Middle School or Comic Con: Bullying in the Convention Scene


I’m going into my junior year of college. I am happily dating a girl, and I’m a plus-sized woman. All of these are things people are bullied for. But never in my life did I think I would get bullied for what comics I read.

I am the owner of a panel studio here in Michigan, where me and my team go from convention to convention and organize events called panels. It’s typically a really fun and supportive environment.

However, at Midwest Media Expo this year, I was shocked and rather appalled. I was hosting a panel on the popular web comic “Homestuck,” when the panelists in the room next to us threw a note into our panel room telling us we’re “the reason the fandom sucks,” and saying, “You’re the worst thing to happen to the Zodiac since Ted Cruz.”

Haha, funny.

Now a bit of background for those of you unfamiliar with the fandom scene. “Homestuck”is one of the longest works in the English language, and some of the characters are famously based on tropes and ideas from the western Zodiac.

The adjusted word count for the series, including the multimedia aspects of the comic, is around 1,358,391 words.

Yeah, this comic takes a really, really long time to read. And like any popular fandom explosion, there’s good and bad sides to the community.

One quick Google search of “’Homestuck’ horror stories” brings up countless results, the most famous being a case where a girl dyed herself grey with 70% alcohol and sharpie ink, and caused $700 in hotel damages.

And these stories are everywhere. I, as an adamant fan of the comic, have experienced my own horror stories that I’m not going to get into here.

Back to the point, though. I was hosting a panel on the aforementioned web comic, and it was a really positive panel. The long-running comic just ended, and we were giving away some really nice prizes.

We put together a panel focused on positivity and allowed everyone in our room to voice their opinions and thoughts on the end of the comic.

This has shaped so many peoples lives. Snoop Dogg likes “Homestuck.” Dante Basco likes “Homestuck.” The Best Game Ever award was given to “Undertale.” The guy who made it? Toby Fox . . . who worked on “Homestuck.”

This comic is influential. And for some guy in a panel next to us to say hurtful things like that in our panel about positivity was uncalled for.

But you know what really made the difference for us? When a girl in our panel gave us a drawing she’d done, telling us how much she appreciated what we did.

I was happy with how the convention handled the situation. In the end, the guys who bullied us were told they can never host programming at the convention again.

But for one, it’s just a web comic. We were at a comic convention, where a bunch of nerds gather together. Nerds who were most likely once bullied for liking comic books and anime. It’s so ironic that in this sort of environment I faced bullying.

Todd Wright, a cosplayer out of Southeast Michigan, was adamant that bullying in the cosplay scene is “dumb.”

“To me, bullying in general is nonsense. But this is especially true in the convention scene,” he said. “We’re all a bunch of nerds in costumes. Why do people feel the need to be so damn nitpicky with stuff?”

I think the best part of the whole situation was that their panel was supposed to be on how to use the internet responsibly. And they turned around and bullied someone.

This isn’t just a fluke either. I interviewed Chelsea Anna Tomasheski, a cosplayer who lives in Ohio.

“Well no one’s really bullied me there, but I have noticed that people tend to not pay near as much attention to those in costume that aren’t really a part of a specific anime and/or not white,” she said.

Bullying goes a lot deeper than rude comments and being ignored in the convention scene. My friend Kayden Bates, who is a part of my panel group, had a horrific experience to share.

“I was at Great Lakes Comic Con a few years back, and I went as Tinker Bell,” Bates said. “I was going to go change for the costume contest, and I was followed by some creep to the bathroom.”

“A friend of mine told me he was waiting outside of the bathroom, so I had them go out and get security. They kicked him out.”

A convention I attended back in March had huge signs plastered around, telling convention goers that “Cosplay is not consent.” Online movements have started in reference to this same idea.

But it still seems to show up in the cosplay community. Bullying in the cosplay scene has evolved from being simply bullying, to something that could pose a serious threat to those in attendance.

Another example: in late 2014, a black cosplayer was shot in the back four times by police for wearing a Samurai Champloo cosplay, complete with replica sword. His family denied him running away from the cops, saying he was most likely just spinning around, pretending he was the character.

Cosplaying has escalated from being a simple past time. What was once just nerds dressing up and having fun has turned into an entire subculture on his own. Bullying happens, it’s prevalent, and it has morphed into something more.

I guess I should consider myself lucky no one shot me.