Adam Wolfe went to New York Comic Con for Bleeding Cool,
I have attended every NYCC, and while I would say that 2017 was one of my favorites, I did notice something a bit off. Well, maybe not as much “off” as “different” this year. As I looked through the masses of droves of people, I noticed you stood out in regular clothes. As I tapped my foot impatiently in a stalled aisle, assuming an impromptu cosplay shoot was occurring, I’d lean over to see it was just regular traffic. As I stopped amazing cosplayers, with light up displays, authentic looking props, and every single detail down perfectly, I realized I was the only one snapping their picture.
So, what happened?
It wasn’t always like this. Cosplay at NYCC had very humble roots. It was a select group of people, and those people were treated like fashion models for the majority of the day. Photographers would come with professional grade equipment and snap hundreds of shots of you, even if your costume was fairly slipshod. Sadly, this also came with creepy people who wanted you a picture but had no intention of posting it. Some would even tell you they wanted it for a “private collection.” Thankfully it seems these people have been priced out of NYCC, and are nothing but a distant, creepy memory. Regardless of who was taking your picture or why showing up in a cosplay set you apart from the crowd. Now, not so much.
I caught up with one cosplayer, who chose to remain anonymous for her statement, and asked her if she too felt the atmosphere had changed around cosplay at NYCC. With a tinge of disappointment in her voice, she agreed with me. She had spent weeks putting a worbla prop that sat on her shoulder. That’s not all, she constructed a hand-held smoke machine from scratch, put it inside the prop, and made the entire thing light up. Though she was asked to “a lot” of pictures, it was not a lot by “New York Comic Con standards.” She recalled one year where she wore a much simpler, less elaborate cosplay and was “barely able to get to the con floor from the entrance without being asked to do a shoot.”
“I’ve been coming to NYCC for five years, and it always boosts my follower count.” She explained, “Someone takes a picture of me, I slip them a business card for my page to tag me. This year, I felt like I was the only one giving out cards so I just kind of stopped.” I didn’t realize it until she said it but it was true. I had taken about 450 cosplay photos for Bleeding Cool and was not given one business card for a cosplay page.
Some of you may be reading this and think that these are just sour grapes from one cosplayer who maybe thought her stuff was cooler than it was. Well, perhaps you’d have a point if I didn’t see the change with my own eyes. I remember distinctly two instances of incredibly famous cosplayers wandering around the con floor without so much as being told: “hey great job!” Sophia Sivan (whose facebook as about 33k followers) was stuck in an aisle line in front of me in her incredibly sexy Black Cat costume and wasn’t asked for a single picture while we were walking in the same direction. I also stopped Kristen Lanae (68K followers on Facebook) casually strolling through the downstairs cosplay photography area without so much as a second look. In previous years, you’d at least have two or three people chasing them down for pictures.
So, what am I trying to say? Is this good or bad, right or wrong? Well, neither really. As someone who loves cosplay, and loves to cosplay, it’s great. I love that what was once seen as kind of a weird hobby has grown to be something that can bring so many people joy. What saddens me is to see people with really astounding cosplays, not get the attention they deserve. Now again, you can be thinking plenty of people were taking pictures, and they were, but the key difference is why. In previous years, a good cosplay would get swarmed no matter what, this year, people seemed to only be asking for pictures of cosplayers as characters they specifically liked. It was more of a fandom recognition than a recognition of the cosplayers skill. The professional photographers were really only in that one area by the food trucks and not spread around the con as usual.
I would argue the cosplay culture has changed because it has grown. Cosplayers aren’t special anymore, it’s almost expected to be in costume at NYCC now. To get someone to stop and say “omg this is great!” you have to either cater to their specific tastes or cosplay a freakin’ Megazord. I want to be clear in saying I am not angry about this or bitter, or even think it’s wrong. I just want to write a message to all the cosplayers out there who are trying to build their page and thought NYCC was going to be their breakout. It just isn’t the show for that anymore. I tried to imagine how many of those cosplayers I photographed even had pages, or even considered themselves “cosplayers.” that’s when it hit me, they don’t. You don’t have to be a “cosplayer” to cosplay at NYCC anymore. The hobby has become so widespread and accessible, anyone and everyone is doing it. The good news is, with almost everyone cosplaying, the chances of seeing something awesome goes up too!
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