by Lawrence Brenner
[Editor’s note: As a non-combantant in the cosplay wars, I’m not sure how much actual warfare is involved in this, but as with all things con, competition is heating up.]
Cosplay is one of the most visual and important aspects of conventions especially in the last ten years. It is one of the greatest and creative expressions of fandom, displaying a multitude of art forms combined. In addition, many cosplayers are employed in multiple capacities by companies to help in the promotion of their products, services, etc. Cosplayers themselves are also a new form of retailer for and at conventions (and con goers) who sell various products based on their likenesses as various characters and interpretations of from different properties, and this includes props and commissions. In fact, many cosplayers and photographers/videographers go to conventions to photograph and videograph different cosplayers and be the subjects of photos and videos.
Since the beginnings of many of conventions cosplay has been a part of them. (I was thinking of linking the io9 article about cosplay in the 1970s.) In almost all conventions, there are various cosplay contests with the largest one usually run by the convention, referred to as the masquerade. In recent years there have been rise of larger cosplay competitions with significant monetary prizes and cosplay competitions as part of a circuit on a national and international level.
There are several that come to mind that are very well known such as the World Cosplay Summit, the EuroCosplay Championship, the Madman National Cosplay Championship in Australia, and now ReedPOP’s Quest for the Crown Champions of Cosplay with NYCC hosting the Eastern Championships of Cosplay with C2E2 being the finals. They call the “Quest for the Crown” “a new global Cosplay competition circuit that celebrates the very best in Cosplay design from all over the world.” (Side note: I actually wonder why Wizard World has not created one of their own given the number of conventions they have, which has increased in the past year.)
From the press release itself: “The Crown Championships of Cosplay debuted at ReedPOP’s Chicago Comic & Entertainment Expo earlier this year, and New York Comic Con represents the kick-off of a larger Quest for the Crown competition that will span multiple events, all leading up to a final again set in ReedPOP’s C2E2. ReedPOP, with over 15 events around the globe, looks forward to setting up additional stops in the Quest for the Crown from the US to Australia, creating a new, worldwide platform to showcase the Cosplay community.”
The Quest for the Crown Cosplay Competition Circuit is easily doable for ReedPop and it is not the first they have created. Originally, when there was a New York Anime Festival it first hosted a part of the World Cosplay Summit and then created its own large prize the Yume Cosplay Prize in 2009 that was won by the team of Yaya Han and Anna Raper, and had other conventions serving as preliminary rounds for the competition.
Since then ReedPop has expanded nationally and internationally with multiple conventions across the world including America, Europe, Asia, and Australia. Their properties include NYCC, C2E2, PAX Prime, PAX East, the Singapore Toy, Game, & Comic Convention, PAX Australia, PAX South, Oz Comic-Con, Star Wars Celebration, Star Wars Celebration Europe, among others that are sure to be announced.
There is also something very important to know: the concepts of pop culture conventions are global, some of them also having a “comic con” name but the fact this there are many all over the world on six continents.I have listed ten of the events from the ReedPOP site itself but the press release shows there will be more. Some of the events above do happen on multiple weekends such as those in Australia yet are still listed as one event, this occurs with multiple events around the world.
Now how does this lead into a new front for the con wars?
There are several some with overlapping concepts from prior aspects of con wars. One of these that has been covered is the dates. This is something happening this weekend as there is PAX Prime, FanExpo Canada (run as a part of a for profit series of conventions in Canada), and DragonCon occurring the same weekend. The time of a convention is very important because it can be the event to do that week/weekend. This is already know but unless you cosplay yourself you might not think about the time it can take to create a costume especially one for a competition of the level that ReedPOP is looking to do.
Let me emphasize that cosplay is of course for everyone, I cosplay for fun, and so do many others. The level of artistry even from those just starting in cosplay can be astonishing.
Now for competition you are looking to impress the audience and the judges. This was something seen often on the Syfy reality series Heroes of Cosplay and as such in a competition like “Quest for the Crown” everyone competing brings and usually creates new their most impressive and in some cases literary largest cosplays.
As such, there is time that has to be dedicated to the fabrication as well as the financial investment. The creation of various costumes can become an expensive proposition. Add to this the travel and lodgings expenses (which are usually split among a group). These cause an effect on who will decide to attend which convention for cosplay competition purposes, especially if they are not remotely local to the event in question. To attend such an event they might decide to forego other conventions/events to afford all the expenses of the larger event, possibly decreasing who would come to the smaller events. This is not as much of an impact but it is something to note.
The larger part of the con wars comes with the impact on other conventions, specifically those related to cosplay guests and careers via cosplay, and you need to know the above for this to make sense. Many times, we not question why someone is a guest of a convention; this is due to their bio. However, sometimes some have wondered that especially with some cosplay guests. Sometimes the listings include the number of costumes they have made and/or their high level of artistry or awards, and sometimes these awards titles are from smaller conventions or even the past conventions where they have competed. With larger titles and more mass media exposure which the largest events do have this can lead to becoming more well-known and having the titles of the largest events is something that can become part of a convention bio and can lead to the requests by fans to have this winner at a convention and/or for the convention to invite them as guests (and some guests have appearance fees [when I am a guest I do not have one]).
The second part is careers via cosplay. I mentioned this in the start of the article, that there are plenty of people who have cosplay related businesses which can entail commissions (making costumes and props for others), print and product sales (usually sold through a service like Storenvy and Etsy), being a vendor at conventions (where they sell the print and products at a booth), and sponsored cosplay (where cosplayers are hired by companies [some quite large] to make and usually wear the costumes themselves at events as part of fan relations, basically being the character). Sponsored cosplay happens quite often from American anime companies, many game companies, many comic companies, and many video game companies, the level of compensation does vary, but the larger the fan base you have the more exposure you can bring to the brand/property. I would not know of several properties except for the fact my friends have cosplayed for them.
Now think about these concepts applied on a global scale. Several of my friends from around the world who derive all of their income through cosplay. Several are brought in as guests and sponsored cosplayers for companies internationally. Now for the most part these friends have not been the winners of the major contests at events like those above, but everything can change especially now there is the global focus. If the cosplayers who do sell prints and products do compete and win in these larger events, it can cause an increased amount of sales.
What I am very interested in myself is the introduction of more international cosplayers from around the world. Especially at the global championships. Many of the international cosplayers that people are introduced to by mutual friends, from shares by other cosplayers and news sites, and from those who cosplayers come to international conventions. International cosplay guests are one of the rising form of cosplay guests. In addition, something to think about would be the global properties that these globally recognized cosplayers could introduce their fan bases too.
Now let us look at the categories proposed by ReedPOP for NYCC:
• Comic Books
• Movie & Television
• Video Games
• Anime & Manga
Something very interesting to note are the sheer number of transmedia properties that exist with characters. For example Batman, there are many variants and versions of Batman so how would you characterize different versions of Batman for a cosplay without adding qualifiers? This is partially done through the photos of course, but there are a lot. They are also missing figures that are usually inspired by all of the above, but for example the various characters from One Piece which itself is also a manga, anime, series of games, etc. There is also the potential here to think about the possible missing types like sci-fi, illustration, etc. The fantasy category is not descriptive enough and would this include things like Magic Cards? I think creating the categories might be more complex than simply having the open system with just allowing for the references to the said characters via wikis, websites, etc. Grouping by age, skill level, etc. is much different.
There are a few problems with the NYCC Quest already:
1. They already require you to have a badge for NYCC to entry for the NYCC Quest, which was difficult before due to the sheer speed in which the badges sold out of all types, plus the time this was announced August 25th. To make this a more fair entry to the competition they should offer complimentary badges to those selected for entry into the competition, especially at this late time, and provide some badges for their handlers who are people who help cosplayers with larger costumes or in some cases prep with makeup, body paint, etc. Handlers and assistants are also something that can be seen from Heroes of Cosplay. Because of this there may be and probably will be people with some awesome cosplays who will not be able to participate. Since this is likely to become a yearly event people will consider this when doing the badge rush buy.
2. From the rules: “Contestants are responsible for their own belongings. We are unable to provide a secure area for personal items. We recommend bringing an assistant to help with belongings. A bag check area is available at the Javits Center.” Right here they recommend a handler and this person must have a badge themselves which can lead right back to the problem above about not having a handler. Though I am sure they will be able to secure personal items temporarily, it should be offered to the cosplayers. I know of plenty of cosplay that is wearable for photoshoots and for the stage/parade but not walking around a crowded convention in. Hopefully, ReedPOP or Riot Games will also have a cosplay repair station, which would be very important in the case of damage or needed repairs, which is very important.
3. Also for check-in I would recommend having a place for cosplayers to get into their NYCC Quest Cosplay because the Javits is not connected to any hotel and you do have to travel from wherever you are staying in NYC to Javits and then to the check-in. The travel can be far even in light cosplay (and I mean light as in not heavy in weight) and it can be extremely complicated to get through doors and travelling even if only some parts of the costume are on, and this is not including such things as body paint and makeup, and fixes that would have to be made accordingly.
4. This also a shared concern about each of the possible other events because some of them have already started to sell and sell out of tickets.
I am not talking about the limited amount of entries because there could be thousands if it was an open cosplay contest like many conventions have because the time of the contest can go for hours along with the sign up lines, etc. Though I am wondering how many people will be a part of the NYCC Quest because they will be featured on the NYCC Eastern Championships of Cosplay webpage with their bios, headshots, and other information.
For an open cosplay contest: You can see things like this at the at booth cosplay contests such as the ones that Marvel hosts and theirs are at a very fast pace. I participated in one of Marvel’s at SDCC this because I had new Punisher props (I make documentation and identity props and had new digital props) and was asked to attend by Marvel staff. (I normally do not compete.)
However, I do expect NYCC Quest to be quite a show especially because it will be livestreamed, probably by Amazon’s Twitch as they have with other events such as those at PAX East. I do have a few questions about the livestream, at Special Edition: NYC I spoke with their digital sales person about adding closed captions to livestreams for the hearing impaired, so I am wondering if that will happen (post show they should be put on YouTube for later viewing).
This also makes me wonder about a new form of con wars too which may start happening which I call the “virtual attendee.” This exists to a degree via the livestreams that currently exist, but I was thinking about the cons that would start to monetize these in terms of selling tickets to them (for all the attendees who cannot attend the event itself) or by advertising.
Let me finish by thinking about how ReedPOP may do Quest for the Crown Cosplay Competition Circuit:
As I have noted there are multiple conventions around the US and abroad that are ReedPOP properties. The various PAXes can have prelims for the finals along with NYCC. These PAXes are on the west coast in Seattle, Washington, east coast with PAX East in Boston, Massachusetts, the south with PAX South in San Antonio, Texas and of course Australia with the PAX there. Through from the PAXes I expect rather large and very impressive cosplays from video games. I am unsure about the cosplays from the Star Wars Celebrations but I expect these to be impressive Star Wars characters, and there are a lot of them with more to come with new shows and movies.
I would expect see more comic and anime/manga cosplay at NYCC, C2E2, and the OZ cons along with the large amount of comic cosplays. However, truthfully like SDCC, NYCC, and C2E2 has all sorts of cosplay covering everything.
What I am interested in are the 15 events they will have. We already know of two with NYCC and C2E2, and I have listed several of the possible and likely conventions, but these are not confirmed and even with all these, this does not total 15 global events. I am very interested in seeing what will be announced in terms of other events. Back to the dates too, I am curious if any of these events that host major cosplay competitions would compete with other major cosplay competition events such as those listed above causing cosplayers to choose which event they want to compete in. If so would the other conventions look into changing their dates, even a week can make difference, especially when they host big competition events or prelims.
So there it is the new front of con wars, cosplay. Not only do cons have to worry about getting guests for the con dates before another con does, not only do fans have to think about what convention they want to go that weekend, but now conventions have to think about the other dates of other cosplay competitions, and cosplayers who compete may also have to consider what cons they want to go to, prepare for, and all the associated expenses. The wars are expanding and evolving, it will be interesting to see the battles.
[Lawrence Brenner is a global researcher, documentor, and educator on cosplay and other pop culture topics. His works have been presented at The Anime and Manga Studies Symposium at Anime Expo and the Japanese Cultural Institute at Katsucon and have been featured in many news outlets.
The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect that of The Beat or its staff.]
Heidi MacDonald is the founder and editor in chief of The Beat. In the past, she worked for Disney, DC Comics, Fox and Publishers Weekly. She can be heard regularly on the More To Come Podcast. She likes coffee, cats and noble struggle.