A Visit to Baltimore Comic-Con 2013!

Baltimore-Comic-Con-620x250 Another year in Baltimore means another visit to the local Comic-Con. Now our comic convention isn't the Great-Big-Giant-Deal that San Diego and New York Comic-Cons are but they are still fun. We have a few awesome guests and comic creators hanging about their booths but rarely anything huge. This year Stan Lee and Kevin Smith were planned to appear but Stan Lee canceled. I'm fine with that as both of these guys charge a TON of money just to say hi and get an autograph. I went without and simply enjoyed the show floor.

So aside from buying all kinds of stuff you don't need but really, really what is there to see? Costumes, my friend! The cosplay at this convention keeps ramping up each year. There was a time where you'd barely see any but these days you can't walk five feet without seeing a new person dressed as an awesome character. With that in mind I had my camera and my handy press badge to let people know I wasn't just a creeper and I took a whole lotta pics so we could share some of these guys with you. And wow, there are some great costumes to share this year. Enjoy. I know I did!

How SyFy's Heroes of Cosplay is getting everything wrong

Heroes of Cosplay Heroes of Cosplay is an awful show and SyFy should be absolutely ashamed of themselves for airing it – but they won’t be, because these are the people who came up with Sharknado. I have yet to watch a single episode start-to-finish because every time I've tried to watch it, I get an awful feeling in the pit of my stomach. I don’t even feel like I need to, based on the conversation that happened in the most recent episode regarding body image. It’s clearly an absolute disgrace to the entire hobby.

In case you didn’t know, I’ve been cosplaying for about the last decade. So when this show got announced, I wasn’t exactly sure what to think. I love cosplaying and the people who I’ve met through doing it but turning it into a reality TV show didn’t seem like a great idea. I was pretty spot-on with that assumption.

While criticisms of the show have included typical reality TV show criticisms – over-dramatic nonsense, certain scenes feeling scripted rather than actual “reality” – the most recent episode featured a conversation that reflects poorly on the entire cosplay community. This conversation was about body size versus what people should cosplay – that someone heavy shouldn’t cosplay a skinny character, basically.

In my experience cosplaying, I’ve done a revolutionary girl, a fluffy puppy secretary, a spoiled vault brat, a potentially lesbian vampire – and her possible princess ex-girlfriend. I’ve been every guy’s bunny girl dream and the most dangerous youkai in Gensokyo. I’ve done both your obnoxious rival from Pokemon and the soccer-loving tomboy from Digimon. I’ve been a thousand-year-old witch and a young boy who’s soul is trapped in a robot so he can fight the greatest evil in the universe.

Do you want to know exactly how many times my body size has affected my cosplay choice?

Zero.

I am not a wafer-thin anime character and I never will be. My bone structure does not allow for that (I have enormous baby-making hips). No matter your body type, you should be able to cosplay what you want. As long as your costume is made well and you genuinely love what you’re doing, you will have my respect. I know the same is true for probably most of the community as a whole.

I find it unfortunate that Syfy would rather play up catty drama than show cosplayers in a truly positive light. This show is not portraying us well. Please take my word for it – we are not all dramatic, bitchy people. Sure, we’re still human, and we’ll get stressed out over this stuff (I personally have two costumes to make in the next five weeks or so), just as anyone puts stress on themselves.

If you want to get into cosplay, go for it. Do whatever character you want. Don’t let these awful people on Syfy tell you that you can’t because you’re too heavy or too thin for whatever it is you want to do. Cosplay isn't about pleasing other people - it's about doing what YOU want to do.

Otakon 2013 report

S9XxrC0 One of Baltimore's biggest events - and the second-largest anime convention in the U.S. - has come and gone. Otakon 2013, the 20th iteration of the annual convention, was this past weekend. It was my 11th time attending this event, and it didn't disappoint. For the most part.

I started going to conventions with Otakon 2002, when I was 12 years old (yes, you read that correctly - 12 years old). I went with one of my friends and her parents, and it was overwhelmingly awesome. I had only just begun to really get into video gaming and anime, so to have a whole convention full of the stuff was a sensory overload. I was hooked. I've been to more conventions than I can count ever since, including Otakon, Katsucon, Anime USA, Anime Boston, and MAGFest. While Otakon is no longer my favorite convention to attend - that award goes to MAGFest - Otakon is still my "home convention" and I still love going every year.

This year, they had some pretty major guests - but honestly, none that I was too terribly interested in. They did a world premiere of Oreimo 2, but not having seen any of Oreimo, I didn't really bother with it. Music-wise, they had TM Revolution and Home Made Kazoku, both of whom are pretty well-known for some popular anime theme songs, such as the Rurouni Kenshin theme and one of the Naruto themes. They also had Yoko Kanno, who's an incredible composer - she's done scores for Turn A Gundam and Cowboy Bebop, among others. I didn't make it to either of the concerts, unfortunately - the Kanno show required tickets you had to get in advance, which I missed out on, and I'm pretty apathetic about TM Revolution/Home Made Kazoku. I saw TM Revolution way back in 2003, when he made his first US appearance, and I had kind of wanted to see him for nostalgia's sake, but that particular concert was held outside of the convention center, and the idea of walking through the summer heat in uncomfortable shoes and a wig for a show I only wanted to hear one song out of just wasn't appealing to me.

I did end up going to a couple of panels, including a Digimon one on Sunday. Digimon is one of my all-time favorite series, and the people running it did a pretty damn good job of going over the history of the franchise, all the way back to the original virtual pet toy. Remember that commercial? I do. I bugged the shit out of my parents for one of those and never got one. I did, however, get hooked on the show - the first two seasons of which you can now watch on Netflix. If you've never seen the original Japanese Digimon Adventure and Adventure 02, you should definitely watch it. The Japanese and English versions of the show are so different, Netflix treats them as two separate series rather than just different language options of the same show.

Overall, the convention was really great. I saw a lot of friends I don't often get to see, since they're really only in town for conventions. One of my con-going buddies proposed to his girlfriend on Saturday night at our big group dinner at the Inner Harbor - she said yes, which was awesome. I managed not to spend all of my money in the dealer's hall or artist's alley - the only thing I ended up buying for myself was a clock made out of an old Zelda II cartridge. The people selling them also made wallets made out of broken NES controllers, which I regret not buying when I saw them. I went back on Sunday to get one and they were no longer set up. Total bummer.

The biggest downside to the convention was the traffic control problem. Convention staff and con center staff didn't seem to be communicating with each other very well - more than once I was told by a convention staffer that I could get somewhere by going down a certain hallway, only to be told by a con center security person that I couldn't actually go down there. A lot of doors were entrance-only or exit-only for reasons I just didn't understand. They might have just put up a sign that said "Welcome to Otakon, where just because the door's open, it doesn't mean you can actually come in." It made sense to have one lobby as an entrance-only area during the huge Friday registration lines. It stopped making sense to keep that up once that line dissipated. Sending con-goers on wild goose chases around the entire Baltimore Convention Center for the sake of finding the "correct" way into the building was absolutely asinine.

I did have a great time at Otakon despite that nonsense, though, and I can't wait for the next event. In case you haven't heard, Otakon will be moving out of Baltimore and into Washington, D.C. after the 2017 convention. It makes a lot of sense - the DC Convention Center is a lot bigger and a lot nicer than the BCC, and Otakon will for sure outgrow the BCC by then. Obviously that's a few years down the road from now, but I think it will be good for the convention to expand into a bigger space. Maybe they'll actually let us use all the doors in DC.

Awful Con Stories: AnimeNEXT 2013

AnimeNext2011-033 Last Friday, I decided to drive through some pretty nasty weather to visit some friends and attend an anime convention in Somerset, NJ, called AnimeNEXT. I had been to this convention before - it's relatively small compared to my other usual conventions (namely, Otakon, which is the biggest convention of its kind on the East Coast) - and had never had any issues with the other attendees before. Generally speaking I stick with my friends and I don't run into that many creepers or socially awkward mom's basement-dwellers. But the law of averages decided to play itself out.

For reference, here's the costume I wore to the event: Utena Tenjou from Revolutionary Girl Utena. I wouldn't exactly say this is a "revealing" or "sexy" costume, but I understand that booty shorts and a lot of leg exposure can do it for some people.

As a cosplayer of about 10 years, I've dealt with my fair share of awkward situations and I know how to handle them, usually because I have someone with me. But as I was walking through the rain, desperately trying to keep my new wig dry as I neared the convention center, I heard a couple of loud clicks and giggles from behind me. I turned around to see an older, well-dressed gentleman, hand out the window of his car, taking photos of my backside with his phone. (Is it possible he wanted a photo of the back of my Utena jacket? I'm going to go with probably not; safe to say he was likely taking photos of my ass.) Needless to say, I was pissed.

I approached his car - he was stuck in a line to drop off/pick up attendees at the convention center entrance - and he quickly rolled up the window. I told him to erase the photos he obviously just took of me. He told me that I was in public space and that he was allowed to take photos because of that. I told him again to erase them and he said that he "did nothing illegal" by taking the photos. He eventually got out of the line and drove off, my ass apparently forever stored in his camera.

Now, let me address his point - he's right; it's not illegal to take a photo of someone in a public space, particularly if they're attending a convention where the terms of your badge include a statute that basically says "if you're in the convention space, your photo can be taken and we can use it for future promotional purposes." So yes, because I was on convention center grounds, what he did was technically not illegal. But that doesn't make it okay.

Just because cosplayers like myself put ourselves out there doesn't mean that is an invitation for you to come and harass us. I don't wear Utena or any of my other costumes because I'm interested in pleasing some sleazy old man I've never met before - I made the costume because I love the character. The most gratifying thing about wearing Utena that day was when these two girls came up to me in the Artist Alley and just spilled feelings for the character and the show at me, and I threw them right back. They were excited to see someone who loved the show as much as they did, and I was glad that I could share in that feeling with them. I've never made an outfit for the sake of getting some guy's rocks off - and I've never met a single person in his hobby who has in my decade of experience  - but sometimes that guy thinks we do. And that guy needs to pull his head out of his ass.

I wish that the "Cosplay is Not Consent" movement wasn't as big as it was these days. But it has to be. From small incidents like mine to bigger ones - PAX East comes to mind, where a media member asked harassing and uncomfortable questions to some ladies dressed as Lara Croft at the Square-Enix booth - this is unfortunately a problem across the entire convention scene. The biggest defense that the harassers and their white-knights tend to come up with is "Oh, well you're dressed like this, you should expect this behavior!"

Uh, no. Sorry. Is it fair to say "expect some awkward stares?" Yeah, that's fair - I wore a bunnysuit to a convention once, and I got a LOT of stares. If I didn't expect that, I wouldn't have done it in the first place. No one's saying "don't look at me," because the sake of wearing a costume at a convention is to get looked at. No one's denying that. But it's not fair to tell the women - and men, who definitely get it too - to endure sexually harassing behavior.

If it's not okay outside of a convention, it's not okay inside of a convention. Can you walk up to someone you've never met at the mall and play grab-ass? No, you can't. So you can't do it at your favorite comic book or video game or anime convention, either. It doesn't matter what that person is wearing - if they don't know you, don't touch them. It's not a difficult concept.

And really, if you want a picture of my ass that badly, can you at least take it under better lighting?