With The Overstreet Guide to Cosplay about to officially kick off at the Virginia Comicon in Richmond, November 22-23, 2014, Geppi’s Entertainment Museum President Melissa Bowersox has certainly been busy. Between managing events at the museum that incorporate cosplay and co-authoring the book itself, she’ll have costuming on the brain for months to come. But as she grew up around the hobby, that’s to be expected.
“My first experience [with cosplay] would be dressing up as Wonder Woman when I believe I was either 6 or 7 years old and took part in the kid’s masquerade at a comic convention,” she said. “I took second place. I got beat by Superman. I remember proudly posing just like Wonder Woman with my golden cuffs…which were made of felt.”
Bowersox has been working to include cosplay as a facet of major museum events, including the annual Zombie Gras and a new “Cosplay Masquerade” event, which is planned for February 7, 2015 and will have “contests, big prizes, as well as food and drink,” Bowersox said. The inclusion of cosplay has helped the museum in several ways.
“It helps our outreach into the community, fostering more interest in the museum by bringing in the people who enjoy getting into costume whether it’s as a zombie, a pirate, a princess, or something else entirely,” Bowersox said.
The reaction by the general public to these costumed folks can be varied, however.
“We get a lot of different reactions,” Bowersox said. “Of course with Zombie Gras, most of the attendees expect it, but during other events, such as when the Baltimore Comic-Con is going on right across the street, our guests can certainly be surprised. The reactions are pretty normal: surprise, smiles, posing for pictures, and so on.”
Beyond potentially getting some odd looks from the public, cosplayers face a number of other issues, and Bowersox said that she hopes to tackle these issues in The Overstreet Guide to Cosplay.
“As we’ve seen mentioned in some of our interviews [in Scoop] with cosplayers, the hobby is an expensive one. Having the time and the money to sit down and make a costume can sometimes be the greatest challenge for newcomers who want to get started,” she said. “But once they get to the convention itself, other issues make themselves known. It’s unfortunate, but we’ve heard of a growing number of incidents at conventions of cosplayers being sexually harassed while in costume, from inappropriate comments to full-on groping. On the plus side, conventions such as New York Comic Con have taken a strong stance against that kind of inappropriate behavior, with large signs saying ‘Cosplay is NOT consent’ placed in high-traffic areas.”
Bowersox said she ultimately hopes that the book can not only show that cosplay is more than just dress-up but also explore the full experience, from picking a character to hitting the show floor and everything in between. She also believes that now is the best time for this book to come out.
“What Eddie Newsome and I, along with our other contributors, really want to get across is as much of the full cosplay experience as we can accurately convey. We want to cover the issues facing cosplayers, the many reasons people are involved in it, and the real ‘how to’ component of it,” she said. “Part of what we do at Geppi’s Entertainment Museum is try to study what’s going on in pop culture at any given time. When we announced it, we thought it was the right time. Based on the reactions we’ve received since then from key cosplayers, the cosplay community, show promoters and retailers, now we know it’s the right time for The Overstreet Guide To Cosplay.”