This year at New York Comic Con, I had my first cosplay experience. I was Marvel’s Thor.
Yes, that Thor. Controversial Thor. Thor who is a woman. Feminist Thor who openly defies her own critics’ bullshit.
I’m pretty confident when it comes to costumes and portraying a character; I’m actively involved in LARP (live action role play) and theater. But portraying a comic book character – especially one this controversial – came with hesitation and anxiety for me, especially as a female fan. I’ve been through that whole ‘walk into a comic store and have your knowledge doubted based on your gender’ thing.
Finding the confidence to cosplay was a process, but I’m glad it finally happened.
(Note: “Thor” 2015 comic book spoilers below.)
Why Did I Cosplay Thor?
I want to be a person who stands for equality, and that’s what Thor does.
No apologies. No muttering or bumbling or indecision. No minimizing her own impact.
I wanted to say ‘hey, NYCC! I’m here and I’m awesome as are most women and if you haven’t noticed, we’re a presence here.’
My love for this particular incarnation of Thor is so great that I had to cosplay.
But then there’s impostor syndrome and fear and all that other stuff that comes along with the history of being a woman in geek culture.
I put on the helm-with-mask and all of that doubt went away. I strode confidently down the halls and found that people moved out of my way rather than the other way around. I was inches taller and the costuming itself would not let me walk without confidence.
How It Felt To Portray A Strong Character
It feels really awesome to be Thor. Not only is the character a traditional symbol of power, but one recognized by most of the convention attendees. Plus, I got to square off with some Lokis and even defeated a velociraptor!
The other reason I chose this cosplay was Thor’s identity: Jane Foster. I’ve wanted to cosplay the MCU version of this character (ugh, MCU Jane gets so much hate!), but while my husband would cosplay, he’s not really a Thor fan, and I felt it would be weird walking around as a Jane without a Thor.
But in the comics, Jane becomes Thor when Odinson becomes unworthy. She becomes the hero she needs, and she is near the top of a long list of could-be-worthy possibilities for Thor’s true identity. (Seriously, Odinson made a list, and it was pretty long. How many of the female characters on that list did you overlook?)
After deciding on this cosplay, I started to understand why cosplayers take it so personally when people critique their work and portrayals. It’s not only about the time it takes to do this and the artistic talent – it’s about loving a character…or in my case, defending the character’s story as valid.
(Read on for more about the artists who made my cosplay.)
What Cosplaying Thor Represents
Portraying Thor (Worthy Jane) is an outward expression of my personal journey as a feminist. I first adored the (male) Thor character in the movies, but related more to Jane. In the comics, when Jane becomes worthy, it shows that she doesn’t need to search for a hero in another being; she’s the hero. This caused me to examine how I relate to these characters and why. As Thor became more confident, so did I.
As a woman in geek culture (especially online), you get dismissed. Often. There’s always someone – usually a man – who has been reading comics longer and therefore considers his own opinion more valid. When Marvel initially announced that Thor would be a woman – well, even Heimdall probably couldn’t keep track of all that criticism. However, Marvel stood by the decision.
And that made me feel like they stood by me.
Supportive Friends and Family
I chatted with friends who had cosplayed before, and in previous years, I noted the experiences of my friends who cosplayed at NYCC (mainly how much fun they were having). Knowing that I could cosplay with my friend Ysabel (who went as Ruby from “Steven Universe”) made me feel more confident about giving it a try. Many cosplayers start at smaller cons, but with the help of my friends I decided to start at NYCC.
Aside from the emotional support, my talented friends made the actual cosplay for me. I love that I was able to support crafters by commissioning pieces. The three people who made the cosplay kept my budget in mind, making it possible.
My helmet and chest armor are from Nana Walls (Shenanagin); clothing by AnnaLisa Mariani; hammer by my “hammer bro” Jesse of Wolfson’s Smithy. The aforementioned Ysabel devoted a great deal of time to make sure everything came together smoothly – she also makes lovely items that you can find in The LARPery. Lastly, Mark (M. Chadbourne Photography) took some epic cosplay photos, including the featured image at the top of this post. Buy their stuff! My cosplay would not have happened without their talent and generosity.
What I Learned
People are terrified to approach a cosplayer sometimes, but when they do, they LOVE it if you’re in character. After a while I realized that I had to be the more outgoing one. Next time, I’ll be more outgoing, especially when I portray Thor again.
Fandom cosplayer interactions are priceless. One of my favorite moments was simple: walking by other Marvel cosplayers and acknowledging them.
Comments and compliments are truly meaningful to cosplayers. “I’ve been looking for THIS Thor all day.” The little girl who asked to hold Mjolnir for a photo. Artists acknowledging my love for the character in Artist Alley.
Most people are awesome. If you’re used to trolls on the internet, be prepared for an uplifting experience. People are less likely to be jerks in person.
The line between fan and pro is blurry. Most comic book pros were fans before they became professionals. Now they’re both. The support of the pros is very validating. Besides, even Mark Ruffalo wore a costume.
I want to know about YOUR first cosplay experience. Tell me all about it in the comments!
Disclosure: I received a press pass from New York Comic Con.