«Hey, Punisher!» – A Conversation About Cosplay

On the third and final day of Fantasy Basel, it’s time to talk about cosplay. Two Uncannies, have built their own costumes and they share their experience, from awesome to awkward.

It took us months, but on the first day of Fantasy Basel we strapped on our holsters in which we keep our modified NERF guns. Sunglasses up, skulls polished, we stop being regular con goers and become Cosplayers. At the convention, nobody knew us, but called out for us often. We were two different version of Marvel Comics The Punisher, usually referred to by people at the con as «Hey, Punisher!»

We’d been working on these costumes for months after we’ve got home from work or uni and the weather was good to work outside. Our living room looked like a bomb hit at times. Hours of research went into what exactly we’ll do with ourselves, seeing as a comic book has little to do with reality. And, like it or not, we don’t exist in a drawn world. Some things just don’t look good in real life. Or they’re physically impossible. Or they just don’t exist. In these cases, we went on to build them. Among those things, we had to construct a bullet proof vest with a skull armour plate on it. Clothes had to be bought from all corners of the world. Franzi researched a technique called dry-brushing and we spent a lot of time looking at the inner workings of NERF guns.

As this was our first time building costumes to this extent, and then going to a convention, here’s what we’ve noticed.

The Good

Amazing Cosplay at Fantasy Basel

Amazing Cosplay at Fantasy Basel

Franzi: I’m not a fan of dressing up, and not for one second in my life did I think I’d end up walking around in cosplay, as The Punisher of all things too. What I do love however, are arts and crafts, and a challenge. Using spray paint to transform children’s toys into something that looks like real weathered metal is right up my alley. The skill, creativity and ingenuity needed to transform everyday objects into a costume are immense, and some simple tasks proved far more difficult than expected. Painting neon green nerf bullets black for example, is close to impossible.

While I believe we did a decent job, what we did has nothing on what was on display at the convention. The level of craftsmanship on display blew me away. Some people spent years teaching themselves how to work metal, in order to make some of the most beautiful gauntlets, others must have spent just as much time hand stitching leather. All of them were happy to share tips and talk about their experience.

There’s really no limit to what you can do in cosplay, and I love seeing how far some people are able to take it. Attention to detail, passion, creativity, and skill, it’s all there.

For all the girls out there: I had heard some less than pleasant stories about comic cons and dressing up before, and you may have too. Don’t let them dissuade you from dressing up. In all my time there I didn’t experience or see anything worrying. And yes, I had three guns on me, a giant skull on my chest, and an even bigger and meaner looking Punisher next to me. But I honestly don’t think that had anything to do with it. People were just pleasant and fun.

Dom: There are so many costumes and the diversity of them was amazing. At first, I thought we might be the only ones with a costume based on US Comics. But once there, it was quickly apparent, that we weren’t the only ones. There were Avengers and X-Men et cetera.

I also felt rather popular all of a sudden. People wanted to take my picture or shake my hand. They wanted to pose with me and point my rifle at something. Or they wanted to know how we made the guns or the vest. It was quite amazing. Just walking around the con felt like an adventure. While I don’t like my picture taken, I didn’t mind because it was less about me.

It’s nice to see that something as simple as a plastic gun that we’ve sanded down and spraypainted can get Swiss people to come out of their shell and engage in conversation.

Other cosplayers were amazing to talk to as we exchanged advice on techniques and compared NERF guns. There was a Jayne from Firefly who has an interesting idea to get his gun show accurate: Somehow saw parts of the magazine off to get it to curve forward.

The Bad: Sneaking Pictures and Picking Your Character

fantasy_basel_day_01_001

Franzi: No matter how hard I tried, I never managed to feel fully comfortable as a Punisher girl. Maybe it wasn’t the right character for me; I may love spray painting guns but really I’m very much a pacifist. Maybe I’m just not made for that much attention. In any case, I feel sorry for the first couple of people that took pictures of me, I don’t believe I looked even close to comfortable in them (This also goes for you people sneaking pictures of us. Did you really think we wouldn’t notice?). It certainly got better once we were out of the train station and surrounded by other cosplayers, and time helped too. But the strange feeling of not being quite being myself never really left.

I don’t want anybody to think that dressing up is a bad idea, I still believe it’s absolutely worth it, and makes the experience so much better. But for everybody out there that is new to cosplay, I would suggest to pick a character you’ll feel comfortable in. It can be liberating to be somebody completely different but it can also be daunting.

Dom: There were numerous people sneaking pictures of us. Seriously, people? Sneaking pictures? We’ve spent months on these costumes. We made them to stand out to an extent and we’ve probably just posed for a picture when you just ever so subtly held your smartphone out against us. Just wait your turn. We’re happy to pose for your picture. Because that tells us that you like our work enough to care for more than the 0.5 seconds it takes you to walk by sneaking the picture.

Seriously, it’s cool. Just ask us to pose. We’ll even stand the way that’s best for you. Point the guns at your head? Deal. Selfie with you? Deal. We’ve posed with people in Punisher shirts, lending them our guns – nobody with a skull on their shirt can be unarmed – and whatnot. It’s fun.

In short: Don’t be shy. While we look like we’re armed to the teeth, we’re quite friendly, really.

Also, I really should make the leg straps of my holsters of elastic material. Should have thought of that earlier. I also should learn how to sew.

Other

When thinking about this article, we’ve come up with a lot of things that are neither good nor bad or don’t have much to do with the point of this article.

  • A special shout-out goes to the girl who did a spot-on Kaylee from Joss Whedon’s Firefly costume: You pretty much win. Well done.
  • To the parents who brought their kids dressed up as Expeditionary Corps members from Attack on Titan and Kaylee from Firefly: You rock!
  • While we go on about the amazing and intricate cosplays out there, there are those who managed to pull off a look with just a shredded shirt and some facepaint.
  • Don’t buy all the things online. You can, of course, but the work itself is very rewarding.
  • Given the choice, go for a warm-weather cosplay. Con halls get warm.
  • Don’t worry if your costume is not up to par with those by Yaya Han or Kamui. Put in some effort. It will be rewarded.
  • Have fun. Go all out and become your character for a day.
  • Not that we have experienced anything like it or heard stories of it, but it bears mentioning: Don’t touch cosplayers without their permission. It’s just rude.

So go. Research. Build. Show off. It’s worth it.

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