When you’re at NYCC it’s easy to get caught up in that atmosphere, and when you’re there for 4 days getting up before sunrise to get ready and not getting home until after midnight, it’s very easy to become engrossed in that world. Covering NYCC is work but it’s work I love doing and topics I love covering, so this is my kid in the candy store moment with a pass to sample anything and everything. So simply saying that it’s more than worth it for me is an understatement. I have my moments, such as attending the X-Files 20 year anniversary panel, where it’s just complete enjoyment and I forget how much dedication could actually go into this because it’s so much fun too. So I assumed that cosplayers, who are clearly among NYCC attendees, could have a similar mentality knowing the amount of time, effort, money and preparation that goes into it. Granted it is possible to see people in NYC wearing unusual outfits at any time during the year, but in mid-October when you get within blocks of the Javits Center, you can be sure that the walking crowd of cosplayers are all heading to NYCC. It looks like a mass exodus from the outside world with the people heading to a destination that not only welcomes but encourages their passions/interests. And I don’t know the percentage of attendees who were cosplayers but from my very small sample size it was around 50% and I wouldn’t be surprised if that was the same percentage for all the attendees or even more. And since cosplaying is so big (TV shows, contests, etc) and isn’t just limited to NYCC, I will limit it here to the NYCC experience and what it means to them.
Above is a photo of Pam Maz, who has attended 7 NYCCs, cosplaying as a scuba Mandalorian this year. Just take a moment to look closely at this incredible photo and admire the detail and then imagine the time and effort that goes into this. You can see more of her pictures on her blog. She described how this was done: “I started the scuba suit in the start of 2012. I wore a incomplete version of it that year, and I continued working on it until it was finished for 2013. So almost two years of work. I plan my costumes in a very detailed manner that addresses the challenges of long time wear as well as the fact that a lot of times when going to events I’m by myself so I have to makes sure that I can get in and out of costumes by myself. I also have to plan the costumes in a way that hides these features. So with enough zippers and compound pieces I’m able to suit up in my scuba mando by myself in about 15 minutes. I tend to take longer though to make sure all the little things are aligned and makes sure I don’t forgot anything. So it’s half just standing there and thinking. Of course by now I have a check list I carry around so I don’t have to think about it.”
She wasn’t by herself this time and is part of a club of Mandalorians and they walked around together on Friday and Saturday. I asked her what’s it like to cosplay at NYCC and she said “it’s different from cosplaying at other events or alone because there are just so many people, and you make so many friends. You just have more fun. As a group you feel your awesome levels multiply.” This was one of her highlights over the weekend as well as the Power Rangers panel. On Sunday she wore a Super Sentai suit with her friend as one of the Gokaigers. She said that she’s “very open with my interest and comic con allows me a time to buy exclusives or hard to get items. It also brings together all my friends in one place that I would other wise talk to only online, and making new friends that have the same interest as me! I’m always surprised when people stop me at the con because they remember me from another local event or online group.” However she attended NYCC for all 4 days but didn’t cosplay on Thursday. Why? She devoted Thursday to “being professional and dressing normal. (And) Looking at panels and info that will help me as a comic artist.” So that woman you see walking down the street in business attire might be a cosplayer at NYCC. Even though she plans on continuing to attend NYCC for years to come, she told me that her goals and activities will shift while there as she seeks to make the transition from cosplayer to professional artist. Pam wore many hats during NYCC, figuratively and literally, as she was also an exhibitor with the Mandalorian Mercs. Sounds like an extremely busy weekend and she said, “I do have to make sure to make room in my days to be at the booth and do my time. I have to be professional in my costume as I am representing a whole group of people and not just myself. And answer any questions people have at the booth about the club and how to make these costumes.” Even though the word dedication wasn’t used by Pam, seems like there was a lot of that but masked by all the fun taking place.
That passion comes in many forms and it’s part of why NYCC has been growing every year. And with over 100,000 people attending, not everyone would be able to go to the same panels. And I mentioned in part 1 that Melissa Campo, a HUGE Walking Dead fan, wasn’t able to attend that panel because the room reached full capacity well in advance. But even without a VIP pass, which is supposed to guarantee seating, it’s still possible to get into the biggest panels and Nicole Singleton, a 3 day attendee, told me how she was able to get into the panel. In her own words, “I got to the theater at around 10:30am waited in line to get in and stayed in the theater until the Walking Dead panel was over. Luckily I wanted to see all the panels that were in the room. I brought snacks and water with me so I wouldn’t be tempted to leave.” To clarify the time frame, the Walking Dead panel didn’t start until 6:30pm.
This was her first time attending NYCC but she wanted to attend for years. And since her friend was going she figured this year would be the best time to come. That and the Walking Dead panel. She cosplayed all 3 days as well. Friday she was Roxy from Scott Pilgrim and Sunday she was Lana from Archer. When I asked her what motivated her to cosplay as these characters in particular her answer was “my friend (and I) sat down together and discussed who we should be and on what day. Since we both like Scott Pilgrim, the Walking Dead and Archer we figured that would be our best bet.” Oh yeah, I missed a day. On Saturday, which was the day of the Walking Dead panel, she was, you guessed it, Michonne (including a sword.) So I can definitively say that she had a great time and wants to attend next year and she has “hope to do a group cosplay.”
Obviously Nicole’s a huge Walking Dead fan too but why dress up as Michonne during NYCC? She doesn’t hide her interests and she has a good motto, “Express yourself, we only have one life to live.” But I’ll explain it another way. Anyone who knows me knows I’m a huge sports fan as well (Knicks, baby) and I’m even tempted right now to write about all my teams. And I’ve been to sporting events, etc. and one thing that you can see in abundance is men and women wearing sports jerseys. They’re wearing sports jerseys even though they’re not on the actual team (occasionally it’s not even the same sport). So they’re wearing the jersey of their favorite player, whether current or former player, and they’re screaming and cheering while wearing these jerseys. It’s not hard for me to understand because for them doing so gives them the experience of being able to identify more closely with something they’re passionate about. I see no fundamental difference between a sports junkie wearing a jersey and cheering at a game, and Nicole dressing as Michonne while attending the Walking Dead panel with Danai Gurira and other cast members attending. They can feel like they’re a part of something they love.
It’s that type of passion that not only has helped NYCC grow over the years but why someone like Kevin Foxe, a first-time exhibitor, would want to attend NYCC as well. There’s a fan base that is clearly passionate in varying degrees and they’re all potential customers. He’s launching a new comic, Mandala, through Dark Horse Comics and he said, “NYCC gave us a massive number of fans, and access to do some cool things that we can’t do online. We were able to provide an experience in the real world which was important to us. We loved NYCC! Best part was actually meeting fans and talking directly with them for feedback and interaction, and meeting other like-minded exhibitors and companies.” Of course he plans on attending next year with this kind of atmosphere but he touched on something that I’ll explore more in part 3 when he said that the con gives them the opportunity “to meet others who may not (be so open with their interests) and who are big fans of what we do.” Not everyone is surrounded on a daily basis by those who share the same interests as them so NYCC is their opportunity to do this.
In the case of KJ Schrecengast she started a cosplay club at the college she attends to encourage others who are into cosplay as well. And there’s something called the dungeon at her college that’s “a beacon for the gamers and geeks and it’s so cool seeing a ton of cosplayers every day.” She feels that if someone can’t like her for who she is then that’s their problem and not hers. This was however her first NYCC and she said she “never had such a positive reaction in such a large-scale to my costumes. I didn’t bring over the top elaborate props, but nevertheless I got attention.” She’s always loved comics and comic books, and always wanted to attend a comic-con. The group she normally goes to conventions with love anime and they never attended a comic-con, which can be lighter on the anime aspect. But this year she met someone who was planning on attending and decided to attend too and was able to do so for 3 days.
And she had “such a great weekend! We suffered some crippling disappointments in my group on our trip, primarily being sent home from the Pokémon midnight release (we were the first turned away) as well as The Walking Dead panel (again we were the first turned away). However, we did make it to the Sleepy Hollow panel, and the staff members there were beyond nice and accommodating to our group after learning about our horrid luck with lines before. I got a ton of items that I wanted from artist alley, mainly some Glen artwork and Avengers artwork. I also picked up some Harry Potter Swag and some fabric and a tote at Mood, famous for being in Project Runway.”
However, it’s cosplaying that is “dear to my heart.” And her view on cosplaying can be different from others, which shows that the opinion on cosplaying isn’t homogeneous. She was slightly disappointed that there were a lot of cosplayers on Thursday wearing store brought Doctor Who and superhero costumes. In her view, “cosplaying is something I pour my heart and soul into. It doesn’t mean that I don’t buy store-bought items, but I usually assemble them together to create the costume.” She was more encouraged the remaining days and that’s also due to the crowd increasing from Friday through Sunday. On Friday she went as Orange Bird Boy and 95% of her body was covered in orange. She was stopped constantly and ended up posing for 2 hours while her friends rested. She “loved every second in every costume, every photo, and every awkward flirter that chatted to me. I’m glad that I was only harassed once by someone there for the soccer match when it came to flirting.” It is still NYC, which has been relatively safe compared to other major cities, and it is best to be aware of your surroundings outside of the convention when traveling really late in some areas, as KJ stated she felt apprehensive on some streets and had a less than pleasant encounter. Despite that, she had a blast, met some new friends and plans on attending next year and said, “over all, only two negative experiences are easily outweighed by the (good).”
NYCC is a different experience for everyone but offers something for everyone. You don’t have to be an experienced NYCC attendee in order to have a great time, and you’re surrounded by people who are also there to have a great time. I’m an avid gamer, enjoy movies, comics, etc and I have zero problems with sharing or talking about my interests anywhere. However even for me NYCC is a place where I’m completely engrossed in my interests and I also tend to find something new that gains my interest I might not have been aware of before. Unfortunately for others, NYCC or other comic-cons might be the only real place where they can share their love for so-called nerdy things. I’ll be addressing this in NYCC Attendees Part 3 and shed some light on that.