That first experience was definitely a game changer for me. It helped me describe my addiction to conventions. It was like coming home for the first time; I had never felt at ease with my hobby, so going to a place that was encouraging that love made me feel included.
I didn’t actually know how much it meant to me, until I was forced to miss it for a friend’s bachelor party (don’t get me wrong, I would miss any con for significant bonding moments). That feeling of being down in the dumps over a missing a con solidified things. I must never go without.
Over the past few years, my agenda at conventions have varied greatly. I had focused in my earlier years looking for panels that featured artists and writers that I had read in the past. It was great to be able to finally come into contact with a lot of them, of course, with obligatory photos. Hearing people talk about their process and behind the scenes in formation of how they create is something I whole-heartedly seek. The larger panels, as well, had a great attraction. It was great to see A-list actors, promoting their work. While Wondercon doesn’t always feature an SDCC like line up, there are times when the entire cast of a film may show up. Over the past few years, we’ve been lucky to see cast members from Star Trek, Kick-Ass, The Amazing Spider-Man, Prometheus, and tons more. Being able to see actors, writers, artists and creators up close is like nothing else. Hearing their stories makes them human, and more personal, some times more than you would expect.
The last couple of years have been about cosplay. It has been a slow going interest. I’ve been a fan of cosplay for a while, granted, for very superficial reasons. I appreciated the way that people ended up creating these amazing costumes, and it was always cool to see someone as a familiar character. The reason why Wondercon is a great marker for myself is because it was the first time I had built a costume.
I had dressed up for a variety of conventions and Halloween events, but this was actually building something up. Jeanette, the better half of RPGAdventurers, started improving her sewing skills in 2014. Because of that she felt compelled to create a costume from a series she was currently watching. She showed me some pictures and asked what I would want to do, I said “Oooo, I can make armor!”(I am a huge enthusiast of armor). My enthusiasm faded as I looked into what it would take to make it. While the design was simple, I chose the hardest route. What I wanted to do had no instructions, so I just cut and cut until everything looked good enough. I learned how to make paper into fiberglass armor (along with many other lessons, both harmful and helpful). What put my mind at ease, however, was the mindset that Jeanette would be the star, and I’m there to help her shine a little brighter. She definitely looked amazing, and I was happy to be good enough.
I came to the convention with no expectation of recognition, but much to my shock, we had a few people stop us; one person actually ran us down to get the picture. We talked to one person, and I had mentioned how I didn’t think much of my work. While she was young, she validated our work perfectly. “I can see how much work you put in, and that makes your costumes look better”. We were staying with friends while in Anaheim and we talked about how nice it was to be noticed. I started to understand why people dressed up, and more over, how it became an inclusive feeling. I had noticed all the people who were in costume and felt far more connected to them now.
Speaking of connection, there is someone very special that we connected with that year. The Stylish Geek, Emily O., was the person Jeanette wanted to track down at that convention. She had been keeping up with her blog and found out she would be at the convention. When we finally found her, she was very personable and reciprocated our enthusiasm. I feel like this was a pretty big moment. I think when you find new interests and passions, it’s important to find someone that is high enough above you where you can admire them, but still within reach to connect with them. Emily is definitely a factor in why we enjoy cosplaying so much, and is still someone we eagerly look forward to seeing.
This past Wondercon was our full dive into cosplay, and apparently, it was pretty big for the convention too. We ended up wearing multiple costumes, debuted work, and even finished some up minutes before (The Crucible of Cosplay!). We were part of a meet-up, met up with some familiar faces, and found ourselves a great number of new friends. I even got free stuff for being in costume!
In roughly three months, I will have attended my sixth Wondercon in seven years. It is already a vastly different experience as a result of the boom in cosplay popularity, geek culture going mainstream, and a plethora of enthusiastic artists and creators we’ve met along the way. My friends and I feel like veterans of these conventions, and we embrace the chaos and hype that these events bring. It is also an experience that has helped make a few of us closer, as we can share more memories of this ever changing landscape. But what won’t change for me is the reason I go, which is to be inspired and motivated. I may never be an artist, storyteller, editor, journalist, or costumer, but I always want to feel like anything is possible, no matter where I am in life. I really feel like, in the end, that is the wonder of cons.