Chris’ Soapbox

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Hey everybody, it’s your favorite werewolf cartoonist making another article appearance here on the Webcomic Alliance web site. Originally, I had different idea for this particular article but since Dawn just posted her year-end Convention Report Card, I thought I’d write about something that might be a good companion piece. I have to warn you upfront thought… as my little banner graphic suggests, it might be a little soap boxy so consider yourself warned.

Today’s little tale goes back to last weekend at the two-day Virginia Comicon held in Richmond, Virginia. As many vendors and artists found out, that show ended up being a sort of cosplaying mecca of a show. Now, if anyone has been following conventions this year, you know not too long ago, there was an online article written that made people feel like the author was claiming cosplaying was killing conventions. That wasn’t what the article was REALLY about but that’s the interpretation many people felt it conveyed and lots of online discussion (and arguments) ensued between artists/vendors and cosplayers.

In a sense, that’s sort of what this article is about… artists and cosplayers finding some way to co-exist on a convention floor.

Now, the idea for this article first started when I had heard from several artists friends who said sales were extremely lacking at this year’s two-day show and, given the fact that there were so many cosplayers walking around AND given the fact that that infamous article is still hanging around many people’s minds, it’s understandable why some people might try to use cosplaying as an excuse for low sales, but if you’re a cosplayer and you’re reading this, you have to understand that we artists will always try to find some excuse as to why sales were low at a particular show… maybe it was bad table placement, too many announcements, admission was too high or too low, there were too many TV and movie celebrities and yes, there were too many cosplayers. The truth of the matter is that none of can ever know for sure why we might have a bad show one day and a great show the next. Sometimes, it’s all a crapshoot. And if you’re looking into doing conventions as an artist, the first rule of thumb you should realize is that the only thing that’s predictable about one show from the next is how UNpredicatable each show can be – cosplayers or not.

THIS ISN’T ABOUT THE VA COMICON THOUGH

I think it’s important to know that I know almost every single person that is involved in putting the VA Comicon show together and they did a superb job of organizing the vent, laying out the floor and organizing panels. The Richmond Speedway was a great place to hold the event – especially from an artist’ standpoint. It was easy to park, easy to unload and then load up all of our convention crap and we all had PLENTY of space between each table and BEHIND each table.

The only real complaint – and which brings us to our little article today – is the fact that the show seemed to be marketed and catered specifically to cosplayers. There was a lot of advertising that seemed to only focus on cosplayers while many artists weren’t mentioned at all. That’s not MY complaint though as I’m pretty much used to not being mentioned or being headlined for any show – that’s just what I have heard from many of my friends. And as it goes, if you cater to a particular crowd, it really shouldn’t be any surprise when that crowd actually shows up.

So, the question is this: Where is all of this cosplayed vs. artist hostility coming from AND how can we solve it? here are a few of my thoughts, theories and solutions on that…

COSPLAYERS AND ARTISTS CAN BOTH BE VERY EGOTISTICAL

Fortunately, in my experiences, both are few and far between. There have been artists I have known that thought a particular show was or should have been all about THEM. Likewise, I have also come across a small percentage of cosplayers that have thought everyone had paid their ticket to come see the cosplayed on the convention floor flaunting and posing for cameras.

In both instances, this ruins the experience – and reputations – of everyone… cosplayer and artist alike.

Artists:

We get upset because in many cases a large percentage of us have paid anywhere from $100 – 350 for a small table in which we do our best to sell as much of our stuff as we can in a couple of days. We also have hotel room fees we have to pay along with food and other expenses. So, when we hear a person who has paid significantly less than we have to enter the floor and claim the show is all about THEM, feelings get hurt and words are exchanged.

Cosplayers:

We artists tend to forget that those of you that put a lot of work into your craft are also putting an equal amount of money into your costumes as well. We spend a heck of a lot of money on our art supplies. You guys probably spend just as much  putting your costumes and make-up together as well. We also tend to forget that many of you don’t go to shows in just one costume. Many of you have multiple costumes and are attending every day so you also accrue hotel, food and other expenses as well.

The thing I think both parties should remember is that there are always going to be “jerks” but the jerks will almost always be a minority. The large percentage of artists aren’t egotistical and an equal number of cosplayers don’t actually think the show is “all about them”. In many cases, we are fans of the very same thing and are equally passionate about our ‘art”.

THE UNWRITTEN RULES OF BEING BEHIND A TABLE

Baseball has a lot of “unwritten rules” that only true baseball fans and players know about like “you don’t steal bases when you have a 10 run lead” or “you don’t look to see where the catcher is setting up when you’re batter”. If you’re unaware of these rules and get beaned in the head when you violate one of them, it’s understandable you might get pissed. But, if you are aware of them and you realize you made a mistake, you know what to expect when you get called out for violating one of those “unwritten rules”.

Not all cosplayers may be aware of some of the things we artists think about while we’re sitting behind our tables at show. Heck, there are some non-cosplayers  (civilians?) that aren’t aware of some of these “unwritten rules” and violate them all the time so it might be beneficial if everyone knew at least some of them.

Rule #1
Selling at a convention can be extremely difficult

Even though many of artists are friends, the truth of the matter is we’re also secretly competing against each other for that all important dollar every time someone walks by our table. That’s why we get so defensive when our table’s sight lines are blocked – even for a few minutes.

In our overly dramatic minds, it’s like Spock exaggerating seconds into minutes, and minutes into hours. As a cosplayer, you might only be in front of our table for 2-3 minutes or for however long it takes to take a few pictures but in our brains, you’ve blocked five, six or maybe even seven potential sales in those few short minutes. I’m not saying excuse our behavior – I’m only giving you an idea of how some of us might think and maybe that will bring more understanding between us.

Rule #2
Anything loud disrupts sales

If you have a boom box or part of your costume has speakers and you sound like an extremely loud Darth Vader, that also not only disrupts our sales but just makes the buying and interacting experience with civilians (regular congers) more difficult.

But understand this – it’s not just load cosplayers artists have a problem with. We also have the same issue with ourselves as well when a fellow artist plays music or has some kind of sound effect going on at their table every hour on the hour. We can hate our own kind as well.

Likewise, we also hate convention announcers that think it’s their personal time for open mic night at whatever con they are at or feel like they have to make some kind of announcement every 15 minutes. Those disrupt sales way more then a 10 second exposure to your boom box tunes.

Rule #3
Be aware of your surroundings

You might occasionally be asked to step backwards in order to get a good shot. Just be aware how close thou might be to an artist’s table so you don’t accidentally hit something or knock something over. I would say 99.99999% of everyone in a costume already tries to be careful in situations like this but just thought I’d mention it any way.

Rule #4
If you’re going to breakdance in front of my table, the least you can do is take my free postcard

Just saying.  🙂

Rule #5
Artists can be odd cats sometimes

Cosplayers, please be aware that some artists are simply “odd”. Some of us tend to isolate ourselves for long periods of time while we work on our projects so when it comes time to socialize in a public setting, we forget basic courtesy or protocol when dealing with a living, breathing human. Some of us tend to be a bit antisocial. But many of us are very outgoing and easy to talk to. Usually, if there is some kind of disagreement or misunderstanding, it’s usually easy to rectify with just a little bit of help from both parties.

As you can see, I personally don’t have many “unwritten rules” myself. Other artists might but really, those four “rules” are almost common sense type rules and every cosplayer I personally know already knows or follows those “rules” – but there might be a few cosplayers out there that just didn’t have a clue how we artists think when we’re behind a table.

FOR ARTISTS DEALING WITH COSPLAYERS

Cosplaying is not going to go away. It has been growing in popularity just as webcomics started small and grew to be extremely popular.

And, just as there are all kinds of artists with varying degrees of skills and talents, so goes the same with cosplayers too. So if you thumb your nose at the guy in the cardboard and duct taped Iron Man outfit, know that he probably has the same amount of passion and enthusiasm for his hobby as the stick figured mini-comic book artist you call “friend” as well.

The convention floor SHOULD be big enough for all levels of artists and, if that’s the case, there should be equal room for the very serious “Heroes of Cosplay” level cosplayers and the cardboard duct tape Iron Man dude.

WHEN DEALT LEMONS, ALWAY STRIVE TO MAKE LEMONADE

Right now, the current trend is for artists to complain or mistakenly buy in to the notion that cosplayers are “ruining conventions” but the truth of the matter is, if you have a bad show, there’s problem a half dozen reasons why that might be the case and none of them involve cosplayers.

The weather could be real bad – or too gorgeous – for people to want to attend… The location could be bad… The time of year the event is held could be bad… too close to the holidays… to close to a weekend event… a football or baseball game is going on in the same town… maybe a baseball AND football game are going on at the SAME TIME… bad table placement… bad floor layout… you had a cold that weekend… your prices were too high – or too low – for the crowd. It could be ANYTHING that results in a bad show. You just never know.

So what do you do if you think there are going to be a lot of cosplayers at a particular show? Instead of complaining about them being at the show, cater to them in some fashion.

If some conventions can offer a discount ticket to cosplayers, why can’t you do the same? Maybe you have a Harley Quinn print… you take a few dollars off of that print for anyone dressed as Harley. But why stop there? You could do that will all of your prints, original commissions or anything else you sell. If someone is dressed as The Joker, maybe every Joker item on your table is $3 off.

I have done something similar for the last three shows I have attended and thus far, the results have been pretty amazing.

As many long time readers know, I do caricature sketch cards at conventions. Usually, the cards cost $20 and I take pictures of people and ask them who they want to be drawn as. Three shows ago, starting at the Tidewater Comicon, I decided to offer to take $5 off each card for every cosplayed that wanted a card. I then went on the Tidewater Comicon Facebook page and posted this offer to everyone who was attending. When the show opened up to VIPs, two cosplayers immediately sought me out and I had already made $30 within the first 15 minutes of the show.

I did the same for the two day NC Comicon and had a similar result. This past weekend at the two day VA Comicon, I ended up drawing 13 caricature sketch cards of which half were people in costume. That $5 may seem small but that small amount made a huge difference in terms of sketch cards sold.

IN THE END…

I don’t believe cosplayers are “killing” conventions any more than I believe fan art is “killing” artist alleys.

And even though I said there should be room for everyone on a convention floor, the truth of the matter is each show only has so much physical space. In order to make every show enjoyable and profitable for everyone, we really need to be aware of one another, respectful to one another and understand why each of us are there and how we all can make the convention experience as great as we all know it can be.

COSPLAYER RESOURCES

If you’re interested in learning more about other rules and etiquettes of convention cosplaying, here are some groups and people you should follow or friend on Facebook:

COSLOVE
A group of cosplayers in and around the Washington DC Metropolitan area that appear at schools, hospitals and other events

Patrick Michael Strange
The creator of Coslove

Aitch El Cee
If you have attended any conventions in the Washington DC area, you probably have seen Aitch as Bishop. He frequently writes about cosplaying and held a panel on cosplaying at the VA Comicon show

Amber Love
Amber was one of the very first cosplayers I really got to know once I started doing conventions. She helps run Wonder Woman Weekend at Comic Fusion in New Jersey with Stacy Korn

Tyler Scott Hoover
One of the best Spider-man cosplayers I have ever seen. Oh yeah, he break dances too.

There are a whole lot more people I could easily name but these are the people I interact with a lot and whom I go to whenever I want to know more about cosplaying or what is going on in the cosplaying world.

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me_at_va_comiconChris Flick just figured out how to put his photo and bio information at the end of these Webcomic Alliance articles. When he’s not wracking his brain on how to do that, he’s busy being a full time web and graphic designer working in the Washington DC area. When he’s not doing that, he’s working on his Capes & Babes webcomic which he created back in 2007. When he’s not doing ANY of those things, he’s usually at a convention on the east coast of the United States.

Chris just recently published his 1,000th Capes & Babes strips. You can read them all by going to his website, Capes & Babes. You can also visit his woefully outdated portfolio web site at  CSF Graphics. And if you’re interested in seeing some of the wild Minion Mash-ups Chris has become known for, you should visit his Pinterest Minion Mash-Up Board. You can also find Chris on Facebook and Twitter by doing a search for “Capesnbabes”.

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Posted in Business, Conventions, Conversations, Debate, Debate, Featured News and tagged , , , , , , , , .

4 Comments

  1. “The only real complaint – and which brings us to our little article today – is the fact that the show seemed to be marketed and catered specifically to cosplayers.”

    Like with art in general in the US, its not the focus for a lot of marketing. People are so detached from the arts and the actually artists who is behind their fav IP. I’ve been hearing a lot of comic artists complain that they don’t get as much recognition as comic writers.

    Cons don’t focus on the original creators unless they hit super big. Even then, maybe just the badge and con guide will feature said artist. Almost nothing else is features art. All those signs and banners are great opportunities to feature multiple artists (with credit and table #) and be in front of the con goers eyes. That is part of why Cosplay is so ‘popular’ now. They are everywhere and spreading while AA and artists’ visibility is shrinking.

    • Those are very interesting points – especially the point about shows focusing or not focusing on independent creators and artists. While it’s true that it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to cater much of your marketing towards a bunch of artists that may be entirely unknown, at the same time, it makes very little sense to create massive advertising with 36 point type saying “COME SEE WALL TO WALL COSPLAYERS” and them in 14 point text underneath that headline “as well as a bunch of artists too” as if the artists are nothing more than fine print in an auto ad that no one ever reads, you know?

      I think many artists would feel differently if marketing like this would also require cosplayers pay for booth or table space at a show. As it is, at some shows, there’s this weird reversal going on where organizers want to market visitors to a show (cosplayers) while completely ignoring the vendors and artists that end up helping to finance their shows by purchasing table space.

      If we’re talking about “truth in marketing”, what those flyers SHOULD say then is this:

      “COME BUY A TICKET TO SEE ALL YOUR OTHER FRIENDS DRESSED IN COSTUMES WHO ALSO BOUGHT A TICKET!!!

      Oh, and we also might have some artist type people at the show too…”

      🙂

  2. I generally think cosplayers are awesome, and just as often they’re my customers as much as the norms…Who, at a comic convention are not, let’s be honest, all that normal to begin with!

    The only unspoken rule I’d add to your list is that if a costume has body paint on the hands, please don’t handle merchandise. It can be very frustrating to have to wipe down a book after a customer has handled it, and down-right bad news if a product is permanently damaged!

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