[This concludes our coverage of New York Comic-Con 2013.]
Five years at New York Comic-Con! By now, it’s safe to call us veteran members of the NYCC press corps. We know the ropes, and we’re no longer quite as impressed by that Boba Fett costume that looks taken from the set of Star Wars: Episode VII. And yet, we still come away hugely impressed by the spectacle of it all. Here are some of this year’s highlights.
Variations in the Key of T
In 2012, I heaped glowing praise upon this giant gold bazooka-toting Mr. T cosplayer:
If he cosplayed as Mr. T, with the requisite haircut, dayenu.
If he cosplayed as Mr. T with golden skull shoulderpads, dayenu.
If he cosplayed as Mr. T with golden skull shoulderpads and an enormous golden bazooka, dayenu.
Dayenu. And yet, this guy tops it all off by staying in character, pitying fools and fearing planes for anyone who wanted to join in on the fun.
Dayenu. “It would have been enough.” But like G-d, whose bestowed blessing upon blessing to the Israelites, this man came back to Comic-Con in 2013 with a Man of Steel-inspired costume and an even larger than life prop:
Last year I cited bazooka-toting Mr. T as a near-perfect physical embodiment of the concept of “fandom.” A single performance of that order would have been enough (dayenu), but his return just drives the point home even further. There’s the dedication to the character over multiple years, plus the inventiveness and exploration of different cosplay possibilities in different contexts.
Finding out what this guy will do next year is reason enough to come back to Comic-Con next year. Dayenu. It would be enough. But there’s more:
The Bear is Back
In 2012, I crowned Wonder WoBear “best in show.” In case you missed it last year:
Wonder WoBear is the apotheosis of how Comic-Con creates a “safe space” for experimenting with identities of all sorts: secret identity, gender identity, and sexual identity.
Like Mr. T, this cosplayer came back in 2013 with a variation on the same theme. Now, unlike Mr. T, the character of Wonder WoBear is a bit too specific to allow for the same sort of re-interpretation year after year, so how could he possibly follow up this act?
With some wordplay and an artificial limb, that’s how. Ladies and gentlemen, meet Beariel.
This wasn’t even the only costume that this guy sported this year. Here he is as BatBear, on another day of the convention:
Which brings me to another reason why I love this man and his cosplay: he’s incredibly inventive in his use of his decidedly…non-heroic physical features. It’s the perfect antidote to the exaggerated superhero physique that we’ve been desensitized to by panels upon panels of bulging muscles underneath tights:
I mean, not that there’s anything wrong with this. Okay, sometimes there is something wrong with this. Which is why we need the subversiveness of Wonder WoBear/Beariel/BatBear to bring these characters, or at least our fetishization of their bodies, back down to earth.
Just when you thought there was nowhere else for Star Wars cosplay to go
In case you haven’t figured it out yet, I’m a huge fan of inventive, creative cosplay that stands out from an unending parade of Wolverines, Batmen, and Captains America. Sometimes that cosplay involves huge props or gender-bending twists, like the above two examples. Other times, it just involves picking the right obscure character.
Do you recognize this particular member of the Star Wars navy?
Need a hint?
Need another hint?
I’m pretty sure this guy is seen in only two shots across six Star Wars movies–and that it’s actually the same shot from Episode IV recycled for Episode VI. He’s an obscure character to the point of not being a character at all; he’s practically a piece of scenery. But at the same time, because of his distinctive uniform and his appearance in two key scenes, he’s instantly recognizable to any serious fan of Star Wars.
I know this sounds horribly blasé, but attending Comic-Con for five years in a row means that movie studio quality Darth Vaders, Boba Fetts, and Imperial Stormtroopers stop being special when you’ve seen them for the hundredth time. Guy Who Pulls Lever On The Death Star, on the other hand, deserves all the credit in the world for going way off the beaten cosplay path and catering only to the hard-core fans. And for making me feel proud to be counted among them.
Aw, what the hell. Let’s blow up Alderaan again in honor of Guy Who Pulls Lever On The Death Star:
The Artist Is Present
In our five years of coverage of New York Comic-Con, we’ve done a lot of hand-wringing over how far this event, and others like it, have strayed from their comic-centric roots. At the end of the day, I like the “big tent” approach (otherwise, where else would you find Wario dancing to Michael Jackson?), but I also consider Artist Alley, the most “comic” part of “Comic-Con,” to be the best part of the event.
What’s so great about Artist Alley? Put simply, you get to meet accomplished comic book artists and view their impressive artwork. Last year Belinkie described how thrilling it was for him to meet Dave Johnson, the guy who drew the Superman graphic novel Red Son. This year, we had a great time talking to Thomas Francis Gianni, whose main claim to fame is drawing a character far less heroic than Superman: former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich.
To be more precise, when this guy isn’t drawing the fantastic pulpy art you see in the above picture, he works as a courtroom illustrator and was lucky enough to get the gig for Blagojevich’s 2009 trial. But he wasn’t at Comic-Con to sell Blagojevich vs. Wolverine battle scenes; instead, he was promoting us upcoming comic Mechanic Anna: Hydraulics and High Heels.
There’s something wonderfully intimate about meeting artists, viewing their work, and getting to talk to them about that work in this environment. Unlike celebrities at the autograph meat market, artists are incredibly accessible, eager to talk about their work at length, and in some cases, practicing their craft in front of you.
I realize that this can’t exist without the less comic-centric, more commercial aspects of Comic-Con, and it’s one of the reasons why I’ve come to appreciate Comic-Con for all of its apparent contradictions. I’ve also come to terms with the difficulty of trying to fully convey the nature of this complex, multi-faceted event through hundreds of photographs and dozens of articles over the last five years, so I’ll just reiterate my longstanding recommendation: make an effort to attend Comic-Con, at least once, to see it for yourself. Be amazed by what Mr. T and Wonder WoBear come up with next. Meet an artist who draws something you know intimately, or something you’ve never heard of. Find your own Guy Who Pulls Lever On The Death Star.