This was our second year attending Indigenous Comic Con, a convention celebrating native nerd culture that has been going on for four years. The convention has grown so much in that short amount of time that it is going international to Australia next year! Now, as you know if you read our blog we focus on the cosplay aspects of the conventions we attend and in that respect this convention is ace. The three indigenous cosplay guests for this covention were local favorites Desba Rae and Bread Sama Cosplay as well as international guest Cienan Muir from Australia. A word of advice for cosplayers before attending any convention is to review the cosplay policy of which I think I-Con has a very good one. This convention has tried to be very clear that it is a welcoming space for people of all origins which relates to cosplay in that you are allowed to dress respectfully in a cosplay of any character. Our first year attending we were going as Korra and Asami from the Legend of Korra. We wanted to make sure we were being respectful with our cosplay as Korra is a native designed character and skyberry13 is not of that race or background. We emailed the convention to make sure it was okay that she cosplay Korra. They were very kind in their response and skyberry13 was able to enjoy I-Con 2017 as Korra. So, do not be hindered from cosplaying a native character you like but be respectful in your representation of it.
The weekend started with a kickoff party at the Bow & Arrow Brewing Co. attended by Mayor Tim Keller who introduced Indigenous Comic Con describing what this convention, unique to it’s New Mexican roots, meant to the community as a whole. Incidentally Martin Heinrich was also in the house on a family outing. There were wonderful native inspired refreshments available including some atole labeled as “Blue Corn Mush with maple butternut squash and pinon,” for those out-of-towners attending. This is a delicious local dish I have not had since childhood. Whenever I was sick my mother would make it with buttered breadcrumbs as a more savory dish, but it brought back nice memories as I sipped a peach beer. It was the perfect kickoff to a celebratory weekend of native and nerd culture.
We got up early to don our Star Trek Voyager cosplays of Captain Janeway and Commander Chakotay. Indigenous Comic Con started off early with the Design-A-Game Workshop which we attended. The convention buzz that morning was exciting due to local native schools had been invited to attend with their classes so they had the opportunity to participate in all the programming that day. The workshop had some great panelists, Elizabeth La Pensee and Allen Turner who were experts in the field of design for both digital and card games. We did leave early to help our friend Bread Sama Cosplay set up her booth, but the groups that the panel had been split into were busy at work building their own games when we left. We were also sad to have missed the “Zines: the How-to and What-for of zine making” which conflicted with the earlier panel. It sounds like it would have been fun.
The rest of our Saturday was spent in the dealer’s hall. There are three ballrooms of vendors at this convention. The first ballroom this year was an immersive experience titled Electric Chaco where all special programming throughout the weekend occurred including an actual wrestling match and the fashion show. The second ballroom is where the merchandise dealers are located. This convention has the best collection native inspired nerd clothing, books, art and merchandise you will find anywhere. Star Wars is particularly prevalent at this convention, which perhaps was enhanced this year with the presence of the entire cast of voice actors from Navajo Star Wars. Anyway, if you like native prints or art I dare say this dealer’s hall is better for native nerds than Santa Fe’s internationally renowned Contemporary Indian Market. I proudly own three T-shirts from vendors at this convention and, while I have been cut off from buying any more Star Wars shirts, I was seriously tempted by many throughout the weekend. What made hanging out in this dealer hall all day fun is that they have live DJ, Gila River Monster, playing all day.
The third ballroom is the artist’s alley featuring local convention artists that, while smaller than the other two, boasts many treasures to be found. If you are hungry from walking through all those ballrooms and buying art as con goers tend to do there is nothing more deliciously native to New Mexican cuisine than Indian tacos. Carrying on the vibe from the night before of delicious native inspired food, this local favorite is not to be missed with soft fry bread as the base drenched in calabasitas (little squash food) meat, beans and chili it is the perfect convention boost.
As a continuation of the amazing food here, if you stay at the convention hotel as we did Isleta’s dining area has crab night buffet on Friday which I was more than happy to partake in. For those readers who do not know crab is literally my favorite food and, living in the desert, good sea food is scarce. Definitely not the best crab dinner, but it was a welcome surprise. We went back to the room to restyle Lars’ wig for cosplaying the next day.
This morning I was cosplaying Lars from Steven Universe which had entailed washing his wig the night before, letting it dry all day and restyling it last night. I am happy to say that his hair looked better than it ever had!
One of my favorite panels at this convention, Industry Inside, started off our day. Last year it had been given by Jim Terry who was joined this year by two more comic book legends Timothy Truman and Weshoyot Alvitre. These leaders in their field are open and honest about their struggles to the top, their successes and their learning experiences in this panel. Each described their individual journey to comic book illustration success, their processes and priceless advice for aspiring illustrators on how to navigate a increasingly difficult industry.
Cosplay Perspectives, with all three cosplay guests, was an unexpectedly deep and meaningful panel. The panelists discussed their experiences as native cosplayers in a community where they were a minority. They further delved into the many characters they seek to reclaim for their people through their cosplay, namely the women of Star Wars whose alien hairdos continue to be inspired by Hopi hairstyles. There were many native influences in Star Wars which is perhaps why that franchise has the most merchandise at this convention, but the constant fight to reclaim these and other characters that were taken from native cultures is what keeps these artists cosplaying. They discussed resistance they had met within their own tribes to their cosplaying hobby and how they have had to justify that they cosplay for the purpose of doing honor to and returning these character’s to their native roots. It is a cosplay perspective unique to this group
Next on our schedule was the Adult Cosplay Contest, which we were asked to judge for as MaeBerry Cosplay. I cannot reveal much behind the process other than we tried to ensure that the winners had hand made costumes with the most indigenous inspiration. The winner was a two person manned cardboard constructed AT-AT from Star Wars which was truly impressive.
You cannot go to a native convention at a casino without playing some slots. So, after the convention we had an amazing dinner at the steakhouse at Isleta and finished out the night on the casino floor on some slot machines.
We started off the day with the last cosplay panel of the convention, Cosplay Emergency. The cosplay guests were joined by the individuals who run the Cosplay Rest and Repair Room. They discussed how you should not use glue on your skin, to stay hydrated and take lots of breaks and find safe spaces when you are feeling uncomfortable at conventions. The Cosplay Rest and Repair Room local to New Mexico conventions offers a safe place for cosplayers, there are healthy snacks and water as well as some supplies to ensure your cosplay is wearable for the rest of the day if you should run into a snag. We rushed out to this panel on the heels of Bread Sama Cosplay who was also one of the models for the Fashion Forward (Indigenous Futurisms Fashion Show). This fashion show featured native designs by native artists with a science fiction twist.
After this was the Childen’s Cosplay Contest which was hands down the cutest thing about the entire weekend. I was asked to judge as MaeBerry Cosplay for this contest as well so, along with my two other judges I had the unenviable job of choosing the best children’s cosplays. There were so many adorable and good ones. The one who stole ours and everyone else’s hearts was a very young child dressed as Edward Scissor Hands. SO CUTE!
The best thing about the last day of Indigenous Comic Con is the free unlimited Laser Tag room. It is too bad that this is limited to the last day of the convention, but it is not worth missing. There are blow up barriers throughout the room and two bases with a red and blue team. So, grab all of your friends and head to the laser tag room for a great end to an amazing convention!