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!)

 

 

 

 

 

#Estoyenlamole- Bilingual Entry in Inglés y Español

(Sigue alternando el español)

I had a great day at La Mole yesterday, and met some wonderful cosplayers and artists.  I learned some things that I’d like to explore more about how similar- and different the cosplay community is in Mexico from the United States. But of course one key thing is language.

I learned that for my somewhat introverted self- it’s that much harder to get up the courage to approach strangers to talk to me about cosplay. And I learned that while I’m pretty fluent in Spanish, my vocabulary lets me down sometimes if I want to talk about, say, forming foam armor with heat guns.  (Many thanks to the patient cosplayers who hung with me while I fumbled around for terminology).

In speaking to cosplayers, I specifically asked if I should blog in Spanish and English to better communicate with the Mexican cosplay community. The resounding answer was YES. So this blog will be bilingual.  I toyed with the idea of doing two separate posts- one in English and one in Spanish. That may be less cumbersome. At some point, I may design a separate Spanish-language site.

For now though,  this post will be bilingual (alternating paragraphs) and I’d be every so grateful for feedback on if that works or not!

Lo pasé re bien en La Mole ayer, y conocí a muchos artistas y cosplayadores talentosos.  Aprendí de varias cosas que quiero explorar más en cuanto a las similaridades- y diferencias de las comunidades del cosplay en Mexico y Los Estados Unidos.  Claro- una de las lecciones claves tiene que ver con el idioma.

Aprendí que para mí- como soy media introvertida, es aún más difícil acercarme a los cosplayadores que no conozco para hacer preguntas.  También aprendí que, mientras tengo destreza en la lengua, muchas veces no tengo el vocabulario de hablar de tales cosas técnicas como formar el “foam” con una pistola de calor.  (Mil gracias a los cosplayadores que me tenían paciencia cuando yo buscaba palabras).

En hablar con los cosplayadores, hice preguntas específicas acerca de si yo debo escribir ambos en español e inglés. Me dijeron que sí.    Por eso, decidí escribir este blog- y los otros que escribo acerca del cosplay latinoamericano, de manera bilingüe. Pensaba también en simplemente tener todo un artículo separado en español- y también en abrir un sitio/blog que esté puramente en español. No sé todavía.

Empecemos con este blog que alterna entre las dos lenguas.  Estaria muy agradecida por comentarios y sugerencias acerca de la cosa.

Where to start? Maybe with my first impressions on similarities and differences- 

¿Cómo empezar? Quizá con lo que es similar, y lo que es diferente.

Similarities/Lo Similar:

The cosplay and art here in Mexico is as amazing and creative and enthusiastic as any con that I’ve attended in the United States.  I will profile some of these cosplayers in more detail in coming posts, but here’s a taste, just from day 1!

El cosplay y el arte que he visto aquí es tan creative, entusiasta y fantástico como el que he visto en los Estados Unidos. En artículos futuros, haré retratos más detallados de algunos de estos cosplayadores. Por ahora,¡ un vistazo del primer día!

P1000940_Moment

Eduardo y Fernando como Punk Batman y Mecha Joker

Leo como Harley Quinn in Crossplay

P1000930

Jagr, author of Momentum with Momentum.

 

P1000932_Moment

Artista Siames Escalante of Umiiland

What’s Different? / Lo Diferente

Again, I have many observations, but here I’ll add just a few words and expand more later.

The cosplay here is almost overwhelmingly done by males (or who identify as male).  There were lots of women at the convention yesterday, but hardly any in cosplay.  I did see this AMAZING gender-bent Nightwing

P1000933_Moment

I didn’t get to talk to this cosplayer- she (assuming, here) radiated “back off” and had a male bodyguard/chaperone. (I always do my best to respect cosplayers’ desire to talk or be left alone.)

Tengo muchas observaciones, pero ofreceré simplemente algunas en este momento para expandir más en el futuro.

El cosplay que vi fue hecho casi en total por hombres (o los que se identificaban como hombres). Había muchas mujeres en el evento, pero casi ninguna en cosplay. Vi (arriba) un Nightwing- versión femenina, pero no pude hablar con ella (aquí asumo que se identifica como mujer)- dio toda una impresión de “no me hables” y también  vino acompañada por un guardaespaldas/chaperón. (Y siempre hago lo que puedo de respetar a los que participan en cosplay- si están dispuestas a hablar, o si quieren mantener su espacio privado).

I think there will be  a lot to say about gender and gendered cosplay as I work and meet cosplayers and reflect. Today though, I am back to the convention, and look forward to posting more later!

Creo que voy a tener mucho que decir en cuando al genero y como funciona el genero en el cosplay aqui. Sin embargo, necesito tiempo para pensar y reflejar. Y hoy- de regreso al evento!  Escribire mas en el futuro!

Faces of Cosplay: Dr. Crossplay

One of my favorite cons is Cosplacon- a friendly, well-run affair that focuses specifically on cosplay and cosplayers.

This year, I went with Kiogenic (cosplay daughter) and friends to the annual event.  Once they were ready to hit the floor, we went down to the atrium for photos:

P1000905

this is Kiogenic’s “Lego Batman” Robin.

When we were done and they had run off to meet up with friends and other people much cooler than I am, I sat in the sunny, 1970’s lobby and watched the show.

I love Cosplacon because just about everyone is in cosplay (it’s a cosplay convention, after all).

There were assassins and pokemon, monsters and anime princesses. A sea of happy, excited and excellent cosplay.

But as I sat there, my attention was most drawn to an stunning, statuesque cosplayer in fishnets, top hat and a tailcoat.

Dr Crossplay Zatana 2

Dr. Crossplay as Zatanna Zatara

When he worked his way around the floor, I asked to take his photo and we struck up a conversation. This is how I met the eloquent, elegant Edward Johnson, aka Dr. Crossplay.

Name: Edward Johnson

Age-ish: 48 Years Old Be 49 this August

How long have you been cosplaying? I have been cosplaying four years now.

Why do you cosplay? I cosplay for fun along with the recognition and respect from other cosplayers and fans. I’m able to bring my favorite comic book characters to life and I love the positive attention I get from fans,other cosplayers, friends and strangers.

How do you decide what to cosplay? I get a lot of my choices from Google, Bing, Facebook, and Deviant Art.

Do you have a favorite, or signature cosplay? My favorite cosplays are and have been Zatanna, Harley Quinn, and Poison Ivy.

Dr Crossplay Harley

Harley Quinn.

Do you make or buy your cosplays?  I tend to make my own costumes.just not exactly from the fabric or from the first sequin and stitch up. I throw together my costumes from other clothes and some other costumes I buy locally on the cheap or from thrift and do some hemming here, and adding more style there, to make my costume the way I want it to be the best I can make it to be.

What advice do you have to other cosplayers? Start out small. Go to the nearest con or comic event nearest to where you live. Don’t be afraid to buy a costume and do some modding or fixer-uppers to get the costume to fit how you want it to. Many cosplayers start out for the first time will go with something simple and build up for there as they progress. If you go to a convention, you’ll see a lot of different types of costumes, from store bought to homemade, from simple to complex. Some people aim to look as much like the character they’re portraying as possible. Others don’t. It’s all a matter of personal choice. The key to not being intimidated by other cosplays is to remember, it’s just for fun and those cosplayers are having fun just as much.

What is the best thing someone has said to you about your cosplay? Most people will say “That’s a great cosplay. Did you make it yourself?”

What’s the worst thing that someone has said to you about your cosplay? The worst I’ve had to endure a few cat calls and some homophobic slurs. Most of the slurs were online. I will sometimes confront them online and put them in their place and or just block them all together.

Do you attend conventions? I most certainly do attend conventions,Yes. So far it has been Cosplacon in Jefferson City, Dodecacon in Columbia, Visioncon in Branson, Missouri.

 

Costuming Philosophy: What Kind of Footwear Does it Take to Kick Ass?

Cosplay daughter and I just completed a shopping juggernaut looking for sensible, Victorian-style boots for an Elizabeth (Bio Shock) cosplay.

Elizabeth2

This was hardly my first rodeo when it came to trying to buy, borrow, beg or build cosplay footwear.

I wrote a post a couple of weeks ago about Cosplay Daughter’s odyssey to construct Chell’s boots from Portal 2:

long fall boots

And when I showed the essay and photos to my writing group it provoked a discussion about the whole “superheroine in heels” thing* that drives Cosplay Daughter (and others) nuts.  There are clearly some particular challenges for women in cosplay in this area.

Full disclosure: both my teenage self, and later, Cosplay Daughter as an 8-year old (watching on dvd) loved the Lynda Carter Wonder Woman program.

Wonder Woman TV show

It was fun, and fantastical and certainly never, never accurate- historically -or in any other way. And I doubt either one of us noticed her boots.

So with those warm, early-childhood memories. Cosplay daughter and I were excited to hear about a reboot of Wonder Woman as a television program:  a new Wonder Woman for the twenty-first century.  You may have never heard of this show, and that’s because it never got off the ground, in part because of the outfit:

adrianne-palicki-wonder-woman-tv-show

There was a LOT of public criticism of this supersuit- from the rubber pants, to the provocative pose-  (there was significant repetition of the words “cheap” and “porno” in the online descriptions).

But for me, it’s the boots. Those look like at least 4 inch heels. How, exactly, does one fight the bad guys whilst standing on tiptoe stilts? (Even if one IS an Amazon).

Suspend disbelief! You say. 

It’s a comic book! You say. 

Men are represented in equally unlikely and anatomically impossible fashion! You say.

And all of that is true.  But all of this makes it much harder to cosplay.

(As an aside, Cosplay Daughter and I had a wonderful conversation in Bed, Bath and Beyond, of all places, with a friendly young sales guy who would love to cosplay Brick, from Borderlands,

Brick

but expressed tentative self-consciousness about being buff enough. Obviously, NO ONE is buff enough).

I have to say though, that at least the exaggeration in his muscles makes sense for his character-  the physique looks like it was built to kick ass. 

So we’re back to the question, which is apparently limited to female characters- What Kind of Footwear Does it Take to Kick Ass?

I cannot say, with a straight face, that Cosplay daughter is in favor of sensible footwear on femme heroes.

(Remember, I have an entire post dedicated to trying to construct the ridiculously elaborate footwear pictured at the beginning of this post).

But she certainly IS in favor of footwear that makes SENSE for fighting, questing and saving the day.

She notes that Harley Quinn sometimes wears high heels- but in that case, the heels are knives that she uses to stab people. The rest of the time, it’s sensible (evil) booties:

Harley_Quinn_Vol_1_19 Watch out, Superman! (The shoes look comfortable though…)

Katara wears warm leather boots and of course, Chell has the boots that are specifically designed for jumping and falling. Notably, Hit-Girl, in the Kick-Ass universe, wears combat boots.

So why the heels?

Sex appeal, clearly.

In my day job, I research beauty and physical attractiveness for women around the world, and I know that there is ample and compelling research that high heels on women increase their attractiveness to men. (The scholar in me wants to give about 14 footnotes here, but I’ll content myself with this one link).

And that’s fine. More power to anyone who works the (limbic) system to achieve personal or professional success. Succeeding in life or work is a type of kicking ass, certainly.

But for the superheroines, the first-person shooters and the supervillans, for the game characters, and for a young woman like cosplay daughter, who is seeking to achieve her goals and demonstrate artistic, intellectual and skill-based power and effectiveness, I come down in favor of the logical footwear.

What kind of footwear does it take to kick-ass?

The kind that shows your skill and highlights your strengths.

Whatever those are.

*(Many thanks to dear writing friend Katie who asked the question that provoked this essay)