Cosplay: What is it and Why Does it Need a Guide Book?

Comic Character Collectibles
By J.C.Vaughn
If you’re around enough pop culture, particularly at conventions, the term “cosplay” keeps popping up with greater frequency, and while the field is actually very inclusive, term itself might need a little explaining.
“If I had to define cosplay, I’d probably say that it involves taking a character from any sort of popular media and bringing it into the real world via costume and prop production. Technically speaking, ‘cosplay’ is short for ‘costume play,’ but for a lot of longtime cosplayers it’s not just fun and games,” said Carrie Wood, Assistant Editor for Gemstone Publishing and lead author on The Overstreet Guide To Cosplay.
The late-November release is from the company behind the long-running, annual compendium of comic book pricing, The Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide, and The Overstreet Guide To Collecting Movie Posters, which came out in October.
“Lots of people have turned it into a competitive hobby where they look to show off their skills, while others have managed to spin it into a full-time career. But at its most basic, cosplay is simply the act of dressing up as your favorite character! Those people you see wandering the convention floor in costume? Those are cosplayers,” Wood said.
While awareness of costumed characters has never been greater due to the success of both feature films and TV shows, they aren’t really all that new on the convention scene.

Cosplay: What is it and Why Does it Need a Guide Book?
A fan as Doctor Strange at Eternal Con on New York’s Long Island. Photo by Carrie Wood/Gemstone Publishing.
“There were many costumes at science fiction conventions, some to a lesser extent at horror cons, and of course at comic book shows,” Geppi’s Entertainment Museum President Melissa Bowersox wrote in her introduction to the book. “By the time the 1980s rolled around, manga and anime conventions had begun to experience a real surge of cosplayers, and by the mid-1990s we saw a tremendous influx at Comic-Con International: San Diego when Sailor Moon went from big to huge.”
There may, though, have been some precipitating events leading up to the current high profile standing of cosplayers and cosplaying.
“Two big things have happened in regards to cosplay, and those are big increases in both visibility and accessibility. In regards to visibility, cosplayers are seen now more than ever outside of the convention circuit because of the popularity of cosplayer-focused websites and social media pages. It’s easy to become a fan of a certain cosplayer and follow them online, then meet them at a convention. As for accessibility, there are more companies than ever that make pretty decent mass-produced costumes from popular series at pretty reasonable prices. So, even someone with zero sewing or crafting skills can still go out and cosplay from what they like, which has led to a boom in cosplayers at conventions,” Wood said.
Wood said it’s hard to describe what makes someone want to participate in the hobby.
“Ultimately, I think I do it because I have a passion for the character or the series, and because I like to have a creative outlet to express that passion. Some people who are really into a show write fan fiction or create gorgeous works of fan art based off of it. I’m not great at either of those things, but I think I’m competent enough with sewing at this point to pay tribute to a series through recreating my favorite character myself,” she said.
The pay-off for those who put together (or purchase) a costume and head out into the world can be a unique experience, or at least one different from traditional convention-going.
“I think cosplayers definitely add another layer of fun to the overall convention atmosphere. Would you rather go to a comic convention where everyone’s just walking around in t-shirts and jeans or would you rather go to a convention where you get to see a Wonder Woman cosplayer who looks like she just jumped off the page? Everyone, I think, can appreciate the work that goes into such a hobby,” Wood said.
While now a seasoned veteran when it comes to cosplaying at conventions, she said working on the book was another matter.
Cosplay: What is it and Why Does it Need a Guide Book?
Wonder Woman and Supergirl cosplayers at Comic-Con International: San Diego. Photo by Michael Solof/Geppi’s Entertainment Museum.
“I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect, to be honest. I’ve seen a number of other cosplay books on the market over the years, but for the most part, they’ve been photo collections & they’ve focused on style over substance, and there’s totally nothing wrong with that, but it seemed that the level of interest in those books from cosplayers depended entirely on if they, or someone they knew, was in that book. With this, though, since we have some pretty hefty content, I had hoped for a positive reaction from cosplayers. We are talking about the issues that matter most to the cosplay community in this book, so I had hoped that people would be interested in what we had to say, regardless if they saw their photo in the book or not,” she said.
Not knowing what to expect, though, didn’t deter her from seeing the need for the book in the first place.
“Most of the cosplay books that have released so far are basically coffee table photo books. So we have yet to see a book that’s willing to not only explain what
cosplay is and how it’s impacted conventions, but also take on the tougher issues such as the race issue and the ‘cosplay is not consent’ movement. Plus, we still have a large section of the con-going population that still doesn’t quite get cosplay,” Wood said. “This is a book that serves a greater purpose beyond simply saying, ‘Here are some nice looking photographs of cosplayers.'”
Wood said the book is aimed at everyone from those who might just be interested in this growing component of pop culture to experienced cosplayers, and everyone in between. The Overstreet Guide To Cosplay is now on sale at comic shops, book stores, online and direct from the publisher at www.gemstonepub.com. The full color, 224-page book is available in hardcover ($25) and soft cover ($15).
J.C. Vaughn is the Vice-President of Publishing for Gemstone Publishing.

Cosplay: What is it and Why Does it Need a Guide Book?