danielle Carmody, 28, from Riva in Anne Arundel County, who came to Comic-Con because her boyfriend wanted to get some of his comic books autographed. "It's a lot of fun, being somebody that you're not usually, being able to reach outside your comfort zone."
Carmody, too, was dressed as Wonder Woman. There was a lot of that Saturday — not surprising, since "Wonder Woman," starring Gal Gadot, was the summer's top-grossing movie in the United States. (Even Hollywood's original Wonder Woman, TV's Lynda Carter, showed up, singing and telling stories during a concert Friday night.)
But while Wonder Woman may have been omnipresent, there were plenty of Batmen, too, plus Spider-Men and Supermen and Supergirls and Pikachus and Black Panthers and Deadpools and Harley Quinns and Jokers and zombies and Guardians of the Galaxy and just about every other character whose story has been told panel-by-panel since comic books debuted in the 1930s.
Comic-book characters "are everywhere," said Marc Nathan, owner of Cards, Comics and Collectibles in Reisterstown and organizer of the annual convention, which by Saturday, day two of its three-day run, had seen more than 40,000 tickets sold. "They're all over television, they're on every network. I don't know, in any given month, that there isn't a comic-book based movie."
Even fans dressed in plain-old street clothes could find plenty to do at the convention. There was a crowded dealers' room with thousands of books for sale, at prices ranging from $1 to $100,000 (for a carefully restored copy of 1962's Amazing Fantasy No. 15, the first appearance of Spider-Man). There were artists and writers, anxious to meet their fans and (sometimes for a fee) sign copies of their work. There were panel discussions and workshops, with titles like "Historical Fiction Comics," "Women Creators Discuss the Evolving Comic Book Industry" and "Creating Kickass Characters."
Still, if you're going to immerse yourself in comic culture for an entire weekend, why not go all in?
"I love comic books," said Liza Schor, 46, a nurse, psychotherapist "and superhero" from Olney. "I even named my son after a comic-book character — Lucien, from the 'Sandman' series."
(By the way, in case you had to ask, Schor, too, was dressed as Wonder Woman.)
"I really love to encourage young people doing positive things," she said. "Getting out there and making their own costumes, putting a lot of effort into really doing art, I really want to support that."
Tim Bright, a patent engineer from Germantown who came outfitted as the eye-patched Nick Fury, head of S.H.I.E.L.D. (played by Samuel L. Jackson in the movies), suggested superheroes — and the movies they headline — have soared in popularity because filmmaking technology makes anything possible. Even the most fantastic superhero — say a green-skinned behemoth like The Hulk or a Norse god like Thor — now can be the star of a realistic-looking movie.
"A lot of these characters, they've been around for years, decades even," said Bright, 28. "Now the technology is there, you can actually see them in a realistic environment."
Of course, even the best costume can only take things so far. Come the convention's end on Sunday, it's back to mundane humanity for this weekend's superhero gathering.
"When you're wearing this suit, you get a lot of attention," said John Bezold, a systems manager from Columbia whose Batman costume looked as good as anything Christian Bale wore onscreen. "But trust me, when I take it off when I'm ready to leave, I will turn from Batman to the invisible man."