I must, with all due respect, call “Bullshit,” plain and simple, on recent criticisms of the cosplay scene.
We come across different viewpoints on different subjects constantly, and while I may not always agree with those views, I do try my best to at least understand a person’s train of thought. Every once in a while, though, there emerges a moment that strikes just the right balance between “WTF” and “you have to be kidding” . This is one of those times.
Pat Broderick is a comic book artist, best known for his work from the ’70s through the mid-’90s on books like The Micronauts, Captain Marvel, The Fury of Firestorm, Green Lantern, and Doom 2099. He is also known for his work on the “Batman: Year Three” story arc that ran through issues #436-439 of DC’s Batman series in 1989. However, his most recent impact in the industry had nothing to do with his artistic skills, but rather a Facebook post he made on Thursday.
“If you’re a Cosplay personality, please don’t send me a friend request,” Brockerick said in the post. “If you’re a convention promoter and you’re building your show around cosplay events and mega multiple media guest don’t invite me….You bring nothing of value to the shows, and if you’re a promoter pushing cosplay as your main attraction you’re not helping the industry or comics market.”
“[C]osplay are just selfies in costume, and doing multiple selfies is about the highest expression of narcissium [sic],” Broderick added later in the post.
Frustrating? Yes, but on Saturday, after a flurry of controversy erupted, Broderick added fuel to the fire with another lengthy Facebook post in which he further elaborated his opinion, apologizing to “the injured parties”, but going on to say:
” To those who antiquate [sic] their time and investment as an equaled effort to the years artist and writers have put into their trade, that’s just wrong and untrue.”
While Broderick’s statements surprised a lot of folks and raised the ire of many in the cosplay community, his words also seemed to echo the comments of a few others in the comic book industry. Some feel as if the cosplay community has taken the focus off of ( in the words of Denise Dorman, writer, publicist, and wife of Star Wars illustrator, Dave Dorman) “The hard-working artists and creators who are the very foundation of this industry…the reason there even is an industry….those creatives who have busted their asses and spent money they perhaps didn’t have to spare in order to be there exhibiting for-and accessible to-the fans…have been reduced to being the background wallpaper against which the cosplayers pose in their selfies.” Others feel that the cosplayers are nothing more than a distraction that keep “real” fans from spending money at the shows, effectively cutting into the pros’ bottom line.
To Broderick, Dorman, and other professionals who are looking for a scape goat or trying to make themselves feel better by looking down on the cosplay community, I must, with all due respect, call “Bullshit” … plain and simple.
Photo Credit: Envy Inferno on Facebook.
Let me start off by saying that I am not, by any stretch of the imagination, a cosplayer. The closest I’ve come to doing cosplay was probably the time back when I was a teenager and I volunteered to wear a seven foot tall grim reaper costume while standing on the side of the road to promote a costume shop for Halloween. That being said, I HAVE been a part of the comic community for more than twenty years now. I started off in retail, managing local shops, before ultimately writing and covering the comic book scene as a pop culture journalist, something I’ve done for more than ten years now. I’ve bounced around the country to different conventions and venues, and I’ve seen the industry AND its audience evolve over the years. I’ve also been extremely lucky to meet amazing and talented people, not only among professionals, but among the fans as well.
One example of the people I’ve been lucky enough to get to know is Envy Inferno. Envy is a cosplayer and performer in Florida whom I’ve gotten to know over the course of the past year or so and at various events. She does phenomenal costumes, cosplaying a range of characters including Black Widow, Duela Dent, Elizabeth (from Bioshock Infinite), and Mad Moxxi from Borderlands. Recently, Envy posted a breakdown of what it took to create her Moxxi character. The grand total came to over $750 and 40+ hours of work … for one costume. And what drove her to pour so much into that costume? It wasn’t for profit. It was because of her love of the character.
Unlike Broderick, I absolutely think cosplayer should equate (not antiquate) “their time and investment as an equaled effort to the years artist(s) and writers have put into their trade.” Just because a person like Broderick can put a pencil to paper and draw a pretty picture, it doesn’t put him on a higher pedestal than someone like Envy. Both are talented, creative, and artistic … they just express it in different media. Cosplayers absolutely deserve to share the stage with other artists and writers. I’ve seen firsthand how much hard work and skill goes into the crafting of these costumes. I’ve seen people create fantastic, real life recreations of fictional characters out of what looks to me to be just scraps of material. Where many of us see only random bits of cloth or junked knickknacks, cosplayers see a world of opportunity. They see how a jumble of parts can fit together like an elaborate puzzle to create a masterpiece.
If there’s a bright spot to be seen in this whole “comics vs. cosplay” fiasco, it’s that for every professional that feels the way folks like Broderick and Dorman do, there’s are at least as many who stand firm on the other end of the spectrum. Over the weekend, while starting to put this piece together, I reached out to a few comic professionals, including Jimmy Palmiotti (Harley Quinn, Jonah Hex, Painkiller Jane). I asked for his thoughts on cosplayers and their place at conventions. He wanted to make his stance crystal clear, so he posted his response on Facebook.
Palmiotti begins by saying, in no uncertain terms:
“Amanda (Conner, Palmiotti’s wife and artist on Harley Quinn) and I love it. Don’t believe me? Check my Instagram page. With Harley Quinn being a big hit this past year, we’ve done a number of shows and had a great time in the process. The most fun part of the show for us is meeting fans and seeing some amazing cosplay in the process. We’re always impressed with the amount of work and devotion these fans have to put together such amazing costumes and at the same time understand not every single ‘Harley’ cosplayer will know who we are, but still, we enjoy them just the same.”
He went on to say:
“These people are the new audience, the diehards, the people with a love of the medium or the beginners looking at what the fuss is about and getting to know more by going to a convention and seeing things for the first time. If these people upset an artist or writer, I have to think they are not looking at the bigger picture. We have to embrace change, embrace new ideas, and support our fans just as much as they support us. We have to nurture their love of the characters and at the same time take advantage of the situation at conventions and introduce those not following comics to the origins of the characters.”
As for claims that cosplay is driving away “real” comic fans? Palmiotti responded:
“To those creators that say it keeps die hard comic people away; I have to disagree. If you are at a show, those diehards will find you. If you say a promoter is focusing too much on one thing or another, well, change is part of the business. You may not be the star you once were, but by pointing a finger on those having a good time or the next wave of the business and saying they are ruining things, I say stop fighting it. We have to roll with it, see where it’s going and embrace it, or be left in the past.”
I think Jimmy has hit the nail on the head. The jaded professionals who want to blame cosplayers for everything they think is wrong with the convention scene today are just looking for scapegoats. You don’t think cosplayers “bring anything of value to the shows? How about the fact that they help to put asses in the seats? Not only are these costumed fans buying tickets, but other people are buying tickets to see all the fun, which includes the costumes. Without cosplayers, going to a show is like going to Disneyland and never seeing Mickey, Minnie, or any of the Disney characters. They’re an integral part of the experience. And as an added bonus, they inspire others to not only stick around the show longer, but to find out more about the characters they represent.
The worst part about all of this is that, by dismissing cosplayers out of hand, these pros are just throwing away a strong fan base. They’re trying to turn the comic industry into an old boy’s club for members only, instead of putting out the Welcome Mat for all those interested. You see, whether it’s a professional cosplay celebrity taking center stage or a fan who, for one moment, can play the role of their favorite character, there’s a passion behind the work put into these costumes.
What these need to understand is a very simple lesson: “The very people you get warm and fuzzy in looking down on are actually the same ones who look up to you for inspiration. YOU may not appreciate THEIR talent, but THEY damn sure appreciate YOURS.”