Tuesday, September 23, 2014

The Conundrum with Cosplayers

Please note that I have no problem with cosplayers, I just wanted to reference this post in some way like one of my favorite series of books, Dealing with Dragons.

I've seen this post going around my feed. It's an editorial by Denise Dorman, wife of illustrator Dave Dorman, and she is pretty critical of cosplayers and attendees of comic book conventions. I'll let you read her wordsd first before I chime in.


Damn it Cokie, you blocked my route! How will I ever link up Denver to-OH HEY YOU'RE BACK! I most certainly wasn't killing time by playing Ticket to Ride with Cokie.

....cheating Puggle......

Anyhoo, what did you think of what she had to say? I found myself disagreeing pretty early on, though I think I can see the source of her frustration. She seems to think that the trend of people not spending as much money at cons has to do with Cosplayers, who by themselves are a growing demographic in geekdom. You can't throw a rock these days without it bouncing off at least three Stormtroopers, a Bane, two Harley Quinns, and a severe lawsuit for throwing rocks inside a crowded convention hall.

I think the real issue is that people do not seem to be spending as much money at conventions and that Cosplayers are not to blame. People just are not spending as much money at conventions. Why? I don't have any conclusive proof, just a bunch of theories.

Look, it sucks when you don't even break even at a convention. It's even worse when you go in the red because of it. I've walked out of Gen Con thinking "Well....I could go back to shipping for a living." I've had friends who are dynamite artists pack up their booths and just give away free prints to people as they leave so that they A. don't have so much stuff to ship back home and B. they don't feel bad because they didn't sell much at all.

I think what we are seeing is a byproduct of the recession from a few years ago combined with a phasing out/phasing in of new fans into the convention scene. As the older guard no longer attends conventions, whether due to feeling that cons like Dragon Con have changed too much for their taste or because of health issues they cannot manage a 5 day trip, we see new blood entering the scene. These younger fans do not have the resources that others have. Many of them are still in high school or have just entered college, and do not have much in their budgets to buy a Limited Edition Malcolm Reynolds Light Saber.

At the same time, you cannot just tell people to spend more money at a con. I know I would love to spend the money I once did at Gen con. Hell, I remember having to make two trips out to my car because I had so many bags of swag to carry with me. I remember when if I left the con with any of my Gen Con budget left over I felt like I had lost the True Meaning of Gen Con and would wander around the Titan Games booth looking at books to add to my pile of books. (Which in some cases, I wouldn't even read and would sell to Half Price books later. Ahh. Decadence. Priveledge. Different time, different me.)

I would love to say to you all that you should go out and support artists and buy up as many prints as possible, but we both know that's not going to work. I can't boss people around and tell them to spend money. I will say that many of the artists you see in the artist gallery and many of the writers in the author alley are genuinely talented folks and you may be surprised at what you find waiting for you if you go and look.

Now as for the Cosplayers themselves...

There are more and more of them at conventions every year and that's pretty cool. I remember sitting in my neighbor's backyard and listening to him ask his son why our generation has such an obsession with costume parties because in his age, they stopped wearing costumes when they stopped going to Halloween. 15 years ago I remember when the guy walking around in his Mandalorian Power Armor was seen as kind of an interesting if weird guy who really loved Boba Fett. Now there's an entire Mandalorian Legion dedicated to constructing and displaying those suits of armor.

Maybe the ideals of our generation have shifted. Maybe we are more care free when it comes to how we dress and behave these days. I know several members of the 501st and they range from the Perpetual College Student to the Owns His Own Pool Business, and yet when you see them hanging out at cons showing off their armor they are as happy as can be. Outside of the con they are Bob Normalpants, but at the con they get to be TK1337, member of Vader's personal legion.

It's not just even the fact that there are more costumes either. Cosplaying is getting so advanced! There was a guy at Dragon Con who had a huge ass suit of robotic armor complete with a built in display on his chest and a vocoder so he could amplify his voice. A friend of mine has a huge suit of Juggernaut armor, and another friend just finished stitching together from scratch a Victorian steampunk adventurer's outfit. These aren't costumes you buy off the rack at Halloween Spirit, my friends; these suits are works of love!

(And that's not a dig at those who can't afford to make fancy costumes. Wear what you want, be your own groovy self.)

I know that this rumor has been going around about how Cosplayers are vain and do not like to spend money. I too have felt the scourge of getting stuck in walking traffic at Gen Con because someone in their massive Halo suit had to pose in a vital travel way and traffic got backed up due to people stopping to take pictures. That sucks. But I think some people are choosing the wormiest apple out of the bushel, as it were.

Cosplayers are really hardcore fans. I mean, you have to be if you're going to set out to make a costume that's as accurate as possible. I don't know that many people who sit around and spontaneously say "Today I shall build the Cyclops outfit from the X-Men movie" and not be dedicated to it. Fan is a shortened version of the word fanatic, and the attention to detail Cosplayers put into their work shows.

As for them not spending money at conventions, I think people may be a little confused on something. Sure, I don't see Bane walking from booth to booth shopping alongside everyone else, but that's probably because he only has so much time he wants to spend in his outfit before he wants to take the mask off. The girl in her Mass Effect cosplay is probably not going to wander around the artist alley when she has a hard time walking due to the solid plates she's attached to her suit limiting movement.

When they're out of their costumes? I guarantee you they are visiting the exhibition hall and looking at stuff. Maybe they're not buying as much because their $1000 replica Final Fantasy suit set them back a lot, but consider what you are getting out of it. You get to look at their suit and go "Aww that's cool!" while they trudge about getting hot under the fluorescent lights and the stuffy atmosphere that can happen in conventions.

As for "Comic Con not being about the comics", that will be a topic for another day.

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