Arts Features

Families that cosplay together

Brian Baker/Town Crier JUST BE COS: Toronto couple Peter Horswill and Rogue Benjamin, dressed as X-Men characters Gambit and Rogue, were large as life circulating among other role-playing families attending FanExpo this fall at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre.
Brian Baker/Town Crier
JUST BE COS: Toronto couple Peter Horswill and Rogue Benjamin, dressed as X-Men characters Gambit and Rogue, were large as life circulating among other role-playing families attending FanExpo this fall at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre.

True fans don’t outgrow their love of dressing up

Hit Girl from the comic Kick-Ass pushes a stroller with an unconscious Spider-Man nestled inside. Beside her is the Green Hornet, and dancing around her lavender cape, in a fit of magical excitement, is Harry Potter.

Spider-Man has been unmasked by some unknown villain, and as the fantastic four hied for the escalators in the Metro Toronto Convention Centre, it’s clear they’re fleeing something.

Upon further investigation, it’s uncovered that the young superhero is just exhausted from a long day at the FanExpo, and the culprit for revealing young Logan Thibault’s identity is, in fact, mom Jennifer, who motions to her purse.

Spidey’s mask is tucked inside.

The foursome’s exit is more innocuous than an escape from any of the Sinister Six members, or Johnny G, Hit Girl’s main adversary.

The crew is calling it a day after plenty of excitement.

The Thibaults attended the convention in late August, and were living the philosophy that contends, families who cosplay together stay together.

Cosplaying is costume play, a shortened term to describe the art of dressing up like popular film, TV and comic book characters at conventions, or anywhere else for that matter.

Green Hornet is Jason Thibault, and he is Harry Potter’s dad, otherwise known as 6-year-old Liam.

Jason motions to his son, admitting they’re going incognito for him. Mom echoes the sentiment.

“He’s into everything,” Jennifer Thibault says of Liam. “He’s into every comic book, fantasy characters. He has all of the Avengers costumes.”

The family is interrupted as several FanExpo visitors ask for photos. Spider-Man sleeps, immune (or oblivious) to all photographers who could very well be minions of Dr. Otto Octavius, one of Spidey’s well-known foes.

“For the last two weeks it’s been Harry Potter, every day,” Jennifer Thibault says. “He wears it out in public.”

The Thibaults, of Weston, say they are happy to don the costumes, but exhibit modesty when asked if they’re big fans of comics.

Especially when asked if Spider-Man’s name, Logan, came from X-Men inspiration, Wolverine.

Some of those youngsters do grow up into older cosplayers, as is the case with Yonge and Eglinton denizen Mike Joe.

The 28-year-old, childcare teacher has taken to the aisles of FanExpo as DC Comics characters the Joker and Green Arrow. He is currently
working on a Nightwing outfit.

He says he and a former girlfriend would plan costumes together before attending conventions. And during their time together, whenever she donned the Harley Quinn duds it brought them closer together.

“We were definitely thinking about different ideas for different costumes for a couple of conventions,” he says, pausing to think about it.

As Joe focuses his attention on Nightwing, another Toronto couple is continually refining costumes for the next convention.

On a Sunday morning in September, the two enter the Black Canary Cafe in the Silver Snail comic shop on Yonge.

Peter Horswill has traded in his Gambit attire seen at FanExpo for a fuscia, button-up shirt, but Rogue Benjamin dons a black leather jacket with “Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters” patches on each shoulder.

A shock of blonde, much like the character Rogue from the comic world, wades its way through brunette tresses. The two speak of their mutual love of cosplay.

Their art requires work, and with work patience is always tested.

“It’s like travelling: you don’t know someone until you’ve travelled with them and you don’t know someone until you’ve prepared for a convention with them,” Benjamin says. “It’s the difference [between] attending a convention in jeans and a T-shirt and just going for the fun of it versus going to cosplay: morning preparation and something splits on a costume or you’ve only got 20 minutes to get there and you’re hangry.”

“Hangry” is the colloquial term for anger arising from hunger. Skip too many breakfasts preparing your costume for a convention and you’ll experience it, Benjamin says, with a laugh.

The couple prefers to play off that theme. Both Gambit, a kinetic energy wielding Cajun, and Southern Belle Rogue have been romantically linked in the panels of Marvel’s X-Men comic.

Benjamin admits they also take up the mantle of Game of Thrones characters Drogo and Calisi, but prefer the more obscure characters from the comic book world. And yes, their costumes are completely hand made, from a collection of thrift shop finds and a little ingenuity.

“It’s when you see obscure X-Men characters like Cable — who is becoming more popular recently — or Bishop or Hope Summers, or various other no-name characters, not so much,” Benjamin says, adding the Batman universe is darker in its  role-model image.

“I remember what it was like as a kid seeing the Disney princesses in costume and you’re 4 years old and you see this beautiful, real-life princess and they talk to you … you are just so special,” she says. “Unfortunately, there aren’t a lot of characters in Batman that meet that quality or standard.”

Benjamin puts more emphasis on strong female characters, explaining the villain Harley Quinn, a popular cosplay character, is not exactly the most positive role model, given she is subject to abuse from the Joker.

“One of the most popular, and I get a lot of flack for this, is Harley Quinn,” she said. “I think she’s the single worst role models for kids. She is one of the most damaged characters.

“I get with every tragic hero there needs to be these kind of elements, but there’s a line.”

Still, having a child recognize your character is the authentic touch to the costume that makes Horswill smile.

“When I get a 9-year-old that screams ‘Gambit,’ my day is made — your parent is awesome,” he said.

But he’s also quick to point out it’s not their focus: “It definitely makes our day, but to focus on it we would have to pick these staple characters you would see every day.”

Any attention to their hard work is gratifying, and to Benjamin it’s the sugah to her Southern Belle.

“To be able to build the costume and get it so people do doubletakes … that right there is just, ‘Yes! Victory’.”

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