Cosplaying may seem like a fun hobby, but the amount of time and effort some put into it make it more like a religion.
Any act of dressing up as your favourite movie, animation or video game character for fun and sometimes for profit—that’s cosplay. The name is a portmanteau of the words ‘costume’ and ‘play’. Be it live action role playing, attending movie quote-alongs, or just Wednesday’s nights on the farm, if you are representing a character in costume, you are cosplaying.
For three Edmontonians, it is a way of life. Cheryl Cottrell-Smith is a marketing and communications manager who cosplays under the name Miss Chezza. She is relatively new to cosplaying, but that hasn’t stopped her from getting elbows deep into the scene. Mark Meer is an award winning performer/writer who has done work for the CBC (The Irrelevant show) and is the voice of Commander Shepard in Bioware’s world renowned sci-fi videogame franchise Mass Effect (and many other games). And Samantha Woods works in a bank by day, but when she is not, she is a seasoned cosplayer, costume maker and con maven.
Be it posing for pictures, pretending to be their heroes, or just a form of self expression, each have their own reasons for doing it. And, to use a Meer-ism, most of those reasons will gain them entrance into geek Valhalla.
Vue Weekly: Why do you cosplay?
Cheryl Cottrell-Smith: The first time I ever cosplayed, I wore a store bought Silk Spectre II costume to a comic convention and a little boy shyly came up to me, beaming, and said “I like your costume.” That was when I realized that cosplay wasn’t just something that would be enjoyable for me, it was something that other people took pleasure in—the ability to see their favourite heroes and villains in the flesh.
Mark Meer: I’m an old Generation X nerd, so “cosplay” is a fairly new term to me. I always just called it “drinking beer while wearing a costume”… and mostly did it on Halloween. I always spent months getting my costume together for the big night on October 31. It’s always been my favourite holiday. I’m glad we as a society finally realized that one Halloween a year was not enough.
Samantha Woods: There are many aspects to cosplay: the creation of something, the research into it, being able to portray a character you love, the photos you see later, meeting new people, going to cons, just to name a few. There is so much more that cosplay has given me that I never thought about when I put on my first costume and went out.
VW: How do you choose your characters?
CCS: I primarily choose characters I find interesting or who have strong personalities. I’ll cosplay anyone from Rorschach to Chun-Li, as long as I like their style and think I can do the character justice with my costumes. In the past, my cosplays have primarily been from video games, the DC and Marvel universes, and anime.
MM: Like most, I pick costumes from the fandoms I enjoy. In my case, Marvel and DC Comics, Doctor Who, horror movies, and so on. I tend to just go with my favourites… which are usually the bad guys. Doctor Doom, Bizarro, Hobgoblin… these are the sort of characters I tend to choose. I especially enjoy the obscure villains like Super-Adaptoid and Mr. Mind.
VW: Is there such a thing as ‘doing it wrong’?
CCS: In terms of how you cosplay, no. Even the low budget cosplays can be accurate and hilarious. In terms of how you treat other cosplayers, yes. This can be a huge issue in the cosplay community because some people are very judgmental in terms of accuracy and body type. We see it every day online and in person at conventions–people getting criticized for wearing costumes that don’t necessarily “fit their body type,” even though many of those people clearly put weeks or months of work into their cosplays.
MM: Not in my book. Wear whatever costume you want and have a good time.
SW: You can only ever do it wrong if it feels wrong to you.
VW: Any tips that you’ve learned from your years cosplaying?
MM: At a multi-day con, Febreeze is your friend. Also, gentlemen… wear a dance belt.
SW: 1. Foundational undergarments, get them.
2. Find shoes that are comfortable. You can paint and change and add almost anything to them, but the one thing you can’t change is their comfort if they are not comfortable.
3. Think about how you are going to do normal tasks in your costume. Things like: sitting, eating, drinking, going to the bathroom, walking, driving.
4. Wash or clean your costume. You will sweat, it will smell after a bit, figure out how to clean it.
5. Think about how your character would move or stand for photos. People are going to want to take your picture, you did an awesome job on your costume and they want to see it.
6. Test your costume before you wear it. The 20 minutes you had it all on will not be the same as a 12 hour day at a con.
7. Be willing to learn, ask questions and answer them. People will want to know how you did something, talk to them about it, they are just as excited for this as you.