by Sandy Wright
Why would people dress up in elaborate, heat-trapping costumes and venture outside into the 105+degree Phoenix heat by the thousands? It’s called Cosplay, a mash-up of the words “costume” and “play,” and it is crazy popular at ComiCon conventions like the one in Phoenix last weekend. Fans dress up as characters from video games, comic books, graphic novels, TV shows and cartoons and attend the entire conference in character. Whether it was a splattering of fake blood for the Zombie Walk, or full-on metamorphosis complete with colored contacts, fangs, fur and sequins, or three-foot heads, the majority of kids and adults dressed up for the convention.
In its 13th year, Phoenix Comicon was bigger than ever. Nearly 70,000 people attended hundreds of panels, classes and activities throughout the four-day weekend. Even as a writer who doesn’t game (yet), and despite the fact that organizers expanded its hours, I often found myself double, or even triple-booked in workshop timeslots.
Trudging through the bright sunlight to registration the first morning, I came across the Moon Mermaid Lagoon exhibit outside the South convention building. Whether or not any attendees were lured underwater by these lovely sirens, I’m convinced these ladies had the best job at the Con.
Thursday was the Best of Dr. Who, and a comparison of Game of Thrones characters to historical figures. Drat! I missed the Biohazard Game Show. But I did catch part of the First Robotics Competition demonstration, where high school students demonstrate the abilities of bots they’ve built for a national contest. My son participated in this when he was in high school. His team had to build an underwater robot, and they learned a lot of real-world physics, giving him a good start for a college engineering degree.
Friday was jam-packed, starting with witches at the American Horror Story Coven discussion. At the Secret Lives of Debut Authors panel, I discovered two new authors to read, Jamie Wyman’s urban fantasy, Wild Card, and Austin Asland’s dystopian Islands at the End of the World, set in Hilo, Hawaii. Lunch I spent wandering the huge exhibit hall and taking photos of the colorful costumes and interesting vendors.
After lunch, I went to visit John Rhys-Davies. Fans of The Lord of the Rings are familiar with this longtime character actor for his portrayal of axe-toting dwarf warrior Gimli, while anyone who’s seen Raiders of the Lost Ark will remember him as Indy’s sidekick Sallah, my favorite character. Plus, I am old enough to have seen Rhys-Davies in the miniseries adaptation of James Clavell’s historical epic Shōgun.
At sundown we all (well, a huge crowd of us anyway) traipsed outside for the Zombie Walk. Between the zombies and the Roller Derby bout that followed, the streets outside the Convention Hall were filled with shrieks, growls and bits of bloody clothing.
Holy crowds Batman! It seemed like every one of the 70,000 conference attendees showed up on Saturday. There were long waits for everything, even to get into the building itself. But at least it gave me more time to take more pictures.
Author Jim Butcher’s talk was funny and entertaining. Yes! It appears there will be a new Dresden Files series re-make, and lucky for us, Butcher gets to have a say in how it’s made this time. I also got an autograph and a picture. Jim is a little shy, and exceedingly nice to his fans as well as to fellow writers. Oh, and a big D&D player, but only the old version.
After a day full of panels on crime writing, world building in horror novels, and an analysis of a local murder investigation by a member of the Phoenix Police, I headed over to the authors’ cocktail party to meet Patrick Rothfuss, Jaye Wells (love her latest novel, Dirty Magic) Chuck Wendig, and several others.
Sunday, the last day I deviated from the writer’s workshops and played the fan, watching the Arizona State team’s Quidditch skirmish. Who knew they played Quidditch in Arizona? Unfortunately I had to leave early to make the Spotlight on Cary Elwes, but he was worth it. Despite what people think, the British-American actor is famous for more than The Princess Bride. But let’s be honest, stable boy Westley and the Dread Pirate Roberts are what fans crammed into his Q&A to hear about.
Then came Corpsing for Dummies, where I learned how to make a convincing corpse for Halloween from a cheap plastic skeleton, on a next-to-nothing budget. I can’t wait to try it. To conclude, let me circle back to all those ‘cosplay’ attendees and show you a couple of my favorites, based on some of my favorite TV shows and movie.
Maleficent and Skeletor- What a fantastic recreation of the Disney villainess. It also doesn’t hurt if, like Scottsdale professional cosplayer Aime Jaze, you bear more than a passing resemblance to Maleficent actress Angelina Jolie. Jaze’s similarity to Mrs. Brad Pitt, her flowing gown and perfectly evil horns made her the best of the Maleficents at Comicon this year. Jaze cosplays with her husband Lance. “After seeing the stills [for Maleficent] before the movie came out, I knew it was something that I had to strive for, because she’s a beautiful character,” Jaze says.
Group costumes are common at Comicon, with a bunch of friends coordinating their cosplay on a central theme or suite of characters, such as the crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise or The Avenger characters. The best costumed ensemble this year, hands down, was this pack of Dothraki. The group not only donned leather-like gear to play the members of the HBO show’s nomadic tribe of warrior horselords, they also put on a showstopping dance performance at the Masquerade costume contest that encapsulated the clan’s trials and tribulations during the first season. The brainchild of friends Casey Kaki and Alison Terry, the troupe was awarded one of the “Best of Show” trophies at the Masquerade Costume Contest.
All members of the eight-person troupe are avid Game of Thrones watchers. At Comicon, Kaki plays the role of Daenerys Targaryen, the Khaleesi of the Dothraki, along with Tommy Barresi, who starred as the musclebound Drogo in the ensemble.
Was my first foray into ComiCom territory a success? Absolutely. My advice to you is, “Try it.” You don’t have to be a gamer, or an anime addict, a comic book geek or even a writer. There’s a little bit of everything her.
A woman I talked with in the bathroom line has been coming to ComiCon with her husband to see her favorite stars for six years. This year, she got to see Mark Sheppard (Supernatural), Julie Newmar, Adam West (TV’s Batman), Danny Glover, or Richard Dean Anderson of MacGyver and Stargate fame. And what about Stan Lee, the icon of Marvel Comics who brought us the Hulk, the Fantastic Four, Iron Man, Thor, the E-Men and Spiderman (his personal favorite).
So look for a ComiCon event near you and plan a vacation. There are similar events in some 30 cities. The largest is next month in San Diego, so better start working on your costume now!