New York Comic Con 2013 – Post Con Update

After moving to New York I was extremely disoriented. All of my stuff was in boxes, I had no furniture, no friends and I was already homesick. The only things I was enjoying were the warm summer, a new environment and having a fresh start. I guess all those things come hand in hand. The first thing I had planned in NYC was New York Comic Con in October. My oldest sister Beth bought me three days passes for my birthday, setting me up to attend for the entire weekend. It would be my first east coast convention and my second kind of comic book convention, the only one besides Emerald City I had ever attended (I’d been to Emerald City for the past four years in a row). I had a few major events that I was looking forward to. For starters, I had a huge pile of comics to be signed by a variety of people to sign in the Artists Alley. I was excited for one man in particular – Joshua Ortega. I’d been a fan of his since the first Emerald City I attended. I had started with his Necromancer comic, and then started reading his adaptation of Frank Frazetta’s Death Dealer. I enjoyed his writing in everything he did, and declared myself his official fan girl. At New York Comic Con, I met up with again for the first time in two years. He remembered me spot on and greeted me with open arms. It’s always wonderful to have a celebrity remember you from previous meetings. I made sure that this time we got a photo together!

 

JoshuaOrtega

 

I got him to sign everything I had brought for artists and writers (literally half of my stack!) and thanked him for his wonderful work. He mentioned that if his success continued, he was going to buy the rights back to a comic I particularly loved and make sure that he wrote more. Necromancer only had six issues before it was cancelled, and I got completely hooked on the series, but was sad to learn that there wasn’t anymore. I’ve collected every issue and every variant cover I could get my hands on, and Joshua was always great with signing everything I could find. I’ve always wanted to secretly do an Abby cosplay. She’s a strong, powerful female character and really makes Necromancer an awesome title! If you’ve never read it, pick up the first six issues before he starts writing more!

 

Necromancer

The rest of my Friday was consumed with industry panels, shopping at the Gunpla booth and checking out the convention space. The Javitz Center really is gorgeous, and I think the highlight of any convention space is making sure it has plenty of windows. Sunlight is important for con-goers! About halfway through the day, I slipped into my newest cosplay, the second big event of my con. I decided to commit to a comic book cosplay. As a red head, I felt I would make a good Jean Grey, but which one to do? I went with something from my childhood and decided to do the X-Men: Evolution version. Not quite a comic, but definitely based on it. I remember watching X-Men: Evolution as a kid on Saturday mornings, right along side Cardcaptors and Pokemon. I didn’t have a lot of time between moving to New York and putting together a new cosplay so I kind of just threw something together. Not my greatest, but it was something fun to wear around the convention.I even got the chance to show it off on the Marvel Stage!

 

JeanGrey

While I had fun with Jean Grey, I had another cosplay event that was dominating my conscious while at the convention. The Saturday night of New York Comic Con would be my debut of competitive cosplay. I signed up to be one of thirty contestants that would compete for prizes in the Wikia Live Costume Contest. I’d managed to cosplay for almost ten years before I decided to compete. I’d done walk-on cosplay shows before, but nothing with prizes on the line. Naturally, I was a little nervous. I don’t know why, but it’s something to have your peers judged your cosplay, and something completely different to have judges, well, judge you! For the contest, I decided to go with Little Sister. She’s my strongest cosplay in terms of presence and performance, as in I can really get into the character. I think that’s one of the most important things when being in cosplay is being able to relate to your character and become them as much as possible. I think I get spot on with Little Sister. I creep around convention halls, leer around corners, stalk people and call out for Big Daddies. I scream at splicers, drink from my Adam Gun and play with Mr. Bear. I really, really get into it, and it seems to have an effect on those around me. I like the way it feels. This time, I’m not quite sure, but I think it worked to my advantage, or at least made me memorable. One of the guys I followed around the convention and inevitably scared turned out to be a judge for the contest. At that time, I wasn’t sure if I had done something bad, something that would count against me. During the interview portion of the contest, I mentioned that performance was important to me when I was Little Sister, that I liked to follow people around in order to be scarier. The judge in questions chuckled and said “Yeah, we noticed that!” Everyone seemed to enjoy it and it slid away as being a primary fear in the competition. I managed to get some lovely photos as part of the interview process. Special thanks to The Lemon Cookie for the wonderful photos and for featuring me on her website!

 

LS1

The contest featured a lot of wonderful cosplayers from all sorts of genres, everything from comics, anime, video games, and popular media, like Lord of the Rings and Hunger Games. With thirty of us and only a few prizes to give away, I was wondering how it would all work out since I was at the end of the pack with the Balrog – he had to go last since he didn’t fit through the door so well. I did my best and put on a good show! In the end, I won my first award for cosplay – Best Performance! Turns out all that creeping around isn’t for nothing! I was awarded with some awesome gaming electronics, including the gaming mouse I use now. I was happy to be recognized for all my hard work, especially for my efforts in performance. My legs always hurt after cosplaying Little Sister because of the crouching I do, and it’s great to finally have that all pay off!

My Sunday was like most Sundays at conventions. I wore civilian clothing, was malnourished and exhausted and didn’t spend much time at the convention. I spend Sundays at panels and in viewing rooms, taking pictures of cosplayers and shopping. In particular, I made sure to go visit Yaya-Han at her booth in the Dealers’ Hall. I forgot to buy a print from her, but I did make sure to get a photo!

YayaHan

After some brief conversation (she had a heck of a line behind me), she mentioned being interested in my cosplay research ideas, proclaiming her interest in the sociology of cosplay. She gave me her business card and then gave me the opportunity to have a photo with her. She’s a big influence for anyone in the cosplay world and she has earned a fair amount of respect for what she’s done with it as an art form. I’ll admit, I had some opinions about her before I ever really read about her as a person, and especially before I met her. I have since changed my tune, hopped the fence, whatever you want to call it. I have a huge amount of respect for Yaya Han as a cosplayer, an artist and a human being. I hope to be able to do an honest interview with her in the future, hopefully something we’ll see on the RLC website!

Overall, New York Comic Con was fantastic, a true convention experience that I valued and learned from. I’ll have to add it to my list of possible convention attendance in the future if I end up moving away from New York. Surely, a convention not to be missed!

-KLR

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Little Sister is Going to Crown Cosplay!

Here’s hoping I can get enough support from IndieGogo crowd-funding campaign so I can compete in this prestigious competition! Little Sister was chosen to compete at the Crown Cosplay Championships in Chicago, IL this April to compete for the Crown! Oh, and $10,000. That’s kind of a nice perk! Let’s all try to raise the funds!

Update: March 31st, 2014

I’ve decided to start a campaign on IndieGogo to try and raise the money to go to Crown Cosplay. Here’s a link! https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/733195/wdgi/6891785

Hopefully we can all pull together and help me reach my goal so I can go!

Thanks for your support!

-KLR

 

On March 21st, I received an email that I feel dramatically changes the path of my cosplay career.

It was pretty strong in comparison to another recent email detailing my admission to NYU for my interest in studying cosplay. I had originally applied to the Crown Cosplay Championships as something of a joke. I don’t consider myself on the level as some of the best cosplayers in the country. I’ve been pretty humble, not the greatest at craftsmanship. I don’t have the space to use really fancy materials in my cosplay. Most of my early cosplays didn’t even really involved sewing because I didn’t know how. (BEHOLD! Glue and duct tape) But I guess someone out there thinks I’m something kind of cool. I was asked to compete at the Crown Cosplay Championships at Chicago Comic Con in April. My little girl from the bottom of the sea is going to be competing with the best Video Game cosplayers in the country. In a polyester dress that was dyed in coffee, I am going up against Master Chiefs made out of Worbla and League of Legends cosplayers with shit that lights up and giant props and just overall amazing cosplay. I’m hoping I’ve got what it takes. My make-up has to be spot on. I usually only cover my sleeve tattoo on my right shoulder, but I’m thinking this time I should cover all my tattoos, even all the little ones (wrist tattoos, totoro, etc.) I’m gonna make some nicer bloomers and distress them too, and maybe a slip to go between the bloomers and my dress. I’m thinking about putting a little bit of curl in my hair too. It would have been appropriate for the style in the 40s and I have so much hair these days that if I leave it straight, it’s like a big pile of fluff on the back of my head and it doesn’t look nice. I told myself if I got in to Crown Cosplay, I was going to buy some new stage makeup and work on some new techniques to get more dimension out of my face. On the make-up platform too, I was considering getting better makeup for making myself look pale.  I’ve got some ideas for making my fingernails look dirty and maybe scratching up my knees a little bit since Little Sisters crawl around in pipes a lot. I’m thinking about whatever I can do to put myself out there just a little bit more. I have to consider everything that might make me stand out beyond the others. I’m doing old school cosplay – sewing and make-up. No crazy armor, no light-up effects, nothing really fancy. I’ve got to make myself the best Little Sister I’ve ever been. I’ll be posting my web profile here once C2E2 posts it on their website. I’m eager to see how many other people will be in the Video Game category and just who I’m up against. Right now I’m trying to figure out how I am going to pay for a trip to Chicago. It’s an extra convention appearance that I wasn’t planning on, and I’m not sure if I can swing an extra $400-500 for a plane ticket and a hotel and all that. I’ll see what I can wrangle in a way of putting together a crowdfunding platform or something. It’s not a lot, maybe some members of my family can pull together and make some things happen for me!

-KLR

My Future with Cosplay – New York University

With more conventions on the horizon and my beloved Sakura-Con right around the corner, my future with cosplay is really starting to flesh itself out. My panel has been accepted to be presented at least twice more in the coming months, including my second year at Sakura Con. In the biggest piece of news I received to date, I have been accepted to New York University’s Gallatin School of Individual Study! At NYU, I will finally have the opportunity to explore cosplay on an academically support level. In addition to my field research with my panel, Need Input!, I will be studying graduate courses on psychology, sociology, anthropology, performance studies and East Asian studies to craft my own Master’s program in Cosplay Studies. Below is my Statement of Purpose, detailing my study intentions, my prospective classes and my overall goals for an academic career in cosplay!

As I look back at my first exposure to cosplay and the community that surrounds it, I never would have realized the years of dedication and the dozens of questions to follow would become the focus of my academic and creative life. My first exposure to the cosplay community was at Penny Arcade Expo in Bellevue, Washington in August 2004. I traveled from Salem, Oregon with my four best friends to enjoy a weekend of video games and geeky antics before beginning my senior year of high school. Throughout my weekend, I couldn’t help but notice that there were people dressed as popular characters from video games, such as Lara Croft from Tomb Raider or Master Chief from the Halo franchise. Their intricate costumes drew the attention of photographers and fans of both the characters and the games from which they originated. After forty-two consecutive hours of video and tabletop gaming and snapping as many costume photos as I could, I became enthralled in the convention scene and this costume activity known as ‘cosplay’. By my next convention in April 2005, another Washington convention known as Sakura-Con, I was wearing my own cosplay and joining a community that would become the most immersive and creative foundation of my life. Cosplay (コスプレ) is a performance art that involves dressing up in costumes to represent a character or an idea. The costumes are often associated with characters from Japanese anime, video games and comic books and can either be crafted from scratch or purchased already constructed. It is a growing community of people that gather together in costume, whether it be at school clubs, local meet-ups, or annual conventions. Cosplay has been the creative and social focus of my life for ten years now, but recently, I have undergone a personal transformation that didn’t require a costume.

Through years of experience and my own personal inquisition of my love for the hobby, I have developed a deep interest for the human desire and drive to cosplay. By expanding beyond the conception that cosplay is merely just ‘fun’, I have asked myself and other cosplayers to look beyond initial feelings and emotions and reflect on the real questions that surround this craft. How do cosplayers decide which characters they will embody? What feelings are evoked from this transformation and how do these manifested emotions overcome the stress and judgment that can come with cosplaying? Is cosplay a form of escapism and ignorance to reality or is it an ascension into a greater understanding of our inner strengths? What social and community-based advantages are being exposed through the gatherings of thousands of cosplayers at conventions around the world? Ultimately, why do we cosplay? These and many other questions have come to enrich my cosplay lifestyle, from merely attending conventions for entertainment to perceiving the thousands of people that attend as cultural phenomena, constantly breaking ground with elements of self-discovery and community.

From one person’s investment into a single costume to the cosplay-rich convention-based communities that gather annually around the world, the ideas of cosplay expand into sociocultural anthropology, sociology, psychology and performance studies. With the term ‘cosplay’ being of Japanese origin and particular districts in Tokyo made popular for frequent cosplay-based activities, an essence and appreciation of East Asian studies must be attributed to these ideas as well. With the assistance of these avenues of academia, I also pursue my inquires by engaging face-to-face with the cosplay community at conventions across the country through panels and large scale surveys that gather personal testimonies and statistical data to bolster my research.

Coinciding with my academics and my convention travels in order to conduct field research, I will not only continue to create cosplays for myself, but I will now record my creation processes, journal mental-emotional discoveries and make a greater effort to understand my own process of cosplay. On this exploration to discover why the rest of the world chooses to cosplay, I still find several questions to ask myself about my role in the world of cosplay. Why do I spend several months on a single costume that I will sometimes only wear for a few hours? Why do I ritually don these costumes and invest physical and emotional strength becoming people from other time periods, planets and planes of existence? What do I seek to gain in an already stressful process by putting myself on display for thousands of people to critique and judge a transformation in which I am personally and wholeheartedly committed? In my pursuits to have the other cosplayers of the world answer these questions, I would like to discover my own answers to why cosplay has become such a driving force in my life.

With so many ideas surrounding cosplay and the questions that could be asked about it, the difficulty of making it fit into just one academic discipline has been a struggle. I have investigated university programs in anthropology, sociology, psychology and Japanese studies to try and find one that can cater to the sociocultural diversity of cosplay while still allowing the element to explore its artistic level of performance and creativity. I find it a necessity to keep the two together and I strongly believe the Gallatin School at New York University is the best platform to keep the science and the art together. While understanding why people cosplay from a psychological, social and cultural perspective is important to me, it is also of limitless value to appreciate the theatrical process of becoming a character and the level of artistic craftsmanship that goes into making a cosplay. With my current level of experience, I have a comfort understanding to the world of cosplay, but I seek to understand it on a deeper academic level. I need to develop a theoretical foundation in relation to my questions of ethics, psychology, identity, community, and social behavior. In order to organize my findings, my current research and understanding of the cosplay world, I seek academic support and encouragement to connect my current understanding of cosplay to scholastic ideas and theories.

My experience with cosplay has transpired from the end of my high school career into my present day adult life. It is an activity has grown from an annual hobby, generating one costume a year, to the primary pursuit of my life, giving rise to conventions attended on a monthly basis and multiple costumes produced for each attendance. I have attended almost twenty conventions for Japanese anime, video games and comic books across the country. My most recent convention attendance at the New York Comic Con in October 2013 recognized my level of craftsmanship and dedication for cosplay with an award for Best Performance at the Wikia Live Cosplay Contest. The greatest value of my cosplay career so far is the diverse collection of characters that I have become: a teenage robot pilot facing the apocalypse, a widowed queen on a quest to save her empire, a little girl born from a science experiment living in a city under the sea, and a disenchanted wolf goddess trying to journey home, just to name a few.

Overall, my greatest academic and professional experiences revolve around my convention panel, Need Input!: A Panel for Cosplay Research. The panel surveys the cosplay community of the conventions with a Q&A style of gathering personal feedback as well as an anonymous circulating survey that gathers statistical data about cosplayers, such as age, gender identity, and cosplay preferences. Asking questions like ‘How do you feel when you cosplay?’ and ‘Does cosplay fulfill something in your life that you don’t get from normal day-to-day life?’, over 60 people during my 90-minute panel volunteered their personal anecdotes and stories. In my experience and research so far, cosplay has unveiled a value of developing both practical life skills and positive mental and social health. The art of cosplay requires learning new skills, developing an attention to detail, creative problem solving, resourcefulness and efficient time management. On a personal and social level, it builds confidence and self-esteem, creates immersive social interaction and is limitless path for self-exploration. Part of my panel’s research to discover the motivations of why people cosplay; the other part is to further credit the social significance that this art form plays in bringing people together and building successful human connections. With plans for at least six more conventions in the year, Need Input! has become my primary outlet for field research and the gathering of information from cosplayers and the cosplay community.

My tentative course selection draws courses from anthropology, psychology, performance studies, sociology and East Asian studies. These are the following courses that I would like to incorporate into my program studies and their departments, respectively:

  • Anthropology
    • Social Anthropology Theory and Practice ANTH-GA 1010
    • Culture, Meaning, and Society ANTH-GA 1222
  • East Asian Studies
    • Seminar in Modern Japanese Literature & Culture AST-GA 2550
    • Japanese Anime and New Media G33.1708
  • Psychology
    • Theories of Personality PSYCH-GA 2015
  • Sociology
    • Introduction to Statistics SOC-GA 2332
    • Sociology of Culture SOC-GA 2414
  • Performance Studies
    • Embodying the Other: Human Beings and Speech Gesture PERF-GT 2730
    • Performance Composition: Performing Identities PERF-GT 2730

I found the following Gallatin coursework to especially beneficial to my area of study:

  • Proseminar: Studying Social Life: Theories and Methods
CORE-GG2022
  • Why Do You Want to Make It, and How Can You Make It Better? ELEC-GG2435

 

Any independent studies I choose to explore will most likely explore my convention attendances, running my panel and creating cosplays. Of the professors available currently available at NYU, I am most interested in working with Professor Thomas Looser of the East Asian Studies program. With his main focuses being on cultural anthropology and Japanese studies, I believe he is the one of the best professors to advise me on my cosplay studies.

So, now, in addition to my panel, all my planned cosplays and all the conventions I plan to tour, now I have to think about resume the life of a student. I’ll be honest, I’ve been out of school for about five years and the idea of resuming school life is daunting and scary. I mean, do I still remember how to write a paper? I guess this is just the next step in make cosplay more and more a part of my everyday life! Stay tuned while I figure out how I’m gonna manage this huge honor to be accepted to NYU, and how jostle writing papers and making cosplays!