Written by: Anastasia Salter, Pop-Culture Editor
Last weekend New York City was the site of the east coast’s biggest comic convention: New York Comic Con, a celebration of popular culture filled with cosplay, sneak previews, celebrities and swag. But only a short distance away, the Occupy Wall Street protests were expanding with a march on Times Square and new global recognition (even from some previously silent spaces in the mainstream press). Watching these two events unfold in the same space and time was surreal, and yet appropriate, as masked figures took their place in both gatherings.
On Twitter, there were plenty of reactions to the juxtaposition of gatherings, some making connections and others poking fun at the earnest members of both fandom and protest:
Between #NYCC and #OWS:TSQ, it looks like the Statue of Liberty threw up on Ninth Avenue. Give us your nerdy, your poor, your BLEAHURGGGGGH!
Passed a huge protest in Times Square on my way home from #NYCC. Heard chanting but couldn’t understand it.
Saw a woman topless outside Javitz today during #NYCC. Not a single officer arrested her! Maybe ladies#OccupyWallStreeters should do same?
Yet there was an overlap between the two events–not just in Guy Fawkes masks, but in attendance and perhaps even in spirit. The protests crept into the conversation at NYCC, where Saturday–the same day as the Times Square march–opened with an earnest episode of the potentially politically charged sci-fi show Terra Nova. While the show hasn’t yet found its footing, its premise speaks of a bleak future, where ecological devastation has made the world near uninhabitable. (An all too familiar theme in recent science fiction, which has always brought us closer with our greatest social and political struggles.)
Managed to hit both NY Comic-Con and the protest at Times Square. Today was a good day. #nycc #ows
To my peeps at #NYCC, be careful. Reading that NYPD been authorized to use tear gas on the #OWS protesters. Times Sq. & Washington Square.
Meanwhile, up the street… #nycc #ows http://yfrog.us/nlw9jz
Amazing aerial shot of JUST 1 BLOCK of Times Sq! I can’t count ppl. 10K? 20K? Livestream OWS says 60K. It’s a lot.http://flic.kr/p/aw7Ju5
Some of the celebrities in town for Comic Con even made their way to the protest–often bearing pizza.
Heading to Washington Square Park, bringing pizza for#Ows
@doctorow Occupunks: the 99%
We brought 10 pizzas to #OccupyWallStreet group. Heard a sickening amount of truth from frustrated folks. Wish I had answers; had only pie.
Cory Doctorow was at Comic Con to talk about the future, and the Intel “Tomorrow Project” which is engaging science fiction writers in imagining the science-future. As Cory Doctorow documented some of the protest and attended NYCC, he also observed the correlation of events with his own work: he has announced that he is working on a sequel to , his novel of imagined resistance against an increasingly Big Brother-esque government. (Themes of his more recent YA novel, , also emerge as the protest goes global–not unlike his imagined new union of workers of the web.)
Weird to impossible to working on Little Brother II tonight.
The growing scale of the protest, even as a group of costumed superheroes (and the cast of Avengers, for good measure!) were gathered at a nearby convention center was worthy of a scene out of comics. And particularly, the works of Alan Moore, the writer behind both Watchmen and V for Vendetta–both graphic novels that have been adapted into movies, for better or for worse, that examined the power of protest by those masked and not.
Watchmen cosplayers were among the many superheroes represented at NYCC–I ran into a couple Silk Spectres and a Nite Owl, along with a few fans simply sporting the signature blood-splattered pin of the Comedian.
Photo by Edwick
Some prominent pop culture figures–including superheroes–have already been showing up around the net with their own versions of the “We are the 99%” message.
…and of course, many of our favorite super-villains are part of the 1%, a reminder that these themes are nothing new.
And thus, with superheroes already taking their virtual stand, it was not too surprising when one of the most retweeted messages of New York Comic Con was a call for the masked heroes to join in the protest.
How cool would it be if everyone in a superhero costume at Comic-Con marched down to Wall Street tonight? #OWS#nycc
But some masks were already at the protests: the same Guy Fawkes mask worn by the revolutionary in V for Vendetta has made a show not only in New York, but around the globe, associated as it is now with the almost straight-from-sci-fi organization Anonymous.
Photo by TenSafeFrogs
#anonymous out in #occupylondon todayhttp://i.imgur.com/fuXN5.jpg
Photo by I.imgur.com
Though for some, those masks will always have a meaning dictated more by Alan Moore (or at least, the Wachowski brothers interpreting Moore) than by Guy Fawkes or Anonymous.
There are people in V For Vendetta masks at #occupylsx…? Have you, erm, seen the film…? You clearly haven’t UNDERSTOOD the film…
The images of these masked protesters is both compelling and pragmatic–a reminder that the costume of the superhero is at its heart a practical protection of identity. Both and Disney’s have explored the fear of the government and society of those who choose to wear masks–and just as laws end the freedom of superheroes in those comic worlds, masks are none too welcome in our current cities.
New York is not only place have laws against wearing of masks. See this list of state codes related to masks:http://www.anapsid.org/cnd/mcs/maskcodes.html
Ban on mask wearing is understandable but ultimately indefensible, especially in a world of ubiquitous surveillance.
Julian Assange in Guy Fawkes mask “Priceless”:http://goo.gl/IGFuc @wikileaks #occupylsx
Julian Assange in Guy Fawkes mask today in London. http://www.mikekempphotography.com/
Photo by Liberalsarecool.tumblr.com
Unmaskings have their consequences in both comics and reality, and cosplay can be more than fandom and wish fulfillment. A mask or a costume can make an identity: there’s a reason why fans grumble when Wonder Woman’s costume is remade, or why Batman’s iconic logo is so immediately recognizable. As the Occupy protests grow globally, the “anonymous” among them are drawing upon a legacy of masks–for protection, for unity, and as part of a movement that is only rising, as much a cultural stirring as a political one–and as the panopticon becomes an accepted reality, the legality of masks will likely come under debate.