Into the deep woods

Wherein Rob and Heather Beschizza try their hand at cosplay, the art of fandom-based costuming, before it's too late.

Regular readers may know that Heather and I met when we were both young fans of the cult graphic novel series Elfquest—a place hidden between Japanese comics, American animated movies, and Old World picturebooks. After publishing a lengthy article about the saga here at Boing Boing, along with its first new adventure in years, we were invited to Elfquest's anniversary panels at the San Diego Comic-Con and New York.

“We should turn up in costume,” said Heather. “We never did anything like that when we were kids.”

“But we're not kids. We're getting on for 40!”

“Better get to the gym, then, hadn't you?”

Unassailable logic.

Halloween erryday

Thereby committed, we "designed" our costumes, based upon those of two of our favorite characters (more on them below!), but most the real work was by the brilliantly talented Roberta Weissburg and her assistants here in Pittsburgh. And then we had a blast at the panels, where the elf drag was well-received. It seemed quite right to represent Boing Boing sporting gigantic pointed ears, and enough leather and fur to give the 1970s an aneurism.

Afterward, we headed out to get some photos taken of the outfits in a more appropriate place: the practically endless forests around Pittsburgh. As mementos go, much better than fluorescent-bathed convention-hall snapshots.

Thanks, Japan!

This was just for fun, but on our cosplay adventure we realized that it was becoming a big business. At the trade shows of the entertainment industry, it seemed as if half the attendees were dressed as their favorite characters. The skill involved is often considerable, with months of preparation (and lots of money!) put into tailoring perfectly authentic outfits.

Cosplay goes way back, to Ren Faires and Star Trek conventions and beyond. But only in the last few years has it attained mainstream attention, with Japan—and women—leading the way. The New York Times' published a style-section article in 2007, with scholarly analysis hot on its heels. SyFy now has a reality TV show, Heroes of Cosplay, about the hardest of the hardcore.

Though there's a dark side for female cosplayers thanks to oglers and creeps, it's usually a wonderful time had by all. And with movie, TV and comic conventions sprouting up nationwide, it's one that anyone can participate in.

The folks Heather and I portray here are named Pike and Krim, two supporting characters from Elfquest's sprawling bestiary. Fighters from a clan of feral elves, they're a well-matched pair.

Pike is an affable storyteller, inordinately fond of hallucinogenic berries and their distillates. When not clowning around or hunting, he's likely engaged in the important business of idling—a skill critical to his art, as any professional writer will attest.

Krim is a fiery brawler, always ready to cut loose and cut throats, especially those belonging to hostile trolls. There's a warmth to be teased out, for sure, but only for those ready to match her blow for blow—and tongue-lash for lash.

And here they are, as illustrated in the pages of the comic itself. How'd we do?

One last thing.

Elfquest's always had a strong connection to cosplay: co-creator Wendy Pini was herself a lauded performer in the 1970s, before the word even existed. Across the U.S., she starred as Red Sonja, alongside Frank Thorne, in The Wizard and Red Sonja show. Earlier this week, Pini's hand-made Sonja costume was acquired by New York's Columbia University. This appears to be the first work of cosplay to enter the permanent collection of an Ivy League institution (and perhaps any college at all!)

More Cosplay at Boing Boing

Chaos, costumes and culture

How to pose in your cosplay

NBC "used Cosplayer photos without permission"

New York Comic-Con in pictures

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