Ireland’s cosplaying public don garb of fourth-dimension fantasy characters – The Irish Times

A small gap opened in the space-time continuum and 20,000 citizens of the multiverse tumbled joyously through it into a whole new world.

This fresh rip in the fabric of the fourth dimension appeared on Saturday morning and closed up again at teatime on Sunday.

And in they poured: elves, aliens, angels, animé girls, demons, dragons, superheroes, supersleuths, super furry animals, ghosts, ghostbusters, gamers, gremlins, Gandalfs, chainsaw murderers, axe slayers, post-apocalyptic zombies, Marios, Picachus, Skywalkers, Jokers, Barbies, cyberdogs, cyperpunks, cyborgs and a bewildered old hack from The Irish Times.

All, bar one, at home and in their element.

But such is the inclusive nature of the Comic Con concept that neither age nor ignorance is a bar to entry.

“It’s magical in there,” smiled one of the uniformed security men at the gateway to this alternate reality.

Crowds milling about outside the Dublin’s Convention Centre served up an illuminating foretaste of what to expect on the other side of the portal as the Comic Con aficionados paraded about comparing and complimenting their wild and wonderful costumes.

The convention marked the 10th anniversary of “Ireland’s biggest fandom event” with 10,000 paying customers a day, many of them attending on the double.

To the non-cosplaying public, dressing up as fantasy characters and inhabiting their worlds is benignly dismissed as a Big-Bang nerdy pursuit beloved of angst-ridden teenagers and primarily adult men who refuse to grow up.

And the youngsters, presume the presumed adults, will grow out of it.

Comic Con Dublin was quite the experience – all the way from disgruntled and world-weary at the door to spirits bright and big happy smiles on the way out.

Right from the beginning, the sights and sounds deliver a full-on energy hit to the uninitiated. In the packed trade hall on the ground floor, people are as overdressed or underdressed as they wish: little red horns adorning a girl’s Japanese animé face or a bushy tail unexpectedly swishing behind a hoody and jeans; a giant robot sifting through collectibles or Super Mario in full garb chatting to Obi Wan Kenobi at a light sabre stall.

A young man toting a very large and alarming looking chainsaw approaches. Killian Veldhoen (16) travelled up from his home in Kerry very early on Saturday morning.

The fifth-year student at Pobailscoil Kenmare made his fearsome-looking weapon from sheets of foam and it took him four months to complete. “I really enjoy Chainsaw Man. It’s a TV series, and Manga.” (Manga are Japanese comics and graphic novels.)

For Killian, who hopes to start his own business or study architecture, the highlight of the convention was “meeting everyone else here”.

The chance to meet other like-minded young people is one of the main attractions. There is a relaxed and happy atmosphere in the halls and walkways. In this environment, it doesn’t matter who or what you are. It doesn’t take long to realise that people who might dress or look or feel different can feel safe and confident here, where anything goes.

Lisa Dunne, one of a small core team from Comic Con Ireland, explains the mood: “The vibe is good. It’s a place where people feel free to be what they want to be without judgment.”

But while dressing up is a huge part of the experience, the movie and industry stars were the main draw and the biggest name in town at the weekend was Linda Hamilton, star of the Terminator movies.

Linda played Sarah Connor in the blockbuster sci-fi movie series and her poster adorned the bedroom wall of many a schoolboy back in the 1980s and 1990s. The actors and voice-over actors who attend these conferences are idolised by their fans who queue up and pay for a photograph or an autograph.

Two of her Terminator co-stars were also in Dublin – Michael Biehn and Robert Patrick.

People also waited to meet Christina Chong (Star Trek) and James Marsters (Buffy the Vampire Slayer).

“Voice actors are also extremely popular” explained Comic Con co-director Derek Cosgrave. “Bret Iwan is the latest voice of Mickey Mouse and Veronica Taylor, the voice of Picachu from Pokemon, is absolutely huge. We also have Jen Taylor and Steve Downs from the Halo video game. There isn’t a young lad in the country who doesn’t know what Halo is.”

Fellow director Karl Walsh described the event as family-orientated and fully inclusive. “If you’re not in costume here you’re nearly the odd one out. Ireland has some of the best cosplayers in the world.”

Naomi Butler looks after the VIP guests and has been involved since the beginning.

“It’s a really different experience here. You hear a lot of big talk about inclusivity and diversity, but Comic Con, to me, is the definition of it. You don’t see the person – they are dressed in their cosplay and that’s what we see and that resonates and makes people feel more connected.

“We have one guy who is in a specially adapted wheelchair. He uses that as part of his costume, that’s his character – people go ‘OMG that is so cool, how did you do that?’”

A young man who overheard Naomi politely intervened.

“I just wanted to say: he uses his disability as an advantage.”

Meanwhile, two security guards watched discreetly from the side as the petite Hamilton – in a floral chiffon dress – did her photo session with fans who paid €70 for a souvenir snap with the Terminator legend.

“You can occasionally get a couple of guys who can’t take a hint,” whispered Naomi.

The queue for Linda stretched down the corridor and into a large waiting room. These very patient fans were men overwhelmingly in their 40s and beyond.

And boy, were they thrilled to meet her. It was highly entertaining to watch as they giggled and blushed and turned to mush when the woman of their boyhood dreams smiled up at them and nudged up close for a nanosecond.

Jennifer O’Rourke from Dublin dressed up as Sarah Connor in her Terminator ll black combat gear and her daughter Ali (7) wore a pink dress to represent the Connor character from the first movie, when she was a waitress.

Back in the main hall, Stephen Dowling, an analytical engineer from Waterford was standing in one of the voice-over lines dressed as a post-apocalyptic billionaire businessman – “my favourite cyperpunk 2020 character”.

He wore a business suit, a blonde bubble wig, a flashing red bulb eyepatch and called himself CyberDOB.

Rosheen Sharma (15) and her friend Carla (16) from Dublin were dressed as Dungeon and Dragon (DnD) characters, “I’m an elf and they’re a gremlin,” said Rosheen, pointing to Carla with the green face and pointy ears. They made their own, fabulous, costumes and props and spent hours getting ready.

“”We love it so much. We’ll be here again tomorrow.”

Will they meeting up with friends who dress up the same way?

“We have a mushroom which is part of the Dream SMP fandoms” said Rosheen, bafflingly.

“What does that mean?” we inquired. “A mushroom. Is that a new term for a gathering?”

“No. We have a friend who is dressed up as a mushroom!”

Carla suddenly said: “Can I give you something?”

She took a little green marble from a pocket and, with a beaming Rosheen watching on, handed it over.

“Have a marbleous day!” they chorused.

Comic Con.

Where cynics go to die.

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