“It’s like Disneyland, but in Sheffield,” said the Evil Queen. The Queen, brandishing a glowing heart ripped from the chest of one of her enemies (she said), works in radio advertising during the day under the name of Nicola Fieldsend.
“Wearing costumes is much more mainstream now,” explained Evil Queen Nicola. “Five years ago there wouldn’t have been anywhere near as many kids and normal people around.”
Her friend, Business Cat, seemed to agree, but it was hard to tell since Business Cat’s human face was hidden behind a thermoplastic cat head which had been shaped, said graphic designer Sarah Barnes, over the course of 120 hours.
Last weekend’s convention for film and comic lovers at Sheffield Arena attracted 10,000 people, according to organisers Film & Comic Con Sheffield, who reckon interest in comic and science fiction has been growing since the event visited Sheffield three years ago.
“The interest in Game of Thrones, the resurgence of Star Wars and shows like the Big Bang Theory have made geeking out really cool,” explained event director Paul Jones. Next year, Paul noted, marks the 40th anniversary of the original Star Wars film.
“So people who watched the first Star Wars are now coming with their children and grandchildren, who then become the next generation of fans.”
Geeking out on Saturday were Imperial Stormtroopers, princesses, super villains and alien invaders.
“It’s an art form really,” said Amy Miatt, who spent upwards of two months constructing her ‘Mr Freeze’ costume out of recycled body armour, papier mache and an old beach ball. “You go to work, finish work, then start making costumes,” she said.
“Sorry to bother you,” said an insect, handing Amy a leaflet. “Would you like to see a sci-fi musical? I’m playing a fly.”
Fred Flintstone reckoned costumed comic conferences are a great leveller. “If everyone is in a costume, who’s going to say ‘you look daft?’” Fred, who is photographer John Patrick Gallagher when out of his leopard print caveman suit, added: “It’s a great laugh. What more do you want?”
The heroes and villains said they enjoyed the challenge of making costumes to be admired by fellow ‘cosplayers’, or dressing up and assuming a different character for the day, or just walking around looking amazing.
“I love wearing glamorous outfits – it makes me feel fabulous. And it’s great fun playing a villain,” seethed Evil Queen Nicola.
The event allowed artists and craftspeople to show off their wares to fellow enthusiasts and the growing number of ‘normal’ people taking an interest in fan art or Darth Vader woodburning stoves.
Martin Ward has set up Wardster Design to promote his hand made prints, which were selling well at his first conference as an artist rather than a fan. “They’re based on a zombie character I saw in some graffiti in Barcelona 11 years ago,” said Martin, who’s also worked on the ‘I Follow a Different Herd’ elephant at Victoria Quays, part of the Children’s Hospital Charity’s Herd of Sheffield sculpture trail.
“I’ve been wanting to sell my artwork for years,” he said. “But if I wasn’t here drawing and selling my ‘Wannabe’ character I’d be out buying stuff.”
Part of the attraction of comic cons is to allow comic and movie fans who like dressing up to do so and feel safe, said Paul Jones. Even in today’s enlightened times, few attendees wear costumes outside the conference hall, although some reported they are now asked for selfies rather than being abused when using public transport as a super villain.
“It’s like any other community,” said Fred Flintstone. “Whether you go tenpin bowling or to football matches, wearing costumes is just a different variation of going out to enjoy yourself.”