04-JAN-2012 I posed a few questions to members of The Superhero Costuming Forum asking about signature characters they prefer to wear and what happens when you show up to the ball and someone else is wearing the same thing. Cotillion faux pas?
After spending hours toiling away at a sewing machine or sanding fiberglass, you walk through a main entrance dressed in your best costume and wait for the cameras to turn your way. What happens if they don’t?
This is the explanation I was looking for from fellow costume creators so I went to my home on costume building, the SCF. It’s true there is a difference in level of pride when you can tell people that you made the costume yourself. Differently, there’s a swell when you represent a character better than someone else. Yet, as a whole, the community of cosplay seems supportive at least on the surface.
The flux of popularity that comes with costuming can rival the celebrity of the comic book creators. Think of it this way: you may recognize the actor of your favorite series but you might not have a clue that guy you just bumped into was the show’s head writer. Costumers, including myself, now have fan bases. Who would have thought that would happen? I sure didn’t. I’ll get more into the competitive side of costuming in another post. Behind the scenes it can be more like a pageant reality show.
Some characters have become a cult. It is now expected that there will be a lot of Harley Quinns and Slave Princess Leias on a con floor. Sometimes this is even organized with large photoshoots of them. As far as I know, the Gentle Giant Slave Leia collaboration is the only one paid for by a commercial sponsor. It’s the annual Comic Con International convergence in San Diego. I believe Dragon*Con is the place for the epic Harley gathering but I’m not 100% sure.
I spent time exploring my personal issues that have come up because of costuming and it boils to envy and insecurity. I began blogging about costuming many years ago on LiveJournal and Blogger. I wanted to share links to places where people could buy costume parts. I figured if I was spending all that time researching for myself, why not share the results? Somewhere in the last year, those efforts haven’t satisfied me and I began to focus more on modeling.
WHEN DUPLICATES ARE NOT MEANT TO BE CLONES
Founder of the SCF, Allen has garnered a lot of attention especially by making into the old WIZARD Magazine costume spotlights and contests. Allen’s masterpieces like Sasquatch and Red Tornado are impressive. He stills considers Firestorm to be his signature character and he doesn’t care what anyone else thinks, says or does. That’s basically a Zen mantra of how Allen lives his daily life.
“I think one of the secrets to happiness is not letting it be tied into what other people say or do. ” Allen, SCF Founder
Allen’s outlook is one that I wish I had. I find that I have the same feelings as SCF member Mary especially when she talks about the difference between attending a huge comic con compared to a charity event like those held by Heroes Alliance, a network of people in the US and abroad that make appearances for charities.
Mary voiced her thoughts on duplicate characters showing up to the same event: “With some of them I’d be kind of amazed. With some characters I’m the only person I know of that has cosplayed that character, like Alice who I have to explain to most other comic fans. I never ran into other Donnas when I wore her to cons either, but I noticed a fair amount at this past D*Con. So I just like to think I might have had something to do with inspiring other people to cosplay Donna. She’s a character that needs more love. With a character like Supergirl I fully expect to see other Supergirls, but I still like to try and be a bit unique with what version I make.”
She continued, “Well if it’s something like a charity event or comic shop appearance than I expect that whoever is running it would coordinate it so there weren’t any duplicates. I know with HA [Heroes Alliance] events in Atlanta they take turns with the really popular characters. For example maybe Margie [Cox] goes as a handler instead and Miracole dresses up as Wonder Woman, or Kevin dresses up as Thor so Ned can be Batman. That way everyone gets to participate at whatever events they want, and sooner or later everyone gets to particpate as all their favorite characters. But these are really different than just con-like events. With charity events you wouldn’t want to confuse kids by having two Supergirls show up, that would be like having two Santas at Christmas. And for comic shop appearances I would assume cosplayers would be there to help out the shop, and having a variety of characters is going to be better for promotional events. At a con I don’t get what the big deal would be. That just means your fans of the same character, which are probably the people you’d like to meet at a con. Like, I chatted with a nice Siryn at D*Con that I probably wouldn’t have met if we hadn’t been dressed as the same character.”
SINGLES VERSUS GROUPS
When I appeared at the 2009 NYCC dressed as Firestar, I believe it was the most photographed I had ever been. I spent a great deal of time by myself while my non-costumed group of friends walked around. Stationed by the main entrance, I was photographed significantly more than anywhere else except maybe the Marvel booth. I was also the only adult Firestar present; I saw a 3-year-old sporting the outfit the next day. At the Marvel booth, I had the fortune of running into a Spider-Man (no surprise) and an Iceman. We stood in line together for the contest but entered the contest as individuals. For an unplanned group, we extremely popular for that hour.
I’ve also witnessed the group costume popularity from the sidelines. I watched as my three friends dressed as the Gotham City Sirens (Poison Ivy, Catwoman and Harley Quinn) were mobbed and unable to move two feet without stopping for photo ops. I was dressed up too. I was not asked to ever be in their pictures even though my character du jour was from the same universe. People wanted photos of the Sirens, or Gotham Girls if you prefer the older moniker, not a group of female Batman villains. They had planned their appearance, alerted their fan bases and were well-received. I was happy to have booth assignment that trip so I could go back to the table and continue educating people on new comics and artists. Here was a case where we weren’t duplicated but I still felt left out. If I had been dressed as any of the Sirens, I would attribute the lack of photos to “she did it better,” but being a different character I went the more petty route and figured I was “too fat/unattractive” to be asked to be in their pictures.
A different perspective is witnessed at a the Superman Celebration held in Metropolis – yes, that’s the real name of the city and every year Supermen come from all over to converge on the town with George Pérez and other celebrities like SMALLVILLE actors. I would have loved if Wonder Woman Day in NJ had been like the Superman Celebration but instead we’re evolving down a different path to make it less about one character and more open to others that serve as role models as well. Officially the NJ charity event is Superhero Weekend but since we’ve always partnered with the organizers of the official Wonder Woman Day, we had in the past used the name; and now, they’ve changed as well to Women of Wonder Day starting in 2011.
I had considered what an awesome spectacle it must be to see the hundreds of Supermen in Illinois. In my opinion seeing a massive group of a single character doesn’t have the same fashion violation that, say, two or three showing up to an event has. It really does feel like the US Magazine “Who Wore it Best?” segment. It’s not that NJ doesn’t want to see all the love for Wonder Woman, but we would be tickled to see someone pull out a Hawkgirl costume once a year.
There are variations in every character even Superman and Wonder Woman who are known for specific costumes. There are also other ways to try incorporating variations such as being Artemis, Circe or Donna Troy instead of the Diana Prince Wonder Woman. If you’re looking for ideas, all you have to do is peruse the ComicVine galleries of any character or of course, take a direct approach and join up at the SCF and ask the experts.
If you’re organizing a smaller event, I find that using Facebook Events is helpful to maintain a roll call. It’s easy to send out invitations. People can reply in comments with what characters they can offer. And you can ultimately update the main description part of the Event page with people’s names and characters. At the SCF, there are sticky threads set up for the major conventions and for each convention’s organized photoshoots for group coordinating.