Thursday may be the light day as far as the four day nerdfest that is Wizard World Chicago is concerned, but it doesn’t mean that the shorter, 4 hour evening has nothing to offer in the way of interesting panels. In fact, sometimes Thursday’s light crowds work benefit these first panels, creating more of a feeling of intimacy between panelists and panel attendees that makes it easier to speak your mind and feel brave enough to ask questions or weigh in.
The first panel we caught to open out our Wizard World 2019 was the Game of Thrones: After The Thrones Panel Discussion. This discussion was led by the folks from Chicago based group Midwesteros, who bill themselves as the “Cosplay Kings and Queens of Chicago.” It always works well when panelists have a great rapport, and the Midwesteros crew really seemed to.
Some of the most interesting points of the panel were more related to cosplay than the show/book series itself, but the commentary was so good we didn’t mind the diversion. Each of the cosplayers talked a little about why they chose the characters they did to portray, and why they cosplay at all. In particular, panelist Joseph Tinaglia, who regularly cosplays as Jon Snow and The Beast, talked a little about why people pick the characters they do–and that cosplay is meant as a sort of power fantasy–to be something you might not feel like you can be or something different than who you are. Panelists Anna Kay, Gina Veneble and Nicole Mazon expanded on this beautifully, talking about how they could see things in common with Danerys, Cersei and Arya but at the same time, it could be aspirational–adopting the boldness or strong will of a character they loved.
Panelist Nicole Mazon told an amusing tale about the time she was on her way to an event dressed as a bloody Arya Stark, only to get into a car accident, thoroughly scare the people who came to check on her until they realized it was just makeup, and then proceed to have to spend another 2 hours in the police station in full cosplay.
When the topic did turn to the endings, we expected the panel to get a little contentious, because there were a lot of big feelings around how the series ended, but here too, we were surprised. It seemed like each panelist, and those in the audience, had thoughtful commentary on what worked and what didn’t, and instead of blindly defending a show that everyone gathered there obviously loved, were able to explore plot holes in the finale and talk about the ways that their characters’ arcs ended that sometimes felt unsatisfying. Overall, the panel was welcoming and fun, and we’d seek out Midwesteros again for conversation and cosplay.
From there, we dropped in to the DC Movies from The Bottom To The Top panel, with much of the discussion centered on why it seemed that DC was on the rise. And they really seemed to take it from Bottom to Top, discussing everything from Green Lantern to Shazam, and making some salient points about the nature of things, including the fact that actors can only work with what they’ve got, throwing some props to Ryan Reynolds as the Green Lantern and appreciating the oft-unappreciated Affleck Batman. There was some discussion around Wonder Woman starting to be the turning point, and around the success of Aquaman and Shazam, too. While the panel’s hosts often disagreed, they too managed to do so agreeably, and it turned out to be a pretty amiable conversation that led to some piqued curiosity about what’s to come for DC fans.
Finally, we attended the Diversity in Cosplay panel, which was headed up by “Papabear” Christopher English of Chicago POC Cosplayers, who we met and interviewed at last year’s con. This was a truly great panel for anyone who was curious about cosplay or wanted to discuss the issues within the community and without. One of the things that really caught our attention when we first met the people of Chicago POC Cosplayers was how tight knit they all seemed, and encouraging of each other, and this was the case at the panel, too.
Chris, who now travels with Wizard World as an official cosplay guest and panelist, was joined by a few of the Chicago POC Cosplayers on stage and even more in the panel chairs beside me. It was a truly uplifting panel,and one that helped to encourage anyone who might have been thinking about cosplaying to give it a shot, while providing great insight into problematic cosplay–such as “accuracy” over sensitivity in things like Hydra costumes that would “typically” include hate symbols like swastikas, cosplaying as a plus size character if you’re not one and gender bent cosplays where the gender bend is the joke. It was a good conversation, as everyone allowed for questions and even challenges to what was being said, and provided good insight. In fact, one of the audience members, himself a cosplayer, had one of the best “rules” of cosplay all night: “When in doubt, don’t.”
English also made some great points along these lines, especially when discussing things like the unfortunate prevalence of blackface with people playing characters like The Walking Dead’s Michonne. “You don’t need it, and it’s garbage,” he said. “We know who you are.” This was another good talking point expanded on by the group at large. Cosplay is at its heart a group of nerdy fans who are creators. Whether you’re buying or making your costume, that costume should be the focus–that outfit. “Unless you’re cosplaying someone intentionally obscure” English went on to say, “your outfit alone should be enough for people to know who you are.”
All in all, we really enjoyed the conversation, and even came away with some tips that we’ll be using the rest of the con to try to make it feel as inclusive as possible, including introducing ourselves with pronouns, and making sure not to immediately assume someone’s doing a genderbent cosplay when they might simply be cosplaying a character they love as the gender they identify with. It’s our opinion that making everyone feel welcomed and comfortable makes every event a better place, and we’re glad panels like this exist to continue to boost that signal.
There’s a lot on the agenda for Wizard World’s first full day on Friday, and all of Thursday’s cosplay to admire, so we’ll sign off for now and see you on the con floor this weekend. And don’t forget to admire the amazing cosplay we saw on Thursday in our Thursday cosplay gallery!
Contributing Author: Antal Bokor