Cosplay: Superhero, Heroine & Anti-Hero Comic Book Covers
Seduced (Again) By Your Favorite Heroines, Heroes & Anti-Heroes
Cosplay (käzˌplā, käsˌplā) – Noun. A portmanteau of “costume” and “role play.” At its simplest, the practice of dressing up as a character from a movie, book, or video game.
But this definition is an oversimplification. Cosplay is significantly more involved and engaging than simply dressing up in a costume. At its most rewarding, it is an activity and performance art in which participants – or cosplayers – wear costumes and fashion accessories to represent a specific character from movies, books, comics, anime or video games. Cosplayers often interact to create a subculture, and a broader use of the term “cosplay” applies to any costumed role-playing in venues apart from the stage.
Today, cosplay is an art, particularly regarding costume design and production. The most advanced cosplayer costumes are elaborate and innovative to best approximate the appearance of their chosen character, including the texture, color and appearance of their skin, hair, eyes, hands, clothing, weapons and accessories.
Cosplay evolved from the practice of fan costuming at science fiction conventions, beginning with Morojo’s “futuristicostumes” created for the 1st World Science Fiction Convention held in New York City in 1939. Cosplay has since become a significant and aspect of Japanese culture. The Japanese term コスプレ (or kosupure) was coined in 1984. A rapid growth in the number of cosplay since the 1990s has made the hobby popular in other parts of East Asia and the Western world as well, including the United States. Today, conventions often feature cosplay events. Cosplay in fact has grown so much that the community hosts dedicated conventions and competitions, and interact across modern media, including social networks, websites, and other platforms. Cosplay is popular among all genders, and it is not unusual to see crossplay, also known as gender-bending. When the gender of a character is crossed or flipped to the opposite gender. Male to female. Or female to male.
Females are frequently both the subject and object of cosplay in comics, and gender-bending is common. Cosplay covers often take masculine heroes and anti-heroes – Spiderman, Punisher, and Daredevil for example – who have no strong female counterpart and give them feminine form. It answers the question: What if our favorite heroes were female? Talented comic artists celebrate these fresh characters in the boldest way possible, despite critics, by bringing them to life right before our eyes – and we fall in love with our favorite characters all over again but in a whole new light. In the event that a strong female heroine or female counterpart already exists – such as Wonder Woman, Supergirl or Batgirl – their femininity is punctuated and drawn more robustly.
In cosplay, the female form is presented in a perfect, flawless manner which readers statistically deem attractive (though flawless and perfect are subjective terms). Breast size, the shape of the face, a thin waist, a flat abdomen which narrows to the pubis, proportionate and round buttocks. In reality, this is similar to all forms of modern entertainment and advertising: Everyone enjoys seeing a pretty face and everyone wants to be that desirable man or woman in the room.
On one hand, most cosplay covers – super hero or otherwise – are criticized for the way they present the human form in a sexualized, revealing, risque and often topless or nude manner which represent our childhood heroes and heroines. That is a fair criticism, no doubt. These competing paradigms of human experience are scarcely paired by polite society – “It’s just not decent.” We don’t need a heroine showing us her ample cleavage or – gasp! – her nude breasts. Or her perfectly proportioned, athletic derriére, either.
Or do we? The study and artistic representation of the human body are timeless. The greatest artists throughout history have studied the human form as part of their artistic journey. Even today, art majors in colleges (in the U.S. anyway) are required to successfully complete figure drawing and painting classes which feature nude models to receive their degree. Clearly the classical ability to draw or interpret the human form is an important skill required of artists in Western society.
Perhaps we are emotionally moved by skilled representations of the human form. Perhaps cosplay humanizes our favorite heroes by successfully blending childhood innocence and wonder with the mature characters of adulthood – sometimes in mesmerizing and unforgettable ways. Perhaps these representations are more complete and complex than the socially acceptable and polite counterparts of standard covers.
Perhaps the mix of heroism and sexuality is an empowering step forward for the female gender. Can women be heroic and selfless and yet simultaneously feminine and desirable at the same time? These characteristics are not mutually exclusive.
Sources: Wikipedia (Cosplay)