By Riley Hooper.
Once thought of as an easy way for the mass media to construct acceptance in an ever growing and changing society, popular culture no longer relies on the media, creating communities and sub-cultures through fandoms and social networks. One evolution of pop culture is cosplay.
So, what exactly is cosplay?
Derived from the words costume and play, it is essentially dressing up as a fictional/non-fictional character or person from film and television, comic books, anime and video games.
There are two levels to cosplay, those who just dress up and those who design and create their own costumes. In the 90s cosplay started to gain traction attracting those other than the few hardcore fans. The art of cosplay allowed the everyday person to become an admired character, performing their portrayal to other convention goers. So, what makes an excellent cosplay artist?
Creativity, confidence and attention to detail.
Ami Isley from the Gold Coast started attending conventions seven years ago and started performing cosplay four years ago. “After attending a lot of conventions and seeing what people were doing, I became really interested and wanted to get more involved.”
The first costume she wore was Mary Jane from Spiderman with her favourite so far being Aloy from Horizon Zero Dawn, “I handmade and stitched the whole thing” she said excitedly. When asked to explain cosplay, Ami replied “There is a bit of an outsider’s kind of stigma as to what people in the cosplay industry are into but a lot of the people that are cosplayers are creative and designers and they do these amazing builds and then there are people who use it for the community and friendships.”
Ami descried the atmosphere as full on with families, children, old and young people, “it’s really for everyone. I am yet to meet a person that has been to a convention and hasn’t had a good time. If you’ve ever dreamt of being your favourite super hero or what not just go along, there’s no judgment, it’s fun and a great time.”
Over the past 33 years the cosplay community has developed a sub-culture all its own where there are no judgments and members are each other’s fans. Prevalent all over the world, these communities don’t just cosplay at conventions but meet up for picnics and photo shoots where they can.
The number of conventions held in Australia has grown tremendously due to the popularity and excitement they bring, reeling in tens of thousands of attendees each year. Among cosplayer’s you can expect to see actors, artists, illustrators, bands, idols and video game producers to name a few.
For the very first time Australia will be hosting the Walker Stalker Con in the various capital cities, bringing an all-star line-up of characters from the hit TV show, The Walking Dead. Some of the cast making an appearance at the Sydney convention are actors Jeffery Dean Morgan (Negan), Chandler Riggs (Carl) and executive producer, director and special effects creator Greg Nicotero along with many more of the cast members.
As for activities for the guests, there will be a Q&A panel with the cast, an escape the biters activation, tattoo and graphic artists, photos with the cast and more to keep any fan busy.
From a new convention to Oz to one that has been around since 2002, Supanova Comic Con and Gaming Expo is a fan convention that can see around 40,000 attendees per convention. The expo focuses on science fiction, fantasy film/TV, comic books, anime, gaming and collectables. Thanks to Madman Entertainment and other sponsors, cosplayers at the event can compete in a multiple category cosplay competition, where they can win money, art supplies and other prizes.
Another popular convention is the SMASH! Manga and Anime Show. The show is a not-for-profit, run by fans for fans, Japanese pop culture convention. It can attract thousands of people per year and always features high calibre guests while celebrating fandom.
Activities comprise of, cosplay, vendors, an artist market, performances, panels and games.
Joanne Bondoc is a cosplay coordinator for SMASH! Manga and Anime Show. She started cosplaying in 2013 after she wanted to participate in the culture with friends. Joanne gave insight into her role stating, “I mainly take care of the cosplay competitions, looking after the kids and adult catwalk. It does take a lot of time to stage and prepare, we must organise when each person will walk the catwalk as well as coordinate with the other departments.”
As for what we can expect to see in this year, “I think we will see more technology, higher end cosplayers wanting to incorporate technology with bigger and better quality.”
Joanne then gave a final shout out to the conventions continuing with, “The experience is great, depending on what you want to see on the day, that brings out the type of atmosphere you’ll get. Come through, see the performances, the competitions, see how much effort goes into to creating these outfits.”
Walker Stalker Con
Feb 3-4. The Dome at Sydney Showgrounds, 1 Showground Rd, Sydney Olympic Park. $20.14-$960.39+b.f. Tickets & Info: www.moshtix.com.au
Supanova Comic Con and Gaming Expo
Jun 15-17. The Dome at Sydney Showgrounds, 1 Showground Rd, Sydney Olympic Park. Prices Not Yet Available. Info: www.supanova.com.au
SMASH! Manga and Anime Show
Jul 14-15. ICC Sydney, Exhibition Centre, 14 Darling Dr, Sydney. Prices Not Yet Available. Info: www.smash.org.au