The first thing I did when I arrived at the Javits Center for New York Comic Con’s third and most crowded day was fall down, face forward, on the pavement. I think I tripped over the leg of one of the temporary fences put up to the divide the sidewalk for ease of crowd control, but it’s not impossible I just tripped over myself. I felt my lip swell, and blood, so I bounced up, assured the onlookers I was okay, and sped to a street vendor to ask for ice. Then I told Twitter what had happened.
I probably should have started my con experience with Medical. I still had a headache the following Tuesday and it’s not unlikely I ended up with a concussion. In hindsight, it’s pretty likely I did. But at the time, my priority was to pick up my Press badge, trade mitts for web-shooters, and put falling behind me. So I started in the women’s room. The ice had stopped the bleeding and stayed the swelling and the bruises were hidden beneath my clothes. It was lucky I had decided on a crossplay Andrew Garfield-Peter Parker look that included lots of layers and a generally awkward and bedraggled aesthetic. Even the split-lip sort of worked with it. I was starting to feel better and decided to touch up my hair and eye makeup to make me look more dishevelled. I put my backpack down in the sink and immediately the automatic faucet turned on, splashing all over my bag, and bouncing up to hit me. I grabbed it back quickly and nearly hit the person coming in behind me who turned out to be a security guard.
Basically, I have never been more in tune with a character I was cosplaying.
My most personally successful cosplay experience took place at Big Apple Anime in 2004. I dressed as Sailor Saturn of Naoko Takeuchi’s manga Bishōjo Senshi Sailor Moon. I’d previously been Sailor Moon herself so Christian, my costumer husband who makes all my outfits, had perfected his pattern and construction. The bodice of the sailor suit was corseted and the skirt and collar, both with giant bows attached, snapped to it. The pleats fell just right, and nothing moved — it flowed. I’d purchased my knee-high spike-heeled black patent leather boots (the only part of the costume Christian didn’t construct) in Los Angeles and they cost as much as the plane trip from Hartford but they were Saturn’s exactly and I loved them. Finally, I’d cut my hair to a banged bob and dyed it from auburn to black.
Saturn is my favorite Sailor Senshi (“Soldier” or “Scout”). I’m a Capricorn so she is my sign’s scout and therefore meant to resemble my character in some way. Or I am meant to resemble hers; I’m not sure, I’m not an expert in astrology or how it relates to Japanese comic book mythology. Well, Saturn is the Soldier of Destruction, Silence, and Redemption, and her human identity is an introverted motherless school girl who likes science fiction and dancing. So, maybe there is something to astrology after all, because I identify with and embrace all of that. The juxtaposition of a waif being the most powerful destructive force in the galaxy is a recurring theme in everything I am attracted to; Sailor Saturn represents something I am and something I want to be.
Portraying the pale, petite, haunted, and hopeful Sailor Saturn was easy because I understood her and I connected to her. My husband made me a perfect costume. I felt beautiful, I felt powerful, and I felt fearless. And because of that I was a huge hit. Everyone wanted my picture. And I ended up on French television, in an actual interview, representing the convention, New York, and the U.S.A.
My AGPP look was half perfect props delicately constructed or chosen (the jacket, the camera, and replica web-shooters made by my brilliant costumer-husband) and half thrown together at the very last minute (everything else). It would have been more Amazing if I’d had the time and money to make it exactly what I wanted it to be; as it was few people understood I was in costume. Which was fine because I wasn’t there to be in costume. I was there — with my Peter Parker camera — to observe everybody else in costume.
My favorite by far was this TARDIS dress. The Doctor Who contingent was in full force at NYCC and I must have seen over thirty blue-box dresses along with Elevens, Fours, Ponds, Oswins, Roses, Daleks, and a Vincent. I really wanted to see a Ballerina Dalek, I know there were a few there, but I never found one. But this dress stood out. She explained that the dress was 1950s vintage which she’d modified. It was absolutely beautiful, I wish I got a better picture.
Other favorites include:
I returned Sunday with my family in tow. My daughters, like myself, dressed as characters they not only love, but strongly identify with. Kiki, 16, was dressed as a humanized My Little Pony Fluttershy and her sister, Aeris, 7, was Princess Merida from the Pixar film Brave. Fluttershy and Brave is exactly what they were. Kiki was soft spoken and happy to pose but unlikely to approach while Aeris was loud, excited, and willing to walk up to anyone and ask for a picture. They were, to a person, happy to oblige her. This is my favorite part of cosplay culture — the acceptance, the welcome, the willingness to play along with a child who not only loves the character, but half-believes she is standing with the real one.
I had the great fortune to witness this from both sides. Sunday I was dressed as MLP: Friendship is Magic’s Pinkie Pie, in a head to toe furry costume. Basically a walking stuffed toy of a giant pink pony. And one little girl in Artist’s Alley made the entire con experience worth it when she screeched “Pinkie Pie!” and after posing for pictures babbled excitedly about her favorite episodes, near tears with joy at the opportunity to share her love of Pinkie Pie and all the ponies with me.
Not every cosplay experience is like that. Sometimes people are rude. Sometimes people — men, honestly — are creepy. Sometimes I’ve chosen characters so obscure no one recognizes me and it’s really disheartening. Sometimes the costume doesn’t come out right or I don’t have that same personal connection and it’s a chore to keep smiling. And no matter how wonderful the day goes it is also tiring and emotionally draining. Full on cosplay is work even after the costume is made. I was wearing what amounts to fuzzy pajamas on Sunday and I was still exhausted by the end of the day. But it is also fun; the most fun I have ever had as a fan.
I overheard one person (not in costume) complaining that there were “too many” people in costumes, and in costumes that didn’t fit into his idea of a comic-con. At its most spectacular, cosplay is a sight to behold. The people who build their own power armor that lights up and makes noise and looks real. The slave-girls who carry legitimate chains all around the convention floor. The meticulously sewn and constructed outfits that often look better than the ones on film. Some fans spend years and hundreds of dollars to perfect their look and they all deserve applause and acclaim. But just like there are all sorts of superheroes, there are all sorts of cosplayers. And they all count.
Thank you all.