**Let me start off now by saying that what is to follow is my own opinion and does not reflect the entire opinion of all cosplayers. This is meant to help people who are new to doing this and provide a focus to some of us that are already doing this. Some of you may disagree with what you find here and that is ok. Some of it may be tongue in cheek or humorous. If you know me, then you know I mean no ill will. AND BY THE WAY, THE PICS ARE IN NO PARTICULAR ORDER SO DON’T TRIP!!! 🙂 **
A while ago, I gave some thoughts about a new show that recently aired and what kept coming back to me is what knowledge could I impart to someone that is new to cosplay? What could I say that would leave a good impression about what many of us do to help encourage someone who wants to do this? Below is, in my opinion, a simple guide for what one may want to consider when cosplaying.
If you are new to cosplay, then all I can say is welcome to a new hobby that has as much reward as the work that you put in. What I am about to list are a few ideas that you may want to keep in mind about what you may expect to get out of it. It’s not in stone, but the idea is to maybe guide you in a direction to help you get the most out of it. Be aware there is no ‘law’ saying what you can and cannot do as a cosplayer besides having FUN. As for myself, I am not a professional cosplayer by trade. I am an average Joe like most people out here who has a 9 to 5 and bills to pay. I am also like anyone else who is multifaceted meaning basically if you know me out of costume, there is more to me than meets the eye and same with anyone doing this. I got into cosplay because this is an area where many of us get to make some of our dream characters come to life if not for ourselves, others out there that we may inspire to do so. I love being able to get into character and have fun with it. And truth be told, I am also self-conscious at times with my height and my size but at the same time, once I am in character, it seems like it melts away. I feel like once I am in costume, if I get the positive energy to pull off a character, I have done my job. With that, here are a few things that MAY help you do the same
Shyness is not an option
I am going to be really honest with anyone new to this. Regardless of how your costume looks, it’s your personality while you are IN that costume that will make you stand out. This is regardless as to what you do and who you are when you are not in costume. If you are a wallflower in your everyday life, (which is PERFECTLY FINE by the way!) then cosplaying allows little wiggle room for being incognito. When you go to cons and shows and you decide that you want to dress up, people will notice you and now the world is your stage. So make the most of it! People will want to take pictures of you and kids will come running up to you asking questions with smiles on their faces (Unless of course if you are a monster, you may scare them…adults too) so this is a good time for a gut check. This may be one of your first times stepping out looking like a comic character, are you ready for the heads to turn? Do you have enough patience to handle strangers who want to see who you are? To be quite honest, if you are not a people person, this may not be ideal for you. When cosplaying, you may just have become a star for the day. There is nothing like being in the spotlight as people want to take your picture or have their picture taken with you. You will be inundated with questions about your costume and who you are and nothing beats how kids will act when you see them be it hero or villain. Plus this is a great way to meet fellow cosplayers and network. Never feel intimidated and never come off as intimidating to anyone that crosses your path because you never know when you may need them. They may be your ride home, your place to crash, your person who helps decide your next costume, or ultimately, your best friend.
Be Financially Smart About Your Costume
Believe it or not, cosplay does not have to be expensive. It does not have to cost you $1000s and $1000s of dollars to do. But keep in mind, the more ambitious the costumes you consider doing the more it may cost. If you plan on doing some simple spandex, that’s great but once you start moving on to armor or if you have to have a unique item or a prop that is canon specific, then yes again, it’s going to cost a pretty penny. Spend WISELY! If you can help it, never, ever dip into money for your bills first to pay for your cosplay!! Cosplay will always be here, your responsibilities to your bills ALWAYS should come first! Never let yourself be out of house and home just because you had to have that authentic shield or sword for the next show. As far as store bought or custom made, I am one person who says WHO CARES? As long as you have a receipt for it, it should NOT matter, it’s what happens once you are in costume (covered below) that matters. Your finances will dictate to a degree what you can and can’t do, always be smart about it, but don’t let anyone judge you based on how you got what you need. Heck, you would be surprised how creative you can get with a few items you find around the house or at a store! With some creativity, you can always get what you need and not break the bank. Just remember, sometimes the best things in life are also some of the simplest.
With Great Cosplay Comes Great Responsibility
There are so many places I can go with this but, for starters and I can’t emphasize this enough, when you go out in costume, you are no longer John Doe or Jane Smith, you are now ‘that guy or girl in costume’ and you are now representing ALL of us. If possible, prevent situations that make it uncomfortable for all of us. Because once ‘you’ do something, the community at large isn’t looking you, John Doe, they are looking at all of ‘those weirdoes in costume’. Yes, in some places cosplaying has not quite been accepted but when we do dress up on any day that is not October 31st, we are all ambassadors to a hobby that many others will probably like to do. Another thing to consider is how you treat fans and people who are not in costume. And truth be told it does go both ways. It’s ok to say ‘no’ if you don’t want your pic taken or be tasked to do a certain event. Just don’t be a jerk about it. People tend to remember those treat them well and those who don’t and again, remember you never know who you may need later.
Know Your Character, Know Yourself
Some may disagree with this one and I am prepared to go down with the ship for it. Nothing makes me sadder than to see a person in costume and have absolutely no idea about who their character is or what they are about. They are in it only to look cool or to be sexy. I’m sorry, you cannot be Captain America without at least knowing about what his shield is made from or be Spider-man and not know how he got his powers. It’s all about just the basics. (right here is where the first chair is thrown inciting the Flame Wars for this post!) I saw a young lady a few years back who was cosplaying a character from Street Fighter but knew nothing more about the franchise beyond the fact that she could do some splits and a high kick. To me, part of cosplaying IS becoming that character. You are in a sense transformed into that character. When you pick a character or even design one, take some time to get to know the back story of them to understand how you will personify what you plan to do. A little bit of homework won’t kill you and you’d be surprised how much it may help you in the long run. No, you don’t have to know each and everything down to the blood type (sometimes it helps) but trust me, the more you embody a character, the more believable they are. I know two gents who play different versions of the Joker. One does the Heath Ledger version, the other is the classic comic version. Once they are in costume, it’s hard not to think that it’s the Joker in the flesh and that is what wins people over.
Don’t Let Society Dictate Who You Can Be.
This one is very important to me as with me being a minority, most canon characters do not look like me but it has not stopped me or a few others I know from doing it. Again go back to the last statement about personification. Do not let your size, height, age, or color stop you from doing what YOU want to do. Yes, I have had people (and adults more than kids) who have stopped me and said “You can’t be this character because you are Black.” Really? But ironically those who have said it are usually in the minority because I have had more than enough people who have complimented the costumes I have pulled off. I may not be Italian but I know how to pull off Ezio Audiatore and so do a few of my Asian friends who I MUST say do an excellent job. Let’s be real, if it was a law about who could do what costumes for a show, then Otakon and Katsucon would be shut down. Think about it!! So don’t be surprised or quick to criticize if you go to a con and you see a black guy dressed as Batman or Superman, a Hispanic guy dressed as a Terminator or Nightcrawler, or even a woman doing Colossus, part of cosplay is about stretching the imagination and making the impossible, possible. In the five or so years, I have been involved with this, I have seen many costumes and the people that wear them pull off some things I have never thought possible. It goes to show that many of us have a talent for doing these things and the end result is getting that recognition for the work that you put in.
You Get Out of It What You Put Into It
This is my last point and if you made it this far, this is the most important one. This point is the most intangible one because again it all comes back to you and what you expect out of doing this. Some do this for fun, others do it for business opportunity and still others do this for community service. Your goal of what you hope to gain out of being a part of this is yours and yours alone. Make the most of it. Meet some new people, learn how to craft something, plant the seeds of an idea in someone’s head but most of all keep it positive. All of this for me started simply because I decided I wanted to get back into reading comic books again. In this time, I have this website that I run, I make time to go to cons in this region, done community services and networked with good people and am even in the process of joining a few organizations to help channel some of my energies in a productive way, and if you are on facebook, I have a group that just under 2 years ago went from 20 people to now close to 300 and growing and all are welcome to join. Heck, I am even trying my hand at cosplay photography. Do I get paid for it? No, and that’s not really my primary goal. My philosophy is if you have a fun hobby that you are trying to make into a serious hustle, then it’s no longer fun. Some can and some cannot. I prefer not to because the moment I am looking to make ends meet from doing this, then I don’t see myself as being happy, but that is just me. However, after going to enough shows and coming home sore, with well over 4 gigs of photos to sift through, trying to figure out how I am going to get latex and paint off of my face, and figuring out how to upgrade my costume or worse…what will my next one be, I always realize I cannot be any happier with this hobby.
When you decide to do this or however you seek to do this, you need to know what makes you happy and how much you will get out of it to keep you positive and that is all up to you. The more positive energy you put in, the more you get out of it and that’s just my side of it. Hopefully I will see some of you soon!