Decades ago, fans of comic books and science fiction and fantasy genres in the United States began to dress up as characters from their favorite books and movies to attend gatherings. After the practice caught fire in Japan and returned to the United States, alongside the anime and manga craze of the 1990s, it became known as cosplay, a mixture of costumes and games of role. The colorful cosplay outfits have become a major attraction at events such as Comicpalooza, a multi-format pop culture convention held this past weekend in Houston.
Beneath their makeup, the cosplayers are ordinary people, who, from time to time, become extraordinary.
“You step into the costumes, you step into a new character. You can be someone else for a day,” said cosplayer Rachel.
Cosplayers sometimes purchase costumes and masks, but most create their own outfits and often enter contests at events such as Comicpalooza, a convention that showcases genres such as comics, science- fiction and fantasy, as well as games.
“They can really show off different kinds of craftsmanship and there’s a lot of pride in that and a lot of professionalism for some of them,” said John Simons, one of Comicpalooza’s founders.
While many cosplayers may seem like extroverts who like to show off in public, a number are introverts who are more comfortable with a mask or makeup covering their face.
A self-proclaimed introvert is Jim, who came to Comicpalooza from San Antonio, Texas.
“It helps me socialize and it’s really helped me a lot,” he said.
Jim says he often recommends it to young people he meets who may suffer from shyness.
“Because they may be introverted like me. So, [I am] kind of helping them hang out and talk and socialize,” Jim said.
For most cosplayers, the real thrill is simply dressing up.
“It’s really exciting to step out of your life and be someone new,” Rachel said.
There are now cosplay events all over the world and an international competition is held every year at the World Cosplay Summit in Japan.