Hot zone cosplay

How are conventions adapting to the world of COVID-19? Pretty well, it seems.

Hot zone cosplay
Image: Andrew Liptak 

Happy Friday!

I'm currently hard at work on edits for The Book*: my editor is handing me stuff in chunks, and I'm dutifully going through and accepting changes, tweaking things here and there, and slowly, the book is getting hammered into shape. I'm currently working on gathering up pictures for various historical moments, and over the Labor Day weekend, I ventured down to Boston to attend Boston Fan Expo to take some last-minute pictures of various things.

That's something I haven't done since 2019, when I attended Star Wars Celebration, Boston Fan Expo, Dragon Con, Granite State Comic Con, and Rhode Island Comic Con, taking pictures of hundreds of cosplayers for the project.

Then COVID happened, and cons pretty much went online, or just didn't take place. That led to an unforeseen opportunity: looking at how conventions and cosplayers will adjust their habits moving forward. That's what I'm going to focus on for this week's roundup.

*For those new here, I'm writing a book about the history of Cosplay and fan costuming, to be published by Saga Press in 2022.

Post-COVID Cosplay

With the book's edits well underway, I figured it would be a good time to get some new photos for it, filling in some gaps for things like 3D-printed costumes, costumers wearing masks (I've got a chapter that I added in about COVID and how it's changed things), and generally soak in the ambiance.  

What struck me the most was how normal everything felt, even with the one big change being that everyone — save for one person — was wearing a mask. Not always correctly: I saw plenty under the nose and pulled down, but for the most part? Everyone was masked up. Boston Fan Expo didn't have a vaccine or negative test requirement, but we're also in the Northeast, where there are pretty solid numbers of folks who have gotten their shots.

Earlier this year, I wrote about how conventions were coming back, and that when they did so, they'd be a little different than before. "Returning to in-person events means that cosplayers — and fans alike — are going to have to adjust to some changes and challenges," and that a whole bunch of conventions were requiring that people would not only have to wear masks, but they'd be prohibited from wearing helmets that covered your face. I.e., no skipping out on the mask requirement because you can hide that you're not wearing one.

Seeing a convention in person? I think it's clear that you can do both: I saw plenty of cosplayers wearing helmets and masks, which while probably wasn't the most comfortable, signaled that people were at least taking it seriously.  

What impressed me the most, however, was how cosplayers were adapting here. In instances where people weren't wearing helmets, plenty took the time to tailor their masks to the costumes that they were wearing, either matching up fabric, or at least making it congruent with their costume. In other instances, they turned it into part of the costume, turning a safety thing into part of their kit.

This is what I like about the wider world of cosplay in general: we're adaptive. Something like a mask restriction is something of a challenge, and it's clear that plenty of people rose to meet it.

That's a good thing, and while I'm guessing Fan Expo's numbers were off a bit from where we've seen them in prior years, the place was packed — social distancing just wasn't a thing in the aisles. Obviously, whether or not there'll be any big COVID cases that come out of BFE, or last weekend's other big convention, Dragon Con, remains to be seen, and it wouldn't surprise me if there isn't at least one or two cases that pop up as a result.

But that's what vaccines and measures like masks will do: there's no way to completely contain COVID, but you can at least slow it the fuck down to far more manageable levels. That said, there's probably a bit more that the con could do: they could mandate that attendees have a vaccine or a negative COVID-19 test, if anything, to put pressure on folks to get the damn vaccine. And, they could have likely done a better job placing out more hand sanitizer stations, make aisles bigger to allow for a little more distancing, and so forth.

Hopefully, other conventions will take this rational measure and put it into place. I think they will — Fan Expo and ReedPop certainly don't want their customers dying — and if people don't want to attend because they object to vaccines or masks? Fuck 'em. It's probably better that they don't attend.

What I am happy to see is that the pandemic hasn't dealt conventions or cosplay a death blow. In-person events are integral to cosplay, and have been part of the activity since the beginning. We dress up to entertain not just ourselves, but our peers and fellow fans. And while social networks like Instagram, Tiktok, and OnlyFans provides a good place for folks to showcase their costumes, they don't hold a candle to the reaction that you get to from someone seeing you in costume.

The woman at the top of this message, dressed as Catwoman? When I asked for a picture, she was thrilled to pose, and literally squealed when she saw the result. That alone made the trip worth it.

Image: Andrew Liptak

Currently reading

In last week's Further reading section, I included a piece from Slate about comic book propaganda. The piece moved me to pick up the book at the center of it, Paul S. Hirsch's Pulp Empire: The Secret History of Comic Book Imperialism, and I've started reading it. It's an intriguing read so far, one that takes a wider view of the power that storytelling holds over people. (And, it has a stunning cover).

Also on the list: while I drove down and back to Boston for BFE, I listened to Stephen Graham Jones' My Heart is a Chainsaw, read by The Expanse's Cara Gee. She does a great job, and the book is a gripping one.

Further reading

Fall of ANOVOS

In case you missed it yesterday, I published a new long read about the rise and fall of a costume company called ANOVOS. It started out with a lot of enthusiasm from the cosplay community in 2009 through 2014, but now? There are boycott ANOVOS groups on Facebook, and almost everyone you talk to will warn you away from the company.

A new company has taken over its back orders, and it looks like ANOVOS is no more. What went wrong?

Fall books

Polygon asked me to put together a preview of this fall's upcoming books, and I gave them 17. A handful of these are on my own September list, and the others will likely pop up in the October and November lists as well. I probably won't do a December list this year — there just aren't many titles hitting stores at the end of the year, and it will be good to take a bit of a break. There are a couple, and I might just wrap them into the November list.

Matrix Resurrections

Yesterday, Warner Bros. finally unveiled its first trailer for The Matrix: Resurrections, which is due out in theaters and HBO Max on December 22nd. As I've noted recently, I've got some somewhat mixed feelings about this. On one hand, this looks incredible: the visuals and action look utterly stunning. But there's a lot of callbacks to the original, which makes me wonder just how much of a retread over the original films this actually will be.

Obviously, this is a trailer, and there's only so much that you can read into it. Warner Bros.' marketing folks have to know what will work to signal to viewers that this is a franchise that's coming back after 20 some-odd years, and I'm equally sure that Lana Wachowski would recognize that they can't just redo The Matrix. Hopefully, this is just the tip of the iceberg. Either way, I'm going to see it, if anything, for the visuals alone.

Murderbot Cosplay

This was pretty cool: Christopher Hunter decided to dress up as Murderbot (from Martha Wells' excellent series) at Dragon Con this year. I interviewed him about how he put it together for At some point on the site today, I've got a followup, talking about how Hunter has released his helmet model on Thingiverse.

Star Trek news dump

Wednesday was the 55th anniversary of Star Trek, and Paramount put together a big online event to drop a whole bunch of updates on what's coming up for the franchise. Here's a quick rundown:

  • Star Trek: Picard is coming back for a third season, and a new trailer for season 2 looks a bit on the nose. We knew that a third season was on the way (2 and 3 came together, and I think were filmed at the same time), but now it's official-official. Season 2 brings back the classic villain Q, and it looks like he's messing with Picard again, this time by turning the world into a totalitarian state. I enjoyed the first season, even though I'm not a huge fan of TNG.
  • Star Trek: Strange New Worlds revealed its cast. No official trailer or release date yet, but we do get a good idea of who some of the main characters are. We knew the principle folks — they were introduced in Star Trek: Discovery (Anson Mount as Kirk, Ethan Peck as Spock, and Rebecca Romjin as Number One), and now, we've got Celia Rose Gooding as Uhura, Babs Olusanmokun as Dr. M'Benga, Christina Chong as La'an Noonien-Sighn, Jess Bush as Nurse Chapel, Melissa Navia as Lt. Ortegas, and Bruce Horak as Hemmer. It looks like a pretty solid, diverse case, and I'm really interested in seeing how this turns out.
  • Star Trek: Discovery returns for season 4 in November. I still need to catch up on Season 2!
  • Star Trek: Prodigy reveals release date and trailer. This one looks like a lot of fun. It's aimed at kids, and we've gotten Bram interested in Star Trek: Lower Decks, so this'll be a nice followup for him.

Paramount has really built out this franchise, and from the looks of things, we're going to have a solid run where there'll be a new Trek show on each week (or so). Lower Decks is currently running its second season, Prodigy will debut on Thursday, October 28th, Discovery season 4 will kick off on November 18th, and Picard season 2 will debut sometime in February. I'd imagine that Strange New Worlds will come sometime in April or May. That's a lot — it's on par with what Disney's doing with Marvel and Star Wars.

That's all for this week. Next week, I've got ... a book due. I'll probably be focusing on that, but I've also got a small list of things to get out to y'all. Stay tuned.

Have a good weekend,