Gratitude is the Best Attitude: A Comic-Con Tale Three Years in the Making
Three years ago I dressed up as Agent Carter to enter the Disney Studio Lot Halloween costume contest. I’d spent the previous week scouring vintage stores in Burbank to complete the ensemble I’d decided to assemble only days prior. I distinctly remember looking at an article online that displayed photos from a recent Convention where someone was dressed up as Peggy/Agent Carter. She was wearing a jacket that resembled the vintage British Army coat I’d purchased the year before from a shop in Camden while studying abroad in London. Inspiration struck in that instant — using my jacket, I would become Peggy Carter. I re-watched Captain America: The First Avenger and studied every outfit she wore. I paused my DVD when Peggy came on screen and analyzed how the vintage pieces I’d found could be combined into an ensemble resembling the ‘Peggy look’.
On Halloween I woke up early, eager and excited to transform. I walked with a quiet power — a steady swagger full of confidence that an English woman in the Army would possess — across the lot. I was Peggy Carter. I think I even spoke with a British accent to passerby. I found my friends, and asked them to take my picture which I promptly posted to Twitter. I tagged Marvel and the Social Media Manager (now Sr. Manager) Adri Cowan, hoping she would see it. I went to queue for the costume contest. I checked my phone, opened Twitter and there were more notifications than I’d ever seen before. I didn’t understand. How had this happened!? I scrolled all the way to the bottom and the first retweet had been the Marvel Entertainment account. The brand responsible for the character I was portraying had given me their seal of approval. The internet was applauding my efforts via likes and retweets which meant just as much, if not more, than the few people who recognized my costume in person. Mind you, this was before Agent Carter had her own scripted show on ABC. She was simply someone I’d chosen to highlight from the Marvel universe for the following reasons. One, I did physically resemble her to some degree. Two, she was a self-assured and skilled women in a time when that was unusual. And three, as the love interest of Steve Rogers/Captain America (portrayed by Chris Evans) I couldn’t help but hope to embody that. Two girls who were working on the show Agent Carter came up and asked for my picture. I didn’t make a splash at the costume contest, but I didn’t mind. I held the Marvel retweet in a much higher regard. My Halloween had been made and it was barely even noon.
Fast forward to this year and this past weekend. I was at San Diego Comic Con for the third year in a row. I’d previously hoped I would spot Adri at the Marvel booth, simply say hello, and something like “hey, I think you retweeted a picture of me once which was cool.” But the more I thought about it, the result of her actions resonated far deeper. I wanted to thank her. To express my gratitude for a simple action that meant so much. The retweet was validation from a behemoth brand globally known and respected. A shoutout of appreciation for someone who’d made the effort to celebrate a character they’d created. A fan who’d committed time and resources to demonstrate her connection to their work. Cultivating my Peggy ensemble was a project and goal I’d set for myself and achieved. And not just to my own satisfaction, but that of the highest judge.
All of this from a simple retweet. And Adri didn’t know. Was unaware of how great an impact doing her job had had on me. I needed to tell her. To express my gratitude for this approval, this indication that I was welcomed into a community of cosplayers and Marvel fans. That as a girl, I could enter this space. I know now that I need not ask nor wait for permission to celebrate the things I love, and participate in fandoms, but at the time I was hesitant and insecure. On the final day of Comic Con I staked a lot of my emotional energy on finally being able to thank Adri. And through the kindness of one Judy Stephens, whom I’d asked a question of earlier in the day at the Women of Marvel panel, Adri emerged from the hidden Marvel layer on the show floor and I spoke to her. And by ‘spoke’ I mean tried to utter complete sentences and cohesive thoughts through tears, which she so graciously endured. I’m not entirely sure why I cried, and I hoped that in writing this I could more clearly pinpoint why. It comes down to gratitude. That someone acknowledged my effort, that a woman was shining a light on another woman. That I owed a cool memory to her, and had never had the chance to let her know. Practicing gratitude often means expressing it, telling those for whom you’re grateful, why you are. In keeping my own gratitude diary, I’ve noticed that I’m most grateful for opportunities and people. It might seem selfish to feel the need to express it, but being on the receiving end is a wonderful feeling. Why deny someone that moment? Who knows how it will affect them?
So Adri, thank you. For acknowledging me, for coming out to chat, and for continuing to do good work with a reach farther than you will ever know. As Peggy loves to say, ‘know your value’. Thank you for helping me realize mine.