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Monday, October 13, 2014

Cosplay Trends of New York Comic-Con

doctor who costume

  Thanks to the popularity of cosplay, New York Comic-Con has the most fun street style of any event in NYC.  I also attended Toronto's Fan Expo in August for another dose of costumed fun.  Like fashion week, I observed seasonal trends that indicate the popularity of different pop culture brands year to year.  Like fashion week, there also seems to be a hierarchy of cosplay street style stars.  There are "celebrity" cosplayers (like Yaya Han who has calendars and a reality show) down to the grown adults who bought a supermarket mask and drew on their sweatshirt with a Sharpie marker.

For women, the most popular character by far was Harley Quinn.  This Batman villainess did not even originate from a comic-book but was a sidekick in the 1990’s cartoon series.  She gained a huge following as a result and is now part of the comic book canon, even making cameos in live-action series like Arrow and Birds of Prey.  The original cartoon look and the edgier video game outfits are represented all over the convention floor.  Other hot characters were X-men’s Storm, Maleficient and other Batman characters like Catwoman and Poison Ivy. 
magneto comic conAnother big trend this year? Ladies were dressing like femme versions of traditionally male characters.  I saw female Jokers, Penguin, X-men’s Magneto, Beetlejuice, Thor and many others.  Am I surprised? No. Comics, video games and Hollywood movies often treat female characters as window dressing, so women redefining iconic heroes or villains are due.
For men, the brand with the biggest rise in popularity over the years has to be Doctor Who.  In Toronto, it was the most popular character by far.  In addition to men, both children AND women love dressing as this quirky Brit.  Star Wars fans who used to dominate were noticeably less visible for me, but I didn't attend every day.
For the macho guys, fully-armored video game combatants are the acceptable "bro" costume.  Classic heroes like Batman and related villains will always be a staple.  

Goths and Lolitas were the hit alternative fashion genre when I first attended at Comic-con five years ago.  The move to Steampunk has increasingly hit the mainstream for both and women.  The ones that get attention are fans that co-opt a famous character and give them a Steampunk makeover like Iron Man and Boba Fett.  This year, though, I have seen not one, but two fans dressed as Steampunk Wonder Woman. 
nycc steampunk

I always find it fascinating when a seemingly obscure and older character has a disproportionate amount of popularity.  I have seen multiple, highly detailed “Rufio” cosplayers from 1991’s “Hook” show up in the last two years. The comeback is surprisingly considering the movie is over 20 years old and often mocked.  Dante Basco, the actor himself was originally mortified of his character’s look.   My guess is that character was one of the few cool Asian male characters in pop culture that hit fan’s childhood at the right time.
UNLIKE fashion week, those dressing up in cosplay do so for the sheer love for their character.  The great ones put a craftsmanship and ingenuity into their costume for no return other than possible validation of other fans. If you catch them in the wild, they are gracious about posing for you, and often throw themselves into character to give you a fun shot.  I love seeing fans who embrace their body type and find a costume that suits it. I found a surprisingly chic “Fiona” from Shrek and the universally flattering look of “Zatanna” who dons fishnets and curve-hugging top hat and tails.  Contrary to the reports in male-dominated websites, it’s not just the “hot” girls who receive appreciation.  People of all shapes earn the admiration of their peers if they rock a fantastic cosplay look.  If you have it, flaunt it!
shrek fiona costume
photos by Mariana Leung

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