Aquaman stood casually on one side of the lobby, his trident slanted beside him in a relaxed grip while the Joker and his notorious posse of clowns sauntered down a staircase to plop down onto a set of nearby recliners. Atop the stairs, Darth Vader slinked down a side hallway, his dark cape trailing behind him.
On Saturday, Greensboro Comicon brought out hundreds of comic-book, video-game and science-fiction fans to the Greensboro Marriott Downtown. Artist and vendor booths along with a slew of panel discussions beckoned the nerds, but the best part of the event took place within the halls, where cosplayers showed off their own personalities while in the guise of their heroes or villains.
Michael Cortes transformed into the Xenomorph from the Alien films for the day. The elongated head of the skeletal creature towered over con-goers, even while hunched over. Cortes worked three months on the ensemble to satisfy a want to create and to make others happy. People repeatedly stopped Cortes for photos like star-struck fans meeting a celebrity.
Cosplayers Chelsea Block and Paul Nyugen found similar motivation. Block dressed as the Marvel Comics heroine Squirrel Girl, complete with utility belt and tiny round ears. Nyugen matched with a suit, robotics and a brain suspended in a dome as a character called Brain Drain from the same series.
Other people used cosplay to not only connect during the con, but to help others outside of the hotel halls. Brad Mikulskis wandered around with his friends as Stormtroopers from Star Wars. Mikulskis and the Carolina Garrison bring their costumes to both conventions like these and to charity events. Though he sometimes works with the Make-A-Wish foundation, Mikulskis added that getting to be a favorite character is a bonus.
“I had the action figure,” Mikulskis said. “Why not make it life-size?”
Damaris Griffith sported pastel pink for a rendition of Princess Peach from the “Super Mario” franchise, in a homemade ballgown fashioned from a thrifted bedsheet, with petals laced around the bottom of the skirt made from Dollar Store flowers.
“There’s beauty in everything,” she said.
Griffith portrays what she calls “overlooked princesses” for panels about how media depicts women. The con as a whole drives fans to craft their own representation.
A large ballroom became a lecture hall with panelists Matt Conner, Siena Fallon and Kayt Stewart in an open conversation with moderator David McDonald about LGBTQ comics. Topics shifted from the relatable themes of found family and alienation in the X-Men, to older characters coming out as members of the LGBTQ community in new or revamped series. As the audience spoke to the panelists, the room focused on LGBTQ writers and the general state of nerd culture. The group agreed that finding one’s self on the page holds importance.
“As queer folk we’re always trying to find ourselves represented,” Stewart said.
In a cozy panel room tucked behind a row of vendors, Ashley Harris read excerpts from her chapbook “If the Hero of Time was Black.” Her poetry uses a game Harris had played since age 12, “Legend of Zelda,” as a motif to explore complex issues about race.
Images of hair compared to the Great Deku Tree and rupees being exchanged for cab rides packed the collection. She pulled inspiration from both the Hero of Time, Link, and the recurring antagonist, Ganondorf. In a green tunic and hat as Link, she drew the lines between fantasy and life.
“The Ganondorf of ‘The Wind Waker’ is a poet,” she said to the audience.
The reading took guests through Hyrule’s digital universe, the stories interspersed with perspective and hypotheticals. She transformed the Hylian Shield into a backpack, an aged Gamecube game into a story of loss, and “The Wind Waker” prologue into an erasure poem.
“Let’s talk about if the hero was black for real,” she said.