Why One Portland Comic Con Has Banned All Nazi Costumes

Why One Portland Comic Con Has Banned All Nazi Costumes

Rose City Comic Con in Portland, Oregon has banned all cosplay that features Nazi symbols or designs, including old-school Hydra and Red Skull costumes. This comes after several groups in Nazi-esque gear were spotted at the con, in what Rose City Comic Con’s founder has indicated is a growing trend.

Image: Marvel Comics

“I would say that I’ve seen more people dressed up as some form of Nazi this year at conventions around the country than I’ve ever seen before,” founder and convention director Ron Brister told us.

The con issued a statement Thursday announcing they were officially changing their costume policy on “hateful symbols” to specifically include Nazi paraphernalia, even when the costume is designed to be ironic or issue a political statement. It also names as banned “Old School Hydra and Red Skull” costumes as the original comic book incarnations of both were strongly associated with Nazis. The policy does not include modern Hydra cosplay, like from Secret Empire, so long as it doesn’t feature overt Nazi symbolism. The new policy reads, as reported by Bleeding Cool:

Historical costumes can be great, but reminders of unspeakable atrocities are not appropriate — this goes for Old School Hydra and Red Skull or any other Nazis from entertainment properties. Those figures, while comic-related, are still very much Nazis. As a result, they are 100% banned, always. This includes any sort of “ironic” or satirical costumes that re-appropriate Nazi paraphernalia or gear.

According to Brister, there were about three or four groups at the convention who were sporting Nazi regalia. This included people dressing up in older, distinctly Nazi-style Hydra costumes claiming they were meeting a Red Skull cosplayer, as well as those who dress up as Hello Kitty in the uniform of an SS officer. The Hello Kitty SS cosplay, which has been around for years, is presented as satire, but Brister said it’s still in poor taste.

“I don’t think as a parent that’s something we should have to explain to our kids as something that is funny,” Brister said.

As previously mentioned, Brister has noticed an uptick in Nazi cosplay. It could be because there are more shows with Nazi characters, like Amazon’s The Man in the High Castle. It could be the result of some cosplayers wanting to be shocking or controversial, or they’re reflecting online troll culture, which sometimes uses Nazi imagery. It’s also possible that the amount hasn’t actually changed much, we’re just more aware of it thanks to the rise in Neo-Nazi activity over the past several months.

Brister said he has no idea why there’s more Nazi cosplay spotted nowadays, but he did call it “disturbing to say the least.” And while he thinks it’s a bad idea overall, he added that dressing in Nazi gear is an especially insulting thing to do in Portland, given recent events. Two people were killed earlier this year trying to stop 35-year-old Jeremy Christian from assaulting a pair of Muslim women on a commuter train. Christian, who spouted openly racist rhetoric during the attack, was seen a month beforehand at a rally giving the Nazi salute.

“Five years ago, we probably didn’t think much about [Nazi-esque cosplay]. But I think given the events that have taken place, and especially here in Portland, where we have a white supremacist self-proclaimed Nazi who tried to attack some girls … We’re just really sensitive to this, and we just don’t want this in our community,” Brister said.

Brister said that, after the cosplaying groups were confronted by security staff, some of them complied, while others left and came back the next day in the same costumes to “push the envelope,” reciting cosplay guidelines as a defence against being excluded from the convention — hence why the con changed the rules. As of now, the punishment for arriving in Nazi-related cosplay is a lifetime ban, but Brister said that was the work of an “overzealous marketing person” and it will be changed to simply ask the person to leave and change their clothes.

“I believe all these individuals are not truly Nazi sympathizers,” Brister said. “We’d just appreciate it if they wore something else.”