Social Media Responds To…Cosplay And Comic Con Criticism, With Denise Dorman, Erik Larsen And Chris Burnham

Nina Williams vs JayCee (Tekken) – Tajfu (/) & Neko-tin. Photographer -TarasVB

Denise Dorman's comments about the recent convention experiences of she and her husband, the famed fantasy illustrator Dave Dorman, caused considerable online commentary. Reddit launched a thread with exactly that.

johndesmarais No, Cosplay is not killing Comic Con – Comic Con is killing comic fandom at Comic Con (although the article actually referenced Wizard World, but the same holds true). These conventions, which should be focussed primarily on comics, have become focussed more on "other media". Since the focus is not on comics, the primary interest of the attendees is not on the comics (or the creators of same) anymore.

Her and her husband need to stop going to Wizard World and go to cons that focus on comics rather than ones that focus on movies and TV.

shlomo_baggins A lot of SoCal locals have felt this way aout SDCC for years. Plenty of us know local vendors who stopped going because they can't afford booths like they used to be able to. When celebrities tour the floor and their bodyguards move you out of the way, we stop feeling welcome. That con won't ever need to fear from being less exciting, however there are plenty of fans who know it's really the San Diego Tv/Movie/Toy con, featuring some superheroes you might've heard about recently.

skoon I totally agree that the real thing killing cons is all of the unrelated multimedia junk that takes over everything.

But I think she has a point about the cosplay. It seems to have become more about launching some kind of modeling career than having fun dressed up as your favorite character. It's more about showing skin than costuming skill. I wonder how many even make their own costumes anymore?

keozen It used to be that if you were a marginally notable comic artist upwards you could just rock up at a con, sit at a table with a sketch pad and a few prints (maybe an art book or two) and make bank. Now that just doesn't cut it. It's out of no disrespect to the artists involved but it's VERY easy to see good art now if you want to and very cheap to get comissions from places like Devart and the like (no they may not be as good but hey, they were 5% the cost).

The issue is that companies like Mile High Comics and some artists think that they can just keep on doing exactly what they have always done at cons that are now vastly different animals. It's not 1970 anymore, people don't go to cons to buy dusty back issues and the con is no longer full of people who want to pay you to sign a book you once illustrated from the 80s.

What the article fails to say is that there are artists out there who are doing very well from cons still. They're putting out new books, creating new material. They're looking into different ways to merchandise their art and it's working.

Odin Allfather from Kasan Cosplay Costumes. Photographer – Dietrich Von Lohengrin 

There was plenty of long considered commentary on Tumblr, of which this is but a small sample. Erica McGillivray wrote,

While Dorman doesn't directly mention women, her critic of cosplay and "selfies" do point the finger toward culture dominated by women. And by the current undertones — or overt harassment — that women are somehow ruining geek culture. I wouldn't be surprised if her opinion piece will be used by anti-feminist to show that even women say other women are ruining geek space.

Additionally, Dorman doesn't understand the community space. People don't make community around a product or commerce. The comics community is there because they love stories; they love to create and play in that world; they love what the stuff represents. SDCC or any other convention isn't a shopping mall. Shopping malls don't have communities or people waiting in line for hours to see their creator heroes. We don't wake up at 4am to go to the Gap to have whomever is the CEO of the Gap sign our jeans. Brands that have communities — whether it's comic book creators or Apple — have a bigger "Why" to their purpose besides selling the thing that they make. Even when the Dormans made money and going to conventions was lucrative for them, people didn't pick up Mr. Dorman's art or regard it like buying leggings at H&M.

Strawberry Pally wrote,

You want to get to the heart of the matter? You think that the fans don't care anymore? How about talking about how the conventions don't care anymore. She mentioned Wizard World Chicago in her article. Wizard World Chicago is going to be charging 100 bucks just to get in the door next year.
I used to set up in Artist Alley at WWC. The last year I did it? The year I decided to say 'fuck it'? Yeah… They set up my table half in front of a fucking pillar. All of the other creators I've spoken to have had nothing good to say about Wizard World and most of them have cut and run on them because of how shitty they get treated. Wizard World doesn't care if we break even. They just care about getting more bodies in the door.
And SDCC? Yeah… Never going there in a million years. It's a shit place for anyone outside of the big companies, because all of the major studios trot out all of the SDCC exclusives which cost an arm and a leg. It's the only place that stuff can be gotten. Once the convention is over, the price is going to go up even higher in the secondary market. So people pick it up there.

Sarah Hughey added,

I don't entirely disagree with her, though the BIGGEST thing driving away sales and fans aren't cosplayers, it's the media presence at cons. It isn't about fandom. SDCC set the bar for making it a media showcase, not about comics, or cartoons, anime, manga etc. It's all about movies and TV shows, and celebrity guests.

At ECCC this year the hallways were always packed. The isles were often difficult to navigate. But people weren't stopping at the tables for artists, they were taking a detour between the different areas where panels were being held, or they were going to one of the non-comic vendors for gear (and there is NOTHING wrong with either of those reasons). The packed tables at ECCC were J. Scott Campbell, Kelly Sue DeConnick, Matt Fraction & Chip Zdarsky. I stood in them myself. But then you look at Erik Larsen, a BIG name in the industry, and there were tumbleweeds. Same went for Frank Cho, who was hidden off in the boonies. A lot of the artists were thrown off into corners, or flat-out ignored. Hell, I had some who were damn grateful that I was coming up to buy things or get something signed. I ended up having long conversations with Peter David (PETER FUCKING DAVID) about older conventions because NOBODY WAS AT HIS TABLE.

As a feminist and a comic fan, I totally get where you're going, but the point wasn't Cosplayers. She doesn't even have a problem with cosplayers. She, and most venders at cons, DO have a problem with them doing photo-ops in the isles or up against tables, sometimes blocking view for an hour so people can take pictures. I've seen it happen, and more than a dozen times at that. A lot of cons have rules against it now, because it literally is a problem. The "selfies" comment, again, because everyone just HAS to have their picture taken with a cosplayer! omgrightnow!! And they can't be bothered to move over to a less-occupied space. It's not about women, in that case, because more often than not, it's men looking to get the pictures taken.

Edward Elric (Full Metal Alchemist) – DrawenZzZz Photographer – Baku Project

Aewglireal wrote,

At Salt Lake Comic Con, I spent a good while in the Artist Alley. You know what I saw? A lot of people with very little talent pricing their superhero drawings in the three-figures. Now, I know exactly how hard it is to make a living as an artist. My father is one. I know the struggles. But I also know you can't sell an inferior product for exorbitant prices and then point fingers when no one buys. I'm certainly not saying that all artists in Artist Alley are awful. Quite the opposite. There were a lot of pieces that I would have loved to take home with me. But again, those were priced so high that it would have taken the entire contents of my bank account to walk away with, leaving me completely broke for an entire month. And we're talking prints, not originals.

After spending over a hundred dollars just on the con entrance fee, the photo op fee for my celeb of choice, and the parking fees every day, I couldn't afford any art. I'm not saying that artists shouldn't charge a fair value for their art, but then, I don't think $70 for a rough pencil sketch barely better than a stick figure of an anthropomorphized My Little Pony by someone I don't know from Adam is worth it. I saw a lot of "artists" charging cringe-worthy prices for sup-par art. Not even the pros in the vendor area were charging those kinds of prices.

You need to make a living. I get it. I totally do. But take your target audience into consideration, too. Not just your dreams of getting rich at a con. Most con goers save up in order to go to these things. We're not made of money, and art isn't our primary reason for being at a con.

Shilen (Lineage 2) – Nemu013. Photographer – Tis Photography

And Knitchick wrote,

I *wish* I could spend more money in AA. I love Dave Dorman's art, I wish I could own some. But I'm pretty broke. In fact, I staff conventions because it's the only way I can afford them. Chicago TARDIS was one of the few I paid for to just attend – $100-120 for the room, $80 for the ticket, plus $ for autographs, photographs (usually at least $50) plus food. Youmacon cost me nearly $150 last year – and that was just gas & parking, it would have been at least twice that if I had to get a badge & hotel room. C2E2 costs me $63 in parking costs most years, I've never spent more than $10 in badge prices because of being a librarian or doing panels.

So yeah. Conventions get expensive. It can be hard to afford to get a hotel room, pay for parking, AND have money to spend at the con. Though when I do have money to spend, unless I'm looking for a specific piece of merchandise, I tend to toss my money around the Artist's Alley instead of the Dealer's Room.

Tousen (Bleach) –  Daysuke 

Facebook also had divided opinions.

Ian Blyth Gotta admit, this article makes a damn good point… To be fair though, i think the problem is mainly with convention organisers and agencies than with the consumer…

Take for example the Star Wars fandom, a great fandom to be part of, with equally cool costumes and cosplayers… now, at LFCC this summer, there were plenty of Star Wars costumers around, enjoying the convention and having fun.

But if you take into account the guests, specifically the pricing for some, like Carrie Fisher, charging £65 ($90) for a photo with her, you have to take into account that comic cons are vastly expensive for consumers to attend… with money being tight for a lot of people, a three day weekend comic con can cost over £500 ($850) for hotel, travel, and entrance fees, without even looking at guest autographs and things like that…

So after spending nearly half a grand simply to be there, isn't it understandable that the customers would want to spend time taking photographs of people that enjoy the same fandom they do, enjoying the atmosphere and the free photos they can do, rather than being charged exorbitant amounts of money for further photos and signings?

I'm normally one against the so called 'cosplay celebrity' and events like that, but in this case, I feel the rise of the cosplay celebrity has as much to do with society and the 'sex sells' problem that plagues conventions in general, than it does the ever rising prices at comic cons that are pushing people away from spending money on guest signings and autographs to enjoy cheaper things at the event.

Scott Joseph Selfies with Cosplayers is not what's taking money out of your pocket, it's the people/creators/artists/writers that are just sitting behind the booth on their phones feeling entitled. Feeling that people should have to buy their work because of a name. If you have a booth, customer service should be a priority. If you are struggling to make ends meet, maybe you should try to up your interactions with people more. Compliment the Cosplayers as they go by. Do a drawing for the 5 year old that walks by with a spiderman costume on. Each potential customer should be treated as your next potential employer. I won't by art at Cons from people who sit behind the table with a phone in pone hand and chewing the nails on the other hand. If you are an introvert, hire someone who isn't to hype you up. Try and tap into the hustle that you had starting out.

Todd Jordan There's only one culprit here, and that's the skyrocketing prices for attending cons these days. As companies rush to see how far they can push price-gouging boundaries, the cost for attending big cons has become ridiculous. Consider that many attendees spend $1000+ for Comic-Con, NYCC, C2E2, and other big shows before even getting inside, and it's understandable that they only buy exclusives, show specials, etc. And what's even worse than hotels and convention centers inflating their prices for cons, is the actual companies running the shows (I'm looking at you, Wizard World) doing the same thing! They pimp their "VIP packages" for exorbitant amounts, pushing it as the ONLY way you'll ever truly have a great celebrity experience – when in reality, it gives the purchaser a different, flashy badge and an extra picture with the celebrity. I've been going to cons since 1980 as a fan, a pro, a vendor, and now in guest relations, and the levels of sheer, blatant greed have never been this bad.

Gary Beal I think cosplaying is a major factor, but not the only one. I've attended Baltimore for the last decade and it went from a handful of cosplayers to hundreds walking around. That would be ok, but when you've got to fight through traffic jams in the aisle because people are stopping to take pictures that's going to hurt every dealer and creators business. I think the artists are to blame as well though. You used to be able to get affordable sketches but the price on those has increased as rapidly as the cosplaying contingent; and now some artists are charging to get a book signed. It's getting to the point where you need a significant amount of money to attend a con and even meet a creator you like.

Griffith (Berserk) – Mitternacht Cosplay Photographer – Artano

While Twitter, naturally, emphasised more brevity,



Lady Sif  – Luce Cosplay Photographer – Meian Photography

Ah yes, the Bleeding Cool forum itself. Just from the first page, we have analysis such as,

poneley I'm sorry the Dorman's (and folks similar to them) are losing money on cons. I'm a huge fan of Mr. Dorman's work (got introduced through the Dark Horse SW covers). My question would be, if the cosplaying disappeared, would that solve the issue Mrs. Dorman brings up? I don't think it would. I would also ask, are there too many conventions and therefore the audience for artists is spread too thin?

I'm not a cosplayer. Certainly cosplaying has risen up a lot in the recent past. But maybe it will also not be so prominent in the future. Everything cycles after all…

AGH I'm not sure I know the answer…I am a regular at FanExpo and the mood/scene has absolutely shifted away from comics to celebs and selling junk (I mean, uh, stuff) as opposed to comics and artists…I will say that it is often very frustrating, as a fan, to see how little time big name artists often spend at their tables…the Kuberts (nice guys to be sure) were Sat only at FanExpo this year…didn't draw for anyone (as far as I know) and had a 1 hour signing each…so, from my perspective, it seems like the big names are moving away from cons as a vehicle to sell work/sketch/interact with fans…

Frankly, given the internet, I am not entirely sure why more artists don't just abandon cons and do commissions via mail…far more profit, far more time to work and far less hassle.

kiregrove Very interesting piece that asks some interesting questions. I wonder if maybe the answers are incorrect though. I suspect that the bigger reason for reduced income at cons is because of the increased income from web sales and that cosplayers are keeping conventions afloat now where they might have be just as financially impacted as the creators without them. It used to be that rare and hard to find comics and comic-related merch was basically only available at cons. Now, when I see something that I think looks promising I ask myself if I want to buy it at the con, carry it around, maybe damage it, or if I just want to go home and go to the creator's online store and have it delivered. If I want an autograph, con exclusive or something that I otherwise cannot easily get online, I usually pick it up. Otherwise, it really depends. With eBay, Amazon, Craiglist and all of the rest – face to face commerce across the board is challenged.

kayfabetravis In a sense I think cosplaying is hurting conventions… but it's not the cosplayers "fault", but rather the lack of good content and material outside of cosplayers. We know that people want to see and experience things, and right now the cosplayer community and "display" (for lack of a better word) comes across as more thoughtful, imaginative and dynamic than the other bits of the convention.

The panels are largely worse, with a lot of retred comments and very little in the way of reveals. Thanks to the internet, anyone at home can get the news just as fast as someone who waited hours in line. The benefit of being "in the room" is negligible.

The booths are poor from the big companies, with often out of date marketing and very little spectacle. The smaller vendor booths for comic sales really no better or worse than your local comic shops.

Yes, you can meet the creators/writers/artists. But usually after a long line, weird hours and overcrowded venue. Strange rules and restrictions that often seem arbitrary and poorly documented don't help either. Still, meeting the people that "make it happen" is a big plus… it's just usually a hard one for a fan to accomplish.

If a convention is a place to see a show, experience a community and see things you can't see at home… the cosplayers are really one of the only unique things left. Rather than trying to cut down on cosplaying, the convention organizers should look at ways that they can make the other parts of the convention more accessible and appealing.

STFmaryville The biggest conventions around the country haven't been more about comics than about movies & entertainment for years. I'd be interested if she compared her husband's earnings year-over-year — or even picked any pre-recession year and compared it to 2014 — but I'd venture to guess the decline has been small but steady every year.

I also wonder if "name" artists attending smaller, non-Wizard, regional cons aren't making more profit, since I strongly suspect those are attracting the hardcore comic readers who know, and who will pay to visit with & buy the art from, their favorite creators.

The anti-cosplayers theme of Denise's essay just comes off as,
Social Media Responds To…Cosplay And Comic Con Criticism, With Denise Dorman, Erik Larsen And Chris Burnham

myakoopa Well, I for one plan to drop a pretty penny at NYCC in a couple weeks, and will surely be hunting down a few artists in the Alley.

I do note, though, that I rarely go for artists I don't know offhand. Perhaps it's just a problem of oversaturation? Or, more likely, a shift in what the cons represent: whereas before they were one of the sole outlets to make mass purchases of hard-to-find items, they're now about this large group of fandom coming together and experiencing an event in ways we never could have foreseen even fifteen years ago.

In other words, maybe people are spending less money because that's not what's important to them anymore.

usedbyusername I've been to most NY ComiCons… but not this year. Last year was a total clusterf$@%, and the fact is that there is nothing available at the con that you can't acquire through other, less stressful and cheaper means.

Even going to certain panels to see anyone famous is kind of pointless, because you stand in line for hours and burn through the day quickly. To make matters worse, rarely are there any huge surprises or giveaways. It's not as if Marvel is going to premier a whole episode of Daredevil before it's debut on Netflix, or have a secret screening of their latest project. It's all teases and question-dodging.

When I do go to a con, I try to go with a mission in mind: autographs to collect, and cheap back issues/tpbs. If I happen upon an artist who's work I really admire, I try to make a point of telling them that I love their work. I'm the kind of guy who's happy to hang out and observe. I don't need to be in the thick of things, or make friends-ies with creators.

There are nineteen pages so far. Denise arrives herself from page five to clarify a number of points,

No, cosplay should never disappear and it would NOT affect sales. The general zeitgeist of overall attendees is to shop online and not at the shows.

The # of too-close-together cons certainly exacerbates the situation.

The illustration market is in the toilet. A $4k cover in the 1990s now pays $1k. If an illustrator isn't diversified, there's no way he/she can survive financially and this all becomes a hobby rather than a career. I feel the sorriest for the digital artists who cannot do traditional painting – what do they have to sell once they'd sent the file to the publisher? NOTHING.

For the record, I don't consider us elitists who think we're "entitled" to anything. We work our asses off, and we hope that effort results in profitability, like anyone else. If you're ever at a show we're attending, I'd welcome your critique of our display, our offerings, and our promotions. For the record, I have my own advertising, PR, social media and video production firm, WriteBrain Media, so I probably do more to advertise and promote than most.

Yes, I put it out on social media – 2 separate FB Fan Pages with thousands of followers, plus Dave's personal page with 5k followers, plus the blog and Twitter. Yes, Dave had to coach a football game that Saturday, so he could not attend, but he was there on Friday and Sunday and sales were the same. Dismal. We shared half of a table in Artists Alley with Bill and Linda Reinhold, so no, the display situation wasn't ideal by any stretch, but we do have a new book out, THE WASTED LANDS OMNIBUS by Magnetic Press, which is visually arresting. We did have numerous pieces of licensed art preliminaries and originals–as much as we could display with the small space allotted to us–on the table. They are evergreen pieces. I am always smiling and approachable. I'm an off-the-charts ENFP on the Myers Briggs Test, so for me not to engage in a friendly manner with the fans would be unthinkable.

I am not saying cosplayers are the cause for not making money at the show, nor am I anti-cosplay. I feel they enhance shows. They've simply become the stars of the shows anymore.

We offer items at every price point to cater to Dave's fans. From his new visually arresting I.P. WASTED LANDS OMNiBUS book at $24.99 to $10 giclee prints to a couple of high-end pieces of original oil paintings. Yes, Dave Dorman has a website. To be an artist and not have one is unthinkable in this day and age. Yes, we promote con exclusives on his 2 Facebook fan pages with thousands of fans, to his mailing list, so his personal FB page with 5k followers, and on his blog and Twitter account.

They are not affecting sales – what I see regularly on the floor at shows is that they have become popular than the creators, which is symptomatic of the shift from interest in the comics & creators to the interest in the general licensed I.P.

I'm just trying to figure out HOW exactly to adapt. I'm exploring what we need to be doing differently. I have no ego about it. I just want Dave Dorman to be successful.

Guts (Berserk) – Zel COShorse

One thing of note, while there has been considerable disagreement, there has been relatively less invective and hate. People want to debate, and disagree, but there's very little flaming. Lots of issues are being raised. You never know, maybe some of them might even be addressed…

So as a reward… Pokemon!

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Rich JohnstonAbout Rich Johnston

Founder of Bleeding Cool. The longest-serving digital news reporter in the world, since 1992. Author of The Flying Friar, Holed Up, The Avengefuls, Doctor Who: Room With A Deja Vu, The Many Murders Of Miss Cranbourne, Chase Variant. Lives in South-West London, works from Blacks on Dean Street, shops at Piranha Comics. Father of two. Political cartoonist.
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