Commentary
6:40 am
Sat July 26, 2014

We Can Be Heroes — With Some Glue And A Little Fabric

Originally published on Sat July 26, 2014 11:32 am

The San Diego Comic-Con is in full swing — celebrating not just comics, but movies, TV, books, video games and really cool costumes. It's called cosplay: the art and science of dressing up like your favorite character.

I've got a confession to make. I'm a cosplayer myself, though without any sewing skills, my costumes are a little hacked together. Luckily for me, there are some truly fantastic sights out on the convention floor, like zombie Teletubbies or an army of Daenerys Targaryens (Daenerii?). And so many Frozen princesses I can't keep track. There are classic Star Trek uniforms, Doctors Who, lady Thors and Lokis in gorgeous armor, and a truly impressive Silver Surfer in head-to-toe body paint that must have taken him hours.

Today, I'm one of them.

Every other day of my life, I'm Petra Mayer, mild-mannered books editor — but today, I am embodying one of my favorite characters in all of comics: Spider Jerusalem, swaggering, world-changing, foul-mouthed and foul-minded journalist of the future, star of the old Transmetropolitan series.

My costume is, shall we say, endearingly homemade. As established, I can't sew, so it's knocked together with wire, epoxy and acrylic paint. I am a rank amateur compared to 12-year-old Hayley Lindsay, who was stumping along on all fours when I first spotted her, in perfect costume as Toothless the Dragon.

Toothless is the star of the How to Train Your Dragon films. Hayley spent almost a month working on him, along with her dad. "For the saddle and stirrups and everything, I did everything except cut them out and rivet them together," she says. "I smoothed out the edges and everything, and engraved the saddle so it kinda looked like it was braided."

Toothless is long and sleek, covered in black stretchy fabric, with a molded head, the leather tack Hayley made and sawn-off crutches in his front legs so she can walk a little easier on all fours. It looks like a mind-boggling amount of work — but to Hayley, the effort was worth it. "The happy faces and everyone complimenting me on the costume, it's just awesome," she says.

That's another part of the joy of it — seeing people's faces light up. And the freedom: I'm dressed as a man. Hayley's a dragon. And Xavier DeGuzman? "I'm dressed up as the mom from Supernatural," he says, striking a pose. "It's a white gown, blond wig and silky red blood."

Xavier's friend Jessi Gonzalez isn't wearing a costume today, but he's definitely enjoying the sights, like one family that stepped out as the cast of Star Wars. "You'll see a dad that's Leia, you'll see a mom that's Han Solo, you'll see like a little girl that's a little Chewbacca, and that's amazing," he laughs. "When I have kids, I'm gonna bring them here, and that's gonna happen."

Jessi and Xavier actually recognized my costume, but they were just about the only ones — Spider's '90s heyday is long gone, and I needed some validation. So I went by the Vertigo booth, Vertigo being the imprint that published the Transmetropolitan books, back in the day.

And what do you know, someone asked if he could take my picture. Turns out I'd just met Ray Miller, who manages Darick Robertson, the comic artist who helped create Spider Jerusalem. Only at Comic-Con!

But after everything, all the joy, all the freedom, all the swagger — you still have to get home and take your costume off. And that's how I learned this very important lesson: If you forget the spirit gum for sticking down your bald cap, don't try to fudge it with liquid latex. Seriously, don't. I'm still picking that stuff out of my hair.

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon. The annual San Diego Comic-Con is in full swing - a celebration not just of comics, but movies, television, books, videogames and really elaborate costumes. It's called cosplay. That's the art and science of dressing up like your favorite character. NPR's Petra Mayer is very familiar with cosplay. We sent her to see the sights.

PETRA MAYER, BYLINE: Oh, my god, zombie Teletubbies. That's the best thing ever. Well, the best thing ever for the next 10 minutes. Nice, I see some vintage "Star Trek." I appreciate that. I see a Tenth Doctor. I've seen at least 10 Elsas from "Frozen," a dozen Daenerys Targaryens, lady Thors and Lokis and a really really cool Silver Surfer in body paint that must have taken him hours. And today, I'm one of them. Every other day of my life, I'm Petra Mayer - mild-mannered books editor. But today, I am embodying one of my favorite characters in all of comics - Spider Jerusalem, the swaggering, world-changing, foul-mouthed and foul-minded journalist of the future, star of the old "Transmetropolitan" comics. My costume is, shall we say, endearingly homemade, knocked together with wire, epoxy and acrylic paint. I am a rank amateur compared to Hayley Lindsay.

HAYLEY LINDSAY: My costume is Toothless.

MAYER: Toothless is the star of the "How to Train Your Dragon" films. And inside is 12-year-old Hayley, who made the costume with help from her dad.

LINDSAY: For the saddle and stirrups and everything, I did everything except cut them out and rivet them together. I smoothed out the edges and everything and engraved the saddle so it looked kind of like it was braided.

MAYER: Seriously, this costume looks like so much work. But to Hayley, it's worth the effort.

LINDSAY: The happy faces and everyone complimenting me on the costume and everything - and it's just really awesome.

MAYER: And that's another part of the joy of it. Seeing people's faces just light-up and the freedom - I'm dressed as a man. Hayley is a dragon. And Xavier DeGuzman?

XAVIER DEGUZMAN: I'm dressed-up as the mom from "Supernatural."

MAYER: Describe your costume for me.

DEGUZMAN: It's a white gown, blond wig and silky red blood.

MAYER: I like how we're both crossplaying. I'm a guy and you're a girl.

DEGUZMAN: Yeah.

MAYER: Xavier's friend Jessi Gonzalez isn't wearing a costume. But he's definitely enjoying the sights - like one family that stepped out as "Star Wars."

JESSI GONZALEZ: You'll see a dad that's Leia. You'll see a mom that's Han Solo. You'll see like a little Chewbacca that's like a little girl. It's amazing. I don't know. When I have kids, I'm going to bring them here. And that's going to happen.

MAYER: Now, Jessi and Xavier did actually recognize my costume, but they were just about the only ones. I needed some validation. So I went by the Vertigo booth - Vertigo being the imprint that published the "Transmetropolitan" books back in the day.

RAY MILLER: Can I take a picture of you as Spider Jerusalem?

MAYER: You may.

MILLER: (Laughing).

MAYER: Turns out, I just met Ray Miller, who manages Darick Robertson...

MILLER: ...Who is the co-creator and artist on "Transmetropolitan."

MAYER: Only at Comic-Con, man. Thank you. But after everything - all the joy, all the freedom, all the swagger - you still have to get home and take your costume off. And I learned one very important lesson in all this. If you forget the spirit gum for sticking down your bald cap, don't try to fudge it with liquid latex. Ouch. Petra Mayer, NPR News, San Diego.

SIMON: If you want to take a look at Petra as Spider Jerusalem and other costumes like zombie Teletubbies, you can come to our website npr.org. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.