Cosplay isn’t just about Japanese anime and manga. Characters from American comic-books, games, movies and novels have been a staple at major conventions since the 80’s, and with the resurgence of the Western wave on this Little Red Dot, the trend’s been gaining ground.
This month, we train the Spotlight On Singaporean cosplayers who’ve braved the Western front, and since we’ve received numerous requests from fans wanting to know The Neo Tokyo Project’s camera-toting, cosplaying part-time warrior better, we’re kicking this series off with an interview with Angelus.
Our resident geek chick’s gained international acclaim as ‘Asia’s Lady Mechanika’, and her comic-book cosplay has been featured in numerous geeky resources around the globe. She’s also a walking font of nerdy know-how, and she’s unashamed to admit that getting into pop-culture was what turned her life as an underachiever around.
Cosplay has encouraged her to hone her skills in costume creation, stage performance and prop-making, and also inspired her to examine the photography profession with fresh eyes.
What’s her story, and what’s it like being one of a handful of Western genre cosplayers in Singapore? Let’s find out.
Angelus as Lady Mechanika, from Joe Benitez's Lady Mechanika.
Crimson: Western cosplayers in Singapore are a rare breed. How did you get your start?
Angelus: My first taste of putting on a costume and acting the part was at LARP (Live Action Role-playing), not a convention, but I’ve always been fascinated by cosplay. The cosplay bug really bit seven years ago, when I was invited by Movie Mania to perform at a Star Wars themed event as Princess Leia, and I haven’t looked back since.
Crimson: What do you think sets Western cosplay apart from it’s Eastern counterparts?
Angelus: I think people harp a little too much on the differences, and forget that they’re essentially two sides of the same coin.
Western cosplay is drawn from comic-books like those published by Marvel and D.C. of course, from computer games like World of Warcraft, and movies like Lord of the Rings and Star Wars, while Eastern cosplay emphasizes manga and anime like Bleach and Naruto. These are all pop-culture products.
I find comic-books appealing because I’m a classically trained artist, and I can appreciate the techniques used by the pencillers, the inkers, the panellists. Western comics also feature strongly defined female protagonists, and I look to them as role-models for me to emulate.
Ultimately, cosplay is reflective of how much passion you feel for a character, right? Why does it matter what country or region it originates from?
Angelus as Psylocke from The X-Men/Marvel vs. Capcom series.
Crimson: How did pop-culture transform your life?
Angelus: I’m dyslexic. It’s a learning disability that makes reading and writing difficult, and that’s why I dropped out of high school. I hated studying because I just couldn’t keep up.
It wasn’t until I watched Star Wars Episode 1 in 1999 that my interest in reading was rekindled. I was fascinated by the Star Wars universe, and I wanted to learn more. In a sense, that was the catalyst. I spent my weekends in comic shops, reading about Coruscant and Naboo and Tattoine, the Jedi and the Sith.
Eventually, my eyes started to rove to the adjoining shelves and the comic-books on display and I discovered a trove of strong, female characters that were an inspiration to me and I resolved to cosplay them.
Crimson: And their traits started to rub off on you?
Angelus: That’s right. I was drawn to characters that were ambitious, confident, tough – everything I wasn’t, and more often than not, these were characters that possessed few superpowers, or no superpowers. They made their own luck and their way in the world through their own strength, and that really struck a chord.
I realized that being disadvantaged just meant I had to work a lot harder to get what I want.
Crimson: It sure looks like all that hard work paid off.
Angelus: And it’s all thanks to cosplay. When you don a costume, when you put yourself into the shoes of a character, you just can’t help but feel a little larger-than-life.
For me, it’s like therapy. I’ve learnt to express myself better – certainly better than I ever used to. The activity’s given me voice, and I hope to show aspiring cosplayers and cosplay novices that it can do the same for them.
Crimson: Let’s talk a bit about your cosplay plans. What can our readers expect to see in 2012?
Angelus: For me, 2012 is going to be the “Year of Benitez”. I’ve always admired Joe‘s work, and since debuting Lady Mechanika at STGCC (Singapore Toy, Games and Comic Convention) in 2011, I guess I’ve found a comfortable niche.
I’ll be cosplaying Executive Assistant Iris, The Magdelena, and Witchblade this year, and I’ve also got two World of Warcraft costumes on the back-burner. One’s Valeera Sanguinar from the World of Warcraft comic-books, and the other’s Alexstrasza the Life-Binder.
Alexstrasza’s almost done right now, and I’m just putting on the finishing touches before I schedule a photo shoot. I might do an Eastern character too, if I have the time.
Angelus (left) as X-23 from The X-Men/Marvel vs. Capcom series.
Crimson: An Eastern character? That’s a first.
Angelus: It’s Dr. Chika Tanaka’s Zodiac form from Madhouse Studios’ Iron Man, so it’s not exactly ‘Eastern’ Eastern. The character’s story is compelling, and her armor includes a combination of hard, soft and organic parts. It’s going to be an exciting project to work on.
Crimson: So what’s your dream cosplay?
Angelus: I’ve always wanted to cosplay my namesake from Top Cow’s The Angelus. When I first saw Stjepan Sejic’s cover, I was blown away, and scanning the pages of The Angelus miniseries only affirmed my interest. She was my kind of character.
It’s an ongoing project, and I’m taking it slow because I want it to be as accurate as possible, down to the last armored scale. The Angelus will be my magnum opus – the final costume I create before I step out of the limelight.
Angelus (right) as Mage (Tier 5: Tirisfal Regalia) from World of Warcraft.
Crimson: Here’s a question for the crafting inclined. What materials do you usually work with?
Angelus: Blue foam. It’s cheap and pliable, and a great alternative to rubber and vinyl sheets. I also work with Jumping clay, resin, cloth and metal.
There’s a misconception that cosplay (especially armor cosplay) is expensive. Sure, it’s high maintenance if you include things like make-up and all, or if you’re big on gimmicks like LEDs, but you can purchase what you need to make a suit of armor for as little as $50 to $60. That’s how much Alexstrasza set me back.
Crimson: Any parting words for our cosplay friends?
Angelus: Cosplay’s a lifestyle. It’s not just about putting on a costume, dressing the part and looking the part.
It’s about living loud, laughing proud and letting the passion that you pour into this hobby suffuse your life and the everyday things you do. Enjoy cosplay, enjoy life, and live it to the fullest. Nobody owes you anything, but you owe yourself at least that much.
And that’s that from our part-time warrior. If you’d like to connect with her on Facebook, here’s a link.
She also maintains her portfolio on DeviantArt, and you can check out her blog about her secret vice – as Singapore’s biggest Gambit fangirl and an unabashed autographs otaku – here.
Spotlight On is a new column featuring cosplayers in the local scene. If you’re a cosplayer and you’re keen to be interviewed, or if you know a cosplayer who might just fit the bill, we’d love to hear from you!
Drop us a note at INFO [AT] NEOTOKYOPROJECT.COM with the header Spotlight On, or leave us a message on our Facebook page and we’ll get back to you as soon as we can!