Artist Spotlight: Tommy Harbour

Artist Spotlight:  Tommy Harbour

By Jessica Dwyer

Geeky art is a joy to behold.  And it’s even better when you discover it in a local artist in your town.  That’s what happened when I was introduced to Tommy Harbour.  Tommy has been making art since he was a young kid discovering the joys of comic books and video games…especially Nintendo.

Tommy and I made a geek trade of goods via Facebook and I got the first 8 Bit Tardis he’d ever made.  Tommy’s got a specialty in 8 Bit art.  Everything he does is by hand and it’s pretty spectacular.  When I went to his house to pick up my trans dimensional art (no lie…it’s cut out of wood and painted so 3D!!!) I asked if I could showcase some of his other creations.  When I stepped inside his home I was blown away by the display of awesome creativity, skill, and flat out awesome that is Tommy’s art.

8 Bit was everywhere…including a recreation of Super Mario Brothers that dominated part of a wall.  Tommy’s sketch work and paintings were also impressive.  He allowed me unlimited access so I photographed everything.  You’ll see the images below.

Tommy doesn’t have a Deviant Art page yet (I strongly suggested it.)  But you can contact him through his Facebook page.  He’s accessible and friendly and willing to take commissions.  He’ll also be appearing at Eucon in November with a booth where you can purchase some of his art.

The Cute…including He-Man, Lion-O, and a cast of comics.

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The 8 Bit

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Comicopia!!!

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Last Shift Movie Review

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Last Shift

Movie Review

By Jessica Dwyer

Last Shift is a creepy film that manages to do something interesting.  It focuses on a single female lead for around 90 percent of the film.   She’s not a screaming wreck of a victim either, but a strong and competent woman trying to deal with a situation that is completely out of her control and terrifying.

Juliana Harkavy plays Officer Jessica Loren who, as the rookie on the police force, gets the unenviable task of being the single officer left on the last shift of the old and decrepit police station she’s been assigned to.  It’s her first night on the job.  The station is being put out to pasture and someone needs to babysit it until 4am when the cleaning crew arrives and her supervisor comes to relieve her.

What follows is a night of creepy noises, creepier phone calls, and a supernatural haunting from a group of evil worshiping cult members.  Jessica finds herself trapped not only by these forces but by a sense of duty as a police officer (and a daughter of a slain cop) to stick with her job through to the end.

Writer and Director Anthony DiBlasi echoes the work of Sam Raimi and Wes Craven in Last Shift, using sound and editing to create a very creepy and atmospheric film that will get under your skin.  There’s one scene in particular that reminded me of Nightmare on Elm Street but DiBlasi takes it a few steps further and it’s very effective.

Sound plays a key part in the fear factor as there are instances where DiBlasi has shots go completely black to put the audience in the same place as Officer Loren as she’s walking in the dark.  That’s a risky move for a film since it’s so typical of horror movies to show EVERYTHING, but DiBlasi knows that the imagination can come up with a lot worse than anything that could be put on screen.

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Juliana Harkavy does a great job as being the center of the film.  She’s believable as a rookie officer and a woman who has a solid backbone and training.  Nothing could have prepared her for this night though.  It’s great to see a female lead not sexualized or coddled.  The rest of the cast works as well with Joshua Mikel’s turn as the cult leader particularly creepy.

The other thing I liked was the fact that during all of the insanity surrounding her we see that Officer Loren, instead of prayer to god, recites her oath as a police officer as though it were a rosary.  This shows her headspace and why she would still stay when anyone else would be screaming out the door.  The same can be said for the policeman’s handbook that she reads and which looks similar to a bible.  This is her religion thanks to her father being a cop and her need to live up to that image.

The police station itself feels far bigger than it should be in certain scenes (the influence of the haunting no doubt) and in others far more claustrophobic.  It’s a credit to the film crew that they were able to utilize what was probably a limited set so well.  What looks to be practical effects also come across great.  As I said, DiBlasi allows the sound to do a lot of the work with simple tools being used to create the atmosphere.

Last Shift holds up well until the finale where it feels rushed and slightly off from the rest of the film.  I’m not sure if it was due to a rush to finish the movie itself or if it was due to the script having been written into a corner.  Either way it left me jarred out of what had been a creeped out headspace into one of “what just happened?”

Last Shift is definitely worth a watch.  Within the films holding cells you can see some classic horror influences screaming to be let free.   Check in for your Last Shift October 9th.

 

 

Gone But Not Forgotten: The Bloodhound Gang

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Gone But Not Forgotten: The Bloodhound Gang

By Jessica Dwyer

I was lucky growing up when I did.  I had what I considered the golden age of PBS educational programming.  I learned more staying home sick sometimes as opposed to having went to school that day instead.

Nowadays you can’t seem to move about the internet without hearing the cries of people asking for more representation of minorities and strong female characters in projects.  A strong African American female lead is even harder to find.  For kids that’s even more difficult.  Well…I was lucky.

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Waaaaaaay back in 1980 there was an amazing series on PBS called 3-2-1 Contact that showcased science and showed us teenagers (usually at least one African American or Latino and at least one girl…so surprise! diversity!) learning about science in interesting ways.  The show also showcased a mystery series within it called The Bloodhound Gang.

The Bloodhound Gang was great.  Not only was it fun and had a catchy theme song, but the Bloodhound Gang themselves (two teenagers and a usually under 13 “JR detective) were comprised of an African American teen girl named Vikki ( Nan-Lynn Nelson) and a Puerto Rican teen boy named Ricardo (Marcelino Sanchez.)  Both characters were intelligent, savvy, and solved mysteries (but never seemed able to solve why Mr. Bloodhound was never in the office.)

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There were a few Junior Detectives over the shows run:  Zach, Cuff, and Skip.  But Vikki and Ricardo were the main investigators for the series.  The gang worked at Mr. Bloodhound’s office and would take on what was considered the “smaller” cases.  They’d answer the phone and always with the words “Bloodhound Detective Agency.  Whenever there’s trouble, we’re there on the double!” echoing the words of theme song.

Race didn’t matter in the show but it represented a group of kids who were watching who normally didn’t get to see that happen.  The Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew were who you typically thought of when the words Teen Detectives were mentioned.  But here was The Bloodhound Gang and it was super.

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The cases were spread over episodes of the series with short segments and multiple parts…usually ending on a cliffhanger till the case was concluded.  The series was kept as part of 3-2-1 Contact throughout the shows run, with repeats starting in 1986 as Sanchez sadly passed away that year.

I think the Bloodhound Gang deserves some recognition for what it brought to the world of young adult TV.  Not only did you get to see something rare within the gang itself, but 3-2-1 Contact also showed that science was for EVERYONE…no matter race or sex.

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Thanks to the power of YouTube! you can revisit ALL of the Bloodhound Gang episodes and quite a few of the 3-2-1 Contact episodes (including the premiere which I’ve included as well.)  It’s great to revisit these if your my age and a junkie for nostalgia (or wanting to relive your youth a bit) but also you can share these with kids as well.  It’s still some great educational programming.


You Should Be Streaming: The Week of 8/10/15

You Should Be Streaming!

8/10/15

By Jessica Dwyer

Hey All!  It’s time for another installment of You Should Be Streaming, the choicest streaming picks from the web. This week we’re going for Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Hulu…the big three if you will.  There have been some great additions to all of these sites this month and I’m going to pick some of the best for you.

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Netflix

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Doctor Who Season 8!

At last the first full season of Peter Capaldi has been added (sans Last Christmas sadly.)  This is your chance to run back through and see all the little nuances you may have missed the first time around (such as Capaldi slipping in a little Tom Baker impression in Mummy on the Orient Express or that not too covert gesture to Robin Hood.)   You’ll have about 6 weeks to marathon through before the new season starts in September.

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Wyrmwood: Road of the Dead

A great, bloody, violent, and awesome zombie film from down under.  If Mad Max slammed into Return of the Living Dead this is what might happen.

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Jewel In The Crown

The remastered version of the mini series from 1984 has a young Charles Dance and some great British melodrama.  Set in the last days of Britain’s control over India the series is a classic and won a ton of awards.  And did I mention young Charles Dance, AKA Tywin Lannister?

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Amazon Prime

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Vicious

The first season of the awesome comedy series starring Sir Ian McKellen and Derek Jacobi as a gay couple who’ve been together 50 years and who still haven’t told Jacobi’s mother.  It’s mean, catty, and well…vicious.  There’s some great co-stars too in the way of Iwan Rheon (who you’ll know as Ramsay Bolton) and Frances de la Tour.

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Dynasty

The 80’s gave us this and Dallas.  But I always had a favorite in Dynasty.  Relive the awesome trashiness and splendor of it all.

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Friday the 13th The Series

All the seasons are here including that odd stuff with Ryan being turned back into a little boy.  If you’ve never watched this you should.  Most of my love of Canadian actors was thanks to this show and you’ll see some familiar faces playing dual roles.

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Hulu

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Flash Gordon

The series that was on the SyFy channel back in 2007 is now available to marathon on Hulu.  Enjoy it for what it is.

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Bob Ross: The Joy of Painting

I shouldn’t have to sell you on watching Bob Ross and his happy little trees.

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The Fall Guy

One of the greatest series of the 80s!!!  I LOVED THE FALL GUY!  And the amount of cameos is staggering!  This is just the first season but still epic.  I’m hoping they add them all as The Fall Guy Halloween episode is one of the best ever.

 

The Hawks Nest: Razzle Dazzle Camouflage!

The Hawks Nest: Random Musings and Ruffled Feathers

Welcome to The Hawks Nest, a place for random musings and sometimes ruffled feathers.  Caitlynn Hawks is the latest Fangirl to join our writing brigade of fearless females.  Enjoy these peeks into her brain where there’s quite a bit of Batman, Game of Thrones, and a few other odds and ends banging about.  Make her feel welcome!

Razzle Dazzle Camouflage!

By Caitlynn Hawks

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While reading odd articles in the deepest recesses of the internet, I can across a reference to the dazzle camouflage.  For those of you that don’t know, dazzle camouflage was a painting style used for battle ships primarily in World War I, and a little in World War II.  The paint job consisted of geometric patterns and varying patches of light and dark to create optical illusions of the ships shape, size, and distance from the enemy.

I was flabbergasted!  I suppose, having known about the bat bomb and carrier pigeons the United States used, I shouldn’t have been so surprised at this tactic, but I was.  Utterly fascinated I went on a rumpus to gather as much information as I could.  The intent of dazzle camouflage (or razzle dazzle as they called it) was not to conceal the target, but instead to disrupt the ability of an enemy ship to properly track and target it.

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The dazzle camouflage was made a standard navy procedure without very little testing.  It seems this concept was first suggested by a British Zoologist, John Graham Kerr, who explained how the breaking up the regularity of an outline, like the coats of giraffes, zebras, and jaguars, makes the target very difficult to pick up.

In WWI the targeting system was quite different than what we use now.  There would be two images that a technician would make adjustments until the images lined up.  Thus alerting the technician that their target was locked.  Once they targeted they had to launch the missiles to where they thought the boat was GOING to be, since missiles traveled much slower back then.

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Not only did the dazzle camouflage make targeting hard, but even once the ship was targeted, predicting how fast the boat was moving and in which direction became nearly impossible.  Unfortunately with the advancement in sonar and radar targeting technology used in the World War II, the razzle camouflage became less effective, and was eventually phased out.

I for one think that it was a pretty genius idea and I’m a little disappointed creative, out of the box, camouflage tactics aren’t still being used today. Where are our magic eye airplanes, huh?

I Ship It: Steve and Bucky

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Fangirl Jessie Tarter has joined Fangirl Magazine as our resident Fanfic guru.  Jessie knows her stuff as she not only reads fic but writes it.

Her new series is called “I Ship It” and it is worth your attention.  Shipping characters in fandom has become sort of a requirement and causes debates on the level of “Who shot first?”  It’s a fun part of fandom but for the love of all that is Joss don’t ever try to sink a Ship someone loves or you risk some major wrath.  I know Supernatural fans that will cut you and cut you deep.

Here’s the first entry in “I Ship It” and it focuses on the all american couple of Steve Rogers and Bucky Barnes.

I Ship It: Your personal Slash Fic Recommendation Service

Today’s Order: Steve Rogers/Bucky Barnes

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 I’ve not yet found the alternate universe fic where Steve is a golden lab trying to get a foul tempered raccoon named Bucky to reenact ‘Homeward Bound’ but rest assured, I’m looking.

 In lieu of that, I give you my top 3 favorites featuring the boys from Brooklyn in all their super soldier glory. My preference for these two always runs in the vein of ‘trying to make it better.’ Whether it’s period specific homophobia or post Winter Solider memory retrieval, I take my Steve/Bucky with a side of cuddles and just a hint of angst.  These three fics are the ones I turn to in my moments of need, and I happily pass them onto you.  All of these can be found on Archive of Our Own.

‘Fix It’

By: Osidiano

Rated: Mature

 Set in a world where Bucky is a veteran, still adjusting to civilian life, who’s most prized possession is the phone he bought for himself when he returned stateside. During a less than fruitful blind date, the phone is broken and Bucky is devastated to the point of Shakespearian soliloquy. He’s referred to a repair shop where low and behold, a certain skinny blonde punk is the only person on Earth possessing skills to save Bucky’s best and truest friend.

 Thus begins a string of pining, ogling, purposeful phone demolishing, and eventually, some smooches.

 This one is worth the price of admission just to see Natasha’s version of the ‘kiss the girl’ peptalk. That said, Osidiano spends a lot more time in characters’ heads than on dialogue, focusing on just how utterly infatuated Steve and Bucky become, and their half-baked schemes to get the other’s attention. Anyone who has ever waited that second too long keeping eye contact with a delectable cashier will sympathize with Bucky’s plight.

 Not that the author writes a completely silent script. The dialogue, though sometimes taking a backseat to the fantasies, flows with familiarity. The reader honestly believes that Natasha and Bucky spent their time swapping war stories overseas, that Bucky hasn’t had a successful date in years and has completely forgotten how to talk to cute boys. Even the blind date in the first scene reeks with the discomfort associated with two strangers making small talk when they have nothing in common.

 If you’ve got a penitent for alternate universes, contrived meetups, and hopeless dorks trying not to fall in love, give this one a gander at your earliest convenience.

 To Make Bright and Clear Your Path

By Lanyon

Rated: Teens and Above

 Not going to lie, this one has a special place in this fanfic cluttered heart of mine.

 Written as a series of short scenes, this story follows Bucky in his post Winter Soldier battle to remember who he used to be, and why he defied all protocol to save the man on the bridge.  Spent partly in a study of surveillance while Bucky attempts to perform reconnaissance on Steve, staking out his apartment and occasionally venturing to the places described in his museum backstory, Bucky eventually ends up at Avenger’s tower where the beds are more comfortable and the company friendlier. Bucky still has doubts about his identity but if he remembers anything at all, it’s the white smile and blue eyes that he would follow into the jaws of Hell.

 Come for the heart string tuggin’, stay for the way Lanyon writes dream sequences. The story is peppered with the feverish nightmares of a man’s mind trying desperately to reassemble itself. They’re short, sometimes barely more than two sentences, but they’ll gut you like a lobster in Maine. Lanyon nails the isolation angle of Bucky’s struggle to find himself amongst a sea of implanted memories and lost time.

 Short and bitter sweet, it’s a quick read that will have you pouring through the author’s works searching for more.

 Steve Rogers at 100: Celebrating Captain America on Film

By: Eleveninches, Febricant, Hellotailor, M_Leigh, Neenya, and Tigrrmilk 

Rated: General Audiences

 This one might be stretching the bounds of ‘slash’ just a hair, but it may also be one of the greatest gifts to fanfiction the world has ever read.

 Imagine a universe where Steve Rogers existed. Not hard, that’s what the movies are for right? But what our cinema leaves out is the inevitable impact that America’s golden boy would have on our pop culture. Sure, we see the trading cards and the war reels, but where’s the bedsheets? The posters? The movies?

 When the Avengers gang finds out about a Captain America themed film festival, they decide to have their own private screening. These include but are far from limited to such tidbits as: A Farrah Fawcett heartbreaker, some Mel Gibson religious iconography, robot dinosaurs, the Hell of war, and a crying Channing Tatum.

 This fic is a monster of perfection, an absolute force of nature. Not only does it contain the domestic bliss universe where everyone’s favorite heroes hang out and binge watch movies together, the authors review those movies in exquisite detail so the reader may follow along with all the laughs and embarrassment.

 To clarify, this piece features over ten completely plausible and painstakingly thorough reviews of movies that do. Not. Exist. These writers got together, thought up the kind of movies Hollywood would churn out about Steve over the course of decades, and then reviewed those movies as if they were working for NPR.

 They even photoshopped posters for all them which are scattered throughout the fic.

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 The slash elements are light, for the most part. It is classified as a Steve/Bucky pairing but their dialogue in between the movies reads more like two friends on the world’s strangest date. Any actual cuddling (and otherwise) happens, as might be expected, in the movies themselves. While most of the movies feature Peggy Carter as Steve’s primary love interest, casting her as anything from a chorus girl to a Californian, two movies spotlight Bucky as both a lover and a fighter. One is a French arthouse film that ended up receiving some hefty criticism for casting America’s sweetheart in a homoromantic light, and the second is the final film in the series which I won’t dare spoil here. Suffice to say that Tony refers to it as ‘the masterpiece’ and I couldn’t agree more.

Read this fic. The idea is solid, the writing is superb, and the little Easter eggs along the way make it all the more entertaining. With luck, enough people will fall as hard for this story as I have and we can start petitioning Marvel to make these movies a reality.

Gone But Not Forgotten: The Invisible Man 1975

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Gone But Not Forgotten

The Invisible Man TV Series: 1975

By Jessica Dwyer

I’ve been thinking a lot about David McCallum lately.  The reason is due to a couple of things.  1. The new Man From UNCLE movie that is coming out later this year and 2.  The rumored reboot of Sapphire and Steel (which I’ll be doing a write up on soon.)

All this McCallum thinking reminded me of the great, very short lived, series he did back in the 70’s called The Invisible Man.  It seems Invisible Man TV series tend to sadly only be short lived (never forget Fawkes and Hobbes) but this one only got 12 episodes.

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IMAN 1975 was a fun show and smart.  It was also one of those series showing the lone scientist trying to keep his creation out of the hands of the military, knowing it will be used for ultimately destructive purposes.

The series focuses on Dr. Daniel Westin (McCallum) and his wife who is his partner on the project, Kate (Melinda Fee).  One of the great things about the series is the relationship and chemistry between these two.  They are a likable couple and there’s a genuine love and respect shown between them.

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Dr. Westin though is, like most scientists, slightly obsessed with his project, which deals with changing matter into other forms.  He accidentally stumbles on a side effect of his process, making things invisible.  After showing his boss’s this new and surprising side effect, he realizes where the funding has been coming from for the spendy research…the Pentagon.  The Klae Corporation has kept this from him the entire time…and that doesn’t go over well with the doctor.

Westin sneaks back into his lab after hours with the goal of destroying the project instead of having it become a weapon…but in the process he has to become invisible to escape.  It is then Westin realizes he’s stuck and cannot reverse the process.  Westin has a friend who is a great plastic surgeon and the man creates for him a series of masks and gloves that replicate human skin so he’s able to at least look like himself again and have a face.

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The series follows the Westin’s as they continue to work for the Klae Corporation.  Daniel keeps trying to perfect his project and find a cure and the “Klae Resource” as he is called is sent out on assignments where his invisibility is useful.  The military has no interest any longer in the project since it is obviously unstable and the subject can’t change back.

The series had a number of familiar genre guest stars in its short run, many of them recognizable to fans of Dark Shadows such as Thayer David, James Karen.  Other TV regulars also popped up like Loni Anderson (WKRP), Conrad Janis (Mork and Mindy), and the late John Vernon.

The pedigree of the show was high.  It was created by Harve Bennett who later turned around the Star Trek film franchise into the epic we now know.  Steven Bochco was one of the producers and Henry Mancini wrote the catchy theme music for the series.

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While the show was released the year I was born (ouch…my age) in 1975 I discovered it thanks to the early days of the Sci-Fi channel when it was part of their rotation of old school series.  I instantly loved it.  McCallum was and still is a charming rogue of an actor and it was just flat out fun and enjoyable.

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The entire series was released on DVD here in the states in 2012 and is still available if you search around. You can also find episodes (including the pilot) on YouTube! (see below.)  If you enjoy fun science fiction series and are in a nostalgic mood you should check it out.

Cosplayers Charge for Photos on the SDCC Floor

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Cosplayers Charge for Photos on the SDCC Floor

By Jessica Dwyer

Idle Hands has been running a report that’s going to make some serious discussion happen in the world of fandom I have a feeling.  The report deals with cosplayers on the floor and around SDCC charging for photos with fans.  There are a number of things that this makes problematic which the article goes into depth on (as well as the crew at Idle Hands checking in with the people in charge at SDCC to find out what their take on it is) but I’ll just call out a couple here.

Cosplaying is a MAJOR part of fandom.  This is a given.  What I’ve always taken from Cosplay is a celebration of something that you love along with the other fans of that fandom.  Yes I know people funnel hours and hours and lots of their money into the costumes. But when you start charging while walking around the floor for photos you’re entering into a battlefield of legality…especially if your costume is something that is owned by another entity that isn’t you.

When you start doing things like this you’re going to rile the Balrog of corporate lawyers that are going to see this as an opportunity.  Trust me.  This can and will happen if things keep going in the direction it seems to be.  We’re talking about companies that put the nix on comic book creators making some money selling sketches of the very characters they  helped create.  Do you think they’ll blink at making fans stop dressing up or suing them when they try to earn a little extra doing it?

There are of course professional Cosplayers who make a living by buying tables at shows and selling photos, 8×10’s, etc.  In the realm of the convention itself they’ve got their bases covered.   Some of them have actually been given a blessing by the studios and groups that they are doing characters from.  But this is a LOT of work and in terms of cash spent to get those bases covered you’re looking at a big investment.

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This Nurse Joker is not involved in this story.  He’s just awesome.

The article points this out but I think it is worth repeating.  Conventions are out to make money.  When they find out someone is charging for something like this without purchasing table space they’ll put a stop to it.  What this means is, very simply, they’ll put an end to costumes all together if they see it as a big enough problem.  You’ll only be allowed to do Cosplay if you are entered into a costume contest and that’s it.

I’m not joking…this is something that is totally viable for them.  With the issues that have happened in the past that have been tied to costumes such as harassment and problems with actual weapons and swords that have to be dealt with this next layer of problem just gives them more fuel for the “no cosplay” fire.

The final piece of this of course are the kids.  Kids will run up to cosplayers in awe of what they are seeing.  It’s magic for them.  And that magic being shattered by mommy and daddy getting into an argument with Ariel over a two dollar tip for a picture can ruin an entire weekend.

Now cosplayers like “The Hulk” who are asking for donations for charity are special cases.  That’s something that’s a good idea but you should let fans know in advance if you are doing that.  Make it clear because the majority of cosplayers ARE NOT charging for pics.  Or, like in the report, the other fan was in costume and had nowhere to carry money to pay for pictures.

What it comes down to is cosplay is something awesome that has grown to epic proportions.  But like most things it’s also grown into a grey area where the rules are starting to blur.  It’s common sense and common courtesy that should be at play here along with the costumes.