Jun 7, 2013

Denver Comic-Con 2013: Con is the Epitome of Passion

Conventions are awesome, let me tell you. If you have never been to one I would highly recommend you remedy that issue immediately. There are Con's of every size and shape, from the dedicated smaller Con's like Colorado Spring's own Galaxy Fest, to the monster Con that everyone always thinks of when they hear the word Con: San Diego Comic-Con. Con's are a nerd mecha, a place where one can go and be outside their normal group of friends and still be right at home in their comfort zone. Some go to see celebrities, some go to put in leg work and get their names out there, some go to show off their connection with fictional characters through the means of dress, some go to drink, some go to make exciting new friends, some go to find someone who just gets them.

I have seen a few Con's in my day, starting with a pie in the sky visit to BlizzCon 2005. BlizzCon is an extremely focused Con though, focusing mostly on the big three Blizzard Franchises, the massively addicting World of Warcraft, the rapid clicking Diablo and the tooth and nails competition of Starcraft. While this was my first Con experience, after stepping onto the Con floor I made sure it wouldn't be my last. I paid multiple visits to BlizzCon over the years, but now my passion lies elsewhere.

As a denizen of the Internet, living on Tumblr, Twitter and the like, there are certain things you discover. I am absolutely jealous of the next generation of humanity, simply because they have a community of people they can find with the click of a button. When I was in school I was constantly scoffed at for collecting Pokémon cards, and mocked on the bus for devouring literature. Now sure Con's existed long before my time, and will continue to thrive until there is no long passion in the veins of others, but there was never a congruent outlet to experience Con's without being there. In this day and age we get livestreams, developer chats, twitter questions and reddit AMA's. Nerds are everywhere!

One aspect of Con Culture that I was always fascinated with was that of Cosplay. I was astonished to find a community out there that dressed up as their favorite characters from fiction, and not just on October 31st. The artistry, the craftsmanship, the pictures, the passion. It was a curiosity I once told myself I would submerge myself in, and this year, at Denver Comic-Con 2013 I finally took the leap.

Now, I did Cosplay a bit last year, donning a Loki costume and a Superboy costume for Starfest 2012, but most of those were cobbled together first time efforts. I look back at those efforts with a smile, mostly for the memories, but this year I told myself I was going to take things more seriously. Cosplay is truly an art where you get out what you put in, and I wanted to dive in head first with my heart this year. This year I was finally going to become something I had always dreamed about since I was a child... A Green Lantern.

The first integral piece would be the character itself. Now, like any good comic character who has been around for the better half of a century, there are many definitions of what a Green Lantern could be. The cosmic setting lends itself to a very science fiction nature with many different aliens and rules. Kyle Rayner was my rock. Kyle was an aspiring artist sucked into the ether because a little blue alien saw the ability to fight fear in his heart. He wasn't out to prove anything, make a name for himself, or live up to someone's expectations. Responsibility was thrust upon him and Kyle has to steel himself and deal with it, because no one else is there to do so. Some people will say their Green Lantern is Hal Jordan, Jon Stewart of Guy Gardner (I can't wait for the Simon Baz Cosplay-ers to show up), but that is the beauty of Cosplay, you can pick any character you want! As long as you are comfortable and are there to have fun, go for it!

Kyle's costume is very specific in the Lantern mytho's. While the Green Lantern's themselves are peacekeepers throughout the universe, there isn't exactly a dress code. The main part people think of when they think Kyle would be the mask, as it reads more like armor than it does a facemask. With no real welding skills to use, this is where you have to get creative. For my mask I took two children's Iron Man masks, spray painted them, took a sander to them to shape them and glued them on top of each other. One of the coolest parts of Cosplay is the puzzle of the costume. "How do I get to look like Iron Man? I am not Tony Stark! I can't build a full set of armor over night!", and that is where the fun comes in, how do you look at the world and meld your costume out of something real and tangible?

The next hurdle was the costume itself. It is superhero land in comics so do you know what that means? Spandex and skin tight outfits. You know that scene in Amazing Spider-Man? "Spandex, Spandex, Spandex, everything. Is. Spandex.". Yeah that is totally a thing. Now there are many methods to this madness, you could build a skin tight suit, cobble it together out of things like Under Armor and other naturally skin tight clothing (Seriously, sports stores), or you could mod something. For this I decided to go the mod route.

Now, from this point I wasn't working on my own at this time. I managed to swoon an astonishingly talented friend of mine into the madness and she helped set me straight, educating me on what fabric to buy (four way stretch for those wondering) and how to make basic patterns. Along the way I learned about the joys of tracing paper that turns out has a rather effective use past the 5th grade, craft foam and the joys of public almost-nudity. If you take anything away from this post aside from how awesome Cons are take this: No one wants to see your junk, wear a cup or dance belt under your costume.

So, with a bevy of materials, a zentai suit and nothing but wanting to be a Green Lantern, we headed to the proverbial coal mines. I cannot stress to you how many times you will be trying something on and taking it off to make adjustments. If it looks good on the craft table that is awesome, but always remember this is something you are going to be wearing, you need to know how it will look while you are wearing it. And if available, always get a second or third opinion.

The hardest part was probably the boots, but Tumblr came through with a very useful tutorial on how to put together boot covers that fit for your foot. Long story short, saran wrap, tape scissors and fabric is all it takes to make a quality form fitting piece. Fashion tape is also indispensible to make it look like it is staying up with pure will.

Now that I had the costume assembled, the weekend was upon us. CON!!

Denver Comic-Con this year was definitely a year of growing pains. It all started on Thursday when early badge pick up had to get cancelled due to a printing error. This made Friday an absolute nightmare, with the badge pick up wrapping the Colorado Convention Center multiple times. attendance was through the roof. But hey, Con is about a ton of like minded people getting together and having a blast. Making friends in line still counts as making friends!

Friday was a typical short day, but due to the badge kerfuffle the exhibitors rolled with it and kept the show floor open for another hour. Most people will get mad about the line because they focus only on things that go wrong, but the floor stayed open another hour with no complaints. They didn't have to do that, but they chose to.

Saturday was my big day, as I was walking around all day in costume. The DC Comic's photo shoot was at 2 and there was a group of Lantern Corp members that had planned on showing up at the photo stage at 3:30. I was surprised earlier in the day when my partner in crime decided to get some professional Cosplay shots done before we went inside. This was by far the highlight of the Con. This was why I built my costume, to immortalize my love for Kyle Rayner. We finally got the pictures back from the amazing photographer and I am immensely pleased.

Then came the DC shoot. There were so many amazing and talented Cosplay-er's spanning the entire gamut of the DC Universe. As typical there were a lot of Batman centric costumes, but there were a fair amount of others as well. Of course with our Lantern shoot an hour and a half later there was a sizable conglomerate of rainbow warriors. I was surprised at the lack of Superman characters though, and was really sad I didn't see at least one Lex Luthor. Alas, perhaps next year.

Walking the Con floor was really cool, regardless of if I was in costume or not. I don't think I ever saw so many happy people checking out all the booths and of course artist alley. Artist Alley is where you really get to see people excited about what they are doing, and offers a great opportunity to find friends with a similar passion and above par skills. People are always so excited to meet others. Con is a place for friends.

Sunday was a more relaxed day, most people doing their big hurrah on Saturday. While this is typical it also caused a little bit of sadness. As soon as doors opened on Sunday you could tell an amazing weekend was coming to an end. It is one of the most bittersweet feelings ever. You welcome it because it isn't another day on your feat, but you immediately regret wanting it to be over. This is when most people do their shopping, using Friday and Saturday to put together a list of must-haves. Also because Sunday is the last day of the Con you can swindle some prices down a bit, especially closer to closing time.

The one bad mark from Sunday was at the Marvel photo shoot. The first thing that baffles me is why they didn't schedule both the Marvel and DC photo shoots on Saturday when there are more people in costume. I don't make those decisions though. The bad mark came from a very specific group of Cosplayer's though. While waiting to get on stage for the Marvel shoot members of the Umbrella Corp group came up, forced everyone off stage and were shouting orders to people, all while intimidating them with their fake weapons and shoving people with riot shields. It was completely unacceptable and downright rude. They were trying to clear the stage for their buddies in Iron Man costumes, which should have been there, but they could have done so with a simple please instead of acting like thugs.

All in all swag wise I came out with an awesome War Machine hoodie, six graphic novels and two Green Lantern action figures. If only I could have found a Kyle...