Breaking free from the daily grind — VIECC 2018

Tormentor – Thursday, November 22, 2018 11:22 AM
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Gather your party!
Whenever the time comes to visit the Vienna Comic Con, our trip is always preceded by a lengthy period of waiting and constant preparations – as such, when me and my small party made our way to the event in the chilly, soon-to-be-wintry weather, I kept wondering exactly what sort of experiences I’ll be having this time, and whether or not the event will manage to live up to our expectations. Despite delivering similar programs each year, VIECC still manages to be different every time, with its organizers working tirelessly to improve both the schedule and the locations of the event based on their experiences from preceding years. As we finish our initial survey of the place, I can feel that the locations are better-organized, that some of the more frequented areas won’t be too over-crowded this time around, and that the lighting is good enough to allow us to do a few quick indoor shots. The staff, the visitors and the friends we’d made at previous cons all contributed to an overall fantastic time – and so, all we really had to do was dive head-first into VIECC’s sea of people and let ourselves be overwhelmed by the sheer atmosphere of the place.

The Austrian ORF1 channel had just started airing Breaking Bad’s fourth season, making Walter White a hugely popular character in the country around this time of the year, so we spotted a few Heinsenbergs among the visitors. To my personal surprise, though, I met several younger people who were familiar with a wide variety of different shows. I even ran into a handful of critters, with whom – seeing how I myself am a big fan of Critical Role – I began enthusiastically discussing how much we adore the show, as well as Matt Mercer himself for the passionate and excellent work he’d done on it. A few of them had been to the London con as well and met a considerably larger number of fans compared to Vienna, but even here, some people do recognize the characters, they told us. One of the girls, dressed as Mollymauk, showed an entirely new side of cosplay: she doesn’t do it to be completely faithful to the lore or be recognized by others. She simply enjoys the act of stepping into the shoes of a character she likes.

A detailed cosplay doesn’t necessarily need to take long months to complete if one has access to a set of premade components, the Ghostbusters’ Stantz explained. You simply need to order the right components from the right places, and with three days’ worth of hard work, you’ll get yourself an almost picture-perfect replica costume, he noted.

The joys and hurdles of cosplay

Championship of Cosplay
The final attraction of the opening day – that is, the cosplay competition – delivered a staggering amount of stellar costumes. The audience reacted to all participants with much enthusiasm, and even broke into a thundering applause whenever a larger or more dynamically presented costume creation showed up on-stage, such as Caesars Costumludi’s Julius, Shizca’s Diablo 3 Barbarian, or Ribbit Cosplay’s out-of-the-bag Anastasia. The best cosplay award went to Ali’s Kel’Thuzad – armed with LED lights and a jaw that exhaled smoke – whose victory was clearly foreshadowed by the fact that the commentators asked him to stay up on the stage while the winner of the last category was being announced.

Despite the best efforts of six assistants trying to somehow help Blusummer’s Reinhardt onto the stage, they end up literally pushing the poor guy out of his costume, who – even after all this – still failed to make the climb. And while Blusummer was no doubt gutted by these turn of events, the audience had much to feel disappointed about as well, as they had just been robbed of the experience of witnessing an otherwise huge – and hugely impressive – costume.

“There’s no business like show business” – noted the event’s main commentator by quoting the old saying — a saying that, despite how true it often rings, I couldn’t fully agree with this time around. Too often have I seen highly promising projects fail in eerily similar ways: that is, right in the last minute, and largely because of a seemingly inconsequential blunder.

The following day, the lovable Polygon Forge, cosplaying as Genji – whose trademark act is to work with a low polygon count to ensure smooth gameplay ;) – told me that she had just finished repairing the sword she broke during the competition, which honestly took me by surprise: she was so good at never breaking character that I genuinely thought the accident was part of her performance. When asked about her graceful, catlike motions, she admitted to have studied a bit of martial arts, as well as having spent a decent bit of time practicing the character’s unique moves.

One of the judges, Popeye (aka EyeofSauron Designs), started off by challenging me to a bit of arm wrestling after thoroughly humiliating the third member of our group, Odin (PonyLord Gaming), going so far as to offer a free complimentary spinach leaf to make sure we would both be in tip-top shape. In the meantime, Kureiji entertained his fans with a Yoshimitsu cosplay made specifically for this convention.

Miyaou, the only Hungarian cosplayer to have made an on-stage appearance, was also quite pleased with the results of the qualifiers. After all, in a lineup this strong, just being part of the event is already an achievement in itself.

Artist alley, Cosplay alley, tabletop corner

The artist alley gave home to a great variety of young, talented and well-known creators – I approached them with a few questions of my own regarding insider secrets and their personal experiences. According to the co-author of Void Comics, the situation appears promising enough, with comic books once again rising in popularity, but when it comes to consumer habits, we still haven’t reached a point where even a small, two-man team could earn its livelihood this way.

The assistant to Sala Cosplay’s Lich King helped the photographers with quick instructions: raise the sword a bit higher, turn it to the right, move just a bit in that direction, and so on; she was so good at her job, in fact, that I even asked if I could maybe have her tag along with me for the rest of the convention.

The large cosplay group known as the 501st Legion seemed to have an even larger presence at the con compared to last year, offering several photo areas and lightsaber shows to please eager Star Wars enthusiasts. The only thing more impressive than their numbers was their patience: they admirably weathered the veritable photo-tsunami fans sent their way, and were able to stay locked in the same pose for as long as 30 minutes at a time.

Aside from the now-expected march of the Imperial Legion, several other cosplay groups prepared similar performances: we spotted at least two dozen Witcher cosplayers armed with drums and guitars, as well as a handful of androids yelling “We’re alive! We’re alive!”

Have you been drinking, darling?
The team of Deagal (who was, by the way, the spitting image of Jack Sparrow) offered live music, while Deagal himself entertained his fans – myself included – with a live broadcast from the show. It felt a little weird to be so abruptly thrust into an on-the-spot interview, especially considering I’d never been interviewed by a pirate captain before. So thank you, my captain, for allowing me to tick yet another item off my bucket list ;) Deagal, by the way, enjoys a growing popularity, especially among younger guys (once again, including myself as well).

A number of visitors found themselves drawn to the tabletop corner, where they spent many an hour enjoying the various games on display: there were both old and new editions of titles like Vampire, Star Wars, Warhammer, Magic the Gathering and KeyForge.

Heroes and anti-heroes

Neal Adams gave a passionate speech detailing how lawyers are evil creatures – the servants of Satan, even – who practically lie for a living and pull one disgraceful stunt after another to hinder the creativity of artists merely wishing to bring something beautiful into the world. He likened them to the gunslingers of the Wild West, hired by evil corporations to keep a given neighborhood in check. Seeing how I’d heard similar generalizations aimed at the media as well, I instead chose to quietly leave the room with one hand resting on the handle of the camera dangling from my waist.

Andrew Scott, who plays Moriarty in the British Sherlock adaptation, explained how one should go about playing a villain of this caliber: he is, after all, the nemesis of Sherlock and a deeply complex, multi-layered character. Moriarty lives according his own desires and is generally having a good time. He does, however, occasionally encounter minor things that frustrate him, things that make the evil, destructive part of his mind bubble to the surface. That description, by the way, totally didn’t make me draw some heavy parallels with my own personality. Nope. Not at all.

Reality begins to creep back in

It filled me with a tinge of sadness that Mark Kistler’s children-oriented presentation about drawing had only managed to attract a very low number of visitors, as – in my opinion – drawing should at least be a secondary expressive tool for young kids. And even putting that aside, listening to Mark explain things to children was just entertaining by itself. He drew a googly-eyed, shark-teethed character – a simple enough doodle that was impossible not to chuckle at – and noted how great it looked – just like his sister.

Our final stop was at the Stan Lee memorial, where fans said their final farewells to the father of comic books and superheroes with various plushies, mementos and a few heartfelt lines. The experience left us with heavy hearts as we began our journey back to our mundane everyday lives, especially after a weekend as fantastic as this; and even though we knew this weekend would once again come in a year’s time, we wished it would be tomorrow. But alas, we still need to endure another 360 days, with nothing but our memories to sustain us during those long months of waiting. So long, VIECC, and see you next year!

Here is for invocation (or dismissal) with more than 400 pictures

Album of first day /3
Album of first day /2
Album of first day /1

Album of next day /2
Album of next day /1

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