Not Lost in Space: A Love Letter to My Internet & IRL Friends

[Art by Becca Hyman from her Peppermint Gun Comic]

Last Saturday, I attended the 4th Annual Black Comic Book Festival at the Schomburg Center in Harlem. The Center was packed with over 5,000 (mostly) black and brown folks of all ages. I love attending events like these because, to quote my friend Cynthia, “It feels like a family reunion.” It was beautiful.

I found a group of amazing black and brown folks who are kind, creative and passionate. Not only do we share a love for comics, games and anime, but also have the shared experience of being a PoC in an oppressive world. Some of these people I’ve only met once, and some not at all. Either way, they are the homies.

We may not see each other in person often (if at all) but we’re always in each other’s mentions, DMs and comments. We can talk about the latest issue of Saga and share our wash day routine. We share One Punch Man fan art and livemixtape.com links in the same message. No code switching necessary.

We value each other.
We inspire each other.
We support each other.
Without them, I’d be lonely.

If you think I’m talking about you, I am.

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New York Comic Con 2015: Cosplay Roundup

Spike Spiegel from Cowboy Bebop Cosplay

Y’all are probably sick of seeing my femme Spike cosplay, but I’m not sick of wearing it. Any chance I get to pretend to be as cool as Spike Spiegel I’m going to take it. This cosplay was made by the very talented Stefánia Ágoston of Ticci Rockabilly. I wore this to the Fanbros: Crossplay Cosplay Contest and Party where I was one of the judges. Fanbros are the homies; I love their podcast and they are some of my favorite geek peeps. Check them out!

Neon Genesis Evangelion… Sweatshirt

I needed a day of rest from cosplaying so I wore my Neon Genesis Evangelion sweater from Apparel K on Thursday. I love how cute Sachiel looks on the sleeves of the sweater.

Sailor Goon Cosplay

For Friday, I went with a remixed version of my Sailor Goon cosplay. I traded my denim vest and shorts for a leather-ish vest and black shorts. I left the wig at home because I couldn’t be bothered… but also because I’m in love with my new hair color.

Sailor Moon from Earth 23 Cosplay

The Story

I’ll be honest, I had a lot of concerns about my Earth 23 Sailor Moon cosplay. Being a PoC I’m extra sensitive to appropriation. Nowadays everyone is being called out for it, both justly and unjustly. I was nervous that what I was doing could be considered the same thing. Race and culture bends in cosplay are nothing new, but I wondered if those cosplayers experienced that same trepidation.

I approached this cosplay with the utmost respect to Sailor Moon and Japanese culture; which helped subside my appropriation concerns. To me, this was more than a simple culture bend cosplay. I wanted to show the strong connection that black women have to Sailor Moon. Yes, women of all backgrounds grew up watching the Sailor Senshi. However, there’s a special connection many of women of color made with the Sailor Scouts. Here was this group of strong, but also flawed, teenagers kicking ass… and they were women of color. Something we could only really find in anime. My cosplay was my way of honoring that connection and hopefully uplifting women of color as well.

The Construction

I bought the fabric from Jabbie Kunda at the International African Arts Festival in Brooklyn this summer. If you live in NYC and want to buy some beautiful African wax and kente fabrics, his permanent shop is located at the Malcolm Shabazz Harlem Market (aka the African Market).

Stefánia of Ticci Rockabilly made my Kente Sailor Fuku and did an amazing job. To add a little poof I wore my petticoat from Bodyline and my friend Shanté made my beautiful ankh headpiece.

@girl_gone_geek stealin my heart at #NewYorkComicCon. booth 2238 – come say hey

A photo posted by amandla (@amandlastenberg) on Oct 10, 2015 at 11:30am PDT

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The Compliments

The compliments were overwhelming. Instead of a magical girl transformation, I turned into a shy shoujo character like Rinko Yamato or Sawako Kuronuma. I felt not only extremely adorable, but strong as well. I believe people got the message I was trying to convey and I’m happy about that.

I met Amandla Stenberg (Hunger Games) and she loved my cosplay so much that she posted a photo on her Instagram! She was at NYCC to promote the comic she’s writing, Niobe: She Is Life, along with the artist Ashley Woods. The comic comes out November 4th. Preorder it now at your local comic book shop!

Steven Universe Cosplay

I wanted to do a Steven Universe cosplay but since I waited last-minute I ended up with just the shirt, gem and cheeseburger clutch (instead of a backpack). Still cute, though!

NYCC 2015 Cosplay

FlameCon’s ‘Transgender Themes In Geek Culture’ Panel

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I attended (and loved) NYC’s first LGBTQ Comic Con, FlameCon! It took place during Pride Month on June 13th at the fancy Grand Prospect Hall in Brooklyn. Geeks OUT presented the con, which is a NYC based nonprofit dedicated to building a better community for LGBTQ geeks. For more about FlameCon read my recap and check out the amazing cosplay.

My favorite panel at Flamecon was Secret Identities: Transgender Themes In Geek Culture. It was moderated by Charles Battersby (Astonishing Adventures) and the panelist included Jennie Wood (Flutter), Lawrence Gullo (Baritaria), P. Kristen Enos (Web of Lives) and Marguerite Bennett (DC Comics, Marvel and Boom).

Transgender Narrative

Art by Lawrence Gullo

Art by Lawrence Gullo

Transgender narrative was a big part of the discussion. It’s to no surprise that the further a character is from being heterosexual, cisgender and white, the more they are misrepresented… if they are represented at all. A common and inaccurate transgender narrative is, “I am a man, what if I wanted to be a woman?” Lawrence Gullo suggested the following narrative instead, “I am a woman, what if no one believed me and I had to prove it to people my entire life.”

Sci-Fi & Gender

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Science Fiction is known to use aliens and androids as representations of LGBTQIA people instead of actual humans. This not only suggests that the creator views those groups as “The Other,” either subconsciously or consciously, but it also reinforces negative stereotypes about LGBTQIA people. Gullo suggests a way to combat this as a SF creator is to make humans LGBTQIA and gender fluid as well, not just the aliens.

Creators should also stop assigning gender to androids, especially self-aware ones. When you really think about it, it’s completely unnecessary, inaccurate and almost always reinforces gender stereotypes. Assuming that AI would have the same gender notions as humans is more than presumptuous, it’s pretty egotistical.

Positive Trans Media

Connie, Stevonnie and Steven from Steven Universe fan art by Kowskie

Connie, Stevonnie and Steven from Steven Universe fan art by Kowskie

The panel wasn’t only about the negative media representations of trans people. Steven Universe, Dragon Age: Inquisitions, and Saints Row 3 were all praised for being positive trans media.

  • Dragon Age: Inquisitions ran their script for a transgender character, Cremisius “Krem” Acclasi, by trans people and changed it based off their input.
  • Gullo shared an anecdote about his transgender friend who cried when she saw Stevonnie in Steven Universe because she identified with them. Although Stevonnie doesn’t have a gender and Garnet described their fusion as “a conversation”, the character has resonated strongly with genderfluid and trans people. 
  • In Saints Row 3, you can have a male voice actor for a female body and even go to a surgeon and change your sex at any point in the game. It’s completely up to the player.

When In Doubt, Ask

Dragon Age Inquisitions's Cremisius "Krem" Acclasi

Dragon Age Inquisitions’s Cremisius “Krem” Acclasi

Some advice if you’re a cisgender creator nervous about inadvertently misrepresenting a transgender character: When in doubt, ask. It isn’t a creator’s responsibility to make their work diverse, but it is responsible. Jennie Wood summed it up best, “We just want to see ourselves.”

Flamecon – NYC’s First LGBTQ Comic Con

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I was beyond excited to attend NYC’s first LGBTQ Comic Con, FlameCon! It took place during Pride Month on June 13th at the fancy Grand Prospect Hall in Brooklyn. Geeks OUT presented the con, which is a NYC based nonprofit dedicated to building a better community for LGBTQ geeks.

True Gender Equality

FlameCon had preferred pronoun stickers for attendees to wear which included “Ask Me” and “Them/Their/They”. They also had gender neutral bathrooms. Just two simple additions to a comic con made the 2,200 attendees feel comfortable and welcome.

The Happiest Con

FlameCon is the happiest comic con I’ve ever attended. This all happened because of one simple, but important word, respect. Attendees felt free to be their geeky selves without fear of harassment because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

Cosplay

There was A LOT of Steven Universe cosplay so I was basically in heaven.

Special Guests & GaymerX

My favorite special guests were Kevin Wada (artist), Cecil Baldwin (Welcome to Night Vale) and Dylan Marron (Welcome to Night Vale) to name a few! GaymerX had a game room and Nintendo and Atari both had booths.

My Loot

It was pretty hard to not spend all my money, the con was filled with talented creators and vendors. The MC in “Node” by David Rondinelli is basically Sailor Moon if her dad was Batman, so what’s not to love?

I had the chance to meet Hazel Newlevant, editor of “Chainmail Bikini” which is an anthology of comics by and about female gamers. She was super nice and her booth was full of great comics. I picked up her “Poly Glot, Cunning Linguist”. I really loved the honesty and emotional complexity of her short comic.

I couldn’t resist picking up this beautiful Hirsute Heroines postcard set by Hayley Blatte. Just look at the gorgeous purple pit hair!

I’m a big fan of simple black and white art (I blame manga for that). So I knew I couldn’t walk away from Niki Smith’s booth without buying something. “Some Did Rest” was the “depressing” comic as Smith described it. It was inspired by, “the thousands of students killed in the 2008 Sichuan earthquake, and the impact of a natural disaster on a society with compulsory population control.” It is pretty sad, but also really beautiful.

Up With The Sun” and “Friends” are Smith’s LGTBQ-friendly erotic comics. “Up With The Sun” is about a polyamorous relationship with a cisgender woman, transgender man and a cisgender man. “Friends” features a threesome with two cisgender men and one cisgender woman. I’ve read smut and ecchi manga before, so it was nice to read a comic where the eroticism of the story is healthy and balanced. You can read and subscribe to “Friends” and “Up with the Sun” on the erotic comic site Filthy Figments. She has more erotic comics as well!

FlameCon plans to have another con next year, hurray! Follow them on Facebook and Twitter for updates. Oh, and stay tuned for another FlameCon blog post about the ‘Secret Identities: Transgender Themes In Geek Culture’ panel I attended.

NYCC 2014: Cosplay Roundup

Every year I attend New York Comic Con more and more fans cosplay. It’s tough picking favorites but the ones that made me squee the most were Death from East of West and Steven Universe and his mom as Garnet. Oh and here’s my post about my Sailor Moon (aka Sailor Goon), Space Dandy and Spike Spiegel cosplay.

Anime/Manga

Comics

Movies & TV & Video Games & Podcasts

 

NYCC 2014 Cosplay & Coords: Sailor Moon, Space Dandy, Cowboy Bebop & More

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It was only a year ago when I posted “Confessions of a First Time Cosplayer” and look how far I’ve come! Now I know I’m not building Tali armor from scratch like my friend and cosplay sensei @DarthRachel, but I’m proud of myself nonetheless.

Sailor Goon

I introduce to you, Sailor Goon; my gangsta take on Sailor Moon. I was Sailor Moon and my friend Roshi was Black Lady. People at the con said we were cute and creepy so mission accomplished basically.

I was inspired by Asiey Barbie’s Sailor Gang art on tumblr. I tagged her on Instagram and Twitter and her reaction was, “O.M.G. yasss, this is EXCELLENT!” and “I am SLAYED. absolute perfection.” She reblogged my post on Tumblr which is probably why it’s getting so many notes and said “YOU GUYS LOOK AT THIS FLAWLESSNESS”. So of course that made my day!

Artist Babs Tarr was also a big influence on this cosplay design. Her Bōsōzoku Sailor Scouts helped us come up with accessories like the denim jacket, patches and ripped nylon stockings. Babs was at NYCC this weekend so I was lucky enough to meet her and get a gorgeous Bōsōzoku Sailor Moon print and my Batgirl #1 signed. She is super sweet and LOVED our cosplay. She took a photo of us and gave us some of her stickers I actually planned on buying anyway!

As you can probably tell, Sailor Goon was my favorite cosplay of the weekend. The fun part was coming up with ways I could change Usagi’s regular costume from Moon to Goon. And my friend Roshi was giving some Black Moon realness with her Black Lady cosplay. Surprisingly, Sailor Goon was the first woman I’ve cosplayed. Up until now I’ve Rule 63’ed my favorite male characters like the Eleventh Doctor, Spike Spiegel and Space Dandy.

Space Dandy

Space Dandy is amazing… and weird. But that WTFness of Dandy is why I love it so much. I remember how excited I was hearing that the GAWD Shinichirō Watanabe of (Cowboy Bebop and Samurai Champloo) was going to be the chief director of a new anime called Space Dandy. I admit, I had to adjust to the randomness of the show. Although Dandy is a bounty hunter in space, it’s nothing like Cowboy Bebop. Once I got that through my head, I fully enjoyed each episode. The finale was mind-blowing. Maybe I’ll blog about it at some point.

I’m not a crafty person at all, but I managed to make some Dandy accessories and I’m really proud myself, even though these are nothing compared to other stuff people make. It’s my first time “crafting” so give me a break! I made the necklace out of poster paper and paint marker, but it doesn’t look that bad as it sounds. It’s kind of like a Monet and looks better the further away you are. I hope my kanji isn’t too embarrassing; it was my first time writing that as well. The jacket is from Csddlink and I made Dandy’s belt buckle out of foam which I painted gold. Since I decided to go with high-waisted leggings, I turned the buckle into a pin. The items that are missing are his hair, bracelet and shoes. So this is kinda a half-assed cosplay. But now that I have most of his costume, I’ll give the rest my best effort next year.

I made a Space Dandy playlist because the music is so good. Shake your booty while reading this blog post, baby. It’s the Dandy way!

 

Spike Spiegel from Cowboy Bebop 

If this looks familiar it’s because I did this female Spike last year. I loved it so much I had to do it again! Nothing new added to this except I’m channelling Faye Valentine with my purple hair. It’s been a year and I still haven’t gotten a good Spike wig. I’m the worst you guys I’m so sorry.

Kawaii Street Style

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I wasn’t always dressing up as someone else at NYCC. These last two additions aren’t cosplay but some pretty cute coords if I do say so myself.

On Friday I wore my new favorite sweater from Omo-Cat called ‘Toast Girl’. I was going for kawaii street style and did cult party kei makeup which is hard to notice because… you know… I’m black.

Subtle Princess Serenity 

*Queue magical girl transformation* I went from Sailor Goon by day, to Subtle Princess Serenity by night (with an emphasis on “subtle”). I wore this to the Fan Girls’ Night Out Party hosted by Geek Girl Brunch (that org I co-founded). There are tons of galaxy prints out there but the Shadowplay NYC shop on Etsy has some of the best I’ve seen. Better than Black Milk (yeah I said it!). I ordered two dresses from them and wore the Mystic Mountain Jersey Dress to FGNO. It features a Hubble Print of the Mystic Mountain, a Pillar in the Carina Nebula. I kept the space theme going and paired my Nebula dress with Princess Serenity and Sailor Moon accessories. I got so many compliments!

Well, that’s a wrap for my New York Comic Con cosplay and coords! Stay tuned to see if I get better at cosplay crafting next year. Spoiler: I probably won’t. I already have my eyes set on Leatherface Joker, Spider Jerusalem from Transmetropolian and a a young Major Motoko Kusanagi from Ghost in the Shell: Arise (all featured in my Cosplay Bucket List post).

10 Tips For Surviving New York Comic Con

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I’ve been going to New York Comic Con (NYCC) for a couple of years now and I’ve discovered some tips that’ll help you make the most of your wonderfully geeky weekend. If you’re going to NYCC and wanna say hi IRL, hit me up on Twitter or email me at jamila[at]girlgonegeekblog.com! nyccc-mobile-promo

1. NYCC App

The NYCC App has everything you need to know about the con including panels, guests, rules, exhibitors, map and a bunch more. My favorite feature is that you can add panels to your schedule and they’ll remind you when it’s coming up.

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2. Comphy Shoes & Clothes (Cosplay Willing)

If you plan to be there all 3 or 4 days you will be exhausted. The convention space is huge and you’ll be on your feet for a good portion of that time. Do your feet a favor and wear comfortable shoes. Of course, if your cosplay requires heels pack some emergency flats!

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3. Nomz

If you’re like me, you plan to go to as many panels as time and space permit. Which means you’ll be waiting in line and camping out in rooms for hours. Don’t lose your spot in line, or that front row seat to a panel because you were hungry or thirsty. Pack some food and drinks! Drink extra OJ and take your vitamins that weekend, you don’t want to suffer from con-flu on Monday!

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4. Chargers

Even if you have great battery life, bring your charger. You’ll be taking more photos and on your social media pages much more because it’s NYCC. There are some charging stations and random sockets around the convention center. If you have a portable charger bring that fo sho!

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5. Camera(s)

As I mentioned above, the chances of your phone dying are higher than you seeing a Homestuck cosplayer. I know real cameras are becoming pretty rare, but if you have one bring it! The quality of your photos will be better and it’ll still be around when your phone isn’t. Worst case scenario is using your iPad. I know it’s pretty embarrassing and you look like a tourist, but I’m sure you can suffer 5 seconds of side eyes if it means taking a picture of an amazing cosplayer.

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6. Sharpie

Yup, that’s it. A sharpie. Don’t be the one who runs into Stan Lee at the con with no Sharpie at hand for an autograph.

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7. BYOC

Bring your own comics. This goes hand-in-hand with the sharpie tip. Go through the list of guests and artists that will be at NYCC and bring some of their comics with you. I’ve been lucky enough to have Grant Morrison, Scott Snyder, Brian K. Vaughan, Sean Murphy, Greg Capullo, Robert Kirkman (to name a few) sign my comics!

Pro tip: At the end of the panels, rush (in an orderly fashion) to the front of the stage. Most panelist stay and sign stuff and take pictures before they leave. No pushing!

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8. Read/Watch/Play

If you plan to go to panels, you’ll be in a line. A lot. And you’ll be camping out in rooms (IGN theater, I’m looking at you kid). Although the con is my favorite place to people watch and make new friends, I suggesting bringing a book, comic, 3DS, PSP and/or an iPad to entertain you while you wait to be entertained some more. Plus, think of all the Street Passes you’ll get on your 3DS!

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9. Buy (Almost) Everything Sunday

If you’ll be there for the whole weekend, wait until Sunday to buy most of your goodies. By then, you would have gotten to see the whole floor multiple times and compare prices on all the swag you want. Also, Sunday is shorter so you won’t have to carry your loot for that long. There are less attendees as well so you’ll have the space to get a good look at everything and shift through comics without bumping into a fellow con-goer or getting accidentally hit in the face by their cosplay. Doh!

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10. Don’t Be a Jerk

Seriously, dude. Don’t be a jerk. Don’t cut in line. Be respectful of cosplayers. Revealing cosplay isn’t an invitation to be a creeper. No one likes a creeper. Help make NYCC a happy place.