This week’s spotlight returns to the world of cosplay, only this time from a western standpoint as Dash Shaw explores the hobby and the culture that goes along with it in the aptly titled Cosplayers.
This collection of short stories is centred on cosplay enthusiasts Verti and Annie who have teamed up to form a director/actress combo who make short online films that show interactions between oblivious people and them in various forms of cosplay that vary from the everyday (postal service) to the more out of this world (full Sailor Scout uniform). These are subsequently posted online as “Cosplay Films” and edited in a manner similar to prank reality shows. But rather than have a strict narrative, the collection mainly focuses on the fandom and the many great things and foibles that occupy it.
For anyone who is entrenched in geek culture, this collection will definitely ring familiar bells in all aspects. Whilst the hobby of cosplay is celebrated, the negative sides are fully explored including overly judgemental fans when it comes to costume, snobbery against other fandoms from all groups (at the Tezukon convention Verti and Annie attend, there appears to be only a small handful of fans of Tezuka attending the show leading to some bitterness from one of two attendees to the small selection of Tezuka programming at the convention as he complains that hardly any of the cosplay at the show is from anime let alone Tezuka related) and body shaming (a Cammy cosplayer gets a particularly bad rap). But for the most part, the protagonists come off as well rounded individuals – despite their rather unorthodox filming ideas – and the strong dedication to fandoms and the work that goes into making a costume really comes through strong.
The parts that really stand out in particular though are the explorations of fandom in general beyond cosplay. In particular, the levels of fandom and what certain properties mean to different people. The speaker at one of the few Tezuka panels at Tezukon is obsessed with his unfinished work Phoenix to the point where it now occupies his dreams. It’s questionable whether this is a healthy obsession because as well versed as he was on the subject of Tezuka in his talk, his inability to use urinals in public toilets, eating food from dumpsters and sleeping outside the convention hotel which he believes Tezuka is judging him from Heaven for suggests that maybe his hobby isn’t so healthy. Likewise when Verti and Annie visit a comic store and are told by the owner how Jack Kirby’s adaptation of 2001: A Space Oddysey lead to his psychic awakening and subsequent loss of his fiancé and left his real estate job to travel the world. But when he hands over copies to Verti and Annie in the hope they too will be awakened, they are not so enthralled and the scene that follows is sure to break the heart of any hardcore comic collectors.
Shaw is well versed in all aspects of fandom, which shows strongly in both the script and art throughout (the chapter breaks which feature cosplay everything from X-Men to Game of Thrones to Final Fantasy and much more are particularly great). If you are looking for an overview of cosplay or fandom in general detailing both the good and the bad, Cosplayers is a fun place to start.
Cosplayers is published 22 September by Fantagraphics
9781606999486 h/b £17.99