“I am no bird; and no net ensnares me: I am a free human being with an independent will.”
– Charlotte Brontë, Jane Eyre, 1847
In Winnipeg, cosplaying has been a popular activity in March and October, during the so-called toy and comic convention months. Downtown streets near RBC Convention Centre are festive, glittery and colorful with all the scenesters—young and old—donned in their most attractive and elaborately designed costumes inspired by comics, books, films, and even music. Back home, fans of the same popular culture has long been catching up.
Merriam-Webster defines cosplay as “the activity or practice of dressing up as a character from a work of fiction (such as a comic book, video game, movie, or television show).”
The roots of cosplay may be traced back to 1939 when, in New York City, United States), the First World Science Fiction Convention was held; and participants donned their so-called “futurist costumes.” A rapid increase in the number of people engaging in Cosplay as a hobby occurred dramatically in the 1990s, causing the art of Cosplaying to become a significant aspect of Japan’s popular culture. In the Philippines though, the Cosplay scene was formally introduced only in 2000. These were occasions where people would dress up in costumes or assume their favorite characters. They were heavily influenced by Japanese anime, thus the event’s having been titled “Anime Explosion.” It paved the way for enthusiasts of not only Japanese art, culture, and multimedia, but eventually also of the ubiquitous comic and multidisciplinary art scene, which served as a vehicle to convene and express the attendees’ own fancy.
The subject of cosplay now brings to mind an acquaintance who happens to be a cosplayer extraordinaire, popular in the comic-convention arena–Monty Mendigoria, a true-blooded Bedan (San Beda from Elementary to High School).
Cosplay began as a hobby for Monty in 2014. He jumpstarted his career with the idea of wearing the Star Wars character Darth Vader, since he still has in his keeping the original Vader helmet his parents gave him in the 1970s. However, he left that short stint due to the pressing demands of his work. By that time, he was a full-time fitness trainor. His preoccupation in cosplay came full-circle in 2017 when his schedule was lenient and money to invest in the craft became more available.
From then on, and now at 52, Monty has already donned a plethora of characters in the lines of music, movie, and anime—the likes C-3PO (Star Wars), Iron Man (Marvel Cinematic Universe), Robert Smith (of the English band The Cure), Blue Man Group (Stage Production, Multidisciplinary Art), Steve Armstrong (Japanese robot anime Voltes V), Genie (Aladdin), and Buzz Lightyear (Toy Story). However, his Jesus Christ costume (acted in the movie by Jim Caviezel)—the one that Monty wore for a competition in the movie category—was the most controversial and challenging. Because of its being a full-body latex suit that appeared to be laden with wounds and scars, the critics thought that it was not a costume but instead his own body adorned with makeup. With much defense, he won over the discussion and was allowed to be a finalist.
According to Monty, cosplayers are treated as celebrities during events. They get dragged by attendees for pictorials here and there. Monty feels that the fans appreciate them and are overjoyed because they get to “see” their favorite characters come to life. He also said that he goes through a certain diet as a preparation for a particular character, all the more if the costume will require him to wear spandex (skin-tight attire made of a type of elastic synthetic fiber). Overall, creativity in terms of cosplaying is something innate in oneself. What is important is the passion that drives one to create and transform himself into something beyond his wildest dreams.
Often, Monty portrays lone characters, but he also has a group that he works with when certain events call for it or a contract specifies it. A cosplayer could earn as much as 100 USD for a two-hour gig (parties, movie premieres, corporate events, etc.). However, the expenses could be costly. For instance,
Costume: 50–1500 CAD (depending on the type of costume)
Make-Up: 20–30 CAD
Prosthetics: 100–500 (depending on the type/extent)
Because of his college background as a degree holder in Architecture, Monty was able to use relevant knowledge in creating and designing his costumes. He sees to it that the outcome is as accurate as possible, to ease out negative remarks from critics and attendees alike. He sees this as the biggest challenge.
Because of his college background as a degree holder in Architecture, Monty was able to use relevant knowledge in creating and designing his costumes. He sees to it that the outcome is as accurate as possible, to ease out negative remarks from critics and fellow convention attendees. He sees this as his biggest challenge.
Overall, creativity in terms of cosplaying is something innate in oneself. What is important is the passion that drives one to create and transform himself into something beyond his wildest dreams.