The intimate diary of a San Diego Comic-Con cosplayer
We decided to revisit our insane romp into the cosplay vortex at San Diego Comic-Con 2018. Enjoy!
The San Diego Comic-Con has been and gone for another year, but we’re still basking in its multi-genre glory. Our trip to the event as an SDCC cosplayer was a memorable one – as a participant of the biggest, most important convention in the world, we had to step up and bring our A-game.
To show you how we did it, we’ve put together a insightful and intimate diary of our experience as an SDCC cosplayer, from the struggles, to the photos, to the memories that’ll last a lifetime.
At the start of our journey, we spent a lot of time discussing which characters to bring with us, finding that perfect balance between what might impress, what would be easy to pack, and what was the least likely to get damaged on the journey.
Travelling was a nightmare, with our suitcases packed so full of cosplays and props that we ended up wearing almost all of our daily clothes on the flight. We even packed some of our cosplays into our carry-on bags because the fear of losing them and not being able to cosplay at SDCC was a very real worry indeed.
Wednesday: Arrival day
SDCC starts the second you step off the train. It’s incredible just how much the city embraces the convention. It’s literally everywhere. From banners on every street, the gigantic posters that adorn the high buildings, and even the restaurants with their superhero signs and waiting staff dressed in geek attire, it’s impossible to not get swept up in the fun from the second you start strolling around.
We did have tickets for the preview night, but there was essential food to eat and the curse of the cosplayer to think about: preparing the cosplays for the morning. This is always hectic, making sure that you packed everything and repairing any damage that travel might have caused. Basically, our first night in San Diego was spent with the ironing board. Not very rock ‘n’ roll, but knowing how much walking was about to take place, an early night was essential.
Thursday cosplays: The Grandmaster (Karl) & Tinkerbell (Katherine)
We went straight from the hotel to the restaurant in full cosplay mode, and the reception (even while in the line for breakfast) was a massive confidence boost. Again, it’s hard to stress just how accepting everyone was of the fact that we were both dressed up. There was a very surreal element to eating out in full makeup and costume!
Now it was time for Comic-Con.
The heat was intense. So much more than we’d anticipated, but the atmosphere was even hotter. It was a bit of a nightmare getting through the front door and into the convention itself, because it seemed that every human in America was trying to do the same.
Katherine may have stabbed a few people with the tips of her wings in the crush, and my Grandmaster Melt-stick was pretty much redundant since we were melting already. We eventually managed to squeeze our way in, scan our tickets, and head into the main hall.
We were there.
It was at this point that we realized just how popular cosplay is in SDCC, because we couldn’t walk for more than a minute before one or both of us were asked to pose for a photo. The reception that we both got was a great feeling; a validation that we belonged there.
The problem with lines
You’ve probably heard about the nightmare lines of SDCC, but nothing prepares you for the reality of it. It’s insane. Everything from restaurants to the famous Hall H comes with a line that needs to be assessed as to whether the wait is worth it.
Mostly, we decided that it wasn’t. Standing in a line for hours whilst in cosplay hurts, and we wanted to meet other cosplayers! The only lines that we really tolerated were the ones that offered the potential for fun photo opportunities or to meet writers, artists, and creators of the fandoms that we love.
Day one is all about getting your bearings, working out where everything is, and making sure that you know where the best stands are so that you can get there quickly when the events are happening.
For me, the Marvel stand was high on my list. It may not have had a Hall H presence this year, but the Marvel stand had signings by some of the best writers and artists in the business, some awesome props to check out, and some stage events. I even took part in the cosplay event.
Having a dedicated cosplay show was a fantastic idea! When we go to cons in the UK, we very often arrange meets, but nothing compares to actually standing on the official Marvel stage with other Marvel fans.
Hanging out with the other cosplayers who were dressed in Marvel cosplays before heading onstage for a bit of showing off was great fun. It was fantastic just chatting about their processes, their costume issues, and watching them preparing to launch onstage.
The final cosplayer to enter the fray was the Sentinel; it was hilarious watching someone dressed in an amazingly built and designed armored cosplay, trying to get up a set of stairs with the help of three people. But overall, the work that went into the costume was just incredible.
The intricate designs and the attention to detail in all of the cosplays were inspirational. People were really sacrificing their comfort and mobility over awesomeness. There was an Iron Man in the line that had his girlfriend fixing him every few seconds and fanning him to get him ready for those ten seconds of pure onstage joy
We were shattered after just one day. This is the point where you realize that what you vaguely remember as slight annoyances about wearing a particular costume are actually full-on fucking nightmares – sandals that make your feet bleed, props that need constant readjustment, wings that are bumped and bent. We shoveled dinner down before heading back home, getting the cosplays ready for the next day, and collapsing.
Friday cosplays: Rick and Morty
Not a lot of sleep was had. We were both nervous about this one, as our Rick and Morty cosplay is by far our most popular. The pressure was on to be as good as we could be. Part of cosplay is adopting the mannerisms and voices of the characters that you’re portraying, which meant that we were now doing American accents . . . in America! It was a little intimidating, to say the least.
Today was made that little bit extra special because we hooked up with Doccanecosplay, who is famous in the cosplay community and was debuting his newest spectacular recreation – Scary Terry.
If we were looking for a way to have a better time at SDCC, hanging out all day with Doccane was the way forward. He wasn’t just fun, warm, welcoming, and enthusiastic – he was also an absolute professional when it came to interactions with people, and that’s a big part of cosplay.
Everyone puts real effort into acting like their characters, and Doccane had it down perfectly. His experience and friendliness was very literally one of the best things about the whole week.
We took a break from walking around to have a photoshoot with Doccane and the brilliant photographer Edwin Fabian. Hanging out with these two was great fun, although there was a point where we were standing in a dark car park in America with two strange men while wearing no trousers. Cosplay has some weird moments.
We headed to the Adult Swim Park to check out the Rick and Morty presence there and, of course, there were more lines. We didn’t mind so much as this was something related to our cosplay and time quickly passed when people were still taking photos of us in the line!
Finally, we were in, and there were lots of cool photo opportunities and games to play, so it was worth the two-hour wait. The main reason we came was for the cosplay competition and before we knew it, it was about to start.
Cosplayers are just really friendly and complimentary, and the creativity and skill on show was beyond belief. Looking around backstage at everyone else was overwhelming. There were some great cosplayers alongside us and the thought of going onstage in an unfamiliar environment was somewhat terrifying – but excitement took over and being with old friends and making new friends made us remember that cosplay is about having fun.
So that’s what we did. We did a full performance on stage, which received an incredible reaction from the audience. We didn’t win but we didn’t care!
We headed to a local bar to grab a couple of drinks to numb the pain in our feet, before meeting up with a few friends who were still in cosplay themselves. We talked about cosplay mishaps and behind the scenes on making their incredible cosplays. Who doesn’t want to do shots with Thor, or demand another round from Mr Meeseeks?
There may have been some trying on of each other’s cosplays, which made for some surreal moments. It didn’t take long to feel the alcohol, so we headed back to the hotel for some much-needed rest.
We were halfway through SDCC and by this point, we never wanted it to end.
Saturday cosplays: Rick and Morty
The famous Rickmobile was in San Diego, so we wanted to check that out. While there, we bumped into some fellow Rick and Morty cosplayers, and the staff ended up taking loads of photos of us with the Rickmobile itself. Katherine ended up spending lots of money on potential cosplay props that you can’t get anywhere else, because everything comes back to cosplay.
We realized that we hadn’t seen as much as we wanted inside of the con and were very aware of the time, so we headed back to the center and spent the rest of the day mooching about, chatting with people, salivating over several must-have (but so rare, they’re insanely expensive) comics, and (as always) took photos, photos, photos.
That night, there was an exclusive party at the Adult Swim Park, so we made that our final destination of the day. Entrance was by lottery, and although we hadn’t won, we figured that it was worth trying to blag our way in. It worked! We partied as the Japanese alternative rock band The Pillows played and we were interviewed after the staff kicked everyone out.
By then, we were both absolutely spent. Physically aching all over and very aware that the next day was the last day, it was a case of collapsing into bed after the quickest, most exhausting shower in the world.
Sunday cosplays: Bill Cipher & The Grandmaster
The last day of SDCC was always going to be emotional, but for Katherine it was doubly so. She’s a big fan of the show Gravity Falls and the creator of it was there on Sunday signing a new book. So Katherine dressed as one of her favorite characters and we stressed our way through the doors to join the line.
It’s hard to really get to grips with the thought of meeting the creator of something you’ve dedicated so much time to. For that brief moment, as you talk to them about how much you love what they created, the pain of the aching feet, the frustration of the broken or damaged prop, the two hours it took to get ready in the morning – that all fades away.
By the afternoon we were done, but we hung around not wanting it to be over. Despite the pain in our feet, the fact that Katherine’s contact lenses wouldn’t stay straight, and my Grandmaster melt-stick was really starting to, well, melt, the energy and atmosphere of the last day was as potent as it had been on the first.
We spent the last hours wandering around the convention hall and the outside, bumping into people that we’d met or knew from Instagram, and even Valkyrie Creative who we knew from London cons.
Finally, exhausted, we headed back to the hotel for a relaxing evening and some rushed packing. At this point, any damage to cosplays is a problem for the future, and stuff just gets thrown into suitcases.
Was SDCC worth the ten-hour flight and the stress? Absolutely! The heat was a concern and had a very real effect on our cosplays, and the lines were horrific. But it just takes prep and the reception is absolutely worth it, meeting fans and nerds from around the world and geeking out over shared loves, obsessions, and fandoms.
Everyone has their different reasons for cosplaying – but for us, it’s all about having the maximum amount of fun surrounded by people who share the same passions. SDCC is the biggest con we’ve ever attended, but it’s not going to diminish the fun that we have at any others. Cosplay is bigger than ever and the geeks have inherited the earth.
Hopefully see you again next year San Diego. You were amazing.