Comic-Cons: Building Cosplays & Communities

History of Comic-Cons

During the 60s and later years, comic cons were small events usually put together by locals. They weren’t the vast events they are now. The first comic con, officially, was in 1964 in New York City in the depths of Greenwich. 

George R. R. Martin, the author of the famous book series A Song of Fire and Ice (the book series the show Game of Thrones was based on), was one of the first to sign up for this comic con. It cost $1.50 at the time, which is quite a steal considering how much most pay for admission in this century. Stan Lee’s secretary, Flo Steinberg, and Steve Ditko, creator of Dr. Strange and co-creator of Spider-Man, also made an appearance. 

Comic-Con International: San Diego is one of the biggest comic cons in North America. It began in 1970 with 300 people attending. Pre-pandemic, the event attracted 135,000 people. For just one day at Comic-Con International: San Deigo, it costs $75 for an adult. That doesn’t even include costume costs, transportation, food, and souvenirs. 

Everyone dreams of going to the San Diego Comic-Con. I know that I do. 

Comic cons began as a way to celebrate comics, and even big names like Jack Kirby, who helped create iconic characters such as Captain America, attended comic cons. 

Over time, comic cons included more than comics. They broadened and included TV shows, movies, books, anime, and video games. There are even cons that are specific to certain genres of nerd-dom. Such as anime cons, video game cons, etc.

Cons are a way to unite people who have love and passion for the same things. It’s a sense of community

Attending a con helps people like me to realize this:

You are not alone. You’re not the only one who loves Marvel, DC, Harry Potter, The Witcher, Stranger Things, Doctor Who, Star Wars, Star Trek, etc. Others out there share the same interests as you, and this event is where you can see all these characters brought to life by fans and meet actors, artists, writers, etc., who helped create these worlds we often wish we could live in.

Wizard World Tulsa 2016

The first comic-con I ever attended was in 2016. 

While I’d gone to smaller conventions, such as Tokyo in Tulsa, once or twice, this was my first major con. Wizard World was coming to Tulsa, and lo and behold, a rather famous actor was also coming (but we’ll get to that later).

After much debate, where my mom said I’d never get this opportunity again, I purchased the tickets, hefting out over $200 plus each for VIP tickets for my cousin and me. 

Now that the tickets were out of the way, it was time for the tough part. 

The costume.

Every new cosplayer has fears of their costume. By that, I mean they wonder whether or not it will be good enough. Or if it will be comic book accurate. Unfortunately, many people get stuck on the “comic book accuracy” or movie/book/anime accuracy. There’s also gender-bending character that makes people feel like others will judge them. 

Once I let go of those insecurities and decided it didn’t matter if my costume was “comic book accurate,” I chose to be the Winter Soldier. After all, I was meeting the Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan), so why not dress like him? Also Captain America: The Winter Soldier is my favorite Marvel movie. (Though Spiderman Far From Home and Wakanda Forever are also up there. But I’ve seen The Winter Soldier at least fifty times.)

I bought a leather jacket, fingerless gloves, goggles, and a utility belt (which I didn’t wear because it was too big on my waist). I already had black cargo pants and boots. 

After one failed attempt, which ended with bandaids, I finally made a “metal” arm that I was satisfied with. It was made of construction paper, glue, paint, and duct tape. I chose to use velcro to more easily take off the two pieces. 

My first attempt at making the “metal” arm. It did not go well.

We chose to do the three-day pass. That way, we wouldn’t miss anything. There is always so much to do at cons. Between panels and vendors, there is SO much. You can’t see it all in one day.

Friday, we spent walking around and checking out the vendors.

While my cousin wore her Captain America jacket, I decided not to wear my Winter Soldier jacket and save it for Saturday (spoilers: it was hot as hell on Saturday, and I sweated like a pig at the slaughterhouse). Instead, I wore a skater skirt over black cargo pants, a black long-sleeved shirt, and metal arm and goggles. Even then, I was recognizable as the Winter Soldier, and as we walked, we got asked for pictures. So many people were excited to see the Winter Soldier and Captain America. My face is on several people’s Facebook pages, smeared in grease paint and messy hair tangled up in my shirt. 

The full costume. It was May in Oklahoma so I was DYING of heat.

We took pictures with people as well. I got a picture with another Winter Soldier. He was impressed with the arm I made. He had ordered his online and said that it was uncomfortable.

The highlight of Friday was when we met James Marsters, who played Spike in Buffy the Vampire Slayer. While my cousin gaped like a fish out of water, I spoke to him for a good thirty minutes after we got a selfie with him. I ramble when I’m nervous and/or excited, so it worked in my favor for this type of situation. While my cousin couldn’t say two words to him other than a high-pitched “Hi,” I had a full conversation with him. 

Me, James Marsters and Paige

James was a very laid-back and chill guy. He’s shorter than I imagined compared to when he’s on screen. He asked, “What’s your favorite episode?” 

“Once More With Feeling,” I said. In that episode, a demon curses everyone to sing and dance. If you’ve watched Buffy, you know she’s brought back to life after sacrificing herself at the end of season five. She’s been off since she returned, and no one knows why. That is until she admits, in song with backup dancers, that she was in heaven and her friends, Willow specifically, yanked her out of heaven. Her friends destroyed Buffy’s chance at peace after fighting for so long. (The next episode after it is just as good, “Tabula Rasa.” Willow uses magic to make Buffy forget about heaven, and then it’s just a huge ordeal. In the end, with “Goodbye to You” by Michelle Branch playing, Tara moves out of the house because she’s done with Willow doing magic for everything and using magic on her and their friends. Giles returns to London because he feels like Buffy no longer needs him, and he’s holding back. Spike finds Buffy at The Bronze, and it ends with them kissing. Buffy finally accepted that part of her. It’s a beautiful scene with no words. Just actions. It’s incredible.)

James laughed and said, “That episode was a lot of fun to film. They wanted to do something different with it.”

I also mentioned the episode “Hush,” which is another great episode. In that one, no one speaks. The characters’ voices had all been taken away by demons needing hearts. It’s a very creepy episode with fantastic performances showcasing their acting chops.

He also asked what my favorite Spike line was. With a smile and a blush, I said, “Out for a walk-”

“Bitch,” he finished. He even made the hand motion that Spike did as he counted out the words for Buffy. 

All in all, day one of the comic con was a success. It was a lot of fun. After we got to my mother’s house, we pulled off our costumes and were once again Keely and Paige instead of the Winter Soldier and Captain America. We fell asleep not long after, exhausted from a fun-filled day. 

We were excited for the next day when we would meet Sebastian Stan. Unfortunately, my cousin got food poisoning from the food we bought from the convention the other day. And thus, she couldn’t go on Saturday, the day of our photo ops with Sebastian Stan.

Since I already had the VIP pass, my little brother Kody, eleven at the time, got her pass while my other brother Camron, seven at the time, got in for free. It was their first comic con as well. We walked around, and they got a few goodie items like Legos. Camron’s obsessed with Batman, and Kody loves Iron Man. 

Camron, Kody, and I. This was their very first comic con.

As we waited in line for our photo op, juggling all of our goodies, a nice girl around my age named Amanda, behind us in line, offered to assist me. She could see that I was struggling to carry everything plus wrangle the two boys. She took some of my things and held them. I had to use the restroom badly, but I didn’t want to lose our spot in line. She offered to stay with the boys and keep our spot in line. Normally I wouldn’t have so readily accepted that, but she was nice. She’s a traveling EMT and goes to a lot of comic cons. I went to the bathroom and then came back. I was able to get back in line with the boys. 

Though the line was long, it went by fast, talking to Amanda and others around us. The boys were both very excited. For photo ops, they try to make them go quickly yet still allow some conversations. 

Finally, it was time.

I walked up to the table carrying a six-year-old awkwardly on my hip while the eleven-year-old held my hand. Trying to hold a kid when you were wearing a fake metal arm made out of construction paper, glue, duct tape, and paint was hard. My leather jacket was sticking to my skin, and the grease paint I’d put on earlier that morning was smeared all over my face. 

It’d been a long day waiting for this moment. The line was supposed to be quick. We’d even gotten in as soon as possible, but getting to the front still took a while. I wasn’t the only one wanting to get my photo op and say a few words to him, but carrying a child and all of the goodies we’d got while walking around the con didn’t allow for organization or quickness. As I walked up to him, I smiled, said a shy hello, and promptly dropped everything on the table with a loud clatter. I probably apologized too many times as I adjusted the kid on my hip while trying to gather the stuff we needed for autographs. Sebastian Stan, aka Bucky Barnes, smiled and said it was alright. My brother Kody was shy, so I had to ask if Sebastian would sign it “Your pal, Bucky.” 

Sebastian smiled and did so. 

Later after the boys got picked up, I went to a panel with Sebastian Stan. My clearest memory of this, besides him making fun of Tulsa, was during the Q&A. A girl stood up to ask a question but got so flustered and nervous that she forgot her question. Sebastian was very sweet about it and waited patiently for her to remember. But she got more flustered. Someone in the audience yelled, “Someone give her a hug!”  

What happened next none of us could’ve predicted.

Sebastian put the microphone down, then ran off the stage to the girl and hugged her

There was cheering and the sheer amount of acceptance and community in this conference room packed with hundreds of people. 

After my brothers left, I walked around the comic con myself. My brother Tristan showed up and got a selfie with James Marsters. I returned and got a picture signed for my aunt, whom I call “Mom”. I told him how she got the name “Aunt Meme.” When I was little, I couldn’t say “Wendy,” and I started to call her “Aunt Wewe,” but she obviously didn’t want that to be her name. Thus “Meme” was born. James liked the story and put a special message on the signed autograph for her. 

“Mama Meme, you are the real hero.” 

Arkansas Comic Con 2019 (Little Rock)

The last comic con I went to before the pandemic hit was in 2019. My cousin Paige and I dressed as the Powerpuff Girls. She was Bubbles, and I was Blossom. We didn’t meet any celebrities at this one because I don’t believe there was anyone we really wanted to meet, but we still had a lot of fun.

Paige and I as Bubbles and Blossom

She and I were the ONLY Bubbles and Blossom, so we’d get yelled at from across the building. We’d hear. “BUBBLES.” Then “BLOSSOM.” And we automatically turned.

The best part for me was all the kids calling us “Bubbles” and “Blossom” and hearing the excitement in their little voices. Everyone kept asking us: “Where’s Buttercup?”

I, being the sassy person I am, told them two different things, depending on who was asking.

If it was a kid, I’d say, “Buttercup is out sick.”

If it was an adult, I’d say, “Buttercup is dead.”

Also, Paige and I went to, I believe iHop, still in costume without a care in the world. (Though I did take off the wig because it was itchy as fuck.)

Arkansas Comic Con 2021 (Little Rock)

For this comic con, I decided to be Starfire from Teen Titans. Now, this was the most risque costume I had ever won. I mean, it’s booty shorts and a crop top. I was very nervous to wear this. I’m a bit self-conscious about how skinny I am. I got called anorexic a lot in gym class so I don’t typically wear crops.

I was proud of myself for stepping out of my comfort zone though for this costume. I will say that I should’ve ordered a size up because the costume came from Asia, and they typically run small. The shirt was too tight, but the pants (shorts really) fitted me perfectly.

Me as Starfire

At this con, I met Ryan Hurst, who played Beta on The Walking Dead. Or if you don’t watch The Walking Dead (Which, if you don’t, then seriously, get on that right now), he also was in Sons of Anarchy.

Now, here’s the thing, in the show, Beta wears a gross-looking mask made out of a walker. So like, I didn’t know he was that good-looking of a guy when I walked up to him. At all. I walked up to him in my Starfire costume, smiled, and said, “Hello.” He smiled at me and said, “Hey, baby.”

Me? I may have melted into a puddle of goo. Sue me. He’s a good-looking guy. I should’ve gotten a selfie with him like I did with James Marsters but I only had so much money and an autograph was cheaper.

Me talking to Ryan Hurst (Beta)

Since it was still during the pandemic, it was rather empty even for a Saturday.

I got a lot of comic cons, and all sorts of other goodies like I typically do when it comes to comic cons. But my favorite comic I got was the one below.

Me as Starfire with the comic that matches me.

I will say that the boot covers kept sliding off my legs even with the double-sided tape that I used. As I said, the costume was small so I had to like cut the boot covers a bit to fit them. I wore slippers because they wouldn’t fit over my boots. Also, the wig was awful. I spent half of the con adjusting it because it just did not want to stay in place at all.

Northwest Arkansas Comic Con 2022 (Rogers)

For my brother Camron’s spring break last year, we decided to kidnap him for the week. We took him to The Batman in theatres, and on the way to dropping him back off in Oklahoma, we went to a comic con. in Rogers, Arkansas.

It was a smaller con, but we had fun walking around. We managed to bully him into dressing up, and he dressed as Tim Drake’s Robin. He wanted to be Damian Wayne, but unfortunately, I couldn’t find that costume anywhere. Paige dressed up as Raven because she missed the other con with Beta.

There were no celebrities at this one that we knew or cared about, so we didn’t get autographs. Instead we had a nice time leisurely walking around, looking at all the vendors and taking in all the costumes.

I kept thinking that I was going to lose Camron in the crowd. Though it was a smaller con, it was very crowded. I had a feeling that was in part to the pandemic. Cons were drastically affected by cons, and by this time, things were slowly returning to normal. Slowly.

Wearing black leggings instead of the booty shorts actually made the boot covers stay on better. I called this Starfire’s “stealth mode.”

We didn’t stay that long, but it was still a lot of fun.

Arkansas Comic Con 2022 (Little Rock)

Once again, we stole Camron from Oklahoma for this con. He loves Batman so the plan was for him to get a picture and an autograph from Kevin Conroy who had voiced Batman for years. Unfortunately, Kevin Conroy couldn’t make it because he was sick. And a few weeks later, he died.

We also didn’t know that his Robin costume from March didn’t fit him anymore, and so we scrambled to get him a Batman costume. . .that turned out to be too big. He didn’t dress up, but it was okay. My mom (My aunt wendy) dressed up as Catwoman and I dressed up as Poison Ivy.

Me as Poison Ivy

This was the first time I had ever done a character that required me to do body paint. Since I was wearing green leggings and green elbow-length gloves, I didn’t have to paint my whole body (thank god). I couldn’t paint myself, so I had to have help, and the wig and body paint was a mess.

Somehow Poison Ivy felt more risque than Starfire? I’m certain why that was, but it did feel that way.

I wanted to get autographs and pictures from Tara Strong, but this comic con was PACKED. Seriously, you couldn’t move without bumping into someone. When we got there, we stood in line, not realizing that the line was for those that hadn’t pre-ordered their tickets. We got in, and holy shit, packed. It was ridiculous. I don’t know if it was because COVID cases were on the low or what it was, but it was insane.

It was honestly overwhelming. We didn’t stay that long because it was so hard to move around. We stayed long enough to browse the vendors basically.

This was my friend Latosha’s first comic con. She dressed as Velma and rocked it!

I got a pretty necklace that went with my Poison Ivy costume and a new black underbust corset that was $300 but so very worth it (I will probably wear it for the renaissance fair I’m going to in May).

We went out to eat at Saltgrass, and yes, I was still in green body paint. We got some weird looks, but it was okay. When I got home, I hopped in the shower and started washing my body but there wasn’t a mirror in the shower so I couldn’t tell if I was getting all the green paint off. It came off pretty easily, I just couldn’t tell if I was getting everything. So all you hear is me yell “MOM” so my mom (aunt) will come and help me. She had to help scrub my back for me. My armpits may have been green-tinted for a few days after.

Little Rock Anime Fest 2023

For this one, I was going to be Aurora from Sleeping Beauty but money, and it was an expensive costume. I got my costume probably like the same week as the fest. I chose to go as Shego from Kim Possible. I was going to be Kagome from Inuyasha since, you know, anime, but right next to the Kagome costume was an awesome Shego costume. And sure, I broke the redhead theme I had going, but it was alright.

Me as Shego

I spent the day with Latosha who dressed up as Mirabel. We were the ONLY Mirabel and Shego, so that was super fun. It’s always cool when you decide to do a cosplay that no one else does.

We first got food because we were starving. Then we stood in line for Rob Paulsen (Carl from Jimmy Neutron, Raphael from TMNT, Mark Chang from The Fairy Oddparents, and like a bunch of others), for a maybe like 45 or so minutes. I didn’t get a picture with him or his autograph since he didn’t play a character that I really cared about. But Latosha did. He was super nice and loved our costumes.

After that, we went to head to the bathroom when we noticed that the line for Greg Baldwin (Uncle Iroh from The Last Airbender) was very short. Seriously, he had like four people in line while Dante Basco had like thirty or so. So Latosha got a selfie with him while I got a selfie and an autograph.

Me with Greg Baldwin

Greg Baldwin was super nice. We spent ten to fifteen minutes talking to him. He was very warm and welcoming. What I’ve noticed with all of the celebrities I’ve met, is that they try to make you feel special, give you their time, and make sure you know that you as a fan, matter.

\he told us about the time he was at a con and wanted to walk around and be like an ordinary cosplayer. He dressed as Uncle Iroh. One guy came up to him and said, “It’s Uncle Iroh!” Greg said something like, “Yes, it is I.” And the guy was like, “Holy crap! It IS Uncle Iroh.” I love the idea of voice actors and actors dressing up as the characters they play, going to cons, and interacting with the fans.

After we finished with Greg Baldwin, we walked around, waiting until Dante Basco returned from lunch. We got in line at 1:10pm. We met some friends and spent two hours in line talking to them about various topics. My back was killing me from standing so long and I had to resist the urge to just sprawl out on the ground. There was, of course, no organization when it came to the line so we were all packed in like sardines.

Once the line started moving, though, it went by pretty fast.

Dante Basco (Zuko from The Last Airbender, Jake Long from American Dragon Jake Long, and Rufio from Hook) was just as nice. Also, hello, handsome.

Zuko was always my favorite character. He has such a great character arc. He starts out as this whiny kid you can’t stand, but then he grows, and it’s incredible. Also, the relationship between him and Iroh was beautiful and so sweet.

Me with Dante Basco

Per usual, I got so many prints. (It’s a serious problem. Like, I have so many prints and no frames for them. When I get my own place, I will have a wall of prints. I love art work.)

It was a great time. I love going to cons. I already know what I will be for the next Arkansas Comic Con. Rogue! She’s my favorite X-Men. I’m sad that we’ve never got a decent live-action Rogue. Maybe one day. (I’m not holding out hope.)

If you haven’t gone to a con, I hope this gave you an idea of what to expect. It’s a great experience that I think every nerd should get to, well, experience. Even if you don’t meet any celebrities, it’ll still be well worth your time.

Plus, you’ll meet people who love the same things that you do.


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