So, this is my first blog in a series about conventions. Wondering why I am starting with cosplay and not the conventions themselves?
Well, for starters, there is huge variety of conventions out there. From Ad Astra, to TFCon…Niagara Falls Comic Con to Fan Expo and even some in my neighbourhood of Kitchener Waterloo, Kitchener Comic Con and KW Tricon. If you want to see what’s out there, you can check out links like the one that I have below, or even areas like Facebook.
They are all awesome, and they all vary in size, cost to attend and what they offer, because let’s face it, it’s not cheap to run such an event. That said, from the smaller, newer cons to the older, larger events, they all have a few common elements that they share…
Cosplay, Comics/Manga, Artists/Vendors, Gaming, Groups, Volunteers and Celebrity/Special Guests. What about Panels and Workshops? Well, those tie in to these areas and vary convention to convention.
So, I have to start with one of the best parts of any convention, the appearance of the COSPLAYER. My family and I are regulars at the Fan Expo events, so the pictures in this blog are from there, while the groups mentioned can be found attending various conventions throughout the year.
So without further ado…..
What exactly is cosplay?
The definition, according to Collins English Dictionary online site (http://www.collinsdictionary.com/) is:
– a recreational activity in which people interact with one another while dressed as fictional characters
Yawn. For me, a better description is:
A cosplayer is someone who, with skill and patience, has managed to transform him/herself into a walking, talking fictional character, where their appearance is the art and asking about their inspiration is their story.
Cosplay is short for costume play, and Wikipedia actually has a pretty nice article on its history. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cosplay. According to the article, while Japan is credited with the origins of the cosplay culture, the word itself has been around since 1984. It was used by Nobuyuki Takahashi (president of Studio Hard, and published in the magazine My Anime) to describe the costumed attendees that he saw while attending the 1984 World Science Fiction Convention, or WorldCon in Los Angeles. Nowadays, no convention would be complete without the cosplayer, with costumes ranging from the store-bought variety to intricate and highly accurate designs that could easier fit into the tv show, comic, manga or movie that inspired them. My personal favourite is when young kids attend a convention in costume. Below are two of my favourite pics…
Today, at a typical convention, you can expect to meet anyone from Black Canary to Ant Man, Iron Man to Judge Dredd. You will as see Constantine, Spy versus Spy, Sherlock and Groot. If you can make it into a cosplay someone will do it, and the results can be pretty incredible.
Now a bit about the details of a cosplay costume…and it’s all in the details. Whether you have pulled all of your pieces together from consignment shops or hand stitched every piece, your effort is noticed. Although the range of cosplayers is huge, I am keeping it simple. The casual cosplayer, the experienced cosplayer and the professional cosplayer. The one thing that they all have in common, is that they do it because they enjoy it and it’s fun (even during the frustrating times).
Maybe you are the casual cosplayer. You don’t always cosplay and your costumes may not be as labour-intensive as others. Sometimes you hand-make everything, other times some of your pieces are handmade and the rest came from consignment shops. However, you have enjoyed what you created, maybe learned a few tricks, and feel great when you are stopped for a photo, or asked about an accessory. I like meeting cosplayers like you, because you are like me. Cosplay is fun, but not all-consuming.
Then there is the more experienced cosplayer. You always cosplay, and plan in advance what your costume will be. It may take three months, maybe more. You buy the correct fabric, accessories, and in some cases, parts (think Steampunk). You research the patterns, get advice from other cosplayers and when you go out on the floor, you know that all the work was worth it. You will enter the Masquerade, and you are complimented by fellow cosplayers who are as serious as you are. I like meeting cosplayers like you because of that dedication. When I hear about what went into your creation, the passion for you what you do comes out in your voice, even if you don’t realize it. Maybe you do it because you are obsessed about a particular character, or maybe you are using it as a way to get into the industry of costume design and this gives you the chance to build your portfolio. Maybe you belong to a group, like the Ontario DCU or The Doctor Who Society of Canada (DWSC). I think that the majority of cosplayers that I’ve met fall into this category.
Then there is the professional cosplayer. You are the featured guest at a convention, the judge at the Masquerade. You are in the business of costume design, special effects make-up, modelling, or a prop builder. You work in tv or film, work for one of the many creative industries out there, or you’ve turned your cosplaying passion into a business. You eat, sleep and breathe this. You pass on your skills and knowledge in panel and workshops. You realize that the industry is ever-changing, and continue to build your own skill set to keep up.
Then there are the cosplay groups. My title photo is of the Ontario DCU. They are one of many groups of individuals who travel to various conventions showcasing their talents. They are not only great with their costume designs, but they also excel at becoming the characters that they represent.
We have also seen group photos from the Marvel Universe, Ontario Ghostbusters, 501st Canadian Garrison and Doctor Who (The Doctor Who Society of Canada or DWSC did a group photo-op in 2012 which one of my sons was fortunate enough to take part in, he’s the one in the Stetson).
These groups not only are incredible cosplayers, but have used their powers of awesomeness to help support various charities (great cosplay AND a great cause, can’t beat that!). They can all be found on Facebook so make sure you check them out! I will be covering groups like those mentioned above in a future blog. There are also groups for Steampunk, Star Trek, Horror Writers, the list gets pretty long…..
Professional cosplayers who have gone from being fans who dressed up at conventions for fun to turning their love into a business have also become a staple. Names like Vicky Bunny Angel, BatMark and Robin, Kay Pike, and the above mentioned Jenn Marvel to name but a few, are regulars on the convention circuit, with their own Facebook pages and websites. There was even a tv show called “Heroes of Cosplay”. They not only attend conventions as fans just like everyone else, but sometimes judge the highlight event for many cosplayers, the Masquerade. The Masquerade is the time for cosplayers to show off all of their hard work in a contest that gives them a chance to not only win prizes, but a fantastic way to meet with fellow cosplayers. It also is an opportunity for other fans to see cosplayers that they may have missed while on the convention floor. If you have never attended one, it’s worth checking out.
Now, when it comes to being a fan of cosplay, there is admiring a cosplayer, and there is just being plain creepy. I’ve saved the most important message for the end of this article. It is something that is not only important, but also one of that can never be overlooked or downplayed. It’s becoming a familiar sign for convention attendees…
The message? Respect the person behind the costume. Cosplayers are fans too, and would actually like to take in the convention attractions as well without worrying about how they will be treated by others. For my family and I that means asking for their photo, and even things like not bothering when they are having lunch, having downtime with friends, or on their way to a panel. That said, I know that over the years I have probably broken my own rules and caught a cosplayer when they were heading somewhere. For that I apologize, and would never be offended if a cosplayer told me to bugger off because they are tired and have just had enough (though I have also learned that cosplayers in general have the patience of saints).
Cosplayers are awesome people. They are creative and fun. It’s great to cosplay and I love it when we see other families get involved. I have enjoyed meeting many of you over the years and look forward to seeing more when we attend Fan Expo 2016!
Text © Written In Geek blog (2016) All rights reserved
Pictures © Written In Geek blog or used with subject’s permission (2016)