So I’ve been hearing a lot lately about some complaints that conventions are dying because of cosplayers or something silly like that. I’ll admit that I haven’t gone to as many conventions as I used to, and when I get the new comic going, it’s something I plan to rectify. But you know what? I went to the Wildcat comic convention last Saturday. It was a small convention, obviously not enormous. I mean, this IS Williamsport we’re talking about here. It’s not exactly the Nexus of Nerd Culture. (Though interestingly enough, I’m only a 2-5 hour drive from almost every major city on the East Coast, making just about the majority of East Coast cons a real possibility.) But anyway, there was a ton of cosplayers there, including no small amount of 11th Doctors. And they all looked like they were having fun. And isn’t that what you’re supposed to DO at a comic book convention? Have fun?
I mean, I get it. I’ve spent over a decade and a half behind the table, and I know what a chore it can be to try and make money at a convention. But here’s the thing… How is this any different from the last several years? When I was going to cons for Shadowgirls, we had a bitch of a time selling stuff there. One year, we were even giving away books. We printed up B&W copies of the first issue to give away as an enticement for new readers. It didn’t work that well. Yeah, there’s been some positive stories from my friends and peers for the last few years, but across the board, sales at conventions seem to be down in general. And this has been long before the dreaded influx of cosplayers ever happened.
True story: About 2008 or 2009, I as at a table the Wizardworld Chicagocon, and there’s this convention goer who came up to the table, dressed in a suit, acting all smug and superior to the other con-goers. He started talking to my then-partner about it all, and about how comics were essentially stupid. He started into Spider-Man and about how unrealistic he was. That if your average nerd “like these losers here” had gotten super-powers, they’d be selfish and horrible bastards with it, and misuse it. That in short, Spider-Man is unrealistic, because he uses his powers for good. And as he’s going off about this, I’m sitting there in my seat, clenching my teeth. I wanted to get up and yell at him “HE DID MISUSE HIS POWERS! IT GOT HIS UNCLE KILLED!! ‘WITH GREAT POWER, COMES GREAT RESPONSIBILITY.’ IT’S BEEN SHOVED DOWN OUR THROATS FOR FIFTY YEARS. IT’S IN… THE FUCKING… MOVIE!! HOW DO YOU NOT KNOW THIS??!”
And I’ve run into “fans” like this all the damn time at conventions, and on both sides of the tables. They’re these entitled asshats who think they’re smarter than they really are. People who are looking for an excuse to place themselves on a pedestal higher than others, so they can feel better about themselves. I admit, that’s probably as bad of a generalization as the accusations that cosplayers are ruining conventions… But at least I’m somewhat aware of my potential hypocrisy.
I have never had a cosplayer give me any shit at a convention. Because here’s the thing: If they’re passionate enough to dress up in a silly costume in public, then they’re passionate enough to love comics. I have never met a cosplayer who thought they were too good for comic books. But I HAVE met “real fans” who did nothing but spout hate and bile. I’ve said this before many times: Give me the enthusiastic woman dressed up as Loki, over the neckbeard dressed in all black, who’s constantly pissed off about how things suck now and how they were cooler when they were younger. (No it wasn’t. We’re honestly living in an awesome time in comics. This is really an amazing era we’re in.)
And by the way, can we call this cosplayer-hating what it really is? It’s not being pissed off at cosplayers, it’s being pissed off at girls. Because girls have dared to venture forth into out sacred lands to corrupt the purity of our nerdity… Or some shit like that. Girls are not ruining comics. The vast majority of them are not asking the comic world to change for them… But simply to acknowledge and give them a place in it. From iconic kings like Jack Kirby and Stan Lee, to the rising webcomic artists making their marks, our world is built upon the infinite imaginations of over a century of the most gifted creators in all of human history.
I think we have the room to spare.