By GREGORY ZELLER //
The Cradle of Aviation became the Cradle of Creation this weekend, as one of Long Island’s brightest museums hosted one of the region’s hottest cultural conventions.
Cradle-Con 2019 lit up Garden City’s Cradle of Aviation Museum Saturday and Sunday, splashing an interdimensional spotlight on classic comics, cult cinema and the coolest innovations in modern pop art.
The museum, of course, is knee-deep in its 50th anniversary observances of the Apollo 11 moon landing (and Long Island’s critical role in it), including multiple meet-the-astronaut elbow-rubbers and a climactic “countdown celebration” scheduled for July 20. But even real-life moonshots took a back seat to flights of fancy this weekend, when the cosmic, the creepy and the kooky held sway.
And while the larger-than-life event obviously featured more than one billion-dollar entertainment franchise, its inspirational ideologies truly set it apart, according to Cradle of Aviation Museum President Andrew Parton, who detects parallel dimensions between the museum’s science and Cradle-Con’s fiction.
“A lot of the characters and storylines that everyone loves are inspired by the things we have really done, whether it’s going to the moon or traveling on to Mars,” Parton told Innovate LI. “The connection is between science fiction and science fact and the creativity and innovation used to invent these stories.”
That doesn’t mean that dealers can’t make a few space-bucks along the way. In addition to thousands of visitors – with hundreds decked out in full cosplay glory – the weekend event attracted dozens of vendors with enough merch to choke Godzilla, ranging from graphic novels and action figures to model spaceships and replica laser swords, and much more.
Citing the “inaugural year success” of the first Cradle-Con in 2018, Cradle of Aviation Museum Special Events Director Seamus Keane said museum staffers worked hard to grow the now-annual event into a world-class comic convention with a decidedly Long Island flavor.
“Our focus is on comics, local artists, local vendors and local cosplayers, because they are truly the people that make this subculture continue to grow into the phenomenon that it is,” Keane said. “We here at the museum are all fans of some aspect of comic culture and pop culture, so we try to design a convention that we would want to attend – as well as keeping it as locally grown as possible.”
Considering the rich selection of pop-cultural innovators inhabiting Greater New York’s corner of the multiverse, this was easier than, say, collecting all six Infinity Stones. Among the makers gracing Cradle-Con was comic artist Edgardo Miranda-Rodriguez, who employs many not-so-secret identities on his quest for truth and social justice.
A Marvel Entertainment writer and editor-in-chief of Queens-based independent comic-publishing house Darryl Makes Comics, Miranda-Rodriguez is also the founder of Brooklyn-based creative-services studio Somos Arte and the creator of “La Borinqueña,” an original Latina superhero who’s become a national symbol of Puerto Rican patriotism.
Also swinging into action this weekend was the Endor Temple of the Saber Guild, a not-for-profit, Lucasfilm Ltd.-recognized “Star Wars” costuming group that stages choreographed lightsaber battles to raise funds for local charities.
Founded in California in 2006 by a handful of “Star Wars” enthusiasts, the guild now boasts 250-plus members spread across 15 “temples” in five countries – including the Endor Temple, Jedi codename of the guild’s Long Island chapter.
Also light-speeding to the Cradle of Aviation was the Empire City Garrison of the 501st Legion, a global, fan-based costuming organization dedicated to doing good by dressing up like the bad guys from that galaxy far, far away.
In addition to copious charity work, the New York-based ECG has landed corporate promotional gigs with Pepsi, Random House, NBC and Lucasfilm itself, with members appearing on numerous TV shows and even ringing the opening bell at the New York Stock Exchange.
With major franchises from “The Avengers” to “Star Trek” also well-represented in the Dune Sea of comic-book collectors and memorabilia mongers, the convention certainly had a capitalistic undertone. But Parton stressed the inexorable link between those major money-makers and the future of innovation, noting that when iconic superhero Superman arrived from the Planet Krypton in Action Comics No. 1 in June 1938, “the thought of going to the moon was just fantasy.”
“And if you look at the ‘Star Trek’ communicator, that was really our first flip-phone,” the museum president said. “So, which comes first – the creative idea or the execution of the creative idea?
“It’s a little bit of both,” Parton added. “There is a strong, direct link between the stuff that gets highlighted at an event like Cradle-Con and the stuff we talk about here at the museum every day.
“I think the fantasy world and the superhero world is what attracts kids to use their imagination – and the reality is that you can use that imagination to create real-world solutions.”