Having spent a good portion of my life on stage I enjoy my role as a journalist on the sidelines a great deal. You see a lot of interesting things when you fade into the background. At Comicpalooza at the George R. Brown Convention Center this weekend you'll get the exact opposite of that.
Cosplay is a huge deal, with people spending hundreds of dollars and hours trying to either recreate their most beloved characters or offer a fun new twist on them. It's a particularly wonderful kind of fandom that brings out the most creative and exuberant atmosphere.
One of Houston's best known cosplayers is Nicoletta Maranos, who will be attending as Connor from the video game Assassin's Creed 3. She specializes in video game characters, and I always run into her and her detailed creations whenever Final Fantasy: Distant Worlds rolls through town. Her work can take up to 80 hours to complete, but the end product speaks for itself.
Flashback 100 Creatives 2012: Nicoletta Maranos
"I feel more confident in cosplay then in regular clothes," said Maranos. "I feel empowered as a person and also pretty. I always thought myself as small and average looking as a woman but when I have my weapons and outfit I feel like I can do anything. The best way to describe it the feeling is when you first put on your Halloween costume and running around acting out as the hero."
Sometimes it's not about portraying a character so much as creating one. Dave McBride for instance represents the team at MechCorps, which offers the chance to pilot virtual battle mechs against other players in giant control pods (It's actually three times cooler than I'm making it sound."
McBride and his cohorts adopt a strict military costume and manner, even going by code names rather than their real ones. His call sign is Diablo, a name that he answers to more readily to than his own. His army surplus-crafted look brings out a whole new aspect to his personality that not only allows him a chance to be more extroverted, but really ups the scope of the MechCorps experience.
"When I am dressed up, I am another person," said McBride. "Does it mean that every bit of Dave goes away? Not at all. But I have a bit more confidence, I'll talk to people a bit easier... different parts of my personality show up."Flashback Final Fantasy: Distant Worlds At Jones Hall
Heather Wainright will be trying out her first cosplay at the convention. She has two costumes, a teenage version of Clementine from the recent Walking Dead video game, and Dax from Star Trek: Deep Space 9. She'd always loved making her own Halloween costumes, and any opportunity to do more of that seemed like a great chance.
One thing she'll have to watch out for is the ever-present cosplay girl backlash that has been so obnoxiously present on the web lately. Prominent comic book artists and others have continually forwarded the idea that girls like Heather use dressing up simply as a means to control men through arousal, and not as any sort of expression of true fandom.
"I think that it is a very, very childish view," said Wainright. "One argument I have for men that say women do it for attention, where do you think the idea of the costumes of the character came from? Most female superheroes and other icons have been created and drawn by men. They have been marketed and sold to men. If men don't like the fact that female cosplayers who are staying true to the character design, then I think they need to direct the real question to themselves. I also think those men should try on a Wonder Woman costume sometime, it takes courage to wear those costumes!"
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Even kids, especially kids, seem to get in on the act. Carol Simmons will be taking her young son and daughter to the convention dressed as Marty McFly from Back to the Future and the Eleventh Doctor respectively. Jason Giddens is also taking two little Whovians. His 8-year-old daughter Jill will dress like Amelia Pond, and her 6-year-old brother as the Eleventh Doctor as well because, "Bowties are cool."
Every year you see amazing costumes and ideas at Comicpalooza as the most creative minds in Houston try out another persona for the day. What are you going as?