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Arts & Culture

In costume, thousands trek to Rhode Island Comic Con

Deadpools, Zeldas swarm convention center, line up en masse for ‘Trek’ star, LGBTQ advocate Takei

Contributing Writer
Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Superheroes, armored robots and monsters of all shapes and sizes swarmed downtown Providence Halloween weekend in a take over of the Rhode Island Convention Center. As various Captain Americas congregated and Star Lord grabbed coffee at the food court, the only thing confused Providence Place Mall-goers could do was helplessly look on — it was that time of year again.

This weekend marked the third annual Rhode Island Comic Con, where cosplayers, Trekkies and assorted fans gather to celebrate all that is nerddom and pop culture. Highlights included Q&A sessions with “Star Trek: The Original Series” icons William Shatner and George Takei, a costume contest and a panel with cast members of the television show “Supernatural.”

Vendors, artists and celebrity guests had stalls in the ballroom on the lower level, while Q&As and panels took place on the upper level, and the Kids’ Con was set up on the ground floor.

Saturday’s roughly 20,000  attendees spilled out of the Convention Center and into the mall and Omni Hotel. The flux of participants left the convention organizers unprepared, as their numbers exceeded the building’s maximum capacity of 17,000. Hundreds of people with reserved tickets were left waiting outside or denied re-entry after leaving the building for lunch, though the convention’s organizers stated that any ticketholders denied entry to the convention would be refunded. Significantly fewer people were on the showroom floor on Sunday.

Many of the attendees cosplayed — that is, they not only dressed up as characters from different media but also acted out their characters’ personas — responding to questions and posing for photographs accordingly.

“I’m here for the costume contest,” said Nicole Pattek, a competitive cosplayer. She chose to dress up as Princess Zelda from “The Legend of Zelda” franchise because of the games’ impact on her childhood, she said, explaining that she enjoys cosplay because it “gives (her) an avenue for different art skills.”

“The atmosphere here is very open and judgment-free,” Pattek added. “There’s a lot of trust — no one will steal your stuff, for example … everyone’s your friend.”

The same culture of openness attracted Lynne Cabral to the convention scene. “It’s like my own little sanctuary. I don’t have to worry about things. I don’t even have to be me — I can be anyone I want!” she said. “It’s not like walking on the streets. You can just be you or be whoever. Nobody criticizes you. It’s the best feeling.”

Cabral noted that this convention culture “grows more and more every year. It’s amazing how much cosplay has grown.”

Cabral, who cosplayed as Lady Deadpool, described the unique subculture that has developed around the Deadpool character.

“He just keeps getting bigger and bigger,” she said. “We act crazy and outrageous and go overboard, and no one says anything because that’s what Deadpool is. He’s known to be wild, he’s known to be crazy, to say what he wants and what’s on his mind.”

Cabral said she views cosplay as a bonding experience, citing that making her costume required such painstaking intricacy that she “couldn’t have done it alone.”

While Matthew Johnson, another Rhode Island local and convention regular, is also attracted to convention culture and “being around people like me,” he said, he came to RICC for another reason entirely. Clothed in a dizzying array of tartans and polka dots, Johnson was dressed up as the Sixth Doctor from the “Doctor Who” television series. He came to the convention to see Colin Baker, who played the Doctor, at a Saturday panel.

“Last year I was the ‘Doctor Who’ Northeast Trivia Champion, so I know more about that show than I should,” he said, adding that his indoctrination into the show started at a young age. “Very slowly … the obsession grew.”

A handful of Brown students attended the convention, including Savannah Gomes ’18. Gomes dressed up as Lucy, an anti-heroine with a split personality, from the anime “Elfen Lied.”

Comic Con is a place for people to express themselves, Gomes said. “Everyone’s super excited for other people’s cosplay even if it’s not the best.”

“Everyone is kind of there for everyone. Even if you haven’t seen this or that, it’s still great to see people from those different shows,” she said.

Representatives from the Brown Costume Design Society were also in attendance.

The 30-minute “Supernatural” panel Saturday was completely packed, with attendees lined up hours in advance.

Shatner spoke to an enthusiastic audience Saturday about his “Star Trek” experiences and the modern world. He addressed rumors of appearing in the next “Star Trek” movie by chronicling his spiraling-out-of-control social media adventures: “Don’t anybody tweet anything that’s been said. I know nothing!”

He shared a humorous anecdote about the inefficacy of the fighting techniques used in “Star Trek.” After challenging a trio of “muscle-bound 18-year-olds” harassing his daughters, he discovered that “if you leap up and push, you fall down.”

Humor infused the entirety of the Q&A session, but Shatner grew serious when he talked about the personal growth required for him to do a one-man Broadway show with no script.

“I’ve learned the courage,” he said.

While Shatner had a doting audience, it was Takei who brought the house down. People crowded outside the ballroom well in advance of his Sunday session, swarming into the room as soon as the doors opened.

Like Shatner, Takei discussed “Star Trek” and technology, noting that technology today is much better than what “Star Trek” predicted. He attributed this innovation to the “ingenuity of humankind and vision of imaginers like Gene Roddenberry.” He — like many fans — prayed for the development of the Transporter, exhorting engineers and scientists to “start working.”

He also made a jab at Shatner, his long-time enemy. Takei described an arrogant professor he played in the film “Larry Crowne” and how he modeled aspects of the character on people he knew in real life. He told his audience — which was significantly larger than Shatner’s — that he “modeled the puffed-up, pompous aspect of the character off one of my Star Trek colleagues. No names!”

Takei also detailed his journey from a closeted, supporting cast member of “Star Trek” to the openly gay social media legend and LGBT advocate he is today. He noted that while he was in the closet for most of his adult life, his anger at California’s Proposition 8 law drove him to advocacy. “That’s when I came out, and boy did I come out roaring.”

Takei said society has changed signficantly since he was on “Star Trek.” The “changed world was made possible by all of us, following one of the tenets of ‘Star Trek’ — ‘Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations.’”

Convention culture, attendees might argue, strives to live out this ideal.


A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that Colin Baker plays Doctor Who. In fact, he played the Doctor in the 1980s. The Herald regrets the error.

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  1. journalism much? says:

    You realize that the con made national headlines for being a disaster, right?

    • From what I understand... says:

      I’m pretty sure the point of the article was to expose people to convention culture/educate them. Other news sources covered the chaos 😛

      • And as someone who was actually at the convention, I can safely say it was awesome as long as you got there early 😀

  2. bystander 11 says:

    Wow, now I really want to go to a convention. I want to be a part of this community!

  3. stephanie cabral says:

    This was my first comicon and it was amazing to see the outcome.
    That’s my daughter in the picture (Lady Deadpool). I was so impressed!!!
    Comicon is a must see.

  4. stephanie cabral says:

    It’s only a disaster if you choose to believe that. It really was a great event! A lot of effort was put into it by all vendors. You really should be giving them credit not pointing out negative information.

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