Comic-con or Bust


You’re not really going to put yourself through it again, are you? You are a serious glutton for punishment. How many years in a row has it been now? It’s become an addiction for you, like an alcoholic who very clearly remembers the heavy, cement-stuffed pounding of being unable to lift his head off the bed the morning after but still picks up a bottle again at the end of the day.

You’ll drag yourself out of the hotel room at 6 a.m. and forge your way through the streets packed with shoulder-to-shoulder crowds while being buffeted by 8-foot Pikachu, ratcheting Steampunk wings, enormous fantasy-sized 3-D printed missile launchers, Aliens and Transformers who can hardly see where they’re going or control their enormous robotic feet. You’ll be jabbed by convention bags as big as coffee tables stuffed with action figures and lightsabers and memorabilia while people with smart phones and cameras with lenses as long as their forearms stop abruptly in front of you as they try to take a picture of that girl dressed (barely) as Poison Ivy or that guy with buffed up pecs and biceps wearing a white wife beater and long silver adamantine claws sprouting from between his fingers sharp enough to slice your hand off even though they’ve supposedly gone through weapons check.

Don’t you remember the stifling proximity of 150,000 people giving off body heat and pheromones pressing through the narrow rows of vendor booths gawking at every newly rolled out piece of merchandise while disrupting the natural flow of walking so that you have to dodge through the crowd with your shoulders hunched forward to block any blows coming your way? Maybe you should wear a costume that has a shield this year. Maybe Captain America’s got the right idea. Then there’s the sensory overload of loud speaker announcements, the crazed screaming of celebrity sightings, billboard size posters sprouting from floor and ceiling like a nightmare obstacle course, and the endless neon-lit displays of high-end action figures, weapons, toys, props crushing your senses until you feel your head swimming with flashbacks of previous cons.

Do you really need to relive the grind of walking miles and miles each day from one end of the building to the other and back again and again on the off-chance that you’ll get into the panels you want even though you know that unless you get there at least two hours ahead of time there’s no chance at all? At least you’ve learned not to wait in line for eight hours straight for the Masquerade. You can just go have dinner then slip into the back of the auditorium where there are always empty seats and multiple large screens to watch the same hosts as last year, and the year before that, make jokes about the costume descriptions, and you join in the countdown as people in costumes that have taken them a year to make act out their bits to pre-recorded audio and get cheered or booed by the ravenous audience. Or you could watch it on a big screen in the tent where it’s easy to get a seat, but it’s so f-ing cold that you’ll probably catch pneumonia after sweating your ass off all day.

Your feet still remember the swollen ache from last year as you shift uselessly from one leg to the other to alleviate the pain of standing on them hour after hour as you wait in line in the scorching hot sun hoping upon hope that you make it into Hall H to see the Star Wars Panel. And this after you voluntarily slept all night sitting up in a camping chair just to get a seat halfway back in a 7,000 person auditorium to see a panel of actors bandy about some jokes as you watch them on a screen above your head, because even though they are up there on the stage, they are too far away to make out any facial features. Packed tightly into an unmovable metal chair surrounded by stinking people who haven’t bathed, you get to eat bad convention pizza that contains thousands of calories and untold grams of fat while watching a five minute movie preview that you’ll be able to see on YouTube in two months time. Is it really worth it to be the first to post about it on Twitter?

Damn right, you say! 

©2016 Nancy Steinman All Rights Reserved. To republish in print or online, please contact me. It’s OK to post a link to this page.



Middle-earth Madness

Here are the first several paragraphs of the article about costuming/cosplay that I wrote for Middle-earth Madness from J.W. Braun and the staff of the world’s most recognized Tolkien-based website,



Middle-earth Fans: Dressing the Part
By Nancy Steinman

The history of costume is long and detailed, a tale that can only be unraveled with much research and knowledge, not only of fashion, but of geography, politics and court intrigue. It has subtle influences on society that are lost on much of the modern world. But in Middle-earth, what one wears is greatly determined not only by which race you are, but where you hail from and the type of lifestyle you lead. Elves from Rivendell wear styles different from those of Lothlórien or the Greenwood. The garb of men from Gondor, Rohan, and Harad are all quite different. There is even a distinction between what the Rangers of the north and south wear. Hobbits have a style all their own, as do Wizards. And the dark forces are completely different again.

While Peter Jackson, Fran Walsh and Phillipa Boyens were still penning ideas to bring their vision of The Lord of the Rings to the big screen, others were already busy sketching and designing the garments that would clothe the characters they would bring to life. For Academy Awards® winner Richard Taylor, co-founder and creative director of Weta Workshop, and costume designer Ngila Dickson, there was no detail too small to be overlooked, from the hair on Hobbit feet to the intricately etched designs on armor and everything in-between (and over-and-above).

As the first trailers and stills for The Fellowship of the Ring hit the theaters and the internet, a new wave of costumers was born. Images of leather bracers and flowing velvet sleeves sparked the imagination of both men and women, many who had never picked up a sewing needle before.

Maggie Allen, a costumer who founded and runs “The Costumer’s Guide,” a well-respected costuming reference website, says that the costumes in the Star Wars prequels and The Lord of the Rings were “the one-two punch that got so many people into costuming.” She adds, “I can’t think of any other movies at that time that were so seminal in inspiring so many people to costume.” One of Allen’s favorites? Arwen’s “blood red” dress, which wowed fans from the moment it was seen in the first trailer. Designed by Dickson, it’s probably one of the most re-created costumes from The Lord of the Rings films. Speaking about the fans embracing her costume designs for the movie, Dickson said, “That is fantastic, because you cannot imagine how terrifying it was some days, when we would be looking at something and saying, ‘Is this what everybody sees in their mind’s eye?’” (From The Lord of the Rings Fan Club Official Movie Magazine, Issue No. 3)

For myself, when I saw a picture of Éowyn’s shieldmaiden dress, I had to try and recreate it. The pale flowing gown, the sleeves bound with cording, and the leather bodice were exquisitely rendered, but it was the costume’s embodiment of the heroine’s combination of vulnerability and strength that made it even more compelling. Without having a pattern, using pieces of other garments for the lining, I created and quilted the corset and then modified an existing pattern to make the dress. I hadn’t sewn anything more complicated than pillow covers since sixth grade home economics class. My experience was a story I heard repeated over and over as I interviewed other costumers.


To read the rest, you can purchase the book on Amazon for Kindle for $2.99 or in paperback for a little more. It is also available for Nook.