Cosplaying is about the most fun you can have at a convention, provided that you don’t mind getting stopped by strangers who want to take your picture. This year at New York Comic Con, I was cosplaying all weekend as Doctor Who characters, which has gotten even more interesting this year now that more people recognize the show by way of BBC America. Still, Friday was full of whispers — anytime I ran into someone dressed as the Doctor, Amy, or the TARDIS, they would let me in on a little secret: there was a Doctor Who cosplay meetup on Saturday at 1PM. We would be taking pictures of the whole bunch.
I passed the message on that day, and the next morning. Then I joined a group of what had to be 100+ in a nook of the exhibit hall on Saturday for a massive hour-long photo shoot. There was a kid Dalek, dueling fezes, and Madame Kovarian (appropriately) shouting orders to herd the crowd. And in the midst of it all, I was forced to wonder… does any other fandom do it up like this?
It’s not uncommon to see groups of cosplayers from the same fandom gather for a photo or two, but usually you’re looking at six to eight people. Maybe a dozen. At Star Wars conventions the Rebel and 501st Imperial Legions gather and take photos overrun with Jedi and stormtroopers, but as official costuming communities that get their fair share of public attention, that’s not surprising. The comic book and anime fans usually congregate at some point and snap photos, but the plan is usually to have a complete crew, a set of all the characters in one photo.
What happened on Saturday at New York Comic Con was none of those things. It was a planned meetup between fans of a television show that is still just to the side of mainstream in the U.S.. They grouped together by character or pairs of characters, they compared props and coats and wigs. It was like knowing a secret code: all the Tenth Doctors shouted “Allons-y!” the Elevens shouted “Geronimo!” the River Songs called out “Hello, sweetie…”
It was a mad, wonderful time. Arranging it right off the cacophonous exhibit hall was rough, but we soldiered on. Similar to Doctor Who Line Con earlier this year, the Elevens and Amys were out in force. American Apparel must be making a killing on that red dolman sweater that Amy wore in the “Time of Angels” two-parter, and they probably have no idea why.
Of course, there were a fair share of one-off costumes in the mix. If you were smart, like Vincent up here, that meant getting your picture taken surrounded by lovely ladies. But stop and consider how many levels of meta that passes through: we’ve got a real artist, then an artist as he is portrayed on a television show, then a guy cosplaying at a convention as said artist who will only be recognizable in context when he is surrounded by other Who fans.
But that’s part of the fun of being a Whovian — it’s an inside joke within an inside joke. We don’t just happen to catch each other’s eyes across the con floor, we seek each other out. TARDISes find their thieves, Amys find their Rorys, the Doctor finds himself over and over in countless permutations. Sonic screwdriver fights ensue.
Perhaps it was being underground for so long that has led to this. Mention Star Trek in a crowd and most people will have some idea of what you’re talking about, even if they’re not SFF fans. But for the longest time, if you mentioned Doctor Who anywhere — even at conventions — you were met with a blank stare. It was that weird British show with a blue box spaceship. It had lots of rubber monsters and lots of funny-looking guys with curls and hats and dramatic coats. Now it’s out in the open for all to see; Matt Smith is winning Scream Awards, series six billboards were on the sides of New York buses all April, a whole generation of children are being brought up on the show. It’s time for us to celebrate, and we’re not wasting any time.
This isn’t the first time a gathering like this has happened — last year’s San Diego Comic Con saw another large group of Doctor Who cosplayers gathering on the last day of the convention for a similar photo shoot. Doctor Who Line Con was the same. A new tradition has started, and I can’t wait to see what other conventions bring.
So those of you who were thinking of cosplaying this year and decided against it, I urge you to reconsider. Particularly if you are thinking of coming as a character out of Who — you’ve got a whole community here waiting for you. There can never be too many Doctors on the con floor.
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