New York Comic Con: Panels, Cosplays, and Being Nerdy at Barnard

by Mariah Castillo

Yes indeed.

Saturdays are usually my study days, but last Saturday, with the impending doom of midterms and essays floating in my head, I threw caution to the wind and went to New York Comic Con at the Javits Center. I only bought a one-day ticket, since I had other commitments on Friday and Sunday, but I felt that one day full of amazing people who love what I love was enough to keep me going for a while.

What made this year’s NYCC experience different, and in many ways better, than last year’s was that I was able to put myself out there and meet people who had similar interests as me. In the morning, I fangirled over The Legend of Korra and went to the panel for it. I talked a little with the people around me and cheered loudly when the producer, director, and cast members of the show were introduced (Walking Dead lovers, Steven Yeun is voicing the first Avatar!). I chatted with several
talented artists, and even got their signatures in my “Book of Spells” at Artist Alley. Yale Stewart, the creator of the super cute JL8 series even signed the cover! I even met Greg Rucka, the writer of several amazing comic book series; my personal favorite from his extensive career is Wonder Woman: Hikiteia, or, as an employee from Midtown Comics put it, “The graphic novel where Wondy kicks Batman’s ass.”

Later that day, I went to a Young Justice meet-up, which was set up by Christopher Jones, the artist of the now-completed-or-cancelled comic book series of the same name. I cosplayed (dressed up) as Zatanna Zatara, a magician who casts spells by saying them backwards. In the meet up, I met another lady dressed as the magician, a woman dressed up as a gender bent Speedy, and a few guys dressed up as Nightwing. Everyone dressed up as a character from the show took pictures with each other and with Christopher Jones (who signed my book backwards to fit with my character!). The other Zatanna cosplayer and I even took a few pictures with the Nightwing and Robin cosplayers because we all loved Chalant (the name for Dick Grayson and Zatanna’s ship).

I had to get out of my comfort zone a little in order to be one of my second-favorite woman in comics, my first being, cliché as it is, Wonder Woman. Many female superheroes are sexualized, wearing impractical, barely-there outfits. Zatanna wasn’t the worst offender, but in her many incarnations she’s wearing a white top that exposed her cleavage, a black blazer, some kind of barely-there bottoms, and fishnets. Over the summer, when I bought my ticket, I debated whether or not I wanted to dress up as the magician because her costumes are a little racy for my taste; however, I took the plunge and decided to alter her outfit to make it more to my liking. For starters, I swapped the cleavage-revealing top and bikini bottoms for a button down shirt and shorts.

Young Justice fan meetup at this year’s NYCC.

Everyone who dressed up took different approaches to their character. Some people, like my friend who dressed up as Speedy, gender bent the roles. Others altered their character even more to fit into an alternate universe; I saw several steampunk versions of Green Lantern and Batman, a 50s-style Wonder Woman, and Deadpool in spandex of every color. People of every body type, gender, and personality made the characters their own, and as far as I could tell, nobody was criticizing a cosplayer for not being true to the source material. Everyone I met that day was respectful to each other.

Here are a few lessons I’ve learned while at the convention last Saturday:

  • Wear comfy shoes. I’m positive I wrote about this last year, but I didn’t take my own advice. I wore black heels to match my outfit, and I couldn’t feel my legs for the whole night when I came back. I had to take the elevator to the second floor to get to my suite because I couldn’t move my legs up the stairs. Take it from my personal experience: wear shoes you wouldn’t mind walking or standing in for the whole day. If you want to wear heels, make sure they’re broken in and not so high.
  • Buy your ticket early. Tickets came out in the summer and were all sold out by October. Kids Day tickets, Saturday passes, and three-day passes are especially popular and sold out by the end of August. If you want your friends to come with you, don’t hesitate to bother them to get one as soon as they come out!
  • Take lots of pictures. There’s so much to see!
  • Bring necessities. The NYCC website suggests bringing deodorant (you’re going to be near people the whole time) and water bottles. There’s food and drinks at the food court, but it’s overpriced. Bring your own food.You can bring your chargers as well, but the charging stations are always crowded.
  • Be careful with your props! Any props that look like real weapons will be confiscated. Also, be careful where you place your stuff. I’ve tripped over my friend’s bow several times.
  • It’s okay to go by yourself. I didn’t have anybody from Barnard or Columbia go with me to NYCC this year, since they all couldn’t get their passes in time, but I made a lot of new friends at the Con. It’s pretty easy to do, especially at meet-ups for fans of a show, because you already have something in common.
  • If cosplaying, be confident! Whether you’re covered from head to toe or wearing almost nothing, nothing ruins a convention experience than a feeling of inferiority. Don’t let all that time and effort of making a costume go to waste and strut your stuff. It’s okay if you think someone else did the same character better, just think of it as another way to improve for next year. Think your body type isn’t the same as your character’s? Consider this: every year I’ve gone I always see a middle-aged man with a pot belly and chest hair donning a wig and a Wonder Woman costume. Honestly, you can do no wrong.
Wonder Worbear has awoken from hibernation with Hawkman and Hawkgirl.

Sometimes at Barnard I feel like I have to not be a crazy fangirl. I have made very few friends here that enjoy watching cartoons and reading comics, and I don’t really see the appeal of Doctor Who, Supernatural, or Benedict Cumberbatch. I have very few friends who I connect with over things that aren’t related to being stressed out over exams, so it felt good for me to be able to find people who like what I like.

And to all the nerds and fangirls at Barnard, don’t hide! I made friends with ladies who watched the same shows as me by letting little catchphrases slip, or just by saying how I take some time out of my week to catch up on my favorite shows. Wear that shirt with your favorite character, and be proud that you like something so much that you’ve invested your time in it. Who knows? Maybe you’ll find others people who are fans as well. With thousands of people in the Columbia community, and even more in the city, you’re bound to find your fellow Avatards, Whovians, comic book lovers, and other kinds of fans you can connect with.

Mariah Castillo is a sophomore at Barnard and the Food and New York Editor for The Nine Ways of Knowing.

Images courtesy of Mariah Castillo and Christopher Jones.

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