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HBO Presents the 43rd Annual Comic-Con Masquerade

Celebrating Costuming in the Popular Arts and the creativity of our attendees!


PLEASE NOTE: At this time all contestant slots for this year's Comic-Con Masquerade costume competition have been filled.

No new entry forms for reserved spots are being accepted, and any requests received from here on will be placed on the Stand-By List to fill spots that may arise from cancellations. Contestants on this list will be notified if any openings arise.  Cancellations can occur all the way up to Comic-Con. Thanks to all you costumers for your enthusiasm!

Click here for a Photo Gallery of the Comic-Con 2016 Masquerade.
Click here to read the official 2017 Masquerade rules online.

Comic-Con International Masquerade

Winner of the Best Workmanship Award at the Comic-Con 2016 Masquerade, Captain America,” worn by Allan Lavigne, David Haley, Tim Hurles, and Joseph Bergandine. Made by Allan Lavigne. Photo: J. Randolph © 2016 SDCC


Comic-Con’s Saturday night showcase, the Masquerade, is a unique evening of amazing costume creations and imaginative and entertaining ways to present them, unlike any other event at the convention. Back in the 1970s, San Diego Comic-Con was only a few years old when the many costumes seen on our attendees made it clear that costuming was not only an important element in nearly all the popular arts but a highlight of the convention itself and deserving of its own special recognition. Not a dance or party as the name might imply, it’s an onstage event in the style of an amateur talent competition, with a Master of Ceremonies, a panel of guest judges, and impressive awards and generous prizes presented in assorted categories.

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 the characters you are dressed as, 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. The Comic-Con Masquerade reminds us that the creative arts reside in all of us, to be shared and encouraged, and that among our attendees there are plenty amazing talents and creativity worth showcasing. More than a few times over the years we’ve seen our contestants go on to professional costuming careers.

Ballroom 20’s large elevated stage has theater-style lighting, changing backgrounds, a state of the art sound system, and four huge high-definition video screens overhead, which provide close-up views gathered by multiple cameras, so everyone gets great viewing. An audience of close to 4,000 fills the Convention Center’s Ballroom 20, and 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 attend for anyone with a Comic-Con 4-day badge or a Saturday badge. And if you just plan to be in the audience, you don’t have to wear a costume.

Some entries are solo costumes; others can be large 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 Ballroom 20 sometimes fills to capacity, we will be giving out free Masquerade tickets for ballroom seating beginning at noon on Saturday to those people lining up early, so they may then get out of line to enjoy other daytime events, then return to the Masquerade line 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  Masquerade

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

Photo by B. Brown © 2016 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. To read this year's detailed rules, please click here.

Flash photography is NOT allowed in Ballroom 20 during the event, but there will be an off-stage Photo Area in a nearby room where the contestants will pose after their stage presentations. Photographers or Press who wish access to this Masquerade “Photo OP” Stage Area should email 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. Past performance groups have included The Saber Guild International Light Saber and Costuming Organization, and The Corp Dance Crew with their imaginative and amazing group dances inspired by anime and comics, and often the major studios provide us with first looks of new movie trailers.

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, and Best Young Fan. Our award medallions were designed by fantasy artist and illustrator 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. There will also be a special Workmanship Judge to take close-up looks of costumers that warrant it.

Any costumed entry winning one of the above Comic-Con award categories will also receive a FREE 4-day membership badge to Comic-Con 2018, our extra thank you for all your hard work and talent. Complimentary badges are non-transferable, and if a group wins, up to four free memberships will be given.


Comic-Con International Masquerade

“Male Kale, The Judicator,” worn and made by Jason Biser. Photo: J. Randolph © 2016 SDCC

Other Awards:

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 the convention approaches, so check back regularly:

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 to be the audience favorite a prize of $1,000 cash, plus a very impressive trophy.

DC Comics representatives will present a special, limited edition DC Collectible item to the finest entry portraying a DC Comics character or 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 CDG Masquerade trophy provided by Legacy Effects and a full year’s subscription to Costume Designer magazine. The Costume Designers Guild 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 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 marks 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 5 limited-edition Will Eisner giclée lithographs.

Sideshow Collectibles—Do you think your costume entry into this year's contest will elicit lots of oooh'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 web site! Bring your best costume creation to Comic-Con's Masquerade contest and you might walk (or strut) away with Sideshow's generously donated prize.

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. For more details visit

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

Motion Picture Costumers Union, Local 705: Clip the stray threads and hide those safety pins! For the second year running The Motion Picture Costumers Union, Local 705 join the judges table at the 43rd Annual Masquerade event. The costumers’ choice will win a custom-created trophy and generous prizes from Premier Sponsors. This technical award is seeking Costume Entries whose skillful execution, creativity, and attention to detail most highlights an imaginative adaptation of the source or custom design.

NEW! The David C. Copley Award for Most Innovative Costume: UCLA'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.

NEW! Costume Con 36 will present, to their favorite entry, two full memberships (value $180) plus one complimentary hotel night of the convention at the Mission Valley DoubleTree by Hilton (value $149) to their May 11-14, 2018 convention in San Diego. Costume Con provides educational lectures and workshops in every aspect of costuming plus two masquerades covering Historical and Sci-Fi/Fantasy, plus a chance to design and construct your own outfits with their Future Fashion Folio and Single Pattern contests. The theme for the convention is "Ports of Call", so let your imagination run wild!

NEW! The Art Directors Guild (ADG, IATSE Local 800) will be presenting awards at the Masquerade for the first time this year. Their two $500 awards are: The Art Directors Guild Cosplay Award for Original Concept Design, presented to the entry most exemplifying a wholly original concept. The “Idea" is paramount in this category, the implementation and craftwork are secondary to the original notion; and, the Art Directors Guild Cosplay Award for Best Graphic Design, presented to the entry whose printed, painted or sculpted graphics are superior.  The ADG, which has presented panels at Comic-Con for a dozen years, has among its members art directors, graphic artists, illustrators, matte artists, model makers, production designers, scenic artists, set designers and title artists of the motion picture, theater, and TV industries.


Comic-Con International 2017 Masquerade Presents The Corps Dance Crew

Comic-Con International 2017 Masquerade Presents The Corps Dance Crew. Click the image for a larger view!

Judging Intermission Live Entertainment: The Corps Dance Crew

During the Masquerade Judging Intermission you’ll be treated to a special storied dance presentation by The Corps Dance Crew, a performance team that brings anime and comics to life through dance, combining custom cosplays, popular music, and fundamental dance styles to bring a theatrical twist to fandom favorites. They’ve amazed audiences at conventions including WonderCon, Anime Impulse, Anime Expo and of course, Comic-Con International. This year they return to our Masquerade stage with the full Teen Titans roster to remind everyone that when there's trouble, you know who to call. Following-up their performance will be some special movie previews.