With the conventions of 2016 fast approaching, I’m looking forward to meeting a lot of artists, writers, editors, inkers and publishers. But another part of the convention experience has become meeting some of the cosplayers out there, who deserves kudos for the work they put into their costumes and their knowledge of the characters that they are playing. Their inventiveness and dedication is, frankly, often quite astounding.
But just as I’ve begun to enjoy this side of the convention experience, it has, sadly, started to highlight a dark side of comic fandom. And that is the fact that many male fans cannot accept that female fans are fans of comics in their own right and have their own tastes. And just as bad are the male fans who presume that a female cosplayer is just dying to have a rather chunky person with no idea of personal space invade their personal space and treat a female cosplayer with little or no respect.
Let me explain my concerns in two steps.
Firstly, here in the UK, the female comic fan was a rarity at my first convention back in 1997. The ratio of male to female was about 50 to 1 and most females at that convention were either long-suffering partners or daughters of. Today, that’s changed dramatically and most female fans at conventions are there due to their own tastes in comics.
I think my own family reflects how things have changed down the years. I’m the Bunty, Spellbound, Warlord, Commando and text papers fan, while my daughter is the Doctor Who, Anime and US comics fan. My wife is the fan of Vampirella, Alan Class, Misty, American and most Horror comics. However, both my wife and I enjoy Victor, 2000AD, Action and Battle and we have had a fair number of conversations on these and many more comics over the years.
So when my family and I attend a convention, we not only chat with female fans, but female creators. And it has been my priviledge to meet such luminaries of the comic scene as Tanya Roberts, Janine Van Moosel, Annie Parkhouse, Mary Talbot, Yishan Li and Kate Charlesworth, among many many more.
So when I visited a comic shop and was discussing the artists coming to a local convention, I was saddened to hear someone disparage my claim that I had purchased an original piece of Vampirella art (above) from Janine Van Moosel for my wife as a present.
The reason for the sadness was the fact that the veracity of my claim was being doubted and I hate being called a liar. But when I thought back, I realised that the reaction of the fan was more in the vein of Eric Idle’s Nudge Nudge Wink Wink character from Monty Python’s Flying Circus. This is the attitude that a female can not like Vampirella more than a male. And it pervades comics to the extent that some comic shop staff still assume that a female enters a comic shop to buy something for the male fan in their life, rather than for their own inner geek.
Which brings me to my second point and the more obviously worrying behavioural issue: the issue that some fans seem to assume that it is acceptable to treat people in cosplay as objects rather than as fellow fans. Thankfully, I have not yet witnessed any of these incidents, but a few of my cosplaying friends have described some incidents which I have found worrying.
In my usual bumbling way, I am asking that if you are attending a convention, give every fan the same respect that you would like to receive. And, even more importantly, if you see a fellow fan receiving unwanted attention, either go to their rescue or get the convention staff to help them as soon as you can.
If you’re a fan or practitioner of Cosplay there are a huge number of resources online offering guides to creating costumes. Cosplay Tutorial – www.cosplaytutorial.com – is a terrific resource we’ve come across, and there are a lot of YouTube sites offering step by step Blue Peter style guides to help you achieve the look you want
A life-long comic fan, specialising mainly in UK adventure comics, Colin did his very best to support his passion for the comics of his youth, Commandos (still going!) and any small press that interested him. Sadly, Colin passed in March 2021, an invaluable downthetubes team member, much missed by us all