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We Can Be Heroes

Photographer Roy Berry chronicles the colorful characters of Fan Cons

[Trekkie and Son.]

[“Trekkie and Son”]

In 1908, a certain Mr. and Mrs. William Fell of Cincinnati, Ohio arrived at a masquerade ball dressed as (respectively) “Mr. Skygack” and “Miss Dillpickles,” two then-popular comic strip characters. Their motivations remain unknown. And whether or not the Fells wound up in the social register or mental asylum is an equal mystery. But their entrance that evening at a Midwestern skating rink decked out in colorful and otherworldly garb is considered the first documented instance of individuals dressing up as science fiction and comic book-born entities.

Fast forward three decades later to 1939. Pioneering science fiction author, editor, publisher, and visionary polymath Forrest J. Ackerman attended that year’s inaugural World Science Fiction Convention in Manhattan donning a “futuristicostume.” In a memoir piece penned by sci-fi author and fellow attendee Dave Kyle, Ackerman arrived at this ground-breaking event with his shirt imprinted with the superhero-like-symbol “4SJ” (as in Forrest J. Ackermann) while “wearing his eye-catching street costume with green cape and baggy breeches.”

Since his death in 2008 at the age of 92, Ackermann has been credited as being the undeniable spearhead in launching genres such as horror and science fiction from the underground world of pulp magazines into the stratosphere of popular culture. Among his many accomplishments, Ackermann coined the term “sci-fi,” helped propel and push the literary and creative careers of writers including Ray Bradbury, Marion Zimmer Bradley, L. Ron Hubbard, as well as über-cult hero Ed Wood, while amassing a personal collection of over 300,000 pieces of memorabilia.

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