Like everyone else I was looking forward to so many events this year. One event I was particularly looking forward to was EM-Con in Nottingham.
EM-Con is one of several annual comic, gaming and fantasy genre conventions (called comic cons) in the East Midlands of England. Last year my youngest brother and I decided to cosplay. My brother has been doing it for several years but 2019 was my first time, not that I’m a stranger to dressing up. For most of the 1990s I was a medieval re-enactor, but that’s not quite the same as cosplay – the wearing of costume to portray a fictional character, usually at a convention.
There wasn’t a specific character I wanted to cosplay as. There are no role-models or superheroes that I can identify with but I’ve always loved the Time Lord costumes from “Doctor Who”, especially the big ceremonial collar, so I decided to make my own. You can see the finished full costume in all its purple fabulousness below. I was very pleased with the final result and the reception it received.
Over the past few decades lgbt appearance and inclusion in the comic, gaming and fantasy genres in general has been increasing. There have been many lgbt characters introduced since I wrote my article on lgbt superheroes in 2017.
Mainstream comic cons welcome lgbt attendees and cosplayers and many have non-discriminatory and anti-harassment regulations. There has also been an increase in openly lgbt cosplayers launching their own social media sites. Another trend in cosplay is crossplay, the portraying of a character of a different gender or ethnicity. Gender crossplay is particularly prevalent among lgbt cosplayers, with its long tradition of drag in the community and the blossoming of androgynous identities. At the present time, however, there is some debate among ethnic cosplayers over white crossplayers portraying a character of a different race, while ethnic crossplay of white characters appears to be acceptable. You’ll see examples of both types of crossplay in the video below.
One quite well-known cosplayer is Jonathan Stryker. He rose to fame some years ago by cosplaying various Disney princes. In 2006 he attended Florida Supercon where he caught the cosplay bug. Inspired by Supercon and the desire to see more open lgbt attendance at such events Jonathan founded OUT Con, Florida’s first lgbt comic con. As an openly gay man Jonathan Stryker realised “There are people who need to feel safe who might not feel comfortable going to other places”, as he told South Florida Gay News. “I wanted to create one.” As well as the multi-genre OUT Con Jonathan also created Okama Con, an lgbt convention specifically for anime, Jonathan’s main passion. I can only find record of one Okama Con being held, on 14th January 2017.
There were three OUT Cons, all held at the Miami Airport Convention Center. The first was on 14th May 2015 and attracted 500 attendees. The second was on 6th-7th May 2016, and the last was on 4th August 2017.
OUT Con was not the first lgbt comic con. Bent-Con was created in 2010 by gay comic artist Sean Holman and gay tattoo and comic artist Dave Davenport. Like Jonathan Stryker they had felt a need for a convention where lgbt comic and fantasy fans could feel welcome. Sean’s words were “Bent-Con started out of a desire of a bunch of queer geeks who were tired of going to cons and being the niche within the niche within the niche”.
The first Bent-Con was held on 5th December 2010 in a vacant store in Silver Lake, Los Angeles. Over the next few years it moved to the Marriott Convention Center in Burbank. The last was held on 6th-8th November 2015.
But do not despair. Even if OUT Con and Bent-Con have gone there’s still Flame Con.
Flame Con has become the biggest lgbt comic con. It was created by Geeks Out, a charity (non-profit) founded in 2010 that supports and promotes lgbt inclusion in the genres of comic, video games and science fiction-fantasy and horror fandom. They have attended many mainstream comic cons. In 2015 they created Flame Con, the first of which was held on 13th June at the Grand Prospect Hotel, Brooklyn. It has been held ever year since then until the pandemic forced the cancellation of its 2020 event.
Geeks Out is just one of many lgbt organisations to attend mainstream comic cons. Prism Comics is a charity that supports and promotes lgbt comic artist and writers and since its formation in 2003 has been present at the biggest comic con of them all, San Diego Comic Con.
Very early on Prism Comics realised that there was no list of lgbt comics and comic artists, so they published one and called it “The Gay Agenda”. The person who led the way in its production was Andy Mangels, one of my “80 Gays” from 2018. Prism now also host many lgbt guest panels and events within San Diego’s and other big comic cons.
Finally, back to cosplay. Below is a YouTube video of Flame Con 2019. Maybe it’ll inspire you to take up cosplay, you’re never too old – I started when I was almost 59! Here’s some advice – you don’t need to have the body of a superhero to cosplay as one, that’s not the point of cosplay, and don’t worry or be disillusioned about people not knowing who you’re dressed as because some people may not be familiar with the character (there were several people at EM-Con who didn’t know I was dressed as a Time Lord, only true Doctor Who fans recognised it). Look around YouTube for other cosplay videos for inspiration. Be imaginative. Be yourself. It’s fun.