I have been a fan for as long as I can remember. No, I am not a folded sheet of paper that can be moved back and forth to produce small breezes nor am I am electronic construction whose blades spin quickly to help a flow of cool air manifest in a room. I am a fan as in part of a fandom or in my case, multiple fandoms.*
*For those of you who are not familiar with the term fandom Urban Dictionary‘s top definition of the word is as follows:
The community that surrounds a tv show/movie/book etc. Fanfiction writers, artists, poets, and cosplayers are all members of that fandom. Fandoms often consist of message boards, livejournal communities, and people. http://bit.ly/1j5vleK
Up until four years ago there was no singular geek social event of the year for fans like me in Ottawa. Now there is, and this past Friday actually marked the beginning of the fourth session of Ottawa Comiccon. The event runs for three days, generally on Mother’s Day weekend, at the Ernst & Young Centre and I can attest to the fact that each year since its inception Comiccon has simply gotten better and better. Back when I went to the first Con I was accompanied by my parents but for the past two years I have gone alone and in cosplay.
Cosplay or costume play, is one of many ways that fans express their love for a particular fandom. People will also tailor their costumes to reflect their appreciation for a specific guest coming to a convention, for instance this year’s honoured guest was the actress Billie Piper so I encountered several wonderfully executed Rose Tyler cosplays.*
*Billie Piper played a companion named Rose Tyler on the Doctor Who series. One of her signature outfits is a blue cropped jacket paired with a fifties style pink dress, pink heels, and a pink headband as pictured below:
Over the past three years I have slowly been entering into the world of cosplay because to be honest from the outside it looks a little too intense and quite intimidating. In my second year of attendance at the Con my costume paid homage to Inara Serra from the cult classic television show, Firefly while last year I portrayed Morgana Pendragon from the BBC show Merlin.
This year I chose Natalia Romanova, known colloquially to her Avengers teammates as Natasha and to her enemies as the Black Widow.
If you have not already noticed the characters that I choose to cosplay have certain traits in common. All three women are extremely strong in their own right and each one has inspired me in one way or another. Inara has a lovely mother-like quality to her that prompts her to look out for all of the members of Serenity’s crew, Morgana speaks her mind regardless of the consequences, and Natasha is a puzzling young woman who despite the trauma she has undergone is fiercely loyal. Yes, I am aware that I am writing about these women as if they are real because in my imagination they are real to me. They are real in the sense that they represent integral parts of humanity’s identity – they symbolize complex emotions, personal struggles, and admirable personality traits. No, these characters are not tangible beings but it’s almost better that way. This way they live on forever in the hearts and minds of their fans.
Cosplaying as “Nat” was challenging in the best way possible. My biggest concern was her hair; however, when I consulted a friend on her thoughts about a wig I was buying on Etsy she told me that my indecision was misplaced. She told me that what I should be focusing on is which Black Widow I would be playing. Would I be going as the comic book Widow or would I be paying homage to Scarlett Johansson’s Widow adaption found in various Marvel film? My friend assured me that I truly had only one option – she told me in no uncertain terms that if I did not cosplay as the comic book version of the Widow that I would be damaging a good friendship. While I knew her words were in jest I took her ideas into consideration and in March I decide to model my costume after the original Black Widow. No matter how much I enjoy Scarlett’s portrayal of the feisty, Russian assassin I did not feel comfortable trying to imitate her genius.
I ran into a small hiccup then because I had never in fact read a comic book featuring the original Black Widow before but a quick Google search solved my problem. I read up on the character’s history and quickly began to compile a Pinterest board of cosplay hacks and ideas pertaining to Black Widow. It also turns out that there are several major differences between the look of the comic book character and her counterpart in film. See the images below for a comparison:
The main differences are the hair – colour and length, the belt design and the ‘bullet bracelet’ colour. So, determined to actually have a hand in constructing my costume instead of merely ordering things online and dropping a large sum of money on my cosplay I took a look at my own closet and my craft supplies box. Thankfully, being a sorority woman has helped me build up an impressive collection of paints and other seemingly random crafting supplies. Where my own stash failed to provide me with required materials I found myself at Michaels armed with an intimate knowledge of the store’s layout and its sales.
The first pieces that I created were the felt S.H.I.E.L.D patches. Actually, the ones that I used were my test pieces but I liked how they turned out so much that I chose to simply use them rather than creating a second set. Instead of going with sew on patches (because I had no desire to permanently alter my jacket) I cut out circles of white felt and painted them grey. For awhile I was afraid that the paint on the patches would never dry but after a few quick sessions in the freezer they dried. The logo itself was cut from black felt and applied using hot glue and quick reflexes. When it came to attaching the pieces to my costume I chose to see how well velcro would hold up on the fabric considering that the label on the velcro packaging said that it was ‘not intended for use on fabrics’. My gamble paid off and I was able to attach the patches without any hassle plus my jacket is still intact.
I decided, after rooting through my closet that my black running jacket would work for the top of my costume as the zippers gave the outfit the look of a bodysuit without the impracticality of wearing a full bodysuit for five plus hours. I also wore a black tank top under the jacket just to make sure that if the jacket got too hot I had the option of unzipping it without looking indecent. I ended up buying the yoga pants because I liked the texture that the zippers provided and because I knew that I would certainly wear them long after Comiccon 2015 was finished. As for the boots, I’ve owned them for about three or four years and they were quite suitable for a long day on my feet.
My next creative project ended up being the belt which I made out of several wooden circles from Michaels, a long strip of clear velcro (I attached both sides together on the back to secure them to each other, a binder clip, black duct tape (courtesy of my dad), and everything was topped off with gold, black, and red paint. The painting was relatively simple and relaxing though I paid special attention to the middle circle where I painted the Black Widow’s symbol. Then once everything was done I taped one arm of a binder clip to one end of the belt (as I had no idea on how else to connect the ends) and then on the day of the Con I taped the opposite arm of the clip to the opposite end of the belt. I basically used duct tape and a binder clip to tape myself into the belt.
The most difficult pieces to find were the bullet bracelets. For weeks I scoured malls, thrift stores, and any other place that I thought just might carry a bullet belt but I turned up with nothing. I planned on deconstructing a belt and creating my own bracelets. However, one night after another visit to our local Value Village my mom suggested that we check out the local Party City which we did. Low and behold I found two bracelets, slightly smaller and thinner than I had hoped for but I decided that I could work with them. I grabbed the last two, one was a bronze/gold and the other a bright silver. When it came to painting them though I realized rather quickly that my stash of paint would have no effect on the shiny plastic surface of the accessories. After another trip to Michaels for a small can of hobby paint I found myself outside in the sunshine spray painting my bracelets.
The wig was one of my favourite parts of this cosplay but it too comes with a story. You see back when I decided to cosplay as Black Widow I had found and ordered a wig online that imitates Scarlett Johansson’s film hair almost perfectly. However, it was ordered from China and my package took a long time to even leave its country of origin so in the interest of always having a back up plan I bought another wig at Party City one night. That wig ended up being the one that I wore to the Con because it simply suited me better. While my other wig eventually came in, upon trying it on I found that it was slightly too orange for my skin tone and eye colour – the purple/red suited me and I became quite attached to the colour. It’s no secret that I’ve always wanted red hair and Comiccon helped that dream of mine come true.
I loved cosplaying as Black Widow. It gave me a chance to shake things up a little, to let my hair down, and to take pride in my position as a fan of many fandoms. Ottawa Comiccon has always been an amusing adventure that consistently provides its visitors with thought-provoking and heartwarming experiences. I will be posting about my own experiences at Comiccon 2015 including reactions to my cosplay (which ranged from sincere compliments to blatant sexism), my favourite vendors, panels, and speakers, and my future Con goals in Part 2 of this post series.
*Also, you can now find and follow me on Instagram: @seekeachlight