Comics artist Pat Broderick once drew Batman: Year Three, Doom 2099, and Micronauts. He quit drawing those things in the 90’s and left the industry, during a time when many were doing so, because comics suuuuuuuucked to work in due to the industry bottoming out after what is called the “speculator boom.” Now he’s back and ready to complain about those dang cosplayers that are cluttering up what used to be convention halls full of exclusively sweaty white dudes.
Sam Maggs of the Mary Sue issued a flawless takedown complete with one of the better-curated selections of gifs that I’ve ever seen. A little while ago, when Tony Harris, another comics creator and good ol’ boy, posted a similar complaint about cosplay, the glowing and magnificent Angelina responded in an equally fantastic way. This is not a new point of offense for the Comics Gatekeepers of Olde, and snark-filled responses are mercifully plenty whenever these little rants pop-up (usually on Facebook. It’s like, come on, get a tumblr, it’s 2014).
So, let’s unpack what the problem is, rather than just acknowledge it for its baseline stupidity. I mean, the argument basically paints itself as idiotic: “Cosplayers are narcissists who only do it for attention and that’s wrong – because it takes ATTENTION away from ME! I’M THE TALENT!”
Scream into the void all you want, little man. The days of being “the talent” are long behind you. The Internet is an open book, and anyone willing to put in the grind and hustle is inevitably acknowledged in some way, whether that’s a webcomic, a blog, or, yes, even a dedication to making costumes of other people’s characters.
But the problem here isn’t really that cosplayers are obscuring your table/signage/beautiful visage, is it? The real problem here is that a large number of cosplayers are women.
The outrage over the “narcissism” involved in cosplay has nothing to do with the time and effort spent on looking good: it’s the fact that these are women, wearing the costumes you and your peers designed to be skin-baring, daring to get looked at for wearing those costumes, having the nerve to own not only their fandom, but their own bodies, even if they don’t have flawless physiques or are the “wrong” race– how dare they? That there are men lining up to take photos with an cosplayer rather than the creator who drew her – and yeah, the motivation behind some of those dudes lining up for photos is sketchy and creepy, but that’s not your point either, is it? Your point is that having women there at all makes you uncomfortable, because it means that things are changing. It means that you can’t get away with writing your rape fantasy, for drawing out your ridiculous, biologically impossible idea of what the perfect fuck object female should be. You have accountability now, and that scares you, because your fans and fellow creators will leave you behind.
Do you get angry when you see a dude dressed as Batman, or do you shake his hand, pose for a photo? Do you accuse him of doing it for “the attention,” or do you praise him for the level of detail in his costume – detail he can afford to have, because his costume wasn’t designed to be a bikini held together by straps?
Your issue with “selfies” comes from the fact that it has become a gendered concept. That it’s a “girl thing” that stems from narcissism, vanity. For a woman to feel good about how she looks, or the work she put into a costume, is threatening to you, because it takes away some of your power. There are other ways to get this power back – shaming those who might not have an encyclopedic knowledge of comics, or may be new readers, is a common tactic, because if you can’t control how they feel about their looks, you can get into their heads, make them feel unwelcome.
But where does that leave you? Alone, behind a folding table, in a hall full of people who are enjoying themselves, still irrelevant.