We’ve introduced you to a number of amazing cosplayers, and I’m thrilled to to introduce you to yet another, Charles Battersby. This guy does all the things. He not only cosplays, but he’s also a writer, actor, podcaster, and activist–and more. You can catch him on a few panels at NYCC this year, but for now, meet Charles!
How did you get into cosplay?
I’ve always been a theatrical person, so dressing up seemed to be the natural thing to do at a comic convention. I started by cosplaying as Catwoman, because I loved the interpretation of the character in the Tim Burton movie. I also made an outfit based on the Julie Newmar 1960’s version of Catwoman. From there I went on to do other characters I liked, like Dark Phoenix and Wonder Woman.
Do you sew your costumes from scratch?
Now I sew most of them from scratch. When I first started cosplaying I would repurpose store-bought items and clothing. My first Catwoman outfit was bought at a fetish boutique, and I hand-sewed in white cord to make it looked like the one worn by Michelle Pfeiffer.
It can be intimidating to make an outfit from scratch but, after making a few items, it gets easier. You learn the limitations and functions of your sewing machine better, and you slowly amass tools and skills.
I use patterns for most of the items I make. Some of the pattern companies have cosplay departments, and you can also use historical/Halloween/dance costume patterns to approximate outlandish outfits from comic books and video games. Eventually you end up with a bunch of easily repurposed pattern pieces.
Where do you get most of your cosplay inspiration?
I start with characters that I love and identify with. Sometimes I’m drawn to a character or franchise just because of the character design – Ciel Phantomhive’s pink ball gown got me into that anime.
I also like to recreate characters from video games. The better games can keep you playing for dozens or hundreds of hours. When you identify with a character that strongly, you want to bring elements of their life into the real world. Some of my game design friends have even said that they keep cosplayers in mind when designing the characters.
Sometimes I’ll take characters that I admire, then re-imagine them as something more “fashionable”. I love Captain America, but his outfit isn’t exactly kawaii. So I created my own version of Captain America as a Victorian girl, and added the most iconic elements of his outfit to a cute blue dress.
What are some of the best things cosplay has taught you about yourself?
I’ve learned that I can do it. I had the idea for a half-Cinderella / half-Belle character years, but I never believed that I could make something so complicated and elaborate. I made two versions of the “Cinderbelle” dress, because I didn’t like the way it turned out the first time, and it turned out much better on the second try.
Some of my other ideas seemed insurmountably difficult at first. My post-apocalyptic Fallout costume has a harness with an armored shoulder piece. I wanted it to look like it had been assembled from scavenged materials in a ruined world, and I ended up painting foam rubber to look like leather, and making a custom holster and bandolier to hold a “Mad Max” shotgun that I made. It was a lot of effort, and I didn’t think I’d be able to do it, but it turned out great.
Do you find that, when you’re in cosplay, you sort of take on the attitude and confidence of that character?
I’m horribly shy in the real world, but as soon as the costumes go on, I’m in character! I often cosplay as princesses, and people just love princesses! It’s hard to be an introvert when you’re wearing a tiara and a hoopskirt, and little girls are screaming “Hi Cinderella!” at you.
Other characters do give you feeling of confidence. When you have a shotgun strapped to your hip, and you look like you just fought your way through an army of mutants, then people tend to get the hell out of your way and avoid eye contact. Unless they’re fans of the character – in which case they’ll run across a convention floor just to hug you.
You’ve started an activist group to raise awareness for transgender issues in gaming called Press XY. Have you found the cosplay community more accepting to transgender cosplayers and other non-binary cosplayers than the gaming world?
Actually, the gaming world is extremely accepting of transgender people, and so is cosplay. There are lots of games that allow players to explore gender identity by creating customized characters. It’s also been understood for a long time that the game industry has a high percentage of openly transgender people as both designers as well as consumers.
Cosplay is great way to explore identity (gender or otherwise). There are plenty of transgender characters, and there are lots of “Crossplayers” who specialize cosplaying as characters of the opposite gender.
Where can we find you online?
You can find me on my website, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. I host a podcast about post-apocalyptic fiction, and I write a web series set in the world of the Fallout games.
Thanks to Charles for chatting with. Let me know some of your burning cosplay questions in the comments!
All photos are from Charles Battersby’s personal collection, and have been used with permission.