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Cosplay: The Fantasy Hidden Within Reality

Updated: Jul 19, 2019

By Tina Albo:

As a child, I’d often wished that my favorite characters from various mediums would somehow come to life. Back in the mid-nineties, cosplay was rarely talked about or done . . . except by those deemed weird and nerdy. Unless you were within the fences of theme parks like Disneyland or attending a sci-fi movie premiere, you wouldn’t bear witness to the culture craze that has united the creative, the talented, and the playful of the world.

Now, more than twenty-four years later, cosplay has begun to reign supreme. No longer were avid fans restricted to showing their love for a movie or television series with a simple t-shirt or a brain full of trivia. I’m proud to be part of this movement—a veritable force that has people from all walks of life coming together to share their enjoyment of creative genius. Cosplay conventions have popped up everywhere, allowing fans to unite and express their love for their favorite characters.

I’m from Western Canada, in a humble city called Edmonton. While it’s not a huge, bustling metropolis like Toronto or a big tourist destination like Vancouver, my hometown can hold its own . . . not that it was always that way.

I grew up sheltered and struggled to find my place amongst my peers at school. My only real friends were the comic books that I began to collect and the accompanying animated series that further developed my love for these characters and their creators. While other children looked up to public figures and our local professional athletes, I looked up to superheroes and unique characters that one wouldn’t find walking the streets of my fair city.

When I was bullied by other children for my tastes, it was Batman and Spiderman who lifted my spirits and taught me that I didn’t need to depend on anyone other than myself to persevere. All the life lessons I needed to learn came from their exploits.

As I grew into a teenager, my love of comic book superheroes evolved, and I became acquainted with more characters as they were introduced. I began expanding my horizons into television and movies, enjoying as much of them as I could. Before I knew it, I was a functioning adult who was shaped by the adventures I went on with my favorite heroes.

Now, as a mother of an eight-year-old daughter, I’m proud of the person I’ve become. My daughter looks up to me and wants to immerse herself in every comic book and television series that I grew up with. What better way to do that than to enter the world of Cosplay?

It was in the fall of 2016 when we first ventured out in costume, a dynamic duo of sorts. She, loving the Avengers, went as Iron Man. My costume took a lot more consideration, as I wanted to make my debut as a character I could really pull off. I was never into transforming myself to look like the heroines, as I didn’t feel I had the right body to do them justice—I knew I was going to choose a male character in the end. After months of heavy deliberation, I focused my energies on the one villain I could stand behind: Magneto.

The idea came after watching X-Men: Days of Future Past. I had always been a huge fan of the X-Men, but none of the heroes had ever really been compelling enough for me; that was, until I finally saw Magneto himself in the animated television series. When he was brought to the silver screen by Michael Fassbender in this adaptation, I knew I had to step into his shoes if I wanted to rock the Edmonton Expo.

With glee, I began making my preparations and commissioned a dealer from eBay to make the bare bones of my costume. I’m not much of a visual artist by any means, so it was only natural to go this direction. I have nothing but appreciation for those who do all the sewing and designing themselves, but I had never obtained the right amount of skill to put my outfits together to do them justice.

My helmet was forged by another skilled artist, who made my vision for perfecting Magneto a reality. Bit by bit, pieces started arriving, and I did what I could to make sure everything was ready for my debut. A little fabric paint here, a little touch up there, and then my outfit was finally complete and ready to wear.

Expo day finally arrived, and my daughter and I walked into the Expo Center ready to take on the world. As we walked through the halls, we were stopped by many comic book enthusiasts who wanted pictures of us. Every time we rounded a corner, someone wanted to talk to us. It was like a whole new world had opened up to me: I was accepted; I was liked; I was seen as an equal, something I had never felt in my entire life until that moment. Every heartache I had endured, every cruel word spoken to me, every moment I was shunned was all erased that day with every person who approached me. I’ll never forget it.

As I sit here and reflect on that moment, I think about all the naysayers who try to dictate what Cosplay should be like. According to them, you need to have the perfect body, the perfect face, and the perfect costume to bring your hero to life. I believe that they need a reality check, to be honest.

Human beings weren’t put on this Earth to be perfect. Every little mark, every little flaw, every little scar makes us as beautiful as we are. Nobody should dictate to us what we can and cannot do. This is especially true for Cosplay, as it’s meant for EVERYONE to enjoy. It doesn’t matter if you’re in a wheelchair and want to be Sailor Moon. It doesn’t matter if you’re overweight and want to be Black Widow. You don’t need a bodybuilder’s physique to rock the Incredible Hulk. You don’t need to be naturally dark and brooding to be Batman. The only thing you need is to let your love for the character shine through.

Let’s spread the love and let Cosplay grow to new levels! The upcoming generations need us to lead the way—so put on your tights, rock that breastplate, and put on your best Joker face. The world is ours!
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