Last Saturday, fellow UWM students were able to don their colored underwear and attend the Cosplay Masquerade, hosted by Bam! Pow! Comic Book Club. As part of the events at Geek Week, students dressed as their favorite super hero, anime, movie, or video game character and grabbed a snack at the all-you-can-eat candy bar, made their own masks with materials provided by the Arts and Crafts Centre, and strutted their stuff to live music.
There were three live bands that played at the dance: The Dead Man’s Carnival, American Monroe, and Behind the Weekend. Each band played excellently, and made the dance much livelier than prerecorded music would have ever done.
In addition to listening to live music, those that were brave enough to dress up were able to join in a contest and battle against each other for glory. Third place went to Dark Mousy (from DN Angel) complete with life-sized, fully functioning wings. Second place went to a blue Master Chief costume complete with light-up armor and energy sword. And first place went to an ensemble consisting of gorgeous gender-swapped Adventure Time characters. Third and second place winners received a bag of comic books each, while the first place winners received full week passes to Anime Milwaukee.
I had a chance to talk to Guy Thomas, the president of Bam! Pow! and the organizer for the dance, about the Cosplay Masquerade, his future comic book lectures, comic books, and about geekiness in general.
How did these events start?
Everything started when Kim Mueller approached me about being involved with Geek Week. The Cosplay Masquerade was originally meant to be a comics/geek themed drag show, partnered with the LGBT Center, but that fell through. We didn’t want to just let it go and there was interest in having a cosplay event for Geek Week, so we decided to put on our own event for people to cosplay and have fun. What I’m doing with Comics 101, 201 and the History of Comics lectures is basically what I do with Bam! Pow! anyway, where I draw upon my knowledge of comics to help [other people] enjoy the medium further. I thought it fit well with what Geek Week was trying to do, so I suggested a few things, and we decided that those lectures would be the best.
What is it that drives people to cosplay?
I think that’s different for every person. I personally enjoy cosplay because it’s a creative way to express my fandom and meet other people with similar interests. I have friends who cosplay because they like to make their own clothes and love the costumes in anime and comics. Others may because they want to become their character for whatever reason. It’s entirely a personal thing.
What is the most difficult part about organizing the events?
Each event had its own difficulties. Getting everything to come together in just the right way was definitely the hardest part of the Cosplay Masquerade. Lots of coordinating and planning and doing things that I had never had experience doing before. The Comics 101 and 201 lectures cover an extremely broad topic – how to get into and be a part of the comic book community. It was difficult to narrow down what I would talk about to help people looking to understand what’s going on. The History of Comics was similar. Comics have a long and varied past; entire books have been written on single people and single events, it was hard to condense that into an hour-long lecture.
What is it about comic books that make them such a compelling medium?
This is a question I’ve thought a lot about, and there are a lot of answers that vary depending on who is asking. From a creative aspect, comics are an incredibly intimate and powerful medium: the only thing separating what is in the creator’s head and what the reader sees is skill, which can always be improved. But from a fan’s point of view, comics can often be about community. Even if you exclusively read The Walking Dead and your friend reads only Amazing Spider-Man, you can still come together in an appreciation for the medium in a way that doesn’t quite reflect in other forms of entertainment. I talk about this further in my Comics 101 lecture.
What makes them worth learning about?
Everything is worth learning about. Comics can do things that no other medium can, and engage the reader in ways that no other medium does. They are an art form, and I am not alone in thinking they deserve study just like film or music or classical art.
I’ve read so many comics and been influenced by different books in different ways that this is a surprisingly difficult question. If I had to choose a specific book, probably Grendel: Red, White, and Black by Matt Wagner with a bunch of artists. Wagner did some really cool things experimenting with form with his Grendel series and I love it. Though if I had to choose a favorite character, it would probably be either Daredevil or John Constantine from Hellblazer.
What is it about geeky things in general that brings people together?
People like to talk about the things they like. If you enjoy Star Trek, you want to talk about it with other people who feel the same. I think that geek culture gives people a lot of mutual interests as well as vast other worlds to explore, places that might be a little better than this, and things you can really get passionate about. When you’re passionate about something, you want to share it, and that brings people together in ways that other things can’t.
What can we learn from geek culture?
A lot of things about geek culture were fringe culture for a long time. Much of it was considered “kid’s stuff,” comics and cartoons and distractions for children and the feeble minded. Despite that, people who were immersed in geek culture still accepted others for what they were and what they enjoyed. Geek culture is now pop culture, and I think that a big thing that can be derived from what used to be is acceptance. No one likes to be judged for their interests, so hopefully pop culture will take a note out of geek culture’s book and stop that.
What defines a geek and what drives a person to be one?
That’s another thing that changes based on who you ask. I think a “geek” is someone who is really and truly interested in something. You can have football geeks and music geeks just as easily as you can have Tolkien and comics geeks. At this point, it’s something that you have to call yourself to describe your love for a thing. Ultimately, I think that what drives a person to call themselves or be considered a geek is passion.
If you are interested in joining Bam! Pow!, then you are more than welcome to attend our meetings every Thursday from 6pm to 8pm in the Student Union room 344.