For cosplayers, home is Fan Expo Denver – and they’ve missed it

The convention is about more than geeking out, it’s also a place where people are free to find out who they are beneath their masks.

Charlie Schmidt and Robert Fong are dressed as "the Mah Na Mah Nas" for Denver Fan Expo. July 2, 2022.

Charlie Schmidt and Robert Fong are dressed as "the Mah Na Mah Nas" for Denver Fan Expo. July 2, 2022.

Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite

Fan Expo Denver, the city’s annual celebration of all things pop culture, returned this weekend with celebrity guests, comics, art and – of course – cosplayers. It was sensory overload to the max.

And let’s face it. What is a pop culture convention without its cosplayers? The uberfans who go all-out with intricate, homemade costumes and sacrifice themselves to the heat of layers and layers of clothes for a chance to get stopped for photos by fans, and maybe win a contest.

“It’s fun to be here because we’re part of the show,” said Dave Mercer, who cosplayed as the Futurama character Professor Farnsworth. “If we come without cosplay then we’re just attending, but, like you see, people take our pictures.”

Dave Mercer and Ruth Ryther are Professor Hubert J. Farnsworth and Carom "Mom" Miller at Denver Fan Expo. July 2, 2022.

Dave Mercer and Ruth Ryther are Professor Hubert J. Farnsworth and Carom "Mom" Miller at Denver Fan Expo. July 2, 2022.

Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite

But did you know cosplaying is so much more than dressing up as your favorite character?

Daphne Mulholland said cosplaying started as a way for them to cosplay female characters they enjoyed. Through the process, it became something more.

“I just felt really comfortable doing that and then that just kinda helped my journey into figuring out my gender, my sexuality, you know, things like that,” Mulholland said.

Daphne Mulholland came to Denver Fan Expo as Raven. July 2, 2022.

Daphne Mulholland came to Denver Fan Expo as Raven. July 2, 2022.

Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite
Abbie Blunt (left to right, from top), Ryan Hatfield, Matt McIntyre, Kimmie Forbes, Josh Lucero, Briana Robles, Sly Clayton, Luke Thompson and Aidan Ellison are a multiverse of spider people at Denver Fan Expo. July 2, 2022.

Abbie Blunt (left to right, from top), Ryan Hatfield, Matt McIntyre, Kimmie Forbes, Josh Lucero, Briana Robles, Sly Clayton, Luke Thompson and Aidan Ellison are a multiverse of spider people at Denver Fan Expo. July 2, 2022.

Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite

Stage C., a cosplayer who led the panel “Gender, Drag, and Cosplay, Oh My!,” said cosplaying can be a space for someone to experiment with gender expression and identity because, at the end of the day, you can take the costume off. It’s not a commitment, though you may find out you want to keep it on.

The 18-year-old said he looks forward to Denver’s comic convention every year, so when it was canceled in 2020 due to the pandemic, and scaled back last year, it impacted his ability to connect with people.

“Most of the year I don’t really know anyone around my town, and so when I get to come here I get to have a community,” C. said. “With the hiatus these last two years, it wasn’t good.”

Stage C. came to Denver Fan Expo as Sundrop. July 2, 2022.

Stage C. came to Denver Fan Expo as Sundrop. July 2, 2022.

Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite

He said he was motivated to create the panel after wishing there was something like this for him when he first started attending the comic convention.

The panel touched on terms like crossplay (when you dress as a character of a gender different from yours), genderbending (when you change the gender of a character), and drag.

Danny Hui came to Denver Fan Expo as a Sailor Moon Gundam. July 2, 2022.

Danny Hui came to Denver Fan Expo as a Sailor Moon Gundam. July 2, 2022.

Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite

Panelists also answered audience dos and donts, like maybe don’t try to gender-bend a trans character, or another character from a marginalized community, that has struggled with being seen in society.

The ultimate takeaway? Do what makes you comfortable, but also be respectful.

Here are some more people we met:

Aaron Allen bounces around Denver Fan Expo as Beast Boy. July 2, 2022.

Aaron Allen bounces around Denver Fan Expo as Beast Boy. July 2, 2022.

Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite
Quincy Ojih (left) and Kingston Son dressed as characters from Demon Slayer for Denver Fan Expo. July 2, 2022.

Quincy Ojih (left) and Kingston Son dressed as characters from Demon Slayer for Denver Fan Expo. July 2, 2022.

Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite
Celene Borge made up her own TV-headed character for Denver Fan Expo. July 2, 2022.

Celene Borge made up her own TV-headed character for Denver Fan Expo. July 2, 2022.

Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite
Jesper Sandeen has gone Rogue for Denver Fan Expo. July 2, 2022.

Jesper Sandeen has gone Rogue for Denver Fan Expo. July 2, 2022.

Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite
Matthew Warner (left) and Ryan C. made cardboard Master Chief costumes, a lot of work for a little irony, they said, at Denver Fan Expo. July 2, 2022.

Matthew Warner (left) and Ryan C. made cardboard Master Chief costumes, a lot of work for a little irony, they said, at Denver Fan Expo. July 2, 2022.

Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite
Jenny Bell is the all-seeing eye of Sauron for Denver Fan Expo. July 2, 2022.

Jenny Bell is the all-seeing eye of Sauron for Denver Fan Expo. July 2, 2022.

Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite
Amanda Drazga rules Denver Fan Expo as Hela. July 2, 2022.

Amanda Drazga rules Denver Fan Expo as Hela. July 2, 2022.

Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite
Selena Naumoff is Hogwarts Professor Dolores Umbridge at Denver Fan Expo. July 2, 2022.

Selena Naumoff is Hogwarts Professor Dolores Umbridge at Denver Fan Expo. July 2, 2022.

Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite
Zayd Atkinson (left) and  Chandra Moore are dressed as Prince Ashitaka and Princess Mononoke for Denver Fan Expo. July 2, 2022.

Zayd Atkinson (left) and Chandra Moore are dressed as Prince Ashitaka and Princess Mononoke for Denver Fan Expo. July 2, 2022.

Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite
Bryant W. came to Denver Fan Expo as Ultron. July 2, 2022.

Bryant W. came to Denver Fan Expo as Ultron. July 2, 2022.

Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite
Denver Fan Expo at the Colorado Convention Center. July 2, 2022.

Denver Fan Expo at the Colorado Convention Center. July 2, 2022.

Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite

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