Like cosplay? Comics? Comics about cosplay? Then check out Con Season and read what the creative team behind it had to say to us after the jump!
WG4K is an award winning cosplay group that consists of Allison, Amanda, and Miko! You can follow WG4K’s Twitter here! And not only are they an awesome cosplay group but they write the web comic, “Con Season!”
Allison is Con Season’s artist and has done several webcomics in the past! Learn more about her here and follow her Twitter here.
Amanda is a video gamer, cosplayer, geek. You can check her cosplay out on Twitter.
Miko is a game developer and the founder of prettysmartgames.com. Check out her site here and follow her on Twitter here!
Con Season is a comic that follows Lexi, our hero, as she enters the world of cosplay and learns the ins and outs of costume-making, late night rushes, modeling, and more. The three ladies behind the comic have agreed to sit down with us (kind of, the interview was digital after all) and tell us about their experience as cosplayers, writing, candy corn, racism, how Con Season takes inspiration from their personal lives, and where the comic will be going in the future.
1) Hello ladies! I love your comic. Now, down to brass tacks: Lexi, the main character, starts her cosplay adventure on a dare, how did each of you get involved in cosplay? Any similarities to what Lexi went through with the late nights, candy corn, and lack of funds?
Allison: It’s actually a really funny story. A few years into college, I was rooming with Miko and had two classes with Amanda. One day I invited Amanda over for dinner, she and Miko bonded over video games, Miko mentioned this thing called “cosplay,” and two weeks later we were all sitting on the living room floor trying to make Shion, KOS-MOS, and Momo from Xenosaga I.
Miko: I’d been going to conventions for a really long time, all throughout high school, so cosplay was something I thought was pretty neat back then. My grandmother had made me a couple of outfits, but I didn’t wear them for too long because I was shy. But I still thought it was a fun thing, so I mentioned it to the other two girls when we were watching anime together. I didn’t think we were actually going to dive right into it though! At the time, I’m not sure if either of them had even been to a convention! Our origin story is fairly unique, however. We were already close friends before. I think most cosplayers that form groups met each other through the community. With us, even if we have disagreements we’ve always managed to stick with each other no matter what.
Amanda: I had always been into video games, but I had no idea that people made costumes and dressed up and went to conventions because of them. I was really interested when Miko told me about cosplay, and I went out and bought some supplies to make a KOS-MOS costume. That really jump started our group, and there were long nights of learning how to make patterns, scissors close to faces as Allison trimmed wigs, and spray paint (LOTS of spray paint).
Our first convention experience was really nerve-wrecking for me. I’m a little timid by nature, and tend to be quiet and let people ignore me so I can just people-watch. Dressing as a blue-haired android was a TOTAL departure from my usual personality! Our convention was at the same time as the annual Cheerleading convention and all the cheerleading moms were staring us down like we were going to harm their little girls. I was completely a wreck on the inside and would have turned around and left had Miko and Allison hadn’t been there for emotional support.
Allison: Oh gawd, I’d forgotten about the scissors incident. I was sleep deprived, okay?! Which brings me to the insanity Lexi and every other cosplayer goes through. Who needs sleep when there’s ruffles to be sewn and the convention’s in three days?! You get faster as you gain more experience, but you also start picking more and more ambitious costumes, so the pre-con all-nighters ALWAYS happen.
Plus, I’ve often joked that cosplay is the art of making the physically impossible with the cheaply available; half these designs were never meant to exist in the real world, and we end up resorting to some seriously creative construction materials to keep those mad creations under budget. 😉
Miko: Even though a lot of our projects were expensive, we didn’t really have money problems. But late nights, for sure! I have a bad habit of taking on a little more work if I think something will get done, so I’ve always been sewing bits and pieces together in the car or hotel room. But over time, you have to learn when to say no or you will go crazy. Sometimes it is not worth the stress, especially if you’re rushing the last bit and won’t be happy with the result.
Amanda: We were always careful about budgeting our cosplays. I know for me if there was a particular cosplay I wanted to do but I knew the fabric would be expensive, I loaded up on coupons or would save extra money so I could buy the perfect fabric
There is always going to be a tug-of-war with your budget though, because if you’re the type of cosplayer who likes to use fabrics that “fit” the costume you’re making, a ball gown dress with really nice fabric can be A LOT of money, and that’s not factoring the shoes, the wig, and any accessories you need to make.
2) I’ve deduced that “Last Deam X” draws some influence from “Final Fantasy X” a lot of the anime and video games I’ve seen in the comic are heavily influenced by Japanese products. Are we going to see any American based properties? Superheroes and such?
Allison: How on earth did you figure that out?! We were being so subtle! What gave it away? The title? The absurdly complicated costumes? The child mage with candy-colored hair? </sarcasm>
When we came up with the idea for Con Season — that was five years ago now, holy crap – anime convention costuming tended to be mostly inspired by Japanese media. We do have some horror stuff planned, but not any sci-fi or fantasy or superheroes, but those genres aren’t out of the question. Actually, what will probably happen is this: I’ll draw some weird space marine costume in the background of a crowd scene, we’ll all think it’s hilarious, and make up a entire show with four seasons worth of plot points to justify the existence of that outfit. Stuff like that just happens when we all get on Skype.
Miko: The term cosplay can refer to American properties nowadays, but when we started out it was a little more separated. Because the comic is a love letter to our experiences as American cosplayers, most of the series that we’ve invented are based on Japanese anime and manga. But it’s definitely not out of the question.
Amanda: I LOVE FFX so it was intentional that “Last Dream X” draws a lot of inspiration from games like it. I know I tended to play (and then later cosplay) more Japanese made games and anime, so it’s what I know the best. I don’t think we have plans to have more American cosplays in the series as the main costumes, but background costumes are always a possibility.
3) Speaking of the games and animes you’ve dreamed up how fun is it to get to make your own anime/games/etc to base cosplay off of? Or is it harder than using real-world works?
Allison: Oh man, making up our own media has been SO MUCH FUN! Creating parodies of the costumes we’ve spent sleepless nights reverse-engineering is hilarious and therapeutic. We start with a theme, then identify every weird costume mainstay of the genre and run with it. “Make her hair BIGGER! What’s the ugliest color combination I can use? Add fifteen belts. That’s not skimpy enough. Where the hell would you keep your phone? ADD WINGS!” Of course, afterwards I have to draw our characters in these crazy creations for page after page after page…and I have only myself to blame!
We decided to use our own “media” rather than real-world works for several reasons. 1) We wouldn’t be infringing on anyone’s copyrights. 2) I wouldn’t have to draw – and the audience wouldn’t have to look at – the same costumes everyone’s been wearing for the last 5-20 years. And 3) the comic wouldn’t end up horribly dated due to which costumes we included as “current.” The only downside is that we have to slip subtle exposition about each costume into the comic script, but that’s really just a fun writing challenge!
Miko: I’ll add that Amanda and I spend a lot of time working on the stories for the internal series, and another benefit of that is being able to weave the two plotlines together when it’s convenient. Over time, Lexi will gravitate to the series that inspire her and help her with the problems she is dealing with in real life. I think that’s something that a lot of us do in fandom. It’s wonderful how a show can help you get through a tough time.
Amanda: Making up series is a ton of fun! I was really worried about infringing on copyright issues if we used a lot of already established series, so I really wanted us to create our own series and costumes for Con Season. It was actually really easy, because we just took what we loved about our favorite anime and video games and combined it into a series (or two) with costumes we know would look really cool to make but would give cosplayers a little bit of a headache (like any real series out there!).
4) There is a stereotype that people hate being caught in the same outfit. Lexi is also afraid when she sees 2 other people dressed as the same character as her in her first contest. In real life is it awful to see someone dressed as the same character as you? Have you guys ever seen doppelgangers at conventions or the like?
Miko: It’s definitely something that people find embarrassing, and it’s bound to happen if you are cosplaying a popular character. But I used to really enjoy being the person that went over to someone in the same outfit as me and saying hi. For one thing, you know that they love the same character. And sometimes people aren’t sure how you are going to react, so extending a friendly hand will help others that might be timid realize that it doesn’t have to be such a big deal.
Allison: Actually, if you show up in the same costume as me, I’m going to squeal, offer you a hug, and want to talk about how you tackled that part of your costume that came out really cool. Like Miko said, we obviously love the same character, so let’s be friends!
I had a true doppleganger for a while there! People were mixing us up and talking to me about cons I’d never been to and everything. It was really hilarious when we finally met each other.
Amanda: I love seeing other people in the same costume as me, especially since you can really get down to techniques used in making the costume and exchange ideas. Plus, some of my single cosplays are characters I really love (like Anastasia from Anastasia, and Jade from Beyond Good and Evil) and they are very rarely cosplayed, so I always squeal in delight when I find a cosplayer that’s cosplaying the same character as me. I think it’s a bit more nerve-wrecking when you’re in a contest situation. I have definitely been in a contest and seen someone else in the same costume as me and thinking “Oh shit, that looks really good!”
5) After a costume snafu Lexi makes an extraordinary recovery and delivers an unforgettable number during the contest. How much of the comic is drawn from what you’ve personally experienced? Costumes ripping, props breaking, singing in front of crowds?
Miko: A lot of the comic is inspired by real life events, but we’ve taken great liberties to make it as dramatic and crazy as possible. I’m not sure if we’ve ever had a ripped costume, but the cry of “WARDROBE MALFUNCTION” has been declared more than once. But it’s important to never give up, even if you’re disappointed when something unexpected happens. I’ve realized that we learned a lot about problem solving through cosplay. Now when something goes wrong at work or grad school, I’m always ready to fix it. I duct taped part of my car back together once after a fender bender. Improvisation is a valuable skill to have!
Allison: Oh, we’ve had some hilarious moments. Shoes repaired with electrical tape, sword belts broken by glomp-age…I’m sure I’m forgetting some good ones. You just roll with it. No costume ever survives first contact with the convention floor. We always record our singing skits, though! That way you get lots of takes if you mess up.
Amanda: My biggest costume malfunction was when I was wearing Nononon from Magical Play and I had bought these super tall platform shoes to use as the base of the shoes. We were walking to the backstage area to find a seat before the contest got underway when BOTH of the soles of my shoes decided to detach from the shoes itself. They were like three or four inch platforms, so I have no idea how I managed not to fall on my face after that one! We ended up having to beg for some electrical tape from one of the staffers so I could wrap my broken shoes together so I could walk okay! It made me realize I should probably spend more than $5 on shoes next time!
6) Allison, your other comics have a more American look about them. But you’ve adopted a manga/anime style for this comic, yes? Why the decision to do so? And how’ve you adapted to the new art style?
Allison: Haha, yeah, my natural drawing style is actually somewhere between Disney and Marvel. But we decided at the beginning that since we were writing a classic shojo story then it should have a classic shojo look. So I had to teach myself how to draw manga. To adopt a different style, you have to study it and figure out which visual conventions make that style unique, then you have to get comfortable drawing those style elements. You have NO idea how much shojo I plowed through in the name of research. It was actually rather frightening. Then I had to survive the awkward “Okay, this should look like this, WHY CAN’T I DRAW IT?!” stage. You should see some of those early drawings, they’re terrible. What I ended up with isn’t a true shojo style, but I think it works for the story we’re telling. Honestly, it’s one of the harder artistic things I’ve ever had to do, and the process definitely improved my work as a whole.
7) Miko, you develop games for a living, any thoughts to put your games in “Con Season,” or maybe even make a game based on cosplay?
Miko: Yes, I have envisioned the Con Season game many times! I think the idea I like best right now would be somewhere between Minecraft and Final Fantasy X-2: characters would gather materials to create their costume pieces, and when certain pieces were finished they could use them to make new outfits! Of course these outfits would unlock new character classes in battle! But unfortunately my time for such a project is nonexistent right now! If I do squeeze out a little free time, I’m more interested in making a Con Season companion app that would let you read the comic easily on the go and help organize your upcoming cosplays!
8) Now, some of the darker questions . . . . Racism. There have been a lot of posts online about skin-darkening, black face, and People of Color cosplaying light-skinned characters. There has also been talk about how white people see any character with “white features” and assume they aren’t Japanese (such as a lot of people presuming Sailor Moon is white) Will Lexi and the other characters face any racism in “Con Season?” Would this be hard to cover? Would you be drawing on any real life experience you’ve encountered while cosplaying?
Miko: Unfortunately, we have seen a lot of racism in the community. Our home convention is Anime Weekend Atlanta, which is a very diverse convention. I’m going to guess at least a third of the attendees are not white, although it might be higher than that! So we have always had friends that have struggled with this type of criticism over something they have no control over. For me, it has been a personal issue as well. I am half-Japanese so I’ve heard it on both sides: only Japanese people can cosplay, or only Caucasian girls “really” look like anime characters. Even to my face. It definitely leaves you feeling uncomfortable. You can’t change your ethnicity, and you shouldn’t have to feel inadequate because of it.
In general, people need to be more accepting of others and less critical. But this is the internet, and everyone feels like they can express their opinion, even if it is hurtful. Con Season does feature several characters who are not Caucasian, and I’m sure they might run into such issues eventually. But I hope that we’re making a small difference just by showing that our main characters don’t see anything weird about cosplaying as someone with a different skin color.
Allison: Ugh. Racism’s rampant in cosplay and it breaks my heart. Years ago I was judging a contest and a dark-skinned cosplayer showed up in a very well-made costume of a light-skinned anime character. Once the cosplayer left, one of the other judges turned to me and said “Isn’t there a black character she could have done?” There was rage. So much rage. It is deeply not okay to tell someone they can only love characters that look just like them, especially when media so rarely creates characters of color in the first place. There’s a similar bias against larger cosplayers. Just about every character in every show is super thin, but cosplayers come in every shape and size. And sometimes your favorite character isn’t the same gender or sexuality as you, and that’s cool too. Everyone should be allowed to show their love for whatever characters they like best, even if there’s no resemblance whatsoever. We’re all nerds! We should be supporting each other!
Amanda: I’ve always had a really hard time with harsh criticisms of costumes based on the skin-tone of the cosplayer. I just can’t understand why it would matter. I always thought that cosplay was about the love of a character or costume or series, so why does it matter if someone is a different color, sex, or size than the character they’re trying to portray? There can be a lot of criticism in the cosplay community based on things OUTSIDE of the costume itself, and I have never understood it!
In Con Season, Lexi is definitely going to be confronted with these issues, as well as meet people who are facing these issues themselves. It’s really a dark side of the cosplay community, and we would be doing ourselves and the community an injustice to completely ignore it in the comic. I really worry sometimes that the community falls into the trap of getting too involved in the drama and the things that really don’t matter in the long run. People cosplay for a lot of different reasons, but one of the main reasons is because they love a character and/or a costume so much that they are willing to spend a ton of money, bleed, sweat, and curse over fabric, leather, foamies, and a ton of other materials that never were meant to be used in an outfit, all to make a kick-ass costume. We do not need to get racism, gender, and weight involved in that equation.
9) I’m big fan of Elio, a crossplayer who specializes in Storm of Marvel comics fame. Are there plans to include crossplay at all? Have any of you crossplayed?
Miko: We are CAREER crossplayers! For many years we were part of a mostly-female Ouran group called Lovely Lady Hunks! It is definitely a misunderstood side to cosplay. Almost no crossplayer I know views it as a sexually deviant activity, and yet non-geeky people tend to be really confused if they find out about this. We have a great crossplaying character coming up that I hope will show how crossplay is an aesthetic choice which doesn’t have to be viewed as strange!
Amanda: Oh man, crossplay. I LOVE crossplay. I was a little nervous the first time I dressed as a guy because I couldn’t wrap my mind around trying to look like a guy. But Miko and Allison were really good about reading up on techniques to change the way our bodies looked and make-up ideas, so I think it the end I made a passable boy. =) I did crossplay as Cliff from Star Ocean 3, who is a VERY buff manly-man character, so I very briefly played around with making a muscle suit for my arms (because I was a thin, non-muscular girl and my arms are NOT buff at all) but in the end it looked really weird so I just said “Eh” and went without it. I think I have a pretty even split between cosplays and crossplays.
There will definitely be crossplay in the series. We have a character coming up in Volume 2 that will be our resident crossplayer. They’ll probably be in the background of the remaining chapters in Volume 1.
Allison: Crossplay is AWESOME! Some of the guy costumes are pretty swanky and it’s fun to trade in the petticoats for a tux or armor once in a while. Plus, it annoys me when people think they know all about me just because I have breasts and hips, and it’s interesting how much of what society considers “gender” is presentation and social conditioning. So it amuses me to no end that with the right clothes, a little binding, and a shift in body language, tons of people will suddenly buy the idea that I’m a guy.
10) I hear rumors that there are soon to be some LGBT characters introduced in “Con Season!” Any truth to that at all?
Miko: Yes, it is! One of the most amazing, positive things about the cosplay community, and Japanese culture fandom in general, is how open minded they are to all types of people. We definitely wanted to reflect our support for LGBT people who cosplay, so you will be seeing some characters in the future. In fact, some of the ones you’ve already seen mentioned might fit into this category. It will come up again when the time is right.
Allison: Con Season is a love letter to the cosplay community, and LGBTQI people belong to that community, so of course they’ll be included! It might not be obvious with each character, especially not right away, because no one’s sexuality should be presented as a punchline or as the defining facet of their character.
11) I can barely write an article or comic review, how’s it been working with other people and putting something out there for the whole world to read? Any regrets? Anything you wish you could change?
Miko: One of the reasons we write Con Season is that it keeps us in contact with each other. After working so closely with Allison and Amanda for years, it really depressed me when we ended up living in different parts of the country. I miss them more than I miss cosplaying; they were the reason it was so much fun. This comic is our way to keep building something through our friendship. It’s a very unique creature, because it requires all three of us to pull off. I think we know that, and it makes us more determined to keep working together. While we’ve had money issues, technical issues, and all sorts of setbacks, we don’t have that many creative conflicts. I think we’re just a good team that knows when to compromise and how to make each other laugh!
Amanda: Absolutely no regrets. I’ve always wanted to be a writer, and this series has been a lot of fun to plan and write from the get-go. It’s been a real challenge to write a huge cast of characters with very distinct personalities, but it’s been so much fun to figure out how to do that. This has really stretched me as a writer, and I’m so happy I could do this with my best friends.
Allison: Collaborative writing with my besties is way more fun than it has any right to be, and I really think it makes the story ten times better than any one of us could write on our own. Miko and Amanda actually hold future chapters hostage to motivate me — waaaaah! — so I get to waltz in to these beautiful, almost complete scenes and throw out fine-tuning ideas.
12) I can’t wait for what’s coming next in “Con Season” Anything you want to say to the new fans from gay-nerds.com?
Miko: I guess I would just say, don’t be afraid to talk to us! Sometimes it can be hard to keep going with a creative project, but we are always so grateful to the fans that leave us comments and encourage us. It’s especially heartwarming to see how we can inspire other cosplayers that are rooting for Lexi! So please keep the positivity coming!
Amanda: We LOVE talking to the fans! I am constantly having amazing conversations with people who post on our website and Facebook, and I want to continue that!
Allison: If you want to chat, definitely drop us a line. It’s really awesome to hear from readers! I love our fans, and I really wish I could give you kids more than one page per week. (That pesky day job, it interferes with everything.)