A Beginner’s Guide to Cosplay

I’ll admit it; I am a G cubed. I’m a geek, gamer and girl and I proudly tote my geek card around. I am even working on recruiting my husband and other friends to come over to the geek side. So far I’ve successfully introduced my husband to many things such as Rocky Horror Picture Show, Naruto, Dante’s Inferno (for PS3), Sucker Punch, Scott Pilgrim Versus the World, Dr. Horrible’s Sing-along Blog and many other things. And in less than two weeks I will pop his convention cherry as he will accompany me to ACen 2012.

I recently attended C2E2 and after each day I would tell him the people and characters I met and show him pictures. Everything seemed to be going well until we came to one picture of me in a certain superhero’s arms. He looked at it and asked, “Who is that guy holding you?” I could hear the jealousy begin to creep into his voice as he wondered why his wife was being carried by another man. No, it’s not that my husband doesn’t know who Superman is. It was then that I realized he doesn’t know anything about cosplay and I can’t take him to ACen without knowing, so I decided to write this.

First, we’ll start with the basics. Cosplay is short for the “costume” and “play” and the linguist in me wants to note that the word can be used as a noun and a verb. Basically, if someone is a fan of something (an anime, manga, video game or comic book), they will wear the costume and accessories of a character. That’s the “costume” part. The “play” part may be a role play that the cosplayers act out such as scenes or skits, but one does not have to take part in a role play to cosplay.

I can hear the n00bs now saying, “So it’s like Halloween, right?” No, it’s not. For Halloween, one simply wears a costume and may or may not get candy. Cosplaying is about representation, not only wearing the character’s costume, but also donning their mannerisms and body language. You don’t just wear a costume, you wear a persona. When wearing a persona, the mannerisms are very important. For example, at C2E2 someone was cosplaying as Napoleon Dynamite. As soon as I asked Napoleon for a picture, he immediately said, “Of course, gawd!” in the exact tone of the Napoleon from the movie. Everything we said to cosplay Napoleon, he answered in the real Napoleon’s tone and catch phrases. He had everything down pat.

Another vital part is the pose! For example, who wants to take a picture with Wolverine if he’s just going to stand there and maybe put his arm around you like an acquaintance would? No! You want Wolverine to show off his claws and maybe act like he is going to attack you with his claws. Otherwise it wouldn’t be Wolverine you’re taking a picture with.

It is also important for a n00b to know that it is perfectly acceptable to ask someone who is cosplaying for a picture. In fact, there are understood rules to cosplaying. If asked to take a picture, they will always say yes (unless they are busy eating, use some common sense, n00b). They will also answer to the character’s name. I get a thrill from yelling out, “Vash! Vash, can I take a picture with you?” Or my favorite was at ACen a couple years ago when I saw Dante. “Oh, my, Dante, I need a picture with you!” It is also very important to be nice to the cosplayers. Do not make fun of them. You are a guest in their world or are a part of their world; be nice to the natives.

Part of being nice to the natives is not judging.Don’t judge the cosplayers and don’t make comments like “Hey, aren’t you too skinny/fat/tall/short/young/old to be that character?” It’s rude and won’t go over well. For those still not getting the idea of cosplaying, let me make a parallelism for you. If you are a reader or a movie viewer, a book or movie is set in a reality where things happen that may or may not happen in the reality that we know (for example, The Matrix or talking animals), but when we open that book or sit down to watch that movie, we are entering into a mutually agreed upon contract with the creators. We are agreeing to suspend our disbeliefs and play along with their reality and may even believe in their reality for the length of time of the reading or viewing. The same can be said for cosplaying. When you walk into that place full of cosplayers, you are allowing them to believe they are who they are dressed as and they will give you a show and you both enter into a different reality where you can meet Batman and they can be Batman.

So going back to answer my husband’s question about who was holding me in the picture? It was Superman. I met Superman and he carried me as if he were saving me.

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