Art of the Genre: Cosplay

Art of the Genre: Cosplay

There are two incredible things in this picture, and they aren't the outfits
There are two incredible things in this picture, and they aren't the outfits

I live in L.A., Tinseltown, Hollywood, the City of Dreams, and you’d think that being here would overwhelm me with fantasy, but in reality it’s never that way. Sure, now and then you’re someplace ordinary and run into a ‘star’, but seeing the reality of that always seems a letdown as well.

I think that’s why having an office next to Ryan Harvey is so special, because he’s even more a Peter Pan than I am, and his creative vision is always spilling out into the reception area. Kandline, or Kandy as I call her, helps too, her ‘I’m going to make it’ and goth-prep style always bringing a smile to my face when I roll in late from a long line at Starbucks.

Still, I live a pretty mundane life if you don’t include trips on the BG Zeppelin. I have a wife, a son, and bills to pay just like most folk in the world, but there are those moments in time when even I dream about what could have been if time worked a bit differently.

What do I mean? Well, I’m talking about those crazy kids today and their ‘Cosplay’. You see, I’m a Halloween junky, like last year I dressed up in full costume each Friday of October to pick up my son from pre-school. That being said, however, I end my persona-swaps after All Hallows’ Eve, but if life were different, if I were younger, and if Cosplay had existed in 1990 I’m pretty sure my life would have been drastically different.

Now, for those of you who don’t really understand what Cosplay is, let me inform you… it means dressing up as, and in some cases, pretending to be, fictional characters normally found in Japanese manga but certainly not limited to that genre. It is the shortened form of Costumed Play, something coined by Nobuyuki Takahashi when he was attending the Los Angeles Science Fiction Worldcon in 1984 and saw all the costumed people in attendance.

Look, you stupid bastard, you've got no arms left...
Look, you stupid bastard, you've got no arms left...
In today’s world, Cosplay is a business, and if you manage to go to any kind of convention in the world you’re going to run into Cosplayers, and if you’re lucky they might be professional ones with names like Yaya Han, Linda Le, and Alodia Gosiengfiao. I got the chance to meet all three at the SDCC in 2010, and it was an experience I won’t soon forget.

These Cosplayers are so big they actually get flown into such events to host various booths during the show. Its good work if you can get it, and as I packed up my bags to attend this year’s SDCC I was excited to see what was in store for me in the way of Cosplay genius.

There is certainly an art to conventions, and the San Diego Comic Con is perhaps the greatest of these to navigate, the size simply unfounded in anything else I’ve ever dealt with. The hall is huge, with six thousand booths and one-hundred fifty thousand people. Luckily for me, membership has its privileges and I got an exhibitor pass from artist Todd Lockwood. That orange badge allowed me access to the convention hall before the doors opened, and getting a good lay of the land is instrumental in conquering such a venue.

Once in place, a Cosplay watcher needs a strong itinerary for the professionals and a camera close at hand for all the standard guest players that will be walking around you. Rita Lockwood, Todd’s wife, asked about a certain Cosplayer who passed our booth ‘do you think he’d mind a picture?’ Todd smiled and replied, ‘Well, they’re certainly here dressed like that because they ain’t shy, so I doubt it’.

This might have been my first crush... Princess from Battle of the Planets
This might have been my first crush... Princess from Battle of the Planets
Todd was indeed correct, the art of Cosplay is at its very essence exhibition, and those who dress up and come to conventions are there for the purpose of becoming someone much more popular than they are in real life. I mean think about it, how many people asked to take your picture the last time you walked down a busy street? Unless you’re Brangelina, that answer should be ZERO. However, if you go in Cosplay gear to a con, then your whole goal is to be the object of all attention, and stopping for pictures is the closest thing you’re going to get to superstar status.

As I waded through the convention lanes, I saw a particularly wonderful non-pro Cosplay duo, Monty Python’s King Arthur and his porter complete with coconuts. They were genius, and as they traveled King Arthur pretended to ride while the porter clapped the coconuts, and to top it off, only Arthur ever perused a booth, the person playing the porter simply stayed behind him like a good servant.

This fantastic pair took, and yes I timed it, twenty-seven minutes to move forty feet because of all the picture requests. If you were looking for the ‘win’ in Cosplay, then they got it. You see, the art of Cosplay can be a subtle one, and most people would have you believe that it’s all about girls dressing up in ludicrous pseudo-porn outfits for the pleasure of male gawkers, and in some way they may be right, but that is only the veneer in my mind.

Beam me anywhere these ensigns are going!
Beam me anywhere these ensigns are going!
Cosplay, or really good Cosplay, is about taking something outside the norm of Anime and making it your own. Monty Python is a perfect choice, as was another young male player who chose to do Justin Timberlake’s infamous SNL digital short skit ‘Dick in a Box’. I also saw a fantastic Wolverine in his simple Harley clothes and yet he nailed the character just in the way he walked and his dour expression.

Although female Cosplay tends toward the obscene, it can be done well with the correct casting and perfect genetic pool as in one outstanding Jessie the Yodeling Cowgirl from Toy Story fame. Seriously, there isn’t an ounce of sex in Jessie, but the young red-headed woman I saw doing her was off the chart with 1950s straight-laced perfection. In this case, she didn’t need to show an inch of skin to make a perfect Cosplay success.

That brings me to another point, sometimes Cosplay isn’t made, it’s born, or at least some of the best is. I mean it’s damn hard to pull off a Watchman’s Silk Spectre because you’ve got to be a six-foot tall woman to begin with. When you create a character, you need to consider the facial structure, almost like a movie casting call, and then go from there.

Sure, a great body will get you far, as seen each time I watch one of Frank Miller’s 300 Spartans walk past me, but that’s not to say one of those guys could pull of a great Rubeus Hagrid. In this, a Cosplayer must acknowledge their strengths and weakness, and build only on a set of characters that truly fit their mold.

Let’s face it, if I were going to Cosplay I’d have to go the Lex Luther route, or as my friend Brent reminded me, the 70s Brainiac. My days as a mop-headed Luke Skywalker died with my hair follicles around the age of 35…

Nonetheless, there are always a few good standbys that never seem to abandon any convention hall, and these are in the ‘extras’ category. If you’ve gone to a science-fiction convention and don’t see a Stormtrooper, you’re not in the right place. The same can be said for any Star Trek generation uniform. Random barbarians, witches, and elven nobility are always good for show as well

Anyway, I’ve managed to collect some of my favorite shots from the SDCC, and I hope you enjoy looking at them as much as I did taking them.

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C.S.E. Cooney

Cool, Scott!

I’ve been meaning to Google the word “cosplay” but kept forgetting, because I always sort of understood the word in context.

…The context was almost ALWAYS lewd and snarky, so my interest was therefore bright and brief. “Costume.” It makes perfect sense now.

Love the pictures.


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