Cedar Rapids Comic Con: Student finds community at fantasy convention

By: Jamie Blair

Conventions: the sacred gathering of otaku. Thirty-year-old men living in their mother’s’ basements squeal with delight as they buy their VIP tickets online, and they prepare for the Magic the Gathering tournament with maniacal laughter. Teenagers wake up at the buttcrack of dawn to finish prepping painstakingly crafted costumes of their favorite characters. They’ve practiced their skits and dances until their legs almost fell off and worked on their character voices until their throats became sore, all for this day, the day of the convention. They taste the excitement in the air. They shine their camera lenses; they will get pictures of all the best cosplay. They don their ninja headbands and power up with Pocky and ramen.

Running and screaming with sheer joy, they cry when the doors open at 9 a.m. It’s a playground for nerds.

This year’s Comic Con at Cedar Rapids was no different. As 10,000 people burst through the doors, I feel as though the gates of Heaven are opening. I’m dressed as Amethyst from Steven Universe; I have my camera and my tediously crafted prop, a whip (seen below). My friends are dressed as Sasha(Attack on Titan), Vriska Serket (Homestuck), and Kousaka Honoka (Love Live!). As soon as we walk in, a girl dressed as Sadness (Inside Out) squeals at the sight of me, running towards me with open arms, like I was her long lost child. This is the sight of someone who likes my cosplay. She embraces me giddily (hugs are sort of mandatory at conventions), and we talk for a few minutes, take a selfie and I’m called back to the line by my friends. There, we meet a lovely girl dressed as Erza of Fairy Tail.

One of the greatest things about conventions is that if cosplayers recognize and love the character that you’re cosplaying, we act like we’ve known each other for ages for the whole day. Sometimes, if we’re cosplaying characters from the same franchise, I even get invited to hang out with them for the rest of the day. We take pictures together, and we laugh and gaze in awe at all the merchandise in the “Great Hall” and games in the Dealer’s Room, and then I almost cry when I realize I left my money at home. I only have $10 for food in my wallet, which I shouldn’t be spending in the first place, so it’s window shopping for this poor-as-dirt Crystal Gem.

There are so many great items, like my most coveted target, an Izumi Konata (Lucky Star) figurine, aside from the Kyuubey (Madoka Magica) blanket, the cutest, softest blanket I’ve ever touched, but both are $15 more than what I have. I can’t buy either of them. I begrudgingly, tearfully move along, longingly reaching for that plushie angel blanket, like I was losing the love of my life, as neither of the dealers agree to haggle with me, as these are already sale items.

My new friend, Sabrina Sires (pictured below, impeccably dressed as Sasha of Shingeki no Kyojin), is with me, but we lost our group, so we spend about two hours looking for them until we give up and just enjoy the convention.

I meet an excitable girl dressed as Yang, from RWBY, and strangely, we look freakishly similar (pictured below). We get along famously, so we take pictures together and exchange emails. She is fantastic.

We move along, and I meet two fantastic cosplayers dressed as their original characters (pictured on the top left of page 13) from their Harry Potter LARP (Live Action Role Play), and they even made their own robotic, biting Monster Book of Monsters books, wands and marauder’s map. They are very pleasant, and I enjoy seeing and talking with them throughout the day.

It’s time for the cosplay competition, so we head over to the panel rooms. This convention is rather small, so they don’t really have any panels, but the competition is the least they could do. We finally see our group up front, so I head up to the line. I don’t win anything, but one of our group, Lexi Butz, makes it to the semi-finals, and a Ghostbusters cosplayer does a funny skit.

“And what do you say when someone asks if you’re a god?” he asks.

The crowd, and I reply with a hearty, “YES!”

Lexi doesn’t win, but she’s got a good attitude.

“I wouldn’t feel right, winning. He made his costume, and I bought mine. It just wouldn’t be fair, after all his hard work,” Lexi says.

We talk about the ethics of competition, and we all decide that would be better if there were rules that stated that something had to be made if one were to enter the competition, or at least separate the categories between bought and created. Wigs don’t count, though. Those would be hard to make, but kudos, if you can.

We head upstairs to take pictures in some natural light because there’s a nice window, and I get some shots of a Sailor Moon, a Kiki and a “girl” Ciel Phantomhive cosplayer. We play an otaku-version of Cards against humanity, and there aren’t many cards, so it gets old after a while.

We’re hungry now, but the convention does not have much food to offer, at least, not food that looks like it tastes good, and the trouble with food from other places is that it is so expensive. So we go hungry. We make our way over to the gaming room to check out some new games, but we lose some of our group again, and Sabrina and I don’t find them until the end of the day. But, we do find some of the lovely people we met earlier, and Yang from earlier is there. They’re playing the same game from earlier, so, since I had already played it, I walk over to the other gaming tables, most of which are too deep in a Magic the Gathering tournament for me to join, but I’m beckoned to this one table, because I recognized a man I’d seen at another convention.

I don’t know him, but I know from his laugh that I’ve seen him before. He was heavyset, with glasses and a goatee. A woman with short, grey hair; a girl with pink hair; and another brown-haired man with a cheshire grin were all laughing with tears jetting from their eyes. The game they are playing is called, “The World Needs a Jet Pack Unicorn,” and it’s the best game I ever played. It’s basically a game of debating and, depending on the cards you get, you have to come up with the most ridiculous, funniest story of why you think that your situation is worse, cooler or weirder. I don’t do very well the first round, but the second round, I win and, in the third round, I get cards such as grumpy, old massage therapist, surprise trapdoor, heart attack and underpants.

My situation is that I need to convince the judge that “It’s obviously worse to have 4 feet of Jell-o on your bedroom floor because what if you invite over a grumpy, old massage therapist and you’re about to get it on, but he trips over his underpants, slips on the Jello, slides out of a surprise trap door and dies from a heart attack!?” I used all my cards in one go, which gives me a lot of points. Everyone laughs. “You escalated that rather quickly. You win that one.”

I play this game with these wonderful people for the rest of the day.

I wish I could remember the rest of the game because everyone had so many hilarious responses. I wish I could have gotten their names, but everyone is so busy at conventions, but if anything terrible were to happen at that convention, it still wouldn’t have been spoiled because I had the most fun playing that game. Whoever you are, I hope we meet again, because the world truly needs a jetpack unicorn. I thank you for teaching me that.

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