'Make them ... love zombies even more'
What a packed Comic-Con panel looks like if you're a speaker.
July 31st, 2012
11:58 AM ET

'Make them ... love zombies even more'

Editor's note: Aaron Sagers is a New York-based entertainment writer and nationally syndicated pop-culture columnist. He has specialty knowledge in "paranormal pop culture," has lectured at conventions nationwide on the topic and is a media pundit on supernatural entertainment. He covers pop culture daily at ParanormalPopCulture.com and can be found on Twitter @aaronsagers.

If Comic-Con is "nerd Christmas," then speaking on a panel at the con feels like taking Santa’s sleigh out for a spin. I have been fortunate to speak at large cons like New York Comic Con and Dragon*Con, but San Diego is the “really big shoe” – so obviously I didn’t want to crash and burn.

When Matt Mogk, founder of the Zombie Research Society, invited me to join him and zombie intellectuals, authors and experts on the “History of the Modern Zombie” panel, nerdy giddiness overcame me. That was then immediately followed by an “Oh, crap” moment.

Sure, I’ve written and spoken quite a bit about zombies but these were dudes whose work I followed, like Max Brooks, Steven Schlozman, Scott Kenemore, Bradley Voytek and Dan Drezner. Speaking in front of a crowd didn’t freak me out and I have confidence in my knowledge. But I’m also a fan and very aware that the ZRS has legit legend George A. Romero on the Advisory Board.

So, to prep, I did what any good journalist would do: call in an expert. Actor Bruce Campbell is con royalty and if he didn’t attend San Diego, it could be considered a harbinger of doom in some nerd cultures. Instead of deep, philosophical advice about my first SDCC panel appearance, Campbell kept it simple. FULL POST

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July 26th, 2012
03:22 PM ET

Hidden beneath the costumes

Every summer, thousands upon thousands of people pack their suitcases to head to San Diego, California, for Comic-Con.

Sometimes that's a challenge: Many of those suitcases contain a costume packed underneath their daytime clothing (or, perhaps the costume IS their daytime clothing).

Convention costumes can be an all-year endeavor  - some attendees have a different costume for every day of the con. And even as cosplayers walk the show floor, they may already be thinking of how to assemble the fantastic costumes they will wear next year.

Why do people cosplay? Well, it's simple. Everyone needs a hobby. And yet, it seems like there can be so many other explanations. Like, it's fun (and yes, it is). Or, there's the theory that cosplayers are just attention junkies (and yes, sometimes, we are). But just like every other human habit, there's something a bit more complex beneath the surface.

It's my experience that when a cosplayer puts on a costume, we capture a moment. In costume, we are all children again. We are joyful, open, excited, able to let go of responsibility. We also wear what makes us happy. By becoming a character that we love for a day, we transcend our own reality and enter one that we often dream of inhabiting.

Yes, it's wish fulfillment, real-life role play. We lose and find ourselves in those costumes. We stand in a sea of other people who are drawn to the same things that we are. We fit in, and at the same time, we don't. But we want to.

Underneath our costumes, we dare to reveal ourselves to the world, bit by bit. By wearing a mask, we reveal who we really are.

In defense of lady geeks
Strong female personnas were common in the cosplay of San Diego Comic-Con 2012.
July 26th, 2012
01:14 PM ET

In defense of lady geeks

Editor's note: Genevieve Dempre is a self-described feminist killjoy whose past work includes contributions to Ms. Magazine Online. She loves Joss Whedon and loves to mock Sweet Valley High. She can generally be found moderating at Fark.com, sometimes in a Rainbow Brite outfit, or on twitter @Genevieve_Marie.

Geek culture has a bit of a misogyny problem. That’s not news to anyone who’s been paying attention.

From the abuse heaped on Anita Sarkeesian to the criticism of Felicia Day, it’s become obvious that women who identify as geeks and who are vocal about their opinions on the culture are probably going to face some backlash. Fortunately, that’s becoming recognized as fact by most of the people who pay attention, but the conversation around why it happens and who’s to blame for it isn’t always particularly positive.

Case in point: the recent discussion of Booth Babes and their effect on geek culture started by Joe Peacock.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m as opposed to the concept of companies using women’s bodies as marketing tools as the next feminist. I think criticism of the practice that points out how this marginalizes women and treats us as the product instead of as potential consumers is necessary and important.

What I object to in the current discussion is the idea that the professional models who are paid for their work are somehow deeply broken human beings who are willfully exploiting men. I also object to the conflation of women who model professionally at conventions with women who genuinely love geek culture and who happen to be attractive and enjoy some occasional cosplay.

Geek girls, even the ones who are conventionally attractive, come to the culture for the same reason men do: we’re looking for our people. Almost everyone who finds a home in it is someone who has experienced alienation in another part of their lives. For many of us, finding the other weirdoes who love the same things we love is fantastic and life changing.

It truly sucks when you find those people and realize that they don’t believe you’re one of them and when they make it clear that you’re going to have to jump through some hoops to prove you’re worthy of being included. It especially stings when it comes to one particular element of being a female geek: the part where you are simultaneously appreciated and denigrated for your sexuality. FULL POST

Overheard on CNN.com: Readers take issue with 'booth babes,' she-geek stereotypes
Lady Chewbacca is a vision in fur, and clearly a geek, at San Diego Comic-Con 2012.
July 25th, 2012
07:56 PM ET

Overheard on CNN.com: Readers take issue with 'booth babes,' she-geek stereotypes

Editor's note: This post is part of the Overheard on CNN.com series, a regular feature that examines interesting comments and thought-provoking conversations posted by the community.

Joe Peacock's latest opinion piece for CNN Geek Out caused quite an uproar. We saw more than 700 comments and at least hundreds of tweets about the article, which expressed a complex point of view blasting the phenomenon of beautiful "booth babes" at fan conventions including San Diego Comic-Con. At the same time, Peacock also said he supports women's increased acceptance within geek society.

Booth babes need not apply

The article spread far and wide, and got mentions on Jezebel and Bleeding Cool. Some of our readers thanked CNN for publishing the piece, while others found a few sticking points with Peacock's reasoning.

One of the most notable people to talk about the article was none other than actress and writer Felicia Day, who is mentioned in the post. She in turn got numerous replies from other Twitter users.

Peacock writes about Day, "Not only does she put her money where her interests are, she creates things that further the community."

Peacock contrasts her with "models-cum-geeks like Olivia Munn and practically every Frag Doll," whom he sees as examples of corporate attempts to hire people who "act quirky and sell this marketable geekdom" to a lucrative audience.

The Frag Dolls, for those not in the know, are a team of female gamers deployed by Ubisoft to promote and support women in gaming. FULL POST

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Booth babes need not apply
The presence of fans dressed as X-23 (left) and Loki's female form (right) at Comic-Con signals the broadening of geek culture.
July 24th, 2012
04:33 PM ET

Booth babes need not apply

Editor's note: When he's not teaching the Internet how to fist-fight, why being weird is awesome or how to self-publish your own books, Joe Peacock tours the world, showing his extensive "Akira" art collection. He also cosplays as a six-foot-two-inch, 310lb Powerpuff Girl to fill the hollow pit that is his need for the wrong kinds of attention.

There is a growing chorus of frustration in the geek community with - and there's no other way to put this - pretty girls pretending to be geeks for attention.

San Diego Comic-Con is the largest vehicle, but it's hardly the only convention populated with "hot chicks" wearing skimpy outfits simply to get a bunch of gawking geeks’ heads to turn, just to satisfy their hollow egos.

Now, before every single woman reading this explodes, let me disambiguate a bit. I absolutely do not believe that every girl who attends conventions and likes "Doctor Who" is pretending to be a geek.

There are lots of geeks who are female. Some of these female geeks are pretty girls. I find it fantastic that women are finally able to enjoy a culture that has predominately been male-oriented and male-driven.

The presence of female geeks means that the fiction we're reading is broadening and, frankly, getting better in quality. It means nerdy films and television shows aren't relying on damsel in distress stories and objectification of women to draw readers. It means content is broadening and becoming smarter and more accessible. I want more of that.

And be it known that I am good friends with several stunningly beautiful women who cosplay as stunningly beautiful characters from comics, sci-fi, fantasy and other genres of fandom. They are, each of them, bone fide geeks. They belong with us. Being beautiful is not a crime.

Flaunt it if you got it – and if you're a geek, male or female, and you're strikingly handsome or stunningly beautiful, and you cosplay as a handsome or beautiful character, more power to us all. Hot geeks are hot.

What I'm talking about is the girls who have no interest or history in gaming taking nearly naked photos of themselves with game controllers draped all over their body just to play at being a "model."  I get sick of wannabes who couldn't make it as car show eye candy slapping on a Batman shirt and strutting around comic book conventions instead. FULL POST

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