What do the Denver Broncos and, say, the anime series Attack on Titan have in common?
They are both part of a vibrant local cosplay community that’s on the rise. For the uninitiated, cosplay—or “costume play”—is the performance art of making a costume based on a favorite character from a film, TV show, video or board game, comic or anime series (or football, but more on that later). Almost anything goes. Costumes can be homemade or professional, and many are elaborate. Body type and gender don’t matter.
Plenty of clubs and groups live online; Facebook and Meetup are great starting points. Some are geared toward general cosplay interest, others more specific, such as Umbrella Corporation Colorado Springs for Resident Evil fans (over 1,700 strong) or ColoradoChara Couture for Hunger Gamers.
Across the board, cosplayers from all realms are gathering momentum in the Springs. Much of the boom is thanks to GalaxyFest, a local “multigenre pop culture multimedia” convention five years old. In February, GalaxyFest smashed its own record by tripling its number of attendees.
Lynda Cink and Brian Swanson have helped run GalaxyFest since 2015, when co-founder David Wacks passed away. Following the success of the 2015 con, they started a GalaxyFest Fan Club that now numbers 400 members and meets every four to six weeks.
“Cosplay is huge in this community,” Cink says. “Our job—I have taken it on as a kind of a goal or a mission—is to make it mainstream, so that you can cosplay and go anywhere without fear of being judged or being made fun of.”
GalaxyFest is actually what turned Cink onto cosplaying herself. Now she says she’s addicted and has a local seamstress help make her outfits. She relates it to the joy of Halloween costuming as a kid now translated into grown-up life with socializing replacing candy rewards.
In a recent Ignite Colorado Springs talk, Becca Sickbert, of local costume accessory company elope, Inc., presented several reasons why cosplay culture is so robust here. She pointed to larger trends, like the popularity of DIY, and more localized resources such as the Springs’ large community of engineers—all the better to help you build that articulated armor—and professional costume designers from numerous local theater companies.
Thanks to a love of Iron Man or Wonder Woman, these otherwise disparate groups cross-pollinate and then stick together, given what she calls the “radical inclusivity” inherent in cosplay’s DNA.
It’s not so different from pro sports that way.
“Imagine Broncos fans, and they’ve got their warpaint on, they’re wearing crazy blue and orange wigs. This idea that you dress up in costume to enhance a shared experience and create a community and have fun … again, this sense of playfulness,” Sickbert says. “Honestly, I see the fandom of the NFL being similar to any fandom that you would find in the cosplay world, whether it’s World of Warcraft or Star Wars.”
And while the pop art aspect is obvious, strides have been made on the high art end. This summer, Cottonwood Center for the Arts will host a fan art exhibit, with an opening reception geared toward cosplayers. This fall, the Denver Art Museum will debut a Star Wars costume exhibit. Cink is working with the Space Foundation toward future partnerships.
Chances are, those willing to jump in will make a new friend. As Sickbert points out, fellow cosplayers are happy to connect, help create your ensemble and gush about it.
“It’s just a really giving, collaborative community,” she says.
COME OUT AND COSPLAY
Some upcoming events for the cosplayer in you:
Zeezo’s Classes | ongoing
Sign up for free tutorials that cover makeup techniques, special effects makeup and more.
Make It So | fan art show + cosplay event | June 25
To celebrate the art show dedicated to the same topic, a night of cosplay contests and fun.
Cottonwood Center for the Arts, cottonwoodcenterforthearts.com
GalaxyFest Fan Club | various
Events include a First Friday Cosplay Artwalk (July 1), the Monument 4th of July Parade (July 2) and a Pop-Up Art Jam (July 12-16). Expect to find the crew at film premieres, including Ghostbusters, Doctor Strange and Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.
galaxyfest.org or facebook.com/GalaxyFest