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Supanova, and the art of Cosplay

by Bethany (follow)
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If you haven’t already heard, Supanova is once again making the rounds this year, with tickets to the Sydney and Perth events on sale right now.

For those who are unfamiliar with Supanova, it’s an annual pop culture expo not unlike Comic Con in the US. It is a chance for lovers of all popular culture, including sci-fi and fantasy novels, comics, manga, anime, television shows, movies, toys, and games, to come together for one weekend (per city) and indulge in all the latest crazes. There are hundreds of merchandise stalls, live performances and demonstrations, competitions, and games packed into one place, so if you’re a fan, this is the place to be.

Supanova Pop Culture Expo Facebook.

Guest stars from various television shows and movies are also invited to participate in panels; audiences get to ask them questions, or line up to have their picture taken and an autograph to go with it. This year’s line up includes Bonnie Wright (Ginny Weasley, Harry Potter), Susan Olsen (Cindy Brady, The Brady Bunch), and comedian and author Adam Spencer.

But what, do you ask, does this have to do with arts and crafts? One word: cosplay.

The word “cosplay” is a portmanteau of the term costume play. It is a type of performance art, involving costumes and props — often handmade by the cosplayers themselves — to dress up like figures from popular culture. A more elaborate version of dress-ups, if you will. It started in the US, and has gained immense popularity and worldwide recognition since 1990, so much that it is now a significant part of Japanese popular culture.

Have you ever dressed up as your favourite cartoon character when you were a child? Maybe you’ve slipped into a costume from your favourite horror movie for Halloween, or a fancy dress party. Well, these all share the same essential element as cosplay: a costume.

The Incredibles Family cosplay, San Diego Comic Con 2007 - Cory Doctorow, Flickr

Cosplayers invest a lot of time, money, and effort into crafting their costumes to make them look as realistic as possible. It takes a lot of skill and dedication to make a costume from scratch, and seasoned cosplayers have it down to a fine art. Some cosplayers, especially in Japan, have been so widely recognised for their work, that they have been able to forge successful entertainment careers from their craft.

Captain America cosplay at Supanova Gold Coast 2015, Supanova Pop Culture Expo Facebook.

Every year at Supanova, MadMan Entertainment sponsors the National Cosplay Championship, the winners of which get to represent their state in the Grand Finals for the title of Australia’s Top Cosplayer. Prizes include a trip for two to Japan, accommodation and travel included, and entry into a Japanese anime convention.

Judging for the Supanova Cosplay Competition. Supanova Pop Culture Expo Facebook.

But it doesn’t have to be about competitions and prizes. Cosplay is, in essence, a craft and a hobby. If you love sewing, or are good at making cool-looking gadgets out of spare materials, and have a character from popular culture you really love, why not give it a go? It doesn’t have to be anything elaborate, but the results can be incredibly rewarding.

Granado Espada cosplay - greyloch, Flickr

Here is a list of pros and cons for both buying and making your own cosplay.

Last year, I was feeling adventurous and creative. So with a lot of time on my hands (and a few sleepless nights), I was somehow able to pull together a costume based on the character Hange from the Japanese anime Attack on Titan:

Hange Zoe cosplay. Photo copyright Joshua Thamin Photography, Facebook.

The clothing was purchased online, namely the jacket, the cape, and the leather harness. I made the gear (the silver boxed sheaths and the swords hanging from my hips) out of a combination of foam boards, PVC pipes, wire and a lot of hot glue. Everything was spray painted silver for a metallic effect, and secured to my outfit with more straps around my waist, hips, and through my belt.

The entire costume took about two months on and off to make, but it was worth it for all the photos that people asked to take with me, and meeting other people who had dressed up as characters from the same show. Our gear all looked different, given that we all made our best approximation of a very complicated set of props, but it was a lot of fun exchanging tips and tricks on how to improve the costume for next time.

Making the gear.

What do you think?

Have you ever dressed up as a pop culture icon? Have you ever made your own props before? Maybe you've dressed yourself or someone else up for a party before. Share your cosplay experience with us here, or on the forum!

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