Comic Con is a home away from home for many people. Whether their interests are comics, anime, games, movies or collectibles – it’s all here and then some.
I’ve been attending Comic Con in London since 2006, when it was called MCM Expo. Over the years it has featured guests such as fourth Doctor Who Tom Baker, Craig Charles and Hattie Hayridge from Red Dwarf, and Buffy’s and Supernatural’s Felicia Day among many, many others.
Comic Con’s main attraction for many people is cosplay, which sees hundreds of people wandering the halls dressed as their favourite characters. There is an official masquerade for people to show off their costumes with simple walk-ons and skits where the best costumes and performances can win prizes. However, many people do it just for fun and love of the craft. Simple, complicated, well executed and beginner costumes — they’re all here, and everyone always looks like they’re having fun.
The atmosphere is one of the main things that brings me back to Comic Con again and again, even when I had very little money to spend on the plethora of plushies, t-shirts and replica swords (to name a few) on sale there. There is a wonderful vibe I can only describe as a feeling of acceptance and family, where people are friendly, welcoming and happy to talk to you. Naturally, you get a few Debbie Downers in the crowd, but overall the message from the crowds is a welcoming one.
This extends very much so to the LGBT community and cosplay is just one of the many things which makes this one of the most gay-friendly events in the UK. Cosplay itself has a message — “cosplay is for everyone” — and it means just that. Females can cosplay as male characters, male characters can dress up as female characters and you can even go in for a spot of genderbending, taking a male or female character and designing a version of them if they were the opposite sex.
There is a subsection of cosplay called “crossplay” — cosplaying as the opposite sex — which is an art form all in itself. Crossplay is often lauded over general cosplay as it requires a huge amount of skill and fantastic execution to get right. It’s a great form of self-expression and a wonderful way to experiment with gender fluidity.
Gay, straight, lesbian, transgender, cisgender, genderfluid, they’re all accepted here. Fluidity and acceptance is ingrained into cosplay. At its core it means that you can cosplay whoever you like, even if you don’t match the character’s gender, race, height or weight. This message of acceptance flows freely during Comic Con, making it one of the safest places for you to freely express your identity.
There is even a Yaoi & Yuri stall, dedicated to the Japanese genre of same-sex romantic fiction (yaoi translates as “boys’ love”, yuri as “girls’ love”) which flies the rainbow flag high, and which sells yaoi/ yuri comics, usually drawn by fans. The crowd round this stall is huge, with many people buying several comics by their favourite artists. The stall owner also sells small handheld rainbow flags, which are proudly waved by LGBT people and allies alike.
I always come away from Comic Con with some great memories and new friends. I have met many friends over my years of attendance, and I hold them all close to my heart — even if I only see them twice a year.
Comic Con is at the Excel Centre, London, from 23 – 25 October, and at the NEC, Birmingham, from 21 – 22 November Go to: mcmcomiccon.com