While I am a veteran of comic book conventions I happen to be a relatively new cosplayer. My first cosplay was as Dee from Rat Queens. It was tons of fun even though I had to explain more than once that I was not Calypso from Pirates of the Caribbean, nor was I Mystique. Last year when I began reading Bitch Planet, I knew that I had to cosplay as an inmate. I chose to identify as myself as an inmate and not as a specific black character such as Kamau Kogo because that felt more engaging to me. I got a hold of some orange overalls and painted NCs all over it. My Bitch Planet cosplay had its inauguration at the 2016 Emerald City Comic Con.
I was not prepared for the response.
As I walked from parking to the con and entered the con itself, I was made acutely aware of how off-putting I might look to people who are unfamiliar with Bitch Planet. Here I was, a woman of color in a bright orange inmate uniform and combat boots. Why would I choose this unattractive cosplay when there is Harley Quinn or Daenerys Targaryen or Storm or any other female character that can be imposing but doesn’t make other people feel uncomfortable? And I definitely made people uncomfortable. I got stares. I was given a wide berth every now and then. Then from across the walkway I hear a voice yell, “Bitch Planet!” and I turn and see a fellow NC waving enthusiastically at me. As I smiled and waved back, I stopped questioning my cosplay choice and embraced it.
The people who reacted positively were overwhelming not in their number, but in their love. I had dozens of people ask for pictures, some of them flashing their NC tattoos for the camera. I was determined to give the middle finger in every picture that was taken of me. I asked first, “Do you mind if I flip off your camera during our picture?” and I never got a no. I actually mostly got “Yes please!” and “I’d be offended if you didn’t!”
I also was sent to a number of tables via “Have you visited so and so at table number blah blah? You should go see her!” and “Have you visited the Valkyries table yet? You totally have to!” I was sad that Kelly Sue was not at the con but a woman came up to me and said, “Can I take your picture for Kelly Sue? I’ll text it to her right now.” I couldn’t have asked for more.
But then more happened. One of the last pictures of the day was with a person who had an NC tattoo. We stood and chatted a bit about when they got their tattoo and why they chose the design they chose. We took a picture, they flashing their tattoo and me flipping the bird. After, we stood awkwardly for a second before they asked, “Can I hug you?” I opened my arms wide and smiled, “Absolutely!” As we held each other in the middle of a crowded aisle, getting bumped by Batmans and storm troopers, they whispered to me, “I just feel like NCs gotta stick together and support each other.”
“For life,” I whispered back. “Let’s do our best.”
We both stepped back and wiped our eyes and said goodbye.
I have tons of other cosplay ideas and ambitions but at this time, I only want to show up to cons in those NC overalls. I feel like it’s socially important to be seen in that cosplay and to make connections with other NCs, whether they’re wearing an NC jumpsuit or not. Let’s do our best.