Singapore Toy, Game & Comic Convention a family affair

Cosplayers came dressed as, among other characters, Spider-Men and Harley Quinn; while other attendees crossed lightsabers for a wefie (above).
Cosplayers came dressed as, among other characters, Spider-Men and Harley Quinn; while other attendees crossed lightsabers for a wefie (above).ST PHOTO: DESMOND WEE
Cosplayers came dressed as, among other characters, Spider-Men (above) and Harley Quinn; while other attendees crossed lightsabers for a wefie.
Cosplayers came dressed as, among other characters, Spider-Men (above) and Harley Quinn; while other attendees crossed lightsabers for a wefie.ST PHOTO: DESMOND WEE

This year's Singapore Toy, Game & Comic Convention featured a total of 406 brands, compared with 263 last year

Housewife Narrizan Khalil's two teenagers are not the only people who call her "mum".

The cosplaying 50-year-old is a mentor to many others who like to dress up in costumes inspired by comic books or movies. She is a regular at the annual Singapore Toy, Game & Comic Convention (STGCC), which marked its 10th anniversary this weekend at Marina Bay Sands.

Madam Narrizan arrived at the event at the Sands Expo and Convention Centre dressed as Missy from the long-running BBC television series Doctor Who. Sporting a purple Victorian-inspired ensemble with a quirky skeleton cameo brooch, she exchanged hugs and high-fives with friends dressed in the fishnet stockings and tails of magician Zatanna from DC Comics, or the bow tie and beige coat of the Doctor.

She has attended almost every STGCC and says: "I've met so many people through this. It's like having a second family."

STGCC is like a family reunion for fans of pop culture, whether Western comics, Japanese anime or famous franchises such as Star Wars and the X-Men.

The convention celebrates a wide range of entertainment and is organised by ReedPOP, who are behind similar events in New York and Chicago.

Last year, STGCC attracted more than 45,000 visitors over two days. This year, organisers say they might hit 50,000, but could not confirm attendance by press time.

Cosplayers came dressed as, among other characters, Spider-Men and Harley Quinn (above); while other attendees crossed lightsabers for a wefie.
Cosplayers came dressed as, among other characters, Spider-Men and Harley Quinn (above); while other attendees crossed lightsabers for a wefie. ST PHOTO: DESMOND WEE

In 2011, the convention pulled in only 28,000 visitors and many local fans bemoaned the absence of big-name stars. STGCC has since gained steam, with the cast of Captain America: Civil War - including heart-throb Chris Evans - turning up at last year's convention to promote the movie.

This year's STGCC went for breadth over star power, featuring events and products of interest to a diverse range of fans. There were 406 product brands in total this year, compared with 263 last year.

Last Saturday, crowds packed panel discussions featuring Marvel Comics editor and talent scout C.B. Cebulski and DC Comics artist Mirka Andolfo.

Fans swarmed booths to stock up on collectible toys, books and art prints from their favourite illustrators. Lines of patient fans snaked towards tables manned by American comics creator David Mack, Disney artist James Mulligan and Singapore's Eisner Award-winning Sonny Liew.

Gamers thronged the GGX Good Game Experience area, where epic battles were fought on giant screens for the ROG Masters gaming tournaments.

There were smaller consoles for individual gamers to enjoy, bean bags for those who preferred handheld games and even an area for table-top games. At one, a player dressed in a homemade Iron Man armour frowned over his cards, facing an opponent in a Star Wars T-shirt.

Comics lover Darren Cheah, 21, wandered around in a costume inspired by X-Men character Gambit, complete with trick cards. He compared STGCC with the San Diego Comic Con, an event that draws thousands of fans internationally and hosts the annual Eisner Awards honouring the best comics of the year.

"STGCC is not just about anime, like other conventions here. There's also Western pop culture, different kinds of cosplay and toys," he says, demonstrating the "waterfall" shuffle trick. Cards poured out of his upper hand into the lower palm in a mesmerisingly straight line.

Muhammad Syafiq Nasri, 17, wore ordinary clothes at last year's STGCC. This year, he got into the spirit of the event by dressing up as Spider-Man. "The best part is taking pictures with kids who like your costume," he says.

His 13-year-old brother Muhammad Ashridz dressed as the Star Wars anti-hero Kylo Ren, in honour of the Star Wars: Experience The Force area of the event. "It could have been more interactive," he says, disappointed that there were only two games for him to play.

Experience The Force was mostly set up for photo-ops with fan groups dressed as Jedi fighters or in the white armour of the Imperial Stormtroopers. There were also life-sized models of the famous Millennium Falcon spaceship or a Speeder from the 2015 movie Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

STGCC featured a cosplay competition and parade for adults and kids yesterday, but for many ticket-holders, it was enough just to dress up for the day.

Aisyah Abu Bakar, 32, dressed her children, five-year-old Rosalina Wu and two-year-old Muhammad Aidil Wu, as characters from the game Overwatch.

She and her sister Siti Mariam Abu Bakar, 26, joined forces with friends Joanna Rowe-Tan, 34, and Bhavna Vasnani, 27, to dress as male warriors disguised as women in a scene from the Disney movie Mulan.

The quartet have cosplayed together since 2012.

They spent six hours at STGCC, shopping for art prints and attending panels such as the all-female Heroines At The Frontline. The panel featured notable women in the comics industry such as Joyce Chin and Italian artist Andolfo.

The panellists were open and vocal about gender stereotypes in their industry and the glass ceiling that they had tried hard to break. Their struggles saddened girl geeks such as Ms Siti, whose costume choice became an inadvertent statement for gender equality.

"We're cross-dressing as men cross-dressing as women," she says.

He friend Rowe-Tan adds: "Women are 50 per cent of the population. What makes you think we're not 50 per cent of the geek population?"

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 11, 2017, with the headline 'More brands, fewer stars'. Print Edition | Subscribe