After the implementation of New York Comic Con 2015 & 2014’s disastrous new cosplay weapons policy, I’ve been following up with Reed Exhibitions/ New York Comic Con’s Rich Askintowicz. The policy specifically targets popular materials for cosplay props, so this is an issue that hits very close to home for me. I first followed up sometime in early 2016 to which Rich declined to respond to my questions at the time. He said they needed to establish a new policy before he could talk to me. That was a fair response and I respect him for declining to discuss a subject he didn’t have answers for. After the new rules went live, I immediately jumped on the opportunity to contact Rich again about an issue that is very important to the cosplay community.
Unfortunately, the answers are not satisfying and I feel as if cosplayers with props are going to hit a brick wall once again this October. I can only hope that it won’t be nearly as tragic as 2014, in which props were being thrown away by staff and cosplayers were turned away from the convention center by security unless they opted to toss their props in local trash bins (or go home and come back). After a lot of outrage, NYCC began to tag confiscated props so they could be claimed by their rightful owners at the end of the day.
You would imagine after all of this, NYCC would establish some sort of unified rules that would be enforced uniformly by every member of security staff. My main concern with the policy is the inconsistent enforcement. I saw several Sailor Pluto props trapped in prop jail, but then I saw people in the Javits with the same prop. I saw people with Captain America shields in the con, yet I saw others getting theirs confiscated. People with fake bow/arrow props couldn’t get in, but cosplayers deliberately using real bows and arrows got past security. Based upon my correspondence with Rich, I’m not so sure they established a central way of enforcing rules that will be consistent and fair to all.
As usual, the weapons/props policy was impossible to find despite a website redesign, so I don’t even expect most attendees to even read the policy.
On the official NYCC website remains the same rules from last year, with a few new lines thrown in:
At the discretion of Security onsite, the following may be allowed:
Plastic and Metal Shields
Lightweight Plastic/PVC Props/Light Sabers
Toy guns as long as they do not look like real ones, cannot function or shoot projectiles and have an orange tip on the barrel.
I dislike the use of “may” because it opens the rules up to interpretation. There’s no standard and some people may reject lightweight props while others wave them through. Of course, they fail to address the standard rule that NYCC refuses to shake off:
Hard prop weapons (including props made of metal, fiberglass, PVC, wood and glass)
This is a serious issue because hard prop items are very common in the cosplay community. NYCC is once again insisting that cosplayers make props out of cardboard or foam for the safety of all. Wood, in particular, can be just as fragile as other mediums depending upon the details and wood works far better than PVC (which according to one portion of the policy is acceptable but then isn’t acceptable in another part) because it is easier to paint. Cosplayers can also carve wood, unlike PVC. In fact, the quoted line above directly conflicts with the policy that states PVC props may be allowed (who the heck uses only PVC anyway?)
This new policy only raised more questions, to which Rich gave some answers that may want to consider when deciding which cosplays to wear this year. This policy is especially perplexing since it’s NYCC, a con that openly sells sharp objects, metal shields, and more. It sounds like the blame is being shifted towards security (the Javits outsources) but quite frankly, I imagine Reed Exhibitions pays a huge sum to rent the convention center and could write more reasonable rules if they wanted.
The same props that I was allowed to show off at NYCC 2013 couldn’t get in at NYCC 2014, 2015, and most likely won’t this year, either… which is why I’m over this con. This is the only convention where I’m up for inspection as if I were going through a TSA checkpoint before boarding a flight. When the Brooklyn Botanic Garden has a looser prop policy than a Comic Con, you know there is a problem. But don’t let me digress too much – here are the questions I presented to Reed Exhibitions based upon the new rules (answers are italicized):
- Doesn’t this mean people who use wood props (such as a thin staff) still will get their weapons confiscated?
If they are deemed to be in violation of the weapons and props policy, they can be picked up at the end of the day.
- How did NYCC come to the conclusion that PVC may be acceptable but wood is not?
We work with several outside entities on creating the policy.
- The policy states that props will be permitted at security discretion. This is vague. Why not set up a prop check-in for all props to be inspected and stickered so that attendees do not repeat the process every time they enter the con? Some security personnel may approve of a prop while others may not. This works for SDCC.
We do have a prop check; props are tagged if they are allowed into the event. If they are deemed to be unsafe, they can be picked up at the end of the day from the security office.
- What will happen to props that are deemed unsafe for the con?
If they are deemed to be unsafe, they can be picked up at the end of the day from the security office.
As you can see, these answers are pretty to-the-point but they don’t really address the fundamental issue at hand – cosplayers can’t use traditionally safe and sturdy materials to construct props for use at NYCC. If you want to go to NYCC, you need to make a special prop that adheres to absurd rules that don’t exist at other conventions. I’m not quite sure what Rich meant when he mentioned the prop check. I emailed him asking for elaboration as the answer is rather vague.
Last year there was a prop check and it was loaded with inconsistency since there wasn’t a central place for cosplayers to check-in with devoted staff who only inspect props. This is what NYCC needs to implement if they really care about the fans and the cosplay community. Rich says Reed Pop has worked with outside groups to develop the policy, but have they taken into consideration the actual people who impacted by it? I am hoping that overtime cosplayers and NYCC can come to an agreement on a fair policy that is open minded towards construction materials while keeping us all in a safe environment. Perhaps one year NYCC will send a survey out to attendees and base 2017’s policy on that since it seems like the ship has sailed for this year.
New York Comic Con needs to focus on keeping real bows/arrows and guns out of the con, not heart shaped keys made out of wood and fiberglass.
I’ll be back with more information about the prop-check when I get it.