DragonCon is so uniquely festive that it’s entirely possible to have a good time simply by being a voyeur. But after several years of sitting on the sidelines, I decided that it was time to find my inner superheroine, put on a cape and join the cosplaying masses. Project Nubia quickly became a bucket list undertaking that involved an extensive search for comfortable silver boots, driving to another city for a costume fitting, trying out poses in bathroom mirrors and wearing Spanx in the soul-sucking Atlanta heat.
I’m happy to report that the experience was worth every minute of preparation and the temporary inability to take deep breaths after being cinched into a corset. The act of transformation wasn’t just seriously fun; it was a powerful exercise in overcoming some longstanding fears. Here are a few things I learned from my maiden voyage:
1. Even if you’re dressed as an obscure character, someone will know who you are.
Nubia, a pre-Crisis character originally conceived as Wonder Woman’s estranged sister, isn’t exactly a household name. When I arrived for the DC Universe photo shoot on Saturday, however, several Wonder Woman cosplayers were genuinely excited and asked for pictures. One of them, a fellow journalist, saw me and exclaimed, “Nubia! Oh, my God!” When you’re wearing a tiara, breastplate and bracelets, everyone knows you’re rolling with the Amazons.
2. You’re a celebrity for a day.
Cosplaying is like stepping into a big spotlight of one’s own making. I’m not going to lie; having people ask to take your photo is a wonderful compliment, especially since cosplayers set the bar so high at DragonCon. While we were waiting to cross the street, my husband pointed out that a little kid in a passing car was pointing at me and saying, “It’s Wonder Woman!” That made my day.
3. Being in costume is license to geek out as never before.
My inner fangirl is never far from the surface to begin with, so being part of the caped community took my zeal to new, unbridled levels. Just before the DC photo shoot, a guy with a video camera went around interviewing people about the characters they were playing. When the Robin cosplayer next to me explained — almost exactly as I would have — why Tim Drake was the best Robin ever, I may or may not have whacked my husband on the shoulder and said, “Yes! That is EXACTLY why Tim is awesome. Take my picture with him right now, please.”
4. Fearing judgment is a waste of time.
For me, cosplay wasn’t just about wearing an awesome costume. It was about getting over my fear of expressing myself in such a flamboyant way and possibly inviting ridicule. Wouldn’t some friends and family members find the whole thing silly and juvenile? Well, no. In fact, most people were delighted and extremely supportive. Even if they hadn’t gotten it, I would have had the satisfaction of knowing that I stepped far outside of my comfort zone.
5. Cosplay is addictive.
Now I understand, in a very personal way, why cosplay inspires such devotion. It’s an outlet for endless creativity and enthusiasm, and what better way to share your fandom with the world? Cosplay brought some much-needed whimsy into my life and opened up a new world of imagination that I’m eager to keep exploring. Before we left the Atlanta city limits, I was already brainstorming ideas for next year. Until then, I desperately hope that a friend will throw a costume party and give me an excuse to suit up again.