Who was that masked man? New book takes a look at the history of cosplay

Simon & Schuster

The concept of fans dressing up like their favorite pop culture characters, as they recently did at San Diego Comic-Con, may seem like a new phenomenon, but it’s not.

That’s one of the findings from Andrew Liptak, author, journalist and, yes, cosplayer, in his new Simon & Schuster book: COSPLAY: A HISTORY – The Builders, Fans, and Makers Who Bring Your Favorite Stories to Life.

While the term “cosplay” surfaced in 1984 — a Japanese amalgam of “costume and play” — it’s thought one of the first costumed gatherings happened at the first World Science Fiction Convention held in 1939.

“I looked at the history of conventions and fandom and sort of traced, like, where was the first place people started wearing costumes, like, 1939 in New York City,” Liptak tells ABC Audio.

“And then, you know, what are earlier examples that go further beyond that? So we found examples from the early 1900s, mid 1800s.”

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He even learned there was a Roman emperor who’d dress up as Hercules and had busts made of himself in costume.

“At the heart of this is, like, you are trying to find your fellow tribe of fellow fans,” Liptak says of the hobby. “Because, you know, we want community. We want to have things in common with people. We’re tribal species, and we’re a storytelling species.”

Liptak marvels, pun intended, at how mainstream cosplay has become. “One of the fun things about Ms. Marvel [is that] cosplay is central in the plot of a Marvel TV show … I mean, it’s not only Ms. Marvel, but … Taco Bell had a commercial with cosplayers in it, The Big Bang Theory … you know, that was a big mainstream introduction for a lot of people that, you know, this is a thing.”

Copyright © 2022, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

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