I thought I’d seen big conventions before. But then there’s New York Comic Con. Located in New York City’s Javits Center, NYCC is one of the biggest comic conventions in North America. Whether it’s the fantastic lineup of panels, creator interviews or the big media reveals, this year’s NYCC19 had something for everyone. And of course, there’s the cosplay. Cosplayers travel from all over the world to gather under one roof for the four days of the convention. The halls of the Javits center turn into the biggest costume party you’ll ever see. I’ve never cosplayed before, but I’d always wondered what it would be like. Could anyone put on a costume and call it cosplay. More importantly, could I? For my first time attending New York Comic Con, I wanted to push myself out of my comfort zone and try something new. So I decided to make a cosplay of my very own.
Planning the Cosplay
As any cosplayer can tell you, there’s something wild about making your own costume. If you get the chance, I highly reccomend it. I wanted to put in the extra elbow grease to make a cosplay I could call me own. So for my first brush with costume making, I decided to keep things simple. After giving it some thought, I came up with my three cosplay commandments.
- Use real clothes
- Keep it lightweight
- Make it personal
The first two rules were born out of necessity. I can’t sew a stitch, so I’d need to stick to cosplays I could put together from store-bought clothes. They’d need to be lightweight too. A lightweight cosplay saves money on checked bags when you’re flying from Chicago to NYC. It also saves you from overheating in a bulky outfit, a scenario I was all too eager to avoid.
Lastly, my costume had to be a character close to my heart. No matter how simple the design may seem, making a costume is hard. But making a costume you actually care about? That’s a lot of fun. No matter what, I’d be putting in the time and energy to make a costume. So why not makes something I love?
With those the guidelines in place, the brainstorming phase began. It took some time, but eventually, the answer was clear. I would cosplay the NES Jason Voorhees.
Now I’ve always had a soft spot for this ridiculous version of Jason Voorhees. I love dumb slasher films, it’s true. But when I’m not writing comic reviews I like to blow off steam making pixel art. As an art form, Pixel Art’s all about working with restrictions. In the early days of video games, game consoles could only render so many colors. With so few options to work with, pixel artists had to get creative. As a result, those early games produced some truly bizarre, yet memorable, color combinations. In the case of Friday the 13th for the NES, nearly all the colors in the pallet were used before they got to the maniac in the hockey mask. With only Blue and Purple left, NES Jason Voorhees was born.
Like pixel art, making a successful cosplay requires one to work within their restrictions. Cosplay guidelines firmly in mind, NES Jason seemed like the perfect candidate for baby’s first cosplay. To capture that NES magic, I’d only need two simple ingredients: One blue hockey mask and one purple jumpsuit.
Building the Costume
While you can’t pick either of those items up at your local grocery, getting a hold of them was relatively simple. With a quick trip to Etsy, I found an entire marketplace of high-quality custom Jason Voorhees hockey masks. A few clicks and shipping days later, and I had a NES Jason mask of my very own. The only thing I didn’t love about my new mask was that you could see my face underneath it. NES Jason loses some of his mystique when you can see he’s actually a bearded nerd. While I may lack talent with a sewing machine, I’m more than handy with a glue gun. With a little glue, black mesh and one folded bandanna, I had myself a mask that would totally hide my face.
Jason’s purple jumpsuit was another story. Unlike my cosplay mask, I couldn’t just order it online. It turns out that there isn’t a high demand for bright purple coveralls. Who knew? White jumpsuits, on the other hand, are a lot more common. As I’m all about supporting local business, I paid a visit to The Universal Overall Company in Chicago. After trying on a few sizes, I walked away with a set of white cotton coveralls. With a few gallons of hot water and two bottles of purple clothing dye, I had my perfect purple jumpsuit.
Of course, that’s the condensed version. As I’ve learned from talking to cosplayers, no costume goes exactly according to plan. It took me two dyeing sessions to get the right shade of purple. The first time I dyed the heavy cotton coverall, it turned a pleasant shade of Easter violet. While I like pastels as much as the next guy, “Easter Jason” wasn’t quite what I had in mind for my cosplay. So back into the dye bath it went. It took up until the night before my flight to get my cosplay where I wanted it. But once it was, I had the perfect outfit for taking Manhattan.
Once I’d finally arrived at NYCC19 I didn’t break out the costume right away. I spent the first few days of the convention going to panels and walking the show floor. As a writer I had a whole docket of press related activities on my plate. As much as I love my costume, it’s not the first thing I’d choose to wear to an interview. My schedule was full up until the final day of the convention. That was the day, I knew, that I would strut my stuff and walk the show floor.
After three packed days of convention overload, Sunday finally rolled around. I found myself fully dressed in my first time cosplay, staring into a bathroom mirror just outside Cosplay Central. Questions shot through my head at lightning speed. What would everyone else think? Would anyone know who I was dressed as? Would anyone even care? Was my cosplay too obscure? Had I done too much? Had I not done enough? Would anyone want my photo? And if they did, what poses could I possibly make?
Does that sound like I was scared? Well truth be told I was. My hockey mask may have hidden my face, but I felt like my insecurities were on display for everyone to see. I was about to head onto a show room floor full of world class cosplayers and professional nerds. It was intimidating to say the least. I suddenly felt silly standing there in my purple jumpsuit. I even came dangerously close to slinking back into my street clothes and writing off the whole experience as a loss.
But then I remembered something that slowed all those loaded questions down. My cosplay wasn’t for everyone else. It was for me. I didn’t need to compare myself with others to enjoy what I’d made. I just needed to sit back, relax, and enjoy the ride. With that thought in mind, I slipped on my bright blue mask and hit the showroom floor.
Walking the Floor
I’m so glad I did. I slid on my bright blue mask and made my way to the showroom floor. My first few minutes on the floor passed quietly, if slowly. As much as I’d modified my mask, I still had no peripheral vision. So instead of getting into character or practicing poses, I focused on putting one foot in front of the other. As a cosplayer, I didn’t need to be anywhere. My aim was to be seen, so I could just walk and enjoy getting lost in the crowd.
After only ten minutes on the showroom floor, I was convinced that I would pass the convention without catching anyone’s eye. I’d even started mentally preparing a paragraph for this very article. It went “Even though no one asked for my picture, I’d call this cosplay a success. Just walking the floor was more than enough to make it all worth it,” or something along those lines.
But then something strange happened. Somebody recognized me. Amidst the ambient noise of thousands of nerds, I heard a small voice shout “Jason!” I looked down to my right, and there he was, a little boy wearing a party city Jedi costume and a grin the size of the grand canyon. He’d spotted me as I walked down the aisle. He’d shouted Jason, not to get my attention, but out of the childish joy of recognition. Soon enough he’d look at something else meant to catch his eye. But for that brief moment, I felt the connection between us. I’d made this kid happy just by being there.
And that was only the start. The longer I walked the floor, the more people stopped me in my tracks to tell me how happy they were to see my silly costume. The highlight of the day was when I ran into my “coscoyo”, someone with the same cosplay! I’d just walked past a booth selling vintage McFarlane toys when I heard someone yell “No effing way! Oh my god! You got to see this!” I turned to look across the aisle only to be rushed by a pair of cosplayers, both decked out in their own homemade NES Friday the 13th costumes. We took photos together of course. But the real joy came from talking to two people who loved that terrible game as much as I do.
Under the Mask
Now that I’ve made my own cosplay and shown it off at NYCC19, I have a better understanding of this whole cosplay thing. When I put on my costume, I felt like part of the show. I was another toy on display, an attraction in an endless circus of nerdy fun. Cosplaying made me a player and not just a spectator. NYCC19 was stuffed to the gills with amazing sights and sounds that demanded your attention. With so much to see, just walking the showroom floor puts you in a constant state of sensory overload. There’s simply too much to see it all, yet everything looks so exciting that you want to try.
And that’s the magic of cosplay. With so many wonderful things for folks to see, you feel like a million bucks whenever they decide that for a moment, you’re the most interesting sight in the room. Your only job is to bring people joy. You can call that whatever you want, but that seems like magic to me. This may have been my first time cosplaying. But it certainly won’t be my last.