Monday, January 18, 2016

Is Cosplay Killing Comicon?

Actress Milynn Sarley, my guest on Episode 12
As a regular attendee to comic conventions, and as someone with friends in the industry who rely on convention income I noticed a tendency for retailers to bash cosplay.

Comic book shops now definitely don't look like they did when I was a kid. Until the 1990s most comic shops were dark rows of long boxes filled with poly-bagged back issues, walls decorated in matrixes of mylar-covered first appearances, and windows covered in promotional posters that prevented almost any light from breaching the shop until someone opened the door. And we wondered why the only women were aggravated moms whose teenaged boys didn't hear the car horn because they were arguing over the merits of the Teen Titans over the X-men.

But for the last 25 or so years, slicker, brighter and more versatile retail design has transformed the hobby from a collection of library/caves into pop-culture superstores. Back east, Newbury Comics was the first to diversify a newsstand mentality into a punk rock record store with cool t-shirts, toys AND comics. In Los Angeles, Golden Apple's original Melrose Ave location was the celebrity hangout where one might bump into Los Bros Hernandez or go to a Neil Gaiman signing. Other smaller shops on both coasts found a niche that their audience enjoyed in addition to comic books and gave it visible real estate–Comics, Legends, and Lore where I worked as a teen had a full wall of gaming miniatures and was THE role-playing Mecca of the North Shore of Boston. Fantastic Store in Hollywood had a gigantic, paper mâché Thing hanging over it–and Tony Scott picked it as the comic shop location for his Quentin Tarantino scripted masterpiece, True Romance.

The competition noticed and the now places like Meltdown Comics and Collectibles are almost the standard, or at least the ideal toward which new shops strive. Bright without teetering completely over the edge of information overload, and hosting weekly events for audiences that probably don't even read comics.

Bob Violence, from the pages of American Flagg!
In other words, comic shops have always evolved to survive, so it's always bothered me that cosplayers have repeatedly been blamed for "killing comicon" by retailers who haven't found a way to cater to their new, visible attendee base. I've always enjoyed seeing people wear their fandom, but I haven't dressed in character since BosCon '86, when my mother sewed a Bob Violence (look to the left) costume and let me spend a weekend (unsupervised!) with my older peers at a fancy hotel in Boston. So I called in my favorite cosplay expert: Milynn Sarley!

Milynn is a co-creator of Team Unicorn, and has acted in TV shows and co-hosted gamer and entertainment programs.

She's also beautiful and smart, and one of the nicest people I know.

I sincerely apologize that this one wasn't a video podcast.

Click here for the live-stream link!

Click here for the iTunes page for Pod Sequentialism with Matt Kennedy.

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