Comic book and science fiction Conventions did not used to be considered part of mainstream society. A comic book artist or an actor from a SciFi show attending a convention wasn’t really considered news. But there have been increasing celebrity appearances and media coverage at conventions such as Comic Con due to the recent surge of acceptance for ‘nerd culture’ caused by Internet usage.
Conventions are held year-round, though in the United States, many conventions fall during the summer, when middle school, high school, college, and grad school students will have time off. The shortened term for Convention, as seen in “Comic Con” is simply ‘con’, which I will be using interchangeably during the rest of this blog post (the plural being ‘cons’). Comics, Scifi, Gaming, Fantasy, and Anime all have their own cons, which are distinguished by their names and by their programing. However, there is massive over lap between the sub-cultures. For example, I am a fan of Doctor Who, a scifi show, but I attend anime cons where I often find other people who like both anime I’m into, and Doctor Who.
At cons there are panels about specific things relevant to general theme of the con (anime panels at anime con), Celebrity panels (including Autograph panels), tutorial panels, the Artist’s Alley where artists sell their work (often fan work of different shows/movies/comics), the Dealer’s Room (where vendors sell merchandise), video rooms (showing Anime/Scifi shows), “nerd comedy” performances, and sometimes video game rooms (where one can play almost any game or almost any console). Panels are a great insight into the type of fans present at any given convention, and for first-time con-goers (attendees), I suggest attending every panel that seems of interest. Since I attend many anime conventions and have sat through my fair sare of panels, I have to say that some can be quite dry. My favorite panels to attend are the “nerd humor” panels, anything about Pokemon, and Super Art Fight (link).
Panels are great and all, but fan-created content is essential to conventions. One word can sum up my favorite part of any convention: Cosplay. A hybridization of the words “costume” and “play”, con-goers create and wear the attire of their favorite characters. These characters vary from series-accurate Anime characters to player-created characters from World of Warcraft. The costumes range from complex and highly accurate to simplistic and made of cardboard. Being a cosplayer (person who cosplays) can be stressful if you worry too much about getting the pieces done on time, or about being accurate. But it is mainly fun because while you are at the con, you get to act like your character if you want, and you get to see other people also in cosplay having fun with it.
Here is a photoset from my of me as PinkiePie (from My Little Pony Friendship is Magic) at AnimeUSA2012.
(Yes, that tumblr is my cosplay tumblr: dashofdifferent)
Cosplay is so essential because it provides an ever-changing living-art instillation tailored by the interests of the convention by the very people who attend it. I often learn about new anime I should watch by seeing a well-done cosplay of a character I don’t know and looking up the anime that cosplayer says that they are from. This surge in popularity of conventions can be attributed to mainstream media coverage of Comic Con, but also because of cosplayers and other attendees who took their photo sharing information and pictures using social media. I post my cosplay pictures on Facebook, DeviantArt, and Tumblr, and some of my other friends live-tweet from the convention about almost everything that they experience. I still firmly believe that swelling convention sizes, such as at Otakon*, are caused by the sharing of cosplay photos on the Internet. *Otakon is the Largest Anime Convention on the East Coast, the Second Largest Anime Convention in North America, and here is the table of its attendance records: http://otakon.com/history_stats.asp with 30,785 attendees in 2012 and the data for this August’s convention (2013) not yet added.
However, as the con-going population expands, it is only natural that cosplay would come to be misunderstood and improperly represented by the mainstream media. As with many misjudged sub-cultures, cosplay has recently been shown on a reality tv show called “Heroes of Cosplay”. The show title itself is a bad pun, since there are many superhero cosplayers. I could go on and on about how the show does not accurately represent “the joy of the con” as I call it, but here is a full length feature story about the show from a writer at Anime News Network: http://www.animenewsnetwork.com/feature/2013-09-10
I decided to finally make a post about Cons and Cosplay because one of my cons is coming up rather soon. From the 12th to the 15th I will be attending AnimeUSA in Washington DC. Most conventions are three days, a Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. Normally the Sunday is only a half-day, or only runs until 3pm. But, wait, the 12th to the 15th of September- that’s 4 days! Well, experienced con-goers know that going down Thursday night will afford the chance for “Thursday night pass pickup”, essentially, you can go and pick up your convention pass early instead of fighting the crowd on Friday or Saturday. By the time that this blog is published, I might already be in line for Thursday night pass pickup. Or, if this is put up on Friday, I might even be walking the convention halls in cosplay!
When I return from AnimeUSA I will post the top ten cosplay photos from the weekend, so look forward to that! Unfortunately, I can’t put up one of those as the sign-off picture, since I have yet to arrive at the con and take them. But, here is a photo of me in the Dealer’s Room at Katsucon 2013 dressed as PinkiePie and holding Otakon’s mascot Crabby.