I have been given tickets to Oz Comic-Con in exchange for writing this post. I have not been paid to write it, though I’ve done a truckload of research for it – it’s been a fun post to write!
I’ve taken the appearance diversity and disability view – something the promotors had not considered until they read my draft.
There is also a giveaway for you – so read on! (EDIT: 18 June – the giveaway has been drawn and winners notified.)
First though – my devoted fiancé dressed up in costume for his lady’s blog! Nawww. When we first met online, I had a look through his profile pictures and there was one of him dressed up as Luke Skywalker. I dismissed this as cute, if not a little nerdy, and didn’t think about it until this post opportunity came up. I asked if he still has the costume – and of course, it was hanging in the cupboard!
I asked Adam what he likes about Oz Comic-Con. He’s a big fan of Star Wars and hopes to see more Star Wars exhibits this year. He is very quiet and introverted but loves dressing up as his favourite character, and he has the confidence to do so because there are other fans like him there. This is the cutest!
And now onto disability at Oz Comic-Con.
In the USA, the comic and fan convention culture extends to in-depth discussions and exhibitions around disability issues. ‘Cripping the Con’, held in March 2015, was a symposium discussing perceptions of people with disabilities, as well as the portrayal of disability in games, and possibilities of alternate bodies in the virtual world. And in May, Denver Comic-Con featured a program called Virtual Ability, to help people with disabilities receive support within virtual worlds. Virtual worlds allow PWDs the opportunity live life as an able-bodied person – they can do activities like dancing and hiking.
I love seeing people dressed for Comic-Con (and similar CosPlay events). I love the fandom, but more so, I love the willingness to stand out in regular spaces like on public transport before and after the event, and I love the connectedness of attendees when they find their tribe. It’s a hive of self expression.
The people I’ve known to partake in CosPlay and attend events like Oz Comic-Con (or ‘Cons’ as regulars call them) are sometimes shy and introverted, and perhaps haven’t always felt they could be themselves.
But these events allow them to fit in and be themselves, and as my friend Eliza pointed out, they might be dressing up as a character that they relate to or aspire to. Eliza, who will be dressing up as a character from FireFly, will be going to the Melbourne event for the first time this year. She is going because it is affordable and “will be cool to be around people who love nerd shit so much and meet really interesting people.” Eliza is a wheelchair user. She believes Oz Comic-Con is a form of escapism, and also relatability. “It can be comforting to people who are different because those characters are from such different worlds and are essentially them or their heroes”, Eliza said.
I think Corbin looks like a superhero even when he’s not in costume! He told me he loves dressing up because it’s fun! “It’s a bit like free dress day at school. It’s like I’m an actor in a movie or something, it makes me feel adventurous. Everyone else does, it makes me feel the same as everyone else”, he said. I love this! He told me it feels “normal” to be part of a big crowd of people in costume.
I asked Corbin if people stare at him for how awesome he looks? “Sometimes”, he told me. “Sometimes I’m shy. In the real world people stare at me because of my looks but at Con they stare because my dressing up is cool. I feel like I’m going to have lots of fun at the next Con because I’m cosplaying Toothless.”
Corbin feels very included – he said “Con is for everyone, I feel like I am part of those people.”
Corbin’s mum Roni offered another perspective, one of good intentions, but awkward for the person who commented on Corbin’s appearance. “We had an experience he had where he was not in costume, and a guy asked him where he got his cool mask and who he was supposed to be smile emoticon”, Roni said. “[The man] was terribly embarrassed when we told him it was his face, but I guess in the context of con the intent of asking such things seemed … less offensive than in regular space?”
Kellie is another regular fan convention attendee, going as many as she can afford. She has brittle bones (Osteogenisis Imperfecta). She told me: “I am only 3ft tall (44 years old) and am in a wheelchair 99% of the time. I use a mobility scooter at the cons mainly because I feel safer in such a huge crowd, and also I get too tired pushing myself around in my chair all day. I can use crutches, but only for very short distances. I have found that most of the cons have had amazing accessibility. Oz Comic-Con being the best. They are really accommodating and the staff and volunteers are all incredibly helpful.”
“I go to at least 2 or 3 cons a year. So far this year I have been to Oz Comi-Con in Adelaide and to Supanova in Melbourne. I’m planning on going to Sydney for Oz Comi-Con in September. I’ve been going to them for about 7 years now”, she said. “I have made so many friends at the cons – all able bodied people. Its just awesome to be amongst people who have the same interests as you and are passionate about the same things. (And to not be laughed at for it).
“None of my family or friends here are into the same things I am, so they think I am strange. So its great to be in a place where you feel normal and can totally be yourself. I don’t dress up often. Mainly because I can’t afford to buy a decent costume. Also I find it difficult moving around in costume and going to the toilet and so forth. I have dressed mainly as Stargate SG-1 officers. You kind of just fit in, and don’t feel weird about it. There are so many more intricate costumes around that you just blend in.
Fitting in – and standing out for the right reasons – is so important for people with disabilities and facial differences. Events like Oz Comic-Con represent appearance diversity at its most voluntary and inclusive. I can’t wait to go!
I am giving away two family passes to Oz Comic-Con Melbourne (two adults and two children per pass to the Melbourne show only). To enter, tell me what you like best about dressing up in costume. Get in quick entries close 5.00 pm AEST Wednesday 17 June. Leave a comment below (don’t forget to leave your email address so I can contact you!).
(EDIT: 18 June – the giveaway has been drawn and winners notified.)
Oz Comic-Con 2015 details: Melbourne: June 27-28, Brisbane: September 19-20, Sydney: September 26-27.