This post will be updated as cosplayers IDs reveal themselves, or not. More SDCC 2019 stuff to come at my Patreon page.
The crime fiction novelist Walter Mosley said a cool thing about Spider-Man once, I don’t mean to take it too out of context, but it speaks to a special awareness that was particularly on parade in this year’s San Diego Comic-Con cosplay. In his 2016 interview with Vulture (the site, not the winged villain) Mosley makes a figurative comparison:
“The first black superhero is Spider-Man. He lives in a one-parent house — it’s not even a parent, it’s an aunt. He has all of this power, but every time he uses it, it turns against him.
People are afraid of him; the police are after him. The only way he can get a job is by taking pictures of himself that are used against him in public.
J. Jonah Jameson says, ‘Go out and take a picture that shows him with his hand in the cookie jar, that shows him stealing and being a villain.’
That’s a black hero right there. Of course, he’s actually a white guy. But black people reading Spider-Man are like, Yeah, I get that. I identify with this character here.”
Mosley speaks to the enduring appeal of Spider-Man and all of his Spider-Verse ilk; the angst and marginalization define their character. To an extent these ideas inform all sorts of cosplayers, including those not dressed as Spider-People. (BTW, here are more cosplayers dressed as Spider-People.)
At San Diego Comic-Con, there are costumed people (of recent years, a great number of them are primarily models/spokespersons/marketing professionals, and more power to ’em), and there are cosplayers. The practice of cosplay is not necessarily about being complimented as “beautiful” or “sexy.” Part of it is dressing up to receive more affirmation, sure; but under that there’s the purer romantic motivation, that is to say, the cosplayer’s wish to be seen as the character whom they love.
Cosplayers want you to know them without having to ask who they are. The best compliment you can give a cosplayer is to recognize who they are and call them by name. Hi Rogue. Hi Huntress. Hi Jessica Rabbit. Hi Mario & Luigi.
At San Diego Comic-Con, some people choose to dress up as their favorite obscure character, and may wander around the halls unremarked-upon for days, while crowds gather to take gazey photos of Sexy Supergirl and Black Widow #847. I’ll wager that relatively few cosplayers dress as the French gunslinger mutant Fantomex (below, far left), so it’s a special thrill for me, the non-dressed-up cosplay aficionado, to find him and to share a moment of recognition.
Nothing against the off-the-shelf Marvel costumes, it’s just that they don’t come in every character, and sometimes you want to run into a Dazzler, a Karma, or an Age of Apocalypse variation of Cyke’s classic suit.
In such cases it’s even more a genuinely-appreciated thing to say: “Hi. I know you. I see you. I see what you’re doing there.”
Sidenote: I did not have a good cosplay of my own, but I got the AOC / Green Lantern / Jessica Cruz shirt on live TV for China Global Television Network’s English-language channel! I’m trying real hard to bring honor to us all! (And speaking of being seen, Marvel announced key cast members for Shang-Chi as well as a slew of other Phase 4 films which we’ll discuss very soon on the Nerds of Color podcast….I think my speculative rantings on TV here were not far off base, because I am a professional Marvel dork.)
Thank you again, SDCC cosplayers, it was lovely to see all of you. May we all live to do it again at next year’s Nerd Prom.