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I have a secret role-playing fantasy. Most people do, but mine is a particularly disturbing one. At the risk of you thinking me strange, I'll tell you what it is.

I am a Roman soldier. Helmet, sword, sandals, armor, I got it all. I'm part of an ancient army laying siege to modern-day Washington, D.C. Fantasies don't have to make sense, you see.

In my fantasy, I'm assigned to catapult duty. My job — and it's a cathartic one — is to hurl captive members of Congress 600 yards and through the roof of the Capitol dome as a way of demoralizing the rest into surrender.

Unfortunately, there are no TV programs, movies, or LARP (live action role play) camps that feature this particular fantasy. I have to make do with a pair of imitation leather sandals and a feverish imagination.

Such was not the case for those attending Salt Lake City Comic Con at the Salt Palace Convention Center Thursday afternoon. Thousands of vampires, space commanders, wizards, superheroes, Trekkies, orcs, ninjas and galactic evil-doers showed up in uniform.

They packed the place. Literally. Those of us who really enjoy our alternate realities don't spend a lot of time at the gym. None of the dashing Luke Skywalkers I saw Thursday afternoon weighed less than 250 pounds.

Such indifference to appropriate body type is a bit ironic given the amount of time and energy that goes into a fantasy character's costume. Against my will I heard a 95-pound Conan the Barbarian explain how he spent months getting his loincloth "exactly right."

A few participants looked far more realistic. In a hallway I was confronted by a highly scary (but attractive) space witch in a body stocking, with white hair and fire-red eyes. There were no immediate inconsistencies in her get-up, and for a moment it seemed I was an incantation away from being her new pet lizard.

Negotiating a giddy fantasy crowd is a bit tough for a large guy in a surgical sling. I got body checked several times by Captain Kirks and Darth Mals rushing to some off-world bling emergency at another vendor booth.

But Comic Con isn't all about dressing up. It was also an opportunity to meet the stars of your favorite television series — and pay for their autographs.

For example, if you're a fan of Bill Barkhole, who plays Commander T.J. Rumpus in the hit series "Defenders of Dork 5," you could stand in line and plop down hard cash for the privilege of idolizing him in person.

OK, I'm being hypocritical. I would have paid a lot of money for "The Simpsons" Duff Girl to autograph my forehead with an ice pick. She was that gorgeous.

Comic Con also served to network fellow crew members of the Starship Enterprise, the Millennial Falcon, Battlestar Galactica, etc. This is an important part of the convention because it lets you know you're not alone in your fantasy.

If your alternate reality has progressed to the point of school bullying, family interventions and collection agency calls, it's invigorating to mingle among those with whom you can intelligently argue costume details, script corrections and alien language pronunciation.

Did you know there's an actual Klingon language? There are no actual Klingons (it's true) but they have a language. "NuqDaq 'oH puchpa"e'." means "Where's the bathroom?" I had to write that one down before a Klingon (or possibly just some guy in a gorilla suit) would tell me.

I shouldn't make fun. For all the bother and hype, role-playing fantasies are generally harmless fun. Time consuming to be sure, but relatively harmless.

You can't say that for other human fantasies, including the ones superior people don't think they're living with hair plugs, breast augmentations, butt lifts and lots of alcohol.

I paid $20 for a day pass to Comic Con. I wandered the entire expo floor and didn't see another Roman catapult operator. Maybe next time. Until then, may the farce with me.

Robert Kirby can be reached at or

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