Spandex and Odd Odors: A Weekend at NYCCA column article, Kate Or Die by: Kate Leth
Well, yes, it's the American Apparel flagship store, but it's also New York Comic Con, and I was there this past weekend. My first big con, my first trip to New York City and my first time exhibiting at a show! While fellow contributer Kyrax was at what sounds like the most-fun lovefest Geek Girl Con, I got to drown in a sea of thigh-boots and sweaty men lining up for sketches. It was scary for girl from a relatively small town, but man, was it ever a spectacle.
I went on the trip as a part of Womanthology, an upcoming collection of stories and pinups created entirely by women. If you've read my blog, you might be familiar with my bout of controversy with the project-- funded by Kickstarter, Womanthology raised over $100,000 (four times the initial printing goal). If not, I misguidedly posted my concerns over the way the money was being handled during the fundraising and it got picked up by what felt like the whole internet. Turns out, as it has many times before, that I didn't really know what I was talking about. Not that that it's wrong to voice your opinion, but it upset a lot of supporters of the project and landed me in a bit of hot water when I should've just quietly raised my hand an asked the question to the folks in charge. So yeah, I was nervous about going down to the convention as a creator. Still, I thought, it can't get worse!
Turns out, I got to have a girl power weekend of my own, and I shouldn't have been so unbelievably nervous. Over 40 contributors came to NYCC - writers, editors, artists, letterers - and we got to share a table for four days. It was amazing. Halifax, my place of residence, has a decent artistic community, but it was nothing like the outpouring of love and mutual support that I got at table M19. An all-female crew of artists swapping comics, trading business cards, talking shop. The seasoned pros gave me con tips (wash your hands, bring food, download all your tweets before you get in the building) while the first-timers empathized with my anxiety.
I had been nervous about meeting Renae De Liz, head of the project and artist of The Last Unicorn, after my internet faux pas, but I don't believe I've met a nicer person. We didn't talk about what had happened, but she helped me when I got lost and seemed giddy when the Womanthology panel had a lineup down the hall and hit capacity. It was there, sitting in the front two rows with my fellow creators and new social media buddies, that I thought - it's going to be okay. Calm the hell down.
The speakers on the panel talked about a lot of important issues in comics, but none hit home harder than when Mariah Huehner addressed the idea of marketing to women as consumers. What do women want from comics? It's a question we all get tired of, because it's ridiculous - we want good comics. Characters we can care about, art we can gawk at, heroes we can root for. Another contributor, Nicole Falk, encouraged women to work on their confidence and stop worrying if they're 'good enough.' They all agreed that if people don't like the things they're seeing in comics, they should make their own. Felicia Day got referenced quite a bit, and with good reason.
D.I.Y. Superstar Felicia Day
So why the cosplay comic? Well, as awesome as the estrogen pow-wow was, I struggled my way back to my coat afterwards through a sea of bra-clad Poison Ivies and leave-nothing-to-the-imagination Black Cats posing coyly for pictures. Men of distinct and impressionable odors made no apologies about shooting the Leeloo Dallases from behind. Batting eyelashes. Double-sided tape. Mouth breathing. It was kind of unsettling. I even had men bearing no press logos taking my picture, and I wasn't even in costume. A guy came up to my table while I was signing and stuck a camera so close to my face that I recoiled. He told me it was just for his personal collection. Well, what a relief.
When you're on a Strong Female Characters high, it can be hard to stomach the costumes which require bikini waxing. Yes, okay, dress however you want, but I've never seen that much public nudity and I took photography at art school. Is there really a point in making Wonder Woman's costume tinier? Did I miss the issue where Supergirl started wearing stay-ups?
No, But Here She is After a Being on Some Kind of Medieval Stretch Rack
Still, for every tenth "Sexy Marty McFly" outfit I puzzled at, there were a few cosplay girls who blew my mind. One interpretation of Korra from Avatar: The Last Airbender knocked me sideways. The detail, the accuracy, and the fact that it was not only an attractive costume but showed no T&A? Amazing. It even looked comfortable! I give points as well to the dozens of Fionnas from Adventure Time, as well as the 7-year-old girl dressed as Marceline (complete with axe!) that broke my freakin' heart. Costumes without butt floss! The future is ours!
I'll wrap it all up with this: New York Comic Con was a trip. I'd never been approached for my comics outside of my hometown, much less with giggling enthusiasm, and it was an incredible jolt to my productivity. For that I'm incredibly lucky, and I'm grateful to Womanthology for making it possible for me and the dozens of other ladies to show our stuff. It's a hard industry to be a girl in when it feels like all the public wants is brainless sexbots, but I got to see hands-on what it's like to be in a room full of hundreds of folks who think otherwise. Women who create, men who support them; people who believe in the medium and its power to push boundaries and tell stories, who know that it needs to be shaken up. Women who can teach and learn from each other, building the things we want to see instead of waiting for them to happen.
In short, I've got to get started on a book.