Comic-Con isn't just cosplay

SAN DIEGO — For now, it may be just a hobby, but for the costumed fans at the Comic-Con pop culture expo this past weekend, dressing up can be a first step toward an entertainment career.


Costume play – or cosplay – has become a huge component of Comic-Con. Thousands of fans elaborately disguise themselves as their favorite characters from comic books, movies, TV, video games and anime.

Part costume contest, part stage show, contestants embody their characters for up to 2½ minutes for an audience of more than 4,000. The judges are Hollywood and Broadway professionals, and many entrants are entertainment hopefuls.

“I would love to make a career out of this,” said self-taught artist Jose Davalos, 20, who traveled from Jalisco, Mexico, to show off his “Hades from Disney’s Hercules” costume, which featured a screen-worthy, hand-sculpted silicone mask.

“My main goal is to be able to be on a movie or maybe work for Disney making things,” said Davalos, who won a craftsmanship award for his work.

Costume designer Joe Kucharski, who moderated a Costume Designers Guild panel and served as a judge of the Masquerade Ball, said the event is a realistic showcase for emerging artists. “I would hire somebody based on their work (here),” he said.

Costume design pros say the skills cosplayers need to create characters are often the same ones professionals use to help make TV and film characters come to life.

“People here are making fake armor out of foam. Well, professionals do that all the time,” said Jared Marantz, who helped create the superhero suits for Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.

Scooti Harper, who hand-stitched every stripe on her Victorian corset-and-bustle gown, said she hopes to become “a seamstress in the costume industry.”

“That’s the ultimate goal for me,” said the 26-year-old, who belonged to the “Women of the Haunted Mansion” ensemble that won best in show at the ball.

Comic-Con helped make Oksana Nedav­niaya’s Hollywood dreams come true. Fresh out of college, the aspiring concept artist met Chronicles of Narnia costume designer Isis Mussenden, a guest at a Costume Designers Guild panel. The recent graduate approached Mussenden and offered her portfolio, then went off to enjoy the convention.

“She contacted me three days later and said, ‘Do you remember me?’ ” Nedavniaya recalled. “They were about to start pre-production on Prince Caspian … and she asked me if I wanted to illustrate for her. That was my big break.”