I will preface this blog with two reference points so as to explain the title. Santa Fe Comic Con has given themselves allot of bad PR in the last couple years. So much so, that our local convention is known internationally for its PR Meltdowns and cyberbullying as detailed in this aptly titled and highly in depth article: Comic Convention Has PR Meltdown. Their prop weapons stance after the fallout of Phoenix Comic Con has also received bad press, which we covered in The End of Conventions as We Know Them, a blog where we detailed the knee jerk reaction the owner of New Mexico TriCon took by instating a no tolerance/all prop weapons ban at all three of his conventions this year. With this background you might be wondering why we bothered attending this convention at all. Well folks, the answer is that we wanted to give you an honest firsthand account of what this convention really has to offer as we have become known to do.
We arrived when they opened at 10:00. When you approach the convention entrance from the Buffalo Thunder Hotel or the Casino below you are bombarded with signage
alerting you to the fact that your person and belongings will be subject to searching with phrases like: “ALL BAGS SUBJECT TO SEARCH;” “SECURITY CHECK UPON EVERY ENTRY;” and “NO WEAPONS OR PROP WEAPONS ALLOWED. MANAGEMENT RESERVES ALL RIGHTS.” While we had some expectation of what was to come due to their press release like Facebook posts and, of course, these lovely signs, there was no way that we could have been prepared for the TSA which awaited us at the end of the very long line. A table filled with little buckets in which to empty your belongings led up to two men bearing metal detecting security scan wands. It was definitely reminiscent of an airport checkpoint, from which I’m sure they took inspiration. Fortunate for us the owner of TriCon could not invest in an X-Ray scanner or I’m sure we would have been putting our arms up and subjecting ourselves to radiation.
As for the professionalism of these guards, they made many off color comments every time we went through this checkpoint, I’m guessing in attempt to lighten the mood. @skyberry13 went through first and her Startfleet badge pinged, but that was not enough. He continued going up and down over her chest area pinging before she told him that it was very obviously her Starfleet badge. With reluctance he agreed and resolved to scan her back. When it pinged over the small of her back he jokingly said: “That will be your bra.” Now, this was just our experience, many of our friends attending the convention had similar if not worse experiences at the hands of these men.
They put a tag on any bags they have searched which, if you leave and come back, are subjected to the same search and the tag replaced. I would suggest getting to the convention at least half an hour before any panel you want to attend to account for your security check. With only a few hurt feeling and some super awkward/inappropriate interactions we survived what I dub the CSA (Convention Security Administration).
From there, we went to the first of two dealers and artist ballrooms. Our first panel was not until 11, so we had some time to scout out our purchases. As we were walking the hallway to the other ballroom I spotted Marina Sirtis. Now, she was booked at this convention last year, but had to pull out. Meaning I had been looking forward to meeting her for two years now. I even brought a Councilor Troy Pop! figure I had been holding on to for her to sign. I stopped dead in the middle of the hallway. The pictures online do not do her justice. Honestly, she is quite stunning. So, squeeing, @skyberry13 had to pull me over and calm me down before I dared presenting myself in front of her. To be fair I was dressed as Wesley Crusher and had a pretty great smolder so I should have had nothing to worry about. None of which helped my confidence in meeting this amazing woman. I approached the small line at her table composing myself. She is English! She has the most elegant British accent, which I was totally not expecting! I shook her hand and told her how much I loved her character on Star Trek the Next Generation. She loved my Starfleet uniform and said that it fit me better than allot of people on the show. She also made some cracks at how skinny I am, which ended in her jokingly telling me to get out of her sight. While, harsh, her personality is totally great which is further elaborated on in our coverage of her panel!
The first the panel we attended was Cosplay 101 with Dava Cosplay. She is a stay at home mom who is big in the local cosplay community outreach scene, visiting children’s homes and hospitals in costume. For this panel she was dressed as Elvira. She was very good at addressing specific costuming questions and diplomatic at giving insight into the controversial issue surrounding cosplay at this convention: “Boob Models” vs. “Elitist Cosplayers.” Her words and words borrowed from the first article, not mine. This controversy is covered in the aforementioned articles.
After the panel we met up with our friends from Retrospect Cosplay who were cosplaying that morning as Sexy Snape and Ash Ketchum from Pokemon.
We met these incredible cosplayers in the line for Forever 21’s grand opening in Santa Fe about a month before. What are the odds that two queer cosplay couples would end up in line together at something so unrelated to cosplay? Well, thank God we did because we became fast friends and hanging out with them totally made the convention! We ate lunch at the Painted Parrot Buffet in the hotel, which is a stop we make every year at this convention. It is a great buffet and they always have a special and quite reasonable convention price, this year it was $15. They seated us somewhere we could talk without interrupting their other guests and we had a great time at a long table with a bunch of new and old cosplay friends. Retrospect Cosplay is based in Albuquerque and they are definitely tapped into the huge cosplay community there.
The next panel was what my entire convention experience was centered around: Marina Sirtis’ Star Trek Next Generation panel. As soon as she entered the room she made her magnanimous presence known, instructing the moderator to take a break because she does her own panels and asking some spry young men to move the table from the stage so she could walk around (which launched a bridge crew in full uniform to perform the task, myself included). Anyway, as soon as the room was set up how she liked it she gave a brief introduction about her experience acting on Star Trek Next Generation and a disclaimer that she does not watch science-fiction, instead preferring sports. She shared her confusion over the Betazoid accent which she was asked to invent. She drew inspiration from middle eastern accents and throughout the show it became a more mid-Atlantic accent. This was due to a plot hole she went to great lengths to figure out and correct. After her mother appeared on the show, she went knocking on show runner’s/ writer’s door inquiring why her mother did not have the same accent. She was told it was her father’s accent. However, later when her father appeared on the show and did not have the same accent she implored again. The dismissive answer she was given is that Councilor Troi was sent away to boarding school. Well, she tried and invented an iconic accent in the process.
Other highlights of the panel included her introduction to conventions by her fellow actress Majel Barrett-Roddenberry who incidentally plays Lwaxana Troi in Star Trek Next Generation. The writers/show-runners thought that there were too many women on the bridge and were looking for someone to cut. Councilor Troi was the obvious character given that the ship could perform without a psychiatrist. With some self-preservation in mind, Majel took Marina to her first convention and introduced her to the fans. After a couple conventions Marina was a natural and, therefore, made her character indispensable. Of course, before this ultimatum even came to a point, Denise Crosby announced her departure from the show, leading to the touching episode “Symbiosis” where the Enterprise said goodbye to Chief Security Officer Natasha Yar. As the panel drew to a close Marina gave such a heartfelt thank you to her fans that she began tearing up. It was a truly genuine encounter with our beloved Councilor Troi and the beautiful soul behind her. I could go on for pages about her panel, but I hope that I was able to give you a glimpse into the humor and honesty of the woman behind the uniform.
We caught up with our friends for a bit before heading to wait for what was newly titled the: Costume Contest and Masquerade. And wait we did. But before we get into that, for those new to cosplay the difference between a costume contest and a masquerade is how the costumes are judged. This has been a topic of controversy at this convention and it was a relief to see that the convention is attempting to addressed this issue. A costume contest is usually a walk on affair that anyone can participate in no matter whether you bought or made your costume. A masquerade is usually judged by a panel with experience in creating their own cosplays. Not all masquerades are judged with the rules set out by the International Costumer’s Guild, but many are loosely based on the internationally accepted rules that at least 95% of the costume has to be hand made or modified. It was obvious this year, when going around the guests booths, that many locally recognized and respected cosplayers were involved this year. One of whom we follow and was a judge for this competition is Maddest Madi Cosplay. She does incredible cosplays, some of her most recent being: Jack Sparrow, a gender bent Danny Phantom, and a Pumpkin Spice Faun (which she wore on Sunday of the convention).
The other two judges were cosplaying as a Blue Army member from Halo and Ashe Kai as a character I am unfamiliar with, but looks like it walked right out of WoW ( ice foam armor and all). It was obvious that this costume contest would be better than last year’s, or at least judged more fairly. Well…we sat…and we sat…at 45 minutes past when the contest was supposed to start they began the children’s costume contest, which we were able to stay for. It was adorable, there were some great costumes both made and bought. Unfortunately, we were unable to stay for the masquerade due to their incredible failure to start on time. Here is a link to a good photo album from the masquerade, though, if you still want to see the costumes.
The after party for this convention, while not actually tied to the convention itself, is an affair not to be missed. It takes place in the Shadeh Nightclub located within the Buffalo Thunder Hotel. So, it is an actual nightclub which means two things. One, it is an incredible opportunity to see the cosplayers and guests on their off hours (our friends apparently partied with Tracee Lee Cocco, also from Star Trek Next Generation, the night before). And two, locals frequent this establishment which apparently has a bad rep as far as reports of drugging incidents. While we have never had a bad experience here, I am not one to leave drinks unattended and I highly suggest following this practice no matter where you are clubbing. We had a great time dancing while there was pop music playing, unfortunately the DJ left something to be desired and, in the end, it was all music geared at their Spanish clientele. One of our friends had bough some hentai arm tentacles from one of the vendors which she brought to the rave and danced with those on most of the night. We sat and chatted with our friends and other cosplay guests who were there. It was a nice way to enjoy each other’s company and let off some convention steam.
I attempted to begin the day with coffee to recover from the night before. Unfortunately, Star Bucks failed me. I would not suggest ordering from the Star Bucks in Buffalo Thunder, fortunately the Iguana Cafe made up for everything. Their sweet server immediately seated us and amended the situation with two steaming cups of coffee. She even let us take some pastries that had not yet been cleared away from their earlier continental breakfast. Rejuvinated, I attended part of Kitty Kaboom’s panel on Cosplay Creations. She had large pieces of fabric folded all around the table and chairs for anyone to take. She mostly answered audience questions, but I’m sure for a beginning cosplayer her suggestions were helpful.
We met up with Retrospect Cosplay again, today they were parading around as: YouTube sensation, “Pumpkin Man,” and Bane, a Furry of their own creation. Later in the day QueenBreadSama (Pumpkin Man) changed into her Princess Bubblegum cosplay which was also really awesome.
We hit up the dealer’s room again, there were allot of deals today. @skyberry13 of course visited her favorite henna artist, Starlit Skies Henna, who did an amazing job as always. I had been eyeing the TeeTurtle $40 grab bags boasting three retired prints for the last two days and, Seth, the TeeTurtle guy offered me a great deal! He was, not only a great salesman, but a pretty cool dude to talk to. In the very first bag he opened was the Pearl T-Shirt reading “It’s Over Isn’t It,” which is the exact one I had been hoping for! It was like the cherry on top of a great convention! Maybe we’ll be doing some affiliation with TeeTurtle in the future, stay posted. Well, that pretty much wraps up our coverage of Santa Fe Comic Con. We had a great time, much of which was due to our cosplay friends but some of which was thanks to the convention and the guests they brought in. I will say that NMTriCon is attempting to address the disparity of a professional cosplay presence, for which I give them props. They still have a ways to go in addressing all the bugs involved with their costume contest, but I appreciate their attempts to make it a fair competition. The vendor hall was lacking some of the staple vendors that we were looking forward to, but they did bring in some new vendors that are better known, like TeeTurtle. As for the security screening and their online PR stunts, those pretty much speak for themselves. All in all we might attend Albuquerque Comic Con to see what their larger convention is like.
Our next convention, however, will be Indigenous Comic Con, where Retrospect Cosplay will be cosplay guesting, so be sure to check back for our next blog post covering that!