Rogue Element #75: C2E2 2011 aka Damn it Feels Good to Be a Cosplayer…
By Avril Brown
San Diego Comic Convention. Emerald City. Dragon Con. C2E2. That is how epically awesome the Chicago Comic and Entertainment Expo was this year: someday soon I believe it will rank as one of the most successful and sought after Comic Cons in the country. Once again hosted at the McCormick Place in downtown Chicago, this time in the West building (with perhaps a touch more square footage?), the floor was filled with vendors and artists, oodles of patrons flooding the aisles, and the presence of several Hollywood stars, boosting attendance numbers and soaking up the love from adoring fans. There were also swarms of creative cosplayers, a culture of nerdy folk I have admired from afar and never joined…until now.
I have always applauded and commended people who decide to don a costume for a comic convention, continuously impressed by their blatant lack of humility and obvious love of not only the character they are representing but of nerddom in general. This year, I finally fulfilled my promise to the comic cosmos to become one of them by strutting my stylish stuff across the puffy red carpet for a majority of the Con. Before the costume came out to play, however, I got to dive back into Chicago comic culture headfirst with audacious abandonment.
Thursday night, before C2E2 weekend began in earnest, was the first real chance the traveling professionals had to catch up with one another, and I had the opportunity to hang with my out of town buddies in the biz. Drinks were drained, stories were shared, and new friendships were forged as we overpaid for alcohol and cracked each other up in the Hyatt hotel bar. Hanging with these fantastic folk in the evenings typically is, at the very least, equally as enthralling as the Cons themselves.
Friday was the first day of the Con and my only one hundred percent, costume-free day, leaving me free to snag a few video interviews of local artists, wander the aisles largely unfettered and catch a mid-afternoon cocktail with some friends…which turned into a second drink shared with my favorite writer in the biz today, Mr. Garth Ennis, who is just as cool as you would expect him to be (feasibly even more so) given his literary portfolio. As my buddy Marc and I left the table leaving Garth to hang with the friend and business associate he walked in with, a neighboring table asked us in a hushed, reverent tone, “Excuse me, was that Garth Ennis you were sitting with?”, we couldn’t help but puff out our chests a little as we smiled, confirmed their suspicions and straight up swaggered out of the bar.
The rest of the day consisted of perusing the various vendors and Artist’s Alley, meeting the talent behind the iconic Gary Gnu from the eighties children’s show ‘The Great Space Coaster,’ and catching a panel on comic book podcasts (showing love for some friends as well as doing research for Comics Slumber Party). Then it was time to replenish calories lost and top off the ethanol tank at Reggie’s Music Joint, home of savory burgers and a bounty of beers.
Saturday was a red letter day: my very first day as a cosplayer, and Jesse’s first day at a Comic Convention period, let alone in costume. Given this is Chicago and not San Diego in the summer, I wore clothes over my costume for the commute downtown to the McCormick Place. Once we reached the entrance to the C2E2 wing, I ducked into the bathroom, stripped off my non-cos clothes while making sure certain parts were properly covered, gave a smile, nod and greeting to the women waiting in line for stalls and went out to greet the world as Leeloo Dallas.
Dressed in strategically placed white straps, a bright orange wig and the body my mother, Tae Bo and the ‘Leeloo Diet’ gave me, I hit the convention floor as a cosplayer. Ditching our sundry in Artist’s Alley (thanks to my pal Kurt Dinse for a) being awesome and b) watching my stuff! Check out his work at http://pungentbasementart.com/), Jesse, dressed as Korben Dallas in an orange tank, black pants and bronze hair (he tried to dye it blond, but his brown, industrial strength hair would only let him settle for a copper color) and I began our ambulation.
Jesse was completely absorbed by the fantastic artwork on display from the multitudes of talented artists present in AA, including famous pencilers, up-and-comers, web comic creators and local geniuses alike. Before long the patron population began to explode and the cosplayers, including Leeloo and Korben Dallas, were frequent subjects of photo requests. There were Phoenixes, Power Girls, Wolverines, Spider-Mans, the Firefly crew, a substantial amount of Star Wars folk, various villains of all origins, and anime, television and movie characters galore (including a second Leeloo in her slightly more modest outfit). There were plenty of costumed kids as well, including several Batgirls and boys, a father/son pair of Indiana Jones’ and a teenager dressed as Stan Lee.
Getting ones photograph taken is a part of coming in costume to a Con, therefore we did not begrudge any photo requests, simply viewing it as the compliments they were. There was an excessive amount of flattery absorbed by both of us (one gentleman noticed Jesse and went apeshit: “Wow, Korben Dallas! That’s so cool, man! You are totally rocking!” A brief glance in my direction: “Leeloo, right on.” Turns back to Jesse: “Man, Korben! That is so awesome! You have the coolest costume I’ve ever seen.”), not to mention several nuggets of hilarity (I ran into a few people I work with, one of which held up a poster in front of my half-naked form as she spoke to me, unable to talk and bear witness to my body at the same time).
Clothes were donned in order to maintain a semi-professional air as I joined other associates of the press to interview several cast members of ‘The Vampire Diaries.’ The orange wig, however, remained in place as it was a pain in the ass to get properly situated. Michael Trevino and I shared a moment after he complimented my neon hair and I inquired if he had ever seen ‘The Fifth Element.’ He immediately said yes and smiled, glancing slightly downwards at the top of my white straps peeking out from my zip up hoodie and said, “Ah, Leeloo Dallas, awesome.” He left me with a genuine ‘Pleased to meet you’ and an extra sultry smirk. Oh yea, he wants me.
The temperature was a minor issue given my state of undress, though it was dependent on where we were lingering. There were several industrial fans which did nothing to reduce my nipply-ness, and just outside the entrance of the Con the lack of congregated warm bodies dropped the temperature by around fifteen degrees. Adhering myself to Jesse served as a temporary solution to the cold, but the outfit itself was surprisingly comfortable and my plain white flip flops administered minimal damage to my feet, despite being on them all day.
Sunday brought another day of cosplay and an irresistible urge to shop, regardless of me hemorrhaging funds on food and booze the previous nights. I sated the desire with some trade paperbacks, a few individual issues and a couple of prints, including a beautiful, fiery portrait of Rogue and Gambit by Clay Mann and a picture of Leeloo in her thermal bandages by Dave Reynolds. More photos were posed for, this time with my Multipass prop I’d forgotten to bring to the Con on Saturday. Due to the timing of other events we missed both costume contests, my love of informative and geek-tastic panels trumping posing on stage and the potential for random prizes (though I do love me some prezzies). In addition to the ego boost of having several people compliment us on the level of excellence our costumes achieved and how great we looked, another perk of remaining in cosplay all weekend was a free print from the prodigiously talented Jon Hughes (I chose a copy of his gorgeous Goblin Queen; check out his work at http://overground-eic.deviantart.com/).
Though I bared a fair amount of flesh, everyone was on their best behavior and conducted themselves as ladies and gentlemen, the boldest of which was a young man who essentially elbowed Jesse out of the frame as his dad took a picture. I had a few requests for solo shots, a couple of hover hands (guys, mainly, who ask to have their picture taken with me and then hesitate to touch me) and a few women who may have been checking me out as much as I was them.
The Con wound to a close and we said our goodbyes, after which we demolished my ‘Leeloo Diet’ with Five Guys burgers and fries followed by gourmet chocolates from Windy City Sweets. Jesse had a great time at his first Con and once again I had a wonderfully nerd-a-licious weekend, leaving me with an empty wallet, a slightly inflated ego and new appreciation of cosplay culture. Fear not for the size of my head, however, for I shall not let it swell to inordinate proportions, but I will always remember how flattering it felt to be noticed in such a way by so many people who share my love of Leeloo, comics and Cons. Damn, it feels good to be a cosplayer.