How I found community in cosplay at Comic Con

Kerrang! gaming columnist Serena Cherry heads down to the Excel Centre in London for MCM Comic Con and loses herself in a passionate and Pokémon loving community of outsiders.

How I found community in cosplay at Comic Con
Serena Cherry

I may be travelling miles in the opposite direction from my house, but I feel like I'm on my way home. It’s only 8am and I’ve already smiled more than usually I do in a week. For you see, every person who steps aboard the train in cosplay gets the knowing grin from me. I know where you’re going! It’s the same place I’m going! You can feel the electric ripples of excitement throughout the carriage. The closer we get to Custom House station, the more dressed-up people pile aboard. By the time we are one stop away, I’m nestled snugly between the ’60s-era Batman and Lina from DOTA 2, sat opposite an adorable Mario and Luigi.

I don’t even have to consult the map of the brand new Lizzy Line to see when to disembark; I just have to follow the fabulously-dressed array of characters. These brilliant Sailor Moon and My Hero Academia illustrations on the Tube boards assured me I was going in the right direction.

When I told my mum I was visiting Comic Con, she smiled politely and asked, 'What’s that?' Her question posed as a stark reminder that no matter how massive nerd culture gets, it will always remain niche. With the MCU ranking as the world's highest-grossing film series, and the Pokémon franchise being the most valuable media franchise of all time, it’s easy to assume everyone has a base knowledge of these things. But I guess that’s part of the beauty of Comic Con and being an outsider amongst 25,000 other outsiders for the weekend. It’s all so massive, yet it still feels kind of mysterious.

The beating heart of Comic Con is cosplay. To cosplay a character is the ultimate tribute to them, but it’s also an empowering and liberating moment for ourselves, too. When a character strikes a chord in our hearts, we demonstrate this resonance by transforming ourselves into them. You can express all the ways in which your pain matches that of your favourite tormented superhero. You get to say so much about who you are by who you choose to cosplay, without ever saying a word. (Which is great if you’re socially awkward like me!)

While some might ask, 'Wouldn’t it be easier to dress in these elaborate costumes and take photos at home?' Yes, it would. But if Comic Con demonstrates anything, it’s that cosplay is a meaningful form of communication. It’s all about meeting like-minded nerds. If you dress as a Final Fantasy character, every other Final Fantasy character in the Excel Centre becomes your friend. You will likely get to re-enact scenes together when you cross paths. It’s a very wholesome form of socialising and a liberating way to express yourself. Plus, the creativity on display in the cosplay masquerade is nothing short of astounding – especially when you remember that the majority of these brilliant costumes are all handmade.

The passionate expression of fandom isn’t just reserved for cosplayers at MCM, though. You see, I wasn’t a day guest at this event – I was helping my talented friend Joey with his art stall. I even brought along some of my own handmade Pokémon cross-stitch sprites to sell.

Seeing guests’ eyes light up at the art I had made of their favourite Pokémon was a beautiful thing. When speaking to visitors at the stall, the interaction went way beyond a transaction and turned into a spirited flowing discussion. The art was like a bridge to forming a bond with customers. Instead of asking if they’d like a bag, I’m engrossed in a deep conversation analysing the merits of a Psyduck. In fact, I spent so long talking about Pokémon with customers all weekend that I lost my voice!

I also got to be on the other side of this interaction when I roamed around the inspirational Artist Alley. I found a gorgeous drawing of Ranni The Witch from Elden Ring. Naturally, the artist and I shared all the juicy details of our Elden Ring builds and I left with a wonderfully unique print to frame. I swear every person I met at Comic Con became my new best friend, but none more so than my hero Super Eyepatch Wolf.

A huge draw for many of the crowds at MCM Comic Con is the chance to meet actors, artists, gamers and wrestlers. Imagine my joy when my favourite YouTuber announced he would be meeting fans at 4pm. Super Eyepatch Wolf makes amazing video essays about video games, anime and wrestling. I’m so stoked I got to meet him! Shaking the hand of a person whose creations give you so much joy is a feeling I won’t forget anytime soon.

I returned from MCM Comic Con positively glowing. From free origami workshops to dance contests to the visual feast of Artist Alley, it’s impossible not to be inspired by the abundance of creativity here. The next MCM Comic Con event in London is October 28-30, 2022, so if you want to see some truly impressive costumes on the Halloweekend instead of supermarket-bought witches capes, do not miss this event!

Now playingElden Ring

Oh come on, of course I’m still playing Elden Ring! And of course, I am very, very stuck on Melania: Blade Of Miquella! She certainly is living up to her reputation as the most difficult boss in a game that consists of difficult bosses. I hate her and her Waterfowl Dance, but I still absolutely adore this game.

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