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The Comic Convention: Where Couples Who Play Together Stay Together

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Be honest, ladies. You envy the way Superman looks at Lois Lane, don't you? The man of steel's blue eyes and broad shoulders can make a girl swoon. And guys, Mystique has a certain magnetism that the male eye can't resist, doesn't she? You wouldn't kick her out of bed for leaving a few blue scales behind.

Imaginative fun is an essential element of a strong relationship. It stops coupledom from turning into a stagnant wasteland. Cosplay -- dressing in costume as characters from comics, science fiction or anime -- is a worldwide phenomenon that thousands of couples, from nerds to neurologists, have embraced as a way to indulge in some healthy escapism while simultaneously having a blast with each other at comic conventions.

In fact, the recent 2012 Calgary Comic and Entertainment Expo owes a lot of its success and energy to the good-natured, "animated" presence of cosplayers. Whether visitors found themselves trapped in a long lineup or leisurely roaming the floor, cosplayers put on a fantastic show, complete with in-character interactions and free photo-ops. As Steven Hodges, organizer of the Expo says, "Cosplayers are incredibly fun, and are cool with the public taking their pictures. They bring the Expo to life."

Dan Machum, 30, is a perfect example. With his pinstripe suit, flat top hair, moustache and ever-present cigar, he is a dead ringer for J. Jonah Jameson, the cranky editor of the Daily Bugle. When confronted with the lineup to enter the Expo, Dan pounded on the front door, flashed his fake press badge to a security guard, and barked, "Press!" The unwitting guard quickly let him in; however, Dan's guilt soon got the better of him and he went back outside.

"My date was still in line," he grins.

Since his date, Christine Roulston, 25, was dressed as curvaceous Catwoman, it was a smart decision. "I got a little jealous when I found her draped all over Batman for a photo," admits Dan, "but I cozied up to a couple Spider-Girls, so we called it even."

Rocky Hornung, 43, is a divorce lawyer by day, although he swaps his stuffy tie for superhero tights when the Expo comes around. This year, he was the Green Lantern. Rocky says that his job exposes him to many failed relationships, and that his past partners "tolerated" his comic collecting. He was thrilled when he met Coralee, 32, who proved to be a better sport. "She's great," he says, "now I can't imagine my partner not wanting to go. You need to do things as a couple."

Coralee -- dressed as a saucy Hit-Girl -- echoes his sentiment. "It's important to show interest in what your partner likes to do," she says. "I love seeing his eyes light up when we're having fun, or when a kid asks for his picture."

As Rocky says, going to conventions is an extension of who he is, and Coralee's fun-loving willingness to play along makes them a stronger couple. It doesn't take cosmic intelligence to know that, as far as relationship advice goes, that's pretty stellar.

Even the mighty Stan Lee seems to have let Cupid influence his comic creations. During his panel conversation at the Expo, he admitted that his wife of 65 years was the inspiration behind many of the women in the Marvel Universe. "My wife is very marvelous," he said.

Science fiction has given us some enduring romances, too. Commander Riker's playful winks to Troi, and the love-hate banter between Han Solo and Princess Leia, resonate with viewers not just because of their fantasy value, but because of their familiarity. These love affairs may happen in the stars but -- thanks to cosplay couples -- Expo goers can catch a glimpse of them on Earth.

So if coupledom has become an uninspired place, throw on a cape and strike a pose for next year's Calgary Expo, set for the end of April, 2013. Not only will you become a Super Couple, but your powers will inspire and delight the mortals around you.

Debra Macleod is a leading North American relationship expert and couples' mediator. Her private practice is in Red Deer, Alberta. Visit MarriageSOS.com