WONDERCON 2017 [Panel & Booth Reviews]: Diversity, Cosplay & The ‘Wonder’ of It All.
THE GROWING POPULARITY OF LATIN SUPERHEROES: MARVEL, DC & BEYOND (Friday) / THE MOST DANGEROUS WOMEN AT WONDERCON: MORE THAN JUST COOKIES (Saturday) – Over the past week there’s been a lot of talk about the importance of diversity and its role in comics as a result of comments made by Marvel’s VP of Sales; so it was interesting that just a day after those comments, I attended two different panels that addressed that very topic. It’s interesting to note that both seemed to have the same running theme. The first panel was The Growing Popularity of Latin Superheroes, which I touched on in our WonderCon 2017 Wrap-Up Show (listen while you read!). There was some talk about specific Latin Superheroes like Jaime Reyes (Blue Beetle), Anya Corazon (Spider-Girl) and Robbie Reyes (Ghost Rider), but the conversation quickly became about a concern that I’ve had my eyes opened to over the past decade: the inability for some Latinos to relate to certain Latin Superheroes, in the stereotypical way they’re presented. As someone who was born and raised in Los Angeles, I’ve never had much problem relating to the East LA stereotype that Latino superheroes either fall into or are specifically contrasted against, but there are many Latinos out there for whom that stereotype is just a stereotype rather than a real person.
The second panel, The Most Dangerous Women at Wondercon, followed a similar trajectory, beginning with talk about popular female superheroes (lots of talk about Squirrel Girl) and leading into a talk about breaking stereotypical representation by getting a wider range of voices within female superheroes. Ultimately, Dr. Janina Scarlet–who really should have her own panel on Superhero Therapy, which was only casually mentioned but sounds interesting–best summarized that stereotypes are fine so long as those stereotypes are just an aspect of characters and not the defining trait; and the best way to reach that point is by having a wide range of voices to accompany a wide range of diverse characters to reflect the world we live in. In the current political climate, conversations about diversity and its importance seem unavoidable. As far as those notions go, both panels did an excellent job of getting their point across while remaining entertaining. Both panels = 4.5/5 Bibles.
COSPLAY MELEE (Sunday) – While WonderCon was packed with panels every day, one thing that caught this Saint’s attention was a booth. Run by SyFy, the booth was covered with logos and advertisement for their newest show, Cosplay Melee; but that’s not the only interesting part. Since there is no shortage of amazing and fun cosplay outfits worn by showgoers, the strain can also be tough on the cosplayer and the outfit. This is where the Melee booth shines. The suits that people create and wear do occasionally run into a malfunction or need a little extra to make them easier to wear and shine.
SyFy, through smart marketing, created this booth not only to advertise their new show, but also to help those cosplayers with any issues they have. Part of your armor come undone? They have tape, rivets, and more to help get it back together. Outfit have a loose thread? They have a sewing machine on hand to help stitch it up. And it also helps to have a staff on-hand to assist in any repairs or adjustments. In addition to being a great way to promote the cosplay idea of the show within the community itself, there was a creation station where kids of all ages could sit and built their own superhero mask for free. Marketing aside, this was an excellent idea and hopefully one that continues at future conventions.
Let’s go back to the main title of this booth though, with the show being promoted: Cosplay Melee. The staff and surrounding displays were ready to answer any questions about the work being done on the show — a competition between cosplay builders, similar to ones like Face-Off, Ink Master, etc. There is a slightly different format here, though, with each episode being a complete start-to-end competition. It does shorten the air time for contestants, but gives viewers fresh cosplayers and ideas each week. It starts with 4 builders given the task to build a single part of the costume. For example, the first 2 eps had helmet/mask building in one and weapon building in the other. Those creations are shown to the judges and one person is named as the best and another is sent home, leaving 3 to battle out in the final competition.
The last part finishes building the entire outfit to make a complete cosplay, wear it down the walkway, and then explain who their character is and what they did for certain parts. From there a winner is chosen and awarded $10,000. What I love about this show is that it’s not just professionals that are given the opportunity, and they even explain to the judges what little tricks they did–even if really simple– without any affect on the final judgement. Sometimes even the simplest trick wows the judges for how effective it was for the outcome. Overall, SyFy did a great job with both the Cosplay Melee show and booth. 4.5/5 Cosplay Outfits.