Dubuque Does Cosplay
Dubuque Does Cosplay
by Bryce Parks
With the arrival of D-B-Q CON will come the first real non-Halloween excuse for lots of Dubuquers to dress up at their favorite pop-culture characters. It’s called cosplay, a mash-up of the words costume play, and it’s a performance art in which participants, called cosplayers, wear costumes and fashion accessories to represent a specific character from the world of comics, movies, cartoons, video games, TV and more. The rapid growth in the number of people cosplaying as a hobby since 1990 has made the phenomenon a significant aspect of popular culture in Japan as well as the Western world. Cosplay events are common features of fan conventions, and there are also dedicated conventions as well as social networks, websites and other media centered on cosplay activities and personalities. Cosplay even has its own celebrities!
It’s didn’t take a Con coming to Dubuque to local diehards to break out their alter egos. Cosplaying is already a big thing right here in Dubuque. Thanks to social media, the best and most prolific local cosplayers are not exactly hard to weed out, so we’ve pulled together a few of the best to talk about the hobby, or should we say, subculture.
Nick Meyers and Nick Johnson have been dressing up for quite a few years, often with groups of friends.
“I love movies,” professes Nick Meyers, “and when I started seeing people showing up at movie premiers and then Mindframe opened and totally promoted that kind of behavior, my brother and I started dressing up. First for midnight premiers, and then for every premier. We’ve done Batman, Avengers, Superman, Harry Potter and a lot more. We get a really good reaction, not just from the kids but from the parents, too.”
Their fun has a positive effect on everyone’s movie going experience.
“On premier night, we have people who show up just to see what we’re going to show up as,” says Nick Meyers.
Their love of cosplay started taking them to Cons a few years ago.
“I’ve done GenCon in Indianapolis for five or six years,” explains Nick Meyers. “It’s a gaming convention. We used to dress up as our favorite wrestlers from the video game Raw Deal and eventually they started having a costume contest. Eventually we started just going as more random characters.”
“I went as Dr. Horrible (from a famous web-only video series called Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog),” adds Nick Johnson, “and I ran into 2 or 3 other Dr. Horribles that day. None of us were quite the same. It’s about celebrating your love of the characters. It’s an escapism thing. You see a character that resonates with you in movies or TV or video games, and for a day, you can be them.”
Nicole Meyers and Nicole Welsh are local cosplayers, too, who got into the act more recently but have jumped in head first and are loving it. (And yes, we asked if your name had to be Nick or Nicole to do cosplay… they said “no,” but it makes quoting people in print a huge pain.)
“I started two years ago,” begins Nicole Meyers. “I’ve always loved dressing up, and my friend told me about cosplay at Comic-Con, and it seems perfect for me. I did it once, and I was hooked. Nicole [Welsh] started a year later and was asking on Facebook if anyone was going to Chicago Wizard World Con, and I said, ‘Yes, come with me.’ We hadn’t met in person before, so we got together at Panera.”
They’ve been a dynamic duo ever since.
“Before that I was just into making costumes and putting them together,” explains Welsh. “Unfortunately, Halloween is only once an year, and I was looking for other reasons to make costumes.”
She found it.
The pair go to events as much as they can now, more than 10 times a year by their count and growing.
“We’re actually sponsored now by a comic book shop, so they’re paying for our Cons,” Nicole Meyers shares. “The farthest we’ve gone so far is Richmond, Virginia, but I want to go to a London Comic Con in England so bad.”
One thing being an attractive female cosplayer will get you much faster than a goofy guy in costume is fans. The two Nicoles certainly qualify, and they have the social media power to prove it. They both currently have many thousands of Instagram followers watching their every move in the world of cosplay. Ms. Meyers will admit that most of her fans are guys, as her costumes tend to skew very heavily to the sexy side of the characters she represents. Nicole Welch’s Instagram page started as a fashion-based account and has grown to include both fashion and cosplay posts. She finds that the world of fashion design and cosplay are very intermingled, and her followers appreciate both.
“I want to be as close to my vision of that character as I can get it,” says Nicole Meyers with conviction. But that does not mean appearing exactly how the character looks in popular culture. “I like making things different. I don’t like dressing like everybody else. I want to make my own brand. We’re called Mod Dolls because we’re tattooed cosplayers. Some diehard and famous cosplayers have no tattoos to interfere with their costumes, but we’re more into alternative version of characters we love. I’m comfortable with my body. We want to show people it’s okay to cosplay however you look like. Whoever you are, you can be anything you want to be.”
The two Nicks touched on the very same idea. Everyone agrees that cosplay is for EVERYONE and ANYONE. It doesn’t matter if you have a different skin color than the character you want to be or shorter or fatter or even the same gender. You can be anyone, and you should be comfortable and happy to be that character. They also agree that Cons are generally places where people accept you and are supportive of everyone they meet.
“It’s a lot about makeshift for us,” says Nick Meyers. “Instead of going out and buying the $300 replica Infinity gauntlet, we just made one for much less. It depends how authentic you want it to be. We’re not trying to look exactly like the real thing; we’re just celebrating the character as best we can.”
“Comic Cons are awesome because you can be yourself and someone else at the same time,” offers Nicole Meyers. “You meet so many people and make friends instantly. Then you the see them at the next cons you go and automatically have a group of friends to hang with.”
The girls admit that with all the attention, there is good attention and there is bad attention. Some Cons even post signs that say “Cosplay is not consent!”
The men in the girls lives are fully supportive of their cosplay habit (addiction?).
“He doesn’t mind and doesn’t worry,” says Ms. Meyers. “He’s happy that I found something I love to do. He knows I’m comfortable with my body, and he’s supportive, so there are no issues.”
Nicole Welch adds, “It doesn’t matter if people are looking at me a certain way because I’m not looking at them that way. So… he’s all for it.”
Some of the bigger cosplayers are not only sponsored but are also paid by events to come to their event in character, and the girls seem to be working in that direction. They’ve even been working on a special project to highlight not only their love of cosplay but their talents as costume designers and, well, lovely ladies, too.
“We have our lingerie calendar coming out soon,” Ms. Welch tells us. “We’d love to have it ready in time for D-B-Q CON.”
In each month of the calendar they cosplay famous duos like Storm and Emma Frost from X-Men and Katana and Jade from the video game Mortal Kombat. Geeks, calm yourselves!
Nicole Meyers doesn’t sew but does a lot of augmentation to her costumes and can drop $350–$400 on a costume. Welch is a seamstress and sees the investment of time as much as money in the final value of a cosplay costume. For her, Disney characters have been a favorite theme, but she also does a spot-on Daenerys Targaryen from Game of Thrones. Nicole Meyers enjoys strong female characters likes fighting characters as her portfolio supports. And she’s not at all afraid to share the curves nature gave her.
“My Vampirella costume was only $80, but… there’s not much to it, so…” Nicole Meyers laughs. She says you can see her Vampirella costume at D-B-Q CON if your eyes can handle it.
“A lot of little kids really like to see my Disney characters,” says Nicole Welch, “and that feels great, to know you added something to their day.”
Nick Meyers’ favorite movie of all time is Ghostbusters and is thus also one of his favorite cosplays. But he is also very happy with the Captain American and Red Skull he and his brother did for a recent movie opening. Also, for the opening of the first of the modern Muppet movies, they went not as Kermit or Fozzie but as Waldorf and Statler, the two old men who heckle the Muppets from the balcony box seats.
“We were amazed not by the adults but also by the little kids who knew who we were. It was great,” reminisces Nick Meyers.
Nick Johnson’s favorite cosplay to date has been Eddie from Rocky Horror, but he admits it works best when surrounded by the rest of the cast.
Harley Quinn from the upcoming Suicide Squad movie is apparently the most popular female character at Cons, and the movie isn’t even out yet, though Harley has been around in comics for some time. We assume Slave Leia has to be a close second, and in fact, the two Nicoles have a pretty amazing one-two Princess Leia punch whether they are both in slave bikinis or one is donning the cinnamon roll hairstyle of Ambassador Leia.
Nick Meyers is joining up with the Galena Ghostbusters for one of the two days of D-B-Q CON. The other day is still undecided. “I have totes full of stuff to choose from… and the next Star Wars is on the horizon.” Whatever it is, Nick Meyers, like the rest of the crew, is thrilled to see this opportunity taking root here at home. “I’m just happy that they’re doing something like this in Dubuque. No matter how big or small it starts, I’ve talked to people who are completely psyched that they’re actually doing a Con in Dubuque! Hopefully the community gets behind it and helps it grow.”
So, when you bring the kids down for a taste of all things comics, games and more, keep an eye out for these characters—for characters they will surely be!