On an unassuming Thursday afternoon, superheroes entered RiverBend Hospital.
Straight from the pages of a comic book, Captain America and Batman roamed the halls of the eighth floor pediatric ward. The area’s typical mood of somber healing was uplifted by acts of simple heroism, not acts of superhuman strength or a billionaire’s gadgets. All it took was a handful of donated toys and comic books, some crafty costumes and a strong desire to spread cheer to those who need it most. This group is part of an invasion of cosplay culture into our community that culminates at this weekend’s long-awaited Eugene Comic-Con.
Heroes and villains from the worlds of comic books, anime, movies and more will be taking to the Lane Events Center for “EuCon” on Nov. 14-15. The event will bring genre actors from shows like The Walking Dead and Supernatural to Eugene, but the highlight will be the nerd-dom it brings out in the local community.
For event organizer Royce Myers, getting EuCon started has been a year-long labor of love.
“I just thought that Eugene hasn’t had a locally produced Comic-Con in ten years,” Myers said, “We deserve something local, and something great.”
The RiverBend visit was a way to include everyone in the EuCon festivities. It was organized by the Portland Superheroes Coalition, a cosplay group out of the city that organizes various events to raise funds for the Children’s Miracle Network.
“How often do you get to bring Comic-Con to those that can’t go?” said Allan Quick. He’s dressed in a full Batman suit, modeled after the 1960s TV series starring Adam West.
Alongside him is Ryan May, wearing a Captain America costume modeled after his Winter Soldier appearance. As they walk through the hospital, they incite a sense of awe. The kids are shy and reserved, but May and Quick’s commitment to character melt away the somber atmosphere.
But the situation is naturally absurd, and once they leave the hospital, the reaction is different.
“Hey Cap, where’s your shield?” a passer-by jokes.
“Lost it in battle!” May replies.
May has been with the group for nearly two years, which also often includes an Iron Man, Joker, and other characters from movies and comic books. The props and costumes are usually hand-made, meeting strict quality standards before they go out to the public. The Coalition often makes appearances at Comic-Cons, movie theaters, and even University of Oregon events, all while collecting cash for charity.
“It’s my way of giving back and contributing to the community,” May said. “I’m a people person, so it’s great to put a smile on a kid’s face.”
May and Quick are members of a growing community known as cosplay. On the surface, it’s simply the act of dressing up like a beloved character from any form of media. In the modern nerd climate, however, cosplay has become a movement. For countless fans, it’s a way to embrace their hidden personality and showcase creative talents. It’s just as much about making the costume as it is about showing it off.
UO senior Caitlin Nelson has been doing cosplay for years with her hometown friends in San Diego.
“It’s fun, a mix of dressing up as characters you identify with, and taking on some of your personality,” Nelson said. “There’s also an element of being able to say ‘Look what I did!’ ”
She and her friends have done Sailor Moon group cosplay in the past, and her most recent costume is from the animated web series Bee and Puppycat.
She often commissions out pieces of outifts, but is always quick to give credit where it is due.
“If you didn’t make it, you can wear it – but you can’t take credit for it,” Nelson mentions.
Often, cosplay is an act of finding oneself through a fictional character. For Nelson, it’s the personality and story of a character that drives her to cosplay as them. She brings up the character of Mami Tomoe from the anime Puella Magi.
“She’s an older sister to the group, and had to stay together while taking the weight,” Nelson said. “I really identify with that, and want to bring it to life.”
This form of escapism has even become a career for some. Vegas PG is a popular professional cosplayer who, like her superhero alter-ego, prefers to keep her identity a secret.
After Vegas PG’s first Power Girl cosplay went viral online, she saw a flood of attention and invites from other local cons to make appearances. She now has hundreds of thousands of Facebook followers and a thriving business doing what she loves.
Vegas PG was invited to the Eugene Comic-Con to help judge the costume contest. As for what ‘professional cosplay’ entails, even Vegas PG will say she “still doesn’t quite know.”
“It’s been an incredibly exciting ride,” she said.
Vegas PG has been a life-long comic book fan, and loved going to small conventions with her parents as a kid.
“I remember being one of the only girls, and hardly anybody would dress up,” she said.
In the time since, she’s seen the convention scene explode in popularity.
“With geek culture being more widely accepted, fans are less scared to show off their fandom,” Vegas PG said. “It’s a safe space to be excited about the things you love.”
EuCon will be hosting stars from Ghostbusters (Ernie Hudson), Supernatural (Jim Beaver), Power Rangers (Jason David Frank), American Horror Story (Naomi Grossman), and more. Cosplay contests, panels, and the show floor promise a packed weekend of locally sourced nerd love.
After nearly a year of planning, the event is finally ready to kick off.
“It’s been really exciting, even when it meant putting in a lot of long hours,” Myers said.
It’s an event that will be bringing the best of cosplay culture to Eugene, and it’ll be a sight to behold.
“I’m excited to see the weirdness of Eugene meet the weirdness of cosplay, and see what happens as a result,” Nelson said.