On Sunday, April 28, the third annual Geek On! convention organized by Cosplay Brigade saw 636 people in attendance. The third and second floors of the HUB were filled with cosplayers from a variety of fandoms including Vocaloid, Marvel and Miraculous Ladybug among others.
The convention began with a performance from Senryu Taiko, an on-campus Japanese drumming club. Vendors filled HUB 302 while panels and tournaments were held throughout the second and third floors. The organization that hosted panels and other activities included Highlander Gaming, Gamespawn, Greenwood Film Society, Senryu Taiko, HallyUCR, After Class Gaming, Starving Artists, Underground Society of Comics and Secret Swords & Sorcery Society.
Among the attendees of the convention was UCR alumnus Guillermo Guzman, who was known for t-posing on Chancellor Wilcox last year. “This con is great because it’s a small convention but with a lot of passion and people working on it; no one feels uncomfortable and no one feels scared. Everyone feels great,” Guzman said.
Guzman’s favorite panel was Meme-ology 101, which was led by another UCR alumnus and past Cosplay Brigade event manager, Mark Celones. In the panel, Celones moderated a discussion on memes and their impact with Timothy Hughes and Cosplay Brigade officer Kari Hathaitham. Hughes was the man behind the mask of Furry Boi, a protest candidate during the 2018 ASUCR elections.
“It sounds like the thing is going to be a giant joke, but in reality, it’s actually somewhat of a sophisticated and nuanced discussion about memes,” Guzman commented.
“Part of the reason (Hughes) was popular was because of his ability to make the joke; the panel was an examination of how often that’s happened in culture … Those are areas where communities band together and memes are how they bond,” explained Celones. The panel also did a case study on Furry Boi and how he gained popularity to impact the campus. “Memes are that unit for internet expression,” said Celones.
At the end of the panel, there was a raffle for framed memes. Lisette Ravard, a UCR alumnus, attended the Meme-ology 101 panel and won a framed picture of Grumpy Cat. Ravard had attended conventions since she was in high school, including the Geek On! convention last year. Ravard commented on the importance of Geek On! and how it introduced students to anime and other fandoms. “There’s always a great variety of panelists (at Geek On!). This one’s fun. It’s local. There’s a nice assortment of merchandise people can buy,” Ravard said.
Media and Cultural Studies Professor John Jennings, who is known for his work in comics and afrofuturism returned to be a part of two panels entitled “Breaking Into Comics While Diverse” and “From Fandom to Career.” Brandon Thomas, writer and co-creator of “Horizon” and “The Many Adventures of Miranda Mercury,” and freelance writer Jazmine Joyner were also part of the panel about diversity in the comics industry. “I think that being a geek is something that’s really empowering now. It’s shifted a lot where it’s a mark of honor. It encourages people to be expressive,” Jennings said.
Cosplay Brigade told the Highlander that they wanted Jennings to return to show others who are experiencing difficulty breaking into the comics industry because of diversity-related issues that it is possible.
The convention also featured a cosplay contest where attendees could enter to win the first-place prize of a $50 gift card. The contestants and their cosplay were judged on craftsmanship, finishing quality, performance and miscellaneous, such as their innovation and special effects.
The first-place winner of the contest was Rev who cosplayed as Nemesis from the Evillious Chronicles. Rev, who is not a UCR student, had attended the Geek On! convention last year and also won first place. Rev found out about the convention through its Facebook event page, so she attended with her friend Ondine who cosplayed as Rin Kagamine from the Vocaloid series, Japanese computer-generated characters associated with voices from the singing voice synthesizer software Vocaloid.
For her cosplay, Rev referred to the character image but also wanted to take creative liberties. For her cosplay of Nemesis, the character was portrayed as angry in the series, but Rev put her own spin on it through cute makeup to make it a “cute kind of anger.” “Cosplay contests are really fun. (Winning) is always a surprise,” Rev said.
Attendance has increased with each convention Cosplay Brigade holds. Celones who is now a teacher still returns to help with the conventions. “It’s pretty mindblowing to see the power of smaller clubs making a big event,” Celones commented.
During the quarter, Cosplay Brigade has general meetings on Thursdays at 7 p.m. in HMNSS 1503. They will also hold an Anime Expo Crunch Day May 16 from 7-9 p.m. at the Creat’R Lab inside Orbach Library for people to work on their Anime Expo cosplays.