By John Bond
Cosplay? What is Cosplay I hear you say!!
Some of you who are reading this maybe experienced Cosplayers or those who would like to get into cosplay and don’t know how to. This article will give you the low down on where Cosplay came from, what Cosplay has turned into and also we have spoken to some experienced Cosplayers who tell us why they got into Cosplay and also give some hints and tips for the newbies out there.
First of all what does the word Cosplay mean? When I first started cosplaying I did not realise what the word meant but it is a mash up of two words. Costume and Play and we who do Cosplay are known as Cosplayers. The term Cosplay was penned in 1983 by Nobuyuki Takahashi of the Japanese studio ‘Studio Hard’ while he attended the World Con event in LA. Many people including myself believed that Cosplay originally came from Japan, which is not true and the first Cosplay costume goes to Forrest J. Ackerman who wore a futuristic costume to the 1st World Sci-fi convention in New York, 1939.
So that was where Cosplay began.
So why do people Cosplay?
People Cosplay for many different reasons. For me it is about the escapism from the real world and being someone else for the day. Others Cosplay to raise money for charity and go to events as part of costuming troops like the Iconic Legion or Galactic Knights. People also Cosplay as a hobby. Joey Green who takes the role of Capt. Jack Harkness says that I just always loved dressing up as a kid and love the fact that through Cosplay we all meet like-minded people. For many people it is also about being around friends who are into the same type of thing. Some people do Cosplay because it is a way of getting their time and effort noticed by the general public. Natalie who Cosplays as Gwen Cooper and Donna Noble says ‘And all these people were having their photos taken and I got ridiculously jealous and I wanted to have my photos taken so it was decided that at the next convention I would go in costume, but I had no idea at that time what I was going to do.’
Jemma Bell whose Cosplay ranges from Doctor Who to Kickass talks about the first time she ever put on her costume ‘Brilliant! It was a big change from going from a normal convention attendee in normal attire to suddenly walking around in costume. It's so much fun and very rewarding when you get people asking to have photos taken with you. It's quite strange because I couldn't get my head round the fact people liked my costume enough to want pictures.’
As a cosplayer you will no doubt get asked to have pictures with Children and Adults. You will also get recognition off the person you are trying to portray like Richard did when he was a double for David Tennant ‘Yes I worked with David on the Virgin Media adverts as his body double, he saw pic of me as the doctor and was well impressed. Also as we was shooting in a warehouse which was bloody cold (December), I took the coat with me on set which David took a fancy to and thought was spot on.’
There are thousands of cosplayers across the world and thousands of different genres ranging from Doctor Who to Xmen and Xena Warrior Princess to Pokemon. As a cosplayer you make an actual choice if you are going to make your costume by hand or buy your costume. Cosplaying can be quite an expensive hobby or can be cheap as chips. My own 9th Doctor Costume must of cost me around £50 where as I know costume items can cost people around £300 for a single costume item. Jemma’s thoughts on Cosplay being an expensive hobby. ‘I'd like to say no... but that would be a lie. I find in my opinion it can be expensive...but to be honest it depends who or what you are cosplaying and if you are able to source the costume parts cheap.’ So a good way to see if a costume you may want to do is going to cost you the world is by looking online or speaking to fellow Cosplayers who are in groups on Facebook. There are some people out there who believe that the only way Cosplay can work is if you have screen accurate outfits or use the same material as in the film. Joey says ‘I feel that when Cosplay is done right you have to give it the "Hollywood" budget. Use the same materials and products we see on the screen in order for it to marry well.’ For me personally it's not about having the screen accurate feel as my own Cosplay is not accurate but very similar but there are cosplayers out there who will hunt down through auctions or the internet for screen-used replicas. So this is your own personal preference. IF you have all the money in the world to have a perfect costume.. Go for it.. but if you don’t then no worry.. Do the best you can and get recognised for the hard work and effort you have put into your own costume.
In this day and age there are many cosplayers now who are gender swapping their characters. We have female versions of all 11 Doctors, a female Capt. Jack and Ianto, male River Song, male companions the list is endless. You wander around conventions and you see these gender swap cosplayers and at times I just stopped in my tracks and was like Wow!!! I could never have the courage to do this. Jennifer says ’I see so many genderswapped characters (Sherlock, The Doctor, Jack, etc.) that it makes me think there's a need for more female characters of the forefront of media that connect with a female audience. I think a lot of the negativity associated with cosplay comes from the snarky attitudes you can find online.’ So people do this to break down barriers and also challenge people’s perceptions of what would it be like if Capt. Jack was a female instead of a male or for any character as a matter of fact.
Cosplay takes on in so many different places around the world. The main place Cosplay happens is on the convention and signing event circuits and in the UK there are sooo many different conventions and signing events, such as London Film and Comic Con (LFCC), MCM Expo, Gamer Expo and then you have Chevron, Hallowhedon, Eternal Twilight and many others which are themed convention weekends based on genres. These are the places where people can meet their idols. By being on this circuit I have met so many different actors from the shows I love but this can also become an expensive hobby (I won’t bore you with the details of this) where I could spend up to £600 for one weekend. On the convention circuit you see so many people dressed up as their favourite characters, the costume groups are out there collecting money for charity and promoting their troops and all the Cosplayers are having their pictures taken with adult and children alike. Other places Cosplay takes place at is in University Societies, at film premiers and charity events.
What is it like on the Cosplay scene?
I really love being part of the Cosplay scene as I have been recognised for the work I put into making my costume and then getting recognised by the actors I meet. One or two instances which stick in my mind was when I wore my 9th Doctor outfit in a photoshoot with John Barrowman and he shouted out to me.. “You are my first Doctor” and gave me a hug. He did say some other rude things which is probably not best repeated on a family show :D.
As with any other scene like the Gay Scene, Straight Scene or even football scene there are always negative parts of it too. The one thing I have come across in the Cosplay scene is that there are certain people out there who will always criticise your costumes for not being screen accurate or you don’t look or act like the character you are trying to portray. When we interviewed Natalie she focused this part on roleplaying but this can also happen within the Cosplay circuit. Natalie says ‘Yes definitely and this is definitely something I noticed as a roleplayer there is a snobbishness to those who want to play things non canon and as far as the canon players are concerned that if you were going to go off script, then they will turn their noses up at you and you might as well be writing fan fiction. Ok well maybe we are writing fan fiction, but when you go off script and you go off canon you can take it to a whole new level. There are some roleplayers out there who are so good at what they do and it has nothing to do with the original script.’ Like I said this also happens within the Cosplay scene but don’t let that put you off as there is only a small minority of people who act like this.
The best thing for me in regards to the Cosplay scene is that I have made so many new friends by being part of this circuit who I can talk to about anything; they don’t judge me on my costumes and also are there for help and advice when I need any. This goes for also the people who I met throughout the circuit. There are so many wonderful people out there, you are bound to make new friends straight away and because there are so many different genres of Cosplay, you will find something that will suit you.
Piece of advice from experienced Cosplayers
Jennifer says, ’I believe that cosplay is an exciting hobby that lets you learn a lot about yourself through exploring different aspects of your personality. I encourage anyone to try it out if you have been considering it! Pick a character you love that fits your skill level, and go from there. The real basics of sewing aren't hard to pick up, and there are tons of tutorials available online that can offer tons of help. Go for it!’
Richard says, ‘Find a costume that works for your body size and how you look, don't spend to much at the start, work steadily forward and do it for the friendship you will have with others and have fun, not for the competition.’
Jemma says, ‘I would say it doesn't matter if your costume isn't perfect or you haven't spent millions of pounds on it. Cosplay is just dressing up as someone from the fandoms you love and it’s mainly about having fun. Do it. And enjoy yourself.’
Joey says, ‘I would say give your costume the Hollywood effect.
Research. Never accept second best to achieve the outcome. Have fun.’
Special thanks to Natalie Vanstone, Jennifer Wicks, Joey Green, Jemma Bell, Nick Acott, Richard Ashton for the interview.
(link to Sneaky Zebra YouTube Channel)
Permission given by Nick Acott