Every now and then, it seems someone in the comics industry goes on a rant about cosplayers. Whether they’re accusing them of not being true fans, of stealing attendee attention, or of not buying enough, they seem to place all their woes on the fans who take the time to craft costumes based on the characters they love.
In this instance, the complaints are coming from an artist who has decided to return to the comics industry after 20 years away. Upon his return, he was shocked and appalled to see that conventions had, in fact, changed, and decided to complain about it. His rant was something along the lines of “cosplayers are getting more attention than creators at conventions, and that makes me angry.”
If this was just one out-of-touch creator’s complaints, that wouldn’t be worth commenting on. (As such, I won’t link to the whole rant, but I will link you to a great rebuttal by The Mary Sue.) However, other artists and writers piped in with their own complaints, calling cosplayers narcissistic (somewhat ironically, as they’re complaining about attention being taken from them), whining about cosplayers not knowing enough about the series, and of course, body shaming.
Of course, these are still just a few people, and do not represent the industry as a whole. Other comic creators have been speaking out in defense of cosplayers, like Gail Simone, who tweeted “Cosplayers don’t have to justify anything, they don’t have to spend a minimum amount or pass a quiz. They bought a ticket, that’s the line.” Regarding the complaints, she states: “It’s just another ridiculous entitlement. Cons still have all the same stuff they always had, they just also have some fun dressup.”
What we have here are people unable to keep up with the changing convention scene, and instead of trying to adapt, they lash out against it. As such, I will instead be providing the perspectives of cosplayers who attend these events.
Personally, I’ve been going to conventions for ten years, and cosplaying all that time, although I’m hardly a well-known figure. I started off going to anime conventions, and have been trying to go to more comic conventions as well. There’s no denying that conventions are expensive; between hotels, food, tickets (upwards of $60 is average these days), transportation, and parking, a convention attendee spends hundreds just to stay there. Of course, cosplayers and non-cosplaying attendees all want to purchase art, books, figures, and autographs, but budgeting is important.
However, those complaining about cosplayers not buying enough are quite often missing opportunities. A cosplayer is expressing to the world what series they enjoy and who their favorite character is. See a Harley Quinn cosplayer stopping by your booth? That’s a great time to show her your Harley and Joker figurines, or to point out some good Batman comics featuring Harley.
“As a costumer/cosplayer who has promoted a few corporations at large comic book conventions; this notion [of hating cosplayers] seems rather irrational,” states LauraC, who has wowed conventions with cosplays ranging from Final Fantasy’s Tifa Lockhart to massive Transformers. “It would be in (a company’s) their best interest to cater to their clientele and fans.”
For example, one of the people ranting about cosplayers talked about a time when someone had the audacity to want to cosplay Doctor Strange after the movie was announced, and then ask questions about the character, who he was unfamiliar with. The vendor, so distraught by the idea of someone not knowing everything about Doctor Strange, kicked him out of his booth. What he could have done was instead suggest some Doctor Strange comics to buy, perhaps even some he was selling, thus encouraging a new could-be fan to take up the series, and to make a sale in the process.
“It’s really disheartening for artists who create the characters you love to say rude things about cosplayers,” says Anti Ai-chan, a cosplayer on the west coast who recently rocked Comikaze as Rocket Raccoon. “We exist because we are showing love and appreciation for your art and stories and characters. Quotes like ‘them fuckin’ cosplayers!’ and ‘cosplay are just selfies in costume, and doing multiple selfies is about the highest expression of narcissium’ is incredibly rude and disrespectful towards a another group of artists. I wouldn’t say ‘Hey, your work is shit and they should have booked a better artist.’”
She adds, “Honestly, it’s fine if some people aren’t a fan of cosplayers. It’s not everyone’s cup of tea but that’s life. But to be blatantly rude and lump a huge group of people together is unnecessary. Especially when cosplayers are walking billboards for your work. Maybe it’s not the costumes that are taking people away from your artists today; maybe it’s your shit attitude about the convention. People tend to naturally gravitate towards friendly people; so don’t blame people who are innocently enjoying themselves.”
Anti Ai-chan also brought up a point about cosplayers doing their shopping when they’re out of costume. After all, most costumes don’t exactly have much in the way of pockets. So that Ms. Marvel wandering the hall without buying anything may be back an hour later in regular clothes, looking to spend hard-earned money on everything she saw.
“Many artists, directors, producers, and even writers should be glad their work is being recognized by audiences of various mediums,” says Bart of Team Misaki Studios, a longtime convention attendee and cosplayer. “When someone asks where their cosplay is from, does it not make them want to research more about it? Absolutely! It builds potential for more audiences to learn more about said series. From time to time I’ve asked cosplayers where their cosplay is from then follow up with a research about said series. Followed by watching it to see what it’s about. Without cosplay, the industry of movies, video games, comics, anime, sci fi and everything we love for entertainment wouldn’t be be growing the way it has been in the past!”
Just OK Cosplay adds, “I never thought I’d see the day when a creator would have a problem with anyone liking any aspect of their work, big or small. Any notoriety is good, and as artists you would think they would especially appreciate cosplayers who slave over capturing their character creations down to the exact details.”
Photographers have been weighing in as well , with Thymehadder Photography stating “Chances are the cosplayers the artists are bitching about are the ones buying their work.” He also pointed out that there are artists out there who design characters to see if cosplayers will pull them off, such as those in Kill La Kill. In spite of the insane costume designs in that series, both in regards to complexity and nudity, it’s a popular anime series among convention attendees and commonly cosplayed.
Now, I will admit that there are some bad apples among cosplayers out there. There are those who take it far too seriously, or who are disrespectful of others around them, or generally start a lot of drama. We are far from a perfect lot, and I’m sure there are cosplayers who have truly made an experience worse for some attendees. Most cosplayers, however, don’t like those who do that, and are just at a convention to have a good time. That, after all, is what really matters.
“I go for the socialization and fun experiences you just can’t get anywhere else,” explains MagePride Cosplay. “Cosplay is a great way to express yourself, and for a lot of people it’s a way to break out of their shells when they may otherwise be very introverted, shy, or downright afraid of social interactions.”
Daedalus Cosplay agrees, stating “I enjoy the sense of camaraderie, all of the fans of dozens/hundreds of fandoms in one place doing our thing. I’m by no means a well known cosplayer, I do what I do because I enjoy the time, effort and creativity put into it by myself and ALL the other amazing people I see. Without the financial expenditure put forth by cosplayers for every con we go to every year, you’d be losing an industry that generates HUNDREDS of millions of dollars in revenue per year.”
In the end, those comic creators are free to say and think what they like about cosplayers, and it won’t change conventions at all. They are, of course, entitled to their opinions, and are free to express them, just as we are free to agree or disagree. If they want to limit the conventions they attend to those without a big cosplayer presence, that’s their loss. If they can’t market themselves better than certain cosplayer guests at conventions, and continue to turn away potential customers who they don’t consider geeks, they’re the ones who will have a worse experience for it.
We all go to conventions to have a good time. Some of us enjoy it by cosplaying, getting pictures of attendees in costume, or hanging out with friends in a big group. Some enjoy it by meeting the guests they admire, whether they’re artists, writers, actors, or even big-name cosplayers. Just because some people go for a different kind of experience doesn’t make conventions worse, just different. In the end, we’re all geeks looking to show our love for the medium and spend time among fellow fans. That’s what conventions are all about. And if any guests or vendors take issue with that, it just means we’ll be spending our money at another booth.