Cosplay killing Comic Con(s)? We say it isn’t so.

The Halls of San Diego Comic-Con 

It’s more than a little obvious that in recent years a lot has changed in the realm of comic, sci-fi, fantasy, and similar genre conventions. The changes are beneficial in some ways, yet not in others…and recently one person – Denise Dorman, the wife of famous comics illustrator Dave Dorman – decided to voice her belief that cosplay is the true enemy of these conventions.

Though she is a bit less forceful with her words, Ms. Dorman essentially claims that cosplayers are selfie and Instagram obsessed people who only attend conventions to “see and be seen”. Probably the most amusing thing about her article, though, is that after trying to blame cosplayers for artists losing money, she goes on to list the many things that make conventions expensive before you even arrive at them.

Author Peter S. Beagle at San Diego Comic-Con

I can tell you, from personal experience, that “the rising ticket prices, price-gouged hotels, and parking costs” all add up to many times more than what I spend on my costumes. (As with many other cosplayers, it’s more about time than money.) I also always set aside a bit of cash that I mean to spend in the dealer room… though I’ll be honest, I’m picky about my purchases. I try to find items that are more original, things I couldn’t easily find online – and only walk away with some at maybe one of every three conventions I attend. I will say that I’m still extremely excited about meeting Peter S. Beagle at Comic-Con, and I bought a signed copy of the graphic novel to remember the experience by.

But obviously I’m just one cosplayer, and she’s pointing her finger at every single one of us.

The fact of the matter is, there are many reasons why some artists aren’t making the money that they used to at conventions. First and foremost, large comic cons have long been working toward focusing on more mainstream media and entertainment. The more mainstream they become, the more people there are who want to attend, and due to limited ticket sales and/or hotel rooms, this means that there are people attending for various things – seeing a certain actor, attending a set of panels, or yes, perhaps simply to cosplay – and that leads to a dilution of those who will even make it to the dealer room or artist alley at all.

Graphic Designer Ian Leino at MegaCon

Fellow Geekiary author Ashley attends several Anime conventions a year, and they’re always packed with cosplayers. With Anime cons, the dealers and artists are one of the most popular draws, and the floor is always bustling. Though smaller or more genre-focused conventions can’t promise you the numbers, they may be able to promise you more attendees who will go out of their way to find that author they love and buy his or her new book, or to score a limited edition print from a comic artist they love.

A recent example I would like to give is that this year, the dealer/artist room at MegaCon didn’t favor the artists or authors at all. They were sequestered to the back third or so of the room – far from the main entrance – and seemed disorganized, to boot. It’s hard not to sympathize with that, just as I sympathize with artists, authors, and dealers who sometimes don’t even cover their costs at the end of a convention.

Though Ms. Dorman spoke of Wizard World at first, she also mentioned San Diego Comic-Con and the recent uproar over longtime vendor Mile High Comics’ announcement that, due to climbing costs and plummeting sales, they probably wouldn’t return (although they’ve since changed their mind). But the opinion of Mile High’s president, Chuck Rozanski, was that publisher exclusives were the real issue (pardon the pun) behind the loss he suffered at SDCC.

In regards to Wizard World, there are other problems that have recently cropped up with these conventions that I believe will shed even more light on where the attendees’ money – cosplayers or not – is probably going. But that’s another story for another time, and one that I hope to tell soon.

As you can see, between the finger-pointing that has already happened and the fact that the convention industry has been steadily shifting their focus over the past few years, the idea that cosplayers are the main reason why artists and vendors are losing money is serious overkill. (Especially when cosplayers comprised a minority of the attendees at this year’s San Diego Comic-Con.) Times change, and cosplayers are no more or less a part of the changes than everything else I’ve mentioned here.

Author: Tara Lynne

Tara Lynne is an author, fandom and geek culture expert, and public speaker. She founded Ice & Fire Con, the first ever Game of Thrones convention in the US, and now runs its parent company Saga Event Planning.

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1 thought on “Cosplay killing Comic Con(s)? We say it isn’t so.

  1. To be fair to Denise, her (somewhat buried) argument is the overall cost for cosplayers is so high, they have no money left to buy anything in the dealer’s room. She fully admits she loves the inventiveness of the cosplayers and enjoys seeing it.

    To risk speaking for her, she’s really not saying “cosplayers are the cause of artists losing money” and more a “this is the final straw; it hurts to see everybody flock around cosplayers (who used to stop and buy things from us) and not buy things from us” argument.

    As the visibility of cosplay has increased, there are going to be people who put money they once might have spent on the artists into their own artistry. It’s beautiful and wonderful in and of itself…but the artists are going to feel that loss of income.

    The real question is – are there any numbers on what the non-cosplaying attendees are doing? It’s easy to notice that they’re taking time to take pictures with the cosplayers. But are they spending less because that satisfies their urge? Or are they spending the same, just more on conference fees/hotels/etc?

    I think this is a start of a conversation. Don’t get distracted by the frustration around cosplayers. The real question is – these meta cons wouldn’t exist if someone wasn’t making money. Is that money going where it should?

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