Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Cosplay for Good or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Loki Laufeyson

The summer of 2012 brought about an unprecedented moment in comic book and movie nerd convergence: the premiere of The Avengers.
It was, very appropriately, scheduled for release the day before Free Comic Book Day in the United States.  As such, a local comic shop owner and friend of mine had put out a call for cosplayers to do what we love to do; hang around in character, take photos with guests and interact with them in the hopes of making someone's day a little bit brighter. 
As the movie's release approached, the Free Comic Book Day appearance began to grow in scope.  We had about a dozen cosplayers signed on as a variety of characters.  The shop owner presented the idea of photo opportunities with characters, with all proceeds of purchased photos going to a local food bank.  We all knew it was going to be a spectacular idea, but we had no idea the impact it would have on each of us. 

Earlier that year, I had completed Loki's costume from The Avengers, despite the film not being released yet.  Through trailers, clips, screenshots and set photos, I was able to decipher his black and green garb and begin its reconstruction in my living room.  The task was daunting; the costume utilized a wide range of fabrics and thermoplastics to mimic its textures and details.  When finished, it weighed twenty-five pounds, which is a significant amount to carry around all day.

Loki, armed and dangerous. Photo by Michela Dee.
On Saturday May 5, Loki strutted his way through a busy comic book store and was intercepted by a handful of Avengers.  For the next several hours, the energetic group of superheroes (and villain) would  meet fans, sign autographs and hand out comics to people of all ages. 
Some of the most rewarding moments came from the younger fans who had just seen the movie that day.  The store was located in a shopping mall, so foot traffic was relatively heavy at times.  The younger fans truly believe in the illusion; they grilled Loki as to why he was so mean, and asked why he wasn't locked away.  (He told them he had to behave, as the heroes were threatening to sick the Hulk on him again if he didn't!)
One of the Free Comic Book Day offerings was an Avengers comic for a younger demographic, featuring an advertisement for the film on the back cover.  Kids eagerly collected the autographs of the film's stars, while poor Loki was reduced to signing "Why aren't I on the poster? - Loki".

The Mighty Thor signs an comic book for a fan. Photo by The Artsy Image.

The day flew by and exhaustion had set in; we had raised hundreds of dollars for the local food bank we were supporting, seen many smiling faces and took countless photos with fans.  As we changed back into our alter egos, we were collectively feeling something unexpected, something unusual.  For the first time, we had taken our hobby and turned it into something that gave back.  For many of us, cosplay was something we did for fun; some of us occasionally did appearances, but never on this scale and rarely for charity.  Never had a group of characters at Free Comic Book Day hit the zeitgeist as strongly as it did the weekend of The Avengers release.
Personally, it was a tremendous healing moment.  I had lost my mother to cancer less than a year before, and was in desperate need of something positive and transformative. Up until that point, cosplay had been a selfish hobby; I had ceased entering contests, but still did it only for my own enjoyment.  Watching cosplay change into a hobby where I could give back was a moment that I'll always remember, as it's shaped the way I have cosplayed from them on.  Since the Free Comic Book Day Avengers appearance, I've been fortunate enough to perform as characters at festivals, parades, sporting events and conventions. 
I'll never forget how that one appearance changed everything for my friends and I.  It brought us closer, taught us something, and enabled us to be a positive force of change. 
Heroes, a villain and fans.  Photo by The Artsy Image.

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