Video by Emily Verdouw
“I am so nervous wearing it today,” Batgirl said, looking over her costume and waving her yellow glove in front of her face, completely oblivious to the fact one of her arch nemeses, Poison Ivy, sauntered past behind her back.
Not that it matters. If they’d seen each other, they probably wouldn’t have fought.
It’s not like that at Oz Comic Con.
Rogues, heroes, zombies and fans were among thousands of pop culture aficionados, performers and hobbyists converging on the Sydney Exhibition Centre for the first day of the annual two day event.
“It’s kind of the mecca of pop culture,” Oz Comic Con co-founder Rand Ratinac told the Huffington Post Australia.
He was inspired after spending years visiting the US and Europe with his wife and seeing the huge fan-base of exhibitions such as the New York Comic Con.
Now Oz Comic Con exhibitions is an annual event in most major Australian cities.
“It’s the place where people who love this sort of stuff can gather and they can see the new and exciting things that are coming out, get costumes and collectibles,” he said.
“It’s not until all these events started to become more and more prominent that we have something to celebrate.”
And among the fantasy, sci-fi and comic celebrities and artists making an appearance this year (think MacGyver and Stargate’s Richard Dean Anderson, director Kevin Smith) are the Cosplayers, like Batgirl.
Andrew is wearing platform heels to help with the impression he’s a 20-storey tall Japanese robot Gurren Lagann.
He’s not quite scraping the clouds, but his hand-made, red and gold, foam costume is still pretty imposing.
“It’s all love,” comes his voice from behind his static white mask.
Box Cosplay -- known as Andrew in his civilian life -- rocking it as robot protector Gurren Lagann at Oz Comic Con 2015
Going by the name Box Cosplay online, he’s upgraded from the days when he would make his costume out of cardboard boxes.
“For me it’s a hobby,” he said.
“I love going around conventions and people going hey I want to get a photo with you. I don’t just stand around with them, I like to actually interact with them. That way they are meeting the character.”
Cosplay is a Japanese word, a portmanteau of the ‘costume’ and ‘play’.
It means, basically, dressing up as a character and acting as that character -- from anime, manga, video games, television, movies, comics, books and generic characters such as a zombie, maid or pirate.
“You can become the most exaggerated version of yourself,” said Australian Cosplay artist Eve Beauregard, who with a smear of green face paint, a ratty blouse and a vine wrapped around her right arm has transformed herself into Batman villain Poison Ivy.
Australian Cosplay Entertainer Eve Beauregard as Batman villain Poison Ivy
She started on her path to becoming a professional nerd (her term) a decade ago.
These days she spends her time travelling between pop-culture and gaming events around the world, appearing as a speaker, host, Cosplay judge and to fund raise for charity group ‘Medic.’
“From my very first day in Cosplay, (charity is) what I was being told about that’s what I wanted to get involved with,” she said.
“It’s pure escapism. So, I can’t speak for everyone who Cosplays. I mean for me I get to step out of my everyday life -- even though this is my everyday life -- and become characters I think are funny or awesome or evil.”
US costume designer, model and Cosplay entertainer Yaya Han discovered the art in 1999 and in the years since has made over 300 costumes in the genres of anime/manga, comic books, video games, sci-fi and her own original designs.
Han has seen Cosplay go from a “very underground, very misunderstood” art form to a poaching ground for talent.
US-based costume designer, model and cosplay entertainer Yaya Han at Oz Comic Con 2015
Veteran US Cosplayers are entering into the TV and film business -- making and designing costumes and weapons - as the demand for fantasy and comic based material increases, she said.
“It’s a new age for Cosplay, it’s almost like a new chapter and it’s an emerging industry,” she said.
“As a viable career path it’s emerging -- designing costumes as well as becoming spokespersons for characters, for genres.
“It’s getting to that point where more and more companies are interested in working with cosplayers and the demand for high end props is really there.
But at its core it remains a hobby-based community, she said; a unique expression of creativity and paying homage to characters you love.
And the people you love.
Batgirl -- who is known in the Cosplay world as Super Show Girl Cosplay and to her friends as Darlene -- donned her cowl with renewed purpose after her mother died of breast cancer.
Since then she has used her love of the iconic characters to raise money for cancer charities.
“I felt like one of my wings was clipped, because my mum means everything to me and one of my friends said ‘do your cosplay for breast cancer,’” she said.
“You have to do it for a good cause, that’s how I see things.”
Super Show Girl Cosplay dresses for charity and love at Oz Comic Con 2015 in Sydney.