Harley Quinn Cosplay and Fan Identity- THE VIDEO!

Greetings from self-isolation, friends. I’m wishing everyone health and easy days.

As professor, and as a volunteer for my local con- the Quarantine  Quarter has been a  challenge. Zoom classes, online office hours, and then eventually Virtual Visioncon!

I volunteer with  Visioncon’s marketing team and assisted, in a small way, while the amazing Zack Wilson hosted a panoply of guests, panels, and celebrities. Zack and the team did an amazing job in providing content on our original con weekend,  but of course, all did not go according to plan. When does it ever?

At one point,  one of our guests (sadly, the one that cosplay husband and I were looking forward to most) could not make it.  We had an empty slot and no plan to fill it. So…..into the fray I jumped, and gave a presentation on  Harley Quinn!

I happened to have a powerpoint ready,  but my delivery is, well,  less than prepared.

In any event, I provide the video here for you if you’d like to check it out!

It’s a bit more academic than my usual post, as it was prepared for the Fan Studies Network conference, and my actual presentation was thrown together,  but with those caveats, here it is!

Craft Stash JUSTIFIED!: Surviving the Pandemic as Artists and Crafters

So here we are. Are you all ok?

These are hard times.

Many are struggling financially, many are struggling emotionally and most of us are feeling trapped and stir-crazy.

I know I am. I am very privileged to not worry about having enough to eat or a place to stay. But I am still very stressed.

I miss my students. I miss my workout friends. Cosplay husband is at half salary. I worry about my high-risk friends and family.  I fight migraines every day. (This is not in order of importance).

So much I can’t do anything about. What can I do though? MAKE MASKS.

I sew! I’m a crafter! And what’s more, I HAVE A FABRIC STASH.

I, like my mother before me, like so many of us who costume, craft, and sew, have a hard time throwing out ANY supplies.

Especially if you cosplay! You never know what you might need or be able to use!

As I’ve shared here before, Kiogenic (cosplay daughter) and I started cosplaying as a financially-strapped single Mom and daughter. Thrift shops were our friend, and we reused EVERYTHING.

The shotgun shells for Yang’s Gauntlets here? Wine corks that Kiogenic painted red. (I drank the wine).

So yes, over time, the arts and crafts room turned into, well, a disaster area of a dump of all the things that “we might have a use for.”

Yikes

Yeah. It was a disaster. But also an opportunity. I wanted to make masks,  and luckily, one of the sf/fantasy academics I follow on twitter had posted a great pattern and tutorial. All credit and love to CZ Edwards fro this great pattern! You can print directly onto printer paper and then there are step-by-step instructions, even for beginners. There is a simple double-sided mask with interfacing (or an extra layer of cotton) and an additional pattern if you want to make a pocket for inserting an additional filter (folks are using coffee filters, kleenex, etc.)

If the above pattern seems daunting, the CDC has a less complex (but arguably less effective) pattern and set of instructions here. 

It was exactly what I needed to make masks for myself, my family, and an increasing number of friends who want to keep themselves and others safe.

But first Kiogenic and I had to clean up the arts and crafts room. And we did (which turned out to be necessary anyway- Kiogenic is pursuing an art degree and ended up having to complete her  advanced painting class at home)

The artist at work

All best practices, as described by reputable sources, indicate that tightly woven cotton (quilting cotton) is your best bet for mask material.  The tight weave does as good a job as possible in providing a filter but still makes it possible to breathe. The room more organized, I found a LOT of cotton, saved from previous projects, and took the advice to hold it up to the light to see how much light penetrated. This is an easy way of picking the pieces with the tightest weave. Since I am leaving the house only rarely (grocery shopping for us, my parents and in-laws) I was grateful to have the stash of fabric AND a stash of interfacing! My pack-rat sewing/crafting habits were VINDICATED!

The room cleared out, we now had room for Kiogenic to paint AND for me to sew.

I made masks for me, cosplay husband and Kiogenic, as well as for our folks. Then, when former students and other friends asked if I could make them masks, I, of course, said yes (I still had PLENTY of fabric). Small problem: I was out of interfacing. Here, I was saved by my mother, who- though she has not sewn regularly for a decade, came through with her stash. I called, on the off chance she had interfacing. She didn’t think so, but she would “check” and call me back.

She had a bit.

Something like 15 yards.

And so, not only was my fabric stash justified, so was that of my Mom! We win!

So the next time someone gives you trouble about your fabric, or craft stash, tell them that it is just prepping for disaster, being ready for (if not the apocalypse) then at least big emergencies. If you keep things that can be useful, then you can help protect yourself, your loved ones, and others in the community.

Stay safe, friends. Wash your hands. Keep your distance. Care about others and WEAR A MASK!

Faces of Cosplay: The Porcelain Princess

To me, cosplay is a kind of therapy, a way of expressing my creativity in a way others might enjoy and appreciate.”

As I’ve mentioned before, Kiogenic was lucky enough to have an internship with a local armory that made awesome Mandalorian gear. That place has since (sadly) folded, but I’m still in touch with the great guy who was her mentor.  Recently, he shared that the intern that followed Kiogenic: Gabriella Ward, was seeking to get some exposure for her work in special effects makeup, and asked us all to take a look at her work.

Folks, her work is AMAZING. Gabriella, who uses the cosplay name Porcelain Princess, is seriously talented, and I’m delighted to be her honorary Cosplay Mom and present her to you. If you need costuming or SFX work done, consider hitting up Gabriella!

Name:  Gabriella (Gabby) Ward  AKA The Porcelain Princess

Age: 20 years old

Day Job: I am currently a professional freelance SFX makeup artist. Recently I graduated from Tom Savini’s Special Makeup Effects Program in Pittsburgh, PA. My passion lies in creating effects for haunted houses like from Springfield’s Dungeons of Doom, to Pittsburgh’s Hundred Acre Manor! I’ve created many effects for local theater and personal events such as A Class Act Productions and Thriller on C-Street. Cosplay really helped me get into SFX in the first place!

Why do you cosplay?:
To me, cosplay is a kind of therapy, a way of expressing my creativity in a way others might enjoy and appreciate. For a little while I’m not Gabby, but Captain Marvel or an elf from a forbidden forest, and I find joy through that. It’s a form of art and entertainment that almost everyone can try! And having a supportive and inspiring community around you really helps boost your confidence as a person and as a cosplayer.

How long have you been cosplaying?:
I’d like to think that I’ve been cosplaying all my life, Halloween is my favorite holiday, and any chance I got to dress up I would! But my cosplay adventures started officially 7 years ago with a character called HoneyBooBoo Klingon (it was just as ridiculous as it sounds😄). From that my first big cosplay was Harley Quinn from Batman the Animated Series.

How do you choose your characters?:
I usually choose characters that I adore from mixed media, whether I look like them (like Drew Barrymore’s character from Scream), or not (like Nightcrawler from Xmen)! I always do deep research into the characters, so that I can play the part as much as I can. It’s just as much fun making and wearing the costume as it is playing the role. I also like to have a mix of popular characters and more obscure characters, to keep fans of the shows on their toes!

Do you have a signature or favorite cosplay?:
Well, my first, fully handmade character costume was my first Harley Quinn, with her I really started my passion for cosplay! Another more recent cosplay that’s recognizable is my Nightcrawler from X: Men-Evolution. And my most used and social character is my Ghostbusters costume of Holzmann or just me as a Ghostbuster with the cosplay group Ghostbusters of the Ozarks! I love that group and we love to support our community and bring a little fun with us!

Do you make, or buy your cosplays?:
I do both! I try to make more than I buy absolutely. But sometimes I just don’t have the time or skill to make my own, that’s when I’m thankful for other costume artists to create awesome cosplays!

What advice do you have to other cosplayers?: ‘

Keep creating, and keep inspired! Do the best you can, keep practicing, and you can always improve!

What’s the best thing that someone has said to you about your cosplay?:
I met Stan Lee before he passed and he complimented my Captain Marvel cosplay, which meant the world to me! I’ve met animators, voice actors, and fellow cosplayers of the characters I’ve created, and they’ve all been so supportive, which is absolutely incredible!

What’s the worst thing that someone has said to you about your cosplay?:
I’ve only had one experience with someone giving negativity, and it was about my weight. But I’ve learned that I love what I do and, as long as I’m having fun and bringing joy to others than my weight doesn’t matter!

Do you attend conventions? Which is your favorite?:
I love to attend a lot of local conventions including Visioncon, Planet Comiccon, G.A.M.E and Librarycon at my local library. I found most of my cosplay friends and love for conventions at Visioncon! I’ve attended every year for about 5 years now, and now on my 3rd year hosting a horror panel called Fear Factory!

She met Stan. How cool is that?

Check out Gabby’s work:

Facebook @TheOfficalPorcelainPrincess

And if you’d like to see more of her makeup and SFX, or want to get in contact for her services, you can find her on Facebook or Instagram
@gabriellanicolesfxmakeup

The Badass Possibilities of Harley Quinn Cosplay

I love Harley Quinn.

I love how she, as a character, represents a combination of fun and mayhem, vulnerability and power, love and violence. Really, I love how complex she is.

I also appreciate- deeply, how her character, over twenty years, has moved from abuse victim to empowered survivor.  Yes, I’m VERY excited for the Birds of Prey Movie! (That’s the trailer. I just watched it again. CAN’T WAIT).

So, as you might expect, I also love Harley Quinn cosplayers.

Anyone who spends any time at conventions (or even looking at cosplay online) knows that Harley is one of the most popular (if not THE most popular) cosplay for women, and crossplayers. I have found this to be true in both the United States and Mexico- speaking to the very broad appeal of Harley as a character.

Part of what makes Harley so appealing, I believe, is that her overall evolution offers choice and agency to many cosplayers.

There are cosplayers, like The Batgirl Pierce, for example, who grew up watching Harley on Batman the Animated Series, and who love “identify with her happier, playful side.” Pierce shared with me that “I like to poke fun, but not in a violent way.” The version that Pierce cosplays is often referred to as the “Classic” version. 

Springfield, Missouri Cosplayer The Batgirl Pierce as “Classic” Harley Quinn

This is true of many Harley cosplayers, who identify with the comic, bubbly and mischievous characterization of Quinn in the animated series. This is, of course, a valid choice for cosplayers, and I love to see it.

This version, however bright, cheerful and geared toward comic relief, is also very sad. Her optimism and humor cover for her child-like vulnerability and a desire to love and be loved. She desperately seeks The Joker’s affection and he abuses her regularly and violently. As the authors of the DC Animated Universe Wiki describe her, Quinn is the “epitome of the battered wife syndrome.”

This is another way in which cosplayers often identify with Harley- with her pain and suffering, and therefore her anger.

This anger is on display in the more “Modern” versions of Quinn’s appearance- first demonstrated in the New 52 versions of the comics, and then continued through the Arkham games and Suicide Squad comics and movie. The dichotomy between classic and modern versions is clearly represented on the cover of the DC Comics omnibus special issue dedicated to Quinn.

Cosplayers who choose this version often identify strongly with a Harley who, in the words of Mexican cosplayer, Bernadette, remains ““fun despite the tragedy” of surviving an abusive relationship.

Bernadette at La Mole: Mexico City 2019

Harley represents a woman with significant trauma in her past, who escapes and becomes truly empowered. For Missouri cosplayer Raylene (pictured above as the featured image), this is key to her admiration for, and identification with the character. Raylene shared that “that’s why I like her. While she’s still hung up over Joker’s death it’s the first time in the Arkham series where you actually get to see what’s she’s capable of and how she’s able to organize herself and an entire gang just by herself.”

Raylene says that “I’ve always just really liked her and the depth of the character they portray in her. I’ve had a lot of issues in my own life and when I saw her grow as a person, whether it was in comics, movies, games, etc., it really helped me out in my personal life. When I saw her separate herself from certain situations and stand up for herself against Joker, or Deadshot, or even her own demons it was always so inspiring to me since I resonated with her on such a personal level.”

This is not an uncommon sentiment. Harley Quinn cosplayers in the United States and Mexico have expressed this feeling of resonance with a character who is abused, and mistreated, and then breaks free to find agency and self-empowerment.

That this agency is often violent is, I believe, cathartic. As French feminist Julia Kristeva noted, when women have been systematically abused and gaslighted for decades (and we all either have suffered this and/or have seen it happens to friends and family), it shouldn’t surprise anyone that the backlash against that abuse may be violent.

What Kristeva says is that a woman fighting to free herself from oppression by a partner (or a society), “may, by counterinvesting the violence she has endured, make herself a possessed agent of this violence” and that sometimes this violence and the weapons she uses may seem disproportionate, but are not so in comparison to the suffering she has endured.

I would argue that even women who do not become violent in their personal lives can find satisfaction in role-playing and cosplaying a woman who represents the chaotic energy of one who is fighting back against her tormentors.

Cosplay is perfect for this. It allows for identification, exploration and, in the end: creativity. Cosplayers can choose from various versions of Quinn to cosplay, depending on their experience and desire to play with the idea of being a “possessed agent of violence.” Given the nature of the practice, then, Harley cosplayers can even then invent their own, new versions of the character.

When I spoke to Mitsuko in Mexico City, she was cosplaying her original, steampunk version of Harley Quinn.

MItsuko at La Mole 2019

Mitsuko told me that she cosplays several versions of Harley Quinn, but this one is her favorite. In her creation, she sought to portray a version of Quinn who was “passionate, not afraid of anything,” as a way to express a combination of parts of the persona she identified with, along with the parts of the persona she aspired to.

Mitsuko appreciates the liminal, conflicted nature of Harley, saying that she saw her as a villain, but also someone who helped others.

And that, right there, is the badassedness of possibility in Harley Quinn. It allows for both villainy and helpfulness. Playfulness and mayhem. In Harley, we can identify our pain, and appreciate her revenge.

Cheers to all the Harley Cosplayers that I have met! (and those I haven’t!)

 

 

 

 

 

Desperately Turning 50

I turn 50 this year.

 

So does my best, oldest and dearest friend. We’ve been tight since 1981.  We agreed that we should do SOMETHING awesome in honor of our big birthday year. Not something appropriate, really, just something ridiculous and badass.

Let’s go to Vegas!

Let’s see Def Leppard!

Ah, the 80s. Hair and denim. Still love it.

Chess and I saw Def Leppard in…1987? The Hysteria tour, so what better way to celebrate our birthday year than to see them again?

We booked a nice hotel, planned a spa day, and purchased MUCH better tickets than we could have afforded in 1987. Such are the benefits of being middle-aged with a steady income.

Now, Kiogenic (aka cosplay daughter), has recently discovered the joy of 1980s rock. (Another post incoming eventually about her badass Motley Crue cosplay). She wanted to come too- and why not? Clearly, though, we would need appropriate attire.

What’s the point of doing something slightly ridiculous for your birthday if you wear boring clothes? (Ok, many people would, and did, wear appropriate and even classy outfits to the concert. Chess did. But she’s not a COSPLAY MOM.)  I decided that I would make……..the jacket from Desperately Seeking Susan. 

Haven’t seen it? As of Sept 2019, it was on Amazon Prime. Recommended! Super fun, circa 1985. And the jacket is both amazing, and a key plot point!  The costumers made at least two of these, (see photo below) one for Madonna and one for Rosanna Arquette. The one worn by Madonna in the film – and in her video for “Get Into the Groove,” sold at auction in 2016 for $70,000. (!)

Anyway, here I go. I do NOT have the sewing skills to try and tailor a jacket from the ground up, especially with the time constraints (and fighting terrible migraines- a joyful benefit of approaching menopause). It was a really rough summer, but I was DETERMINED to make this jacket.

I decided to the thrift shop and upcycle. (Thrift shops. Where would cosplayers be without thrift shops?- we sometimes say that the Macklemore song “Thrift Shop” is the cosplay anthem). I was also lucky that Kiogenic has moved back home, and was available for consultation and advice regularly! (Since going off to college in art and costuming, she has much better, and wider skills than I).

Step 1: Find a jacket that has the right general profile, and FITS.

In the first store I go to, I strike gold: the PERFECT jacket. I have wide shoulders, so finding a jacket that fits across the shoulders is hard. This fits, and while it’s not exactly the right color, that’s why we have RIT dye!

This will work- and IT COST $2!

Step 2: Tone that green down a bit and hack away

The canonical jacket is not only more olive but had gold flecks. Kiogenic was pretty sure she could get the gold effect with an airbrush, and time, but time was short. I cut off the collar and the flaps for the pockets (this gave me fabric scraps for testing the concentration and timing of the dye). I also needed to cut and hem the bottom for the tuxedo points in front and back.

This left me with a good base for adding all of the fancy extras that make the jacket amazing.

Step 3: The collar and cuffs

The auction site actually has the best and most details reference photos. Kiogenic also watched the film (she hadn’t seen it) to get a good look at the details. The collar and cuffs seem to be a brocade lining that doesn’t line the whole jacket, just as a strip along the tuxedo collar and cuffs. It’s got texture in swirls and arabesques. This fabric was going to be impossible to find exactly

Looking around the internet (I’m not the only one out there desperately seeking to make the jacket), I see that many other folks cheat, or make do with tiger stripes. Here’s an example that someone else made:

Credit to “Q is for Quilter”: she made this for her daughter.

Props to her for the gold in the weave on the fabric (and the fact that she made the jacket from the ground up!), but I wasn’t loving the tiger stripe look. I spent probably entirely too long looking at brocade to buy online. I found some, which had the right gold base and similar patterning, but would need some amendment ($8 on EBay). Kiogenic suggested fabric paint- and NOT a fabric marker. I painted with a brush.

I used newspaper to pattern the right shapes for the cuff and collar pieces, cut them out of the brocade and got to work. The silver needed to be covered in black.

This would get me very close to the original, and closer than a tiger stripe pattern. Once these pieces were done, I fired up Peggy (my trusty 1960’s vintage machine) and sewed the pieces on. That got me to here:

Step 4: The iconic pyramid on the back

Ok, so now the fun begins. time to take on the image on the back- which is the pyramid, eye, and slogan from the back of a dollar bill- only in 1980’s gold lame and embroidery. On inspection, I see that the pyramid and eye are outlined in red. I decided to applique the lame on the red for stability and to get that outline.

YIKES. Lame is a pain in the ass! It frays like a mofo. Ok, now using glue.

Once the lame was glued on, I dug out my embroidery skills, learned, oh, 40 years ago from my mother, and hand-embroidered the details. (Thanks mom!)

I cut the pieces out and then, again, glued them to the jacket.

Gluing these pieces to the jacket wasn’t laziness- Since I wasn’t building it from scratch, if I had sewed these on, I would have had to sew through the lining, and that would have made it hang funny.

Here we are before I add the extra embroidery details:

And now the ribbon. I am TERRIBLE at hand lettering. Thank goodness that Kiogenic is AMAZING at it. She lettered the slogan on the ribbon and I attached that. Now we are T-20 hours before the plane leaves for Las Vegas. I thought I was going to sew sequins around the ribbon, but Kiogenic swears that it’s a brocade trim. Crap. So I try to bust out an embroidery outline.

This is one of the two things I’m NOT happy about with this jacket. Before I wear it again, I’m going to pick it out and go with the sequin idea.

(You don’t get a close-up photo of that. I’m going to fix it.)

And………

TA-DA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Ready to rock out at the Def Leppard concert!

I need to redo the outline of the ribbon and add some interfacing at the tip on the back, but really? In and amongst the health issues I’ve had? I’m pretty happy.

For the record, Kiogenic basically cosplayed Blondie / Debbie Harry for the concert:

As always, significantly cooler than I am. : )

We, all three of us, had a GREAT time.  And I WILL wear this jacket again!

Cosplaymom, Word Witch, High Priestess and ANGRY QUEEN

This is the story of how, in the last six months, I received the titles of Word Witch and High Priestess, while myself adding Angry Queen to my self-identified title of “Cosplaymom.”

In the last year, I have had the excellent fortune to embark on two new adventures: first, I agreed to start volunteering with our local ComicCon- Visioncon.  I do a lot of writing for them, and I share many excellent memes on the Facebook page! 

2020 banner

2020 will be our “critical” 30th anniversary

I’m part of the Marketing team, and we are, to be not humble at all, pretty badass, and have non-traditional titles. I am, ahem, the “Word Witch.” I write the things.

I also get to help judge the cosplay competition (an experience that I’ll write more about in a different post) and see the inner workings of an all-volunteer con that gives all of its proceeds to charity. Yes, it’s like the proverbial sausage (you don’t want to know how it’s made, but It’s DELICIOUS).

Visioncon 2019

If you can, you should absolutely come to Visioncon 2020. We are in Springfield, Missouri and the con has gaming, vendors, a wide array of panels and cosplay. Like the FB page too (I linked above)- as the con gets closer, we run all kinds of promotions for discounts on weekend passes.

Anyway, that was work, but also super fun! In the meantime, I also was honored to have a stellar group of students at my university ask me to be the faculty advisor for the newly formed Cosplay Club, the Drury Cosplay Club:

drury cosplay

The University mascot is the Panther, so…

The members, being creative types, did not give the officers in the club “standard” officer names like “President,” etc. Instead they opted for such titles as “Mistress of Money” for treasurer, etc. Therefore, it was decided that instead of “Faculty Advisor,” I would be “High Priestess.”

Works for me! As I said, I find my work with the club to be a perfect and lovely fit with my desire to help young people develop their creativity in a Cosplaymom kind of way. They’re a great group and indeed came to Visioncon as a club.

The club decided to develop a group cosplay idea, and settled on “Warrior Disney Princesses,” choosing to go for the standard princesses, but understood as badass, strong and even dangerous figures. They worked on the costumes through the spring semester:

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and by Visioncon, we were ready.  Here you see warrior Ariel, with her trident and warrior Belle. (Please note she is wearing the Beast as a PELT. Which we all thought was AMAZING.)

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I was a version of the Evil Queen from Snow White. But not Evil to Princesses. In keeping with the feminist feeling here, I was an ANGRY Queen. I would NEVER hurt a princess, I was ANGRY at anyone who would hurt a princess, and I would go after any one, and any man who did. I was particularly angry at men who assaulted young women. I had a box for body parts, yes, but I didn’t keep hearts in there if you know what I mean……

What was great is that at Visioncon we ran into two other young women who had the same idea of Warrior Princesses! Great minds think alike.

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All in all, a wonderfully successful, creative and fulfilling spring.  I am very much looking forward to working with these young people, and the Visioncon crew again this year, and will undoubtedly have more to share.

In the meantime, I revel in my new titles and will aspire to the heights of Word Witch and High Priestess of Cosplay.

 

 

By cosplaymom

Cosplay and Assault-Allies and Enablers

I’m getting ready to head into the first day of Visioncon 2019 , the biggest and best regional Comic-Con in my area (and I don’t just say that because I’m on staff!).

From my hotel room, I can see cosplayers walking in, and I am STOKED to go in and see the cosplayers, and all the fans, the amazing JEWEL STAITE is our guest of honor *browncoat fangirl scream*  

Kaylee_0

and the Cosplay Club of the university where I work is doing a group cosplay of “Disney Warrior Princesses.” (More on that later). Also, today I am rocking my new 40th anniversary Alien Stompers (replica Ripley kicks from my favorite film EVER, Aliens) 

But as I sit here, I’m worried, as ever, about the possibility of assault at the con.

Have you all seen the story of Cosplayer Elora Kay?

Cosplay Assault

I’ve linked to her whole story above, but she his this visual evidence of this person assaulting her. She had multiple witnesses to his assault, her rejection of his advances and his continued manhandling of her, and also had multiple other reports from other women that he did the same to them.

AND.

NOTHING WAS DONE TO THIS MAN.

HE WAS NOT EVEN KICKED OUT OF THE CON.

She had to file a police report. AND NOTHING WAS DONE.

So, first, folks. Let’s put some pressure on StarFest in Denver. in particular and the culture, in general, to put a stop to excusing this behavior. What we need are allies. ESPECIALLY MALE ALLIES. And we can start, all of us with two really big steps.

  1. Stop excusing the bad actors. With “well, he was drunk.” or “Boys will be boys” or “It’s just locker room talk.” or  “she was asking for it” or “she shouldn’t have worn that” or whatever bullshit you tell yourself and your bros to make it ok.

2.  and. AND (this is really important) CELEBRATE THE ALLIES.

So I want to do that, right away.  First, a Mexican example.

Y’all know I study cosplay here in the U.S. and in Mexico. In Mexico, a blogger, vlogger, artist and commentator El Jagr, who works with Mena on a couple of YouTube channels and at cons like Mexico city’s La Mole (where I met him) to talk about popular culture, cosplay and comics. He’s great, his content is in Spanish, but if you’re Spanish speaking, I highly recommend him.

He’s also an ALLY. He has a series of videos in which he calls out the kind of toxic machismo that treats women as objects and figures them as dolls to be manipulated and manhandled.  He also, in these videos, offers empowering messages to female cosplayers about their rights to not HAVE to put up with that bullshit, no matter what prevailing cultural norms might tell them. This is good an important messaging and I am here to give a BIG ass APLAUSO TO El Jagr.

(if you’re Spanish-speaking, consider checking out his zombie-hunting superheroine Fatima as well)

cronicas-de-fatima-tpb-n°-1-8

Ok, and back to Visioncon and the Allies that I’m so lucky to have close to home. I’m lucky to be married to the best one ever.

But also, though many female cosplayers sent me the link to Elora Kay’s story, the admin to my local Costuming Guild, a cosplayer whose cosplay name is Flash Dixon also posted it in the guild’s Facebook page. And he posted it with this message, verbatim:

Just so everyone knows, if this ever happens to you and I’m nearby, shout out to me. This is utterly unacceptable and I will end it. I’m old, I fight dirty, and I’m not afraid of prison.”

other comments from male members of the group then included, “We got a tarp and shovel should it be needed. Totally unacceptable” and “I’ll help. Just point me in the direction. A few ‘fu-hok’ peeps may want to assist”.
THIS IS WHAT WE NEED.
God bless these men. I love them. No excuses. Don’t do this. Don’t excuse other men. We don’t need you to beat them up, necessarily, but the key word here is UNACCEPTABLE.
Folks, everyone, everywhere, cosplay isn’t consent, and sexual assault is always unacceptable. As con season begins, no one should accept it.
Ostracize the ones who do it and the ones who excuse it. Celebrate the allies who shut it down.
thank you.

What I Learned at La Mole: Captain America and U.S.-Mexico Relations

I was lucky enough to go to La Mole Comic Con in Mexico City again last week.  It’s Mexico’s biggest fandom event and to me, at least, it looked bigger than ever. It was packed. 

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There were times when we could all barely move for the crowd of fans thronging the Centro de Convenciones Citibanamex.  Which was GREAT!

The center was also filled with cosplayers, rocking amazing looks, from superheroes to zombies. (Even the chihuahuas were in cosplay):

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One thing that surprised me, however, was exactly how many Captain Americas I saw. There were nearly as many Captain Americas as there were Spidermen/Spider Gwen.

(I sat next to this perfect couple for the cosplay competition)

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Spiderman and the recent movie Into the Spider-Verse have done a great job of promoting how “anyone can be behind the mask.” \

Spiderman (and the spider-verse) are a fan and superhero identity that encourage wide participation.

But Captain America? He’s so…….AMERICAN (and here I mean specifically U.S. of American).  As the official Marvel site says: “World War II hero Steve Rogers fights for American ideals as one of the world’s mightiest heroes.” Cap’s whole uniform and supersuit is an American Flag motif and his original incarnation even wore a capital “A” on his head.

I’ll be honest, given the treatment of Mexico, Mexicans and Latin Americans in general by the current presidential administration of the U.S.

-(not sure what I’m talking about?, check this out)-

I would have thought that Mexican fans would be frankly a lot more mad at the United States, and mad enough to not want to wear our colors.

Recent polling by Mexican firms indicates that for the first time ever, a majority of Mexicans hold negative views of the United States:

“two in three Mexicans (65%) express an unfavorable view of the United States, while just three in ten (30%) have a favorable view. This represents a stunning reversal of opinon from 2015, when the two in three (66%) had a favorable view of the United States and three in ten (29%) had unfavorable views. 

And I don’t blame them. My day job as a professor of Spanish and Latin American Studies has given me a front-row seat to the deterioration of U.S-Mexico relations. I cringe daily at the bile, hate and outright lies that come from our Republican elected officials about Mexico, I cry for the children separated at the border from their parents, and I rage against the stupidity and idiocy of the idea of a wall. Frankly, the last two years have been a struggle for me against depression and fatalism.

I’m ashamed of the U.S. policy toward Mexico and Mexicans. So I wanted to understand why Captain America was still so popular. So I asked, and these two cosplayers were nice enough to talk about it with me:

IMG_0939 (1)

So I’m ashamed to admit that I didn’t get the Cap on the left’s name (hit me up if you see this!) but the WWII vintage Cap on the right is Captain Pete Solo. The former, a citizen of Mexico and the latter, a Chicano cosplayer from San Antonio, Texas.

What these two guys had to say made a lot of sense to me, and gave me hope in general. I asked them why, when they agree that our current president Trump is a nightmare (Pete used a much stronger word), why they would choose Captain America.

Their answer? Because Trump and the GOP don’t represent the America they admire. Steve Rogers does.

Both cosplayers, U.S. and Mexican, said that they had loved Rogers and Captain America since they were children. They admire Steve Rogers as the “Classic Good Guy/Boy Scout”- an example of American values of justice, fairness, and honor.

For these Captain America cosplayers, the superhero is an example of traditional U.S. values, those that we could all feel good about. This, of course, is how Marvel also describes Captain America.

Cap represents an America that hadn’t yet gone to the dark side (as Dick Cheney famously announced that we had to do after 9/11). Captain America is symbolic of the U.S. as the good guy: a nation that doesn’t torture- an America that protects innocents instead of locking them in cages.

(Cap’s main weapon is a shield- inherently protective and sheltering, as I would like strong men to be. His is not a toxically masculine figure, but a good man, a paragon of positive masculinity. He is a knight- ready to defend others. For a perceptive discussion on this, I recommend this piece).

Steve Rogers, like the Statue of Liberty, is a symbol of truth and justice, and as such, represents the America that we were, and can be again.

The fact that Mexican and Mexican-American cosplayers can still see that America is a blessing.

That they are willing to still embrace us through those core values that have been so trampled of late is generous, and I hope, perceptive.

The Captain America cosplayers of La Mole gave me hope: hope that we can return to the values that I grew up with as a child. Hope that we can move away from the anger and hatred of so much of the current environment.

Because the America of truth and justice is still here. Good men and women exist and are fighting to protect the weak and take care of others. As Captain Pete told me, Chris Evans, who plays the current film incarnation of Captain America, is a good example. His public discourse and positions oppose anti-immigrant and racist policies. He is, as a public figure, fighting just like his on-screen character.

Evans tweet

One example. I recommend him on Twitter, where is profile photo, incidentally, is of him visiting troops deployed abroad.

We need to emulate both of them- superhero and actor. Captain Pete told me that one of the things he likes about Cap is his “Never Say Die-Never Give Up” attitude. I think we need to remember that and act in the same way.

We may not have vibranium shields like Cap, but we can prevail.

HOW TO BE A ZOMBIE: A GUIDE FOR OVERTHINKERS

I’m getting ready to start my next cosplay (to go with the group cosplay of the University club I sponsor). So I really should maybe come clean about my last cosplay: Zombiemom.

Zombie mom

With Kiogenic at commercial shoot for Visioncon

I did this twice- but each time Kiogenic came home from college to do my makeup. The above is for a commercial shoot for the con that I volunteer for: Visioncon.  (Preregistration going on now!) Below, my premiere as a zombie in my town’s annual Thriller dance:

zombie mom 2

“Zombie Housewife”

In both cases I thought WAY too much about my costume (which I did make). So in honor of that, I present an overthinker’s guide to Zombie Cosplay!

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Want to be a zombie? You’d better get started on a costume.  It’s surprisingly complicated to do well.

It’s true that some people phone it in by taking a few old things and ripping them up.  But you’ll want yours to be better than that! To produce the best possible and most detailed outfit for this event, we recommend that you look at reference photos, watch the Thriller film, and then consider the following:

  1. What’s your backstory?

This is important.  You have to have somewhere to start, and you’re going to sell it better if you have a clear idea of who you were, pre-zombie, and who you are now, as a member of the walking dead. Are you a mechanic? A waitress? Which direction were you attacked from?  Where were you injured? Are you a fresh zombie, or have you been zombified for some time now?  Do you still have any residual memories of being human?  Do you still carry with you any sadness or angst from your zombification?[1]

Choose rips, tears, props and haunted facial expressions appropriately.

-Tear your clothes thinking of the direction from which you were attacked.

-Remember that zombies also catch their clothes on nails, corners and other obstructions.

-Plan to use make-up in a logical way to match the damage to your clothes e.g.: if you were attacked from the left, your injuries should be on the left.

-Props can add a great deal to your story: if you were a mother, consider a maimed baby doll, a mechanic could carry weaponized wrench.

  1. What color blood?

You’re going to have to think about blood more than you might have in the past.

-Now, if you are a super-fresh zombie, the blood will be a brighter red as the oxidation process begins with the iron in your hemoglobin being exposed to the oxygen in the air. Pro-tip: fresh blood is also sometimes pinkish in color!  We recommend craft acrylic paint in “deep red” for fresh blood. Diluting with water will give you a pinker tone. Adding corn syrup will also keep the blood sticky and give you a nice, “fresh” effect.[2]

-If, in your story, you are a very recent convert to the zombie life, go brighter red.  If, however, you have been walking dead for some time, you will want the blood on your costume to be darker in color.  The oxidation process turns dried blood a rusty-brown that can be achieved with three parts deep red acrylic paint to one part burnt umber and one part black.  Pro tip: acrylics will dry completely and be less messy-just like real blood!

-Finally, consult with the rest of the dance corps. In the original Thriller film, the zombies actually “bled” black- perhaps the effect of having been underground, the aging of embalming fluids or an alien infection that reanimated the corpses. Will you all go for red human blood or black?  It’s important to maintain consistency![3]

  1.  How much dirt?

This is a related question of freshness.

-If, for example, you are a relatively recent zombie, you probably don’t need to add much dirt.  Dinginess that suggests bodily fluids, however, is a good way to add texture and depth to the effect. Brew some very strong black tea and put it in a spray bottle. Spray around your rips and injured areas, as well as in likely places where you might be seeping.[4]

-If you are going for an old corpse: either one who has been a zombie for some time or as in the Thriller video, is coming from the grave, it can be best to bury your costume in your backyard for a week. You’ll want to either water it while it’s underground or let the rain (if you’re lucky) seep in.  Dig it up and don’t’ wash it. You’ll look like you climbed out of a cemetery.  This tip is also perfect for people who don’t actually want to make friends or hook up while in costume.[5]

  1. Can you dance and/or move? 

In your frenzy to create the perfect look, don’t forget that you need to wear this costume.  Try it on. Squat. Wave your arms.

-If you will be rocking your best Thriller Dance, do a rehearsal of the dance in your backyard (your neighbors will love this). While zombies are not notoriously agile, remember that Michael Jackson is looking down on you and would love to see you get your zombie boogie on!

-If you are just going to pub crawl, worry less about binding or lack of motion. In fact, if you can’t move your left arm, this will add to the effect!

  1.  Make-up for blood, decomposition, and injuries

This can be tough if you aren’t a pro.  If you don’t want to spend the cash to have a local make-up artist give you extensive facial prosthetics, consider going “fresh zombie.”  You’ll need less makeup (no decomposition). As a bonus, you’ll still look hot if you are hoping to meet that special zombie someone, or just get lucky after the event.

zombie mom 3

With my dear, undead, friend Val.

Good luck and have fun being undead!!!!

[1] How does it FEEL to be undead?

[2] Fresh, sticky blood will also get all over EVERYTHING. Your house. Your car. Anyone you touch. Be ready to explain to officers who might pull you over.

[3] Don’t listen to haters who say you are overthinking.  You’re there to SELL the performance!

[4] Bodies seep even when alive. Dead bodies seep more.

[5] You’re going to smell like a dead body. Great for accuracy of effect. Not great for attracting a date.

 

Faces of Cosplay: Tranquil Ashes