Color Cosplay

October 14th, 2014 Posted by david brothers

I’ve been trawling tumblr here and there for the past few days, looking for people talking about me the panels I ran at NYCC this year (I need the feedback), and also cosplayers who were at the con (cosplay is dope). A side effect is I’ve seen a fair number of essays or statements kinda policing cosplay, drawing lines in the sand in the name of diversity and respect.

A sentiment I’ve seen that rubbed me the wrong way was the idea that white people shouldn’t cosplay characters of color because it’s disrespectful to take those characters from the culture they belong to. Which has something of a point, but technically most of those characters were invented by white men, at least as far as comics go, so the culture point is on shaky ground to begin with.

But I understand where the sentiment comes from. It’s fundamentally coming from a place of good intentions. Our culture is a white supremacist one, and a side effect of that is that fans and characters of color tend to get short shrift. It’s a protective position—”This is yours, it is for you, and I do not want to do anything to take that from you.” I respect that a great deal, but I think a hard-line position here with regard to who does what is ultimately harmful.

Part of the reason that characters of color don’t often get shine is they don’t get market support, and they don’t get market support because they’re viewed as being aimed directly and only at one particular audience, or even worse, the (adjective) version of something else, like the Black Avengers, the Lady Thors, and so on. They’re treated as a niche instead of fitting into the greater spectrum of things like everything else does.

There are no Cosplay Cops to enforce the rules, I’m no dummy, but by suggesting that white people should avoid cosplaying characters of color, you’re reinforcing the idea that these characters are not for everyone, that you must pass some test before you’re allowed to do anything with them.

And that’s silly, because pure, honest enthusiasm knows no boundaries. I met a black female Space Dandy at NYCC who was PSYCHED somebody recognized her. She loved the show but not a lot of people caught her cosplay. I took a selfie with a white female Space Dandy at SDCC. There were two black ladies cosplaying the best versions of Rogue and Gambit at NYCC. Though none of these people were the canonical versions of these characters, they wore the costumes because they loved the stories and characters. It didn’t matter they weren’t the right demographic. They threw their own spin on it and came out looking fresh to death. And I want everyone to have that experience, no matter how much melanin they may or may not have.

Obviously, white cosplayers should be respectful when cosplaying non-white characters. Don’t paint your face, don’t lean into a stereotype…don’t be a weirdo. Don’t be a jerk. But if you love Blade, if you love whoever, you should be allowed to do your thing, because then others will look and realize that hey, maybe this thing isn’t just for the colored folks after all.

I get where people who believe this are coming from, and I empathize. But I honestly think this belief is down to inexperience and a lack of examination. They’re trying very hard to be good people, to be people who love others despite or because of their differences, but they’re going absolute with it when real life requires fluidity. Not to mention that it’s an incredibly reductive position since it pits whites against everyone else, which prioritizes whiteness over non-whiteness in and of itself.

It’s a complex situation to be sure, and no one is technically at fault, if you dig me. It’s all good intentions and cultural quagmires. But if it’s love that’s making you do something, and you’re doing it in a way that you aren’t inadvertently spreading hateful messages, why shouldn’t you do it? It’s the respect that makes the difference. Culture vultures swoop in and steal what was created by others, claiming it for their own and icing the originators out of the equation. True fans pay homage to the originals and represent out of love. I was a casual Lupin the 3rd at SDCC this year, despite being neither French nor Japanese. But I love that dumb guy and wanted to do my part to spread the word.

We’re in this together. Fundamentally, objectively, realistically: we’re in this together. It’s easy to go way overboard and land on Condescension Square instead of Supportive Place when trying to better yourself and provide an example for others. If something ends with you putting up a wall between you and someone else, and it’s not for self-protection? Rethink it. Walls aren’t the answer. Walls are how we got here in the first place.

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Curse of the Bride of the Ghost of the Revenge of the Son of the Return of the Wrath of Comic Con

October 22nd, 2013 Posted by Gavok

And another New York Comic Con is in the can. Once again, I went all four days. The problem was, I had no real direction for this run. There was nothing I was especially looking forward to and a lot of stuff I used to be excited about have lost their luster. Panels went from something I’d schedule for to something I can take or leave. Hitting Artist Alley is always cool, but I’m doing the same thing with it I’ve always done. Plus I’m trying to spend less than previous years.

As someone who’s never exhibited or been part of a panel, I’ve run out of stuff to experience at NYCC. I mean, there’s that speed dating thing, but I keep forgetting to sign up for that and part of me is thankful for it. Maybe next year. This time I wanted to try something I’ve never done before on a day that wasn’t October 31st. I was going to try cosplay. Each day a different costume.

Well, not every day. About a week before the show, I was talking to Internet Superstar Chris Sims and I joked about getting a couple t-shirts made saying “I’M A DAVID BROTHERS GUY.” Chris said that I shouldn’t be joking. I should be doing. And so, I had them made just in time for the show.

Some context for the uninitiated: Paul Heyman is a staple in professional wrestling who used to run his own promotion Extreme Championship Wrestling before that went under and he became part of the WWE. He’s recognized by many as one of the top minds in the wrestling world, unless you bring finances into it. He understands talent and has a knack for good writing that shows off the strengths of performers while hiding their weaknesses. For a while, he existed on WWE TV as a manager and mouthpiece for various top-ranking bad guys (most notable being Brock Lesnar, who went on to have a successful UFC career after the fact) while behind the scenes, he was one of the head writers. He ended up being let go because he wasn’t the most agreeable with upper management.

Years later, on an episode of Raw, CM Punk was doing a storyline where he was preparing to win the WWE Championship on the same night his contract was ending with threats that he’d leave the company with the belt. During a scripted speech with ties into real life, he said, “I’ve been the best since day one when I walked into this company. And I’ve been vilified and hated since that day because Paul Heyman saw something in me that nobody else wanted to admit. That’s right, I’m a Paul Heyman guy. You know who else was a Paul Heyman guy? Brock Lesnar. And he split just like I’m splitting. But the biggest difference between me and Brock is I’m going to leave with the WWE Championship.”

About a year later, Brock Lesnar came back. Soon Heyman followed. Then they had Heyman become Punk’s manager. Anyone Heyman represented was referred to as, “a Paul Heyman guy.” Soon guys like Curtis Axel and Ryback joined the Paul Heyman Guy umbrella. T-shirts were made and while he’s a bad guy on TV, many wrestling fans wear them out of support for the man they consider to be a genius of the genre.

And that’s why Chris and I had to wear those shirts and mess with David’s head. Let me tell you, the reaction was completely and utterly worth it. The perfect mix of, “Fuck my life…” and, “Oh, you guys.”

Real talk, though. It was really great getting to see David and Chris. It’s been years since I’ve seen David in person and he’s seriously the coolest, chilliest, nicest guy. Chris is also an upstanding gentleman and was really cool by introducing me to various people, including Kieron Gillen.
Also on Thursday, I came across a vendor booth at the far end of the showroom floor. They had a bunch of stuff on sale, including the X-Statix Omnibus. That series is already something I’ve been meaning to read, but the deal made it a must-have. Normally priced at $150, they sold it for only $39. I had to lug it around with me all day because I wasn’t going to let them sell out of it without me.

On Friday, it was time for costume #1: Fred Flintstone.

Here’s me with DW Cycloptopus from Kaiju Big Battel. He’s a lot bigger on TV.

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