It’s cosplay time.
ComicCon posts are always ginormous when I make them because there’s so much to see and do, and so many stories I want to tell that it’s hard to pack things in and choose what to leave out.
It’s a huge pain to edit. And I tend to procrastinate because of it.
So…I’m making the late-night decision to split this post into two parts!
Part I is going to about the cosplay, and Part II will be about all the other fun stories of the con. Because it’s already been like two weeks and I would like to publish this thing someday.
(cue bookmarkedone crashing out on her desk because that tea mug wasn’t the bottomless one. Whoops).
The last time I did a cosplay was before the Plague. And it was probably the laziest cosplay–cloak, boots, wizard hat, no specific character–because it’s one day you can wear a cloak and no one will look at you funny.
Arguably you can wear a cloak every other day of the calendar year as well, but we’re not here to discuss cloaks.
We’re here to talk about cosplaying my childhood hero.
Ah, yes. La Femme Rouge. The legendary thief. Once a protector of the world’s cultural treasures–until she found out that stealing is way more fun and pays the bills better.
Well. Netflix tells it differently.
I’ve learned over the course of the cons I’ve been to that there are certain characters I can cosplay and certain characters I really can’t.
Personality is what matters. Cosplay is a little like acting–for all intents and purposes, you are the character when you put on the costume.
So playing, say, an outgoing, chipper, friendly, extroverted character? Doesn’t work out too well. Especially when I forget what I’m doing and fall into my natural expression of caution in big crowds–which is much more like a cat in Hunting Mode than a smile.
The juxtaposition can be a little scary.
So I try to pick characters I think I can pull off, not just those that I like. Characters who glare? Excellent. Characters with part of face hidden by costume? Even better. Characters who do both and have the Murder Walk and possibly a weapon?
So Carmen. Sly thief with classy style. Hat pulled low. Worth a shot, right?
Besides. She’s iconic. Even if I fail to really fit the character, one glimpse of red is enough to make people wonder could that be–?
And although personality is more important than physical appearance most of the time (wigs and makeup brushes are amazing), I don’t look entirely unlike Carmen.
It’s not a “dead ringer,” as they say.
On a scale from Carmen Sandiego to Forest Nymph, I usually fall closer to Confused Changeling in Sweaters.
But for ComicCon, where a T-shirt with a logo or a pajama onezie will do, it’s close enough.
I tried to make my hair do the thing like hers. You know. The thing.
An attempt was made.
Otherwise, it was really easy to put together. Red trench coat I was lucky enough to nab on a thrift run, black top and black jeans (what are the odds of an orchestral musician having those, right?), the knee boots, and the crowning glory–the red fedora.
I stood in front of the mirror, scrutinizing the effect.
I plopped the hat on my head.
Nothing. I still looked like me.
And that’s not the point of cosplay. Not for me, anyway. I want to disappear into the character, be someone else for the day. See what it feels like to be them.
I may have made a face at the mirror.
And then a little voice in the back of my head told me, instinctively, to reach up and tilt the hat down and slightly to the left.
It’s funny. I’d forgotten how obsessed I was with Carmen as a kid until doing that. But that one little gesture, the hat tilt, it brought it all rushing back to me.
We move on as we grow older, get interested in other things. The fandoms we loved when we were younger we fold up and place in a dresser drawer, next to the scarves and lost puzzle pieces, buttons and games we invented on a summer’s day. As time passes, we reach for different stories, we crave things that speak to the emotion of that moment, the things we most need to hear.
Memories gather dust. Colors fade. They haven’t lost their value, and yet–
The tilt of a hat.
There are still probably photos somewhere of me doing that. Holidays, whatever occasion we had to be Dressed Up, if I was wearing a hat (and I usually was), I’d do the signature Carmen pose. Hat tilted slightly to the left, chin down, hand on the brim, so all you see is that smile.
Drove people crazy. You want to see your kid’s face in photos, not a hat squashed down over the eyes. Can’t tell you how many times I was told to put my hand down and smile for the camera.
For the record, I think the Carmen pose probably resulted in a lot of way better photos than the mugshots of these later days. My first uni ID photo was a crime.
It’s such a little thing, but that was all it took for me to remember–oh yes, this is how this feels. There she is.
That’s not to say it was all that easy. I was still–a little nervous, I guess? I mean, I wasn’t wearing a neon wig and carrying a sword three times my size, but it’s still a little weird until you’re around other people in cosplay (this from someone who has been wandering through grocery stores in a floor-length black dress looking forlornly for post-concert ice cream).
But walking into the main floor of the convention center–it went away.
That was my stage, between a Ghostbusters van and Captain America’s motorcycle. The game had begun, and I was there to play.
I stood taller. Straightened my shoulders. Started to walk differently. With a little of Carmen’s confidence.
There was a downside to this. I was wearing black gloves and a black mask, so there was a little wondering if vendors might actually be uncomfortable with me browsing their wares and leaving no fingerprints.
Everyone was lovely to me, in case you were worried. The only comment to that effect was someone guessing my character and saying he “had to be suspicious of a woman in a red coat.”
This was actually the most fun I’ve ever had doing cosplay. Just because of the reception, how excited people were to see me.
They don’t have ticket trolls at ComicCon like they do at Renaissance festivals, but you’ve still got to be a cool person to work there. I got someone who was trying to guess every character who walked through her line.
Not going to lie–I was kind of zoning out at that particular moment (did I mention I’d been in rehearsals for Tchaikovsky’s Romeo and Juliet overture that week? Also it was packed. Nothing like the last con where my buddy and I were unexpectedly the only VIP guests). But the delight on her face when she asked if I was Carmen–yeah, that brought me back to the moment pretty quick.
And that’s how it went for the rest of the day.
A few of my favorite interactions?
My Renaissance festival friends at the booth
As soon as I saw the familiar purple banners, I was like, “I gotta.” So I wove my way through the crowd and tried to catch The Boss’ attention to say hi. Got distracted by a fairy mushroom princess girl because her outfit was a work of art and–that’s when one of the ladies at the booth actually scared me.
Well, sorry, I’m sure she’s lovely, but having someone yell “YOU!”
…it’s a little unnerving.
But then she launched into an explanation of how she’d been looking for Carmen Sandiego for years, and now that she’d found me, had to get a photo for proof.
So…yeah. There’s now a photo of me and her and Mushroom Princess and I don’t have a copy of it (smashes keyboard because I’m sure it was really cool).
This actually happened a couple of times…
Tall beardy dudes wander by, see me, and say something along the lines of “Found you,” sometimes in slightly angry voices (as one does when you finally find the missing left sock in your backpack of all places) while I go into Frantic Mouse Caught under Kitchen Lights Mode because I do not know this person, and then realize oh, I’m Carmen. Right.
Tip the hat, take the photo, and we’re all grinning like idiots because it’s ComicCon.
My Renaissance festival friends not at the booth
What are the odds that renfaire people are also ComicCon people?
…yeah, we’re all a bunch of nerds.
I spotted a couple of friends strolling together and waved. One noticed. The other walked past me like he had no idea who I was or that I was even there.
Maybe I wouldn’t have thought as much about this if I hadn’t seen one of the mercenary steel fighters (one I’ve actually crossed practice swords with) later at the festival booth. Same pair before are standing a little behind him, probably also trying to say hi.
I wave. Get a squint-eyed stare.
Was it the hat? The coat? The lack of violin? It’s true that it’s been a while since we’ve seen each other, winter being the off-season for most faires, but really?
In their defense, I didn’t stick around. As I explained to friends, the goal was not to say hi so much as to leave a lingering impression of having seen someone unknowable and to allow that sensation to grow into an overwhelming sense of dread.
I believe that’s called having fun at your friends’ expense.
I should mention that the faire organizer had no problems recognizing me when I’d come by the first time. He didn’t even say my name or ask to be sure. He looked me straight in the eye and said, “I have a check for you.”
No greeting. No hello. Just that.
Well. Okay, then. Won’t say no to that.
Theme Song Guy
At one point the crowd was so thick I had to stop walking for people to move and a guy near me started singing “Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego.”
This…has never quite happened to me before. Usually I’m the one doing spontaneous music behind people. So I didn’t really know what to do except laugh and hide under my hat. Sort of like when people start singing “Happy Birthday” to you and you don’t know what to do or who to look at? Still fun, though.
He tried to make a quick escape after that only to discover the crowd had shifted and he was also stuck.
And then–this was my favorite part of the whole interaction–he got shy. Asked if he could maybe have a photo.
Dude. You sang me my theme song. Of course you’re getting a photo.
He probably wins coolest interaction of the day.
This feels cheesy…
One guy got awkward after saying the “Found you!” line.
“I guess you’ve been hearing that all day.”
He said it like he’d been annoying me by his excitement.
Not so. Not so at all, and I told him as much.
While I was saying this, another guy popped up behind him and said, “Where in the world are you?”
This was one of the questions that had thrown me off the first time it was asked, but by now, I’d gotten comfortable answering, “Here–for the moment.”
“Well, no wonder nobody can find her, she’s in (the…smallish city where the con was being held).”
The first guy shook his head and said, “And there’s the other one.” The second cheesy joke I’d been getting all day.
“I don’t get tired of it,” I said. I mean, why would I? Sure, it’s the same joke every time, but it’s always told in a different voice. It’s always another person I get to see be excited with me.
I think he got the idea.
Various Hat Tips (tipping? tippéd?)
Because it was so crowded, I was shoulder-to-shoulder with other people for most of the day. And although it was noisy, well…
You know how if someone says your name when you’re chatting and not paying attention and you whip your head around because you hear it?
Several times I heard people elbowing their friends and saying “There’s Carmen Sandiego.”
And since they weren’t talking to me, I’d tip the hat down, smile, and go on my sneaky way.
One time this happened when someone was sitting on the floor as I was walking by.
Quick note here if you’re not familiar with how cons work–yeah, this is totally normal. Not in the vendor area, but in quieter spots, because there’s a lot of colors and noise in there, and sometimes you just need to chill.
Sure, there are chairs, but there are also open spaces where you can sit cross-legged in a circle like campers without a campfire, or walls you can put your back to and stare into space like a sad beggar haunted by the return from war–or a sweaty cosplayer waiting for a friend bringing pretzels and water from the concession stand like an angel of mercy.
I saw a girl hiding behind a pillar eating her lunch in between working a booth. We made eye contact. I moved along.
Because there were so many people, though, one of the cosplayers sitting at the wall was–yeah, pretty much at my elbow, and the hatbrim tends to catch echoes, so when they said “It’s Carmen Sandiego” to a friend…Hi. Hello. Yes, it is.
Anyway, that moment was when I realized the hat tip gesture was perfect because it was just close enough to the half-curtsey dip that I do at renfaire to feel comfortably familiar and just normal enough to not make people really confused why the tall child is curtseying (this is a problem. I’m aware).
I…don’t actually know how many people took photos with me. A few, anyway, besides the amazing Mushroom Girl.
I’m normally a little camera-shy (hmm zero photos of me on the blog, what are the odds), but I didn’t mind. Partly because it’s ComicCon and it’s just what you do, and partly because if my own renfaire buddies walk right past me as Carmen, well, what’s the harm?
And with one black-gloved hand on the hat brim and a mask covering the lower half of my face, there’s actually even less of my face visible than my bookmarkedone profile picture.
(which, now that I’ve had time to think of it, means my readers and Twitter friends are probably the people most likely to see one of those errant photos and know exactly who that is…uh…use this power wisely, okay?).
I really love the hat pose, though. One girl asked for a photo and we squished together next to a booth. I’m not sure what she did, but her friend taking the photo shook her head and said, “Look at you two with your model poses.”
The camera shy bookworm would like to say thank you, miss.
Most of the parking is across the street from the convention center (if you’re lucky). So I was across the street and up the hill, hiking to a car, when from the front of the con, I hear someone yelling. It’s a girl sitting out front with her friends, waving and screaming, “I’ve been looking for you!”
Normally this would require crossing the street to see what the problem was, if there was a missing wallet, long lost friend, mysterious curse, etc., etc.
Not for Carmen.
I waved to acknowledge attention recieved–
and kind of dove into the car.
…yeah, some of those sneaky thief things just come naturally.
I can’t express how much fun this was.
It was like being a celebrity. People were genuinely excited to see me. And while that’s pretty different from being the bookworm in the Strider corner of the library who’s so quiet you walk in and out without ever realizing they’re there–I could get used to this.
There are…way more stories from the con.
But I’m going to sign off here for now.
Stay tuned for part II!