What’s the Deal with Cosplay and Prop Rules at Denver Pop Culture Con?

by | Jan 19, 2018

No one likes this topic. Literally no one, and least of all us. We are in the business of fun, and enforcing rules like these don’t make us happy and they don’t elicit a sense of “fun.”

Props policies, however, are complicated and stir up a great deal of emotional response from attendees, vendors, and cosplayers. We get responses all along the spectrum from “thanks for keeping us safe” to vitriolic, unrepeatable angry comments. And we understand.

So, let’s talk about it. Or more to the point, let me explain why this policy is here to stay and how you can save yourself as much headache as possible.

This Policy is Not Designed to Make People Miserable and Inconvenience Dedicated Cosplayers

The bottom line is, we don’t do this for entertainment. We didn’t sit around tenting our fingers like Mr. Burns on The Simpsons, thinking: How can we make people really angry with us?

Instead, and based on a great deal of internal knowledge that is not appropriate to share with the public, the thought was: How can we make attendees safer and reduce possible threatening situations? After all, we are people with families who care about this community deeply, and nothing keeps us awake more than the possibility of harm coming to anyone at our event.

The next piece to consider is that our comic con world — as much as we want it to be — is not insulated from the real world, and not everyone who attends our show has good intentions.

That’s a sad truth, and you don’t need to look far on any given news day to find examples of people in places who believed that nothing bad would ever happen in their pleasant little corner of the world. Until it does.

You Might Ask Yourself, “So, Why Don’t You Just Increase Security and Prop Checks Instead of Banning Things?” 

The answer to this is also not simple. What is lacking is the sheer amount of personnel we can employ for the event, both from an availability standpoint and without a drastic change in ticket prices. Perhaps even more importantly, it doesn’t mitigate the situation that is created if a live shooter were in or outside the building.

We live in a world where walking around with realistic firearms is no longer a smart thing to do, and we feel it is irresponsible to allow it to continue, knowing that it increases risks to every person at our show, including the people carrying said props.

“But This Stupid Policy Ruins My Costume.”

We do understand this and empathize; however, in the grand scheme of things, safety must outweigh accurate costuming.

This doesn’t mean we don’t like our cosplayers and community partners, or are intentionally disrespecting them, but managing a large event is about the majority, and the majority of you have spoken that you wish for better security measures at Denver Pop Culture Con.

We understand if you take the policy personally and it affects your decision to attend. Unfortunately, the policy isn’t going anywhere and while it may change slightly from year to year, the central premises will remain for the foreseeable future.

“What About Uneven Enforcement?” 

Yes, we know about this and it is infuriating when our enforcement doesn’t go as planned.

We are taking great strides for 2018 to standardize the policies with bag and prop checkers at the con. It’s another sad truth that when tens of thousands of people are being processed by people who don’t work for us year-round and know us well, it will never be perfect.

Please know we are always working toward that end, and you should see some big changes in 2018 that we hope will make things simpler for entry.

How to Make This as Painless as Possible

We always recommend bringing as little as possible with you to the con. If you can arrive bag- and prop-free, you will enter a great deal faster (but that doesn’t mean that you won’t have to still potentially wait on Saturday during peak entry).

If you must bring a bag, and most people fall into this category, make sure to have as few items as possible and be prepared for a full bag search.

If you are using a prop of any sort (a prop is defined as something you carry as part of a costume), you will need to undergo a prop check, with the understanding that you may not be permitted to bring the item in with you.

We will provide as much information as possible on our website about what is and is not allowed in advance of the event, but if you are in doubt or are not willing to part with your prop by returning it to a vehicle or disposing of it, please leave it at home.

For Next Time…

Touchy topic this week, but I hope this helped. As always, if you have more questions or would like to suggest a topic for me to cover, feel free to write them in the comments below, or post them on our Facebook, Instagram or Twitter pages.

Also, we have an official Facebook group dedicated to Denver Pop Culture Con Cosplay, linked HERE. Posting your questions or comments on the FB group will get the fastest response, and you can send e-mail to cosplay@popcultureclassroom.org.

Keep an eye out for our next post in a few weeks, where I’ll give a behind-the-scenes look at how we book our celebrity guests.



  1. Ariel Nestegard

    Good day!

    I went to your Comicon in Denver in 2017. I was told prop guns are not allowed, however, when I attended I saw half of the cosplayers with prop guns. What is the rule on these, please? I plan on dressing up as Ash from Ash Vs. Evil Dead and he carries a shotgun. I was thinking of just buying a Nerf gun and painting it. What can I do to help your staff see that it, indeed, isn’t a real weapon?

    Please and thank you kindly

    • Andrew Peters

      Ariel, I’ll be cosplaying as Ash also! What are you using as a chainsaw? I’m using a plastic chainsaw from Spirit Halloween modified. The only metal thing on it is the arm cuff in which I’ve taped off areas that might be sharp to make safe.

  2. Thomas Voth

    It would be best if you corrected your “For Next Time…” comment to not include the Denver Pop Culture Con Cosplay Facebook Group (or at least not imply that comments on the policy are welcome) because the group has the explicit rule “This is not an appropriate forum for ‘Bare Essentials’ guidelines or prop rules. Please direct any associated questions to cosplay@popcultureclassroom.org.”

    Any open conversations in the group of the fairness or effectiveness of the rules is immediately stopped and shutdown. Even in sharing this article Beverly Jo (the group admin) immediately turned off commenting.

    • Tara

      Thomas, you’re right and we’ll update the article. Thank you for pointing that out.

  3. Chris

    I was told from high up that Denver Pop Culture Con is planning on getting rid of cosplay for good, whether next year or after. Since it came from up high, this is clearly more than just speculation. Why would one of the country’s largest cons be so daft as to do such a thing?

    • Tara

      Chris, we would never do that. Cosplay is an important and popular part of the con and we have no plans to get rid of it.

    • chick-a-pow

      I have heard the same the same thing

      • Tara

        Once again, that is absolutely not true. We are not getting rid of cosplay.

  4. Jacinda DuPont

    Just wanted to comment that new and updated policies are understood and I always do my best to alter my props for Denver Pop Culture Con however these policies always put a lot of stress on myself and my friends. Not because it’s a struggle to abide by rules meant to keep everyone safe, but because of the inconsistent enforcement.

    I know it’s not an easy thing to enforce, to make sure all staff and volunteers know exactly what is and is not okay, but we always worry that what we strive to accomplish in making plastic objects 100% okay and impossible to accidentally injure someone will be okay’d by one member of staff but later banned by someone else. I know that this could easily happen if one were to brandish a prop in a dangerous manor it could be banned even after let inside, but we just worry that by walking around someone else could make a random call that a plastic prop is too large and considered dangerous when we’ve striven to make it as lightweight and as much of it is made out of foam as possible. Or even a costume, we are working on a costume that has a pvc skeleton around a person, and although it will not be much larger than the person and all exterior parts of the costume will be foam, we cannot be guaranteed entry even when we speak to staff before the con to make sure it abides by policy.

    Any measures that can be taken to ensure consistent enforcement of policy would be extremely helpful, we thank you for your attempts to make Denver Pop Culture Con a enjoyable, safe convention for everyone.

    • Tara

      Jacinda, thank you for your comment. We understand your concerns around consistency. It’s something that frustrates us as well, and we’re doing all we can to fix the issue, but when people are involved (especially people that don’t work for Denver Pop Culture Con year round), there will be variations. We did our best to streamline the prop policy so that it would be easier for security staff to stick to the rules. Make sure you check them out before you come. And, as always, when in doubt, we advise you leave it at home. https://denverpopculturecon.com/show-info/policies/

  5. Gary Randolph

    Thanks for sharing these thoughts. Yes, it’s a touchy topic due to the reasons you noted. cosplayers put a lot of time, effort and money in ensuring that their costume (including weaponry) is somewhat accurate to film or game. It is disappointing when you can’t show that off as intended. Safety and security are vital, for both cosplayers and attending public. I think we all understand and agree with that need. One of the problems is knowing and understanding what constitutes a realistic firearm. If I look at firearms carried by storm troopers, they are not realistic. Replica firearms from futuristic games or films are not realistic. Modified Nerf guns to look futuristic are also not realistic. However, they are often banned because they do look like firearms – just from another galaxy.
    Perhaps us cosplayers could register our weapons ahead of time, getting a permit. Or maybe we just need to create cardboard cutouts of their weapons for photo ops.

  6. A C

    Are fake spears like props allowed (made out of cardboard and things like that)?

  7. Danny

    Hi Tara,

    Would a Ghostbusters proton pack made from plastic, aluminum and resin be allowed? I have seen a lot of people bring them in the past but I want to make sure. Thank you!

    • Tara

      Danny, your best bet to get an answer to this is to email cosplay@popcultureclassroom.org. However, after reading the prop policy if you have any questions at all, we suggest leaving it at home.

      • Danny

        Thank you Tara. I did email and have no yet gotten a response.

  8. Andrew Peters

    Hey Denver Pop Culture Con, I just wanted to let you know of something I’m very proud of with my prop chainsaw arm. After many talks with your Cosplay team and convention attendees, I have changed the arm bracket out on my saw. It used to be a metal clad plumbing pipe, it is now a rubber plumbing pipe. It is still secured with aluminum plumping tape, (I tried hot gluing but it didn’t bond well). Everything is covered in duct tape and electrical tape. I’ve even got foam inside it. This thing is convention ready!

  9. Hailey

    I have a foam Harley Quinn bat that I actually bought on the con floor last year and have since repainted for a new cosplay, after looking at the new guidelines for props I am still not sure. Will a foam baseball bat be allowed as it is foam which is a permitted material for props this year? Also I have my gun holster and am planning on making faux speed loaders with faux bullets just to add some weight to the holster, because I won’t have a prop gun will the fake bullets coming out of the holster be allowed?

    • Tara

      Hailey, your best bet is to email this question to cosplay@popcultureclassroom.org. However, if you have any doubts, you may just want to leave it at home.

  10. N3kr0

    I’m 3D printing a DVA gun for her to sign. Is that going to be a problem to bring?

  11. Diablo

    What is the policy for large, stilted cosplays that have no props? Referring back to the policy is not useful, as it specifically references “props” – “wood objects of any shape” and I have looked at the guidelines over and over again and cannot decide if that includes the actual cosplay or not. For example, if the wooden stilts are a part of the feet for the costume (not props), does that mean this cosplay cannot come in? I wore my Diablo cosplay last year and have one-four handlers at any given time, but I am not hauling all of those pieces on the light rail to the convention center if I cannot bring it in because the feet are wooden stilts. Can someone be a little more specific? I suspect we will have other large cosplays, for example, the Best in Show Tauren from last year or some life-sized Groots. Surely those cosplays have metal/wooden parts as well, that are not props, but part of the actual costumes.

  12. Wes

    So are you going to be banning vendors as well? We cant bring Light saber props from places like Ultra Sabers and Saber forge but I cant image you would want to Ban the sales of these items from such large vendors? If they are vendors this year (you dont seem to have a list) what happens when someone purchases something from them? will that person be removed for having a non compliant item bought at the convention? How about toy vendors? Some of the items on the ban list just seem silly, not well thought out and quit frankly mean spirited.

    • Tara

      Wes, yes this has been thought through, and the vendors have to abide by the same rules as everyone else.

  13. Chris

    Could I make a suggestion to the policy that it specifically name metal hilt lightsabers? I’ve personally asked and gotten an answer that they’re not allowed but I’ve seen numerous people planning on bringing full metal hilt lightsabers because they are plastic blades. I wouldn’t want someone to stand in that huge admission line only to be told their very expensive prop is not permitted.

    • Tara

      Chris, we had a recent amendment to our cosplay prop policy. Lightsabers with metal hilts (ultrasabers) are allowed.

  14. Oscar Evans

    Hello! This is extremely early but I’m already planning for this event! One of my costumes is going to incorporate some body horror, specifically I’m going to have a mouth on my neck, a third eye, as well as blood. The make-up won’t rub off or drip and it won’t be excessively gory but I just couldn’t find anything in the policies about it.
    Thank you if you’re able to answer this question!

    • Tara

      Oscar, as long as your makeup won’t drip or rub off on the building or any of your fellow attendees, you’re good.


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