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.”
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.
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.”
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.
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.