Wait…you do what?

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Me as fallen Jedi Atrus, in front of the Marauder

It is my personal belief that cosplayers are born, not made. I think cosplayers come into this world with a playful angel on their shoulder, one that whispers secrets of creativity and inspiration, one that tells each of us how to discover and channel a self-expression that goes beyond the mundane of day-to-day life.  Cosplayers are the forever young, the eternally creative, the pioneers of imagination. They take the fantastic and drop it into the real world, they pull from their spirits the inner child, the writer, the creator. They never take off the mask, the suit, the makeup–we are who we portray, and we portray who we identify with. They are our alter egos, our secret identities; and the spirit of our cosplay is as undefinable as the joy it brings to each and every person who has experienced costuming in one way or another.

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Me and a fellow Rebel Legion member, Lillian.

Trying to explain cosplay can sometimes be as difficult as trying to define the moment I “became” one. As I opened with, I believe that all cosplayers are born cosplayers–and if you’re over 16 and have ever dressed up for Halloween, you might even roughly be considered one too–but there is a moment in our lives that we define ourselves as a part of this massive, enriching community of like-minded individuals who costume as their favorite fandom (be it games, entertainment, comics, Anime, etc). In that sense, I believe I’ve always been a cosplayer. As a child, I used to wear Halloween costumes out of season around the house. I also used to combine Halloween costumes to make up my own character. When I was in high school, I custom ordered a Jedi Knight ensemble to wear once at a party because I wanted my costume to look “screen accurate”. At my first convention, I was going to meet a cast member of the Battlestar Galactica re-imagined series and it was suggested I put together a costume for the convention–by then I was ten years out of high school and still only wore costumes for Halloween. Still, I researched one and ordered a custom made esemble for the Green BDU outfit. I wore it to Fanexpo Canada, met Katee in it and had photos of myself taken in it. It’s the convention that made me want to have more costumes, attend more conventions and submerge myself in this awesome community. Was this the defining moment? Or had it been there all along?

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The following year I created my first home-made costume, the Iron Man Mark 4. I learned how to replicate armor and props, and had purchased in that time my Viper Flight-suit and my femme Two-Face custom 3-piece suit. I had been using my high-school purchased Jedi Knight costume to troop with the Rebel Legion, and had begun networking to other cosplayers while attending major cons like NYCC, D*Con and C2E2 as well as some of the smaller conventions like Farpoint, ICON and Lunacon. When the Mark 4 was complete I went on to compete in Masquerades and won awards at Farpoint, Lunacon and PhillyCon. It’s inspiring, humbling, and amazing to be so supported by peers and judges alike that I could never thank any of you enough for the experience.

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People such as yourselves reading this blog and those I meet at these conventions do not birth the cosplayer in oneself. It’s nurtured, fed, and given a life in a way we could not do alone. So when one is asked what one does, do not hesitate to use the word cosplay. It means expression, it means art, it means fandom, it means there’s an alter ego in you that wants to be heard. So strut your kick-ass self alongside me–and let’s play.

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Kids and Conventions

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One child has an arc-warming moment at a charity event

Lets face it. Kids need heros. Hell, I need heros. We all do. As a child, there was no greater magic than seeing a character you emulated in television and movies come to life and stand before you in full fleshed out glory. When I was younger, I got totally amped up meeting Mickey Mouse. That mouse in Disney was the legit thing. I also was struck mute when I saw Santa Claus putting presents under my tree in my own home, and forget ever finding the right words to say when Cinderella asked me my name. Name? I have a name? These days, we all have grown out of that absolutely innocent, entirely magical moment where fantasy and reality collide. In those moments we might as well have walked through a closet and exited into Narnia. Now, as an adult, I might get the same sensation when standing toe to toe with Liam Neeson–but we all know it’s not the same. Not exactly.
Now, as an adult, the Universe has granted us all with the most benevolent magical power to be entrusted to us: cosplaying. Our time to feel that pure child-like awe is not past, but reshaped. Now we can not only re-live the experience we knew as children–we can BE that magic. We can BE that hero. We can BE part of the belief that yes, good people and superheros really do exist.

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Even tiny heros need a time-out

Recently, I read a discussion about children attending conventions. I was surprised at the amount of considerable debate around the question as to if children should attend any of the comic conventions cropping up around the world in numbers that rival neighborhood Starbucks. I mean, this is a convention for Geeks, right? Geeks are the lone wolves, the virgins, the gamers living in their parent’s basements. Geek’s don’t have girlfriends, right? They barely get out, don’t they? And they certainly don’t settle down and get married with children, right?
Wrong.
The Big Bang Theory, Star Wars: The Clone Wars (TV) and The Avengers did a weird thing for geeks. Maybe they do still get picked on in school, but it seems once you  hit an age where you can talk back and pick out your own T-shirts at Hot Topic, a funny thing happens in a world where Iron Man is the ultimate playboy version of your tinkering tool-shop Dad and Superwoman becomes synonymous with your multi-tasking mom. Suddenly, being a geek is cool. Being a geek is trendy. Its a mainstream subculture that’s gaining a momentum that rivals the speed of light….and, thus, this booming convention scene is born.
Maybe some of you reading this are shaking your heads, saying “I went to conventions before it was cool”. I can respect that. I can respect that because I’m not one of them. I’ve only been attending conventions for the last few years, and despite seeing the popularity of NYCC leaping from sold out last minute to sold out months in advance, I can hardly say I’ve seen the evolution of conventions turn into the packed, child-screaming, nerd-raging, cosplay orgy it is today.
Alright, maybe I embellished a little.

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Me and some fans at the Iron Man 3 primere

So, it’s true that those of you that have been attending conventions before the reimagined series of Battlestar Galactica went on the air may have more of an ‘educated’ opinion on the matter of children and cons–but only in the respect of comparing it to what it once was to what it is now. Me? I’ll just get right out and say it. I agree children should attend cons. I don’t care if they’re toddlers in strollers, ten year olds dressed as Batman or fourteen year olds appreciating that well-done cosplay of Poison Ivy. Comic Conventions aren’t just for comic book fans of a certain age–they are for everyone. Families, couples and single players.
That being said, I do think parents need to be mindful of the convention scene and go to one (or two, or a few) before deciding if it’s right for their child. It isn’t like taking your child to the department store mall or the local zoo (though sometimes they feel like a cross between the two). It can be a loud, big overwhelming world where not everything is entirely age appropriate; though I have yet to see something (or someone) I wouldn’t feel comfortable taking my child around–when I have one.

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Out of costume at a Rebel Legion charity event with a little Padawan

There is no greater motivation behind cosplay than seeing how children react to you. Children are brutally honest, painstakingly attentive and brilliantly reactive. They are ones biggest critic and one’s biggest fan. So do your research, but love the kids at cons. Sure, they may cry a little and demand a little more room–but they’re the future of cosplaying. Show them what it means to be a hero.