Late this week a minor brouhaha ensued after comic book artist Pat Broderick posted a lot of negative comments about the rise of “cosplay” at conventions. Bleeding Cool covered the story and some of the arguments both in support and disagreement with Pat’s take. Pat was more than a little harsh, saying cosplayers bring “no value” to conventions and convention promoters that focus on cosplay as a draw for their shows are doing a disservice to the industry. To provide some context, Pat is just returning to comics after two decades of doing art in other media venues like animation and advertising, so likely his perspective is of the time-warp variety.
I’m hardly a household name in the comics industry, being most known for my work in a publication that is at best on the fringes of the mainstream comics world. That said, I have been doing a lot of conventions in the last couple of years, and have seen firsthand the rise of cosplay as a major part of many shows. I could not disagree with Pat Broderick more.
I do not see how anything can be bad about fans becoming so enthusiastic about the characters created by and worked on by artists like Pat that they spend countless hours putting together costumes like the ones you see on the floors of comic cons today. It’s a way for fans to connect to the stories and characters they love, gets A LOT of press and attention brought to comic cons (and as a result comics), and ultimately promotes the industry as a whole. If cosplay results in bringing tens of thousands more people into comic cons and, by extension, into comic book shops, then it’s a good thing for the industry.
Are all cosplayer’s doing it for the love of comics and the characters? No, of course not. There are some who probably don’t even know the slightest bit about whatever character they are dressed up as… other than they have the right sized boobs to be Powergirl. So what? You always have the gatecrashers, narcissists, and “hey look at me” types in every group, and the fact that they are showing up at comic cons is actually another positive sign. Only the groups that are getting real attention get a fair share of the poseurs, which means that group is a relevant group. Besides, the poseurs are a small minority. Most cosplayers are of the real fan variety… they may not look like Captain America with their pot belly and spats, but they do it for the fun and love of the genre. Only a handful do it for the attention alone with no actual love of comics.
I have to admit I am a bit mystified by “professional” cosplayers. These are people who comic con promoters actually pay to bring in and appear at the show as a draw. I’d think their money was better served bringing in any of the actors from “Arrow”, “The Walking Dead” or other comic-book based TV shows or films, but whatever floats your boat. Cosplay pros probably cost a fraction for the money an actor would cost to bring in, and maybe the bang for the buck is greater there. Whatever you might think of these folks, their dedication to their craft is pretty awe inspiring.
I will say that I have had my fair share of annoying run ins with copslayers at conventions, but they mostly involve simple lack of courtesy or awareness that there are thousands of other people about other than you in your outfit. I’ve slammed into people who stop abruptly in the middle of a crowded walkway while some inconsiderate cosplayer stops to spread his/her cape/wings/cloak while a dozen equally inconsiderate people try and take pictures on their smartphones. I’ve had cosplayers stop right in front of my booth and block its view as they get pics snapped right and left. BREAKING NEWS: If you are surprised a crowd of any size has a fair share of totally oblivious assholes who range from inconsiderate to downright rude, then welcome to humanity… it’s been around for a while. That is not going to change. Much of the fault with these problems lies with the convention organizers, who don’t seem to make any efforts to ease these issues by perhaps providing cosplay areas for photos and interaction, or messages discouraging the inconsiderate stopping or loitering for such pictures.
There are some bad things that go along with the cosplay phenomenon, but in the end I think anything that gets people interested in comics as an art form and entertainment is a good thing.
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