Image: Indy Denys Photograpy
[April Wilson | Contributing Writer]
Comic Con is now officially finding its roots in the UK with over 130,000 attendees this year. Many credit this rise to superhero films, and it’s no surprise considering that in 2014, the second highest grossing film worldwide was Guardians of the Galaxy.
But what do Con goers think about this sudden rise in popularity?
Image: April Wilson | Cosplay: Raven from Teen Titans
“I think it’s good that more people are able to experience it but personally for me it’s a bad thing because I don’t like being in large crowds of people.”
Image: April Wilson | Cosplay: Toothless from How to Train your Dragon
Image: Lara Cross | Cosplay: Gabriel from Supernatural
“I have mixed feelings because it’s nice that more people are turning up for meets so you get more friends. But I was going to book a Con for May and it wanted £110 pound for the ticket (this for Asylum 16, not MCM London Comic Con but Con prices are rising each year).”
One thing I noticed about Comic Con is that there is a real sense of community. For example, one of the most popular activities are the group meets that take place for certain fandoms and the main way this is organised, as most things nowadays are through social media. So what do our cosplayers think of these meets: are they a positive place for fans?
“The problem I have is that I am a plus size cosplayer. When I first did my Raven costume last year, I put up my pictures on a Facebook group for feedback and I got so much hate. But I didn’t just get hate: I got a lot of people sending me messages saying you’re so brave to do this; you look awesome. But I don’t think it’s worth experiencing all the hate for a couple of nice comments, so I don’t engage with that group anymore. Now I post on a specific group for plus size cosplayers.”
Image: Lara Cross | Cosplay: Castiel from Supernatural
“Definitely. I’ve never had anyone say your cosplay is bad. They are always like ‘you are this character’; I love them!”
So, while social media may be a positive way to organise and to meet up with like-minded people, it can be a negative force too in that it lets people have no fear in expressing their opinion. This is something many cosplayers have to face who cosplay a character of a different race.
Also, many women are now choosing to cosplay male characters, and vice versa. What are the cosplayers’ opinions on this within the cosplayer community? Is it something which should be addressed in media itself, the fact that many cosplayers feel that they do not get enough representation in popular culture, or is it simply a case of cosplayers should be allowed to cosplay whoever they want to?
Image: Indy Denys Photography
“I think that you should be able to cosplay whoever you want. If you want to be a character just do it. There is a limit to what people can cosplay, but it’s not just race, a lot of female characters are constricted. I’m not confident wearing anything skimpy and a lot of female heroes are wearing very little.”
“Just be green instead to avoid all issues!”
“I think institutionally, this needs to be addressed. Growing up, it was better for me being white as there was more representation, but the female characters only appeared to be there for two reasons (cue Lara gesturing towards her chest).”
Another concern, not only for female but also male cosplayers as well, is the rising amount of cosplayers receiving unwanted sexual comments at a convention. Such advances have promoted the campaign ‘Cosplay does not equal consent’.
“When I’ve posted my picture on the plus size cosplay group I’ve had a couple of comments saying you’re hot, and that’s not what I was asking. I can kind of look at that from a distance, but I did get someone who added me on FB. He’s a cosplayer and he has a thing for larger women. I felt a little bit weirded out, especially when he kept asking me what size I was.”
“To be honest, I have never seen anything happen at Con. But I definitely think that it needs to be addressed. Because nothing gives you the right to touch someone when they don’t want to be touched. I feel like the situation is over-sexualised anyway, with the poses people are asked to make in costume.”
Are the security at Comic Con, in the eyes of the Con goers, effective? This is something at the forefront of many Con goers’ minds. Incidentally, on my way to the Con I saw a newspaper plastered with the image of a teen in a Darth Vader mask charged with murder at his school. The carrying of weapons at Con is something that is a hot topic with many people, and MCM’s official guidelines on what is actually allowed in the Con are extensive.
Is the potential of weapons something that bothers Con goers at Con, and do they feel that security does enough to manage the situation?
“I’ve never had any concerns with it, but I generally feel quite safe at Con. Though sometimes things which are not dangerous get confiscated, whereas things which could be dangerous are not. It’s not very consistent. I think they should check better at the door. They don’t do bag checks but I kind of think they should.”
“I think there is enough security. I always feel safe at Con. I don’t want them to have any strict rules as then they will start taking things that are props and not dangerous. It could ruin people’s cosplays.”
“Security was very present this year. Previous years they felt invisible. They were checking all the weapons. It’s been years since there has been a proper incident.”
So, Comic Con is a place to feel included, a place to feel confident if only for that day, and as that character. Most of all, the impression given to me was that Comic Con is a place of escapism. After all, who would not want to be a superhero for a day?