Time Agents at Space City Con.
As you probably know, I planned to try cosplaying Captain Jack Harkness at Space City Con this past weekend. I was in fear of failing. I was worried of costume snobs, but several things changed my worries and many of them were this as I got deeper and deeper into the role. So… what did I learn by being Captain Jack Harkness?
Try to start off the day with a great story so you have something to be excited and happy about for the rest of the day. In my case, I had just walked into the convention space and was terrified that my pants were the wrong shade of black or the jacket didn’t match or I was missing gold buttons or some such. Fear was slowing me down from the beginning. And then I heard the Doctor Who fan group.
They were making the whoosh-whoosh noise from the powerful little speakers on the top of the TARDIS mockup they had brought. Remembering an episode where Jack goes running full tilt to catch up with his time-traveling friends and ends up riding the machine from the outside as it flies through time, I went running to hug the box. I had planned to pose/look like I was gripping the box for dear life. I was hoping for a smile or a laugh or something. But I hit the box at roughly ten miles an hour and my legs swung upwards at the speed I was running. This left me looking like I was humping the box. Instead of the titters I expected to get, I was greeted with raucous laughter, cheers of “That is awesome” and multiple people asking me to hold the pose. That gave me the confidence to go on and find more people to interact with. It gave me the want to find more fans to geek with.
When I did my Dead Hoban Washburne cosplay later, I immediately went to the Houston and South West Louisiana Browncoat tables. I needed to see how the costume worked with people who most wanted to see their fandom portrayed. The pouts, smiles and responses of “Too soon” made me confident that I had enough to work on. And the Houston Costumers assisted in helping turn the awesome up. The volunteer from this awesome group rearranged my dinosaurs and trees into a 3-dimensional diorama balanced on my death-spear. I might not remember her name but she was instrumental in making my first cosplay weekend a successful one. She also offered me some better ways to hold the dino-toys so that they were identifiable in pictures.
The more you interact as your character with other people, the less you have time to worry. Running around channeling the awesomeness of Capt. Jack means being flirtatious with everyone. I discussed this with my wife and we decided “no lips.” I could kiss hands and cheeks, but lips was the line in the sand. I even asked if I could bite so I could make the Idris joke of “biting being winning,” but we decided that biting was a bit to intimate. So I hugged every TARDIS fancy-dress using the same joke but with less collision. I slid between couples and intimated into groups with a sly wink and an introductory “Captain Jack”, I put smiles on faces and made everyone feel like the center of my universe. The cat nuns rubbed up against me and the other companions felt jealous. I even found a Clara and weaseled my way into her arms before the Doctor had to stop Jack from stealing her away, but I still wanted to know where she “got the eggs.” I greeted every Pre-Ecceleston costume with “Hi, We haven’t met yet, and I’m Captain Jack” along with a hand kiss and a longing look.
I worked hard to keep the look from being too awkward. I aimed for Whovians specifically and if others revealed their fellow fandom, I sidled up to them. It was key to me to have a unique greeting so that I was a memorable Jack and something that was fun for me to do often. I decided that due to Jack’s sexuality, I would greet the person I felt would be most accepting of the flirt in each person, couple or group with a strong and firm handshake and as I would step in. I would kiss the top of their hand, and not always man first. I got more confidant with each risky attempt.
Close is Enough.
Costumes do not have to be fully accurate and fans will easily figure out the intent of the costume. I focused on five key indicators in my attempt: the military jacket (Had one from my army days), the red suspenders, a vortex manipulator, a saucy outgoing attitude and a blue work shirt with white undershirt. The next day, when I did my Hoban Washburne cosplay, I focused on a Hawaiian shirt (mine was red), toy dinosaurs and tree, spear impalement, taped on leaves, and spiky hair, relying on the rest of my costume to be forgivable. If you are easily identifiable as the character, that’s all that matters in getting the big “Two Thumbs up!”
Weight, gender, preference, age, race does not matter. You can be a sixty year old Teen Titan or a Twelve year old Doctor.
What matters is the costume is you.
While I did not look exactly like either character (My teeth look more like Gwen Cooper), the homages were close enough that people were proud of being part of the joke. I saw Doctors who had just scarves or fezes and bowties (not even the right color) or suits and trenches. I am not saying that I was snobbing and snubbing their inaccuracies, but rather happy that they tried. I cared that they cared. I loved that they costumed; I geeked that they were part of my new world. I saw a man who was simple piratic next to his wife who had a very ornate redheaded mermaid costume. I purposefully asked him if he was Prince Eric so he would feel better and he was ecstatic that someone knew who he was.
Make the Costume new
Find a way to make the costume “you” as well as your beloved character. Whether it is TARDIS Dresses, gender-bent characters, mixed-genre characters, or weird styles (Steam Punking Star Wars, Captain Mal “Castle” Reynolds, Spider Batman… and a Samurai Stormtrooper), they all work because they are unique. The Homage is what’s important, not the exact shade or stitch. While exact is “cool,” it is not critical.
Anyone who thinks it is is just being a critic.
When I did Harkness, I looked for other Captains. I stood next to a Jack Sparrow to get a “Two Captain Jacks” joke. I found a Captain Reynolds and a Captain Kirk and a Captain Adama. We made All kinds of different mixtures of pictures. I stood next to an Inara, an Amy Pond, We were companions. I stood next to a Matt Smith Doctor so we could make a picture set called “Suspenders are Cool.” And the neat twist of the day is that my wife went as Jack Harkness as well. So we would meet from across a hall and do a little “Jack on Jack” action. It turned out that the dual costuming made it much easier for the two of us to find each other at the con, like we had uniforms of sexiness.
So I learned a number of things to do when risking your first costume. It turns out I experienced only one snob from the local Star Trek club and he was easily dismissed when he proceeded to brag about having met the actors at the current con and gotten their autographs and was dumbfounded that I had gone further and kissed most of their hands or talked with Kristian Nairn and his agent about how to negotiate a nude scene. I wasn’t trying to one-up the man. I just wanted to shutdown the arrogance. Actors are people too.