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Let’s start this blog by seeing what Wikipedia has to say about cosplay and related topics:

  • Cosplay („ā≥„āĻ„Éó„ɨ, kosupure), a portmanteau (blend in linguistics-¬†a combination of taking parts,¬†but not all,¬†of two or more¬†words or their sounds, morphemes,¬†and their meanings into a single new word) of the words costume play, is a performance art in which participants called cosplayers wear costumes and fashion accessories to represent a specific character or idea.¬†The term “cosplay” is a Japanese portmanteau of the English terms costume, and role play. The term was coined by Nobuyuki Takahashi of Studio Hard ¬†while attending the 1984 World Science Fiction Convention (Worldcon) in Los Angeles. ¬†He was impressed by the hall and the costumed fans and reported on both in Japanese magazine My Anime. The coinage reflects a common Japanese method of abbreviation in which the first two moras of a pair of words are used to form an independent compound. ‘Costume’ becomes¬†kosu („ā≥„āĻ), and ‘play’ becomes pure („Éó„ɨ).
  • Costumer may refer to:¬†one that deals in or makes costumes.
  • Furry may refer to:¬†The quality of being made of or covered in fur¬†or¬†¬†a member of the furry fandom.
  • Furry fandom is a subculture interested in fictional anthropomorphic animal characters with human personalities and characteristics.¬†Examples of anthropomorphic attributes include exhibiting human intelligence and facial expressions, the ability to speak, walk on two legs, and wear clothes. Furry fandom is also used to refer to the community of people who gather on the Internet and at furry conventions.
  • A masquerade ball (or bal masqu√©) is an event which the participants attend in costume wearing a mask.

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Okay- first thing I’m going to say is I’ve never considered myself a cosplayer, costumer, or a furry. Nothing against any or all- just never really thought of myself as any of the above. Until recently…

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Since I was a kid¬†I loved Halloween. I remember being Fred Flintstone¬†in a vinyl¬†Ben Cooper¬†costume.¬†I loved making costumes and once made a knight costume in cub scouts by spray painting some long-johns silver and making a helmet out of an ice cream bucket and aluminum foil. I was Dracula a few times- once at a haunted house in the basement of a Mormon church in Utah, where I popped out from behind a tombstone and got punched by a frightened older kid. Growing up, even on¬†days other than October 31st I loved dressing up as Spiderman-¬†until one spider-leap from the couch tore the seat out of my plastic Ben Cooper Spidey costume (I did keep the box to store my comics in, until I got too many for it).¬†I was constantly¬†jumping my bike while pretending to be Evel Knievel in the driveway- well, until I forgot to put up the ramp and my dad backed over it in our car while running late for work one morning. Survived that- barely. Let’s see,¬†I’m pretty sure¬†running around with a towel around my neck like a superhero cape never ended up badly.

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Okay- I admit that I occasionally still do that from time to time..!
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Once I was even part of the crowd who set a Guinness World Record for the most people dressed as Superman (that’s me in the hat on the far left between the balloons). Unfortunately the record was broken by another group, but that was still a blast to do.

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(Lots of amazing cosplayers invade the home of Superman each June for the Superman Celebration.)

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I dig the band KISS and have worn Peter Criss make-up and costume to one of their concerts, a high school dance party, and a few Halloweens.

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I’ve gone to a midnight showing of Star Wars: The Phantom Menace as a Jedi…

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…joined¬†The Rebel Legion (as Obi-G-Y-N)…

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…and am a member of the Memphis Star Wars Fan Force.

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I’ve helped make costumes for myself and others (I sculpted the belt buckles and helped make the gauntlets above, and belt and cape below with Tim Brown).

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I’ve entered and won costume contests and got cash or free passes to next year’s convention (won crowd favorite as Jor-Elvis at the Superman Celebration in Metropolis, IL).

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I’ve judged costume contests (if you want a way to have people dislike you I highly recommend it- or judging art shows…just sayin’).

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I’ve dressed as a zombie cowboy (make up by my buddy A.G. Howard).

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I’ve volunteered at a haunted house as an 8′ tall Killer Klown and have done SPFX make-up there and a zombie walk.

I’ve worn a Pooh costume in a Christmas parade and to the Ronald McDonald House for an egg hunt with the St. Jude kids (no- I wasn’t THAT Pooh at MSC a few years ago). I was LifeBlood‘s “Dot” at a FedEx plane pull with several other local mascots.

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I’ve encouraged people to wear costumes to my art show receptions, and even dressed up myself.

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I’ve performed at charity events as a Blues Brother and Bettlejuice– heck, I even proposed to my wife as Beetlejuice at a comic convention’s art auction I was emceeing.

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My wife even likes to dress up as some of her favorite fandoms like Doctor Who, Harry Potter, and Star Wars. We ended up meeting each other thanks to her doing an on-line search for Darth Vader and me making a bad Wampa joke at a con costume contest (long story).

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As a kid she wanted to grow up to be Wonder Woman- Lynda Carter to be exact!

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I once got to make her up as Peter Criss for a Halloween party back when we were dating. Amazing how much easier it is to do that make-up on someone else instead of having to look in a mirror while painting yourself up!

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So why did I never consider myself a “cosplayer“..? Have I been a “closet cosplayer“..? Maybe I am a “furry” and not just hairy..?!!

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I guess one¬†reason was I didn’t think of myself as one is that I really didn’t understand what it meant to be a cosplayer. Maybe it had some weird stereotype I was subconsciously associating with it. I’ve¬†heard the term used at conventions I’ve attended, but it mostly was at anime cons, or directed at “anime kids“. In the past 25¬†years of going to cons (10-15yrs on a regular basis) I would occasionally “dress up” in a costume, but always identified the term “cosplayer”¬†with younger anime/manga fans.¬†Maybe since I had been cosplaying since before it was called that I thought of it as something new. For over 45 years I had just been putting on a costume and acting like that character for fun. It didn’t really occur to me THAT is what cosplaying is!

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It hasn’t been until the past 10 or so years that I even started really associating cosplay with anything other than “those anime kids“. I’ve run into professional quality costuming groups like California’s Gotham Public Works (above) at the San Diego Comic Con.

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The 501st Legion, Rebel Legion, Imperial/Republic Service Organization, Mandolarian Mercs, are Star Wars costuming groups I see at most cons that are now worldwide!

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Saw all of these Star Wars groups and a group of droid builders all set up in a 20’x20′ “Star Wars Pavillion” at¬†the Phoenix Comic Con¬†a few years back. “Impressive, most impressive..!

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Speaking of¬†the Phoenix Comic Con, I’ve seen TONS of other AZ costuming groups there – including Arizona Avengers, and the Arizona Ghostbusters who have their own Ecto-1!

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My favorite cosplayers to see at cons are families that costume together- I love it when parenting is done right!

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Saw this Harry Potter family at the PHX con.

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Little kids are the best, and I wish I could have gone to cons as a kid- or have costumes as cool as some of the ones I see at these shows.

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My costuming highlight was Trick-r-treating each Halloween- and believe me, I counted down the days each year for the night I got to dress up and go door to door begging for candy. Don’t know why I didn’t think to wear a costume so I could ride my bike instead of walking!

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Seeing people do a different gender costume- or gender bending/gender swapping,¬†can be a great way to do a different take on a character.¬†The costumes don’t have to be sexed up to be fun and interesting. Sometimes it works, other times not so much. Demyrie, the female Booster Gold cosplayer I met at the SDCC was amazing. She¬†had a cool¬†Skeets¬†prop,¬†and was fully clothed!

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Some cosplayers have gotten some HUGE fan followings, become famous, and are¬†in demand at cons as guests and photo ops. There has even been a show on SyFy called Heroes of Cosplay. I wasn’t a big fan of the “drama” that seemed to be manufactured for the “reality” show, but I was impressed with the costuming skills highlighted on the show. Just wish it would have focused more on the building of the amazing costumes, making something out of nothing, recycling/re-purposing items, the positive interaction with fans and other cosplayers, doing charity appearances in costume (which is what I thought the show was going to be more about when I first heard about it), and the folks who inspired or mentored them in costuming. That would have been a show I’d never miss an episode of.

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It’s a blast to get surprised by cosplayers at con. I really get a kick out of seeing costumes that not everybody has done to death. Tinkerbell, Miss Piggy, Evel Knievel, Luke Cage, and Pac-Man..? C’mom, that’s cool- and not things you see at every con!

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HAL 9000 from 2001: A Space Odyssey was not one I ever expected! “Good morning, Dave.”

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The Captain Chaos (from the movie Cannonball Run) we recently saw at Midsouthcon this year was another¬†great surprise! “It’s a living!”

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TRON-Guy was cool and unexpected, just didn’t expect¬†to play “guess my religion” when meeting him. My friend Timmy always threatens to set up a booth at cons selling dance belts for male costumers. Have seen a bit too much of some Spiderman and Deadpool cosplayers..!

I’m afraid of just how many MORE Deadpool cosplayers will be at cons after the Ryan Reynolds movie comes out. Some of those folks take being “the Merc with a Mouth”¬†a bit too far at times when getting into character.

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Which brings me to another point- as a cosplayer do you just dress up as the character, or do you become that character?¬†“Hey, there goes Elvis- YO’, KING!” I tend to try and be the character while in costume. I’ll only break character when around friends, or if I need to for some reason.

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Nothing disappoints me more than seeing someone in costume not embracing being the character, at least know how to pose as that character, or having a few response lines as that character. ¬†One year at Midsouthcon I ran into a Beetlejuice “cosplayer” and asked to take his pic. I use the quotes because even though he had a good store bought costume and wig, and the make-up was decent, he just had one pose (arms out), said, “Aaaahhh…”, and didn’t even make an attempt to do the voice. After I shot my photo and thanked him, my wife turned to me and said, “Oh-kaaay..!” I don’t expect to be “…dealing with a professional here!”, but I love becoming a character like Beetlejuice and seeing others do it (like the pro performer at Universal’s Beetlejuice’s Graveyard Review– who is AWESOME!). For me¬†it’s a little disappointing when you see others, well-¬†not.
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The first time I dressed as Beetlejuice was at a Jaycees haunted house in Memphis (and that same year for a Rock103 Halloween party- above with Terri Grey/Elvira). I was there to sell tees and work the crowd. I had seen the movie maybe one, and had never seen the cartoon. I had some kids school me on the Ghost With The Most the first night! I found a copy of the movie on VHS (yes- it was THAT long ago), went home and not only watched that movie- but studied how he moved. I learned subtle- and not so subtle mannerisms. I also ditched the khaki pants and black/white flannel shirt one night for a borrowed striped suit which also made a big difference (Thanks, A.G.). When I returned the next weekend well prepared and looking more the part everyone got a kick out of it. One of the security guards let me use his bullhorn to announce the World Series score updates to the crowds in the queue line. I even freaked out a girl I went to elementary school when Beetlejuice knew her name. ūüėČ
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My current Beetlejuice costume was made by my sister LaDonna and is incredibly comfortable (the combat boots from Army Surplus- not so much). I was lucky to find the perfect striped material for it as Hancock’s Fabrics, and we used suit jacket and work out pants patterns to make it from. It being light and a bit loose really made a big difference in how I could act in it, especially that first haunt I hide the horn in my jacket pocket and can make it look like I’m honking my crotch. It’s always good for a laugh. I usually have to do a rush make-up job and my hair sometimes cooperates- or not , so I’ve never been totally happy with that par of it over the years. What sells me as the character is having a few extra props (Zagnut candy bar, fake bugs, severed ring finger, horn) in my pockets, memorizing some of the movie lines, being able to improvise as the character, and being able to do the Keaton movie voice and the cartoon laugh.

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Now, as to being a “furry“- like my friend Kevin L. Williams and Muley the Mule once said sheepishly when asked if they were a furry- “Well- I’m moderately hairy…

I’d love¬†to do a Rocketeer, ’60s TV Batman, another zombie sheriff, and have plans to do at least one or two more Elvis inspired mash-up¬†costumes¬†in the future. Also debating on other costumes I can stilt-walk in…have a few ideas. ūüėČ

Con season is in full swing so I hope to see you at one soon, and don’t forget that Free Comic Book Day is coming up Saturday, May 2nd! Wear a costume to your local comic shop- and take your spouse, friends, or kids, too. Something for everyone.

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