I first met Michael Vazqwright cosplaying in Steampunk. We were both in our own personal digs filming for a television show that specifically hand picked Steampunk cosplayers who were also, actors. Michael and I “attended” the “convention” “together” (the production assistants on set paired us together, if I remember correctly. Or was it that we just started talking to each other, where we stood, complaining about the stinging cold weather, along with many other cosplayers, eventually becoming numb to what was going on around us? It could have been a little of both.) Overall, it was a good time, and we enjoyed the company.
Well, it turns out that not only does Michael act, is a writer and get this, does standup, but he actually got paid to cosplay, a cosplayers dream job! Check out his personal thoughts on New York ComicCon. We definitely enjoyed his take on one of New York City’s most popular comic event.
Untitled 2018 New York Comic Con Experience
By Michael Vazqwright
My first experience as a paid cosplayer was also my first trip to the teeming fan-Mecca that is New York Comic Con (NYCC).
Previously, I´d been to only one convention center of any kind – the Washington, D.C. Convention Center, which houses a yearly production of “Awesome Con,” and usually boasts the odd celebrity or two from the show you grew up watching but never realized just who it was carving out those little striations in your brain that give you odd personality quirks (“You mean to tell me that the guy who voiced Pinky AND Yakko from Animaniacs is´Rob Paulson?! ERMAHGERD HE’S DOING THE YAKKO’S WORLD SONG EVERYBODY SHUT UP!”).
After Awesome Con, I never thought I would try to attend another such event UNLESS I was being paid, or perhaps if (in the course of some fever dream I´d be pursuing) I were representing my own work. When a paid opportunity arose through a marketing group I´d worked with in the past to do an event at NYCC, I couldn’t help but jump on the opportunity.
While I´ve heard of cosplayers getting paid big bucks to represent their own costumed handiwork on-site, this very thankfully was not my task. Instead, I was handed my costume, brought to the convention seemingly directly from the set of the movie I was helping to promote: Peter Jackson´s newest action-adventure fantasy flick, set largely in post-apocalyptic London, called “Mortal Engines.” There´s a huge law-and-order component to Mortal Engines, so I was outfitted in the traditional uniform of the London police Bobby.´ This was a semi-futuristic getup, consisting of a heavy rubber poncho with a belt, cowboy boots, a helmet with an electric light (for fog? Who knows, watch the movie!), and a thick police baton.
Being a paid cosplayer by itself is enormously rewarding – you get to play the part of the character, while providing normal due-diligence to fans and others curious about the booth or production you´re representing. But the most enchanting aspect of this particular gig was being able to straddle multiple worlds at once. As someone who enjoys having one foot in one place, with the other foot in another, cosplaying a police officer was HUGELY enlightening, for a number of different reasons. Sometimes, I would see an actual police officer doing their job, but at the same time wonder if they were also cosplaying, like me. At one point, I saw an officer wearing a cowboy hat inside the center, and was SURE he was a character – though when I approached, he told me to leave him alone so he could work (definitely not something a cosplayer says to another cosplayer, and so thus amusing and baffling me forever).
Another unintended consequence of cosplaying a police officer? Apparently being confused for what I would be willing to do in that role, by the very supervising coordinator I was working for. At a certain point, I was asked to “form a police line” with my two fellow costumed police promoters, while Peter Jackson rolled through with the rest of the Mortal Engines cast for a panel signing.
Side note: it is REALLY important to draw boundaries around what you´re willing to do in a certain role, and what you are not willing to do, because at the end of the day you are representing yourself in a role where you can easily be replaced and it is just not worth it to put yourself in danger. That same coordinator later asked the three of us cosplayers to perform “crowd control” during that panel signing, and I had to remind him that just because we looked like police officers from some alternate reality in the 1940s didn’t mean that we were trained security. If some frothy nerd decided he wanted to get through to Peter Jackson, I wasn’t going to stop him.
“Are we overpaid security guards, or underpaid actors?” I would later joke with my costumed colleagues.
Once the sun had set on the day, I could look back on my gig with satisfaction...however, I couldn’t help but feel remiss about one thing: the amount of exploring I had been able to do.
NYCC had been a different story.... You could have fit 3 or 4 “Awesome Cons” inside of the sprawling, multi-level, high glassed-ceiling warehouse (also there were AT LEAST two Starbucks) that was the Javitz Center – and yet, it could barely have contained the undulating, pulsating fervor that was the 250,000 costumed weirdos who trafficked through it. And this was such a messy, diverse group of folks, at that...some who had clearly spent at least half a day on their costumes, and others who had spent considerably fewer hours...but, nonetheless, seemed content milling about garbed in nothing more than boxer shorts and a dream.
I do wish I could have spent more time and energy getting to know these people, and the literally hundreds of booths everyone was waiting in line for...and in retrospect, probably the best way to have done so would be to have gone to Comic Con as a paid participant, rather than as someone on the clock.
Or – at the very least – perhaps I could have snuck in, and cosplayed as some stowaway.
I hear that security is pretty tight Michael, good luck with that! Ha! Check out Michael’s Instagram @mvazqwright