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Like so many other things, the world of cosplay has been disrupted by global events, meaning this unique and vibrant community have had to find other ways to express their craft and interact with fans. We caught up with four well-known creators to discuss their passion for cosplay and how this summer has made them think a little bit differently.

Angel Martin

Based on the UK’s South Coast, over the last few years Angel Martin (@LittleBlondegothcosplay on Facebook) has earned a reputation for her meticulously crafted, faithful cosplay from the world of gaming. Working with her partner, a talented photographer, these skills were – in her own words – discovered “by accident rather than design.”

“I’ve always loved video games, sci-fi and fantasy, but never gave a second thought about going to a convention, she says. “I was into my 30s when I went to an MCM Expo in 2011. My first costume, Tifa from Final Fantasy VII, was bought online because I had no idea of how to make anything myself.”

 

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That’s definitely changed, with Angel’s thousands of followers eagerly awaiting her latest creations. “I’m generally known for my armour builds, so the majority of my followers are interested in learning how they’re made,” she explains. “I’m always happy to help others with their own costumes and give them any advice they might need. When I’m at a convention in cosplay, the two questions I get asked the most are: ‘Did you make that?’ (yes, I did) and ‘Can I touch it?’ (that entirely depends on where).”

As you might imagine, the path of creation is a complicated one. “An actual build can take anything from a few weeks to several months. It depends on the complexity of the costume,” she says. “Accuracy to the original design is the most important element to me. I’ll build up a mood board of reference images and artwork to get a clear picture from as many angles as possible. Then I can start to source my fabric, paint, materials, wig and accessories.”

A regular competitor at convention cosplay masquerades, lockdown has denied Martin the opportunity to display her creations in person. “It’s been very strange, since normally by now the convention season would be in full swing,” she says, before reflecting on how the internet has provided some alternatives. “Some have been doing online expos and running virtual masquerades, but I have to admit I much prefer competing in person. The internet is a lifesaver for getting hold of cosplay materials. I might not be able to go out anywhere, but at least I don’t have to stop making things.”

 

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One in-person exchange she cherishes most was with a younger fan. “I was dressed as the lead character from Mass Effect, and a young teenage boy with ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) approached me. He handed me his copy of the game and asked me to autograph it, because I WAS Commander Shepard. I’ll never forget how much meeting his in-game hero meant to him, and I hope I lived up to his expectations.”

For Martin, it’s that chance to make the fantastic a reality that keeps her involved. “Really, I think I’d just like to be known as someone who makes really good, accurate, quality costumes of characters that they love.”

Cumbermatch

Sometimes entry to the scene can come from one oft-repeated question: “Has anyone told you you like Benedict Cumberbatch?” For British family man Peter – @Cumbermatch on TikTok and Instagram – the answer was yes, and this repetition led to the social media hit that is Cumbermatch.

 

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I decided I would buy a Dr Strange costume, and after some persuasion by work colleagues, I posted some photos on social media,” he explains. “I started with an eBay-bought costume. Now I have a custom-made costume. All of the other Benedict characters have just needed the right wardrobe and wigs – most of which I’ve owned already.”

Despite being relatively new to cosplay, his striking similarity to the Sherlock star and his inventive videos have earned him over a million followers on TikTok, and led to requests to bring other characters to life. “I was recently asked to create a TikTok to advertise the Borderlands series of video games,” he explains. “So, I decided to challenge myself with cosplaying a character from the game, Handsome Jack. I came up with a concept, using mainly clothing I already owned but bought some material to make a waistcoat – I have never made clothing before! The process varies on the purpose: as a lookalike I’m constantly looking at improving my character, but for a one-off TikTok, I’m happy with ‘good enough’.”

The internet gave rise to Cumbermatch, and it’s where the creativity has continued through lockdown. “As a family man with young children, it’s not possible to get out and about as much as I would like – which is why I put quite an emphasis on my online presence,” he says. However, his interactions with fans on the convention circuit has been sorely missed. “A comic con to cosplay is like a live gig for fans of a musical artist. It’s where everyone has something in common… It’s exhausting and it’s addictive. No online event can recreate a live experience,” he laments. “When things get back to normal, I will go to as many comic cons as I can get away with!”

 

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It would appear that many people across the world are awaiting that return. “I have a very loyal fan base on Instagram, made up of both Benedict and cosplay fans,” he says. “Although my growth there is nowhere near as much as TikTok, it feels more like home for Cumbermatch. I have also met a lot of my followers at comic cons, which helps make them feel a lot more real than just a statistic. Dr Strange and Sherlock will always be my party pieces. I would love to take them to as many comic cons as possible and would particularly like to travel to events further afield – I have a huge following in Central and South America!”

Dani Dacic

One common misconception about cosplay is the amount of time it takes to design, create and perfect a certain costume or idea. “It’s hard to know where to begin answering this,” says Dani Dacic (@MissDaniCosplay on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook). Dani’s cosplay is inspired by many genres, but she’s received particular notoriety for her work as characters from the DC Universe.

 

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When asked about her creative process, she says: “My mind tends to run wild with different ways to approach a cosplay build. From idea to execution, it can take weeks if not months. For shooting photos, a lot of people have the misconception that this is as quick as a few shots on a camera and you’re done. This is definitely not the case. It takes us (women in particular) hours to do hair and make-up, then to get into costume. Some shoots can go from anywhere from one hour to over four hours, to recreate shots from comics or simply getting the right angles and poses.”

This dedication has paid off in many ways, however, not least providing the chance to interact with the world she pays homage to. “It’s a great feeling when you have completed a cosplay and brought your ideas to life” she says. “I think people started to become interested in my cosplays after I cosplayed Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot’s version). The movie was such a big hit, and people seemed very interested in everything Wonder Woman. I was very fortunate to be given the opportunity to wear my Mera cosplay to the Sydney Aquaman movie premiere and meet Jason Momoa.”

As well as the red carpet, her passion has led to some real life moments of heroism. “For me cosplay is incredibly important because of the opportunities to work with different charities, and spending time with kids at the Children’s Hospital,” she explains. “I love seeing how excited the kids get when they see their favourite superheroes such as Wonder Woman. Getting to spend time with them and answering their many questions about superheroes is fun and very rewarding.”

 

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This success comes from the simple fact that Dani shares the love of these characters with her followers. “My love and passion for superheroes definitely led me to start cosplaying,” she says. “I attended my first convention in 2016 and I fell in love with cosplay. Since then I have attended conventions yearly. I do miss engaging with people and seeing all of the amazing cosplays that people create. I hope we will be able to attend conventions again soon. The internet is fantastic for interacting with the amazing people who follow me, but also with online virtual events such as DC FanDome – where I have the unique opportunity to host a segment with a friend Chris, called Costumes and Cosplayers.”

As for the future, Dani’s goals are straight forward: “To continue creating different cosplays and learning new ways to build them. I really enjoy bringing costume ideas to life,” she says. “I would also like to continue to work with charities and the children’s hospital.”

Stella Chuu

Los Angeles-based cosplayer Stella Chuu (@StellaChuuuuu on Twitter and Instagram) is an internationally renowned artist and entrepreneur. Her self-taught skills have led to a variety of appearances in television and written media, the result of a lifelong passion.

 

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“The concept of cosplay has always been part of my vernacular,” she explains. “My first one was when I was 12 years old, when my friends and I snuck into Big Apple Anime Fest. It wasn’t until I graduated college that I really learned how to cosplay, and not just wear things I found in my closet.”

The anime fan has amassed hundreds of thousands of followers across her social media and streaming channels, all drawn to the creativity driven by her enthusiasm. “It’s very easy to get me excited,” she says. “I just need a really well-animated trailer with epic orchestral music to start the gears turning in my head.”

That excitement leads to a very considered process of creating looks that will do the subject justice. “A costume usually gets scheduled around a convention, so I give myself a timeline of executables,” she explains, revealing the dedication that led to this becoming her occupation. “I’ve been cosplaying since 2011 and I quit my day job in 2016. I was taking too many days off work to guest at conventions around the world. Before my company could take notice of my constant absence, I decided to quit. I haven’t looked back since.”

The key to any online presence is a healthy relationship with fans, and Stella leaves us in little doubt as to how much she appreciates her audience. “My followers are DOPE,” she enthuses. “I look to them for advice about proper painting techniques, the newest anime to binge, and how to bake bread. Many of them have been with me since the beginning. I definitely feel blessed that I don’t have a volatile fan base. They let me grow and be honest with them.”

 

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This online connection has been standing in for her interactions at conventions. “I stream more nowadays,” she says when asked about the last few months. “I get to spend time with my fans that way. But mostly I’ve been trying to enjoy my time off. I usually attend 10-15 conventions a year. It’s not only my job, but the only way I get to see my friends from around the world. It really kills my extroverted vibe now that I have to stay home. I miss humans.”

What is it about the convention circuit she misses most? “I miss the creative energy that would swirl in the air at a con. It was palpable. Everyone in their dazzling cosplays with infinite amounts of knowledge to share.”

This time off has led to big plans for the future, both in the short and long terms. “First thing I want to do is take a trip with friends to Japan. We usually go every year. I can’t wait to eat all the food I’ve missed out on,” she says. “My big dream goal is to have a Netflix series where I make cosplay for cancer survivors, veterans and homeless shelter volunteers. I want to celebrate their heroism by turning them into literal heroes.”


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