SDCC ’15: The Adventures Of Being A Cosplay Boyfriend

Harley and Me
Courtesy BAdeptPhotog

I’ve personally only cosplayed maybe once or twice during conventions, and I was comfortable the entire time because my outfits were relatively simple. I was the Tenth Doctor during the Long Beach Comic-Con one year (and another time at a Renaissance Faire, which some people were not amused), and Lobster Johnson another. Both my outfits were nothing too shabby, for I was just doing it for fun and not taking it that seriously. This was also before cosplay truly exploded and became its own thing on the convention circuit, with some people labeling themselves “professional cosplayers.” Some attendees and exhibitors have gone on record claiming cosplay is the downfall of comic conventions, while others praise the creativity and hard work put into the different outfits. Check any comic or movie website during last week’s Comic-Con, and without a doubt you’ll find a few articles highlighting the best outfits seen at the convention. Love it or hate it, cosplay is here to stay.

When Amanda and I first started dating, I quickly discovered that it was her dream to one day attend San Diego Comic-Con, and she wanted to dress-up as one of her favorite characters, Harley Quinn. I definitely picked a keeper. Amanda isn’t just a comic book nerd, but she’s a massive Disney nerd and video gamer as well. One of the more popular cosplayers that Amanda followed was Traci Hines, a cosplayer known for her Hipster Mermaid character as well as other Disney characters. Because of the mix of cosplay and Disney, Amanda was inspired to venture forth and create her own geeky outfits. I knew just as much about putting an outfit together as she did at the time, so while it was primarily her hobby, I definitely wanted to support her and help out in any way that I could. We decided to focus on the three major things Amanda was geeky about; Harley Quinn, video games, and Disney.

We soon discovered how expensive cosplaying can be. Not just buying the materials or props, but also some of the bigger pieces like corsets, bodysuits, and footwear. Amanda’s white whale when it comes to dream cosplay outfits is Anya from Gears of War (her favorite game), but unfortunately we’re still at the beginning stages of molding Worbla—a moldable plastic material when heat is applied. So in the meantime, her first outfit she worked on was Harley Quinn’s Arkham City outfit that she wanted to have done by Comic-Con 2014. She didn’t have a pass, but that didn’t stop her from walking around the convention in costume regardless. She found a corset shop on Etsy, and black and red boots on a different cosplay website, and studied YouTube videos on how to apply the make-up. The striped bat was easy to create, for we bought a plastic one online and wrapped it with red and white tape.

Black CanaryWhen it came time to travel down to San Diego, she was ready to strut her stuff and dip her toes into a much bigger world. However, there were some bumps in the road during this Year One origin story. The hair dye was messy, and my mother’s guest bathroom looked like a bloody crime scene after Amanda washed it out of her hair. The glitter in her corset’s diamonds started to show up everywhere they came in contact with (and still do to this day). One day she forgot to wear socks and got painful blisters on her feet which resulted in us venturing to a nearby Ralph’s near the convention and purchasing socks while still dressed as Harley. And finally, on Sunday it rained unexpectedly for something like 10 minutes, causing her to get soaked and having to reapply her make-up. But in the end, she did have a wonderful time and was stopped every few feet to have her picture taken.

After Comic-Con, I started supplying her with old Harley Quinn comics; Gotham City Sirens, Mad Love, re-watching some of the classic Batman: The Animated Series episodes, and for Christmas the first volume of Jimmy Palmiotti & Amanda Conner’s Harley Quinn ongoing. Basically I was trying to give her inspiration for different outfits, and sure enough one of them definitely stuck: Bombshell Harley. Then we started doing research on other upcoming conventions in California; Long Beach Comic Expo, Stan Lee’s Comikaze, Wondercon, etc. I’d be attending all of them anyways to conduct interviews and provide content for Bleeding Cool, so while I was doing that she could simultaneously be cosplaying. She had the ideas for outfits, and was starting to join several different cosplaying communities online to figure out where or how to create different items. Basically at that point I was in charge of anything that needed spray-painting (domino masks, weapons, gloves), and anything she couldn’t make herself or find at a conventional store was purchased online.

When she started to really gain attention at the later conventions with her Black Canary and Bombshell Harley outfits, then came the photoshoots with professional cosplay photographers. They would tend to find her on Instagram and would reach out asking if she was attending a certain convention, and if she was interested in meeting up for a shoot. The first thing that enters any boyfriend’s mind when strangers online are asking to meet-up for a private shoot with your girlfriend is, “Umm, fuck that!” and rightly so. But since this is cosplay, this sort of thing is desired and expected, so I had no problem letting it happen because I was sure as hell going to be overseeing the shoot from beginning to end, making sure there’s no funny business happening. Thankfully, Amanda has made great friends with some real professional, stand-up guys, but I know that’s not always been the case. Ever since we’ve entered this community, word definitely spreads amongst cosplayers of which photographers to avoid.

Bombshell HarleyI always have a bag with me during conventions, and I used to cram it full of different comics and graphic novels. Ever since becoming a cosplay boyfriend however, its purpose has been transformed. Now I carry extra make-up, comfortable shoes, spare clothing, and foods she can fit into her mouth and snack on without smearing her lipstick (granola bars, crackers, fruits). I don’t mind, for she’s doing what she loves, and I want to support her anyway that I can. Plus I can tell some cosplayers get frustrated when they constantly have to put down their bags or satchels when someone wants to pose with them. If it keeps her sane, by all means! It also prevents me from spending all my money at different booths, forcing me to be very selective of what I buy, so that’s a plus.

Speaking of posing with her, she does get stopped every few feet by someone wanting a picture. When it comes to posing with her, I definitely take note of where their hands are. Over the shoulder and lower back are okay, but anything lower than that will definitely earn you a black eye. Thankfully, that hasn’t happened yet, but I’ve read about too many encounters where the people posing with the cosplayers are extremely rude and disrespectful, thinking because they’re dressed in such a way that they’re asking for it, so I’m always on my guard. It helps that I’m always walking the floor with her, sometimes being the one to take the picture with her and the requester. And as a side note to those of you who take pictures of cosplayers as they’re walking by; it’s just plain creepy. Just simply ask, “Hey, can I take your picture?” and then you don’t come-off as a creeper collecting photos to use later for your spank-bank.

So now with more than one outfit in her cosplay wardrobe and a few conventions under her belt, Amanda was ready to revisit Comic-Con this year and cosplay Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. She worked tirelessly in her free time to construct new gloves, make a new bat for her new and improved Arkham City Harley, and tons of painting with fabric paint. This year was going to be all Harley Quinn outfits; classic Harley in vinyl, Arkham City, and a Just-Woke-Up Harley that was later scrapped because she was too exhausted by Sunday. And along with the Harleypalooza photoshoot, she had a few photoshoots lined-up as well. I’d be with her the entire time, what could possibly go wrong?

Well, turns out quite a lot. On Thursday right out the gate my phone died in the middle of an interview, and I had no way of getting in contact with Amanda who was waiting for me at the Convention Center. We were separated for hours, as I desperately ran around the entire Convention Center hoping to spot her. We eventually did find each other thanks to a mutual friend who I miraculously ran into, but it turns out our little separation had a silver lining; while Amanda was waiting for me, she was approached by a photographer and asked if she would like to pose. That photographer then had her sign a release, for the photo was going on MTV’s website. That wasn’t the only website she was featured on, for soon our friends were posting links on Facebook to different websites they also spotted her at; Superhero Hype, Rotten Tomatoes, ComingSoon.net, and more. She was surprised and grateful, to say the least.

Harley Classic
Courtesy BAdeptPhotog

Comic-Con’s crowds got the best of us, and every day we would collapse exhausted in bed as if we had just ran a marathon. For her, two marathons because she was doing all that walking in heels half the time. But in the end, she had a great time and made several new connections. For her birthday this year I got her a simple, easy-to-use sewing machine so she can start sewing more complex pieces that aren’t pillowcases in preparation for next year. She also has some new ideas for outfits, with the intent of including me cosplaying with her on certain days (Dread Pirate Roberts & Buttercup, Tenth Doctor & Rose). Seeing her so passionate about her hobby is definitely enjoyable, for she’s really embraced it full-on.

So in the end, being a cosplay boyfriend isn’t for everyone. Some cosplaying spouses could care less about comic conventions, or are downright embarrassed to be seen out in public with their partner. Tons of patience is required, as well as a willingness to make sure your cosplayer is comfortable and has all required items and accessories.

Tips for those wanting to pose with a cosplayer for a picture:

  • Be respectful.
  • Find some place that isn’t crowded to take the photo.
  • Watch the hands.
  • Don’t direct them to do anything inappropriate or awkward.
  • It doesn’t matter what they’re dressed as, you have no right to harass or assume anything is fair game.
  • If you have a business card to your website, give it to the boyfriend if you can. Cosplayers don’t tend to have pockets.
  • Unless you’ve arranged a photoshoot with them, don’t try giving directions. Sorry, but you’re no Robert Mapplethorpe.

For those of you wanting to follow Amanda’s adventures in cosplaying at future conventions, you can follow her on both Twitter and Instagram.

Cameron Hatheway is a reviewer and the host of Cammy’s Comic Corner, an audio podcast. You can suggest what he should cosplay as on Twitter @CamComicCorner.