It’s not often that you run into Batman and Princess Leia in the same day.
This past weekend the comic, sci-fi and anime stars aligned as the Connecticut Convention Center hosted the 12th annual ConnectiCon. Thousands crowded into three venues throughout Hartford for a four day series of panels, workshops, and geek-studded events.
Described as a “multi-genre pop culture convention,” ConnectiCon featured question and answer sessions with some of the science-fiction world’s hall of famers, including cast members from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, The X-Files, and the Power Rangers. Star Trek’s George Takei and The Legend of Korra’s Janet Varnay were among the weekend’s esteemed guests.
Festival goers at ConnectiCon don’t take dressing up lightly. Many attendees spend as much as a year planning and creating their attire for “cosplay,” a Japanese portmanteau for costume and play.
Michelle Ferrero, who attended ConnectiCon with her husband Nicholas, spent a year designing and making their costumes for this year’s convention season. They cosplayed as Trainer Yuna and Yojimbo from the video game Final Fantasy. Ferrero handmade both of the costumes using EVA foam, suede, silk, and linen.
A hardware engineer by day, Nicolas Ferrero plays another role when it comes to cosplaying.
“I love being a model for my wife. There’s nothing like finally bringing her stuff to fruition,” Nicolas Ferrero said, his voice muffled by layers of foam and suede.
Housing more than ten years of cosplay outfits, the Ferrero’s apartment is also a makeshift costume shop.
“We have a really small, tiny apartment so Yojimbo’s shoulders actually sit on the back of the couch,” Michelle said.
While some cosplayers opt for store-bought costumes, convention culture is largely do-it-yourself.
Although Hallie Tedeschi says she’s new to the cosplay world, her costume suggests otherwise. Wielding a “shark cannon” that emulates the charcoal-brushed jaws of a Great White, Tedeschi said it took months to create her Jinx from League of Legends cosplay. The cannon, complete with LED lights and a protruding dorsal fin was created only using foam and cardboard.
She said the multi-genre aspect of ConnectiCon, where passerby could see anything from Princess Elsa from Frozen to Game of Throne’s Jon Snow, makes it unique.
"You can have something in mind you want to see and you'll pretty much see it," Tedeschi said.
It’s easy to be an exhibitionist when dressed as Wonder Woman.
The convention center and surrounding riverfront area were in a state of photo frenzy as cosplayers touted and struck character poses for admiring convention goers and puzzled walkers.
As the convention’s attendees gravitated to the Hartford riverfront, the eccentric get-ups drew pause from many attending the Riverfest Food Truck Festival.
Coined by Japanese film editor Nobuyuki Takahashi in the 1980s, cosplay did not gain traction in the United States until the '90s. The continued popularity of Japanese anime and Marvel films have helped grow cosplay's following.
While many devoted cosplayers follow the convention circuit regionally and nationally, many businesses follow the pop cultural trail as well. This year over one-hundred vendors attended ConnectiCon.
With swords, arrows, giant axes, and even light sabers making it through the convention center doors each day, ConnectiCon’s all-volunteer staff takes extensive measures to prioritize safety.
To make it into ConnectiCon, attendees must first have all weapon replicas inspected upon arrival. Inappropriate props are stored in a room where they can be picked up after the convention.
"Number one big thing is nothing made of metal," said Michael Amendola, a ConnectiCon Safety Prop Inspector. "We've already had to stop a guy who was trying to bring a real bow and arrows into the place and yesterday there was a guy with a real sword too, so yeah, we have a real job here."
As the villains and Marvel mavens retire and the Batmans and Catwomans recede back into the shadows, Connecticut cosplayers all have one thing on their minds: what to be next year.