The Perks of Being a Cosplayer

As a kid, I wanted to be a fashion designer. It wasn’t about the fame – my name on thousands of garments and stars in my contact list. It was always about the clothes. My obsession with science fiction and fantasy morphed my love of fashion into one of costume design. So what does this have to do with cosplay? For me, cosplay has always been more about the ‘cos’ part. I love what costumes tell about a character. I love the mix of interesting fabrics and non-traditional materials. If you have an hour or, most likely, an afternoon free, I can talk your ear off about this.

My first time cosplaying was at Anime Weekend Atlanta. I would post a picture but this was back before digital cameras were everywhere and I don’t know where any of the physical copies are. I dressed as Sakura in her school uniform from Cardcaptor Sakura on Friday and Zechs Merquise, complete with helmet, from Gundam Wing on Saturday. This marked one of the few times that I practiced action poses and phrases. I went in with that wide-eyed optimism that comes from naively expecting nerd culture to be an accepting one. That’s not to say the entire weekend was a wash. Though I did find out that people are going to have a problem with a Black, fat girl cosplaying a ‘white’, skinny man or pretty much any non-black character, I also found that most of them were too cowardly to say something to my face. It’s easier to be an asshole when you’re hiding behind computer screens.

Unfortunately, having what fandom considers a non-traditional body, whether you’re a person of color, plus-sized, and/or have a disability, means that trolls are going to feel like it’s their right to point out how much you don’t fit the role. This is what makes it that much more amazing when you see us cosplaying. To use a phrase from Bitch Planet, we’re being non-compliant. We’re ignoring all of those comments that boil down to ’no, this isn’t for you. You don’t belong here’. We’re looking good and having a great time while doing it. So when those comments get you down, remember you’re awesome. Going through #29DaysofBlackCosplay, a hashtag created by Chaka Cumberbatch, or seeing a group of plus-sized Sailor Scouts or a kid who turned his wheelchair into a TIE fighter are all the inspiration I need to silence the jerks who are determined to kill someone else’s fun. I cosplay for me, because I love the character and because I love the costume.

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I had a thankfully brief obsession with using duct tape as material.

Now that you’ve heard all about my first experience and why I like it, some of our listeners were nice enough to share pictures and talk about why they like doing it.

For more inspiration, check out PrettyBrown&Nerdy‘s 29 Black Characters to Cosplay video featuring the amazing Chaka:

Just had to add one more thing to this already long post. Recently, Wizard World was held in Portland. This has got to be my favorite cosplay from the con. The rest of the 2016 cons are going to have to work pretty hard to surpass this.



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Kickstarter Round-Up

Calling for diversity in comics, both on the page and behind the scenes, has been a steadily growing movement. There have been blog posts, Twitter conversations, and numerous panels at conventions on this topic. Last February, @MizCaramelVixen started #BlackComicsMonth. The hashtag featured new and old black comics, characters, and creators. The big two comic companies are making strides in increasing diversity or at least small steps- hiring more people of color and women as writers and artists. I’m looking forward to Ta-Nehisi Coates writing Black Panther and Becky Cloonan writing Punisher later this year. That being said, there is an entire world of independent comics and webcomics we can support. Let’s put our money or our clicks where our principles are. I’m going to highlight a few Kickstarter campaigns for new and interesting books:

Tuskegee Heirs
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Tuskegee Heirs is a graphic novel created by writer, Greg Burnham, and illustrator, Marcus Williams. If you’re a fan of anime with teenagers saving the world in large machines, this is the book for you. As the title implies, these are a group of young, Black aviators. The book takes place 80 years in the future. Human piloting has become illegal. Kids being kids, they’re not going to let a little thing like the law stop them. They end up finding an old Tuskegee airfield and a veteran pilot to train them just in time for machines to try to take over the world. Now our young pilots are the only things that stand between them and success.

The Kickstarter is set to end on February 14th. The rewards include print and digital copies of the graphic novel, character dog tags, stickers, posters, and t-shirts.

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Nothing I can say will do justice to explaining the genesis of this book like Kwanza’s own words:

“We identify with characters who are outsiders in society because they reflect things that are going on in the real world. The metaphors about race are obvious but in the world of the fantastic, mutants, meta humans, evos are not plausible depictions of demonized minorities. Most of these characters that are presented as outcasts-they can take off their masks, not use their powers, and live amongst normal society. Black folk don’t have that luxury. That’s when I had a thought: what if only black people had superpowers?”

Black is a 6 chapter, 120 page graphic novel created and written by Kwanza Osajyefo and Tim Smith. Jamal Igle is doing the interior art and Khary Randolph is doing the cover art. The cover- this young, Black kid in a red hoodie with his hands up, surrounded by guns – gave me chills. The main character, Kareem Jenkins is gunned down by the police. Unlike the majority of stories we see on social media that start just like this, he survives. He’s then recruited into a group of superheroes to help others in the same plight.

The Kickstarter ends on February 29th. Rewards include print and digital copies of the graphic novel, stickers, buttons, social media header and icons, and a cameo in the book.

Agents of the Realm
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Magical girls in college. Can you imagine trying to save the world while trying to pass your finals? Our five heroines are not only starting this new chapter in their life with college, they also discover they have powers. Black girls are literally magic is this book. Now they have to worry about keeping their grades up and fighting their evil professor. The author, Mildread Louis, cites magical girl anime like Sailor Moon and Magic Knight Rayearth as her inspiration. Louis has been publishing pages for Agents of the Realm twice a week since March 2014 on her website. The Kickstarter will gather chapter 1 in colorful softcover book.

The Kickstarter ends on March 2. Rewards include print and digital copies of the graphic novel, prints, postcards, and personalized bookplates.