You remember my Mother's Day article earlier this year. This time, it's the dads' turn! For Father's Day, I interviewed 5 Midwest cosplaying dads that I have been seeing in conventions a lot. Each one of them have a very unique sense of cosplay style, and I choose these 5 because they like to integrate their cosplay around their friends, significant others and children. Here's a few things they told me about being a cosplay dad.
What does a Cosplaying Dad mean to you?
CLIFF: Cosplaying dad means trying to include my children into a hobby that I really enjoy and hope that they can learn to enjoy too. It means including them in a community and giving them an avenue to express themselves. Also using it to teach them life lessons such as how to make something from scratch, behave in public, make friends, plan events, etc.
CHRIS: being a cosplay dad means the world to me, it really affords my daughter and I to have unique creative experiences with one another, as well as share and celebrate our fandom of pop culture together.
JAMES: Off the top of my head, it’s about the same as being a normal dad, just has an added benefit of being able to pretend I’m a superhero with my children (and wife) with cool costumes and props. It also allows for some really fun family portraits and great memories!
JOE: Being a cosplaying Dad means having a common hobby with my daughter that she's basically grown up with since she was a toddler
JOHN: That I can show my kids that I still take the time to have fun doing something that I really enjoy.
Cliff is part of the group, Drawn To Cosplay - who does the black and white Walking Dead group cosplay. He also does a lot of volunteering with We Are Cosplay and Costumers with a Cause - two cosplay groups who do a lot of charity events in the area.
What are the struggles of being a cosplay dad?
CLIFF: There are so many. Everything from making the costumes to planning for cons and even packing becomes more difficult when including the kids. For example planning a costume for everyone is difficult. I can barely make up my own mind; try making up a kids mind. As a dad, I want to try to keep a theme, but the kids are hardly ever on the same page. My daughter wants to do horror things like FNAF while my son is into Lego and DBZ. I make as much as I can from scratch. That means I have to measure and fit the kids multiple times over hours and days. Getting them to cooperate and stay focused is a struggle. The worst part is, they grow out of everything so fast. In the 2 years I've cosplayed with them I've already had to remake things for them and buy bigger shoes. I refrain from making anything too elaborate because I know it wont fit them long.
CHRIS: one of the big struggles I juggle is finding time to help her get her homework done, bike rides, swim lessons, and then squeezing in cosplay time. I cant say however that we keep our cosplays fun and stress free and my daughter doesn't care about things like contest, or accurate details within her costumes it really just the fun of it.
JAMES: The struggles of being a cosplay dad are the combined struggles of cosplayers and dads - lack of time being first and foremost, followed by budget management. Luckily my kids enjoy watching cosplay videos with me while I work out with them, so I’m basically killing 3 birds with one stone.
JOE: One of the current struggles is that my daughter's tastes have changes as she's grown into a teenager. I can no longer just make a costume and expect her to wear it without first discussing it with her. She doesn't like dresses or being too frilly, so a lot of "princess" type cosplays are out of the question. Another struggle has to do with the whole "cosplay is not consent" thing. Since she usually has her face covered, people don't realize that it's a young girl behind the mask and sometimes they can get a little too close for comfort. That's when I go into full dad mode to make it clear that there are boundaries.
JOHN: Mostly budget, which I think is pretty universal. Beyond that, I don't get to attend quite as many events as my younger cosplay friends :)
Chris is well known for his Orc cosplay from Warcraft, as well as his Hellboy cosplay (which he often does with his daughter- also dressed up in a mini version. You can see more of his csoplay here - Papa Bear @ChrisCosplays. He is also affiliated with the group, CosAwesome. Photos by: Kaminsky Kandids (Witcher photos), Vincent Kan (Barrett and Red XIII), Shadowwulf Photography (Hellboy and Hellgirl).
Do you always think about cosplaying with your children and significant other?
CLIFF: No. The kids are always on my mind and I try to include them. Its not always for them though. My kids don't like standing for hours taking pictures or going all day without eating. Nor do I want to force them or make it overwhelming. Sometimes they would rather run around and look at all the toys or go to the hotel swimming pool. Though Cons are exciting to them, many times they want to stay home and play with their cousins. It can be overwhelming for me too, there are times I want to work on my own things and hang out with my friends.
CHRIS: cosplaying with my daughter always come to mind when I put together a costume, often times too, she will tell me what’s she wants to do and I will adjust to her, for example her joker and Witcher cosplays were her idea I just gladly helped her bring it to life.
JAMES: Nope, while I love cosplaying with my wife and children, I do it first and foremost for me, as it’s what I like to do for fun and to be social, so many times I costume up with friends while the family stays home, or sometimes my wife and I go to a convention while my kids stay at the grandparents.
JOE: My first instinct when making a new cosplay is always my daughter first. She's done Beaker the Muppet for a couple of years now and I only recently decided to add a Dr. Bunsen cosplay for myself so that we could cosplay together. My wife is usually our handler, although she did put on the Bunsen mask while I wore the Beaker mask to a few Halloween events last year. I now also have 2 grandchildren who are babies, but I'm already thinking ahead to how I can become a cosplay grandpa as well.
JOHN: My wife puts on a costume at some events but mostly acts as my handler. My kids are older and as supportive of my hobby as I could ask.
James is founder of Wulgar Weapons and Props and CEO of CosAwesome Studios. Photos by Matthew Sperzel Photography and CosIT photography.
What do you like best about being a cosplay dad?
CLIFF: Being able to do something together as a family. Bringing them into the cosplay community. Showing them there is a whole world of talented people outside of what they are used to. Hopefully inspire them to follow their dreams and passions.
CHRIS: What I enjoy best about being a cosplay dad is that I can directly share my joy for cosplay with my family, the entire costuming process brings us closer together and I also get to see my daughter critically think, problem solve and exercise her imagination through cosplay which is a bonus for me and her. It boost her self-esteem and has increased her people skills, I tell her all the time she doesn't realize how cool she is and it takes courage to put yourself out there like that. She may not understand that now but one day she will look back on these years and smile.
JAMES: There are a lot of things I love about being a cosplay dad, and a dad and a cosplayer in general. Cosplaying has always kept me “feeling like a big kid” and it’s great to be able to take that and be a big kid with my family! It’s so much fun to pretend play knights or jedi or ninjas with the family, and a lot of times we don’t bust out costumes… but there’s that added awesomeness when my son wants to be Batman and runs to get his Batman costume!
JOE: My favorite thing is coming home after a con or other event and sharing the stories of the day. Things like: "did you see that guy's face when he saw us?" or "That kid was so happy to get a hug from you" really give both (all 3 actually) of us such joy that it makes the whole experience that much more fun.
JOHN: I really, really enjoy watching the kids faces light up. I got to see that in my kids for a lot of years and now they are older, so I can sometimes go make another child laugh or have their run in with their hero. Everybody loves that, but I think Dad's and Mom's get a little 'bonus happy' out of it.
Joe is known for his Beaker cosplay and seen at convention floors with his wife and daughter. You can see more of his cosplay at JoeHe Cosplay.
Check out this feature he had for his daughter's cosplay at the Conan O'Brien show!
What advice can you give to dads who want to cosplay?
CLIFF: Kids are kids and their own person. You have to let them discover their own interests. You have to have a lot a patience with them and let them experience it in their own way. Everything is a new to them and they aren't going to like everything you do. Respect them and they will respect you. When you all get to enjoy those times together as a family and community, it makes it all worth it.
CHRIS: Any advice i would give to dads who want to cosplay with your children is to just jump in with both feet and do it! store bought costume or completely home made it doesn't matter, find a convention or event put on costumes and have the best time of your lives its that simple. Ultimately kids don't care about what they look like all they see is that there spending time with dad, and those are the memories that last forever.
JAMES: Try it! It’s crazy fun and that’s the point of all of this right!? I try and have fun with my kids and teach them cool stuff, and I can’t think of a better way to do that.
JOE: Go for it! Don't hesitate to jump in. I used to focus only on making cosplays for my daughter and had no intention of cosplaying myself. She decided she wanted to take a year off and attend C2E2 as a "civilian", so I decided I would wear the Beaker costume myself. It was then that I understood how much fun cosplaying actually is. I was happy when she decided that she wanted to cosplay again at the next convention and we haven't looked back since. It's only elevated the experience for both of us not that we're both wearing costumes as well.
JOHN: If you ever think 'that might be fun', you will have fun. Find that old comic book character or video game character or whoever it is that you ever saw yourself as being and go be them for a little bit, then go back home and mow the lawn.If you ever think 'that might be fun', you will have fun. Find that old comic book character or video game character or whoever it is that you ever saw yourself as being and go be them for a little bit, then go back home and mow the lawn.
John Spaw was one of my fellow contestants at Crown Championships of Cosplay this year. You can find more of his cosplay work here and here.