At some point in every geek girl’s life you have to face the facts: You’re never going to look like Silk Spectre II. It’s not your fault. You eat well. You go to the gym. You take care of yourself. You probably even look smoking hot in a little black dress. But you have one distinct disadvantage: You actually exist. Sure, there’s a film version now, and yeah, Malin Akerman looked quite fetching in her latex bumble bee suit. But she had the awesome power of fiberglass body casts, a wardrobe department, Hair & make up artists, movie lighting and Quantum Creation FX on her side. You have neon yellow spandex, black pleather boots, and a rather suspect wig from eBay.
I’m sure there are plenty of perfectly good reasons to cosplay. Costume contests can be lucrative. One of my closest friends, a very gifted seamstress, makes gorgeous costumes and likes to show off her skills to potential customers. Still others find dressing up as their favorite character…fun. It all depends on what your goal is, really. If you’re looking for a silly pastime that doesn’t hurt anyone, you could do a lot worse. But if you’d rather be spending quality time with your favorite creators, you’re not doing yourself any favors by showing up for their signings dressed as one of their characters.
At best, they’ll compliment your costume, sign your comic book and move on to the fan in line behind you. Indeed, if your costume is really good, some creators may be genuinely flattered by your efforts at imitation. But that’s the best case scenario. Because instead of presenting yourself as an individual you’ve just reduced yourself to a fleshy, pop culture avatar. The second you walk away, you’ll vanish from their thoughts for good. In fact, you were never in their thoughts. All they saw was the costume.
Don’t make the mistake of thinking that a costume makes you interesting. If you have a model’s body, and very little covering it, you will get attention. Attention is not hard to come by; the human brain is programmed to respond to stimulation. A naked, ripped midriff is stimulating. People will look at you. They will take your picture. You might even end up on “Babes of Comic Con.” But you’re not interesting because you put on a metal bra and loin cloth. You’re just another Slave Leia in a sea of hundreds.
I don’t do costumes, because I happen to think I’m a lot more interesting than a piece of two-dimensional T&A. Make no mistake – I’ve been known to turn it out in full style when I go to a convention, but I go as the best version of myself. I wouldn’t dream of approaching a creator posing as one of their creations who is now suddenly bound by such mystical forces as “gravity” and “anatomical correctness.” Why masquerade as an imperfect copy of a character when you can be perfectly intriguing yourself?
A few years ago I was at a small convention with a creator I much admired. I dressed well. A little retro, but nothing too dramatic. It hugged in all the right places. It flattered my figure. It didn’t scream “pay attention to me” so much as it whispered “hello there.” After the panels & events had wound down for the day, I found him in the bar. I introduced myself and bought him a drink. We spent the rest of the night laughing and having a spirited discussion about a variety of increasingly dorky subjects. We’re good friends now. I’ve been privy to several first drafts, and grinned through inside jokes that have slipped into canon. I’m anxiously looking forward to his next creation – one that has a character I suggested a few months back.
I don’t need a costume to get attention, and neither do you. If you like them, wear them. Have a blast doing your cosplay thing. But don’t expect to get noticed for anything more than a few fleeting seconds. And don’t expect to be remembered for anything other than the way that spandex held on to you for dear life. You want to spend quality time with your favorite creator? Put your best, most intriguing foot forward. Cultivate your conversation skills so you can stimulate their brain once you’ve captured their attention. Don’t show them something they’ve already created – ignite their creative spark yourself. And perhaps next year, people will be cosplaying a stylized version of you.
Photo by Dan Wickline