By Julie Hepp
It is a truth universally known that a specific fandom of all backgrounds will dress up at some point as their favorite characters–mostly from science fiction or anime shows, movies or video games. When you think of these people who dare to call themselves fanboys or fangirls, you imagine people who pretty much devote their lives and financial assets to accessorize their hobbies, whether it’s with computer wallpaper, extensive DVDs collections, assorted merchandise or, most impressively, costumes emulating their favorite character.
Maria Aghazarian recently attended Otakon, a fan convention focsing on anime culture, in Baltimore. She says that the materials for the costume she made cost about $50, which is at the very low end of the cost range. The admission was about $50, and the hotel Aghazarian stayed in over the four day and night period was $170 per person for seven people. She budgeted around $200 for spending money. That’s almost $500 put down for her fangirl hobby. A friend of Aghazarian dressed up as Angemon from Digimon and had to pay $50 for the feathers alone to make the wings for his costume.
Many people think of nothing more then their costume designs. They’re constantly drawing and re-drawing little details and will work for years on a dream cosplay (short for “costume roleplay”). Some even post their sketches and designs on popular websites, such as DeviantART.com, and update regularly to show their progress, including fabric and embellishment choice. It can come to the point where sometimes the cosplay takes over the designer’s life and becomes a new identity.
Obsession like this is clearly life-consuming but it can be beneficial. The positive feedback from other convention goers and online users can really boost self-confidence. Similarly, going out to conventions has led to strong friendships and a community where people feel accepted.
I attended Comic-Con 2008 in New York with some friends. We attended a discussion with my friends where we met the lead singer of the Japanese band T.M. Revolution. There was an assortment of people there from those dressed in everyday clothes to a group of ten people dressed in full stormtrooper suits from Star Wars. When we were walking to the con, we saw people walking in their full costume to and from the convention center. There were many people dressed as characters from different anime shows, popular films, and TV shows. Our one-day experience cost about $30, plus the train fee from Philadelphia, which was about $77 each, putting our individual expenses over $100, not to mention extra spending money.
At the Con, there were two levels of activities to see. The first was check-in. Even though we pre-registered, my friends and I still had to wait in a very long line to get into the convention. While waiting, we chatted with to convention goers who all had different levels of enthusiasm and devotion to their specific shows, films, or games. Each person came for something different.
When we finally got in, we saw the lower level. The most interesting part was the show floor, which had the latest news about new comics, graphic novels, anime, manga, video games, toys, movies, and television. There were also many different panel rooms and autograph sessions with the creators and stars of popular shows. Many fans gather in discussion rooms to converse about specific shows. At some conventions, actors and actresses from popular shows come in to discuss the newest season. I was fortunate enough to see Stan Lee, the original co-creator of classic comic books such as Spiderman, Fantastic Four, X-Men, Iron Man, the Hulk, and Daredevil.
While there, my friends and I explored many different tables. From action figures to shirts to other fun merchandise, it was hard to escape empty handed (I fell prey to a Doctor Who shirt). I thought the best part of the convention was looking at the books of artwork from different comics that featured not only the finished copies, but also the rough character conceptions. The artists were there to sign and talk about their work.
What I noticed about most of the costumes at Comic-Con was the level of commitment that people put into them. Most were extremely elaborate. Depending on how much effort someone wants devote, it may take from a couple of days to a year to plan and build their creation. Since some people don’t believe in just buying a pre-made Halloween costume, fans purchase and collect all kinds of material from fabric stores, thrift shops, and other random venders to create their character.
Fangirls and fanboys thrive on knowing that their obsession for what they love is not secluded. The community of a convention like Okaton or Comic Con is what brings all of us geeks together–celebrating that common bond of loving the same films, television, music, art animes and specific culture that makes up the fanboy/fangirl scene.
Julie Hepp is a sophomore English major. E-mail her at [email protected].