I had the unique opportunity to talk with a very talented Arthur Smith. He is a IT Technician and Puppet Maker.
Carl: Thank you for spending some time answering some questions about a world I know little about. The main topic I wanted to ask about today was about cosplay. How did you get started in cosplay?
Arthur: I started doing cosplay as a way to expand my skills from Muppet-style puppets to full creature builds. Most of my characters are big, complex builds. A few of my cosplay builds have included Marvel's Rhino, Optimus Prime, Odin, Hank McCoy/Beast, Ben Grim/The Thing, and some Star Wars Characters like a Gamorrean Guard, a Mandalorian Mercanary and a rancor. I also have some original characters, props and sets I have done.
I have done everything from Bookstore Cosplay events, to small conventions of maybe 100 people to Wizard World Des Moines with over 10,000 people.
Carl: What kind of awards have you won?
Arthur: Some of my awards have included Best in show, Best Construction and Best Male Hero at Wizard World. But I don't do it for the rewards, I do it for the joy of building and the looks on the faces of those who see the character.
Carl: This year, I “dressed up” like Luigi for my son’s 5 year old birthday. Would that make me a cosplayer, of is there something more to it?
Arthur: Simply put, 'cosplay' stands for 'Costumed Play'. So cosplay is any thing you do for fun in costume. So yes, this would count. But usually 'cosplayers' do much more, namely dress up and go to conventions, movies, fairs and the like.
Carl: How do I find out about local conventions?
Arthur: You can always check the local Convention and Visitors Bureaus. But a better source is local Comic book Stores, Collector shops, and Facebook. Most areas, or at least states have Cosplay Facebook pages. Two I belong to are Iowa Cosplay and Kansas City Cosplay.
Carl: What type of themes do they usually have?
Arthur: Some conventions are very specific and will have one theme. Star Trek, Star Wars, anime, horror, Steampunk, etc. These are usually pretty clear. The Bot-Con is all Transformers. Crypt-a-con is all horror. Most 'comicons' however, are wide open. you will see characters from comic books, TV/movies, video games, anime, Steam Punk, and original creations. The sky is the limit.
Carl: What are some of the written or unwritten rules of cosplay?
Arthur: Weapons need to be CLEARLY non functional. Some conventions won't even allow orange-tipped, Airsoft guns. Typically, a purchased costume is fine, unless you are entering a Cosplay contest. Most of them have a rule that the costume must be at least a certain percent home made.
There is also a big movement called "Cosplay is not consent". It mainly focuses around women and especially around those that portray scantly clad characters. The premise is just because a girl dresses like a character who wears revealing clothes, that is not an invitation to treat or touch her inappropriately. I have not seen this much myself, but I'm an old, out of shape man. To me, this is a simple matter of respect which unfortunately, isn't always taught.
Carl: That leads to one issue on why I haven't ever cosplayed. After a major convention like Comic-Con, I’ll look at website like IGN, and they’ll have a gallery with all the best costumes. I have to close the window because 90% of the pictures will be a female wearing a very revealing outfit, and then like, one Darth Vader. Is this a struggle in the cosplay culture?
Arthur: Some think it is a struggle, others think its the best part. I do see it as a struggle. As the name suggests cosPLAY is about having fun. But most of the comics, games and such all picture scantly clad characters with impossible figures. Many don't mind baring most everything or seeing it bared. But many do. Many struggle with self image as well as with the message that is being sent to the kids they may take to conventions.
Carl: This struggle is not only at conventions but it's all over the world today. Whether we are watching television, movies or just hanging out at the mall, we have to keep our hearts and eyes guarded. What would you recommend to someone who struggles finding the right modest outfit?
Arthur: A great examples are Marvel Movies verses Marvel Comics. If you look at the comics, everyone wears the tightest spandex. And the female characters wear it in styles that would never stay on. However when you look at those characters in the movies, they generally interpret what is in the comic into something much more reasonable, more covering and more appropriate for battling SuperVillains. Cosplayers can ALWAYS do the same and come up with different versions of their favorite character.
I have a friend who is a stunning young woman. She recently cosplayed Batgirl. But instead of a tight spandex leotard with a cleavage revealing deep V neck, she armored her Batgirl more like the movie Batman. It was an awesome cosplay, she still looked stunning, yet her costume was modest. AND she won a Judge's Choice award for it.
Carl: Are there some conventions that are more family friendly than others?
Arthur: Yes. Smaller cons tend to not attract those who really want to be seen barely dressed. Most conventions have well-maintained web sites that have rules for cosplayers. Some cons have actually been known for not allowing scantly clad guests in, including Hollywood celebrity guests!
Carl: Are there any groups or social media pages for Christians who can post their cosplay costumes on?
Arthur: Not nearly enough! There are a few, very small ones. About the biggest I have found is Fans For Christ - www.facebook.com/groups/fansforchrist. I think it would be great to have both a known Christian cosplayers social media group and even better, to have a presence at conventions.
Carl: What is the overall feelings towards Christianity in this environment?
Arthur: Overall, slightly better than normal. For the most part, its a non-issue that isn't brought up. However, cosplay is mostly comprised of people who grew up nerdy or geeky and feeling in at least some ways, rejected. That usually leads to such groups being more open and accepting towards others. There are always exceptions, but I have never felt shunned for my faith within the cosplayer community.
Carl: What would be some effective ways to share the gospel with them?
Arthur: Again I think a safe place on social media, where people can come talk, ask advice on altering costumes to not be so risque would be a positive start. But a booth at cons would be awesome! Not sure how to get that started.
I also started a monthly workshop that takes place at my church and if anyone follows me on Facebook they absolutely see my preaching!
Carl: One of our future goals is to rent out a booth at some conventions and evangelize to this culture. I really appreciate the deeper insight you've given me today on cosplay and conventions. Any other thoughts?
Arthur: I want to close by saying that cosplay, like any hobby, can be done right or can be done wrong. You can do it in a way that honors God, or in a way to gain as much attention for yourself as possible. It can be creatively stimulating, personally rewarding and a great way for shy people to safely put themselves out there. And when you are dressed up as a Superhero in a crowd of hundreds or even thousands of people, it is amazing how many smiles you can bring to others faces.