The event ran from June 1 through 4 and featured a variety of celebrity appearances, informational panels and unique vendors. Although the convention sponsors a variety of events throughout the course of the weekend, many attendees consider the other guests, fanboys, fangirls and cosplayers to be the best part.
Expressions of Fandom: Findings from a Psychological Survey of Cosplay and Costume Wear defines cosplay, or costume-play, as “wearing costumes, props and accessories to represent a character. Typically, cosplay is the extension of a person’s fandom for the character or genre, such as science fiction and fantasy, anime and manga, comic books, and other creative media.”
George Mamas has been cosplaying and attending conventions for more than seven years. Although he attends cons regularly, particularly in the Pennsylvania area, he never tires of going because there are always different people making his experience remarkable.
Mamas’ favorite part of conventions is not only cosplaying and getting to embrace characters he admires, but also socializing and connecting with other characters and fans, especially after all the time and effort he puts into his outfits.
“I love ‘being the character,’” Mamas said. “And I enjoy interacting with the people and fans of the genre. I think the best part is seeing kids reactions. Not just my kids, but total strangers.”
When Mamas was cosplaying Iron Man, a mother approached him, asking if he would talk to her upset son. Mamas did not hesitate to take the opportunity to embrace the role and brighten the child’s day.
“He was sad because he didn’t see an Ironman,” Mamas said. “So I went over in full Tony Stark attitude and told him, ‘Hey kid, come on, stop crying, your hero is here.’ He looked up from crying and was in complete awe. He looked me over and was just beaming. I took a picture with him and he hugged me. I have a few, very similar stories like that one that make cosplay so worth it to me.”
Leslie Hoffman, Mamas’ fiancee, attended the convention with him and his two children.
Though Hoffman’s first convention was more than 20 years ago, when she met James Doohan at the 1993 Ascension Con II, she did not consider herself a true conventioneer until dressing up as “Doctor Who“’s Rose Tyler at the 2013 Philadelphia Wizard World.
Since then, Hoffman has had an interest in cosplay. She also enjoys meeting celebrities and collecting autographs, but recognizes cosplay as a draw to conventions.
Hoffman said, “I enjoy embodying characters that I respect or admire. It’s a bit of escapism being able to be someone else— a hero or heroine— in a convention hall full of other beloved characters.”
One study found that the most popular reason people cite for cosplaying is because it is fun; however, people also cosplay because they admire the characters, they identify with the characters, they want to display something they have created and because they want to utilize cosplay as a vehicle for creativity and artistic expression.
Savan and MJ Becker have been attending conventions together since they first met in 2010. Though they are regular conventioneers, this was their first time at Wizard World.
Savan Becker said he and MJ Becker enjoy conventions because they provide the couple with an opportunity to bond over the shows, books, television series and comics they both adore.
“Conventions are kind of a cultural nexus for all the things we love,” Becker said. “We are total, complete, unabashed geeks. We have both been sci fi fans from, like, birth. So cons have a little bit of everything for us.”
The two find fun in modifying costumes they buy or even building ones from scratch, but they also enjoy cosplaying because they can personify characters they identify with.
The Beckers have been pop culture enthusiasts for as long as they can remember, but only just became cosplayers when they got together. Though both are a bit introverted, the costumes and their support for each other allowed them to embrace conventions and cosplay.
“She was sort of the catalyst for it all,” Becker said of his wife encouraging him to cosplay. “Although I have identified with Spidey since I was in grade school, being with MJ was what really transformed me into a ‘con superhero.’ We’re introverts by nature, but dressing up is like theater— being ‘in character,’ playing the part— it makes us a bit more outgoing. More than anything, cosplay lets us be superheroes for a day.”
While cosplay does perform a role in escapism, it is not just about creating a diversion from life. Research also supports that cosplay functions as a vehicle for pop culture fans to socialize with one another and, through their common interest, reaffirm their belonging to that group of fans.
An Overview of Cosplay: Exploring the Subculture explains that among cosplayers, there is an immensely strong sense of community and an abundance of support among members of that collective.
Becker recommends that people give cosplay a try, even if they are intimidated by making the costume or playing the role. Becker says that cosplay is ultimately not about perfectly encapsulating a character, but simply another opportunity to bond with others while being someone else for a day.
“It’s just about loving a character,” Becker said. “And either paying tribute to that character, taking a chance to step into that role, or playing an adult version of dress up. And it’s a chance to find other people who love that character or that show, series or world as much as you do. You might be surprised how many people your one act of cosplay draws out.”