The end of 2017 is approaching and there's just a couple of cons that I haven't blogged about yet: GTA Comic Con in November, and Toronto Fan Days last week. So let's get them all tied up with a pretty bow!
GTA was an interesting experience - Mr Stark and I were invited as cosplay guests, but instead of doing panels like we usually would, we were asked to do something interesting/creative/interactive with our table space. Since I don't normally have a table to begin with, and Stark gets one occasionally, we pretty much had a blank slate to work with and it took us a little while to finally decide on a theme. So what did we go with? Pokémon. Specifically the Alola region from the most recent Sun and Moon games. We already had our Professor costumes, so the concept was to wear them, and battle/trade pokémon with attendees, as well as having some colouring pages available. We even did a (probably) one-time-only set of pokémon theme cosplay prints. I wish I could say that our table was bustling with Pokemon fans all day... but it wasn't. Sadly the colouring pages got missed while packing for the con and we needed a flashier sign for the table, but we did meet one very enthusiastic young pokémon fan who we were very happy to chat with about the franchise. I hope that we have the opportunity to use what we learned to improve and attempt a "Taste of Alola" table again at another event in the future.
Table business aside, it was nice to see a handful or friends there and have prime seats for the costume contest (since we were right next to the stage) and our table-neighbours Joshua of the North and ReyGrey Cosplay were both awesome and fun to be sitting with. We even all traded photos at the end of the day. And speaking of photos... here are mine from the event!
And now the last con of the year (unless New Year's Eve counts... does it count?).... the event that used to be called D-TAC and is now Toronto Fan Days Holiday Show. Or DTAC for short. I didn't go to do any shopping, but just as one last time* to see a lot of my local cosplay friends, all in one place. I was hoping to get a little Riverdale cosplay group together but in the end half the people couldn't make it but I chose to wear Betty anyways since it was easy and available.* I wasn't as festive as the last couple of years, just adding some antlers, but that was partially because Betty is such a simple costume that I didn't want to cover up any details, and also because I was short on prep time.* Anyways, the mission of seeing friends and cute holiday costumes was successful and I took lots of photos: see below!
And to wrap-up, Betty ended up in this cute Fan Days cosplay montage ^_^
*what's with all these notations? Something I haven't really posted about yet - at the end of December I'm moving from Toronto to Kitchener! So a lot of my costumes and cosplay supplies are packed or just inaccessible right now, and I won't be able to make it out to as many Toronto events next year. Related.... I'm selling a handful of my costumes and other assorted supplies, check here for all the details.
Despite spending most of my time at the Cosplay Recovery Lounge at Fan Expo this year, the weekend was somehow a whirlwind blur of old friends and new faces. I wish I had been able to go to some panels or celebrity Q&A's, but as usual, I was just too busy and/or distracted by the rest of the con.
As the last big con of the year, I had to bring out my favourite costumes of the year. Friday was Cersei, Saturday was Holtzmann, and Sunday was Alice for the Ain't No Pretty Princess group (I couldn't make it on Thursday because of my work schedule). Friday was a very early morning for me but somehow I managed to arrive at the MTCC in full costume in time for my opening shift at the Cosplay Recovery Lounge. I didn't take many photos during my shift (since the room is a "no photography" zone) but I did have a chance to talk with some awesome cosplayers who visited the room and had fun with Alex and Kat - my coworkers for the early shift ^_^ Once the afternoon shift arrived for the lounge I ran off for lunch and then sadly missed getting to hang out with The Marvelous Girls of KW. Boo: timing. However, I ran into Snowhawk and King of the Freaks instead and spent the rest of the con mostly checking out the North building with them, which was a nice chill way to wrap up Friday.
I started off Saturday with a photoshoot with Elemental, who is always a blast to work with. As always, I'm looking forward to seeing the photos from the set! Once we parted ways I decided to visit the Ontario Ghostbusters table (because of course) in the time before my shift at the lounge. It was nice chatting with them (and hopping in on some photo requests) and of course I took advantage of the opportunity to try out their equipment! After that I was off to work again, this time with Alex, Megan, and Kiga. Despite being busy, fortunately we had things covered and it was a chill afternoon/evening of helping people and making more new connections in the community, which are two of my favourite cosplay things. I didn't hit up any of the after-parties, but I did go out for dinner with Ragz and Jonathan afterwards which was certainly better XD
Sunday was my day of relative freedom to actually see the South building. We started the day off with an "Ain't No Pretty Princess" shoot with the fantastic Paul Hillier - I'm super psyched to see the shots he got! We had the largest gathering of the band yet - Merida, Cinderella, Snow White, Rapunzel, Kida, Ariel, Belle, and me in Alice! I had to change up the details of my costume a bit this time - my feet were rejecting the black boots I usually wear, so I swapped them out for my new red chucks...and of course my art-brain screamed that I couldn't just wear red shoes with a blue and white outfit so I added the red rose, lipstick, and Easter-egg-esque Queen of Hearts stuffed in my top. I think it works, and the forced creativity gave me some ideas for next time I wear her.
Then I finally got to see the South hall! I needed to visit my friends at their tables (unfortunately I only found Ice Phoenix Art and Chibik3r0, but hey, at least I found them!), and I wanted to check out the Vikings booth (last year I spent a lot of time in front of it but now I've actually watched a few seasons of the show so I HAVE CONTEXT), but the thing I was most psyched for was seeing the Thor Ragnarok costumes on display. I'm not planning to make any of them, but I just love seeing costumes in real life, and I took TONS OF PHOTOS. I think some friends might appreciate the reference material... >_>
Here are my selfies and other photos from the weekend for your entertainment:
Let's finish up with a few of my fave photos that other people took ^_^
Somehow I ended up taking fewer "selfiecon" photos this year, despite being at more events (I'm going to blame either being on staff or working with Cosplay for a Cure at most conventions for some of that) so I was determined to get as many as I could manage at DTAC; my last con of 2016. Photos below!
... and a bonus few non-selfie hall shots from other attendees...
My Holiday Holtzmann ended up in a couple of convention videos, too... this one on facebook, and the one below (I'm at 1:05)
No blog posts since Bravo? Whoops! How the time flies by!
I was going to post about Fan Expo, but it turns out that I don't have much to say this time. I spent most of my weekend working at the Cosplay Recovery Lounge, which was fun but didn't leave me with any stories to share. I also wasn't able to take photos - definitely not a selfie-con this time around. I spent a little time on Thursday doing some shopping, but other than that, when I wasn't at the Lounge, I was at home being exhausted (real-life job has been keeping me on my toes). However, I was extremely fortunate that I was able to meet up again with Asgard Barbie (and Mr Asgard Barbie) on Sunday for some fun #TeamPepper photos and then being a terrible tour-guide as we explored some of downtown Toronto's sights ^_^
Some other things happened this summer which I haven't commented on yet, like getting to co-host a Game of Thrones themed trivia night with the fab Bear Sailor Moon. While admittedly I was dying of heat in my dress that day, I still had fun and it was great to hang out with "Jon Ho" and meet BrigitFiddle among others!
August also included Mr Stark's birthday, which was a cosplay-filled affair. I pulled together a more complete version of Ammy from The Wicked + The Divine, and had fun spending foreverrrrr doing my makeup LOL
As for off-camera stuff, I've been working away on finishing Cersei for the last couple months, as well as upgrades or additions to the other costumes in my current rotation. That percentage counter over to the right is climbing, but it is so painfully slow T_T. Right now I'm trying to stop myself from working on anything else until Cersei is actually complete, but a couple new projects for other people have popped up unexpectedly and I might have to break for them :/ In any case, my instagram (@maishericostumes) is the place to look for current progress updates until I have more time to post collections here.
I've gotten back several sets of photos from photographers recently which I will be posting soon (I hope!!!) because they're gorgeous, so that'll be the next few blogs.
As for events: I thought that I was going to be finished for the year after Fan Expo, but I just can't turn down working with Cosplay for a Cure, so I will be with them at the Niagara Wine Festival parade again this year (Sept 24), as well as Hamilton Comic Con (Oct 1-2) and probably Forest City Comicon (Nov 5-6) as well! And can't forget about Halloween either. It's going to be a very busy fall!
Before I talk about this year's Toronto ComiCon, it's been a while, so I want to catch up on a few things real quick:
I'm going to lots of cons this spring! Every other weekend, in fact, starting last week with MTCC. Here's what it looks like:
I'm making lots of things! On top of costumes for myself and collabs with friends, I'm pushing my boundaries with props, which includes having entered Worbla's TranspART contest. I really hope I manage to succeed at actually making something which isn't a disaster!
... That's probably enough of a brief catch-up for now! Moving right along....
Toronto Comicon a.k.a MTCC a.k.a MTAC!
I went in to Comicon this year with a plan: buy some makeup, buy a wand, cosplay with friends, and take selfies. I had even avoided scheduling any shoots ahead of time, because I just didn't feel like it. Anyways, neither of the makeup or wand vendors which I had hoped to shop at were at the show this year, which was disappointing. I didn't get my new costume done on time so I wasn't part of the group that i had wanted to join. And I kept forgetting my camera at home, so I only grabbed a few selfies with friends and cool people on Saturday.
BUT, I did get to hang out with friends for most of the weekend, saw lots of great costumes, and was kidnapped for mini shoots by Dream Land Photography, Santiago Ortega, and a huge group of Game of Thrones cosplayers. Stopped by the body-painting panel by Evie E and Shelle-Chii and picked up one new thing to try with my makeup in future. Oh, and I got lots and lots of street-passes ^_^
As usual, here's a little gallery of my selfie-con pics as well as some of my favorite shots which have popped up so far Additional photographers: OOC Photography, Tim Bermingham, Michelle Flannigan, Very Frank Pictures. And bonus content: I got the opening shot in Neffy A's video!
Catching up on last year's final con. No report for this one, just a collection of photos and video. I didn't have a camera for this convention at all - so the pics are even more self-centered than usual and photogs are labeled on each ^_^
The Video Ninja / Everage / Ralf Vandermeulen / Santiago Ortega / Toronto Cosplay Collection / Very Frank Pictures
Dream Land Photography / C4Murals
Here's the thing about Fan Expo. I went every year from 2005 to 2010. But I was less and less engaged with the con every year, and the admission prices kept going up, and after the really really terribly managed crowding and lock-out problems of 2010 I decided that it really wasn't worth my time or money and I wasn't going to go anymore.
So what changed this year? Well, the biggest thing was that Mr Stark had arranged to be a "booth babe" for an artist at the con, and when your boyfriend is going to be spending four days at a local event and staying at your place, it's hard to say "I won't be there at all". In addition to that, I had also heard many times that the organizers have made a lot of improvements since 2010 (and the company is also under new management) so I thought I would give it another chance. However, I still wasn't willing to shell out the kind of money they were charging for badges, so I asked around for a volunteer position and ended up being a handler for The Cosplay Scion in exchange for my weekend badge. Which meant, for the most part, sitting at her table while she was doing her cosplay panels.
I ended up having a very unusual convention experience (for me) as a result, since Lee Scion's table was in the "Cosplay Corner", which was a row of tables for most of the convention's cosplay guests* to sell prints, sign autographs, and meet fans. Up until that weekend, I'd been abstractly aware of the "celebrity cosplayer" business model, but I'd never seen it up close and for extended periods before. I have many friends who do guest spots at conventions and who sell prints, but the women at these tables were on a whole other level. There are a lot of different ways and reasons to cosplay, and I always try very hard not to judge or dismiss others who do it differently than I do. The cosplay guests around me were all clearly fans themselves: they all looked awesome and represented a variety of interests, and they all work hard at what they do. The ones I spoke to were fun and kind. Regardless, when the reason for having a table at a con is to make money (aka almost all the time), you have to offer what customers want, and it was very clear what is popular with the general convention attendee when it comes to cosplayers - traditionally attractive women in sexualized costumes (preferably popular characters) who sell pin-up prints. As someone who cosplays "obscure" characters and (generally) not-terribly-revealing designs, I sometimes feel like I have to fight to get photos of my work, or to find other people who share my fandom. So it was a little disheartening to see just how popular the cosplay guests all were, many with long lines in front of their tables for most of each day. People wanted their photos with these women, wanted to buy posters of them to have signed, wanted to flirt. Some local con photographers were just about falling over themselves to take photos at their tables, and hung around for an uncomfortably long time if there wasn't a line to see someone.
Now I'm not going to say that these successful celebrity cosplayers are doing anything wrong - they're clearly doing alright for themselves, and since they're not hurting anyone I certainly can't blame them for making money doing something they love, as most people don’t get that opportunity. Nor am I jealous of their popularity - at least not in the sense that I want to be in their place, because I definitely don't. But it certainly makes a statement about how the hobby has evolved in recent years, especially with the increase in attention from mainstream media and culture. The women at the tables were not the “best” cosplayers in the building, nor--with a few exceptions--did they contribute to the cosplay community in terms of teaching panels or running events. It makes me sad to know that there are amazingly talented people who are "unknowns" and constantly passed over simply because they don't have "cosplay fame"; that is, because they haven't (or don't want to) figure out the magic formula of self-promotion + popular characters + sex appeal.
I think this got away from me a little bit there... back on track.
Anyways, seeing all this really got me thinking about who gets recognition for their hard work at a con these days. Mostly by accident, I conducted a very small social experiment on Saturday and Sunday to gather some anecdotal evidence. I had decided to cosplay from Hawkeye all weekend - Cover Kate Bishop on Friday, Clint Barton on Saturday, and L.A. Kate on Sunday. My Clint costume is very simple - t-shirt and jeans, a wig, makeup (and bandages), and shades. L.A. Kate is also very simple - tank top and shorts, a wig, makeup, and shades. Both costumes are "closet cosplay" - nothing custom made. Both costumes use the same bow and quiver props. Both designs are from the same book so they should be equally recognizable (well, Kate is at a disadvantage there, since Clint's costume is also used in other Avengers books). Finally, I spent approximately the same amount of time walking around the con, both buildings, in each costume. The difference: Clint is a dude and is fully covered. Kate is a girl in short-shorts and loose tank. The experiment: simply counting photo requests. I got stopped and asked for photos eight times more as Kate than as Clint. Eight. Times. That can't just be me. It's like if you don't fit the mould of the pin-up cosplay celebrities signing autographs, you become more and more invisible. The culture has shifted in such a way that Average Joe Attendee cares about taking photos of people they find attractive, not characters they like or amazing craftsmanship.
My friend and author Derwin Mak, who has been attending fan conventions almost as long as I've been alive, not only pointed out this trend in conversation during Fan Expo this year, he named it: they are "fake geek boys". The guys who go to conventions to take photos, and post galleries which are entirely or almost entirely women. The guys who go so far as to ask male members of a cosplay group to move out of their shot. The guys who are clearly only there to fulfill their hetero fantasies as opposed to actually caring about whichever fandom is relevant because if they were, they'd be taking photos of everyone, not just the girls.
So what? People are allowed to take photos of whatever they like, right? Of course - it's an issue though when it's not just a couple people, but the new cultural norm; not only just seeing cosplayers as sexy models (I had a few conversations over the weekend with people who didn’t understand that most cosplayers there were enthusiastic fans and not hired models), but also only seeing cosplayers as female. I was telling a guy friend about the results of my Fan Ex experiment when I got home, and he told me that ‘knowing he would probably be ignored after putting all the effort into making/wearing a costume’ is a huge reason that he hasn't gotten into the hobby, despite being a regular convention attendee. Heck, Men vs Cosplay, a group which promotes and supports male cosplayers, was started after the founders kept hearing ‘I want to cosplay but think I shouldn't; it's a girls' hobby’ from dudes at conventions. While it's awesome that so many talented women have seen success being professional cosplayers in recent years, men who cosplay have been becoming less visible and what I see now is a feedback loop of guys being discouraged from joining the hobby because all they see are women.
Sorry guys, I just have a lot of feelings - not about how people cosplay, but about what types have become hugely popular and why.
Despite the wall of text above, I had a good (if surreal) time at Fan Ex. I did a mini shoot with Nathan Dunham in my Clint cosplay, I did an interview for the We Got the Geek podcast, I did a little shopping at BMV, Dotsy's, and Cakes Cove. I saw friends at Lee’s table, as well as when I invaded the masquerade greenroom and almost ended up working backstage. I tried a pulled pork parfait, and got to watch Hayley Atwell's Q&A at the end of the weekend. I saw the convention from a different angle (quite literally). And in the end, other life obligations got in the way and Mr Stark wasn't even able to attend. Would I go back again? Sure... but I still wouldn't pay for a badge. Volunteer or bust!
Enjoy some photos from the con ^_^
*since "Toronto Batman" was the only male in the group (and he was there to be a public spectacle, not to make sales) the rest of the discussion refers to the female cosplay guests
Now that I'm back to regular life after a busy weekend... Comic Con! It didn't suck! Yay! hahaha... I don't have a great history with Fan Expo and its sister events.
I arrived shortly after 4 on Friday and spent 50 minutes in line to get my wristband. While that was unpleasant (especially carrying my coat and costume stuff) it was about what I expected when arriving at an event this size as the doors opened. Mai had her first test-run, and while I want to make a change to my makeup for next time (and add coloured contacts and those boots NEED insoles) I think everything else was good! I was expecting to want to make alterations to the actual costume or wig. I did a shoot with Everage and also had my first shoot with Very Frank Pictures! I'm really excited to share the shots from what I've seen so far ^_^
Since I was only there for the one day, I basically took one quick lap through the exhibitors' hall; just enough to look for the books I wanted (found none), the baby pop vinyls I wanted (found one), and I made an impulse buy of The Pitiful Human-Lizard from the Artist Alley, since the title has grabbed my attention at Silver Snail before, but I haven't actually read it. Other than that, it was just wandering and running into con-friends (I don't see you guys often enough!) and even meeting some new people. Hope that next convention (Ad-Astra? C2E2? Anime North?) I can have a longer visit with everyone <3
At random: shout-out to the Dad in line ahead of me who was there with four or five 14-year-old boys. I hope you survived, sir ;)
Since my camera is still missing (I know it's SOMEWHERE here in the Mystery Shack) no photos again. Such a plain wall of text T_T
Better add a couple of preview Mai images ~_^
For more Mai in the mean-time, check out Very Frank Pictures' gallery on Facebook!