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44th Annual Comic-Con Masquerade

Celebrating costuming in the popular arts and the creativity of our attendees

Comic-Con International 2018 Masquerade

The Saber Guild was one of two performance groups that entertained the audience during the Judging Intermission at Comic-Con 2017.

Photo: K. Green © 2018 SDCC


San Diego Comic-Con was only a few years old, back in the 1970s, when the many costumes worn by attendees made it clear that costuming was not only an important ingredient in many of the popular arts, but was a fun highlight of the convention, and deserving of its very own special event. Our Saturday night showcase is a unique evening of amazing costume creations and imaginative and entertaining ways to present them, starring our non-professional but highly talented attendees. Not a dance nor party as the name might imply, it’s an on-stage series of costume presentations in the style of an amateur talent competition, with a Master of Ceremonies, a panel of guest judges, and impressive awards given by the convention and generous prizes and awards given by many professional costuming and educational groups, as well as comics industry representatives.

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 capturing the feel of the character, creating moods, and sometimes a sense of story. There can be elements of drama, comedy, suspense, a faux battle, unexpected surprises, and even song and dance. While most of the convention is about our many attending professionals discussing their work or sharing news on their projects, the Masquerade reminds us that the creative arts reside in ALL of us, and that among our attendees there’s plenty of amazing talents and creativity worth showcasing. More than a few times over the years we’ve seen our “cosplaying” contestants go on to professional costuming careers.

Ballroom 20’s large elevated stage will have great viewing for all thanks to four huge high-definition video screens overhead and multiple cameras to capture close-ups. As an audience of 3,800 fills that ballroom for the Masquerade, an overflow audience of 2,000 more 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 badge valid for Saturday. And if you just plan to be in the audience you don’t have to wear a costume, but as with the rest of the convention, wearing costumes is always encouraged to add to the fun!

Some entries will be solo costumes; others can be groups with a shared theme. Many will be re-creations from movies, TV shows, anime films, Broadway shows, computer games, history, and of course comic books, but there will also be some completely original designs, 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 fun evening is the main objective.

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. You’ll often find them in person at the Girl Genius booth in our Exhibit Hall.

Since our audience always starts to line up hours early, to make life easier for our attendees we will, as usual, be giving out Masquerade tickets for Ballroom 20 seating FREE at noon on Saturday, July 21, to those in line, so they may then get out of line to enjoy other daytime events and return to the line later towards the evening knowing there will be seating for them. Tickets are not needed for watching the show in the Sails Pavilion or the overflow ballrooms, although the Sails Pavilion seating can fill up as well. And after the Masquerade, the Sails Pavilion becomes a lively venue of music and dance! Special reserved seating will be available for Comic-Con’s special guests.


Comic-Con International 2018 Masquerade

“Dawnseeker lx’kin, Arakkoa Sage”, made and worn by Malis Vitterfolk. Best in Show winner, plus winner of the Hollywood Art Director’s Guild award for Best Graphic Design.

Photo: K. Green © 2018 SDCC

How to Enter

There’s only space and time in the event for a limited number of contestants, so if you’re an attendee that would like to share your costume creation with our audience you should apply for a contestant slot as soon as possible.

For complete information, detailed rules, and an advance entry form,
Click here to download the Comic-Con 2018 Masquerade Rules & Entry Form.

All slots usually fill up several weeks in advance of the convention, so sending in an Entry Form early is advised. Photos of the costume you will be wearing will be required for full confirmation as a contestant. More details are on the download.

Flash photography is NOT allowed in the ballroom during the event, but there will be an off-stage Photo Area 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 write the coordinator at ahead of time to request a reserved spot, as it fills up quickly. Note this is a non-public area and access is only open to those with approval.

Video photography of the Masquerade event is allowed for personal non-profit use. Any videography in the ballroom for professional purposes MUST be cleared with Comic-Con beforehand, please write to to make a request.

During the Judging Intermission the audience will be treated to special live entertainment and short films. This year we’ve invited back the very impressive The Corps Dance Crew. Founded in 2013 by its current directors Kayla Mallari and Sonali Samarasena, the Corps Dance Crew is a talented team that brings anime and comics to life through dance. Coupling cosplay, popular music, and a variety of dance styles, The Corps has explored favorite fandoms with a twist.  They have performed at numerous conventions including WonderCon, Anime Expo, and Comic-Con International.


Comic-Con International  Masquerade

The Comic-Con International Masquerade award medallions, designed by artist Sue Dawe.

Photo: B. Brown © 2018 SDCC


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
  • Most Humorous
  • Most Beautiful
  • Best Young Fan

Our award medallions (at right, above) were designed by fantasy artist and illustrator Sue Dawe, and manufactured by the same maker of the Emmy and Golden Globe awards.

And, any costumed entry winning one of the above Comic-Con award categories will also receive a FREE 4-day membership badge to our 2019 Comic-Con! This is Comic-Con’s extra thank you for all your hard work and talent. Complimentary badges are non-transferable, and if a group wins, up to five free 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. More companies and groups will be added to this list as we get closer to Comic-Con, so check back often.

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

DC Comics representatives will present a special, limited edition DC Collectibles item to the finest costume entry portraying a DC Comics character or group of characters from the DC universe of publications and movies.

The Costume Designers Guild IATSE Local 892: Celebrity Hollywood costume designer judges from the CDG will present to their favorite entry a special prize, plus a CDG Masquerade trophy provided by Legacy Effects and a full year’s subscription to Costume Designer magazine. The CDG is Local 892 of the International Alliance of Theatrical and Stage Employees (I.A.T.S.E.), and represents Costume Designers, Assistant Costume Designers and Costume Illustrators working at the highest levels of expertise in motion pictures, TV, commercials, music videos, and new media.

The David C. Copley Award for Most Innovative CostumeUCLA's David C. Copley Center for The Study of Costume Design will bestow on their favorite entry the UCLA Copley Center Design Award of a $1,000 gift card to, plus a copy of Hollywood Sketchbook: A Century of Costume Illustration, (cover price $75) by Deborah Nadoolman Landis, Copley Center Director.

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 your best costume creation to Comic-Con's Masquerade contest and you might walk (or strut) away with Sideshow's generously donated prize.

The Will Eisner Spirit of Storytelling Award 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 and textbooks. 2017 marked the centennial of Will Eisner’s birth and this award is bestowed by Will Eisner Studios on the entry they deem best showcases that all-important “art of storytelling” in their stage presentation. The costuming and story are equally important. At its peak, The Spirit Sunday comic newspaper section reached 5 million readers and was known for its imaginative stories, creative artwork, and eye catching splash pages. The winning entrant will receive $250 in Amazon gift cards plus limited-edition Will Eisner giclée lithographs.

Anime Pavilion, of Falls Church, Virginia, a source for all things anime and anime-related, will present to what they choose as best anime-inspired costumes $200 credit at their popular Comic-Con Exhibit Hall booth or their expansive website for their top choice, plus $50 cash to the best Young Fan anime-inspired entry.

Costumer's Guild West, Inc. will be presenting a full scholarship and one night's hotel (valued at $300) to their weekend conference, Costume College®, held the last weekend in July at the Warner Center Marriott in Woodland Hills, CA,  awarded to the entry their representatives select as showing the most promise. Costume College provides educational lectures and workshops in every aspect of costuming. More details at:

For any specific inquiries not covered here or in the Masquerade Information Pamphlet PDF, please email

Comic-Con International 2018 Masquerade

“Ursula The Sea Witch,” made and worn by Jose Davalos. Winner of the Frank & Son Collectible Show $1,000 cash  Audience Favorite award, and the UCLA David C. Copley Center Award for Most Innovative Costume

Photo: K. Green © 2018 SDCC