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Woz: Tech 'makes me feel like I'm a superhero'

Tech goes hand-in-hand with sci-fi/fantasy/superhero culture at the first Comic Con hosted in Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak's hometown of San Jose, California.

Steve Wozniak
James Martin/CNET

Steve Wozniak, best known for co-founding Apple, now wants to be known for something else: as the man who brought Comic Con to Silicon Valley.

Will the real Steve Wozniak please stand up? "The Woz", left, poses next to his wax likeness at the Silicon Valley Comic Con in March 2016.

James Martin/CNET

The first-ever Silicon Valley Comic Con, a three-day fest to celebrate the best of tech, comic book, sci-fi and fantasy culture, kicked off Friday with an opening keynote presentation by Star Trek's William Shatner and continued today with a talk by Wozniak, who's more commonly known in tech circles as "the Woz."

"It fits that it belongs right here in San Jose," Wozniak said of Silicon Valley Comic Con before a cheering crowd of 3,000 people at the San Jose Convention Center. "It's a startup company."

The convention, which is hosting more than 30,000 conference-goers over the weekend, crawled with costumed attendees packing into panels or putting on virtual-realty headsets. But it isn't just for comic nerds, said Woz. Comic Con is also about the tech.

"We've incorporated a lot of science and technologies [into the show]," Wozniak said, "including celebrities from the arts." A virtual-reality area stands near the DeLorean from the movie "Back to the Future" and cars from "Ghostbusters" and Marvel's "Agents of Shield" TV show.

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For Wozniak, superpowers and technologies from science fiction and comics are a natural fit, as modern-day technologists strive to turn fantastical gadgetry into practical, real-life technologies.

"We're trying to follow the science-fiction ideas," said Wozniak, pointing out that today's powerful mobile phones weren't even imagined for humans back when Wozniak and Steve Jobs founded Apple Computer. "

I've always wanted to fly a spaceship of my own

," he added.

This isn't the first time Wozniak has willed a massive cultural event into being. In 1982 and '83, flush from Apple fame, Wozniak snagged the biggest names in rock -- including David Bowie, U2 and Van Halen -- for a weekend-long series of concerts called the US Festival.

Like Silicon Valley Comic Con, the musical extravaganza over 33 years ago also blended tech and popular culture.

Comic Con is 'independent', personal

Galactus, Devourer of Worlds. It took 30 hours for cosplay enthusiast Christine to construct her helmet.

Jessica Dolcourt/CNET

For Wozniak especially, this Silicon Valley location has a personal significance that a San Francisco-based show wouldn't. Why? He was born right here in San Jose.

"You probably drove down Woz Boulevard getting here," Rick White, Wozniak's business partner and co-founder of the show, said during his opening address.

Wozniak made it a point to celebrate Comic Con's diversity of people, many of whom build extravagant costumes and dye their hair to mimic a particular character.

This freedom of expression harkens back to the early-day chat rooms frequented by the self-described socially awkward Woz and his friends.

"We didn't know how to dress, wear our hair, and we could somehow go into chat rooms and be anonymous and be the kind of people we want to be," Wozniak said.

That is exactly the kind of legacy the tech legend wants to impart.

"We want to be independent," The Woz said. "That's what this show is all about."