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.


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.”


2009 NYCC

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.

METROPOLIS photo by Danny & Heather Kelley

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.

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6 Comments on Costuming: Should duplication of characters be avoided or encouraged?

  1. My first time dressing up in costume was as Ivy and I was with a Harley. I was already self-conscious and insecure to begin with but thinking back on it, there were so many times that we were stopped but only my Harley was asked for a picture. I attribute it to me being fat. But hey…I was known as “the Ivy with huge cans” by a group of guys walking around the con.

  2. It depends if you ask me. There’s such a thing as costumes that are utterly overdone. However they don’t STAY overdone. 2-3 years ago it was Heath Ledger’s version of The Joker. Or Rorschach was everywhere for a time. I feel like if you don’t have something unique to bring to the table why cosplay that character. If that makes any sense.

    I’ve never taken (my own) costuming seriously. To me it’s a fun aside and I enjoy taking silly photos as much as the next person so to me I don’t really care when I see a few others that are the same character as me running around a show.

    However I did stop doing my 11th Doctor costume because it’s become utterly overdone. At a small show you’ll find at least 2-5 and at NYCC I counted 50 unique cosplayers doing that character. Personally I don’t have fun when there are that many of the character I am running around. I’ve never do (main universe) Superman, Batman, Spider-Man, Wolverine, and so on because of that reason. However I have considered Red Son Superman and part of that reasoning is I’ve yet to see it done.

    So at the end of the day I guess it does color what I want to do. But I don’t really care if I see my 30th Harley on the floor. But by the same token what’s THAT unique about the 30th Harley on the con floor? I’m going to gravitate towards the best crafted/most attractive/and uniquest versions.

    And this comment has gone on a bit longer then I meant it to.

    • NYCC held a massive Dr. Who photoshoot. It was an organized gathering hence it was a time when everyone was encouraged to wear something Whovian.

      • As far as I knew NYCC didn’t hold it, it was just fans putting it together and was rather massive because of how popular the show got.

        But really, as I said if people want to do 11 that’s fine. I personally dislike doing a character I see alot at all style of events.

  3. I didn’t mean to imply that Reed/NYCC organized it. Like all the massive gatherings and photoshoots, it was done by the fans. I think Marvel in NYCC and Gentle Giant in SDCC are the only companies that ever do their own scheduling of photos.

  4. Personally I don’t care if people wear the same costumes or not. I think that if you pick a popular character (Spider-man, Batman, Catwoman) then you should be prepared to see other people at the same event as the same character. In my own little world I have “favorite costumes” by fellow cosplayers.For example, Iggy and Paul both have done the Joker and I love both of their costumes. I also love that they pose together in photos and that they are friends. In all honesty, I feel that the events are better with both Jokers present and they sort of play off the others energy and I think it’s awesome. Yes there are people who will compare them and point out who they think is the better of the two, but again that kind of goes with the territory and as a cosplayer you just have to learn to let that go.

    Although, I have said in the past, that I will most likely not cosplay certain characters because a friend has already done it so well. For example, Harley Quinn or the Wonder Twins. But I don’t think it’s a bad thing that 4 or 5 Harley’s show up at a Comic Con. I feel the more the better. The only reason I won’t do it is because I feel that particular person(s) has done it so well that I can explore other characters and have fun with that. And if someone else shows up at event in the same costume as I’m wearing, I think it’s cool. I can look at their costume and think “oh I like how they did the make up/the belt/the shoes.” But I never think “Man they stole my idea.” Technically none of the characters are our ideas, unless you are dressing up as a character you actually made and drew yourself? Right?

    You raised a good issue to think about. And I am sure new people to the cosplay world wonder how they will be treated if they pick a popular costume to wear. It’s not like their is a guide to tell you what to expect when you show up at your first comic con. You have expressed how you feel. And I guess the conclusion is some people like multiple costumes and some people don’t, but everyone really just needs to do and be what makes them happy.

    Furthermore; you brought up an interesting subject, when you mentioned that you cosplayed an unknown character and felt left out because people wanted your friends pictures instead of yours. In June I am purposely cosplaying a rare character, mainly cause I have never seen anyone cosplay her before. I love this character and want to see her out there. I expect that I will have to explain to people who she is over and over again and I also expect to be mistaken for other characters, but I do wonder how I will feel if put in a similar position to yours mentioned earlier. I think you should write a blog about that…what it’s like to cosplay a rare character…the pros and cons to being the “only one” at the event dressed like that. I’m stubborn and going to take the leap anyways and test the waters on my own. But I know you have done some rare ones before and I think it’d be a good topic to look into.

    P.S Your Fire Star is one of my favorites as well.

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