Tagged: Comic Book Convention

Marc Alan Fishman: What To Do At A Bad Comic Con

 

San Diego Comic ConA week ago Unshaven Comics had the pleasure to attend a convention in flux. The promoters – good, honest people – take this show to several smaller town and cities across our neck of the woods over the course of the year. I won’t divulge their name, nor the specific towns. Suffice to say the con was more or less akin to the conventions of yore versus the now-typical megacon. A single space occupied mostly by vendors, with a solid dozen or so independent craftsmen, creators, and miscellaneous geek-adjacent business-folk.

To their detriment, the convention grew from a single day endeavor to two. In doing so the minimal crowds that came were basically split. Twice the days meant twice as much transportation costs with little in the way of measurable sales increases. And because I like to be fully transparent about the plight of the indie creator: we sold less books at this show than the same show put on for a single day back in December.

It was, to Unshaven Comics’ till, a bad show.

But I’m forever an optimist – looking for a silver lining even when I need not go through the motions. When a show is not up to snuff, what do you do if you’re there to make money? Some slash their prices and attempt to break even with their sunk costs. Others cut bait and go home early. Unshaven Comics subscribes to the “make lemonade” methodology. We dig our heels in, enjoy the few victories we get, and we use the time to make strides at future shows.

So, what of those few victories? For us this past weekend, it was being able to take the time to really get into a deep discussion with someone who bought our book. It was having the ability to produce some extra sketch cards to fill our sample books to entice future commissions. It was being able to get up and talk to plenty of the other artists and vendors in attendance and network. In doing that, I now have a pile of business cards with potential for adventures down the line; a podcast looking to have us on right when our future crowdfunding campaign launches, a vendor who will be able to produce us some amazing cosplay materials, another who can assist us in producing some affordable up-sell merchandise, and lastly an artist who committed to producing a pin-up for the aforementioned campaign. Now, I’d certainly call that a win in the face of a loss!

If I can digress fully (kinky, eh?), allow me to end on an anecdote that reassures me that my commitment to being an indie creator will always be about the journey not the destination. During the show, a little girl came poking around my side of the table, as I was coloring in a sketch card. “Excuse me. Could you please make me a Fennekin?” One quizzical look later, and her mother came to translate. Fennekin is a Pokemon, and her daughter wanted a sketch card. Money was exchanged, and I assured my li’l fan that it’d take about 45 minutes for me to complete it.

“May I please stay and watch you draw?” she cooed. Oy the feels! “Of course!” I exclaimed. She then stood, stiff as board, locked to my left side, not even a foot from my drawing board. I propped my iPhone up with a reference picture, and she helpfully tapped it “awake” anytime the display dimmed. Whilst I tinkered away at her card, she proceeded to tell me everything and anything I wanted to know about Fennekin.

When I finished the card, I happily handed it over. She beamed from ear to ear, and thanked me. She would never have cared about The Samurnauts. She wanted a piece of art of her favorite cartoon. I obliged. And in doing so, I know that for at least a little while… she will treasure something for far longer than it ever took me to make. It’s a small and important victory not for my ego… but for my spirit. The joy I see in my own son was reflected back in a girl who herself was likely only three years older than my own boy. This moment to her, will be one for Bennett in hardly a blink of an eye.

With a genuine moment like that to cherish, who am I to say it was a bad show at all?

 

Marc Alan Fishman: The Responsibilities of a Show Promoter

Having concluded an exhausting round of conventions (with one more to go in November, baby!), I find myself in awe of those brave soldiers who put on the shows themselves. From the giant conglomerate-hedge-fund-corporations with deep pockets, to the lonely islands that build their shows in small hotel ballrooms (like Days Inn… screw those who can afford the Embassy Suites!), VFW halls, and auditoria that double as bingo halls on off-nights. Simply put, a comic con is equal parts conference, summit, trade show, and flea market. Balancing these elements into a single entity is like throwing your kid’s birthday during your wedding with a Bar Mitzvah taking place in the adjacent ballroom. So, what makes a good show… from the eyes of an artist?

When I made the transition from fan to creator, my expectations for a show runner where slim to none. I honestly figured buying a table granted you… the table. Maybe a few chairs. But over time, those wants have shifted decidedly towards needs. Not that Unshaven Comics is in much (if any) position to have desired expectations, the glut of shows that exist now pull for our attention – and table fees – and word travels fast when it comes to which shows are must attend and which are must give a crap.

The Cost of the Table or Space

First and foremost, the cost of the table must be in proper ratio to the number of butts in the building. Wizard charges artists upwards of $350 – $450 for an Artist Alley table. In Chicago though, the stream of traffic typically matches the price – allowing most Bohemians behind their buffets to earn back the cost of said countertop in advance of the show coming to a close. I imagine much is the same for a vendor seeking exhibition booth space. And where applicable (see: ReedPop!) finding ways to nickel and dime us at every opportunity – want another chair for that booth? $85! – isn’t the best way to earn our love. We know we’re a captive audience… but that never means we have to like it. And for those vendors who aren’t being backed by marketing budgets, the added cost to power a booth for four days may not be worth it after a while.

The Fans in Attendance

Table price aside, I’d mentioned traffic. Here, the correlation between happy fans and happy artists are one in the same: if one group ain’t happy, the other won’t be far behind. I can’t count how many shows we saw fan after fan in a slump because of any number of reasons: perhaps waiting on line for hours at a time for a ticket for the voucher for the opportunity to look at the door outside of the hall where they are letting that one guy sign autographs for 20 minutes before his handlers whisk him off for a two-hour lunch. And when that fan is just three people in line after they set the cut off? Guess who he’s going to take it out on? Us. A lot. He’ll listen to the pitch for our book. In another world where he got that ticket, he may even give us a shot (he needs something to read during the hour long queue to sit down). But when the day started with a four hour wait for that McGuffin pass, followed by a half hour waiting to pee in a bathroom that Cthulu would be appalled by, followed by dropping over ten bucks for a hot dog, chips, and a soda… multiplied by the thousands who felt the same pains? Doesn’t make for a buy-happy experience. But I digress.

Traffic Needs Roads

The show floor (and corresponding venue) must be a planner’s nightmare. Organizing the fan areas (for photos and the like), gaming zones, autograph areas, the Artist Alley, vendor space, and panel rooms is a dance most choreographers would shy away from. The key to it all from the artists’ perspective? Flow. We want a stream of traffic to mill about the aisles in a steady queue that keeps our hands busy. When the only draw of a show during a given day takes place (“See Patrick Stewart high five Billy Shatner in Hall H!”), the monsoon of militant attendees makes for an awkward hour. Suddenly free-wheeling loiterers are collapsing in a heap to find a seat elsewhere, and you hawking your wares becomes plain insulting to them.

Fans Need Incentive to Become Fans

Simply put, a convention show runner is responsible to entice their attendees to explore every nook and cranny of their convention hall. I can’t count how many times we’ve heard how someone stumbled across us never expecting to purchase. While a decidedly pious few announce their love of shows specifically to seek out the new and odd… most are there to snag that deal on back issues or trades, get the autograph of that now-B-Lister from the Show-They-Love(d)-So-Much, and maybe waste some time at a panel or two. Artist Alley is always feels seemingly like an afterthought from show runner’s perspective. We pay the least to be on the floor, and our DIY table-scapes are rarely seen as a draw large enough to bolster attendance.

But consider my hypothesis: the Artist Alley is the lifeblood of a show. Yes, celebrities and razzle-dazzle gets people in the door. But those precious minutes spent on line, and then snapping that quick photo are only a small percentage of the opportunities that exist in a given con. If I’m to be bold, more often than not, fans discover in the alley. They have the chance to meet face to face with creators and pick their brain (while conducting business, mind you), as well as see the past, present, and future of the industry that spawned the cons in the first place.

I’d put the onus on the show runner’s to push the artists (and dealers to an extent) just as much an attraction for their conventions. Introduce attendees to the notion of making a sketchbook filled by artists in attendance. Consider “con bingo” where fans are rewarded for making purchases from every zone on a given floor (or even just for listening to the pitch). In essence: reward the fan who chooses to enjoy the entirety of their admission. At the end of it all… no one can complain (within reason) if they felt that they saw every fan have the opportunity to converse. That is to say (ahem, Mrs. Dorman), the biggest responsibility of the show runner is get butts in the hall, and get them mingling. The responsibility of we who man the tables… is to make it worth their while.

 

Marc Alan Fishman: In Defense of the Hustle

This past week, I joined a panel of fellow indie comic publishers in a Q & A session revolving around the industry. There were some great questions bandied about, but for my money? The best concerned ‘the hustle’. When you’re a garage band, your merch doesn’t march into the stores without serious work. As I’ve detailed before, the way into every comic book shop is paved in broken glass, and tarnished dreams. Indie publishers’ best chance at initial sales comes first and foremost in face to face pitches. But you see, on this panel, I sat next to two other gentlemen… each representing a side on the teeter-totter of salesmanship. It got me thinking about the process of building a brand, and how those who are readying themselves for their first cons on the other side of the aisle might benefit from knowing the lay of the land.

On one side? I had Dan Dougherty. As many fans and followers of this column know the name by now… Dan is my quintessential nemesis. He’s a sharp wit, a deft hand, and an amazingly well-coifed comic creator. At the comic cons? He’s on the side of the introverts. A fresh smile, a board to draw on, and typically a “table helper” to help handle purchases if his hands are otherwise occupied. But in order to crack the nut, if you will, one must mosey past and have their eye caught on his wares. And after a decade in the trenches, his table is a veritable warzone of brilliance. He has well over a dozen projects available at any time – including the next ‘Revival’ if he keeps it up with “Touching Evil”, and Hellboy-by-way-of-the-Red-Line with “Bob Howard: Plumber of the Unknown”. At the end of the day: Dan wins his customers over with the slow burn. He lets those interested come to him, confident that if they saw something they liked? They’ll like picking it up.

On the other side? I had Onrie Kompan. If Dan’s pitch is a 1, then Onrie’s is a 100 on a 10 point scale. Unlike nearly any other creator I’ve seen in the Artist Alleys… Kompan untethers himself from behind his table, stands, and literally plucks passersby to pitch to. He’s quick on his feet. He knows to butter up the sale with a free giveaway. He mercilessly doles out his elevator pitch. It takes less than 15 seconds to hear the price. And if you give the glint of a yes? Onrie’s already up-selling you from single issues to a graphic novel. It’s jarring to see, to be a part of, and I safely assume… to sell next to. But the proof is in the pudding. Kompan continuously sells out his wares at each successive show he attends.

For those who know me and my Unshaven cohorts… you’ll no doubt see how I consider myself somewhere between the two extremes. It also helps that unlike Dan and Onrie… we’re 3 men to their solo acts. We have a consummate pitchman though, in our writer, Kyle Gnepper. While he doesn’t stand in the aisle to attract would-be suitors… he does stand and beckon to any passing by. In fact, it’s become a bit of a larf for those who know us (and know Kyle can’t remember a face to save his life) to listen to his pitch only to chortle off a snarky response. Gets him every time. But for those folks who don’t know us? Being able to pitch our Samurnauts series in a succinct set of seconds makes for quick turnaround. We’ve enjoyed our victories – with increasing sales per show – now for 5 years strong.

Honesty time, kiddos. My title of the article, “In Defense of the Hustle”, comes out of the debate Dan and I had on the car trip home from the panel. And yes, I drive my nemesis to gigs now, what of it. You see, prior to knowing Onrie by name, I knew him by reputation. Upon knowing I would soon share a space at the dais with someone I’d previously professed “Crossed the invisible line between hungry creator, and used car salesman”, I was resigned to enter the discussion already jaded. But Dan, politician that he is, asked for me to give Mr. Kompan a chance. And I did. And he spoke. And he won me over. Not with his book mind you – I respect that his Yi Soon Shin series takes creative non-fiction to new heights… it’s just not my bag per say – but with his enthusiasm. Truthfully, I’d never step around my table to hawk my wares. But I respect that Onrie has the extroverted nature to do it, and do it relentlessly. And according to his sales figures? He’s on to something. But perhaps akin to Mark Waid’s allegory on breaking in to the industry itself… his way is his way, and no one else’s to take. And so long as he’s not selling next to me (and his neighbors have been properly vetted on his approach)? God bless.

So, I open up the column to your opinions. When you walk down the aisle to a comic con, do you prefer your creators be playful and shy? Can you handle the hard sell on a 5 dollar book? Or do you think there is an etiquette to pitching your passion to passersby? I’m a capitalist through and through… but my friends, what are you?

Martha Thomases: Like A Virgin

I don’t like to brag, but over the weekend, I deflowered three virgins.

Oh, who am I kidding?  I love to brag.

Lest you think my sex life is more interesting than it actually is, I mean the above statement metaphorically.  As you know if your’e female, breaking in virgins isn’t really that entertaining.  Instead, what I will now describe is how I took three friends to their first comic book convention.

Lucky for them, it was MoCCA.

Going to your first anything can be intimidating, even something as simple as a county fair or a school dance.  Every event that has occurred more than once has a history.  Often, there are traditions and customs with which you are unfamiliar.   The way the media portrays comic book conventions, whether on Entourage or The Big Bang Theory or next year’s talk show wars, can be unnerving for newbies.  Does one need to dress as a Stormtrooper?  How do you know what you’re looking at?

At MoCCA, my friends didn’t have to figure it out.  The tables were welcoming, with clear signage, lots of books on display, and friendly smiles by the creators (at least on Saturday, when I was there.  The closest thing to cosplay was aggressive hipster-ism, which I noted primarily through the prominent number of heads adorned with hats.

Best of all, my friends didn’t require an undergraduate degree in graphic story-telling to be drawn to the books.  Two of my friends are leftist political history junkies, and I soon lost track of them as they found book after book that intrigued them.  My other friend, who shares my love of the obscure laugh, joined me in celebrating a new book from Shannon Wheeler and various other booths.  There was one by a woman whom I think was named Stevie Wilson, who had a sign claiming her books were all about coffee, feminism and cats.

Everything I want in one place.  I wish I could find her again. Stevie (if that is your name), please tell me how to buy your books.

I hope that, when my friends go home, they continue to be curious about graphic story-telling, and start to explore the kinds of books that appeal to them.  I hope find more joy.

And next year, if they’re in New York at the right time, I hope they go to MoCCA with me again.  Perhaps, for the occasion, we will all dress up like John Lewis.

Photo by KLGreenNYC

Marc Alan Fishman: How To Lose Your (Convention) Virginity

On a recent jaunt into the social media interwebs, an old foosball buddy of mine asked that I help him discover the creepy, crazy, wacky world of comic book conventions. By proxy, I assume he also means sci-fi cons, pop culture cons, and possibly the auto show. In any event? Todd Burrows, I got your wonderfully tattoo’ed back. Consider this your introduction and survival guide all rolled up into one easy to read article. Forgive me though, this ain’t Buzzfeed, so don’t expect 10 glorious animated gifs for scrolling.

Let us assume you’re not a comic guy, but this whole comic thing is mildly intriguing to you. Perhaps a person you used to know back in high school is now a small indie publisher, and you think it’d be neat to see him again. Perhaps that publisher from time to time uses his or her friends in model reference shots, and you think that maybe you’d like to see yourself as a superhero or nefarious villain. And maybe, just maybe, you think dipping your toe into the waters of these new-fangled cons would be a good way to know if all your intrigue is just a waste of your time. I know, that’s a lot of supposition. But I digress. The question is simple: Why Go To A Comic Con?

It’s inclusive.

Since the first time I’ve stepped onto a convention floor, I’ve never once felt on the ‘outside’ of the industry. Once your badge is flung around your neck – be you a complete noob or a working professional – you’ll find most every con filled with folks in the exact same situation. In the pair of decades I have considered myself a fan, I’ve not once found a fellow con-goer not willing to lend an opinion, give a bit of backstory, or make an education recommendation on a good read. It can be daunting, no doubt, to jump in head-first to a world you think you don’t know. But lucky for you? Comics have permeated TV, movies, and pop-culture now for so long, there’s little to no chance you haven’t been introduced already without even knowing it. (more…)

Dennis O’Neil: Veronica

Well, my friends, here we are, home after a weekend of adventure down south in horse country.

That’s a lie.

We intended to spend the weekend in Lexington, Kentucky, but we never got there.  Friday/travel day, we got up at the crack of eight a.m., which for us is pretty early, and arrived at the Westchester airfield on time.  The line in front of U.S. Air’s counter seemed unusually long and, after a fidgety while, we were facing an airline employee and learning the reason for the long wait: the flight had been cancelled and no other flights to our destination would be leaving that day.  The best the very accommodating agent could do would require us to drive through New York traffic to another airport, change planes somewhere in the journey, and arrive in Lexington after the con had closed.  We didn’t know about travel the following day, but assuming it was possible, we wouldn’t arrive until the con was, in all likelihood, mostly history.  So I made one of those snap decisions we often regret and cancelled the whole trip. Then I spent much of the ensuing three days wishing I’d pushed harder, tried harder, mostly to assuage my conscience. I hate not doing what I’ve said I’ll do – would I have succeeded in politics? – and I felt I owed the Kentuckians something, which is a long story not to be told here.

So, instead of enjoying the bluegrass turf, we came home and eventually did a movies-on-demand viewing of Veronica Mars. I used to call Veronica’s television show a guilty pleasure.  But why guilty?  It was, in retrospect. a perfectly acceptable mass entertainment, maybe a cut or two above most of its kind. I didn’t miss the explosions or car chases – there were none – and the violence was well-choreographed, but fairly mild, and not overused.  The plot was multi-layered and reasonably complex, but again, is this something we want to complain about?  The ending left the sequel door wide open, but hey – this is the twenty first century media and am I not contemplating a sequel to my grocery list?  (Bet there’ll be one, too.)

Which brings us to today.  March 17. St. Patrick’s Day. Our annual bacchanalia.  The first bacchanalia was begun in early history to honor the god bacchus.  Our version is, as I type, being celebrated about 25 miles to the south, in Manhattan, among many other places, and presumably exists to honor a Christian saint named Patrick who allegedly evicted the snakes from Ireland, though a skeptic might say that the snakes symbolized the so-called pagans.  That might include some of you, but not to worry: you almost certainly don’t live in fifth-century Ireland.

If you live in twenty first century Manhattan, well…maybe being a pagan is the least of your worries.

Marc Alan Fishman: Everything Is Awesome*

*Not really.

I’m in an odd mood, kiddos. Maybe it’s the polar vortex that’s waging war across our country. Maybe it’s seasonal affective disorder causing a case of the blues. Or perhaps the winds of change are blowing, and the time for revolution is nigh. I’ve simply noticed as of late an upward trend of general unrest. It’s got me equally excited, and potentially depressed. Let’s jump down the rabbit hole, shall we?

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Martha Thomases: Female Pros and Cons, Part 3

If you’ve been following my columns this month here and here, you know I’m on a tirade.  I don’t like it that women are still considered an afterthought in the comics industry, especially as our industry is represented at comics and pop culture conventions.

And so, I want to shine a spotlight on various shows, and discuss what they’re doing wrong, and what they’re doing right.

In my last column here, I wrote a lot about ReedPop, the folks who put on big shows in New York and Chicago, among other things.  They only had women creators as about ten percent of their featured comics guests.  Since then, several people have alerted me to the fact that C2E2 is highlighting their female guests in their advertising.  This is a great thing.  I commend them for it.

However ….

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Martha Thomases: A Call to Alarms

Thomases Art 140207This is the time of year when the ComicMix crew starts to firm up our attendance at various comic conventions in the year ahead. It’s a frustrating process because there are a lot of shows and we can’t go to all the ones we’d like to attend.

It also makes me really angry.

Last year was the first in a long time that I went to a bunch of cons. It was fascinating and fun most of the time, but annoying at others. Twenty years after we started Friends of Lulu, there are still remarkably few women invited to be guests at the shows.

This is odd, because there are a lot of women working in the industry, and (capitalists take note) even more buying comics and tickets to cons. Wouldn’t show organizers like to demonstrate to this market segment that they are welcome and valued?

I, for one, am sick of complaining about it. I’ve decided to do something.

I want to use my position as a busy body on this website to point out conventions that don’t have many women on their guest list. For example, Emerald City Con, which I’ve always wanted to go to and sounds amazing has, on their website, a list of 235 guests, of which 20, I think, are women (I qualify that because there are some names that could be appropriate for any gender).

Here’s another example. Heroes Con, which is one of my favorites, has 48 announced guests, and only four are women.

The Asbury Park Con has announced 54 guests, and three are women. No women listed on any panels currently scheduled.

A press release I received today from Baltimore Comic-Con said, “This year’s previously confirmed guests for the show include: Marty Baumann (Pixar artist); Jeremy Bastian (Cursed Pirate Girl); Dave Bullock (Batman Black and White); Greg Capullo (Batman); Bernard Chang (Green Lantern Corps); Sean Chen (Amazing Spider-Man); Jimmy Cheung (Infinity); Cliff Chiang (Wonder Woman); Frank Cho (X-Men: Battle of the Atom); Richard Clark (House of Gold & Bones); Steve Conley (Bloop); Alan Davis (Wolverine); Tommy Lee Edwards (Suicide Risk); Garth Ennis (Preacher, The Boys); David Finch (Forever Evil); Bryan JL Glass (Mice Templar); Michael Golden (The Ravagers); Cully Hamner (Animal Man); Dean Haspiel (The Fox); Adam Hughes (Before Watchmen: Dr. Manhattan); JG Jones (Green Lantern Corps, Batman Black and White); Justin Jordan (Luther Strode, Green Lantern: New Guardians); Barry Kitson (Empire); David Mack (Shadowman); Kevin Maguire (Guardians of the Galaxy); Ron Marz (Witchblade); Bob McLeod (X-Men: Gold); Tradd Moore (Deadpool Annual); Mark Morales (New Avengers); Dan Parent (Archie, Veronica, Kevin Keller); David Peterson (Mouse Guard); Eric Powell (The Goon); Joe Prado (Justice League); Brian Pulido (Lady Death); Ivan Reis (Aquaman and The Others); Budd Root (Cavewoman); Alex Saviuk (Web of Spider-Man); Andy Smith (Superman #23.1: Bizarro); John K. Snyder III (Zorro Rides Again); Allison Sohn (sketch card artist); Charles Soule (Thunderbolts); Ben Templesmith (The Memory Collectors); Peter Tomasi (Batman and Two-Face); Herb Trimpe (GI Joe: A Real American Hero); Billy Tucci (Shi); Rick Veitch (Saga of the Swamp Thing); Matt Wagner (Grendel); Mark Waid (Daredevil); Bill Willingham (Fables); Renee Witterstaetter (Joe Jusko: Maelstrom); and Thom Zahler (My Little Pony).”

As you can see, that is two women.

There can be a lot of reasons for this. Sometimes, publishers promote their “hot” talent for guest spots. Sometimes, the people planning the show want a particular kind of fan to attend, and that kind of fan has testicles.

However, when there are no women on the guest list, not only does it send the false message that women haven’t achieved prominence in our corner of the entertainment industry, it also reduces the number of women on panels, taking part in our public conversations.

So I’d like to keep track of who is being welcoming to women, and who isn’t. I would also be delighted to report on who is being welcome to other groups who are under-represented, such as people of color and LGBTQ folks. It would be my honor to be your ally.

I’m not asking for a quota at shows. I want to see more women, but I don’t have a number in mind. I’m not making any demands. I’m simply reporting facts, gathered from promotional material (including websites) created by the shows’ promoters.

It is my opinion that if there are more women welcomed as guests at these shows, there will be fewer incidents such as this. As I said in a previous column, “It would be easier for women to be taken seriously by convention goers if they were taken seriously by convention planners. I don’t think we should sit back and wait for others to fix the problem. I think we need to fix it ourselves. Every time we see bad behavior, we should say something, loudly. Every time a convention or industry event ignores women, we should ridicule them for their lack of knowledge about our industry and its future.”

So while I’m trying to keep track of how many women are treated as professionals at shows, I’d also like to also offer my mailbox (martha@comicmix.com) as a place where women can share their unpleasant experiences with disrespectful men and boys at the same shows. With their permission, I’d like to ask show promoters to explain how such things can happen under their auspices. If my editor and I think there is a story, we’ll run it.

All e-mails sent to me will be considered to be “on the record” unless there is a compelling reason to keep it confidential. This means that if, instead of keeping to the spirit of this conversation, you hurl gratuitous insults or threat me, I’ll make it public (including taking it to the authorities if I feel threatened).

Let’s stand up for ourselves and let our voices be heard. The people, united, can never be defeated.

SATURDAY: Marc Alan Fishman

SUNDAY: John Ostrander

MONDAY: Mindy Newell

A WEEK FROM THIS AFTERNOON: Oh, that would be telling…

 

Martha Thomases: Sexual Assault and Cosplay

Thomases 131025My colleague, Kate Kotler, has assembled a list of articles about the continuing harassment of women at comic book conventions and other gatherings of fans. I’m late to this party, but that’s because I’m conflicted.

There are many more cosplayers at conventions than there were when I first started to go. There are many more women and girls at conventions than when I first started to go. As one would assume, this means there are many more female cosplayers.

And here’s my problem. I don’t really get this. Maybe for Halloween, I’ll pull something together for a party or to answer the door for trick-or-treaters. I have no desire to make costumes, nor to wear them around thousands of strangers.

Let me be clear. This is my problem. The people who cosplay are clearly enjoying themselves, and I have no desire to deprive them of that joy. If anything, it’s my loss that I can’t be less self-conscious when I’m out in public.

And yet, there are many who can’t let cosplayers enjoy themselves, especially not female cosplayers. Some guys think they are entitled to go up to women and say repulsive things to them. Some guys (sometimes the same guys) think they are entitled to assault these women physically as well as verbally.

And some people think this is okay, because if those women didn’t want the attention, they wouldn’t wear costumes.

Because an admiring glance or a respectful compliment, the kind of attention the cosplayed might appreciate, is exactly the same as a guy who rubs his erection against you while describing how much he wants to rape you.

If there are other parts of modern life where men think this kind of behavior is acceptable, I do not know what they are. I would guess that, if they exist, they are other events where men consider women to be interlopers, invading their secret clubhouse, and this is how they let women know their place.

Comic book conventions contribute to this problem in the way they program. Although the female attendance at the recent New York show was estimated to be around forty percent (and looked like more than that from my unscientific observation of the floor), the guest list was less than two percent female. At the recent Harvey Awards in Baltimore, only one presenter was a woman, although Fiona Staple won a respectable percentage of the prizes. It would be easier for women to be taken seriously by convention goers if they were taken seriously be convention planners.

I don’t think we should sit back and wait for others to fix the problem. I think we need to fix it ourselves. Every time we see bad behavior, we should say something, loudly. Every time a convention or industry event ignores women, we should ridicule them for their lack of knowledge about our industry and its future.

This isn’t for my convenience. This is how we save the world. Women are not objects of prey. If, today, we tolerate sexual assault “because look how she’s dressed,” then, tomorrow, they can feel entitled to shop for us on the street, like groceries.

We’re better than that.

FRIDAY AFTERNOON: More Emily S. Whitten!

SATURDAY MORNING: Marc Alan Fishman!