Most of you know that I’m involved with PAX. I’m not exactly subtle about it. What you might not realise is that the company I work for – ReedPOP – also runs Oz Comic-Con. As such, I’ve had the pleasure of being able to help the comic team out in the past when I’m not completely distracted (i.e. usually) by PAX. This year though, I wanted to get a bit more involved.
My two contributions to Oz Comic-Con this year are the After Hours program (who knew I’d be good at curating events featuring geeks and drinking) and overseeing the cosplay elements at the show. This is about the latter, a bit of a post show cosplay wrap-up of Oz Comic-Con Perth and Adelaide, giving credit where credit is due, and welcoming feedback, ideas and suggestions going forward.
Geezus, that sounds way more formal and professional than usual… I just want to rave about all the cool cosplay community shit that we did
The first thing you need to know, is that I’m not a cosplayer. I’ve often wondered about what pop culture character I could successfully cosplay as, and most of the results aren’t really all that appealing to me.
I’m the one on the left dammit.
Not that it matters, since in a broader sense cosplay is meant to be empowering and fun, creative and inclusive, a true celebration of fandom. So although I’ve been a huge supporter and instigator of cosplay culture through my previous entrepreneurial endeavors, unlike video games, it’s a community I’ve never actively been a part of. So my goal with Oz Comic-Con was to go out to the friends I know and trust within the cosplay community to get their thoughts on what conventions should be doing.
Broadly speaking, the answer is ‘a lot more than they’re currently doing’.
I mean, consider just how synonymous cosplay is to pop culture conventions these days. It’s a defining characteristic of any geek event, and adds so much of the colour and vibe to a show that without it, you almost wouldn’t have a show.
With that in mind, we worked hard on a bunch of things at Oz Comic-Con this year, with the intentions to learn and grow our support for cosplayers at each show.
COSPlAY CHANGE ROOM
How familiar are these scenarios at conventions:
* Walking past a team of friends helping to assemble an outfit in the carpark.
* Seeing giant props sticking out the top of a bathroom stall where someone is getting changed.
* An exhausted cosplayer sitting against a wall, their helmet off, sweaty hair stuck to their face.
It isn’t hard for a convention to set aside a space for cosplayers to take a moment, change their outfit, make repairs, and hydrate themselves.
This one is so blindingly obvious that we actually had one at PAX Aus last year, a show that doesn’t even have any cosplay competitions or events!
Cosplay Change Room at Oz Comic-Con Perth.
Lockable change rooms, full length mirror, cold water coolers, chairs to sit down, and volunteers manning the entrance to ensure it’s a safe space. In Adelaide we even had the services of Doctor Darnit, who was on hand to fix and repair people with broken costumes.
I honestly feel we nailed this one, and you can bet that every Oz Comic-Con from here on in will feature a Cosplay Change Room.
I’m part of pretty much every cosplay Facebook group I can get accepted into, and one thing I notice before a big convention are all the posts from people trying to organise catchups and gatherings. To me, this is the most important part of any convention – the community. The ability to catch up with strangers or people you’ve only known online to celebrate a shared interest and passion.
It’s just really, really hard to do this unless you’ve got a pretty good idea of what’s going to be where.
So the idea of an actual, dedicated cosplay community space on the show floor was borne.
What do you put in there though? You want create a space for cosplayers to congregate and chat, while also providing something that’s informative and interesting to those wanting to know more about cosplaying in general.
So we came up with a few ideas.
First of all, a dedicated photo wall. You’ve seen them, they’re usually at the entrance to each show, and plastered with logos. Marketing dictates that the logos still need to be there, but for the Cosplay Central area, we faded them right back, against a black/blue gradient background (a bunch of cosplay photographers said that’s the preferential colour scheme).
We also labeled an area specifically for those taking photos to stand, and put up a schedule for themed group photos (i.e. 1pm – Marvel cosplayers, 2pm – Anime cosplayers, etc).
I do believe in faeries.
The group schedule thing didn’t work as well as I’d hoped. Maybe we just didn’t promote it enough. Maybe it’s just not needed.
Not only that, but for the first day of Perth, the photo wall wasn’t used very much. The feedback from cosplayers was that they thought it was some sort of professional space that they couldn’t use, and it wasn’t until the second day that it started to pick up. As soon as any cosplayer walked in front of that wall though, the crowds would FLOCK towards the space, taking photo after photo and throwing their kids towards them faster than they could escape. It was truly rock star esq.
For the next weekend in Adelaide, I decided to mix it up a bit, and reached out to a series of awesome professional cosplay photographers, who agreed to be scheduled into the area at promoted times throughout the day. With proper cameras, lighting, and the over-enthusiastic direction that comes with the job, there was a line of cosplayers the length of the booth for the entire weekend, with some amazing photos that came out of it.
I think ideally in the future, I’d love to setup two photo walls – one for scheduled professional photographers, and one that encourages anyone to jump in to give the general public a chance to snap away.
COSPLAY ON DISPLAY
You can’t just have an empty booth space, it has to be populated with something visually interesting to draw people to it, and what better than to display some of the more fantastic cosplay outfits made by the local talent! We bought 12 super creepy manniquins, and reached out to cosplayers in each city to lend their creations to wrap around them. We had a few of the show costumes from Sydney’s Vanguard, with the rest showcasing some amazing outfits from Perth and Adelaide cosplayers.
I have to take a moment to say a huge thank you and shout out to the cosplayers that lent their creations for the weekend. They all came through at the last minute and trusted me to take care of their intricate and delicate clothes and props, and for that I’m hugely thankful. It was an absolute draw as people walked past to get to inspect what goes into the craft up close.
I wanted to encourage discussions, talking points among the community, and so we had a large round table placed in Cosplay Central, with a schedule of topics. Advanced costume construction techniques, Hair and makeup tips & tricks, Cosplay and Social media, etc. The heart was in the right place, but with the exception of a few sessions, it became more of a general seating and chill out area, to the point where I didn’t bring it back for Adelaide.
I still think the idea is sound, but we should set it up as a smaller theatre, with curated topics hosted by members of the cosplay community, rather than expecting the conversations to dynamically start themselves.
For these first two Oz Comic-Cons, we had international cosplayers Abby Dark-Star and Keith Zen, as well as local legend Eve Beauregard. They had multiple panels and were all judges in our various cosplay competitions during the show
Eve, Abby, and Keith at Oz Comic-Con Adelaide. Photo shamelessly stolen from Eve’s Facebook.
Setting up their tables in the cosplay central area was another strong draw for the area, was a great addition to the space, constantly busy with gatherings, discussions, and of course photos!
The one thing that most conventions get right are the competitions, and Oz Comic-Con has a solid track record of this in the past. We had a casual cosplay parade competition open to everyone on the day, and a kids cosplay, organised and hosted by long time Oz Comic-Con crew member Zadie.
This year however, thanks to the ties we have with ReedPOP’s international shows, we were also able to host the Championships of Cosplay, an international competition that focuses on the craftsmanship of the costumes.
Graciously hosted by local celebrity Rae Johnston, cosplayers had to submit their entry prior to the show itself, to which we narrowed it down to the best of the best. The pre-judging on the day took over 2 hours of close inspection by the judges, who themselves were professionals from the WA Academy of Performing Arts, Media Makeup, and the National Institute of Dramatic Arts. Seriously, check out their profiles here, our judges have some serious cred!
Feedback on the competition itself was supremely positive, each contestant introduced on stage with a thorough description of what went into the making of their costume.
The winners from Perth and Adelaide will go on to compete in the National finals in Sydney later this year, where the winner from that will be flown to the Chicago Comic & Entertainment Expo to compete against the winners of Comic Cons from New York, Paris, Shanghai, India, and Singapore. So, yeah, kinda a big deal!
Oz Comic-Con happens 5 times each year in the capital cities around Australia, and with a wrap on Perth and Adelaide, I’m now setting my sights on Melbourne, Brisbane and Sydney. I explained to everyone I talked to that all these cosplay elements were a grand experiment to figure out the best ways to support the cosplay community, and I hope that by openly explaining the process and detailing the ups and downs, you can see our heart is in the right place.
What I really want going forward is more help and feedback from the cosplay community. What else do you think we should try to do? Are they ways we can do it better? Hit me up via Twitter or Email, cause at the end of the day I see myself as a facilitator in the position to improve the way we can bring communities together to celebrate. Help me help you
This won’t be short, since there were so many people that helped bring this area to life!
First of all to my secret group of cosplay advisers, steering us in the right direction and giving me critical feedback – TJ Cosplay, Captain Patch-It, Bansh33, Flynn Malice, Variable, Feisty Cuffs, Ginzii, Gen Jaga, Mel Echo, Eve Beauregard, Rae Johnston, Foxxi Loxxi, In Stitches, Elliot, Vysanthe, Ardella, Sunday Cosplay, Elizabeth DeLoria, Rascal, Bad Kitty Cosplay, Something Wicked, Sparta Cos, Astrokerrie, Hayley Elise, Ken Abbot, Seams Nostalgic, Miss Snape, Ecky Reyes, Lorenzo So, The Artful Dodger, Breathless_ness, Yasemin Arslan, Major Sam Cosplay. Holy crap I hope I got all your public profiles correct!
To those that lent their AMAZING cosplay outfits for the display mannequins – Duskraven, Tim Nicholas, Emberite, Tiffany Dean, Astrokerrie, Drayke, Giorgia Santacaterina, Starfirephoenix, and the Vanguard.
I must single out for the third mention so far – Astrokerrie. She helped so much to bring the Cosplay Central area in Perth together, and without her help and contacts it simply wouldn’t have come together as well as it did!
And it wouldn’t have all come together in Adelaide if it wasn’t for Dustin Wilson, the man with all the connections and a boundless enthusiasm for the cosplay community.
I know I’ve mentioned them already, but again, the professional photographers who agreed to shoot in the Cosplay Central area – Ellen Lily, Creed Photography, Falcon Visuals, Steamkittens, Foto Play, and I Got Superpowers. Thank you so much for coming through at the last minute!
To all the entrants into the Championships of Cosplay, thank you for your patience and understanding, and your positive feedback – it made the entire process worthwhile!
Thanks to Carissa & Rand from Hub Productions for booking Abby and Keith, Zadie for ensuring the Cosplay Parade and Kids Cosplay ran successfully, to the fantastic volunteers at the Cosplay Central and Cosplay Changeroom, and to the entire ReedPOP Oz Comic-Con team for the long days and longer nights to pull the show all together.
Perhaps more than anyone however, Eve Beauregard and Rae Johnston, my two good friends who supported and backed me up all the way, who gave their time and reputations into everything that was done. Thank you so very much. You each get one ‘pass’ next time I guilt you into tequila shots.
Finally, thank you to all the cosplayers that attended Oz Comic-Con Perth and Adelaide. You bring the fun to these shows.