Home Con News SDCC 2015: 41st Annual Comic-Con Masquerade Rules and Entry Form released

logo - comic-con thumbnail (distressed)During the week of San Diego Comic-Con in July, there are some elements which are absolutely integral to the make-up of the event, some which you cannot imagine the thing going ahead without: the International Film Festival, the Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards, the wrap-up ‘Once More With Feeling’ Singa-long, the stale overpriced, over-salted pretzels, the LEGO Minifigs line which stretches from the Exhibition Floor to the very sunset, the overnight camping line for Hall H on Friday and Saturday nights (Comic-Con International can tell everyone not to do it all they like but, dagnabbit, we’re going to do it anyway…!). But one of the longest-running, much-loved pieces of the Nerdvana puzzle is the San Diego Comic-Con Annual Masquerade.

Taking place on Saturday evening in Ballroom 20, cosplayers both experienced and amateur parade their creations on stage to an always packed room. Interestingly, it is the one event that does get officially streamed live outside of its location: the Masquerade is also broadcast to the massed throng that were unable to gain entry to the room, gathering in the Sails Pavilion to watch – coming together partly for the spectacle, partly for the party atmosphere of shaking a money-maker with a fellow nerd on the provided dancefloor… but partly for the fact there’s a bar involved!

But for those taking part, it can be nothing but a serious matter – the Comic-Con Episode IV: A Fan’s Hope documentary by Morgan Sperlock showed acclaimed cosplayer Holly Conrad and her friends taking part in what she called ‘a suicide mission, a suicide mission for her career’. (Thank goodness, then, that she has gone on to be acknowledged as one of the best costume and make-up creators working today, appearing regularly as a judge on Heroes Of Cosplay.)

Could you be the next cosplay superstar to take to the stage in San Diego? Gather your friends, mix up the body paint, sculpt and stitch together your best outfits; marshal your efforts and fill out the forms today…

 The 41st Annual Comic-Con International Masquerade


Anyone who’s ever attended Comic-Con can attest there are always great costumes to be seen, strolling past in the corridors and Exhibit Hall, on display in glass cases, in countless images on posters, comics, fine art, and books, even in miniature form on collectable figures and in computer games. Costuming is a vital ingredient of nearly all the popular arts, and has been a part of fan conventions ever since the first World Science Fiction Convention in New York in 1939. At Comic-Con’s Saturday night big event it’s a unique evening of fun and amazing costume creations as the stage lights brighten, the music swells, the spotlights come on, and the huge audience that’s lined up many hours in advance takes their seats for the 41st annual Comic-Con Masquerade costume competition.

Not a dance nor party as the name might imply, it’s an on-stage event in the style of a talent competition, with a Master of Ceremonies, a panel of guest judges, and impressive awards in various categories. The large elevated stage has theater-style lighting, changing backdrops, and 4 huge high-definition video screens providing great close-up views gathered by multiple cameras, so everyone gets great viewing. An audience of 3,900 fills the convention center’s Ballroom 20 to capacity, and an overflow audience of over 2,000 more people watch the show on large projection screens in the nearby Sails Pavilion and other ballrooms. It is FREE to participate in— or just be in the audience—for anyone with a Comic-Con attendee badge valid for Saturday.

Comic-Con International Masquerade

Masquerade winner for Judges’ Choice.  A re-creation of all the Doctor Whos, plus the TARDIS. Made and worn by “The Time Lords.”

Why is it called a Masquerade and not simply a costume contest or fashion show?  Because it’s more than just posing on stage, it’s about portraying characters too, creating moods, sometimes a sense of story. It’s an event of spectacle, drama, comedy, lightsaber battles, even some song and dance, where you never know what’s going to step onto the stage next. The Masquerade recognizes that the creative arts reside in all of us, the arts are not meant to be just a spectator sport, and that among our attendees there is plenty of their own amazing talents and creativity worth showcasing. More than a few times over the years we’ve seen our contestants go on to professional costuming or related careers in the arts.

Some entries are solo costumes; others are groups with a shared theme. Many will be fabulous re-creations from movies, TV shows, anime, computer games, history, and of course comic books, but some completely original designs will be presented as well, some never seen before anywhere. All costume genres are welcome, but no purchased or professionally sourced ones are allowed. It’s a celebration of imagination and craftsmanship, not shopping ability, and to have a great time is the main objective.

Comic-Con International Masquerade: Kaja and Phil Foglio

Kaja and Phil Foglio, multi-talented artists and writers of Studio Foglio, once again our wonderful Master and Mistress of Ceremonies that guided us through the evening of amazing costumes and clever presentations.

Our Master and Mistress of Ceremonies will again be the very entertaining five-time Hugo Award-winning artists and writers Phil Foglio and Kaja Foglio, who for many years have created, published, and contributed to a variety of comics, art, and games in the science fiction and fantasy genres through their company Studio Foglio.  They are guests of honor at many conventions, and you’ll often find them at the Girl Genius booth in our Exhibit Hall.

To attend as an audience member, all you need is your Saturday badge. Tickets for Ballroom 20 seating for the Masquerade are given out FREE starting at noon on Saturday to those people lining up early, so they may get out of line to enjoy other daytime events at Comic-Con, then return to the Masquerade line later (towards the evening) knowing there will be a seat for them. Tickets are not needed for watching the show in the Sails Pavilion or the overflow ballrooms, although Sails Pavilion seating can fill up too.

Comic-Con International Masquerade

AGENTS OF A.I.M.: Masquerade winner for Best Technical Fabrication. A re-creation from Marvel Comics, worn by Kevin & Laura Pishion, Rick Ferguson, Brett Yee, Dave Penner, Kevin Nagata, Richard Phan, Michelle Zaw, and Jamie Baer. Made (and somehow transported) by Kevin and Laura Pishion, complete with electronics and a built-in iPad.

How to Enter

There is only space in the event for a limited number of contestants, so if you’d like to share your costume creation with our audience you should apply for a contestant slot as soon as possible. To receive complete information, detailed rules, click here to download the Comic-Con 2015 Masquerade Rules and Entry Form PDF. We usually fill up all our slots many weeks in advance of the convention, so requesting a reserved spot early is advised. A photo of the costume you will be wearing will be required for full confirmation as a contestant.

Flash photography is NOT allowed in the ballroom during the event, but there will be an off-stage Photo Area with a backdrop in a nearby room, where the contestants pose after their stage presentations. Photographers or Press who wish access to this Masquerade “Photo OP” Stage Area should email the coordinator at masquerade@comic-con.net ahead of time to request a reserved spot, as it fills up quickly, and spaces are limited so as to avoid crowding. Note: this is a non-public area and access is only open to those with approval and it always fills up.

Our contestants go to much work to craft their amazing creations, but some who are confirmed as contestants are unable to buy attendee badges due to the sell-out. For ONLY those contestants who have been accepted into the Masquerade at least once since 2011, if you’ve a costume suitable for the show, and submit an entry form and photos, and we deem you meet the acceptance criteria as listed in the rules, we can arrange for contestants to be able to buy a 2015 attendee badge so they can participate,despite badges being sold out. Email the coordinator at masquerade@comic-con.net for more information. Please note: there are a limited number of such badges available, and a limited number of contestant slots.

Comic-Con International Masquerade Award Medallions

Winners in the Comic-Con Masquerade trophy categories receive beautiful custom medallions, crafted by the same company that supplies many Hollywood award shows, designed for Comic-Con by fantasy artist and illustrator Sue Dawe. Better than sharing a trophy, this allows each member of a winning group to receive something they can wear around the convention the next day.

Beautiful Comic-Con awards, featuring our custom-created Comic-Con Masquerade medallions, will be presented in categories of Best In Show, Judges’ Choice, Best Re-Creation, Best Original Design, Best Workmanship, Best Presentation, Most Beautiful, and Best Young Fan. Our award medallions were designed by fantasy artist and illustrator (and costumer) Sue Dawe, whose internationally published creations have been featured by the Franklin Mint, as well as on greeting cards, stationery, posters, porcelain statuettes, and more.

AND! Any costumed entry winning one of the above Comic-Con award categories will also receive a FREE 4-day membership badge to Comic-Con 2016! If you’re a winning costume you’ll have your badge for 2016, Comic-Con’s extra thank-you for all your hard work and talent!  Badges are non-transferable; and if a group wins, up to 4 memberships will be given.

In addition to the Comic-Con awards listed above, the following companies and organizations will be generously donating their own awards to outstanding costumes, as selected by their own representatives:

•  Frank And Son Collectible Show, of the City of Industry, CA, “Your one-stop show for all your collectible needs” will present to the entry they deem the audience favorite a prize of $1,000 cash, plus a very impressive trophy.

•  DC Comics representatives will present a special DC Direct collectible valued at $300 to the finest entry portraying a DC Comics character or characters from their publications or films.

•  Lucasfilm Ltd. will reward the best Star Wars costumers with fabulous items from their Licensing Archives. The finest Star Wars entries will be selected by a Lucasfilm representative to receive very special limited-edition collectibles.

•  Sideshow Collectibles:  Do you think your costume entry into this year’s contest will elicit lots of ooo’s and ahhhh’s from the crowd? If that’s the case, you’ll be in the running to win a $350 gift card from Sideshow Collectibles for use on their website! So bring that WOW factor to Comic-Con’s Masquerade contest and you might walk (or strut) away with Sideshow’s prize.

•  The Will Eisner Spirit of Storytelling Award is a NEW prize, offered in 2015 for the first time anywhere. It commemorates Will Eisner’s contributions to the comics medium and his imaginative storytelling skills as exemplified by his iconic comic character, The Spirit and his many graphic novels. The award will be bestowed by Will Eisner Studios to the Masquerade entry they deem best showcases the all-important “art of storytelling” in their stage presentation and includes a $500Amazon.com gift card plus limited edition Will Eisner prints for the winning entrants. 2015 also marks the 75th anniversary of Will Eisner’s The Spirit. The Spirit Newspaper Section reached 5 million readers and was known for its imaginative stories and creative artwork and is still in print today.

Click here to download the 2015 Masquerade official rules and entry form!

More awards will be announced in the weeks to come, so check this page regularly for updates. And whether you are in the event—or just attending the convention to watch, listen and learn—why not dress to impress and add to your fun?

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