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Tips for enjoying comic con season with kids

This week’s blog post is by The Paternity Test co-host Matt Boresi, who lives in the Edgewater Glen neighborhood of Chicago with his wife (“Professor Foster”) and their 6-year-old daughter Viva, who is unstoppable thanks to her brute strength and squirrel-gility.

“Cosplay” — a shaky portmanteau of “costume” and “play” carried over from Japan in the 1980’s — is the fine art of dressing like your favorite fictional character (often from gaming, sci-fi, fantasy or anime) and attending a convention where this sort of thing is done. This past weekend, my family and I cosplayed all together at the Chicago Comic and Entertainment Expo (C2E2) at McCormick Place. Little Viva and I had done it before (as Logan and Laura and as Obi-Wan and Rey), but this year Professor Foster got in on the nerdy fun. We went as Squirrel Girl, Tony Stark and Valkyrie, respectively, and a good time was had by all. Our Chicago friends, the Bradfords, talked us into this years ago, my mother helps with trickier aspects of the costumes, and now it’s become a yearly ritual garnering excitement on par with — well, Christmas, really — but with less Santa and more Svengoolie. C2E2 is the new Christmas. 

I wasn’t initially sure if a comic con would be a good place for a kid. I feared there would be gory-covered zombie walkers and “booth babes” everywhere, but C2E2 is extremely family friendly. The other cosplayers, as well as the performers, are kind and patient with children, love to interact and take pictures, and there’s a robust family area with a petting zoo and performances. Shoutout to Chicago’s Acrobatica Infiniti Circus for an amazing show. The entire event is diverse (more so than ever, it seems, thanks to the success of “Black Panther”), LGBTQ- friendly (lots of trans-Jubilees walking around, normalizing gender-fluidity for the kids), girl-powered and sex-positive without being too explicit for the littles. And, really, would an event rife with Ghostbusters and Jedi and Groots and Iron Men make much sense if it wasn’t kid-friendly?

There are several cons left in Chicagoland this summer, including the Japancentric convention Anime Central ACEN (May 18-20) and the star-studded Wizard World Chicago (Aug. 23-26), both in Rosemont. If you’re thinking of attending one, I’d like to share some survival tips, because you have to put a little bit of skin in the game to pull this off, and it would be a big disappointment if you or your kids ended up having a bad time (Cosplay and Cons are fairly expensive, and you deserve to enjoy every minute of them).

Foster buy-in 

Left to her own devices, Viva might choose the Disney Princess du jour every year for C2E2, There’s nothing wrong with that, and there are plenty of Disney characters at C2E2 (it’s really all of entertainment, not just comics, hence the “This is Us” panel where stars from the show got to talk to geeks about … weepy family drama?), but if you’re going to encourage your child to wear a costume they themselves might not have initially chosen, start talking up the character early so they can feel enthused. If they aren’t invested in playing their character all day, they’ll tear that suit off and run down the Midway in their underwear faster than you can say “Klaatu barata nikto.” Last year we dressed as Logan and Laura from the R-rated film “Logan,” which, of course, Viva hasn’t seen, but by showing her kid-friendly versions of the character and still photos and talking up how cool her claws would be, we ended up with costumes that were a huge hit, and we both got a taste of what being adored by paparazzi must feel like. (And it doesn’t feel bad.)

Consider comfort

You’re all going to be on your feet for a long time. While there are cosplay rooms to get off your stilts, if your kids are with you, make sure their costumes fit and don’t rub, and that their shoes AND YOURS facilitate a lot of walking. Little kids simply won’t wear a costume all day and pose for photos if they’re uncomfortable, and if they start divesting themselves of their helmets and masks and claws and lightsabers, you’re in trouble.

Pack repair supplies

My arc reactor needed spirit gum, my wife’s crème makeup needed refreshing and spray fix, my daughter’s utility belt needed safety pins. Build a pack or backpack into your costume (Rey’s belt pack, Laura’s backpack, Stark’s IM3 backpack, whatever works) so you can carry powder, double-stick tape, batteries, band-aids, or whatever you anticipate needing.

Pack snacks

C2E2 allows food to come in, which is good, because the food lines are impossibly long and the food is tasty, but pricey. Bring snacks and definitely bring water; a Ninja Turtle or Deadpool with low blood sugar is an angry Ninja Turtle or Deadpool. The snacks shouldn’t be too messy, spill-y or stain-y.

Don’t forget biology

Even droids have to go potty sooner or later, and the bathrooms are close quarters and have long lines. That mech suit had better have an escape hatch, and you’d better stay AHEAD of the potty situation, and know where they are located. It takes a long time to get down the aisles, especially if you the back half of Falcor or have Golobulus’ snake body.

Let me know if you have specific questions at paternitypodcast@gmail.com. And happy nerding!

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