Tagged: Cosplay

Martha Thomases: Comicons, Guns and Flutter

Toy Guns

There is a chance this year that I might again attend the Baltimore Comic-Con next month. This pleases me. It’s a fun show, almost entirely about comic books.

Yeah, there are some movie and television celebrities, and that’s fine. Their presence makes many people happy. They don’t take up a lot of the show floor. For the most part, it’s easy to get around. Similarly, although the cosplay can be brilliant, it doesn’t consume all the available aisle space. Or oxygen.

There is a delightful feeling of cooperation between the folks who run the con and fans and other attendees. Announcements made through the sound system are clear and easy to understand. The pros are accessible, and, in return, the fans don’t maul them. I’m sure there are examples of rudeness and discourtesy, but, unlike at other shows (I’m looking at you, NYCC) they don’t overwhelm the good vibes.

And, also, they have a weapons policy.

I never thought about a show having a weapons policy before. I mean, every municipality has its own laws about guns, and of course a comics convention within city limits must abide by the laws of that particular city. As cosplay continues to grow, cosplayers will want to look as authentic as they possibly can so they can garner the most admiration possible. This means they’ll want realistic-looking imitation swords, knives, lances, maces, lasers and, yes, guns.

Alas, reality intrudes. Just as we must open our bags before we go into a theater these days and walk through an X-Ray machine at the airport, it’s not unreasonable to expect comics conventions to devise tighter security measures. I would rather be patted down before entering, and possibly even surrender my beloved knitting needles, than fear an attack like the one in Orlando.

Fake plastic weapons don’t phase me. Fundamentalist terrorism does.

A lot of my comrades in the anti-war movement think toy weapons are bad. While I respect their opinion, I disagree. I think all of us, including children (maybe especially children) get frustrated with reality and want to act out our rage and fury, even if only in our imaginations. Children need to be taught to accept themselves and their feelings, even the so-called “bad” feelings, if they are ever to have a chance to learn how to control themselves.

It’s a wonderful thing to dress up in a way that expresses are hopes and fears, and then be admired for our creativity. Although cosplay is not my thing (and you should thank your lucky stars for that), I understand how cool it must feel to walk around in public, costumed as a fierce warrior or an intrepid heroine. It must be fun to flirt with evil, dressed as a villain.

While I love these flights of fantasy, I also admire the way graphic storytelling has, over the last couple of decades, expanded into genres that offer more kinds of heroes to admire. Yes, we have Batman and Supergirl and Thor and the Hulk, and villains like Harley Quinn and Loki and Brainiac. We have dorkier, more human-looking characters like Squirrel Girl and Ms. Marvel. We have real life heroes such as Congressman John Lewis, who has organized kids at his convention panels into cosplayers who replicate the March on Selma.

Along with pretending to have superpowers and smashing bad guys (or good guys, as the case may be), the good stuff about Congressman Lewis encouraging this kind cosplay in children is that these kids are learning how to accomplish the same results through active non-violence.

I love him so much for doing this. And I’m not the only one.

Emily S. Whitten: Awesome Con Round-Up & A Look Ahead

Con season has well and truly slid into gear now; with Awesome Con kicking things off a few weeks ago and SDCC and NerdHQ fast approaching. Of course, con season is really year-round these days; but for me, it starts with Awesome Con and ends with New York Comic Con.

This year’s Awesome Con was, as usual, a great start to the season for me. What I like about the con is that despite only being four years old, it’s managed to integrate various fun aspects of different flavors of cons into a fairly seamless whole – meaning that if you aren’t there for one particular facet of the offerings, there are plenty of others to experience. Here were some of the highlights for me:

The media guests:

Awesome Con has consistently done well in getting big names to a young con. This year’s lineup included everyone from screen actors Robin Lord Taylor, Morena Baccarin, Summer Glau, Karl Urban, Peter Capaldi, Jenna Coleman, Matthew Lewis, Jon Barrowman, Brett Dalton, Adam West, and Burt Ward to popular voice actors like Phil LaMarr, Grey DeLisle, Billy West, John DiMaggio, Will Friedle, and Charles Martinet; and also brought folks like professor and writer Carole Barrowman, popular scientist Bill Nye, animator/voice actor C. Martin Croker, and writer/director Kevin Smith to round out the collection.

I had a great time seeing old friends, meeting new amazing, talented folks, and interviewing the fantastic Robin Lord Taylor for ComicMix (and what a delight that man is in person. Seriously. So nice!). I also got a huge kick out of the dichotomy of the two autographs I picked up– Zoidberg (Billy West) was “sooo into” me, but Azula (Grey DeLisle) banished me. Hah! I kind of want to hang them up together.


For the last couple of years I’ve been a panel moderator at Awesome Con (a job that can mean anything from being prepared with questions and conversation to excitedly listing off a few guest names and then sitting back and watching the show), which means those are generally the panels I get a chance to see. This year started out with Saturday’s Futurama panel, featuring voice actors Billy West, Phil LaMarr, and John DiMaggio. The room was packed, the crowd was excited, and the panelists were on fire, making the hour fly by with tons of laughter (and reinforcing my firm belief that you cannot possibly be bored at a voice actor panel). Man, I wish they’d bring Futurama back (again) (another time) (Zombie Futurama, Hi-yoooo!).

The next panel I moderated was for the Discovery Channel’s Destination America: A Haunting, a show that examines real people’s paranormal experiences. The panel featured actor and narrator Tony Call, ghost hunter John Drenner, Jr., show runner Cecile Weiland, and executive producer Cathy Garland, along with clips from the show and new season, and a cool Q&A with the audience, most of whom were True Believers. That made for a pretty cool Q&A with the panelists, who are passionate about their show and creating the best experience for viewers. I learned more than I even expected about the process of making the show, aaaand got a little creeped out while watching the clips. *shiver*

On Sunday, I got to moderate writer and English professor Carole Barrowman’s second panel. That panel was pretty much like attending an interactive workshop on writing techniques and tips, and was a great learning experience. Carole shared stories about her life and working with her brother John Barrowman as well as guidance on writing and her own creative process, and was a blast to listen to (and a super-cool, nice person, too!).

Although moderating kept me busy, one panel I didn’t want to miss was Bill Nye’s Star Talk Live! with Bill Nye, Eugene Mirman, Hari Kondabolu, Dr. Dava Newman, Dr. David Grinspoon, and Jo Firestone. It was the headliner for Awesome Con’s Science Fair, which was another great facet of the con.  I got to hear most of the talk before I had to rush off, and it was epic. The panelists discussed the possibility of getting “boots on Mars” in the relatively near future; and made me want to join The Planetary Society and also go read The Martian Chronicles again. Dava Newman, the Deputy Administrator of NASA and a Professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics and Engineering Systems at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Dr. David Grinspoon, astrobiologist and Senior Scientist at the Planetary Science Institute, were particularly interesting. And the addition of comedians to the mix of scientists made it an amusing as well as exciting talk. I’m so glad I didn’t miss that one!

Artist Alley:

I always love Artist Alley; and this year, I felt Awesome Con’s had gotten more robust, with a good collection of big-name and major company creators along with newer talents and independent creators. Among other things I was finally able to meet Skottie Young, albeit briefly as he was only in town for the day (but I always seem to miss him at cons, so was glad to catch him). I also picked up his I Hate Fairyland, which is about a snarky gal with a battle axe (!) who’s trapped in Fairyland. I got to chat with Fred Van Lente, who had, among other things at his table, a stack of Assassin’s Creed issues with a little sign that said, “Ask me why this comic is weird;” and because I can never resist such things, I ended up asking and then buying an issue that has no page 1 and two page 18s! I visited with Joe Harris and Matthew Dow Smith, and picked up the X-Files Christmas Special, as recommended by Matt. I also got to say a quick hi to Franco Aureliani and Marc Hempel (although I somehow missed getting to Mark Waid and Mark Wheatley, thus utterly failing in my goal to See All The Mar(c)ks).

Another fun thing I did while in Artist Alley was walk around with my coworker, and her daughter who is getting interested in creating comics. I had so much fun taking them around and introducing her daughter to the likes of Jim Calafiore (from whom I also picked up Leaving Megalopolis, his project with Gail Simone, which I’ve been wanting to read), Mike McKone, Daniel Govar, and Andrew Aydin so that she could ask them about how they got into comics and what tips they might have for an aspiring creator. It was great to watch these professionals take the time to encourage her and give her advice.

While in Artist Alley I also began a “project” I meant to start ages ago, when I bought a little Canson spiral sketchbook; which is to collect sketches from favorite artists. I started the collection with Tony Moy (from whom I also finally acquired this Vitruvian Totoro on a wood block, which I’ve been coveting for several conventions) and Daniel Govar. Such great pieces to start off my book!

Shopping & the Exhibit Floor:

The exhibition floor, with its booths and shopping, was crowded but great fun. In terms of merchandise it offered everything from comics and big-ticket collectibles to toys and handmade crafts. I, of course, can never resist a bit of shopping no matter how I try (really, I tried!!) which is how I ended going home with  a stuffed and mounted narwhal head for my bathroom (what? It’s perfectly normal to have fictional creature heads mounted in your bathroom!); a tiny happy pancakes magnet (it’s so happyyyyy! And the magnet is strong); a cuddly crocheted Companion Cube (so squishable!!); and a little green keychain Kirby (for luck! Green Kirbys are lucky, right? I feel that they must be).

While wandering the floor, I also happened upon just a couple of the many fun display or educational exhibits set up. One was the Department of Energy’s booth (which apparently Awesome Con provides for free because it’s a government agency – good for Awesome Con!) at which a gal from Aftershock Comix was demonstrating DOE’s super-cool interactive energy display; and the Geppi Museum’s immensely fun traveling museum, which was literally awesome; as in, I was awestruck by some of the great pieces they had on view in this very well-set up, professional and attractive display – all the more impressive because it was the very first time they’ve displayed this traveling exhibit, despite having had the idea to do it for some time. If you’ve been to Geppi’s Entertainment Museum in Baltimore, you will know that Steve Geppi’s collection of comics and pop-culture memorabilia is overwhelming and awe-inspiring, and that it’s a lot of fun to wander through the myriad rooms in the building, reminiscing about things you recognize, and coveting pieces you might never think you’d see in person. And even though obviously they couldn’t bring the whole collection to Awesome Con, the pieces in the mini-museum had been carefully selected to represent a broad variety of really, really cool stuff – from extremely early Mickey Mouse art to rare Spider-Man comics, and more. The mini-museum also featured several video screen displays, one of which showed parts of the full museum and another of which was interactive and allowed you to read some of the comics on display. The display also featured a very old working television playing early films, and other nifty pieces. The plan is for the traveling museum to go to cons all over the country; and if it’s at one you’re going to, I highly recommend you check it out.

And of course, while walking around the floor and con, I encountered some fun cosplay, which is always neat. One particularly fun photo I got was of Aquawoman with the voice of Aquaman (Phil LaMarr); but I also enjoyed this extremely good Winter Soldier who posed with my friend Tom as Captain America; this Squirtle that my friend Rachel was delighted to see; these genderbent Captain America: The First Avenger gals; and the most adorable (and age appropriate, thank goodness!) Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy you’ve ever seen.

And that pretty much wrapped up the con for me. Except, of course, for the “afterparty,” which for me means finding a chill bar nearby for a drink and dessert (the best way to round out your convention experience!). This year, the bar wind-down also included two guys arting (finishing up some commissions before going on their way) which made it way, way cooler than it would otherwise have been. You’re good peoples, Dan Govar and Tony Moy. Also, I want all of your art.

But the fun isn’t over, you guys. Because in just three weeks, I’ll be heading off to San Diego Comic Con and Nerd HQ, two concurrent and fantastic events that I can’t wait to attend. The exclusives, guest news, and other things to look forward to have already started appearing all over the internets, and I’m hearing great things about this year’s NerdHQ. So stay tuned, and hopefully I’ll have more fun con news, interviews, and round-ups for you soon.

Until next time, Servo Lectio!

Review: Star Wars™ and the Power of Costume: The Exhibition

Gallery of Padme's Costumes

Gallery of Padme’s Costumes

“Sometimes creating an entire galaxy begins with a single stitch.” So begins the narration at a spectacular new exhibit in New York City about Star Wars costumes and artifacts. Coinciding with the release of the new movie, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, the show Rebel, Jedi, Princess, Queen: Star Wars™ and the Power of Costume: The Exhibition, is on display now at Discovery Times Square through September 5, 2016.

The exhibition is the result of a partnership between Discovery Times Square, the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service and Lucasfilm. It features 15 galleries with over 70 pieces taken from the collection of the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art. The show includes costumes, props and other items from the three original movies, the prequels, and even several ensembles from The Force Awakens.

 As a lifelong Star Wars fan (old enough to have seen A New Hope when it was first released in theaters) I warmly welcomed the opportunity to see this exhibition. It holds particular interest for me because I am a seamstress and cosplayer who has over the years enjoyed re-creating Star Wars costumes for such occasions as Halloween and convention masquerades.

This was actually my third Star Wars exhibit. I saw Star Wars and The Magic of Myth (which originated at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum) when it came to the Brooklyn Museum in 2002. In 2005 I traveled to Los Angeles (from my home in New York) to see Dressing a Galaxy: The Costumes of Star Wars at the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising. Even if you’ve seen one or both of the former, I highly recommend visiting the current show at Times Square, if you can. You’ll see many old favorites as well as new classics, and you will discover quite a bit about what went on behind the scenes to create them.

The exhibit begins in a small anteroom, where a short film introduces you to key players, including costume designers Ralph McQuarrie and Tricia Biggar; the film also has an amusing 3D shout-out that I won’t spoil – but it made me smile. Then a space-station style door slides open, revealing a glass case contrasting two generations of Star Wars: Obi-Wan Kenobi’s costume from 1977’s A New Hope (a.k.a. the first Star Wars movie release, or Episode 4), and the well-known red light-up throne room costume worn by Queen Amidala in 1999’s The Phantom Menace (the prequel Episode 1). I soon found out that the lights around this gown’s hem were powered by a car battery.

Two Star Wars Genearations: Obi-Wan Kenobi and Queen Amidala

Two Star Wars Generations: Obi-Wan Kenobi and Queen Amidala

From there, you can wander at your leisure through the worlds of The Galaxy Far, Far Away. There are rooms with Jedi Knights and Sith; Amidala and other queens of Naboo with their handmaids; the shiny exoskeletons of droids; and a sinister hall of mirrors that duplicates Stormtrooper helmets and armor into an infinite legion. You can compare the shiny, pristine armor of bounty hunter Jango Fett to the “second generation knockoff” of his “son,” Boba. (The quote comes from the exhibit captions, not me!)

A Virtual Legion of Stormtroopers

A Virtual Legion of Stormtroopers

There are also rooms comparing Rebel and Imperial soldiers; a display with the sumptuous robes of various background Imperial Senators and Chancellor Palpatine; the luxurious clothing worn by Padme Amidala in her days as a Senator (and as Mrs. Anakin Skywalker), and of course, the black leather suit of Darth Vader. You will also see some classics: Luke Skywalker’s Jedi garments, Han Solo’s outfit, Chewbacca’s furry exterior, and the infamous slave girl “bikini” worn by Princess Leia in Return of the Jedi (Displayed with choice remarks about the outfit from Carrie Fisher).

The Infamous Slave Girl Costume

The Infamous Slave Girl Costume

The exhibit has some very cool interactive features. In the Jedi room, you can push a button and light up the light sabers (with accompanying sound effects). You’ll learn a lot from numerous touch panels installed throughout the galleries that show you sketches, photographs, and audio and video clips with greater detail about the production process. I was particularly moved by an audio clip of Anthony Daniels, who was inspired in his performance of C-3P0 by a preliminary painting he saw of the robot that was done by Ralph McQuarrie. (“Clearly, the figure wasn’t human, but it was so humanoid…Our eyes met, and it seemed to speak to me.”) From other panels you will discover that it takes over 14 distinctive steps to get an actor into the Darth Vader costume.

What I found most interesting about this show was its emphasis on the symbolism and meaning of the costume designs, and how they were used to illustrate the characters who wore them. There are extensive explanatory texts that describe the thought processes behind the costumes, and what particular inspirations from Earth culture were used in the designs. You get not only quotes from Star Wars production teams but also wider cultural analysis from curators at the Smithsonian.

Queen Amidala's Mongolian-Inspired Headdress

Queen Amidala’s Mongolian-Inspired Headdress

For example, we learn how the Jedi costumes were inspired by the Japanese Samurai (and how, since the Sith started with renegade Jedi, their costumes, particularly that of Darth Maul, are similar in design). The East Asian influence continues in many of the kimono-like outfits of the Queens of Naboo, and one of Amidala’s royal headdresses is based on a Mongolian design.

Similarly, there is much discussion about how the costumes portray the essential nature of the character. Colors, for example, denote whether a character is good or evil. (The good Jedi wear earth tones vs. the Sith, who dress in black.) The rebels wear uniforms inspired by American fighter pilots and war heroes; the Imperial officers’ costumes come from German uniforms in World War I and II. (Lucas said he wanted them to look “efficient, totalitarian, fascist.”) Han Solo’s costume is essentially that of an American cowboy. The masks of the Stormtroopers and Darth Vader dehumanize them and thus contribute to their aura of malevolence. Even the sumptuous robes of Chancellor (later Emperor) illustrate his decline into greater and greater evil.

Imperial Officer (Evil), Rebel Pilot (Good), TIE Fighter Pilot (Evil)

Imperial Officer (Evil), Rebel Pilot (Good), TIE Fighter Pilot (Evil)

The hard-core costuming geek can find out a lot about the nitty-gritty details regarding how the costumes were made: what materials they used (and why), and in some cases even how much they cost. For example, the original Stormtrooper costumes were made of a mixture of light polyester resin and a glass fiber that was cured in a mold under a vacuum. Of the entire 1977 costume budget of Star Wars: A New Hope, the Stormtrooper costumes alone consumed almost half the money.

My personal favorite costumes from the films are the amazing outfits worn by Natalie Portman as Queen Amidala/Senator Padme, whose elaborate design and craftsmanship have long impressed me. Of the 37 different outfits from all 3 prequels that she wore, there are at least a dozen of the in this exhibit. The costume designers demonstrated great ingenuity in creating these ensembles. In some cases they used vintage fabrics and repurposed found items (especially in the headdresses). In other cases they tracked down exotic fabrics from all over the world, and enhanced them with embroidery, hand-dyeing and other processes. In the introductory film, Biggar says, “Everything we can do to fabric, we have done it.” For a literally “hands-on experience,” many of the costumes in the exhibit feature sample fabric swatches mounted nearby that visitors can actually touch.

As a costumer who has a tendency to work until the last possible minute, I could relate to one of the anecdotes about the lace wedding dress (made partly from a vintage Italian tablecloth) that Padme wears for her marriage to Anakin at the end of Attack of the Clones. The night before the scene was to shoot, Tricia Biggar decided the dress needed further embellishment, so she stayed up all night sewing pearls onto it.

Padme's Wedding Gown, detail (Photo by K. Cadena)

Padme’s Wedding Gown, detail (Photo by K. Cadena)

The entire presentation of the costumes was, for the most part, excellent. Most of them are not under glass, allowing you to get a really good look at the details. (The level of workmanship for characters that sometimes appear for only seconds on screen is amazing.) Visitors are allowed to take non-flash photos, and the lighting is generally quite good. However, I did have one disappointment. The Chewbacca and Han Solo costumes are displayed in front of a very brightly-lit panel that imitates the hyperspace effect. Though it looks very dramatic from a distance, the backlighting of the costumes leaves them in relative darkness and makes them relatively hard to see. However, this is one minor misstep in what is otherwise a first-rate show.

As you leave the show, you’ll see a figure of Yoda, and the costumes from The Force Awakens. For final interactive fun, you can pose in front of mirrors which capture your motions and render you as one of the SW characters in 3D.

When I first arrived at the show, by way of introduction one of the museum guides said “The exhibit takes about an hour to go through – four or five hours if you’re a Star Wars fan.” I laughed, thinking it was a joke. Well, I entered the exhibit at about 3 pm. After a thoroughly enjoyable time experiencing it in great detail, I checked the time when I reached the end. It was almost 7. Four hours just FLEW by. I felt as if I had been transported through time and space.


Rebel, Jedi, Princess, Queen: Star WarsTM and the Power of Costume was developed by the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service in partnership with the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art and in consultation with Lucasfilm Ltd. Lucasfilm Ltd., the Lucasfilm logo, Star Wars™ and all related characters, names and indicia are trademarks of & copyright © & ™ 2015 Lucasfilm Ltd. All rights reserved.
©2015 &™ Discovery Communications, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Tweeks Long Beach Comic Expo 2016

We spent last weekend at the 6th annual Long Beach Comic Expo. Basically we shopped and counted Deadpool costumes, but we also interviewed some comic creators and went to some panels too. Here are some of our highlights, so you can feel like you were there too. We’ll be back next week with some interviews.

Oh, and our final Deadpool count was 68. Maddy won.

McCall’s Jumps Into Cosplay!

McCall’s Jumps Into Cosplay!


The McCall Pattern Company today announced the release of three new sewing patterns intended to help cosplayers and costume makers bring their own imaginative looks to life more easily and expertly than ever before.

“Cosplayers who make their own costumes are incredibly resourceful stitchers and stylists, possibly the most resourceful,” said Kathleen Wiktor, Director of Retail and Consumer Promotions for the McCall Pattern Company. “These deeply engaged superfans could never be satisfied with an “off the shelf” look.  Though inspired by their favorite characters, they want their costumes to reflect as much personal style as possible. That’s what we set out to help them achieve with ‘Cosplay by McCall’s.’”

CosplayLogo_BlackStackedRegThe brand, launched by the company online last fall, came about after more than a year of conversations with cosplayers who sew.  “We set up a modest display at a comic convention in New York and were overwhelmed by fans eager to tell us how they’d been using our McCall’s, Butterick and Kwik Sew patterns for years in creating and crafting their own costumes,” said Janet Wolf, VP Marketing.   “So we invited them to sit down with us and discuss the best ways we could be of help to them today.

Each new pattern offers step-by-step instructions for creating a central component of any number of looks and ensembles.  Be it an airborne avenger from a distant galaxy or an angelic herald from an alternate universe, imagination literally takes wing with FLIGHT.  Fans looking to pay tribute to a favorite hero of anime or rogue adventuress will find inspiration in TRENCHED.  And for those for whom winter can’t come soon enough, CLOAK X has got them covered.

“Cosplayers we spoke with also told us that they like to reuse patterns for different cosplays,” said Wiktor. “So we printed these patterns and their guidesheets on brighter, more durable paper.” The outer envelopes are also larger, glossier and of a heavier paper stock, designed with more room for additional information, sewing tips, line drawings and photo references.

Priced from $17.95 to $19.95, each pattern is available exclusively online at www.CosplayByMcCalls.com. Once at the site, visitors also have access to The Vault Collection, a continually expanding selection of designs, silhouettes and accessories reissued especially for creative cosplayers.  They’ll also find ideas and suggestions posted by McCall’s own team of cosplayers and members of the broader cosplay community.

“The growth in cosplay participation, diversity and creativity around the world is truly phenomenal,” added Wolf.  “For as long as fans desire to essentially transform into their favorite characters, ‘Cosplay by McCall’s’ will be there to help them with ideas, inspiration and ingenuity.”


Tweeks Try On McCalls Cosplay

This week McCall’s introduced three new patterns in their Cosplay by McCall’s series. Did you even know they had a series for Cosplayers? Well, they do. It’s been around since last fall – and it was developed after talking to actual cosplayers about their needs, wants, etc. Yaya Han even has her own line. Priced from $17.95 to $19.95 (with some really great sales going on now for much much less), the patterns can be reused for different cosplays and seem pretty easy with their step by step instructions and larger outer envelopes full of additional info, sewing tips, line drawings and photo references. There’s also a blog with more ideas on the cosplay.mccall.com site.

The new patterns are Flight, Trenched & Cloak X and in this episode, we give some suggestions of what we’d make with them, plus what patterns we love from the other cosplay collections on the site. There’s so many cool patterns. that we could totally costume ourselves for all of our fandoms from Supernatural to Avengers, from Jane Austen to Hamilton, from Disney Princesses to Anime cats! Only problems is the actual sewing part…which actually doesn’t look like it would be impossible….when we figure out our sewing machine.

So, hopefully, a talented seamstress out there will make one of our suggestions and let us know how it works out. Or maybe a very kind and talented seamstress will make us something to wear at the next con.


Ed Catto’s Person of the Year


It’s that time of year to pause and look back at the best of and the coolest stuff of the year. It’s always fascinating to compare and contrast what you feel was more important with what everyone else feels what was important. It doesn’t really matter what the topic or industry is – there’s bound to be disagreements. I was especially amused when the roundtable on MSNBC’s Morning Joe show was criticizing Time magazine’s choice for Person of the Year. So naturally, I started thinking about who should be the Person of the Year in Geek Culture. And the more I thought about it – the more I was convinced this was the time for one of those high concept pronunciations. So for Geek Culture Person of the Year – I choose The Cosplayer.

The Cosplayer embraces and exemplifies so much of pop culture. Its almost as if cosplayer collectively are playing another role – the proxy hero for Geek Culture.

bombshell-ww-1Convention Growth

Cosplayers, by definition, dress in costumes at comic conventions. Oh, sure, we saw a lot of cosplay during Star Wars’ opening weekend, recently on Back to the Future Day and a slightly different flavor of it all at the various Santa Con pub crawls. But by and large, cosplayers cosplay at comic cons. And that’s where so many of the big stories have been this year. In 2016, there were more comic conventions than ever before. And there were more high quality conventions. And there were more fun small conventions. And more international conventions. Attendance records were routinely shattered and the convention season now stretches to cover the entire calendar from January to December.

But with this growth has also come some growing pains. The mix of attendees, and their reasons for attending conventions, is changing dramatically. Geek Culture at comic conventions now means so many things beyond comics. At some conventions, some dealers of old comics struggle to find their place in the new order. New, often unexpected, exhibitors are always jumping into the fray. Even the traffic patterns of convention aisles is changing, especially as taking photos is now a much bigger part of the experience than it once was.

And the Cosplayers aren’t the only reason for these changes – but they are a big part of it. Their goals at a convention might not include shopping, treasure hunting or snagging artwork from a favorite artist. On the other hand they bring a level of enthusiasm and creativity that’s not seen in any other gathering. So many gatherings of super-passionate fans, everything from the US Open Tennis Championships to the National Dog Show, encourage fans to be there as spectators – not participants.

Diversity and Acceptance

Baked into the idea of today’s cosplay is a wonderful non-judgmentalism. If you cosplay as Superman, you don’t have to be tall and muscular. You don’t have to be a man or white. You’re even applauded for stretching the original character’s concepts into something new and different. And that’s whey we may see a steampunk Superman or a Stormtrooper Superman.

Diversity BCC Cosplay GLC Shazam
So you don’t need a super-physique to cosplay super-characters. Sure, there’s some shallow, judgmental lunkheads out there, but the wonderful overwhelming mindset that cosplay brings is a celebration of all different body types. And in today’s hypercritical social media atmosphere, so often based on passing judgments via “likes”, it’s an important cultural counterbalance.

CA_BatmanOn-Ramp for New Fans

Back in the day, there were always a few blowhard know-it-all-fans (cough, cough) who took great pride in their knowledge of trivia and backstory about certain comic characters. New fans often felt condescension when these fans, the industry’s culture version of Wine Snobs, looked down their noses at the rest of fandom.

But Cosplaying has worked to change that. If someone wants to cosplay as a certain character, but doesn’t know all-there-is-to-know about a character, it’s fine! There have been reports of the old guard shaming new fans when they cosplayed “incorrectly” (i.e., not getting their characters’ details correct.) But lately, it seems that this unfortunate paradigm is flipped on its head, and now cosplayers are applauded for trying new things and celebrating them in the costumes.

Green Arrow New DelhiIt’s a Family Affair

How wonderful it is to see the way that Geek Culture now embraces families. I’m a second-generation comic fan. Both my mom and dad read and traded them back in the way. And my dad would flip through my new comics stack and enjoy the latest Jonah Hex or Master of Kung Fu.
At conventions today, it’s wonderfully common to see families cosplaying together. Usually, it’s a dad who’s introducing the kids to his favorite hobby. But at the recent New Jersey Comic Expo (it was a great show), I was thrilled to see two brilliant cosplayers dressed as Captain America and a female Red Skull bring their parents, portraying a Peggy Carter and Steve Rogers. 

Cosplay Knows No Borders

Like Geek Culture, it’s a worldwide phenomenon. Cosplay is now a part of every major Comic Convention. In fact, this morning I was sent a Buzzfeed link showcasing “27 Cosplayers from Comic Con who are Absolutely Nailing this Costume Thing”.

Mike Gold and Blackhawk Cosplay BCC* * *

So here’s a holiday toast to the creativity and passion of all 2015’s cosplayers. Congratulations on being voted as my “Geek Culture Person of the Year”. Now start planning for next year.

(Note: The Editor is profoundly embarrassed to note that it is he who is standing to our right of Blackhawk, in a photo taken at the ComicMix booth at this year’s Baltimore Comic Con.)

Emily S. Whitten: Adventures in Costume-Making, Halloween Edition

Hot TopicHappy post-Halloween, everyone! I hope it was spooooky and fun and sugar-coma-tastic. Man, I love Halloween. And this year I had a big party to go to, so I decided to go all out on my costume, a creepy “broken doll.”

Even though this year’s costume was not specifically geek-related (unlike that year I went as Black Canary and everyone thought I was Lady Gaga… sigh), I had a great time putting it together, and since putting together a good costume is part of the fun for me at some conventions, and I haven’t done a costume how-to (Emily-style!) in a while, I thought I’d give it a whirl with my Halloween getup.

I am unashamed to admit that this year’s costume idea came from an email Hot Topic sent out advertising their Halloween costume pieces. (And FYI, if anyone else is remembering the days when Hot Topic mostly contained black things covered in spikes, you are now on notice that these days it also contains a lot of awesome geek and pop culture clothing and collectibles.) Although I do like to try to come up with my own spin on costume things, my starting point was definitely the Doll Leg Tights on the Hot Topic site. I saw them and just thought, “A life-sized doll. What a cool, creepy idea.” Especially since I have a weird fascination with the idea of dolls (and other toys) coming to life (wherein depending on the toy, you either wind up as one of the humans in Toy Story or in Chucky and who can say which it will be until it’s too late? See also: the evil doll in the new Ash vs. Evil Dead show, which is hilariously cute-evil).

Unfortunately, by the time I realized I wanted to do a creepy doll costume the tights were all sold out. Undeterred, I thought, “How hard can it be to make doll legs?” Well. Not as easy as you’d expect, actually, but then again, nothing ever is in costuming. That’s what makes it fun! (And after all, it’s not Emily-style costuming unless you attempt to make something you’ve never made before from scratch with little idea how and almost no time to spare.) I decided to give it a go, and ran through the options of drawing them on with makeup, creating some custom temporary tattoos as I have for previous costumes, or using permanent marker (either directly on my skin, or on tights).

I nixed the idea of makeup because I didn’t want to have to worry about it smearing and coming off on things, and I decided against the temporary tattoos because I didn’t have time to properly fit and scale them in Photoshop. A friend informed me that drawing on yourself with ink or permanent marker is bad for you (oops for all those years I waitressed at the Arts Center and doodled on myself in between orders). So I decided to try permanent marker on light-colored hose. It…did not go well. It turns out, permanent marker is not actually permanent on hose. Instead, it gets all over everything. Ick. Fortunately, at that point I remembered my cache of fabric paint (d’oh!); and in the end, that’s what I used. (I have been informed that Michael’s also has fabric markers, so that might be an option for other DIYers, but I didn’t have time to go buy any).

The fabric paint worked pretty well, considering. It’s not super easy to paint on your own legs, but in the end, and using some photo references, I managed some acceptable doll ball joints. Given I was going as a broken doll, I then added a bunch of cracks, which was the fun part. It was kind of like painting lightning; and I also discovered that making some of the cracks really black in the center gave them a more realistic look, for added creepy brokenness. I then managed to create arm-hose by cutting apart a pair of regular hose and then cutting finger-holes in the toes (pro tip: because hose stretch so much, the finger-holes can be only a few millimeters across when you cut them; and you can then use a thin line of clear nail polish around the cuts to stop runs). And then, of course, I painted on them, too.

I was pretty happy with the end result for a first attempt, although as a fair warning to anyone else who wants to try this, some of the paint does bleed through and will thus have to be scrubbed off afterwards, and also touched up on the hose before a second wear. But the Tulip brand of fabric paint I used wasn’t hard to get off.

Once I had the arms and legs out of the way, the rest of the costume wasn’t too challenging; although I did also do some fancy-schmancy nails in one of my favorite greens to match, and those took some time. But fancy dolls have to have fancy nails! (For my fellow nail polish addicts, that’s China Glaze Smoke and Ashes from the Hunger Games line, Wet N’ Wild Spoiled in Correction Tape, and Sally Hansen Lacquer Shine in Glow.) As per the Emily-style costuming method, I love to repurpose costume pieces I’ve used before. Therefore I decided that this doll was going to be a sort of dark harlequin/ballerina-style doll, and pulled together the green corset and fluffy black skirt that originated in an Absinthe Fairy costume, a black lace shirt with puffed sleeves that’s played its part in my Discworld ensembles, and ballet flats that, quite honestly, are part of my regular work attire.

That just left hair, makeup, and accessories. For whatever reason, despite my hair’s inherent general inability to hold any curl whatsoever, I discovered recently that it will stay naturally in simple curled pigtails (weird!) so I opted for those, helped along by hair spray for a little extra staying power, and accented with black ribbon bows. The necklace was actually a Hot Topic purchase I’d never found anything to wear with before, but it set this ensemble off perfectly; and the earrings added a nice additional pop of green to a fairly dark outfit.

The makeup job was a bit tricky, I’ll admit; but it had to be right to pull the costume together. Fortunately, the set of colors I usually use for Harley Quinn could be repurposed for this (and can be acquired at your local CVS). For anyone who wants to replicate the look, I started with circles of Maybelline’s “Dream Bouncy” blush in Plum Wine, which is a cream blush that stays put and shows up well under powder. The powder went over my whole face and is Manic Panic’s “Virgin” Pressed White Powder, which is of excellent quality. I then drew on dark, fairly thin eyebrows with a black brow pencil to get that more doll-like look.

Next up were the eyes – with white around the outside on the bottom, and on the upper lids, to make them look unnaturally large and doll-like (Milani’s Runway Eyes in Backstage Basics has a pearly white that I used). Under the eyebrows I used the basic brown in Revlon’s Illuminance Cream Shadow set, with a touch of the shimmery brown on the inside areas, to make the eyes look like they were more deeply-set. Once I had the basics done, I drew the shape of the bigger doll “eyes” and eyelashes underneath in black liquid eyeliner, and filled in the lower half of my upper lids with the same, getting wider towards the outside of the eye. I finished the eyes with some fake eyelashes on the upper lids to add to the blinking doll effect.

The black eyeliner was also what I used to draw the “cracks” on my face, and worked very well for that because of the liquidity and fine tip on the eyeliner brush. I finished off the look with a lipstick base of Maybelline “Bare All” (originally acquired for my Orphan Black Helena costume) to get rid of my natural lip color, then drew on a smaller, rounded pair of doll lips using Milani Easy Liner in Sugar Plum, Revlon Ultimate ColorStay Liquid Lipstick in Brilliant Bordeaux, and Revlon ColorBurst Lipgloss in Bordeaux. Et voilà! Creepy broken doll face, and Creepy Broken Doll.

After that, all that remained was to go hang out at an awesome house party with the likes of Rose Quartz and Miss Fisher and Daredevil and to happen upon some great settings like this pumpkin-filled alleyway or this old trunk and stone wall in which to take some super creepy doll photos.

So there you have it, folks! A Halloween how-to. Hope it’s helpful to any fellow costumers out there; and until next time, Servo Lectio!

…Because if you don’t? I WILL EAT YOUR SOUL.


Marc Alan Fishman: The New York Comic Conned Us

Vienna Hot Dog

As directed, indirectly, by EIC Mike Gold earlier this week, I’m here to report back on my experiences last week at the illustrious New York Comic Con. Let’s cut to the chase… It sucked.

Now, that’s an over simplification with a massive asterisk by it, hence I’ve got a bit of mental baggage to unpack here. Luckily that means my column this week will be more than three sentences long. Or maybe that’s unlucky, in case you’re forced to read my column every week. And in that case… Fly, you fools!

The basic gist you need to understand is this: my anecdotal feelings about a show are trumped by the data. In that respect I’m a Moneyball kind of comic book creator. Each show for me and my Unshaven cohorts is a collection of potential sales opportunities. Beyond anything else, I personally derive my opinion on a show first and foremost by the number of books we sell, and the ratio by which we “close” on potential customers.

By all accounts, Unshaven Comics has always grown a minimum of 10% in sales over the year prior – when comparing a show to which we return. We attended the NYCC for the first time in 2013 and sold a record 527 books. We were elated… until 2014, when NYCC netted us 738. This year, we saw only 536 books moved. And this stands in the face of ReedPop blowing the doors out with record attendance. So, never mind all the feelings we may or may not have had… the show sucked for us. As well should any show we attend wherein we don’t see a gain in sales.

But as I said: there’s a big ol’ asterisk there.

In terms of our closing ratio, we’re right on the money. A total of 835 heard our pitch. Oh, what pitch? Can I tell you about our comic book? Awesome! It’s call the Samurnauts. It’s about a team of Samurai-Astronauts, led by an immortal Kung-Fu monkey… saving humanity from zombie-cyborg space pirates! As you can see, this is a full-color, 36-page book. We’re selling them here at the show for just $5 today. And for everyone who picks it up here… you’ll get it signed by the entire creative team that worked on it. So… would you like to give it a try? As I was saying, 835 people heard that. 339 of them bought. That means roughly 39% of the people who dropped by our table walked away a satisfied customer. That stat is consistent with the data from 2014, which in turn makes selling fewer books sting a bit less.

Beyond the hard numbers comes the exploration of why. The primary reason: Location, location, location. Due to circumstances I’d rather not detail here, we lost our booth space we’d held in 2014. We were moved to a corner spot an aisle back, in the furthest back portion of a row kitty-corner to the lone deadspot on the show floor. And make no bones about that; in each of our Unshaven jaunts into the show floor (for lunch, to visit a friend, to make purchases for our friends and families), we each reported back that literally the entirety of the show floor was shoulder-to-shoulder shuffling save only for the area directly adjacent to our booth. That fans were using it as a spot to catch a seat, recharge phones, or just loiter added to the complacent nature of our business dealings. This was in direct opposition to 2014, where we’d enjoyed essentially a never-ending tide of passing potential customers.

Outside of real estate issues, I’m also a pragmatist. We didn’t reach our production goals to bring the completion of our mini-series, The Curse of the Dreadnuts, to the show. We essentially walked in with nothing new save for a pair of new posters, and new stickers. I will step out on a tangent quickly to note: Rick and Morty is a damn popular show, and if we’d read my article from a few weeks back I would be sitting here proclaiming the show to be a boon due to epic poster sales. But as I’d lamented then as I reiterate now: I’m in the business of moving comics for better or worse. This year, it was worse.

But all that aside, the show is as it ever was: the largest and grandest show Unshaven Comics attends every year. The fans that stop are energetic and passionate. The cosplay is astounding (Hulk Buster, much?), and everything that surrounds the show is fun to be around. The Javits Center is decked to the gills with sights and sounds that showcase our ever-expanding worlds. The people walking in the door are from dozens of countries, all sharing in the same experiences and loves. And for those discovering we indie folk, well, they are the best kind of explorers to us. Outside the day-to-day, Unshaven Comics is also privy to staying at the wonderful Casa Del Hauman, which grants us a feeling of security otherwise unfounded in a city that offers up the Port Authority Bus Terminal. We even made our way to Brooklyn for a barbeque meal so astounding, I’m honestly afraid of writing more about it because Editor Gold wasn’t there to share in what will stand as the single best plate of Q to which I’ve ever been privy. But I – as I ever shall be known to do – digress.

So, the New York Comic Con was basically a bust for us. But we live, we learn, we improve. Come 2016 we’ll return to the show with two new books, a slew of new prints and merchandise, and hopefully a better booth from which to sell said merch. We’ll find those friends who didn’t come by to say hi (Alan Kistler, Emily Whitten, and Mindy Newell… I’m looking at you!).

We’ll do as we’ve always done: Take a bite out of the big apple, and remind ourselves that we’ll always prefer Chicago hot dogs to those lousy rot-water Sabretts. Natch.

Tweeks: More D23 2015 Adventures

As promised, here is Part 2 of our adventures at D23 Expo at the Anaheim Convention Center.  In this video we take a look at some of our favorite things (Harrison Ford, Chris Evans, Benedict Cumberbatch, Teen Beach Movie, etc) and ask some expo-goers what their favorite things have been over the weekend. There’s also plenty of cosplay, some Broadway stars, new Disney things to acquire, and a special “hi” from Markiplier!