March 23th, Birmingham, National Exhibition Centre. My third Comic Con experience, having attended two in previous years in Manchester.
For the uninitiated, Comic Con, is a global convention dedicated to celebrating works of fiction; particularly comics, films, tv shows and video games. These events host panels, meet & greets and question & answer sessions featuring actors, writers and producers upon many others in the creative industry.
However, perhaps the most iconic feature of Comic Con is the fact that members of the public are encouraged to attend these dressed up as iconic characters from their favourite franchises.
As a shameless nerd, it’s been my ambition to attend one of these for ages! A big part of the appeal was to be able to pay homage to some of my favourite characters in fiction, that have had a real impact on my life, by dressing up as them.
In 2017, I managed to cobble together a Solid Snake costume. For those of you not familiar with Snake, he is a lead character (arguably, THE lead character) in Hideo Kojima’s Metal Gear Solid video game series. My partner, Megan, was also taken in by the Comic Con hype and joined me by cosplaying as fellow Metal Gear icon, Meryl Silverburgh.
In 2018, I went a bit more all out and dyed my hair in order to go as Kazuhira Miller, a support character in the Metal Gear Solid series. (You’ve probably sensed a pattern emerging here!)
(Credit to Callum Ogburn for the above photo. Check out his twitter account here)
This year, I was once again inspired to go as another video game character, but this time not one from a Metal Gear Solid game (I sometimes forget other games exist!) I recently completed open-world gunslinger epic from Rockstar Games, Red Dead Redemption II and was very moved by the experience. That’s why this year, I decided to go this year as the lead character, Arthur Morgan, with Megan once again joining me, cosplaying as fellow no-good-outlaw, Sadie Adler.
Now, although I have enjoyed showing off my costumes as these events, I am very much an introvert at heart. One of the paradoxes I find about these events is that the fans that enjoy events like this are, more often that not, quite introverted as well, and yet they attend these events in their 100s and 1000s, dressed as the big and bold characters from the very genres they adore!
Speaking from experience, I tend to get myself worked up, not just trying to look like the character I go as, but also trying to act as the character and come up with convincing impressions and clever roleplay to impress others with. This year, I was very excited to attend events featuring my two favourite youtube channels; Outside Xbox and Outside Xtra. Their live Dungeons and Dragons event was an absolute joy to behold and laugh along with, but when it came to their Q&A section, I found I was struggling, not just to think of good questions, but also thinking how Arthur Morgan would ask those questions and how we’d then respond to follow-up questions. I’ve found that, unless you REALLY plan things out, if great things are going to happen whilst cosplaying, they’re going to happen by chance.
I had a glorious moment at my first Comic Con, while dressed as Solid Snake. I attended a panel with the actor who voices Snake, David Hayter. When I was noticed in the audience, I was called up on stage, along with Megan in her Meryl costume. But then who should appear out of the audience, but my in-game brother and arch-nemesis, Liquid Snake?! Feeling the thrill of the moment, the two of us just start enacting a scene from the game complete with dramatic voices in front of a large audience. I got to quickly shake hands with David Hayter, make my exit and then spend the rest of the day wondering whether that really happened or whether I was hallucinating from overheating inside my warm costume!
Now, as incredible as that moment was, I’ve since put pressure on myself to try and do flawless impressions and have clever interactions with fellow cosplayers. This year, I noticed that I’d put so much pressure on myself that it put me off interacting with other cosplayers at the event. And I know it’s not just me who feels that way. As I moseyed around as Arthur Morgan, I noticed fellow Red Dead Redemption II character, John Marston. I approached him and shouted in my best Arthur voice “Marston”, to which he glanced nervously at me and then kept on walking, and I don’t blame him one bit!
Now, the good news for us introverts is that Comic Con does tend to be quite an easy going, judgment free zone. It’s important to remember that unless you enter one of the professional cosplaying competitions, you’re probably not going to look exactly like your character. But, that doesn’t mean people aren’t going to enjoy seeing you in your costumes or appreciate the effort you’ve put in! The three times I’ve been to Comic Con, me and Megan been approached by a number of people who have complemented our costumes and asked if they could get their pictures with us!
And for me, that’s the beauty of Comic Con; it connects people together through their appreciation of these works of fiction in the spirit of sharing our interests rather than criticising mistakes. I found I was a lot happier and relaxed when I stopped thinking of cool Arthur Morgan quips and just approached people as myself, told them I really liked their costume and asked if could I get a photo with them!